Community College Admissions

A staple of all large cities and almost all counties in the United States, the community college often helps to fulfill the space that high schools and four year universities fail to in regard to providing education to an area. Having been in existence for a much shorter time relative to the traditional four year university, they first made their appearance at the turn of last century. Since then, they have expanded to include remedial education, programs and certifications, credit courses for the first two years of college, and specialized leaning. While serving a vital role, there are issues to be concerned about when seeking admission to these institutions.

Many students enroll at a community college because they plan to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree from a four year university. With college costs skyrocketing in recent years, community colleges often provide a welcome relief from tuition sticker shock. Compared to private universities, community colleges often charge a fraction of the price of tuition and fees. This is one of the last ways left in America to ‘work your way thru college’, and still pay all of your bills on time. By enrolling in a community college, you are able to save a considerable amount of money on your tuition for the first half of your bachelor’s degree. An added bonus is that most employers or graduate programs don’t care about where you spent your first couple of years of school, just what institution you earned your bachelor’s degree from. The only way they will be able to tell that you attended a community college is if they take the time to pour over your transcript in detail.

In an effort to either remain or appear prestigious, many four year institutions have upped their admissions requirements in recent years. They might require a near-perfect high school GPA, or impossible to attain test scores. A solution here is to transfer to a four year university as at the end of your Sophomore year of college. By earning a good GPA and completing entry requirements at a local community college, you are then able to finish out the last two years of your degree at the college of your choice. This practice has become fairly common in recent years, and up to 30% of University of California system students finish out their bachelor’s degrees using this method. One thing that is absolutely critical to be aware of is that some of your community college credits might not transfer to a four year university. More often than not, these are elective courses and not your basic, standard academic courses like Math, English, Social Studies, etc. Hence, while that comedy film studies course might be a lot of fun, you won’t be laughing when your new university refuses to grant you credit. Additionally, make sure that you complete all of the college transfer course work necessary for admission to that four year university. The University of Oregon, for example, requires a college-level composition and math class from all transfer students regardless of GPA or other course work.

The good news about community colleges is that they are almost universally required to offer admission to anyone for general studies. Allowing anyone to get into the door is a new chance on your academic life if you have done poorly in high school. Essentially, your academic record is wiped clean, and you get to start over from scratch. This is beneficial for someone who didn’t take high school seriously, or even failed in high school, but after spending some time working now wants to attend college.

While admission to the community college is open to everyone, admission to a specific technical or career program within the institution is often a different story entirely. Entry here can be fiercely competitive, with only a certain number of slots open per semester, and a large number of people applying. Programs like EMT, Firefighting, Drone operator, medical specialties, etc. have a reputation for being notoriously difficult to get into. A well-known EMT program in Oregon, where EMT certification is a pre-requisite for being a firefighter, only allows 175 students thru each year. To maximize your chances for entry maintain a high GPA and seek employment, internships, or volunteer opportunities that will help you gain practical, real world experience. Remember since the goal here is to not necessarily gain a degree so much as a certification, you have to show that this is your chosen career path. As a result, present yourself as simply needing the certification to continue on with your career. Letters of recommendations and references from people in your field will be critical here, so ensure you have these to maximize your chances for success.

Check MarkAnother reason to seek admission to community colleges is for personal development, growth, and updating your individual skill set. These courses are not offered for credit, but instead so you as a person can learn the skill. Examples range from massage therapy to welding to learning karate. With technology growing by leaps and bounds, it is vital to your career to make sure you still have practical, marketable skills. A good place to learn these at a low cost is thru non-credit courses instead of at a more expensive executive weekend course. WordPress, the latest and most popular way to create web pages, can be learned for $189 on four Monday nights as an example.

While there are many advantages to seeking admission to community colleges, there is a slight disadvantage. That being that a community college lacks the traditional college experience that is so all encompassing in a four year institution, generally speaking, there is less campus involvement and student involvement. As a result, community colleges lack the school spirit that is found on a four year campus. Some people claim this is because many community colleges lack football teams, but more often than not it is due to a transitory population. At the most, students remain at a community college for a maximum of two years, and there are no dormitories, Greek life, or many of the other facets of regular college life that tie students to that institution spiritually. Compounding the problem is that at a community college students may range in age from 15 to 75, while at a university the population is, by and large, made up of young adults with similar tastes.

Community colleges are here to stay, as they have proved themselves to fill a critical area in education. Since they are naturally adaptable to new situations, program offerings, and course offerings, students will continue to seek admission for many years to come.

Bryce Hall