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College Game Plan

How to Counter the Community College Stigma With Your Student

Community college is a great opportunity for all students, including the most high-performing ones. However, if your teen is considering going to a community college, they may encounter some negative stigma.

Your teen should recognize community college as a valuable option after high school. Encourage your student to explore and visit community colleges when they are deciding what education they want to pursue. Here are some of the ways you can talk to your student about considering community college and offsetting the stigma. Start a conversation with these questions:

How are community colleges more or less challenging than four-year colleges?

You can start by talking directly to your teen about the stigma of community colleges being less challenging than four-year schools. Ask your student why they may have these misconceptions. Talk with your student about the academic rigor at community colleges, which can be just as good, and sometimes better, than the curriculum at four-year colleges.

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Stephen J. Handel, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Admissions for the University of California system, says parents and students need to take community college seriously and not underestimate their rigor or value. Community colleges often have small class sizes and a lot of opportunities to work directly with the professors. Some community colleges offer honors programs, which add more rigor to the classroom experience and workload. Some departments, professors and programs will be stronger than others, so additional research should be done to find out more about each school. You should explore programs with your student to get a sense of what they want the most out of their experience in college and beyond.

Who goes to community colleges? Can you see yourself exploring this option?

Share information about who attends community colleges with your student so they learn more about the student body. Community colleges make up the largest sector of American post-secondary education, enrolling 45 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. They also enroll a much more diverse student body than most four-year colleges, with first-generation students, single parents, and students with disabilities making up a significant portion of the student population.

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The range of students who attend community colleges is a great way for students to be exposed to many different people and learn to interact with all walks of life. Just like four-year institutions, students can develop strong ties and meaningful relationships that can last a lifetime. Encourage your student to consider how they might fit in at a community college.

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