Studying in Canada can be a very costly decision. Especially for those who have just finished high school, it can be daunting for many of us to choose the career that we want. Going to community college can ease that decision.
Hello! I'm Brian. I previously graduated from Langara College with an Associate of Science in Computer Science. Now, I am continuing my study at SFU studying Software Systems. I enjoyed my time at Langara and highly recommend taking courses there.
There are numerous benefits to having your first two years at a community college.
The biggest reason for most is saving money. As of Sept 1, 2022, A single 3-credit course costs $1,876,20 at Langara and $1,872,25 at Douglas. The same 3-credit course costs $3,177.45 at SFU and $3,314.19 at FIC. Taking your first 60 credits (2 years) at community college will save you a lot of money. While FIC is also a college, it is important to keep in mind that its tuition fee is more expensive than SFU.
2. Smaller Class Size
Like FIC, classes in community colleges like Langara, Douglas, and Columbia are smaller. This is usually an advantage for most students as the class's instructor will be more accessible. In my experience, the lectures I attended in Langara were more engaging and allowed me to ask questions easier if needed.
3. More Flexible
Taking classes in community college is also more flexible in terms of 2 things: changing majors and universities. It is not uncommon for students to change their majors as it may not be it for them. Changing majors in community college is usually easier and less restrictive. Keep in mind that it is definitely possible to change major at SFU. However, in certain cases, changing to a certain major requires having a competitive GPA in the needed courses of that major.
You can also still decide which university you are going to attend. The top two that most people choose here are either UBC (University of British Columbia) or SFU.
4. Post-Graduation Work Permit (International Students)
The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) allows students who have graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) to obtain an open work permit to gain valuable Canadian work experience (source).
Graduating with an associate degree allows students to have 3-year work permit (source). This is very useful as it provides options for students to work first to get permanent residence before continuing their bachelor's degree (with hopefully domestic tuition cost after the permanent residence). While some students may not use it and go straight to university, it acts as a safety net in case they need/ want to fall back and work full-time.
There may also be certain drawbacks to pursuing community college first.
1. Not Guaranteed Entry
To transfer to SFU, students need to make sure they fulfill the university requirements and most importantly, have a competitive GPA for transferring.
Checking Admission Averages is important to make sure you know the GPA is above the accepted range.
2. Course Planning is Harder
Course Planning is harder because you need to make sure that the courses you take are (1) transferrable and applicable at the transferring university and (2) useful for your associate graduation requirements if needed.
Sometimes, certain courses are not just offered in the community college. Therefore, students will usually just take general electives.
3. Lesser Research/ Club Opportunities
Due to community colleges, in general, being smaller, there are lesser professors who hire students researchers. However, keep in mind that lesser does not mean unavailable. There are still plenty of opportunities and getting a research role is usually less competitive than in a university.
The other drawback is that community colleges have fewer clubs. Clubs still exist, but it is not as many and diverse as clubs offered in universities.
4. Delayed Co-op
Co-operative Education is an educational model that formally integrates academic study with relevant, paid work experience.
A student who starts their first year at university can take their co-op as early as the start of their second year with most starting their first co-op term at the end of the second year. If you were to finish your first two years at a community college, the earliest you can take a co-op term is the end of your third year. At SFU, you need to have an SFU GPA in order to apply to co-op.
The first term is the workshop term where students learn about resumes, cover letters, and job interviews and the second term is the seeking term to look for jobs. Thus, transfer students need to have 12 months at SFU before starting their first co-op jobs (1st term to get SFU GPA, 2nd and 3rd for workshop and seeking).
5. GPA is Reset
This is a minor drawback. But transferring means your GPA at university will be reset. It is not a definite drawback as it can be an advantage for some students to restart their GPA.
While every major requires different courses to take to transfer, I will present the general guidelines here for a successful transfer.
- Check SFU Transfer Requirements to ensure you fulfill all the requirements for the transfer
- Use BCTransferGuide and SFU Undergraduate Major requirements to check what course is transferred and needed to the major
- Keeping your GPA above the Admission Average is more important than taking the needed course in university as long as the overall requirement to transfer is already fulfilled
- Associate degree holders will have a preference in admission by having their GPA 0.25 less than required (Source)
- Consulting an academic advisor is helpful whenever you are in doubt.
Transferring can be a daunting process for many people. I have also had my share of anxiety when planning the courses. The best advice I can give is to enjoy the process. Looking back, I missed the experience of taking classes at Langara and talking to more accessible instructors