In our special topic series, last week we started talking about community colleges in the United States. We saw that two-year associate degrees offered by community colleges are cost-efficient options for students to consider after completing high school (12th standard). Students have the flexibility to transfer to a bachelor’s programme at a US university through the 2+2 pathway after completion of an associate degree programme. Community colleges usually have articulation agreements with colleges and universities to transfer students.
In today’s column, we will share more information about community colleges with our readers.
Community colleges operate an “open” admissions policy. This means anyone who wishes to enrol and meets the minimum entry requirements can do so. Each institution will have its own set of admission requirements, but the minimum usually includes the following:
• Completed application form
• Proof of secondary school completion, usually 12 years of schooling
• Certification of English language proficiency – TOEFL or IELTS
• Evidence of financial support
The English language proficiency requirement may be lower for a community college than it is for a four-year institution. In addition, if a student’s score is a little below the entry requirement, the community college may still admit the student into the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Successful completion of all the prescribed ESL courses will open the door to the wider academic world of the community college.
Students should contact the admissions office of the two-year college to request international admissions information. Many community colleges have websites with downloadable or online applications. To search for community colleges, students may visit the American Association of Community Colleges website (https://www.aacc.nche.edu/college-finder/ ) or bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college search and nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator.
Students should be aware of a few advantages and disadvantages of community colleges before they choose them for their applications.
Firstly, the cost of study at community colleges is significantly lower (around one-third or half) which lowers the overall study expenses even if the student opts to transfer to a four-year college or university after completion of the associate degree. Community colleges also generally support small class sizes. This factor is of high advantage for international students who need time to adjust to the new academic system in the United States and want to improve their English proficiency skills. For students interested in developing vocational/technical skills, community colleges are further advantageous as they offer programs in cutting-edge fields and soft skills.
However, students should remember that community colleges seldom provide financial support to international students. Also, if the student does not plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree after finishing two years of community college, they should be aware that the associate’s degree may not be accepted in India. Reflection on this aspect is important during the visa interview to justify a student’s decision to study in a community college.
If a student does intend to continue into the four-year bachelor’s degree pathway after completion of the associate degree, they should carefully assess the articulation agreement that a given community college has with four-year degree-granting institutions and the requirements for transfer. Students should also choose the right coursework during the associate degree and maintain a high GPA for the transfer process.
Overall, with many benefits and some caution, community colleges are economical options to pursue higher studies in the United States, but only after careful planning and thought.
Students interested in pursuing an associate degree at a community college or even a bachelor’s degree after completing 12th standard may join the EducationUSA virtual U.S. university undergraduate fair on Friday, September 3 from 5:30 – 10:30 PM IST (https://bit.ly/UGEdUSAFair21GenWeb). The fair will allow students to interact with university representatives and explore their options for higher education in the United States!
Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at the United States-India Educational Foundation based at the U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad. Please visit https://educationusa.state.gov/centers/educationusa-usief-hyderabad for more information)
Q. I am applying for M.S. programs in the United States. Where can I find financial information?
A. Financial information can be found on the admissions page of the university or on the ‘office of the bursar’ webpage on the university website (bursar is the office of budget and finance at a university). Make sure to take note of both the tuition fee and other additional costs, including the cost of living. Also, make note of whether the tuition is for residents or non-residents (as an international student, you will be paying the non-resident fee). Financial support may also be made available by some universities and this information can be found on the financial aid page of the institutions. The department webpage also carries information on whether they offer financial support.
You may also refer to websites https://educationusa.state.gov/your-5-steps-us-study/finance-your-studies, www.fundingusstudy.org, and www.finaid.org for further information about financing your studies in the United States.
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