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Want an Ivy League Degree? Consider Community College First

Dreaming of attending an Ivy League school? Here's why high-achieving students should consider starting at a community college then transferring.

Many people think of community college as a place for adult students and vocational training, but few people know that community colleges are actually gateways into the nation’s top four-year schools. I believe more high-achieving students should consider community college. That’s a bold statement, so let me elaborate. One of the best benefits of community college is the ability to complete two years of general education credits and then transfer those credits to a four-year university. What a lot of people don’t know is that the top schools in the country (including the Ivies) accept transfer students. Here are a few reasons why high-achieving, Ivy-dreaming students and families should consider community college.

Consider your chances

Imagine there are two lines for students vying for acceptance into the Ivy Leagues: the first line is for high school seniors and the second line is for transfer students. Regardless of which line you stand in, the average acceptance rate (or your chances of being accepted) is around 10%. By that logic, it wouldn’t seem to matter what line you stand in, right? Now, what if I told you that the line for high school seniors has 30,000 students and the line for transfers has 1,500 students? While your real chances of getting in are still 10%, remember that there is a human element to college admission. What are the chances of your application standing out in a crowd of 30,000 vs. 1,500? As a high school senior, you'll be competing against the best and the brightest who have spent a lot of time (and sometimes a lot of money) preparing to get into this caliber of school. As a community college transfer student, not only are you not competing against the die-hards (although transfer applicants are still great students), but your application has a real shot of being noticed. 

One more thing—sometimes, the top schools have better acceptance rates for certain majors for transfers than for freshmen. For example, one Ivy League (that I will not mention for various reasons) once had a 7% acceptance rate for freshman Biology majors and a 33% acceptance rate for transfer Biology majors!

Related: A Look Inside the Prestige: What Makes Ivy League Colleges So Special?

Consider the benefits

Community college has the additional benefit of being incredibly affordable; tuition averages $5,340 per year for in-state students, according to the Community College Review. I like to think of community college as two years to test-drive your major while completing the run-of-the-mill general education credits such as English, calculus, history, etc. for a fraction of the price. Also, depending on your financial situation, changing majors while attending an expensive four-year institution can be a costly decision. As a community college student, you have the opportunity to change majors and try new classes with little, if any, financial consequences. Then, when you're ready to apply to the school of your dreams, you look like an established, mature student who has a pretty strong likelihood of graduating.

Consider the opportunities

If you think of yourself as an academic big cheese (you know, student body president of everything), then the opportunities for you to shine on a community college campus are definitely worth a look—especially if you have Ivy League dreams. There are clubs that offer international honors and scholarships (just Google “Phi Theta Kappa”), amazing internship opportunities, and academically rigorous honors-level courses. These are all impressive résumé boosters for transfer candidates with their sights set on the most selective schools.

Related: Top 10 Reasons to Study at a Community College

High school seniors who receive the dreaded “skinny letter” from their dream school can use community college as a powerful second-chance opportunity to gain admission into the school of their dreams. Your chances of acceptance and opportunities will grow along with your savings from two years of much lower tuition payments—and you'll earn the same degree whether you started at an Ivy League school or transferred there later.

The Ivy League isn't the only type of school that offers a prestigious education! Check out this list of great "Public Ivies" that are state supported (i.e., cheaper for in-state students).

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