How to Pivot When It Comes to College Plans

By: Texas OnCourse Leader Fellow Natalie Nylen
reading time icon2 min

Spring means prom, caps and gowns, and graduation. It’s the high season for most high school students transitioning from high school to postsecondary life – a rite of passage of sorts, especially as many students start to hear news about their postgraduation aspirations.

We share the excitement of students receiving college acceptances. We also recognize that, as acceptances arrive, so do waitlists, deferments, and denial letters. These can feel like giant curve balls for students who had their heart set on a particular university, or for the students who only applied to one college. Not only can this news be one of the biggest disappointments they have faced in their teenage years, it can also be a harsh reality check for figuring out Plan B.   

As a college and career specialist, this is the time of the year I listen to devastated students who did not get into college and are wondering what to do next. My usual advice for them is to look into community college. When I offer this advice, some act as though I had slapped them in the face. This reaction sadly speaks to the stubborn myths that persist about community college. The misconceptions many have about community colleges are huge, but the benefits of community college can also be huge, especially for students in need of Plan B. Bottom line – whether two-year or four-year, college IS college.

Most families do not have the tuition for a four-year university and may end up taking out loans. The cost of a community college is substantially less: full-time students will pay approximately $1,000 per semester for an education. Financial aid, scholarships, and work-study are also available to students – just like a four-year university offers. Students will also be able to explore different majors while easing into college life.

While there are some caveats, most universities will accept community college credits if students decide to transfer later down the line. Students can also obtain a two-year degree in such fields as science, technology, engineering, and math and get out into the workforce much more quickly.

Even though students may not have received the coveted acceptance letter to their dream school, all is not lost. Community college has so much to offer. Many students embrace the transition to a two-year college without the pressure of deciding which major to choose for the next four years.