IMG_1494Countless students graduate from high school and have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives. A community college is a good option.

Adults often want a new career, but aren’t sure where to begin. A community college is a good option.

Some of us just want to save money as we look at the expense of a four-year university away from home. A community college is a good option.

I chose to go to a community college to save thousands of dollars, to take basic college coursework before taking courses in my field of study, to have the opportunity to work while in school and to live at home.

For a lot of students, that doesn’t sound like the right choice. Some kids have the idea that going to a four-year college institution is the best way to go . . . the only way to go . . . to get a good education, figure out what you like to do, and land a job after college. Junior and community colleges seem “lame” to them because they feel they won’t get the “full college experience” that their parents, teachers, and peers lead them to believe is the best part about going to college.

Some students struggle financially to pay for the top colleges they want to get into, and some find it hard to find scholarships. While my personal experience is different from others, and while I attend a community college for different reasons, community college is giving me a chance to figure out what I want to do with my life, while paying a little less. Sure, I may be sacrificing the “college experience,” but I look at the short-term “loss” providing huge long-term “gains.”

By choosing a community college, I’m also going to save thousands of dollars as I figure out what I want to do. I also get to maintain a job while getting my preliminary courses out of the way. Already I have found a job at Illinois National Bank that I like, and my position has given me a sense of what I like to do and what I want to continue to learn about wherever I chose to continue my education. I feel as if I am almost ahead of some in terms of where I want to be in my life because of attending a junior college.

The big part of all of this is getting an associate’s degree while at community college. If I have just the credit hours to transfer, I can have those hours taken away or not counted by the four-year school I ultimately choose to attend. That will cost more money, and time. So I’m working on the degree before I take the step to a university.

I’ve also found that accumulating good grades and finding scholarships while in a junior college is considerably easier than in high school. The ACT every kid hates to have to take and has the pressure of doing so well on to get into college no longer matters; it is thrown away once you have an associate’s degree. Colleges will only look at your community college GPA when you apply. If you can show colleges you wish to attend that you have a good GPA — while maintaining a job and accumulating experience — they will accept you, and perhaps give you a scholarship to attend their school.

Overall, a four-year college is not for everyone; junior college is not for everyone. College in general is not for everyone. But my advice to someone who is in high school lost, not sure what they are doing next, or to the kid in college who rushed into a choice that’s not working out, or to someone who went to college and messed around and wants another shot, community college is a great option to start your career. I would suggest everyone at least consider it.

Drew Kennan is float teller for INB. That means you might see him at any of our locations. He is also a student at Lincoln Land Community College.