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Articles / Applying to College / Should I start at a community college and then transfer?

Aug. 6, 2009

Should I start at a community college and then transfer?

Question: Would it be a smart idea to go to a community college for two years to save money and then transfer to a state college? The distance is my problem because the community college is a 44 minute bus ride from my home while the state college is a 17 minute bus ride from my home.

Many students do choose to transfer from a two-year college to a four-year college in order to save money. But if the trip to the CC from your home seems impractical, don't rule out heading directly to a four-year school. Also, why not consider a school where you can live on campus? Although it can be money-saving to live at home, you may miss out on some of the best aspects of college life if you are commuting.


If you are a good student--or even a pretty good one--you may qualify for scholarships at both public and private colleges. In fact, sometimes the more expensive private colleges can end up being "cheaper" than the state schools because these college have more money to give away. Also, regardless of your academic talent, if your household income is low, you may also qualify for "need-based" aid that can help you cover not only tuition costs but also room, board, and some other college expenses.

If you haven't done so already, I suggest that you have some fun with the College Board "Matchmaker" at http://collegesearch.collegeboard.com/search/adv_typeofschool.jsp

As you complete the questionnaire, select all your preferences (size, location, major, etc.) Under the "Financial Aid" heading, don't limit yourself to a school with any particular price tag ... at least not the first time you tackle the questionnaire. You may find that this questionnaire will direct you to colleges that you haven't previously considered---and which might turn out to be affordable--- even if they're not commuting distance from home.

Happy hunting!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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