Should She Take 2 Free Years of Community College?

by Judge Josh on August 5, 2014

Dear Mr. Barsch,

Stop it, call me Josh. I feel old enough already.

My name is Lindsey and I discovered you through and have read every email I’ve gotten with your advice from your blog on various and important topics that many students face.

Excellent. is a site where we list various individual scholarships, btw. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, check it out via the link above.

After reading what you’ve advised for a few weeks now, I believe you could really help me in a situation that I’m in. I have found what I feel to be a really great college, Western Kentucky University, and am fortunate enough to live in Tennessee and still qualify for in-state tuition.

Reciprocity is AWESOME, people. Don’t forget about it when you’re applying for college. If you don’t know what reciprocity is, many states have agreements with adjacent states allowing students from neighboring states to attend their schools for the in-state tuition rate.

However, this is my crisis. As you may know, Tennessee has created a new law in which high school seniors can receive two free years of community college.

I had no idea, actually, but that is phenomenal. Good on ya, Volunteer State!

I don’t want to be foolish and completely throw this option out the window, but I also would really like to attend the full four years and have a complete university experience. I may be wrong, (and feel free to tell me if I am.) but I feel like if I can get the opportunity to go the full four years, that I’d get a better overall education. The problem is, as a Senior now for this upcoming school year, I have basically by October, December at the VERY latest, to apply in order to possibly qualify for the fall 2015 academic school year. Should I just use the two free years and transfer over, or should I try for the full four years? I’m very avid about applying for scholarships, I work really hard and take challenging courses as well as have well over one hundred hours for community service. My ACT score is almost high enough to qualify for a $1500 renewable yearly minimum scholarship (I’ve talked to the University’s assistant financial advisor), but no scholarships yet. I’ve also taken the PSAT last year in hopes of receiving some sort of merit scholarship, but I won’t know until fall this year. I would love to do the full four years, but I’m worried that I’ll be making a huge mistake. Please, PLEASE help me out here, I don’t know what to do
Thank you,

You’re welcome. Here’s the quick answer — I would definitely take the two free years at community college and then transfer to WKU. You’re right, it’s a good school, but you will definitely *not* be getting an inferior education at all by doing those first two years at a community college.

You may have read my other posts where I mention this, but most of the classes you take during the first year of college are general education classes that are pretty much the same everywhere. For instance, an Intro to Psychology class or College Algebra or English Comp, etc…they are not going to vary much between the community college version and the WKU version.

However, you will get plenty of the “complete university experience” you’re seeking at WKU once you transfer. You may graduate in four years, but it may take longer (most people don’t graduate in four years anymore), so you’ll have 2, possibly 3 years at WKU to take in the full bigger-school experience. Also, the coursework of the later years of your degree, junior year and after, are where the real “meat” of the education lies, and you’ll be at WKU for that.

To be more blunt, all you’ll be missing out on at WKU during your freshman and sophomore years is a lot of underage boozing and awkwardness and shitty dorm life AND, most importantly, loads of extra debt that it will take you 10-20 years to pay off. If you can swing a full-ride scholarship to WKU then great, take it, but otherwise, I would definitely advise the free two years at CC. You will be really happy you did later on — and don’t forget, there is plenty of college experience and social life among community college students too, rest assured.

I hope this helps! As always, if you have more thoughts to share with Lindsey, leave ‘em below.


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