Spending your summer in a classroom probably doesn’t sound terribly appealing.

But attending community college before starting a bachelor’s degree program can help bring down tuition costs.

Financial Benefits

The difference between tuition fees at community colleges and four-year colleges is stark. Data from the Department of Education shows the average cost of a credit at a:

  • Two-year community college is about $135
  • Four-year private college is about $1,000 

Completing some credits through a two-year community college can save hundreds

And it’s not just tuition fees you have to worry about during your tenure at a traditional four-year college — there are living, travel, enrollment and other expenses to factor in too. Building up credits at a community college can allow you to graduate early, which in turn cuts back on the 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 your first semester. 

It’s also a chance to hammer out a tough subject when you’re not distracted by 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 to really understand the coursework and build a solid foundation.

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. Or you could study technical subjects not offered by your four-year college to gain additional skills that will help you stand out for internships and jobs later on.

Make an Informed Choice

You’ll need to do a little investigating, however, before deciding if this is the right option for you. Some four-year colleges charge per semester, rather than by credit, so taking three or six classes could cost the same. And community college would only save you money if you took enough classes to knock out a full semester. 

There’s also the question of how many hours you would need to put into your community college coursework and if 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. Another consideration: some community college courses may not be as rigorous as degree courses, so earning that early credit in a prerequisite class could leave you feeling behind later. 

Most importantly, check that your degree course accepts transfer credits — not all do.

Do your research and make an informed decision. Summer community college can be a financial and time-saving boon. However, this extra work is only worth the effort if the rewards serve your personal goals