Do Community Colleges Accept International Students?

Many international students coming to the US directly apply to go to universities. Community colleges, however, can save money and have many other benefits.
Community colleges in the US welcome students from all over the world. Unlike 4-year universities, they have an open admissions policy. But what is an open admission policy exactly and what are all the requirements for international students to apply to a community college in the US? Read below because we will cover all this and more in this guide to community colleges for international students.
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Getting into a university in the US is no easy task. From the demanding essay to the SATs and other test scores, most students have anxiety just thinking about university admissions.

This is why community colleges are quickly becoming a good option for international students because most of them do not require any of these things. They are not only simple to get into but have many other benefits as well.

Do community colleges accept most international students?

Yes, they do. You may be asking why are community colleges so welcoming to everyone… well, this is primarily why they were created. The US government realized that educational institutions had become very competitive and expensive and this created problems for many students.

In order to give easy access to education to anyone who wanted it, community colleges with open admissions policies were formed. Today 12.4 million students in the US use the community college network to get quality higher education.

If you are an international student planning to study in the US, this important guide will help you understand what community colleges are and how best to apply to them. We will discuss everything in detail to help you make the right decision for your higher education. So let’s get started.

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First things first: What is a community college and how is it different from a university?

Both community colleges and universities are institutions for higher education. You enter them after you complete your high school (12th or 13th grade of school depending on your country’s education system).

Community colleges, however, usually offer a two-year Associate’s Degree while universities offer a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. The great news is that the two-year program offered by community colleges is transferable to a university.

What this means is that after completing the two-year’s associate’s degree at a community college you can get a transfer to the third year directly and finish your bachelor’s degree on time. Here is a great article if you want to understand the transfer system and how it works!

So the question is, why do so many students prefer to go to community college for the first two years and then transfer to a university? The major reason is to save money. 

The cost of tuition and the rules vary from college to college and state to state, but as a general rule of thumb, the cost of tuition for out-of-state or international students is anywhere between two to four-times higher.

But here is the good news: Although community colleges offer higher tuition to out-of-state and international students the total tuition still ends up being 50% or less when compared to what typical private universities cost.

For a list of low cost community colleges in the USA for international students visit Unmudl!

As an example, the yearly tuition for a community college in the chart below even for international students is much cheaper than private four-year universities.

Group of multiethnic students
 Photo by freepik

Six more reasons to study at a community college

But saving on tuition is not the only reason why students choose community colleges over private universities, in fact, there are several other key factors. 

For your benefit, we have put together 6 of the most popular reasons why more and more international students are opting for community colleges.

It is easier to get admissions into community colleges

Community college requirements for international students are very simple. This is because they are super focused on making education accessible to everyone. Their aim is to uplift the economic conditions by providing quality and affordable education through an open admission policy. 

So even if you meet the minimum GPA requirement of 2.0 or 2.5 (varies according to college) you can easily get in. Not only this, you do not require SAT, ACT, or any other test scores to apply. 

You do, sometimes have to take an admissions test. These tests however are designed to determine your level of understanding of math and English language and are usually just meant to see if you need additional classes in these subjects.

Related: Wondering if you can attend a community college online?

Transfer to university

Not many people know this but most community colleges have something called an Articulation Agreement with universities. 

These are basically agreements between a community college and a university to accept their graduates from the associate’s degree and take them directly into the third year of university.

As mentioned earlier many international students have used this as a way to save on tuition for the first two years of education as community colleges are cheaper. After completing college they then transfer to a university and graduate with a bachelor’s degree of their choice.

If you want to understand what transfers are and how they work, read this excellent in-depth guide.

Financial aid

Not only is tuition low at community colleges but many of them may offer financial assistance to international students more readily than private institutions do. 

While federal financial assistance from government organizations like FAFSA is not available to international students, individual community colleges can still grant aid as an institution. Jennie Kent, an educational consultant for Educate Abroad, based in Colombia, says that for institutional aid, it is the school that determines which student can/ should get aid.

However, keep in mind that not all colleges will award institutional aid to international students, so you should not even bother applying to colleges like Boston College which clearly states that they do not. You should always check with the college for institutional aid before applying to study.

