How to Enroll in Community College: 8 Steps
- FAQs About Applying to Community College
- How is community college different?
- What kind of degrees are available at community colleges?
- How to Enroll in Community College
From offering an affordable college option to providing a place to bolster grades and improve profiles, community colleges provide an abundance of opportunities to students. The majority of community colleges have open admissions, which means they accept nearly everyone, and enrolling is done as easily as three simple steps.
FAQs About Applying to Community College
Is admission to community college competitive?
Most community colleges have open admission policies through which almost everyone who applies is accepted. Normally the primary requirement for enrolling in community college is having earned a high school diploma or GED certificate. That said, it’s not unheard of for more in-demand programs at community colleges to practice more selective admissions.
Is applying to community college difficult?
The process of applying to community colleges is generally easier than that of four-year institutions, as they typically don’t require students to submit standardized test scores, compose essays, submit letters of recommendation, or meet GPA standards to gain admissions.
Do community colleges have any testing requirements?
Most community colleges do not require admissions tests like the SAT or ACT. That said, it’s common for community colleges to require students to take placement tests in subjects such as math, reading, and writing before enrolling. Schools use the results of these exams to determine the academic preparedness of students. Depending on a student’s performance, they might have the option of skipping introductory courses or may need to take remedial classes to improve their college readiness.
When should I apply to community college?
The majority of community colleges practice rolling admissions—meaning they accept applications year-round—and don’t have the firm deadlines common at four-year colleges and universities.
Can I receive financial aid at a community college?
In general, the same financial aid that is available to four-year college students is available to two-year college students, including Pell Grants, state and institutional aid, and federal student loans.
Not only is financial aid available to community college students, but in many cases, students can obtain a community college education for free. According to the Community College Research Center (CCRC), 41% of full-time public two-year college students pay no tuition or receive money to cover other expenses and another 12% pay something, but less than $1,000.
Can I attend community college part-time?
It’s very common at community colleges to take just one or two courses at a time. In fact, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 66% of community college students attend part-time.
Can I attend community college outside of my home district or state?
Typically, community colleges don’t have any geographical restrictions about where students can come from. That said, students usually choose the most convenient community college—it helps avoid added costs like out-of-state tuition and the need for room and board.
How is community college different?
Types of Degrees Offered
Customarily, community colleges offer two-year (associate’s) degrees and certificates while traditional colleges and universities offer four-year (bachelor’s) degrees along with even more intensive master’s and doctoral degrees. Associate’s degrees can provide access to career paths on their own or lay the foundation for earning a four-year degree.
A popular strategy for cutting college costs is for students to complete their general education requirements (gen eds) at a two-year school before transferring to a four-year institution. Most students at four-year colleges and universities spend their first two years fulfilling their gen eds and then moving on to classes in their major.
As a rule, community college is more affordable than traditional four-year colleges and universities. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of community college attendance is $7,460, while the average cost of a four-year college is $35,551.
Four-year colleges and universities usually provide a more robust college experience, with students living on campus, a multitude of student organizations, and competitive athletics.
That said, many community colleges offer vibrant campuses. According to AACC, a little more than a quarter of community colleges feature on-campus housing (although only about 1% of community college students live on campus), with many of them providing numerous athletic opportunities, clubs, and facilities that enhance the college experience.
The class size of community colleges is small compared to the often large and crowded gen ed classes that are a hallmark of the first two years of four-year college students—crowded lecture halls and packed auditoriums are an oddity at community colleges.
Because community colleges cater to commuters and non-traditional students, they tend to offer more flexible schedules than traditional four-year institutions—whether it’s part-time, evening, hybrid, or online class options.
What kind of degrees are available at community colleges?
Community colleges primarily award associate’s degrees and certificates. Associate’s degrees are normally awarded when a student completes 60-semester units or 90-quarter units. There are three main types of associate’s degrees, each of which puts students on slightly different paths:
- Associate of Arts (AA) provides a foundation of general education and career skills and is used to either continue on in a bachelor’s program or to enter the workforce.
- Associate of Science (AS) is similar to an associate of arts, however, it focuses more on science, math, and technology. Much like an AA, AS recipients either go on to four-year degree programs or directly enter the labor force.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) focuses on providing career-specific skills and preparing students for immediate entry into a career.
