25 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: what are community colleges?

Also referred to as junior colleges, they offer two-year associate degree programmes

Sanjeev Verma
3 Jul 2016 | 04:31 pm

I am a grade 11 student and would like to know about studying in community college in the US.

Community college can very well be described as a little-known and often misunderstood choice of education.

Many students, especially international applicants, are unaware of the several benefits that these institutions offer and are often misled by the stereotype of community colleges as a recourse for candidates who can’t get into university.

Given the flexibility, affordability and diversity these colleges offer, studying at a community college can be a wise decision.

Also referred to as junior colleges, they offer two-year associate degree programmes. Students enrol at a community college to earn the associate degree and then take up a vocation or, as in the case of most international students, progress to a university to earn their bachelor’s degree through a 2+2 programme.

Most community colleges have articulated agreements with prominent universities in the region and function as feeder colleges to them. So students have access to these universities that may otherwise be competitive for entry soon after high school.

Not only is the cost of attending a community college a fraction of what universities charge, the classroom sizes are smaller and the teaching more personal. Also, the instructors are focused on teaching and student development as opposed to those in big research universities who have to divide their time between teaching and research.

Based on the learning style of the student, these can be crucial factors that influence the overall educational experience. The biggest advantage, of course, is that community colleges function as pathways to prestigious colleges. For instance, Diablo Valley College in California is one of the top feeder colleges to UC Berkeley. The transfer from college to university is usually seamless and students often receive plenty of support from their academic counsellors with this.

With more than 1,500 community colleges in the US you need to be discerning and ensure the college is accredited. You would need to check the universities affiliated to the college and the success in transferring students to these universities.

Check entry requirements and find one that matches your profile. While community colleges generally have lower entry requirements in terms of GPA and English proficiency, the requirements vary and as in the case of universities, you will have to review all information thoroughly to find the right fit for you.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor