94 DECEMBER 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT Francesca Huemer Kelly, the spouse of a retired Foreign Service officer and ambas- sador, counsels students on their college application essays through www.essayadvantage.net. A freelance writer, co-founder of Tales from a Small Planet and former editor of AFSA News, she has also served as a college coun- selor at two international schools. I t may be college application time, but it’s feeling, well, just a little different this year. Because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the timing and effectiveness of a possible vaccine, many high school seniors are wonder- ing what exactly they are applying to. If they’re lucky enough to get into the col- lege of their dreams, can they actually attend there in person? This is one of the reasons—cost being another—that an increasing number of With online learning now a prevalent alternative, many students are finding a different path toward their degree. Is it right for you? BY FRANCESCA HUEMER KE L LY COLLEGE OPTIONS Community College with a Guaranteed Transfer Program young people are turning to community colleges for their first two years of univer- sity-level courses. They and their parents are figuring, Why pay top dollar for what might well be an online education? That’s a good question, and there is not just one good answer. If you’re offered admission to an excellent school that offers a “name,” such as Harvard or Stanford, accept the offer. You may not be able to immediately move into your dorm room or go to a campus party, but you will nevertheless be getting a top-notch education from renowned professors. The same may be true of selective liberal arts colleges: The small classes and availability of mentors will still be a plus, even online. And if you receive a large financial-aid package from any four-year institution, there is probably not an appreciable financial benefit in turning that down in favor of attending community college. Aside from those exceptions, there are some economic and other advan- tages in spending your first two years at a community college that offers a guaranteed transfer to an acceptable four-year university. What Is a Guaranteed Transfer? Public and even some private universities partner with certain com- munity colleges, accepting transfer students after two years if they maintain a certain grade point average and fulfill other requirements. This initiative has elevated the status of participating com- munity colleges, and two-year colleges such as Montgomery College (linked to the University of Maryland and other institutions) and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA, linked to a variety of VA universities) are now fairly competitive in the quality and range of their course offerings.