I’m a Community College Professor: 5 Things I Want You to Know

1. Community college is college

You may have heard that community college is the thirteenth year of school or that it’s not as rigorous as a four-year university. I want to dispel both of those myths. 

Even if you’re taking dual credit high school courses, it’s still college. And to meet state and federal requirements, as well as act ethically, community colleges offer rigorous curricula. My students often thank me for preparing them for courses at the institutions they transfer to. Critical thinking is the cornerstone of higher education, and you’ll learn how to expand that skill through your coursework.

girls walking and carrying books
Here are five things you should know about community college. (Twenty20@Tasha.Sinchuk)

2. We can help you with just about anything

I tell my students that the biggest mistake they can make is waiting too late to ask for help. Community colleges have many services to help you, so take advantage of them!

Educational Assistance

Tutoring centers, peer tutoring, library classes, life-hacking workshops, professor office hours, and paper editing. The list goes on and on! And because community colleges serve traditional and nontraditional students, they provide most of these services virtually and in person during daytime hours and evenings. I have conducted online office hours with students while they are on a break at work, feeding a baby, or even at 9:00 pm. 

Material Needs

Most community colleges have food pantries, technology to loan, emergency assistance, and living stipends available. One of my students lost her home in a fire, and we supplied her with a laptop and hotspot to borrow and some emergency funding to help with her living situation. If the college doesn’t have these services, someone at the college can connect you with community resources. 

Mental Health

The first time I saw a therapist was in college. Usually included with your student fees, you can meet with a mental health professional on campus. They can help with anything from school overwhelm to relationship issues. Ability services can help ensure you have the right accommodations for physical disabilities or neurodivergence. Regarding thriving in college, mental health is just as important as studying.

3. Small class sizes are golden

Did you know that the average class size at community college ranges from 25-35? In a large university, your required freshman classes might have 300!

In my small history classes, everyone can be involved in discussions and active learning rather than listen to me lecture for over an hour. One of my favorite things to do in my class is conduct game-based activities about historical topics and primary sources. I can do that easily in a small class. I even turned a classroom into an escape room!

Small classes ensure that each student gets more attention. I know every student’s name. We work together to create a supportive environment so students can get to know each other and me. Even in online classes, I can reach out to each student individually and help them reach their academic goals. 

4. Community college professors care about teaching

I’m not suggesting that tenured professors at research universities don’t care about their students, but teaching is often not their main job. Most community college instructors choose to work there because they love teaching and want that to be their focus. This means that some of the most innovative teaching can come from two-year institutions, and you, as a student, will benefit from that.

My colleagues and I created a multi-disciplinary project centered on food at my institution. My students conducted interviews with their families about the importance of food to their history, biology students studied nutritional aspects of food, and pastry students made desserts. We brought everything together with a contest and food tasting. This kind of innovation is something I see at a lot of community colleges!

5. Opportunities for Connection

In the community

Because we try to live into the values of being a truly public institution, community colleges have robust connections with the local community. Need an internship in your field? Want a mentor in the type of career you’re interested in? Hoping to find employment in your discipline? You can make those connections.

On campus

From clubs to extracurriculars, there’s something for everyone. At my campus, the most popular student group is the Anime Club. We also hold events where students can bring their families, such as movie nights and cultural celebrations. Community colleges have diverse student populations, and interactions outside of class are opportunities to learn and grow from getting to know people different from you.

So whether you are a high school student seeking dual enrollment, a recent high school grad, or you’ve taken years away from school, community colleges are for everyone.

More Great Reading:

Why I Recommend Community College to High School Graduates

About Lauran Kerr-Heraly

Lauran Kerr-Heraly is an award-winning educator and author who has dedicated her career to empowering students and their parents to transform their lives through education. Lauran has worked in college readiness in American high schools, taught history in international and British schools in England, and is currently a professor and Innovation Fellow at Houston Community College. She developed her program Altering Course to empower parents to prepare their kids for college and beyond. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

Read more posts by Lauran

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