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Junior College- More than a Plan ‘B’

By Chris Bates

The word ‘junior’ conjures up different ideas for different people. Some may see the word and assume that by being junior, this may mean inferior; some may view something junior as being lesser, or in some cases they may link the word junior to something or someone being younger. Perhaps then, when young student-athletes contemplate their USA collegiate journey, the idea of starting at a Junior College may not sound terribly appealing.

But to dismiss this option is a mistake.

So, let’s break it down for you so that you can see why we educate all of our families about the Junior College option before dismissing it.

What is Junior College?

A Junior College is a two-year University system within the USA that allows student-athletes to commence their collegiate experience before transferring to a four-year institution to complete the remaining two years of their athletic eligibility, as well as the two years remaining of their Bachelor’s degree.

NOTE: two years at a Junior College, plus two years at a four-year college, NOT two years then another four years. Nobody wants to be studying for six years!

Why is it called Junior College?

For those familiar with the USA education system, a first-year student is classified as a freshman. A second-year student is a sophomore. A third-year student a junior and a fourth-year student a senior. The term ‘Junior College’ derives from the idea that these institutions take students right up until the start of their junior year in college. They are also referred to as ‘Community Colleges’ at some Universities.

Why Junior College?

1. Cost – the average cost of a Junior College is a third of the annual cost of a four-year University. Depending on a family’s budget, Junior College can represent a wonderful opportunity to save some money at the front end of the four-year journey. It is also possible to receive full scholarships at junior college

2. Athletics – the level of competition, as in every division, varies. There are several Junior College teams in almost all sports that would beat NCAA Division 1 and 2 teams. In fact, often they will play against teams from other divisions, giving our student-athletes fantastic exposure. NOTE: Many coaches from four-year programs will actively recruit from Junior College rather than student-athletes right out of high school because they want a recruit who: has results in the US system that they can track and understand, has two extra years of maturity, and two years already acclimatised to living in the USA. Indeed, if one chooses the right Junior College, more often than not, he/she will be the recipient of more scholarship offers from four-year institutions than were available to them immediately after high school.

3. Academics – for some, Junior College is a chance to prove to the four-year programs that he/she is a competent student. If a student-athlete is deemed to be ineligible initially to attend a four-year program due to an issue of academic or age eligibility, the Junior College system allows this student to start his/her four-year journey and become eligible to transfer and compete at four-year colleges. Furthermore, there is phenomenal support available in the form of one-on-one free tutoring for all student-athletes. More and more high achieving students, however, are proactively choosing Junior College because it allows them an easier stepping stone into life at college in the USA. NOTE: Going to Junior College does not negatively impact one’s ability to graduate from an upper echelon four-year University.

Stepping Stone to Success

Often, Junior College is looked upon as a great back up plan. However, this sells this division short. Yes – Junior College is not for everybody. But neither is NCAA Division 1, 2 or 3. Increasingly, Junior College is a highly suitable plan A!

Junior College could be for you if you find yourself in one or more of the following situations:

• Feeling like your sporting performances have been negatively impacted by a focus on high school commitments, and therefore feeling like you need more time

• You feel like your best performances are ahead of you. In this case, often student-athletes will complete their first two years at Junior College, develop physically, progress their degrees and buy themselves two years of development and exposure

• Attracting offers at four-year Universities that are out of your family budget (usually due to the factors listed above)

• You are concerned about the academic rigour of being in college whilst balancing sport and life at college. Junior College can be a great way to ease into college life with a much less stringent academic focus

So, there we have it – a more in depth look at the Junior College option. At Study & Play USA, we can proudly share several success stories regarding our student-athletes who have taken the Junior College pathway who have graduated from NCAA Division 1 Universities with strong academic and athletic outcomes.

We are more than happy to share these with you or answer any other questions about why this is a terrific stepping stone option.