Community Colleges: A Guide for International Students

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Doc Seidman Says…

….A U.S. “community college” is a school that offers a two-year degree (associate’s) instead of a four-year degree (bachelor’s). Because it is a two-year school, it costs a lot less money to attend. Community colleges are sometimes called “Junior Colleges” or “Technical Colleges.” Some community colleges offer both two and four-year degrees.

Students attend community colleges for many reasons.

  • Some students are not sure they are ready for a four-year degree. “Trying things out” with a less-expensive two-year degree close to home can be a better option.
  • Many students are older; in their 30s, 40s or more. They may be returning to school to learn new things or complete a degree they started but did not finish.
  • Many students cannot afford to attend a four-year college right away. They will attend the local community college, earn their associate’s degree, and then apply to a four-year college as a transfer student. In many cases, they can now earn their bachelor’s degree in two years, instead of four years (depending on the number of credit hours that transfer, or are accepted by the four-year school). Starting at a community college can save a lot of money. The average cost of tuition is around $3,500 a year, much lower than at a four-year school.

If you decide to attend a community college, know that most do not offer on-campus housing, or dormitories, for their students. Students are usually on their own to find a place to live. In the U.S., many students live at home with their families while they attend community college. The price of an apartment will vary based on where the college is. In many cases, however, it is easy to find lower cost housing near a busy college.

Since students do not live on campus, they need to find a way to get to and from their classes. Many people in the U.S. have cars so driving to school is common. If you do not have a car, most community colleges are part of a major public bus route where students can ride a bus to and from school. (You would want to review bus transport in advance because every region and school is different.) It is also possible to walk if you live close enough, weather permitting. Even if you can walk to school, you will need to find a way to get to other places (grocery stores, shopping, restaurants, etc.). Keep in mind, however, that cars are extremely popular in the United States and most places are built to accommodate them.

When it comes to college in the United States, you often get what you pay for. The more you pay to attend (higher tuition) the more services and advising your college is likely to provide. In many cases, the less you pay, the fewer services and personal attention you may receive.

If this is something that may interest you, research possible community colleges you may be interested in. Try and avoid a college that is “for profit.” That means it operates like a more traditional business and the college might be more interested in having you as a paid student than seeing you succeed. A good community college will have an office for international students. It would be a good idea to contact the director and get more information about the international student population. They can also answer any questions about how the school is accredited and what opportunities are available to international students both during school and when they graduate.

If you want to attend college in the United States but do not have a great deal of money, the community college option can be right for you. Most do very good work and make every attempt to see their students succeed.

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