Should I Go to Community College?

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PART I: What is a community college?

If the term community college (CC) is new to you, the example below should explain what a CC is.

Traditionally, after a student graduates from high school, you will go to a 4-year university. For simplicity, let me call this route the “4Yrs Uni” route.

4Yrs Uni Route: High School → 4 Years of University → Graduation

You can get the same degree by going through the community college route. You transfer after doing 2 years in CC, and you jump to the third year right away upon getting into the university.

CC Route: High School : 2 Years of CC → 2 years of University → Graduation

In theory, one would expect the end result to be the same no matter which route you take. But from my personal experience, it can vastly differ. Depending on the route you take, your 4 years of college experience will also be unique, and so do the plus and minuses each route brings.

As someone who had spent 2 years in Diablo Valley College (DVC) and 2 years in UC Berkeley (UCB), I am going to highlight the differences between the 4Yrs Uni and CC routes. Nonetheless, my comparisons do come with a caveat because every individual’s college experience is different – be it due to differences in community colleges, universities that they transfer to, majors, and  the environment they’re in. Every student’s unique personality and the priorities he/she has also creates different college experiences.

PART II: Differences between 4Yrs Uni & CC 

(I can only give my specific example of DVC and UCB because I obviously didn’t attend more than 1 cc/uni)

+ 2 Years DVC + 2 Years UCB +

  • Cheaper! Cost of living in CC is approximately $24,000/year (inclusive of rent, school, food, etc).
  • You can save 2 years if you take O levels (You just need O level certificate to get into CC).
  • Only need TOEFL (very low requirement).
  • Let’s face it. Not everyone has $200,000 in his or her bank account. You will have LOTS of opportunities to make friends with other highly affluent Indonesian students (In DVC, there are about 200 Indonesians at any given time, and the community is very tightly knit)

– 2 Years DVC + 2 Years UCB –

  • You cannot get good intern experience during 1st and 2nd year of college (unless you get in by connections) because getting into DVC does not say anything about your accomplishments.
  • Difficult to double major because you’re only left with 2 years.
  • Harder to attain higher GPA in college (By the time you graduate, the first 2 years of your DVC GPA is not combined with your UCB GPA, and since you get into UCB during 3rd year and 4th year, you will not have the opportunity to take the easier lower division courses which may boost your GPA).

+ 4 Years of UCB +

  • With your “brand” school, it is possible for you to intern at top companies in your 1st and 2nd year of college (All of the experience would build up for your full time job application)
  • Option to double or triple major is open because you have 4 years to plan and distribute your required classes.
  • Easier to get higher GPA (lower class division is usually easier than upper class)

– 4 Years of UCB –

  • More expensive, about $50,000/year
  • You need to have A level certificate or SMA
  • Must take SAT
  • Schoolwork is much more intense in UCB, and people have much lesser time for social life. Furthermore, there are less Indonesian students to begin with (approximately 50-60).

PART III: Which is better for me?

It is really difficult to answer this question for everyone in general because everyone has different priorities.

For example, I always dream of bringing my parents’ real estate/agribusiness towards new horizons. So even though I am someone who enjoys socializing and making new friends, I value socializing with non-Indonesians much less than some of my peers who would like to stay in the US. And since I know I will be conducting business in Indonesia, it is very important for me to have the opportunity to socialize with other Indonesian students – perhaps much more than some of my peers.

With that said, if I had to do things all over again, I would choose going to CC because the experience offered by CC is precisely what I personally want. I had experienced the best of both worlds, undergoing a rigorous course at the Haas School of Business, while getting plenty of time to socialize at DVC. Deciding whether to enroll to community college or to a 4-year university will determine your undergraduate education experience at United States. Be sure to weigh the plus/minus of both choices well with regards to your personal circumstances. Good luck and let us know if we can help your decision-making process!

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Leonard Hartono
Leonard Hartono graduated from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business, shortly after transferring from Diablo Valley College in his Junior year. In college, he actively worked as a Teaching Assistant in the Economics, Business, and Mathematics departments, and enjoyed assisting and motivating community college freshmen or sophomores who were as enthusiastic to transferring to top universities as he once was. Upon graduation, he pursued his passion in the real estate industry by working as a real estate consultant in Jones Lang LaSalle Jakarta.
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  • Michella Nugroho

    I’m currently in a CC and planning to transfer out. Something that I think I am missing out by not going straight to 4 years Uni, is actually  the ‘American College student’ life.
    In CC, there are a lot of Indonesians and we tend to hang out with them more than our non-Indo friends. Because of this I think, our communication skills in English do not really improve much. and also the dorm lives.. It’s the getting to know new/different cultures    that I am missing out (especially here in US, they are many different races).. 

  • natasha

    I’ve currently been accepted to a university in. However i do not want to end up finishing my degree there. I intend to transfer after one or two semesters to a better university. Should i go on with this plan, or should i go to CC first instead? I’ve been considering both plans for a while..