What is a Junior College? 7 Reasons to Consider This Affordable Option

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Selecting a school and applying for college is confusing, isn’t it? I understand. I’m currently helping my son find the right college and figuring out all of the necessary steps he needs to take to enroll. But I keep finding information about junior colleges, and it led me to ask what is a junior college?

After all, if we’re going to look at all of our options, we need to understand them.

So, I set out to find the answer to the question, what is a junior college. And you’ll be surprised at what I found.

What is a Junior College?

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As you look for the right school, you may hear the term junior college. But when you try to find one, it seems impossible.

So, what gives?

Here’s the deal: when asking, what is a junior college, you need to understand the history. Then it will all make sense.

The History of Junior Colleges

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The idea of junior colleges originated about 100 years ago. People started junior colleges for those students who may not have gone on to attend a university because they weren’t successful enough in high school. So, they attended a junior college, and it prepared them to go on to a university.

But here’s the deal: if you’re asking, what is a junior college, the answer may surprise you. That’s because junior colleges don’t exist anymore.

That’s right. You won’t find a junior college anywhere.

Instead, community colleges took their place.

What is a Community College?

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Over time, junior colleges began to offer more than just a way for underperforming students to prepare for a university. They began to offer other educational choices that provided education for all students. When the focus changed, junior colleges became community colleges.

But some people -- like your parents -- still call them junior colleges, and that’s where the confusion comes in.

A community college is a school that offers 2-year associates degrees as well as technical programs. Some even offer 2-year liberal arts degrees such as music or fashion design. And while those 2-year programs will help you get into the workforce, some people use junior colleges as a stepping stone to a larger university.

Because community colleges exist in local areas, the school partners with local businesses to determine the needs of employers in the area. And the courses and degrees it offers match those needs. For instance, if a community has a need for auto mechanics or hairdressers, the community college will most likely offer students training in those areas.

Local taxes fund most community colleges, and that’s why the tuition is typically about a third of the cost of a privately-run university. Community colleges not only offer students 2-year degrees and technical training, but also adult education classes.

Anyone can attend a community college because it has open enrollment. All you need is a high school diploma.

Some people still use the term junior college for community colleges. So, if you hear someone ask, what is a junior college, you now understand that they’re talking about a community college.

What Kind of Degree Can I Get at a Community College?

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By now, you’re probably wondering what type of degrees you can get at a community college. After all, if the tuition is a third of that from larger universities, it’s worth exploring.

When attending a community college, you can get an Associate of Science degree and specialize in things like nursing, the lab technician field, medical imaging, or law enforcement.

You can also get an Associate of Applied Science degree to use in fields such as hospitality, the electrical trade, or accounting. With these types of degrees, you can enter the workforce immediately without the need for further education.

If you plan to get a 4-year degree by finishing your education at a university, you can use a community college for the first two years of the degree. This is an inexpensive way to get the basic classes you need for a degree.

To start on your 4-year degree, you will need to get an Associate of Arts. An Associate of Arts degree will prepare you to get a university degree in things like computer science, business, psychology, or almost any other area.

In addition to 2-year and the start of 4-year degrees, you can also take classes to earn diplomas or certificates. These classes may only last for a few months and will make you more appealing to some employers. For instance, you can earn a certificate for a software program that shows you have superior skills for it.

Some people who ask, what is a junior college may believe they aren’t quite ready for a university and want to take classes to help them prepare. While that’s no longer the focus of community colleges, the truth is that they will help underprepared students get ready for a university.

7 Reasons to Attend a Junior/Community College

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If you’re still on the fence after asking, what is a junior college, here are some reasons to attend one.

1. It’s all about the green

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One of the best reasons to attend a community college is the savings.  We’ve all heard about the student loan crisis, and the truth is, the less you can pay for college, the less burden in loans you will have once you graduate.

According to the 2018 Trends in College Report put out by the College Board, you will pay an average price of $35,676 per year if you attend a private 4-year college. But if you attend a local community college, you will pay 73 percent less. That average cost is $3,660.

And you can receive financial aid for community colleges as well as for Universities.

2. Your options are open

When asking, what is a junior college, you may have the impression that once you start in a community college, you’re stuck there. But many students transfer to a university after completing two years at a community college.

But if you’re more comfortable at the community college, some schools have arrangements with universities that allow students to complete their 4-year degree while staying at the community college. The teachers from the university travel to the community college a few times a week to teach the classes there.

Other students transfer their credits and complete their degree at the university.

3. You don’t have to leave the house

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If you want to pursue a degree, but don’t have much time, many community colleges offer online degrees. This arrangement is ideal for students who attend class part-time or adults who need to get a certificate or earn a degree in their spare time.

4. Big fish in a small bowl

When attending a large university, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The classrooms are huge, and many students never have a one-on-one conversation with their professor.

But when asking, what is a junior college, one of the things you’ll learn is that the classroom is smaller and professors spend a lot of one-on-one time with students. If you’re the type of person who wants personalized attention, a community college may be right for you.

5. The vibe is changing

In the past, when people asked, what is a junior college, they found that it wasn’t anything like a university. But times have changed.

Now more than a quarter of community colleges offer dorms. And many of them offer extracurricular activities and a diverse range of clubs.

In other words, if you want the college experience, you can get it at a community college.

6. The chance to be a flake

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Sometimes people don’t know what they want to major in, and community colleges are the perfect place to explore their options. That’s because the lower costs can allow you to take a few classes in one area of study to determine whether or not it’s for you. Combine that with the personalized attention you will get from professors, and community colleges are a great way to decide on your major.

7. Stay close to home

Another great benefit for community college is that you can continue to live at your parent’s house while going to school. Doing so will save thousands of dollars on rent and food. Even if you only plan to attend community college for the first two years, you could conceivably save at least $24,000 if rent in your area is $1,000 or more.

Answered: Wh​at is a Junior College?

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If you came to this article asking, what is a junior college, you were probably surprised at the answer. Junior colleges have given way to community colleges, which are a lot more like universities these days. And if you aren’t ready to start a university, or if you want to get a 2-year degree or a certificate, a community college may be ideal for you.

Do you currently attend a community college? Or did you look into them and decide to go to a 4-year university instead? Either way, we would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!


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