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Going to a Two-Year College: Is It the Right Choice for You?

checklist-college-student-sitting-in-backgroundThere are many reasons for going to a two-year college that should be taken into consideration when deciding which direction you’d like to follow when you graduate from high school. Don’t think of a two-year college as a second-choice option or one that holds less value. Many students (both with and without learning disabilities) opt to attend a two-year community college – and benefit from the experience.

Important Factors to Consider

  • Two-year colleges often offer programs and services that are designed to help ease the transition from high school into college or the work world. These may include subject-area tutoring, workshops that help you build organization and study skills, and training in the use of adaptive equipment, also known as assistive technology. For students with learning disabilities (LD) -- especially if you’ve had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in high school -- these types of transition supports can be very helpful.
  • Most four-year colleges require that students fulfill core requirements outside of their major. This can pose special challenges to students with learning disabilities (LD) -- such as dyscalculia, dyslexia, or dysgraphia -- who may struggle in subjects like math or foreign language learning, or with skills like written expression.
  • Fulfilling some basic requirements at a two-year school and becoming accustomed to college life while living at (or near) home and then transferring to a four-year school may be a less-stressful way to begin your college studies.
  • Taking your core courses at a two-year college is cost effective. Two-year colleges are often less expensive than four-year colleges and offer many of the same types of classes.
  • If you’re unsure about what you’d like to major in, a two-year college is the perfect place to explore your options, without worrying about the cost factor of bigger colleges with more specific programs.


When to Start Thinking about It

In your freshman year of high school, meet with your school counselor as soon as possible to discuss what many colleges are looking for in the students they accept, and what requirements they have for basic classes like foreign language and math. Keep in mind that every class on your transcript and activity on your resume will create a picture of what kind of student and person you are.

In your sophomore year, talk with your counselor about standardized testing like the PSATs, SATs, and ACTs. Learn how you can prepare and practice for the tests you will take in your junior year. Many four-year colleges have minimum score requirements that may be waved if you attend a two-year college before entering for a four-year degree.
In your junior year, start to think about what kind of school and program you are interested in attending. This is also a great time to visit different college campuses to explore options that might be the right fit for you. This is also the time to start researching your financial aid options.

In your senior year, meet with your counselor to develop a detailed timeline to help you balance your academic and extracurricular schedule with important college application deadlines. While most four-year colleges require applications to be submitted by the winter of your senior year, the application deadlines for many two-year colleges may not be until the spring your senior year. Make sure to mark the appropriate dates on your timeline.

Exploring Two-Year Colleges

Starting with your junior year in high school, make a plan to visit your local community colleges. Schedule an appointment with a representative from the office of disability services and/or the LD program (if the school offers one). Also see whether you can meet with students who use these services so you can ask what their experiences with the program have been.

There are some two-year colleges that have LD specialists on campus or offer services to students with learning disabilities. Some may even have specialized LD programs. Whether or not you choose to apply to one of these schools, it is worth looking at their websites to see what kinds of supports and services they offer and to determine whether or not they are in line with your individual needs and preferences.

Examples of two-year colleges with specialized LD programs:

When investigating your college options, use this handy checklist to help guide your decision-making process.

Having a realistic transition plan, identifying potential hurdles you might face in college, and considering your two-year options are all important first steps in ensuring your success.

Recommended Resources

Community College Finder
HEATH Resource Center: Community College
HEATH Resource Center: Awareness of Postsecondary Options  
The College Board’s Step-by-Step Road Map to College

Tags: grade9-12, college-adult