FROM READERS: Transferring from community college to MU can be challenging, but it's worth it

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Missourian reader CT Souder transferred from Moberly Area Community College to MU during the spring of 2014. Souder, 23, studies communication.

In May I will be completing my Associates Degree from Moberly Area Community College (MACC), and will essentially be half-way complete with a bachelor’s program now that I have transferred to the University of Missouri. There are many benefits in getting an Associate of Arts degree (AA), one of which is the fact that more often than not, MU accepts transfer students with AA degrees with relative ease in terms of transfer credit. I would caution transfer students to be proactive in confirming between the two institutions what will transfer and what won’t, because occasionally the university will not accept a specific course as a transferable. Another benefit in one getting an AA degree is that if you happen to have received a low test score on an ACT exam, smaller schools such as MACC, will often still accept you whereas MU won’t. For students who find themselves in this situation it becomes imperative for them to attend a smaller institution and then transfer to a larger four-year school because the larger schools will only accept these students if they are transferring from another institution as opposed to only basing their acceptance on the merit of an ACT score.

In addition to the preceding benefits of going to a community college, the starkest contrast by far between these two kinds of schools is found in the cost of tuition. Community colleges are almost always less expensive than four-year institutions, and in the case of MACC, this no different. Regardless of how a student pays for their tuition (out of pocket, mom and dad, Federal aid etc.) it can be cheaper to do it at MACC. In my view, students who are serious about receiving a Bachelor’s Degree but want to do so in a way that limits the debt they take on in the process, really should consider the route of someplace such as MACC. If you are smart about how you take courses, you stand to possibly make it half-way through a bachelor’s program without incurring any school-related debt.

Having now transferred to the University of Missouri I’m beginning to notice the differences between schools. The resources available to MU students far exceed that of MACC and most community colleges. Firstly, the bureaucracy at MU is more efficient and the staff more knowledgeable. It is interesting that a school with such a large student body can manage to utilize such an effective bureaucracy. Secondly, the library and online materials available to MU students far exceeds what you’ll find at a smaller school. MACC’s Columbia campus has no library to speak of and what you’ll find on the Moberly campus is dwarfed by the resources at Ellis Library. Thirdly, MU clearly has a larger student body with more diversity, something I very much enjoy. Added to the student body population is the opportunity for social interaction amongst students outside of class. There is nothing like this at MACC. Lastly, the resources available for student health are excellent compared to the non-existent student health programs at smaller institutions.

Another contrast between the schools can be found in the academics themselves. Classes at MU are definitely harder. This is a double-edged sword because on the one hand, it is refreshing to be challenged and forced to grow academically. On the other hand, I sympathize with students who struggle in, say, mathematics and science, and have the misfortune of being stuck in some lecture hall with hundreds of students and a professor, who isn't always guaranteed to coherently teach in English. At the community college, you will almost always find the professors are local and easily approachable. Usually they are able to interact with students in a far less formal setting. This can be especially helpful when you take those same students who struggle with math and put them in a classroom with perhaps only thirty students, and a professor who knows you by your name and is more aware of who is keeping up in class along with who is struggling.

As far as challenges, at this point the most frustrating obstacle has been cooperation between the community college and the university. While the university is pretty much black and white in what it is willing to accept in terms of transfer credits/degrees, the community college can be difficult to work with when it comes to financial aid and consortium agreements. They (the community college) drag their feet and can make the transition more cumbersome than it needs to be.

My first week went really well, albeit it is a big adjustment when it comes to transportation and the level of communication between students and professors. I would say that my stress level is running a little higher than normal simply for the fact that I'm in a new environment, and it can take some getting used to the change in institution. Overall I would strongly recommend that students seeking a Bachelor’s Degree begin their journey at a community college, but once they transfer to MU or a larger institution, the changes will not be disappointing.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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