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Will Community College Help Me Decide What to Do in Life?

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If you're questioning what to do in life, community college may be the answer. Read on to learn how the resources offered at community colleges may help you decide on a future career.

What Do You Do?

One of the most common conversation starters in the United States and Canada is, What do you do? As a child, you were probably asked, What do you want to be when you grow up? And, as you prepare to go off to college, you've probably been asked by more than one person, What are you going to choose as your major?

It's okay not to know the answer to those questions right now. Instead of knowing before you go, college should be a time to explore different career paths. Read on to see why community college may help you decide what to do in life.

Explore Different Courses

It isn't unusual not to know what to do in life before going to college. As pointed out in The Mentor: An Academic Advising Academic Journal, 20-50% of students enter college undecided, and at least 75% change their major once or more before graduation.

In addition to changing majors, over 1/3 of college students transfer colleges at least once. In a Washington Post article, a college counseling director posited that students may transfer because they think they must know what they want to do with their lives and choose schools incorrectly. She gives the example of a physics major at a technical college who decides he wants to study philosophy, which isn't an option. Perhaps that student would have benefited from taking a variety of courses before enrolling in a specialized school with limited curricular options.

Eileen Collins, who became the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, might not have gotten so far without community college. She wasn't sure of her career path before she attended community college, and thought she might want to be a teacher. At community college, she ended up earning an associate degree in science and math.

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Trying new subjects through a variety of classes is an effective way to explore various careers. After all, high school is generally limited to subjects like math, English and science. You may have never taken courses like accounting, education, law or philosophy. Matthew Reischer, an attorney, decided to pursue law after taking a government class at Queensborough Community College. Community college is a great way to try different courses for two main reasons.

Less Expensive

While trying a variety of courses is a promising idea in theory, it can be an expensive exploration. The College Board lists average tuition costs of $32,410 per year for private colleges, $23,890 for public four-year colleges out of state, and $9,410 for public four-year colleges in state. At those prices, it's understandable that many students (and their parents) are afraid of taking classes that won't count towards graduation.

Community college for in-district students averages $3,440 per year. That's a much less expensive way to try different courses before you determine what you want to study and where you should transfer. Just one class in an unexplored subject can be enough to indicate that you like a field, and then you can take a few more to determine if it should be your major. If you find the subject interesting, enjoy the professors and do well in the class, it may be the major for you.

Amy Tan, author of the The Joy Luck Club, concurs, and said that attending community college was a good decision for her for financial reasons. It was also one of Tom Hank's reasons for attending a community college; he said that the experience ''made him who he is today.''

Open Enrollment

Another benefit to community college is open enrollment; many community colleges accept all students who apply with no admission requirements. This can be beneficial for students whose grades were not stellar in high school, but it can also benefit students who want to try several programs without committing to a major.

Some four-year colleges require that students declare a major before they take a certain course. For example, if a university has a well-known journalism school, they may require that students apply and be accepted to the journalism school before taking journalism classes. At community colleges, students generally do not have to apply to specific schools before taking certain classes.

Job Opportunities

If you are thinking that they best way to explore different careers is to try them yourself, you may benefit from the flexible schedule offered at community colleges. Community colleges offer night and weekend courses, so you can try volunteering at the local hospital, interning for a finance company, or working at the local television station, all while still earning credits towards college. Student Hakim El Kahlaoui of Westchester Community College is a computer science major who says he found his calling through volunteering.

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If you're unsure where to look for jobs, community colleges also offer a career services office. This is a good place to explore employment options in the community. Some of the listings may be for temporary work, which is one way to try a profession short-term and not leave a workplace in a lurch when you decide to try something new in a few months.

Professional Clubs

Besides taking advantage of less-expensive courses and the freedom to try a variety of subjects, community college students can also take advantage of professional clubs. When students think about extracurriculars at community college, they may immediately think of club sports or community service, but many also offer career-related organizations.

The Community College Review mentions that community colleges may offer professional clubs related to science, accounting, finance, physical therapy, and more. This can be a great, and usually free, way to learn about different careers.

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Time

One other benefit to attending a community college after high school is time. Not all students are immediately ready for a four-year college, and others might just need time to mature, or really think about what they want to do with their lives. Community college is a good option for those not quite ready to leave home or commit to a four-year college.

Other Resources

While community colleges can help you decide what to do in life through different classes, flexible course schedules, job exploration, and professional clubs, there are other resources that may also help. Instead of blindly picking courses, you might first consider checking out How to Choose a Career: Guidance Counseling, How to Find a Career Path, or Guide to Career Planning and Development. These Study.com self-paced courses may lead you to community college courses or clubs you had never considered.

By Michelle Garrigan-Durant
November 2017
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