Associate’s degrees are available across a broad spectrum of fields ranging from the arts to high tech. Popular associate degrees include:
- Liberal arts and sciences
- Business administration and management
- Computer science
- Biological sciences
- Criminal justice
- Radiologic technology
- Information technology
Community colleges also often provide a variety of non-degree programs that award certificates. These programs can last anywhere from weeks to months or between 12 and 36 credits and are focused on specific skills and fields. Certificates are available in fields such as:
- Athletic administration
- Computer programming
- Human resources management
- Massage therapy
Community college is also a launch pad for four-year colleges and universities. Transferring from a two-year school to a four-year institution is becoming an increasingly popular and cost-effective strategy for many students. Many states even have agreements in place or established pathways for moving from community college to a four-year degree program.
For example, the University of California System’s transfer admission guarantee (TAG) program ensures admission of qualifying students at six of its nine campuses (Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz).
Similarly, Massachusetts’ MassTransfer program ensures the transfer of a minimum of 60 credits to students who complete an associate’s degree at a Massachusetts community college and enroll in a bachelor’s program at Massachusetts state universities or a University of Massachusetts campus—qualifying students may also receive guaranteed admission or discounted tuition.
How to Enroll in Community College
1. Find Community Colleges
Comparatively, enrolling in community college is straightforward in relation to the majority of four-year schools thanks to their nearly 100% acceptance rates, minimal requirements, and rolling admissions. However, it’s still important to research your community college options.
A few important considerations when deciding what community college to enroll in are location, program offerings, and flexibility.
- Location: Selecting a school that’s close to either home or work makes it easier to attend class and take advantage of on-campus resources, and allows you to spend more time on your studies and less time traveling back and forth to school.
- Programs: Search the community college’s website and speak to an admissions officer to make sure the program you’re interested in is available.
- Flexibility: If you have unique schedule challenges, make sure the school offers the classes you need when you’re available. For example, if you work a full-time job during the day, you’ll want to make sure the courses you’re interested in are available at night, on the weekend, or online.
CollegeVine can help you find community colleges in your state. Our free Schools Hub allows you to search schools using a variety of filters, including program length, location, and more.
2. Create an Account and Complete Application
Most community colleges have their own online applications which require creating an account. Compared to the intense applications used by many four-year schools (e.g., the Common App and Coalition App) the process is relatively easy and generally requires submitting basic personal information like your name, address, and where you attended high school.
3. Provide Academic Information
Different schools have different requirements for admission, however, most community colleges will want you to submit your high school transcript and present your high school diploma or GED. More competitive programs—like nursing—may also require you to submit SAT/ACT scores.
4. Proof of Residency
Because community college is often more expensive for out-of-district and out-of-state students, a common requirement is to provide proof of residency. A driver’s license, vehicle registration, voter registration, or tax return will typically satisfy the requirement.
5. Submit a FASFA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) tells colleges that you’re interested in receiving financial aid and makes you eligible for federal grants, work-study programs, and student loans. According to the AACC, one in five community college students doesn’t apply for federal financial aid, and about one-third don’t apply for any financial aid. Don’t miss this excellent opportunity and make sure to fill out the FASFA.
Unlike the rolling deadlines of most community colleges, the FASFA normally opens on October 1 and closes on June 30—funding and grants are limited, so submit your FASFA early to ensure you don’t miss out on any valuable aid.
6. Take Placement Tests
Many community colleges demand that students take placement tests before enrolling. These tests don’t affect whether you get into the school or not, rather, they’re used to determine what academic level you’re at. In some cases, schools will waive placement tests if a student provides satisfactory standardized test scores.
7. Meet with an Advisor
Sitting down with an advisor can provide you with a bounty of valuable information and ensure you’re on the proper academic path. Your academic advisor can help make sure you take the right classes to meet your goals, whether it’s earning an associate’s degree or progressing to a four-year college. They can also provide insight into campus culture—sharing information about interesting clubs or available support services.
8. Sign Up for Classes
The final step in enrolling in community colleges is to sign up for classes. After that, all there is to do is hit the books and start making your academic dreams a reality.