What Is a Junior College

What Is a Junior College?

When it comes to pursuing higher education, you have a ton of options. There are four-year universities, community colleges, vocational schools, liberal arts colleges, colleges with special missions, same-sex colleges—seriously, we could go on forevs. 

Another type of higher education you may be unfamiliar with? Junior college. What is a junior college and why does it deserve a place on your college shortlist? Let’s take a closer look.


What Is a Junior College?

A junior college, more commonly known as a community college, is a two-year postsecondary institution that provides an academic education or vocational training to prepare students for successful careers. The highest certificate that a student can earn at a junior college is usually an associate’s degree; however, some students decide to continue their education at a four-year university to get a bachelor’s degree by transferring their credits. 

In general, junior colleges have one main purpose: to make higher education more easily accessible in terms of finances, location, and curriculum. 

Origin of Junior Colleges 

Junior colleges first came into existence in 1901 as the brainchild of two men: William Rainey Harper, president of the University of Chicago, and J. Stanley Brown, superintendent of Joliet Township High School. 

The concept of a junior college originally began as an experiment. Harper and Brown’s idea was to create a college that was basically an extension of high school. This two-year “junior college” would provide students with an affordable and accessible education that would help prepare them for a four-year university.

Back then, many junior college students were the children of farm families, shopkeepers, and other blue-collar workers who were deeply involved in their community. There was also a deep sense of pride in supporting these affordable colleges that helped smaller communities grow and thrive. 

Do you see where we’re getting with this? At some point, we started calling junior colleges “community colleges.” This name change came about shortly after junior colleges began to evolve and offer certificates that didn’t require them to continue their education at a four-year university.

junior community college quote

So, Is There a Difference Between Junior College and Community College?

Not really. Both junior colleges and community colleges pride themselves on offering flexible programs that meet the needs of their communities. However, many junior colleges that self-identify as such are private institutions. The vast majority of community colleges in the United States are public institutions, which generally makes them more affordable—and potentially, tuition-free.

Related: Is Community College Free?

So, to sum things up, there really isn’t a big difference between junior college and community college, other than the fact that one is usually public and the other may be private. Private junior colleges are also generally more expensive to attend compared to public community colleges.

But if you’re interested in going to a junior college, don’t let the cost stop you from applying! Private institutions tend to offer generous financial aid packages to help offset their higher cost of tuition. 

You can also apply for college scholarships to knock the sticker price down. Be sure to check out our blog–How Do Scholarships Work?–to learn more about how you can earn that sweet, sweet scholarship dough to pay for college.

Why Attend a Junior College?

You should attend junior college because George Lucas, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, went to one. Just kidding. (Well, not really—he did go to Modesto Junior College.)

bachelors community college quote

But seriously, here are a few reasons why you may want to consider going to a junior college:

  • You want an affordable education. Even though many people use the term “junior college” to describe private community colleges, some of them are public institutions that offer an extremely affordable education. And many students manage to save tons of money on a bachelor’s degree by transferring from community college to a university.
  • You want options. Junior colleges are no longer just a stepping-stone to a four-year degree. These days, they offer an array of programs and certificates, from two-year degrees (associate of arts degree, associate of science degree, etc.) to medical certificates that can be earned in less than a year.
  • You want flexibility. Many junior colleges offer courses in a variety of formats in order to meet the diverse needs of students. Some junior colleges—such as Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas—have several small campuses in different locations so that students can be closer to home. 

Building a Well-Rounded College Shortlist 

Bottom line? Don’t rule out junior colleges in your college shortlist. At the very least, consider keeping it as a backup in case you don’t get into your first-choice school. 

Getting ready to start the college application process? Be sure to check out our blog–How to Apply for College–to make applying for school easier!


Image Credits

Source: Vitchanan Photography

Source: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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