Determine Your Higher Education Goals
Before you begin to explore specific colleges,spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve and make a list of your goals.The following are some questions to consider.
Which Fields of Study Interest You?
If you are undecided on a college major or future career, you are not alone. Most students in the U.S. spend their first 2 years of higher education taking different classes to explore interests and opportunities. Although you can choose a major at any time, most students wait to make a decision at the end of their second year of study. If you already know what career you want to pursue, you should consider a college that has a good reputation in that field. U.S. community colleges offer programs in nearly all fields of study, have close ties to many industries, and are well respected in many fields. Many community colleges also have service learning, volunteer, and apprenticeship programs.
Do You Want to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?
You can begin your higher education studies at a community college and transfer to a 4-year college or university to earn a bachelor’s degree. In fact, nearly 50% of students in the United States begin their studies at a community college. If you intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree after earning an associate degree, you will want to focus on community colleges that have 2+2 transfer (articulation) agreements with 4-year colleges and universities. These agreements make transfer seamless and easy.
Do You Want to Improve Your English?
Studying in the United States will provide extensive exposure to the English language. Many community colleges offer ESL or Intensive English Programs, through which you can improve or enhance your English skills before beginning an academic program.
Are You Interested in U.S. Culture?
U.S. community colleges offer you extensive opportunities to interact with members of the local community and to experience U.S. culture. Many community colleges plan local trips and cultural activities specifically for their international students.
Where Do You Want to Live?
Would you prefer to live in a city, a small town, or a rural area? Do you want to live in a particular region of the United States? If so, which cities or states are you considering? Community colleges are in all of the 50 states, some in big cities and some in smaller towns and rural areas. If your desired program of study is available at several community colleges, you may decide which college to attend based on a state or region of the United States in which you would like to live. Read the descriptions of regions and states provided on pages 32–144 and the featured college profiles that follow to get a better sense of where you might want to live and study.
Are You Interested in Athletics?
Whether you play only for fun or aspire to be an Olympic or professional athlete, community colleges have a lot to offer. More than 500 U.S. community colleges have excellent athletic facilities and offer students access to training, coaching, and a large variety of playing opportunities. The National Junior College Athletic Association organizes student athletic competitions in 17 sports: baseball, basketball, bowling, cross-country, diving, American football, golf, half marathon, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling. The California Community College Athletic Association organizes competitions in the same sports plus water polo and badminton. Many Olympic and professional athletes have studied and trained at U.S. community colleges. See the list of notable alumni on the Study in America Web site.
Do You Need Disability Support Services?
Community colleges are a smart choice for students with disabilities. They offer a unique learning environment with smaller classes, more individualized attention, and a supportive atmosphere. Tutoring centers and mentoring programs are often provided to teach students with learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) the study strategies needed to succeed in college. Accommodations may be made for sign language interpreters, accessible classrooms, note-takers in classes, Braille materials, and extended time for taking tests. Adapted software or assistive equipment for people with mobility, vision, learning, or hearing disabilities are usually available. For example, a blind student might have the option to use a computer with speech synthesis that can read textbooks aloud. However, personal care attendants, hearing aids, and wheelchairs are not typically provided. To learn more about services available at a particular college, contact the college’s international or disability office.
Estimate Expenses and Identify Financial Resources
When you apply to a college (and for a student visa), you will be required to show that you have existing financial resources necessary to cover your expenses for at least 1 year of study in the United States. Because there are employment restrictions on international students, you will not be able to rely on working in the United States to help pay for your education (see “Working in the United States” in chapter 10).
Costs vary depending on college location, but, in general, you should expect to spend between US$10,000 and US$20,000 each year. Financial resources may come from any dependable source, including family funds, your own finances, sponsorships, and scholarships.
Community colleges may award students small scholarships after the first year of study based on their academic achievements. Some community colleges offer scholarships (grant-in-aid) to outstanding athletes. Scholarship sports for men are baseball, basketball, cross-country, golf, outdoor track and field, soccer, and tennis. Scholarship sports for women are basketball, cross-country, fast-pitch softball, outdoor track and field, soccer, tennis, and volleyball. To determine whether the colleges to which you are applying award athletic scholarships, check the featured college profiles later in this guide. You should also check the college Web site for the athletic department or coaches’ contact information. Let the college contact person know of your interest in athletic scholarship opportunities, and provide them with information about your talents and experience.
Other Important Considerations
You want to make sure that the community college you plan to attend is regionally accredited. Universities accept transferred course credits only from other accredited institutions. Furthermore, most ministries of education around the world will recognize a degree only if it is awarded by an accredited higher education institution. See the Council for Higher Education Accreditation Web site (www.chea.org) for a list of accredited colleges and universities. Note: All community colleges profiled in this guide are regionally accredited institutions.
International students are eligible to attend only U.S. colleges and universities that are approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Note: All community colleges profiled in this guide are SEVPapproved institutions.
Where to Look for More Information and Assistance
EducationUSA is a worldwide network of more than 400 advising centers affiliated with the U.S. Department of State. Its purpose is to help students find out about U.S. higher education institutions. Centers are located at U.S. embassies and consulates, Fulbright commissions, binational centers, nongovernmental organizations, universities, and public libraries. EducationUSA centers are staffed by professional advisers, many of whom have studied in the United States or have received U.S. Department of State-approved training for higher education advising. Visit the Web site at www.EducationUSA.state.gov.
College Web Sites and E-Mail
College Web sites offer a wide range of information about degree programs, application procedures, academic departments, facilities on campus, and other topics. Some institutions may also give e-mail addresses for current students, including international students, who may be willing to answer questions about the college and living in the United States. Once you have decided which colleges you are interested in, you can e-mail admissions personnel to ask specific questions before you decide where to apply.
U.S. community college representatives may visit your country to participate in study-abroad fairs or speak at specially arranged seminars where you can talk face-toface with them. A list of upcoming study-abroad fairs in your country can be found on the EducationUSA Web site or at your local EducationUSA advising center. Many fairs take place in the fall or spring; it is important to start your research at least the year before you intend to start your studies.
Be sure to visit a community college campus if you are able to travel to the United States before choosing a college. Many colleges organize campus tours led by current students. Check with the admissions office for further information and to schedule a visit. We recommend that you visit the academic and housing facilities, student union, and library to get a good sense of the campus. Speaking with current students on campus is another important part of the visit.
Additional Sources of Information
- Guidance counselors at your current high school can often help. Ask if there is anyone who works with U.S. college and university applications.
- Friends, relatives, or high school alumni who studied in the United States.
Free Publications From EducationUSA
If You Want to Study in the United States is a series of booklets with objective and practical advice to prospective international students about studying in the United States.
- Undergraduate Study
- Graduate and Professional Study and Research
- Short-Term Study, English Language Programs, Distance Education, and Accreditation
- Getting Ready to Go: Practical Information for Living and Studying in the United States
These booklets—in English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, and Arabic—can be found at the EducationUSA Web site (www.educationusa.info/ pages/students/research-references-study.php) or at the advising center near your home.