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Want an Ivy League Degree? Consider Community College

One higher ed insider offers a few reasons why high-achieving, Ivy-dreaming students and families should consider transferring from a community college.

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. High school seniors who have just received 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.

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 admissions. What are the chances of your application standing out in a crowd of 30,000 vs. 1,500? As a high school senior, you will 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 freshman. One Ivy League (that I will not mention for various reasons) had a 7% acceptance rate for freshman biology majors in 2010 and a 33% acceptance rate for transfer biology majors!

Consider the benefits

Community college has the additional benefit of being incredibly affordable; tuition averages $2,963 per year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. 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 are 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 yourself 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 (Google “Phi Theta Kappa”), amazing internship opportunities, and academically rigorous honors level courses. These are all impressive résumé boosters for a transfer candidates with their sights set on the most selective schools.

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