Community colleges are publicly owned post-secondary education institutions. Community colleges offer two-year degrees, although a growing number have four-year undergraduate degrees. If you want to save money and earn your associate degree or stay local for an undergraduate degree, community colleges are a great option.
Whether you’re a high school student interested in dual enrollment, a recent high school graduate, an international student, or someone interested in continuing education, this article has you covered. Read on to discover the many advantages of enrolling in community college and learn how to get started with a step-by-step guide on the admission process.
What Do Community Colleges Offer to Students?
Community colleges offer many benefits to students. Foremost, community college typically comes at a much lower cost than four-year colleges or universities. For in-district students, the average cost for tuition for a two-year program is $3,412, while public four-year institutions cost $9,580 for in-state students.
Aside from the financial benefits of community college, they also help students earn college credits in smaller class sizes. Coupled with more affordable tuition, you can have the opportunity to learn in a smaller class environment. Networking with peers, developing relationships with professors, and getting the help you may need easily are among the many tremendous benefits of community college.
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to attending community college. In the past, community colleges were known as junior colleges. These were two-year institutions with college courses for students to earn their associate degree. Today, community colleges still offer associate degree programs. However, they now have more program options. Often, community colleges offer transfer programs toward four-year degrees, occupational programs, certificates, and a growing number of them offer bachelor’s degrees.
Providing affordable and flexible course options, community colleges lack some traditional college experiences. For example, campus life may not be as engaging of an environment as four-year universities are since many students work around their classes. There are fewer on-campus events and a lack of sports teams on many campuses. Most community colleges don’t offer on-campus housing, so many students live at home.
The Community College Application Process
While the four-year university application process can be taxing, applying for community college is much different. Many times, community colleges have an open college admissions policy, meaning they offer admission to almost anyone wanting to get an education.
Please note that although many community colleges have an open admissions policy, not every program will. Some programs, such as nursing, allied health, information technology, and law enforcement have selective admission. This means they have a different application process and specific admissions requirements. In this article, though, we’ll focus primarily on programs that offer open admissions.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know when applying for community college as a new student.
Choose the School You Wish to Attend
Many community colleges offer an array of programs to students. Whether you want to earn a technical school certificate, associate degree, or even a bachelor’s degree, it’s important to research the college coursework your prospective school offers before you start the application process.
Once you determine what kind of program you are interested in, consider how you want to take classes. Among the many benefits of attending community college is flexible scheduling. Whether online or in-person, during the day or night, full or part-time, you can determine what kind of schedule works for you.
On the topic of flexibility, you should choose a community college location that works for your life. Sometimes, you might choose to move closer to your college; however, many choose a community college closer to home. To find a community college near you, visit this page. Regardless of whether you choose to move or live nearby, consider what choice is best for your life and academic goals.
Apply to the Community College Online
Thanks to the internet, you should be able to apply to your chosen school online. Depending on your school, you will sometimes need to complete additional forms included in the online application. For example, some schools require proof of health insurance and vaccination records.
Provide the Required Academic Information
Open admissions allow almost everyone to enroll in classes; yet, there is one qualifier. During the admissions process, they will ask for your education history. To complete this step in the admission application process, provide your high school diploma or transcript. If you did not graduate college, a GED still counts.
With open enrollment, community colleges care little about your grade point average (GPA) in terms of your application. Simply provide proof that you have graduated or have an equivalency (i.e., GED) to complete this part of the process.
Provide Proof of Residency
After you provide information about your academic history, you will need to show proof of residency. Not every state has the same residency requirements, but most state statutes require that at least one parent of the community college student must live in the state for at least a full year before the student can claim in-state tuition. Independent students or their spouses must have lived in that state for at least a year before the start date of classes.
For residents, state colleges typically qualify for lower tuition rates and have a higher chance of receiving state education grants. To receive in-state tuition, you will need to provide at least one document verifying that you’ve lived at least one year in the state before classes start. This includes:
- Supplying your voter registration card
- Attending high school in the state
- Registering for Selective Service in the state
- Providing state and federal income tax returns with an in-state residential address
The best way to prove residency is by providing two government-issued documents, which confirm you are a resident of the state.
Submit Your FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), informs colleges that you want financial aid. By completing this form, you provide your school with the information they need to determine how much need-based financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Since funding and grants have limited funding, it’s wise to complete the FAFSA as early as possible (the FAFSA application opens on Oct. 1). Even if you’re not sure which school you will attend by the opening date, you should still complete the form. You may list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA free of charge.
Attend Orientation and Take Placement Tests
Next, you will need to attend orientation and take the required placement tests. Many community colleges require students to attend orientation. Often, your school will offer both online and or in-person orientation. Visit your college’s website to see your orientation options.
Before you enroll in classes, you may need to take a placement test or skills assessment. If you have taken the SAT or ACT, you might be exempt from taking a placement test. The placement test is used to determine your knowledge in math, reading, and writing. Ultimately, the results of this test will help the community college place you in courses for your current skill level.
Sometimes, community colleges will ask you to take the College Board’s ACCUPLACER or College-Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST). Furthermore, certain programs may require additional testing.
Sign Up For and Start Your Classes
Once you’ve completed the steps above, you’re ready to enroll in classes! When you enroll in community college, you’ll have access to support services, such as an academic adviser. It’s recommended to contact your academic adviser to make sure you’re on the right path and taking the courses you need for your academic career. For example, if you plan on being a transfer student after earning your associate degree, contact your academic adviser to ensure you’re taking prerequisite classes accepted by your future college. This way, you won’t waste time or money better spent elsewhere.
Get More Help With Your College Journey at CollegeFinance.com
Now that you understand the application process for community college, you’re ready to get started on your application. Regardless of your education goals, community colleges offer affordable, quality education to help you build a career and develop essential skills.
CollegeFinance.com offers community college students, parents, and former students the resources they need to get the most from their college education. Want to learn about funding your education? Learn about your options to self-fund, receive financial assistance, find scholarships, and more.