What You Need to Know to Get Into Community College

Written by: Matt Kuncaitis
Updated: 7/14/21

Community colleges have become increasingly important to local communities. In fact, over 80% of Americans believe community colleges contribute to a strong workforce.

From recent high school graduates to adults wanting to pursue their dreams, community college offers many benefits. With access to experienced professors, more flexible schedules, smaller class sizes and affordability, it’s no wonder why so many are choosing to apply to community college. 

In this article, you’ll learn about the community college application process and which placement tests or test scores you’ll need to turn into the admissions office. 

Before Applying to a Community College

Before you start the application process, it’s important to take a few factors into consideration. With so many program options, the cost of attendance and different school options, deciding where to apply and for what can be a daunting experience. Taking the time to reflect on what’s most important to you and understanding your “why” can help you decide how you’ll take the next steps. 

Here’s a short list of factors to consider: 

  • Location: One of the most important factors to consider is the location of your school. Deciding to attend a school far from home might be exactly what you’ve dreamed of, but there can be drawbacks. For instance, if you attend school out-of-state, your tuition will be more expensive than a local community college. Additionally, it can impact your commute, how much you can visit home and more. 
  • Curriculum: Consider what programs your school offers. Plenty of students are undecided or change their major, but it’s still a good idea to see what classes the school offers and if they have college classes that interest you. Additionally, try to decide if you want to earn an associate degree at your community college and then transfer to a four-year university for your bachelor’s degree. Although this isn’t necessary, it can help you choose courses that apply more directly to your education path. 
  • Career development: Aside from providing you with an education, community college should also help with your career development. Look into the school’s career center to see if they offer certain resources, like resume-writing courses, mock interviews and access to internships. 
  • Affordability: Before you start the application process, consider what you can afford and what is attainable. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate finances alone. Just like four-year schools, community colleges have financial aid options and staff available to answer your questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out and explore your financial options. 
  • Availability: You should also consider your availability. Community colleges are famous for offering flexible class scheduling options. When you apply to a college, you will likely need to include whether you want to get your degree online, in-person or in a hybrid environment. Plus, you should consider the hours in which you’ll be at school. For example, if you work during the day, it makes sense to take night classes and be a part-time student.  

What You Need to Apply to Community College

Most community colleges have straightforward application processes. Moreover, most community colleges have an open enrollment policy, meaning they welcome all applicants.  

However, this is a general statement and doesn’t apply to some selective programs. 

More selective programs may require a seperate application once you’re admitted to the community college. Here is a list of selective admissions programs: 

  • Medical sonography
  • Law enforcement 
  • Allied health 
  • Nursing 
  • Information technology 

Although the exact materials you’ll need to apply to community college may vary depending on the institution and the program you’re applying to, most colleges require the following:


To apply to community college, you’ll need to submit an application. Sometimes, you will need  to pay an application fee when you apply. However, there are plenty of programs with zero application fees.

Many high school guidance offices suggest that students apply to community college before the spring months. In fact, you should consider submitting your application in fall and early winter. 

Education Credentials

You’ll need to provide proof of your education (e.g., high school diploma, GED or high school transcript). If you didn’t finish high school, you can still attend community college with a GED.

Many community colleges offer “Ability to Benefit” (ATB) programs to aspiring students who don’t have a diploma. To enroll in an ATB program, you must pass a government-approved exam or earn six college credits. 

Placement Test Scores

In some cases, you might be required to provide ACT or SAT test scores, although many community colleges don’t have this requirement. Instead of these standardized tests, you will likely be asked to complete a placement test before enrolling in classes. In some cases, having ACT and SAT scores may exempt you from taking a placement test. These tests evaluate your English (reading and writing) and math skills so that you can be placed in the right courses. 

The Community College Application Process

Applying for community college is a relatively simple process. As you can see, most colleges require you to submit an application with basic information about yourself, proof of previous education and to take a placement test before you start classes. 

Submitting all your application paperwork together can help expedite the application process. By submitting the completed application, you’ll likely hear about your acceptance within two weeks of submitting the paperwork. 

When you complete the admissions process, it’s wise to also complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The most important step to receiving financial aid is filling out the FAFSA. In short, the FAFSA considers your finances and determines how much financial aid you qualify for

5 Tips for When You Start at Community College

Now that you understand the basic process of applying to community college, continue reading to learn about what you should expect when starting school. 

Choose College Classes Wisely

If you plan on being a transfer student in the future, choosing transferable courses is important. Not only will this save you time in the long run by not having to repeat or take additional classes, but it can also save you a lot of money. 

Although attending a four-year college isn’t always the goal, it’s important to consider your options and know that you can adjust your coursework so that you don’t waste money. Talking to an academic adviser at your community college is a great way to determine which classes to register for and see if the credits you’ll be taking will transfer to your prospective four-year college. 

Register for Classes ASAP

Classes fill up very quickly, so enrolling early is important. By signing up for courses as soon as possible, you’ll have access to both online and in-person courses. This will help you choose a flexible schedule that fits into your availability. 

Meet Your Professors

Regardless of where you attend school, most professors are required to keep office hours. Many times, people think office hours are just for asking the professor questions. Although this is the case for many students, introducing yourself to your professor can prove helpful when it comes to your academic future. 

You never know which professors are going to shape you, inform you of internship opportunities or help you determine your career path — the impact of a good professor is unmatched. Aside from academic advice, forming a good relationship with a professor early on can also help you with letters of recommendation when it comes time to start applying for postgraduate jobs. 

Meet Other Community College Students 

Making friends with some of the people around you in class is beneficial for many reasons. Sometimes, talking to a peer can help you better understand the course content. Working in study groups before a test, discussing an upcoming project, or just chatting with the person next to you can make college a must more enjoyable experience. 

Plus, talking to other community college students can help you when it comes time to find a job. Similarly to developing a relationship with your professors, talking with new students can help with networking. When it comes time to find a job after graduation, some of your school connections might prove handy.

Utilize Student Services

Whether you like it or not, some of your tuition is going toward student services, such as the career center and academic advising. Why not take advantage of a service you’re already paying for, especially when it can prove helpful in developing your career? 

Academic advising goes beyond helping you pick classes for the next semester or determining which credits can transfer to another college. Academic advisers can be powerful allies when you’re in school, helping you make big decisions when everything seems overwhelming. 

Similarly, the career center is a great resource when it comes time to find internships or jobs. Resume formatting, mock interviews and general advice can help prepare you for your future. 

Looking For More Info? Discover More Helpful Articles at CollegeFinance.com

Researching schools, applying to college, taking placement tests and selecting courses can be an exhausting process. It’s also one that can lead to your dreams. Regardless of whether you want to open your own business, become a medical sonographer or be the first in your family to graduate, community college can provide you with the higher education you need. 

Knowing what others have done to plan and fund their education with financial aid and student loans can help you make informed decisions about your education. At CollegeFinance.com, we’re dedicated to helping people like you have access to the necessary resources to plan for this next step.