Selecting a Community College
Selecting a U.S. Community College
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.
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.