5 Key Benefits of U.S. Community Colleges for International Students

Community college should be familiar to most international students and their parents. However, many parents often misunderstand several key things about this type of U.S. college. They may think that community colleges have zero admission requirements, for example, or that they are for students who are not good at school. This is definitely not correct.

Here is some information on what community colleges really are and how they are different from four-year institutions, as well as which types of international students may want to consider community college.

[Find five ways for international students to research U.S. community colleges.]

Tuition: Tuition is probably one of the biggest concerns that make many students — and not just international ones — choose a community college over a four-year institution. For international students, the tuition for a four-year institution can vary widely, up to and more than $40,000 dollars a year, while the tuition for a community college could be closer to $10,000 per year. Some people choose to enter community colleges simply to save money, not necessary because they are bad students.

Student-faculty ratio: Four-year institutions normally require students to take general education in first two years of a program. This means class sizes can be big. However, I have talked with students who told me that in community colleges, the class size is often smaller, and students can get more attention from faculty in community colleges.

[Check out the pros and cons of attending a U.S. community college first.]

Course material: Courses offered at community colleges tend to be fundamental. This can give students an opportunity to solidify their knowledge of a topic or explore new topics without the added financial or academic burden of a traditional four-year college.

Professors: In four-year institutions, professors may be more academically connected and involved in research. This means they may be more rigorous in their classes or have more time to dedicate to students.

Transfer probability: Unlike in many other countries, including some Asian countries, transfer ring to another university is a relatively easy thing for students in the U.S. Even so, students in four-year institutions tend to stay in the same university and finish all required courses there.

However, the number of transfers from community colleges is usually a lot higher. Many students use community colleges as a steppingstone to a better four-year institution. They transfer to a four-year institution for their junior year and can end up getting admitted to a highly ranked university.

Some community colleges even have programs that guarantee students’ admission to a four-year institution. For example, students at Santa Barbara City College who meet specific requirements are guaranteed to be admitted to University of California–Davis in their junior year.

[Lean about housing for international students at community colleges.]

With these differences in mind, there are some types of international students who may want to consider choosing a community college as the start of their academic life in America.

Since community college tuition is more affordable that a traditional four-year college, these programs can be good choices for students who are budget conscious or have financial concerns about the cost of college. Two years at a community college plus two years at a university is a great combination to save money.

As I mentioned before, courses in community colleges tend to be fundamental. This makes it a great opportunity for students who do not have a solid academic foundation, or who need more academic attention to catch up with others. International students can also use those two years in community college to improve their English in order to achieve their higher academic goals.

Many students find it relatively easy to get a high GPA in community colleges. With that advantage, students may have a higher chance to transfer to a great university.

Jiongcheng “Arthur” Xu, from China, is a junior at the University of California–Davis, where he majors in civil engineering.

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