The adventure of going to college can present you with a couple of challenges, not the least of which is financial, even if you use the GI Bill to help pay for it.

You’ll also face the decision of what classes to take, which career to pursue and how to fit it all into your busy life. Don’t look past your local community college, though, because it may be able to help you accomplish your mission!

Community colleges have been the butt of many jokes over the years (check out the TV show Community for a great example), but avoiding them may be a serious mistake.

The affordability alone is a reason to take a good look at community college before heading off to a university. The average annual tuition for a university can be as high as $30,000, while community college average annual tuition typically hovers around or below $5,000.

This not only means that you’ll save money right now, but you’ll also have less student debt later when you graduate with your degree. If you already live near a community college, relocation expenses may not be needed and living expenses shouldn’t increase, either.

Getting core classes out of the way at a lower cost and in a more often personalized atmosphere is another good reason to check out a community college. Student numbers per class are often much higher at major universities.

Another advantage to community colleges is that just about everyone is welcome to enroll, so admission shouldn’t be a problem. Regardless of your SAT or ACT test scores, or even if you haven’t taken those tests, your community college can likely still place you in an educational program.

The same can be said if you didn’t have an amazing GPA when you left high school. Attending community college can help you earn credits and increase your knowledge at the same time, preparing you for more stringent admission policies later down the road when you head to a university. If you’re still looking for the right school, check out our School Matchmaker.

If you’re already working, community college classes are more likely to fit your schedule since many night and weekend courses are usually available. Depending on the school, online classes should also be an option and are a great way to fit college into your already busy life. When you’re taking classes that have flexible schedules, or multiple offerings, you’re probably going to run into other people from your community, which can really help you to network, both professionally and personally.

The biggest reason that I started at community college in my own higher education is because it gave me the freedom to decide whether or not college was for me without investing a ton of time and money or moving my family to another city (or state). The wide range of classes offered, as well as the real-world experience of the teachers and professors, many of whom are currently working in the field that they are teaching, was another major factor.

That, in particular, really helped me to dial in my major subject of study and decide what was right for my future. Even today I still take a class at the local community college every now and then to study about a specific subject or increase my business and professional capabilities. Need some help figuring out what to do next?

Be sure to check out this article from our own Hudson Saffell about Veterans in College: Navigating the Academic Realm.