What to check for, what to avoid: done carefully and thoroughly, the process of choosing a community college can yield a good fit. Beyond academics, prospective students must determine if the school's requirements will fit with their lives.
Thinking of going to a community college for a healthcare degree or diploma? If the process of selecting a college seems overwhelming, a couple of area experts offer their advice.
First on Janis Hollenbeck's list is making sure the institution is regionally accredited. Higher Learning Commission accreditation assures that general or liberal arts education credits from a community college will transfer to a four-year institution, according to Hollenbeck, interim dean of Nursing and Allied Health at Minneapolis Technical and Community College (www.minneapolis.edu).
Resources From MnSCU
Students may download or request a mailed copy of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Go Places program guide to each of its institutions by visiting www.mnscu.edu/students/choosing/goplaces.html. Students may then visit websites for more information on each institution and its programs, then start scheduling college visits. Hollenbeck suggests walking through each school's common areas and inquiring about clubs and other activities to determine if the institution is a good "fit" for you.
"Then you just need to know what the requirements are for the major," she adds. "For nursing, it may differ from place to place. Minnesota has very high standards for nursing programming and thus you can't go wrong in terms of quality. The decision point may lie in where you're located and what kind of an environment you would like to be educated in."
Every student who applies to a MnSCU institution must take placement tests in reading, writing and mathematics to determine if they need any remedial work before taking college-level courses, according to Sarah Carrico, director of Enrollment Services at Saint Paul College (www.saintpaul.edu). Remedial courses may lengthen the time a student must commit to earning a degree, Carrico says.
Ask The Right Questions
Prospective students should also ask about financial aid: How many applicants the college admits to each program? How many credits are required for graduation? How long it will take to complete them?
"If they want to start here and go on elsewhere they should talk to our Transfer Center so they can take the appropriate courses and have a seamless transfer to a four-year institution," Carrico says. "They could take supplemental courses that may not apply to the program here but may put them on track to transfer.
"There may be a series of courses you may have to take in a sequence," Carrico adds. "For a number of our programs such as respiratory or nursing, there are really flexible courses for their prerequisites, but once they get into the main courses, particularly the clinicals, it's very prescribed. It's a full-time day for the most part."