Should I get an A.S. While working towards a B.S.?
March 8, 2012 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Should I get my A.S. before transferring to a state college to get my B.S.?

I'm in Colorado, if it matters. Nontraditional student, working full time and attending classes part time.

My original plan was to take a few English classes, math up through Calc II, and a couple physics classes at the local community college, then transfer up to the state college and complete an engineering degree.

It occurred to me that for a few credits more, I can leave the community college with an Associate in Science. My advisors at both the community and state level are... less than helpful. It's not that they don't answer my questions, just that their answers tend to feel like form answers without any real information.

I feel it would be advantageous to show an AS on my resume while working towards a BS, and I'm not too worried about the extra loans or another semester or two at the CC. What I'm really wondering about is any unforseen problems I may run into if I choose this route. Would this for some reason look bad to future employers? Am I worrying too much?
posted by Perthuz to Education (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Will all of the additional credits you're taking at the CC transfer to the state college? If so, I'd get the AS now and take as many credits at the (presumably cheaper) CC as you can. Once you get your BS, you can always just leave the AS off your resume if you want, but in the meantime and no matter what happens in the future, you'll have the degree.

If not all of your CC credits will transfer, I'd move to the state college as soon as possible so that you're not wasting your money on classes you'll have to retake. So for me, the credit transfer policy at the state college would be the most important factor.
posted by decathecting at 9:33 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got an AS and BS and I can't think of anyway that the additional degree has been a negative. If you plan on working while you are working on your 4-year degree having the AS might help you get a better job.
posted by COD at 9:38 AM on March 8, 2012

So for me, the credit transfer policy at the state college would be the most important factor.

This is absolutely the right answer. If you're going to transfer, all that matters is what the new school will take.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:42 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel it would be advantageous to show an AS on my resume while working towards a BS

I agree with this and with COD. It shows, at least, that you can make decisions that lead to a structured result and that you're serious about completing things. It would stand up well, especially against candidates, and they're out there, who take a lot of college classes in a seemingly random way that never add up to any kind of a degree.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on March 8, 2012

I don't think that having an A.S. will really make much of a difference, but the classes at the CC may be easier. I'd just finish as many courses up as you can before you transfer. It may help your GPA out.
posted by 200burritos at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pertaining to my above comment, I don't think that the material will be easier. You will learn the same undergraduate coursework at any accredited school. It will be easier because you have the home advantage of already being comfortable there and knowing the structure/school/environment.
posted by 200burritos at 10:15 AM on March 8, 2012

As long as those classes give you credit towards your eventual B.S. then yes, take those classes. But, quite frankly, no one cares about an A.S.

In my experience (HR and recruiting) an A.S. degree and "some college" are treated the same way. Until you have a Bachelor's you don't really have a degree that 99% of people are going to care about.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:31 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Community college instructor here. In my opinion, the upside to finishing the associate's degree is very small. I doubt any four-year-schools care if you picked up an AS on the way to a bachelor's or not. But there certainly isn't any downside to it that I can think of. If you'd like to do the AS, it won't hurt you. But check with the university you want to finish at and see if they'll accept the credits you plan to earn.

I'm not sure about Colorado, but at least here in Texas, you'd be doing the community college a favor by finishing the degree. A lot of our performance evaluations from the state depend on graduation rates. Although it's a stupid policy, a student who attends our college, gets the credits that they want, and then finds a good job or transfers to a university without graduating will count against us in our assessments, even though we provided a good service to them and they successfully moved on to the next chapter of their life. That's not sufficient reason for you to base a decision on--do what's right for you--but CC's love to be able to give out those associate's degrees.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're doing what I did. I didn't bother with finishing the AS, because not all of the credits would transfer, and who wants to take and pay for 2 of the same classes ?

I would have been happy to otherwise, because I liked the CC classes better (smaller, more convenient, less expensive) but it just didn't make any sense.

The question you really should ask yourself - will getting a double BS help you ? If your engineering program is anything like mine, you can take a couple extra math classes and double major in Math and Engineering.

I had planned to work while doing the engineering degree... Be prepared to take a hit in your grades. It's just not possible to compete with kids who have way more free time, fewer responsibilities, and greater mental bandwidth. The good news is that with a decent work history, nobody will give a shit about your GPA as long as you graduate. I opted to quit my job, work part time, and I got my degree in 3 1/2 years and only about 20k in debt.

Anyway, I wouldn't sweat the AS; it will pale in comparison to a BS-E.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2012

One other comment (that might not make me very popular, but I think it's useful)- as an Engineering Prof. at a research university, I've found (and my colleagues have virtually unanimously agreed) that students who come in with courses from CC are often not as well-prepared as students who took courses at the University.

I am SURE there are exceptions to this, but it seems like the quality control at community colleges is, umm, occasionally lax. Therefore, I would talk to faculty at the state college and see if their experiences match mine. If so, I would take as many of your core math/science classes at the state college (instead of the CC) as possible.
posted by JMOZ at 11:38 AM on March 8, 2012

I would definitely check with the school you're thinking about transferring to. Here in Georgia we have transfer agreements where the completion of all of the requirements for the first two years (60 hours) at one school means that the transfer school will not require you to take any lower level classes, even if your first two years don't exactly line up with their requirements.

If there is such an agreement, that's obviously a big advantage over leaving with a few classes undone at the community college and then having to redo large portions of the sophomore year because the requirements are slightly different at your transfer school.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got my AS at a CC and then transferred to a 4-year school in another state. I was exempt from a lot of extraneous courses because of my AS and got to take extra classes in my major (while classmates were taking English 101 and whatnot), which was awesome.

To those who say the material may be easier at a CC, not necessarily true. I had instructors at my CC who taught the same classes at "real" universities (Princeton, Yale, UConn) in the daytime. Maybe that was a benefit to living in the middle of the tri-state area and having profs who were willing to commute a couple times a week. But still...same syllabus, a bajillionth of the cost.

Whether or not your credits will transfer as well as mine did depends on where you plan to transfer to.
posted by AlisonM at 4:19 PM on March 8, 2012

AlisonM: I did not intend to imply CC courses or instructors are inherently bad or less rigorous; the best are, undoubtedly, as good as any other institution. My only point was that they are highly variable, so caution is advised.
posted by JMOZ at 7:28 AM on March 9, 2012

My experience in VA is similar to hydropsyche's experience. I was able to transfer credits which wouldn't otherwise transfer, including things I had tested out of. What you want to ask about is the articulation agreement between your current college and new college.
posted by anaelith at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2012

Thanks everyone, it looks like the general concensus is that there's not enough advantage to having an AS to justify the extra time. I'll make an appointment with the State college transfer department to hash out exactly how my next couple years should look. I appreciate the input!
posted by Perthuz at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2012

Be open to their recommendation that you stay in for the AS, if that's what they say. Many state colleges have agreements (as noted above) to transfer all credits for students with an AS from an affiliate college, so there may be some advantage in that. And/or a cost advantage.
posted by Miko at 6:44 AM on March 12, 2012

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