There are also many other scholarship and grant options that are available from individual colleges, states, and private organizations. These aid programs are available for both merit-based and need-based assistance. 

You can use this great tool to find a scholarship program based on what you want to study, where you want to study, and where you are coming from.

The best first step is for you to approach the Academic Advisor at the community college you are planning to apply to in order to help you with financial assistance.

Flexible schedules

One of the best things about community college is that you can study at your own pace and you are not under pressure like you are at a typical university. 

This is especially relevant because not all international students are very good with the English language. Most are used to studying in their native language and flexible schedules allow them to slow down if they feel overwhelmed.

These flexible schedules mean that you can even extend your associate’s degree to more than two years and graduate with a better grade rather than rush through.

School-life balance

Many international students want to experience the American culture and enjoy life as well as study when they come to the U.S. However, the extremely competitive nature of universities restricts them from doing so.

Community colleges let you have a much better school-life balance where you spend time learning and exploring both education and culture.

Related: Study abroad in community college?

Smaller classes

The average number of students in a community college are 35 compared to a university which typically has between 100 to 135 students. 

If you have just flown into a country with a new language and culture, sometimes it could all get overwhelming quickly. This is why international students benefit from smaller classes at community colleges.

These classes give more access to teachers and you can engage and interact with them even more. In fact, most community college students report that they have a better relationship with their teachers than university students do.

A group of students
Photo by freepik

How to choose a college

There are several things you should look at when selecting a community college as an international student. Of course, one of the best ways to enroll yourself at a community college is to simply visit Unmudl and pick a college that offers the course you want.

Here are some key factors that may impact your decision:

Articulation agreements

Unless your ultimate goal is to get an Associate’s Degree, the single most important factor is to ask is which universities the community college has articulation agreements with?

As explained earlier these agreements mean that the university will transfer you to the third year directly, giving you credits for your classes at the community college provided you meet all the requirements.

Community colleges with articulation agreements with good universities should be preferred.

Location

Do you like to live in big cities or do you prefer small rural settings? Feeling comfortable while getting your degree is more important than most people think.

Some people prefer to go to popular states like New York or Texas while others may prefer a more relaxed environment in the Mid-West.

International student body

Another important thing you should look for is how big the international student body is at that community college. Of course, the colleges with large international student bodies will have better support systems for international students generally speaking.

How big is the community college

It is best to ensure that you go to a college that is not too small because it will be limited in terms of what it has to offer. Larger community colleges offer more subjects, more amenities, and a more diverse experience.

students studying together
Photo from Pexels


Student Housing

One thing you have to look out for is that, unlike universities, most community colleges have limited or no housing/accommodation. If your college does not offer accommodation, it simply means that you will have to search for one near the college.

Here is a great article that covers the entire subject of housing at community colleges in detail.

Types of visas required to study in the US

International students sometimes get confused by visa types for studying in the USA. It is really very simple and not difficult to understand at all:

  • F Student Visa: This is the visa type that you most likely will apply for. An F-type visa is issued to study at an accredited U.S. college or university. It is also used to study English at an English language institute.
  • M Student Visa: This is used mostly for short courses which are non-academic or vocational studies or training in the United States
  • J Exchange Student Visa: You need a J-type visa for participation in a student exchange program.

Just keep in mind that before you apply for a visa you must have an acceptance letter from a community college in the US. This college will also send an I-20 form with the acceptance letter that is required to get a visa.

Note some colleges like Suny Broome will have special personnel who can help guide you through the student visa process, making things much easier for you.  

Some recommended community colleges

If you are interested in applying to a community college here are some recommendations from us. For an extensive list of courses offered by community colleges, you can visit here. Some of the best community colleges for international students

Final Word

The US has always been a popular destination for international students. However, many students are not aware of community colleges as an option. 

Our in-depth guide above showed you all the great benefits of community colleges and how to use them to save money while still getting a quality education in the US. 

So if you are smart like more and more international students these days, pick a community college, complete your Associate’s degree, then transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree. Best of luck with your studies!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can international students get into community college?

Can I get f1 visa for community college?

Is community college worth it for international students?

Are you on the fence about changing jobs or a complete career change?

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