Spending your summer in a classroom probably doesn’t sound terribly appealing, but attending community college before enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program offers several tangible benefits worth considering.

Financial Upside

The difference between tuition fees at community colleges and four-year colleges is stark. The average cost of tuition per credit hour at a community college is $141 versus $1,199 per hour at a four-year institution. It can make sense to complete some credits at a two-year community college if you are looking to save hundreds of dollars on tuition. 

And it’s not just tuition fees you have to think about while attending a traditional four-year college—there are living, travel, enrollment, and other expenses to factor in as well. Building up credits at a community college can also allow you to graduate early from a four-year school, which reduces the length of time you’re responsible for these costs. 

There are also non-financial benefits to taking community college classes before you start at a four-year university.

Head Start on Coursework

There are also non-financial benefits to taking community college classes before you start at a four-year university. Completing a community college course can relieve pressure and make for a lighter course load in your first semester. 

Another advantage is that community colleges allow you to tackle a tough subject when you’re not juggling other courses. Summer class sizes at community colleges are generally smaller than those at four-year institutions, so you could get more one-on-one time with your professor so you can master the material and build a solid foundation for more advanced coursework to come.

Alternatively, you could use the summer to tick off any prerequisites, giving you more time later to focus on electives or tougher classes required for your major. You could also study technical subjects not offered by your four-year college to gain additional skills that will help you stand out when applying for internships and jobs later on.

Make an Informed Choice

You’ll need to do some investigating, however, before deciding if this is the right option for you. Most importantly, check that your degree course accepts transfer credits—not all do.

Next, to assess how much you stand to save, know that some four-year colleges charge per semester, rather than by credit, so taking three or six classes could cost the same. Community college would only save you money if you take enough classes to knock out a full semester. 

There’s also the question of how many hours you would need to devote to your community college coursework and whether that workload fits with your summer schedule. Some community colleges are flexible and allow for remote studying; others require in-person attendance several times a week. Also consider that some community college courses may not be as rigorous as degree courses, so it’s possible that earning an early credit in a prerequisite class could leave you feeling behind once you start the four-year program. 

Do your research so you can make an informed decision. Summer community college can be a financial and time-saving boon, but taking on the extra work is only worth it if the rewards serve your goals.