Community college degrees
Community colleges degrees offer something for everyone. But there are important facts you should know to maximize your opportunities there. Here are 10 ideas to think about if you’re considering a community college.
1. Variety. Community colleges offer several options, such as transfer programs to four-year colleges, two-year community college degrees, and career and technical training programs in fields such as computer animation, nursing and cosmetology. Prepare for a job directly, or get a head start on general-education courses to transfer.
2. Cost. Quite simply, community colleges are the most affordable way to begin a college education. Consider completing the first two years of college at a community college, then transferring to a four-year college in a “2+2” option.
3. Financial aid. Although the cost for tuition is relatively low, factor in the costs of books, living expenses, parking fees and car maintenance. File the FAFSA even if you think you can afford the college; you could be eligible for scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs.
4. Apply early. The community college application process is relatively simple. Still, you should apply early. Some community colleges do not charge an application fee or require SAT or ACT scores. You are eligible to apply if you’re a high school graduate, or at least 18 years old, or are 16 years old and have passed the state’s high school proficiency exam. Sometimes the date the application is submitted is linked to the date for enrolling in classes. An early application date often translates to an early enrollment date, which means you’re more likely to get into the classes you want at the times you want to take them.
5. Prepare. Though no test scores are required for admission, you’ll likely take placement tests in English and math. These placement tests determine whether you begin your studies at the college or remedial level. If you’re not taking math your senior year, it is a good idea to get a test prep practice book. Students who do not test at college-level math or English will be forced to take remedial courses that will advance them to the college level. Remedial courses do not count for transfer, if that is your plan.
Taking a challenging curriculum in high school will make a difference in your placement level. Taking math and English courses throughout high school is critical.
6. Use the resources. All community colleges offer excellent support services, such as counseling, transfer centers, job placement, tutoring, computer labs, and in some cases, childcare. Most colleges offer classes that boost skills in studying, preparing for tests, selecting a major and managing your schedule.
7. Manage your time. In planning your class schedule, consider how long it takes to drive to the campus in heavy traffic, or what the bus schedule is like at different times of the day. Think about selecting a class schedule that allows you to get involved in college life. College is about more than just taking classes.
8. Check out the career center. Every community college has a career center that can help you select a major or get a job. Try to match your interests and goals with potential careers. The career center can help with assessments and inventories that will provide the best match between your skills and interests and college majors.
9. Be proactive. This means going to a tutor before the class becomes difficult, or seeing a counselor to help plan next semester’s schedule.
10. Community college is still college. Courses are designed to parallel the first two years of university study. If transfer is your goal, it’s a good idea to see a counselor to make sure you meet all the requirements and deadlines.
Dr. Esther B. Hugo is outreach coordinator at Santa Monica College.