How Do I Get into Community College?


Applying for community college is a completely different experience than applying to a 4-year university. Learn about the differences between these two processes, and explore the standard requirements for a community college application.

Applying to Community College

The college application process has gained a reputation in recent years for being long, frustrating, and exhausting. The College Board suggests that students should submit five to eight applications for 4-year schools, and that many applications means a veritable mountain of repetitive paperwork, essays, and personal statements.

Community college, on the other hand, has a much different application process for prospective students. These schools generally feature an open admissions policy that allows just about anyone to gain admittance. Read on to learn more about the process for enrolling in community college and see if it is right for you.

College application

Pre-Application Process

Before you even begin your application, there are several things you should do to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

First and foremost, take a moment and reflect on your academic and professional goals. Community colleges offer a wide range of programs, from multi-year degrees to workforce training programs that can be completed in a few months. Each program boasts its own strengths and weaknesses, so carefully research your options to determine the best match for your needs.

Next, figure out how you'd like to take your classes. Community colleges are known for their flexible scheduling options, so you'll have plenty of options. You can take your classes in a more traditional style or you can opt for evening and weekend classes if you have a busy work schedule. If your job or other commitments prevent you from attending classes, you may choose to earn your degree online or enroll on a part-time basis to give yourself further flexibility.

Student applying for college

Once you have an idea of the classes you'd like to take and how you'd like to take them, it's time to apply! Be sure to research the school (or schools) you've chosen so that you don't miss any important deadlines for applications, placements tests, or other requirements in the application process.

Open Admissions

In general, most community colleges feature an open admissions policy. This means that just about anyone can enroll without having to go through a lengthy and stressful applications process. The sole qualifier is typically that you must have a high school diploma (or have passed the General Educational Development (GED) exam). If you have your diploma, you're ready to enroll.

high school diploma

As you might imagine, this makes the application process much simpler. You still have to submit basic personal information (age, birth date, address, etc.), but this process allows you to avoid the essays and personal statements that are a staple of applications for most 4-year universities.

Selective Admission

Of course, not all schools feature an open admissions policy. Some schools that have open admissions may also have stricter standards for certain programs (like Montgomery College).

These programs generally have their own application as well as specific admissions requirements - much like a standard 4-year university. Program fields vary from school to school, but selective admissions is commonly found in the following programs:

  • Nursing
  • Information technology
  • Law enforcement
  • Allied health

Requirements for your application may also vary depending on the field that you choose. Students seeking admission to a health sciences may need to complete a TEAS test, while prospective art students can be required to submit a portfolio showcasing their creative talents. In some cases, prior college course experience can be a factor in the admissions process. Other, more common requirements include:

  • High school transcript
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers or counselors
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Essay/personal statement

Placement Tests

Since the open admissions process does not take your GPA or standardized test scores into account, community colleges need some form of measurement to determine your academic prowess. Prior to beginning your classes, you'll need to take a placement test (sometimes known as a 'skills assessment'). The purpose of these tests is to gauge the extent of your knowledge and accurately place you in the appropriate courses for your skill level. Placement tests can also be part of the application process for more selective programs.

You may be asked to take a standardized test, such as The College Board's Accuplacer. You may also have to take state-specific tests, such as the College-Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST) that students in Florida are required to complete. In some cases, the college may have its own exams that are specifically tailored for its own classes and programs.

Prior testing completed in high school can also play a role in your placement. Standardized test scores from high school, such as the SAT and ACT, may be used to gain exemptions from placement tests. For example, students do not need to take the placement test at Prince George's Community College if they have scored at least 500 on each of the SAT's three sections.

College application

The community college application process is not generally as arduous as the kind found at most 4-year universities, but that doesn't mean it is completely stress free. By doing your research and staying organized, you can make things much simpler and enjoy a relaxed application process.

By Bill Sands
September 2016
college applying to college

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