What do actor Tom Hanks, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, space shuttle commander Robert Gibson, baseball player Nolan Ryan and "Governator" Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common?

Yup, that's right: They all went to community college.

Community colleges (also known as junior colleges) offer a two–year degree called the Associate's Degree. Many also provide vocational training and certificates.

If you have a high school diploma or earned a GED, you can attend a community college. These schools rarely consider standardized test scores, though certain classes or programs may have more stringent admissions requirements.

If you're unsure of your next educational step, consider attending a community college. Here are some compelling reasons to register:

You want to save money.

Community college tuition is usually thousands of dollars cheaper than tuition for private and public four–year universities. Even with the relatively low rates, nearly a third of students receive financial aid.

Spending two years in a community college can also give you time to work and save up for the four-year college of your choice. You might even find that you qualify for a scholarship from the school you're transferring to or from an outside organization like Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges.

You need or want to live at home.

There is a community college within commuting distance of 90 percent of the U.S. population, so convenience is a big selling point. If you have family obligations or just don't feel emotionally ready to strike out on your own, a community college can enable you to continue your education without uprooting your life.

You need a flexible schedule.

Four–year schools generally require you to be a full–time student. Most community college students, on the other hand, take classes part-time as they work or pursue other interests. A number of two–year colleges have multiple locations and offer courses online for added flexibility.

You want to be surrounded by a diverse student body.

Because of their convenience, open admissions policies and low cost, many community colleges draw a more varied population than the typical four–year school in terms of race, age and socioeconomic background. This diversity is, in itself, a draw, particularly to international and older students.

You're looking for an academic boost.

For some, community college is a chance to make up for a poor high school record. For others, it is an opportunity to get extra academic guidance and support. Community colleges often have small class sizes. The priority of the faculty is teaching, not research. Plus there are generally lots of support services, such as mentoring programs and organized study groups.

This support can give students the credentials they need to get admitted to, and succeed at, a four-year school. In fact, many community colleges have agreements with universities that guarantee admission to students who meet certain coursework and GPA requirements.

If you hope to transfer, meet with an advisor both at your community college and, if possible, the school you eventually want to attend. Find out about costs and financial aid at your potential transfer school and start budgeting immediately. Perhaps most importantly, take your community college education seriously. College is college, whether it's a two-year or four-year school, and getting off to a good start can be your ticket to a great future.