No Shame in NOVA

NOVA is one of the most well recognized community colleges for students in the Northern Virginia area, but many students know little about the school itself.


Many high school students are under a lot of pressure to get accepted into college, and then choose a college that not only fits their personal needs, but also looks good on paper.  Some students look directly towards four year universities, while others plan to start at a community college.

Some students may find starting at a community college, like Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), is a better option for them personally than immediately attending a four-year college or university. Unfortunately, NOVA has a stigma among students as being a ‘lesser educational opportunity’ or ‘not a real college’ due to the fact that it is a community college. 

Hylton School Counselor Megan Pomfret said, “The biggest misconception [about NOVA] is that it’s not college. It absolutely is college and it’s one of the best community colleges in the country.”

Pomfret said that many students tend to get caught up in the college name game. They subconsciously believe that an education at a regular school such as George Mason University could never amount to an education at a big name school such as Princeton University. Not only is this false, but it also fails to take into account circumstances and the variety of opportunities at each individual college.

“The name of the school doesn’t matter. It matters what you study and what you do in college,” said Pomfret.

Due to this phenomenon, many students find that their college search is driven by the prestige of the school. As a result, students sometimes overlook the schools that might ultimately be the best fit for them individually.

Former Watchdog Editor-in-Chief Chloe Koulefianou is a freshman at Harvard College.

“Choosing a school that suits you is definitely important,” said Koulefianou. “I know a couple of people who are transferring because they chose Harvard solely for the clout.”

While going to a well known university has its advantages, it is not always the best fit for all students. Particularly if they lack the funds. According to College Board, the average amount of money borrowed by undergraduate students for one year of tuition in 2017-2018 was $29,000.

However, NOVA tuition per year is approximately $5,498; in contrast to tuition at a top school like the University of Virginia (UVA), where the in-state tuition is $13,682. The tuition cost does not include the $15,912 per year for room and board at UVA.

Hylton alumna Lily Shannon chose to apply and attend NOVA last year.

“I couldn’t practically see myself at any of those colleges [four-year universities]… my mom wasn’t happy about it… flash forward to now I’m still very happy and confident in my decision,” said Shannon.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, Hylton students had the opportunity to take Dual Enrollment English as an alternative to regular English 12 or AP English Literature. Signing up for English Composition 1 at NOVA would cost students approximately $600. There is no cost to take the class at Hylton and successful completion of the class earns students the full six college credits. The Dual Enrollment English course follows the same NOVA course syllabus but takes place over the course of the year.

Dual Enrollment is designed to prepare students for the rigors of college before their freshman year. It is an excellent opportunity for any student to get a jump start on college coursework free of charge. Not all colleges accept certain AP/IB exam scores, whereas Dual Enrollment classes are guaranteed college credit when transferred in-state.

If you are interested in learning more about NOVA, or receiving guidance from their admissions counselors, the Hylton library will be hosting informational sessions on December 8, January 28, and January 29 for seniors only. Seniors may register for the sessions through their Naviance accounts.

For further information, Hylton’s counselors are available through appointment.