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Understanding the Basics about Community Colleges

With the rising popularity of community colleges among international students in recent years, we thought it is important to take a closer look at these schools.
By GPA Admin

Understanding the Basics about Community Colleges

Flexible Admission Requirements 

In the U.S., it is the community college’s goal to ensure that every student has an opportunity in higher education.  Therefore the admission requirements are somewhat flexible, with the understanding that some pre-college or non-credit courses may have to be taken prior to admission into an academic program. 

When applying to get into a community college, the basic items a prospective student needs to submit typically include: an application form; proof of completion of secondary school or its equivalent; proof of financial support in the form of affidavits of support or official bank statements; and for international students, proof of having met English proficiency requirements with their scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). 

Many community colleges waive the TOEFL or IELTS requirements or accept lower scores.  This is because they have their own testing system for their in-coming students.  Students who have adequate English skills are admitted into academic programs immediately while those who do not are required to take an Intensive English Program (IEP) or English as a Second Language (ESL) course to meet English prerequisites.  Likewise, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is generally not required but shows a commitment by the student to study in the United States.

Lower Tuition and Fees

Because community college tuition and fees cost about 50% less than those at four-year universities, attending community college for the first two years is one of the ways in which an out-of-state student can substantially save on costs while earning a Bachelor’s degree.  In addition, community colleges may offer scholarships, work study programs and co-operative programs (co-op) to help towards the costs of education. 

Scholarships tend to be privately funded.  Because they are based on academic achievements, they are often only awarded after enrollment or after one year of academic work.  There may also be sports scholarships for both men and women in basketball, tennis, cross-country, etc. and where applicable, scholarships are also awarded to students with music and artistic accomplishments.  International students on the F-1 or J-1 visa status are not allowed to work off-campus during the academic year.  However, they may participate in work study programs that allow them to work within campus for up to 20 hours per week.  They may also take part in co-operative programs if available.  Co-ops integrate classroom studies with real-life paid work and provide an opportunity for a student to develop work place skills such as teamwork, project management, problem solving, etc.


Most community colleges have on-campus dormitories but where there are none available, colleges can provide help in finding off-campus accommodations such as hosting families, apartments or rooms to rent.  Consequently, off-campus accommodations help students become more independent and allow international students to take a closer look at life in the U.S.

A recent discussion at the White House examined the role of community colleges in the U.S.


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