Things to Consider if You’re Taking Classes at Institutions Other Than Your University

Wherever you go to school, there’s bound to be those notable, extremely difficult classes that many majors end up having to take. These classes can bring your GPA down, be unorganized, or simply not at the depth you want to learn the material at. Whatever your reason is, for many of these popular and commonly-taken classes (often prerequisites, but upper-levels are also usually included) you will have options to take these classes elsewhere and fulfill the requirement required by your institution.

Community colleges are where most people look when they face this situation. Community colleges usually offer the equivalent class but with smaller class sizes which means more individual attention and a greater opportunity for understanding the material. They also might be structured differently to a method that suits you better, and dare I say it… easier. They might not cover the material with the same depth, the grading scheme might be more favorable, and the overall structure, different. For these reasons, many students choose to take select classes at community college for a more seamless college experience that also favors your GPA.

However, this option does come with some challenges that you might want to consider. For one, your university will likely not cover any expenses that are incurred by the community college, and getting financial aid from two different institutions poses problems that you have to talk to someone certified about – the financial aid going in two different places can cause issues and is not a commonly taken path. For this reason, most students end up having to pay for the course completely out of pocket. While community colleges are known to be cheaper, the costs can still be a significant factor of choosing to take a class there.

Additionally, if you’re a pre-med, you might want to check before taking common prerequisites at an “easier” place; while not a pre-med major myself, I have heard various pre-meds talking about how grad schools don’t look favorably upon prerequisites taken at a different institution. This might apply to other major disciplines as well, so I would encourage you to do some research, especially if you plan on attending grad school.

Also, if you talk to an advisor about taking classes elsewhere, they might advise you not to – for one, while the class might be easier, it could be difficult to transition back to the next class at your university. After all, classes build upon each other, and when they’re taken at different institutions, with varying material and structure, this might cause gaps in understanding when you eventually continue to take the upper-level classes at your home institution.

Lastly, you should keep in mind that if you plan on dual-enrollment (i.e taking a class at a different institution while still taking classes at your home institution, and not just taking a class at a community college over the summer/spring) you will probably undertake a course load that is on the heavier side. For one, you still need to take 12 credits at your home institution to be considered full-time, while having to take additional credits elsewhere, bringing your total to be at least 15 or 16 credits. It’s definitely a responsibility, but sometimes it’s necessary.

If you plan on taking the route of taking classes elsewhere, don’t forget to check transfer equivalencies! You don’t want to take a class somewhere else just to find out that it doesn’t transfer back to the place you want it to.

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