Deciding Between a Two-Year and Four-Year College

You are nearing the end of high school and it is time to start planning for the next big chapter of life. As far as continuing education goes, you may be wondering whether going to a two or four-year college is the better path. Of course, the answer is going to be different for everyone. There’s a lot to think about, such as how much time and money you’re willing to invest in higher education, what you want to pursue as a career after graduating from college, and more!

Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of both two and four-year colleges to help you decide on what your next move will be.

Community Colleges

Though four-year colleges may get all the media hype, don’t buy into it mindlessly unless you have clear aspirations set and know that attending one will help you achieve those goals. Many high school graduates opt to go to a two-year college first because it’s cheaper, quicker, and highly vocational. Students get the opportunity to jumpstart their careers sooner and with less (or no) debt! Going to a community college near home allows college-bound students to save money on room & board, too.

Speaking of saving money, two-year college students get a huge break on tuition. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a two-year school is only $3,440, about one-third of the cost for a year at a four-year public college!

If you are a student looking to go directly into a trade or technical vocation, attending a two-year college is a cost-efficient way to get the education you need to excel in your career. Those who may not have done the best in high school and looking to work their way into a four-year college can also have a positive start at a community college. Finally, getting your general education credits out of the way at a two-year institution is also a fantastic way to start earning your bachelor’s degree without paying four-year institution prices for the first two years.

Unlike a four-year university, community college is open to anyone who wishes to further their education in any subject. There is no rigorous admissions process, however, there may be certain deadlines you need to meet in order to get into classes or on a waitlist for the popular ones. At a community college, you can expect to focus on completing general education and prerequisite courses for your desired major. Upon earning your associate’s degree, you can either jump into the workforce, or pursue your bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution.

On top of completing general education courses, college students at a two-year college get the opportunity to pick up an internship or a part-time job locally and gain valuable industry connections that may help them land their dream job upon graduation.

Four-Year Colleges

Are you leaning towards going to a four-year university? If so, get ready to make an investment. Four-year colleges require a longer time commitment and are more expensive than community colleges. However, if you go for the right reasons, you will reap the benefits throughout your life and likely secure a job with a higher salary in the future. Keep in mind that four-year institutions require at least twice the amount of time as community colleges do, and are about three times the tuition fees.

According to the College Board, the average cost of one year of in-state tuition and fees at a public four-year institution is $9,410, while the cost of one year of out-of-state tuition and fees can average out to a hefty $23,890 per year. Private school students can expect to pay even more in tuition and fees – an average of $32,410 a year! On top of higher tuition, students attending a four-year university must also take into account other expenses, especially if the school they plan to go to is far from home. Room & board, dining out, and transportation can add up over the course of four years. Room and board alone can come out to about $12,200 a year.

If you are looking for a well-rounded education in every subject including math, English, biology, history, and arts, then attending a four-year college will give you just that. Students going into a four-year college typically spend the first two years taking general education courses, and the final two years taking courses in their major. Finally, students can take electives in any field of study and even consider picking up a minor if they have another field of interest they wish to pursue.

Students attending a four-year university need to do some planning to set themselves up for success. There is an application process, tests to take, essays to write, and in some cases, interviews to ace. Starting early and staying organized throughout the process will help you get through applying to and hopefully getting into your dream school.

While working towards a bachelor’s degree, students have the option to pick up a part-time job or internship that may help them get a taste of what their future career will be like. Four-year colleges also offer a plethora of activities and groups that students can participate in to network with other peers.

Which Is Right For You?

When deciding between a two and four-year college, it’s imperative to weigh the pros and cons of both, and also consider your priorities, financial situation, lifestyle, and long-term goals. Remember that regardless of which route you take, success is within reach!