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Community College: Some Things Considered

Not everyone goes directly from high school to a four-year college.

Some students take the community college route intending to transfer. By definition, community colleges are 2 year colleges that offer their own associate degrees, career and technical training programs, and job preparation. They can be used as a base to transfer into either public or private four-year colleges or universities.

Others obtain their associates degree or technical certification and go into the working world.

For those planning on transferring, for the majority of students, that two years often stretches into 4 or 6 years or longer.


Seniors: If community college is anywhere on your radar, apply for the fall freshman year ASAP. The earlier you apply, the earlier in line you are for enrollment! Santa Monica Colleges opened its Fall 2018 applications on September 1, 2017. DO NOT WAIT until you have heard from all of the other colleges. The earlier you enroll, the more likely you are to get into the classes you want. You will have priority registration status. So Seniors waiting to hear from colleges, or planning on going to Community College, APPLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

Rising seniors (this year's juniors) can start applying for their freshman year in fall of their senior year.

If you are planning on going straight to community college, apply as soon as possible. Classes start in August and some fill up quickly. Community colleges generally do not charge an application fee or require SAT or ACT scores. You are eligible to apply if a) you are a high school graduate, b) you are 18, or c) you are 16 and passed the state high school proficiency exam or in California the CAHSEE.

ADDED BENEFIT: Many students have to take Math and English placement tests. Get them done before class registration so you don't miss any deadlines.

Why does community college last more than 2 years?

There are a number of reasons why students stay in community college:

  1. Students are not ready for college level math and English and have to take remedial courses. These courses prepare students, but do not count toward either transfer or the associate degree. All students take assessment tests in English and math, many, especially those who have not taken math in the 11th or 12th grade, need to brush up on their math knowledge.

  2. Students who plan on transferring do not take enough of the required courses for the schools they are transferring to. If a student plans on transferring, she should talk to a community college transfer counselor as soon as she applies. The counselor will help guide the student to take the correct type of courses that their intended 4-year school requires. In California, the website provides information for all public California colleges as to what courses are required and which courses at specific community colleges meet those requirements.

  3. Students who change their minds about what they want to major in may have to take additional courses to satisfy the future college’s demands. For the UC and CSU system, they require 60 transferable credits and two years of community college. Private colleges, both inside and outside of California may take students after only one or two years or 30 to 45 credits. Contact each institution to find out transfer rates and requirements.

  4. Students who want to transfer have to decide on a major field of study their freshman year. This is not true of many public and private universities, so in a way community colleges demand earlier decisions about academic majors.

  5. Many students are working, taking care of family members, or dealing with all of the other issues that conspire to make getting through college that much more difficult.

  6. For some students, commuting to college instead of leaving home delays their exposure to the challenges of adulthood and they think of college more like a continuation of high school.

  7. Community college is college! Many students do not adjust to this. College courses are more rigorous and nobody is going to remind you to do your homework or write that essay. It is up to the student to take on the responsibility of doing well and studying hard.

A good community college has a large number of resources from remedial courses to tutoring to vibrant on-campus activities including sports, interest clubs, radio/media outlets, and more. It is up to the student to take advantage of those offerings instead of just coming to class.

Financial Aid is available

All eligible students can file for financial aid through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or the Dream Act (for undocumented students). While the cost of tuition is low, students must consider the cost of books, living expenses, parking and transportation. There are scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs available from both the state and the federal government. Federal Pell Grants, currently $5,920 (Sept. 2017) are available for a total of 12 semesters roughly 6 years of undergraduate study. Federal financial aid information

If your high school GPA isn’t up to snuff, community college is the way to go.

Let’s face it, high school is not a walk in the park. Some classes are hard, teachers tough, concepts hard to master. Maybe nothing clicked or you had outside distractions. The nice thing about transferring from community to a 4-year college is that the 4-year college doesn’t care about high school. It is your coursework and GPA in community college that they look at.

You still qualify for the California State University system, if you have a 2.0 or higher. However, the CSU system will be more picky than community college.

Some 4-Year Colleges can be affordable

If you are choosing community college solely because you want to or need to save money, make sure you know your options. Many public and private schools offer excellent financial aid, scholarships, and grants. Along with work study and low interest loans, 4-year college may not be out of your price range. O NOT ASSUME ANYTHING, check out the “net price calculator” on any college website and see if their estimate changes your mind. A number of colleges promise to cover 100% of demonstrated financial need. Others offer generous merit scholarship which is not based on financial need. (You still have a to file a FAFSA for both). Check out student aid at and California aid at

Get Smart

Know your options

Apply early to community college

Assess if community college is the best route for you

DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING, do your research and talk to your counselor.

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