Do Community Colleges Really Accept Everyone Who Applies?

Most community colleges have an open-door policy allowing for anyone with a high school diploma or a GED to get in. Our in-depth guide with expert tips will help you apply to the community college of your choice.
Community colleges are known for having high acceptance rates. But do they truly accept everyone who applies or do they have certain cut-offs and standards for eligibility? In this article, we will give you all the information you need to get into a community college. We will take you through how to apply to them and what gets you rejected. Consider this your comprehensive guide to getting into a community college of your choice. So let’s get started.
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Do community colleges accept everyone?

With a few exceptions, all community colleges have an open-access policy. This basically means that almost anyone who applies gets accepted. There are only a few basic requirements like a high school diploma and proof of residency. However, some specific courses may require you to submit SAT or ACT scores.

While public community colleges are very welcoming they still have an acceptance rate of 85%, which means that 15% of students do get rejected.

Don’t want to worry about entrance exams?

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What are community colleges and why are they so welcoming?

As community colleges become popular primarily because they are far more affordable and easy to get into, they are now increasingly seen as an alternative to universities. But let us just quickly understand why they are so welcoming.

Community colleges are a very American phenomenon of the 20th century higher education system and were set up with the goal of meeting the immediate needs of local communities. By making education accessible to minorities, the less privileged, unemployed, and any other marginalized groups, the US government wanted to set up a system that would rapidly fuel economic growth. Hence, community colleges were born.

Unlike universities, community colleges were subsidized by the government to make them affordable, easily accessible, and focused on short-term education leading to quick employment. 

They usually offer a mix of any of the following options:

  1. One to six-month short skill-based certificate courses some as low as $50. 
  2. Six-month vocational diplomas.
  3. One and two-year vocational, technical, and pre-professional certificates.
  4. Two-year associate degree in general and liberal education.

In rare cases, some community colleges also offer a four-year bachelor’s degree

In case they don’t, many students use a subsidized two-year associate’s degree to transfer credits and get admission to a four-year university bachelor’s program. 

Inversely, some students even get into community college while still in high school. Here is an article that shows how that can benefit you.

Students at Community College
Photo by rawpixels from Freepik

Requirements to get into community college

Is it hard to be accepted into a community college? Not at all, but different colleges have varying requirements. 

As mentioned earlier, these colleges are mandated to help students in their communities to move forward to the workforce. Many times already employed people also use community colleges to learn new skills and advance in their careers or even switch careers.

What are the requirements to get into community college? We have listed them below for you. 

Do, however, check with your college admissions office if the course you are applying for has any specific requirements in addition to the ones mentioned below.

Submit high school diploma, GED, or transcripts

This is the minimum requirement to get in. If you have finished high school then you are automatically eligible unless you have a very low GPA (below 2.0). If you are waiting for your high school diploma then you can submit your transcripts instead. 

Unmudl Tip: If you didn’t go to or finish high school, don’t panic. You can alternatively, submit a GED Diploma.

Fill out the admissions application form

These forms are very simple and straightforward to use. Unlike university admission forms they don’t require you to write essays. You just simply have to give basic information like your name, address, which high school you went to, what GPA you graduated with, etc.

States like New York have a single system to apply to any of the colleges within that state. It’s called SUNY and is very easy to use. Similarly, California State University also has its central application system called CCCApply.

Guide: How To Apply For Community College

Proof of residence

As we had mentioned earlier, community colleges are meant to help their local communities. This is why the subsidized education they offer is for their own local communities only. 

You may still get into a college out of state but you may not get the same subsidized tuition as in-state students are offered.

In most cases, if you have done more than a year of high school within the same state as the college you are applying to, then your high school diploma is all the proof of residence you need.

However, any documents older than a year with a local address like a driving license, vehicle registration, state or federal tax returns from a local address, voter registration, etc. are all acceptable.

Take the assessment test

Unlike universities, you don’t have to take SAT or ACT to get into community college. Most colleges have their own assessment tests. These tests are also very helpful if you have a low GPA, as many community colleges will still accept you with conditions.

Based on your math and English scores you may be asked to take remedial classes. These policies, however, vary greatly from college to college so you should check with the community colleges in your state.

Submit your FAFSA and other scholarship applications

FAFSA is federal financial assistance for students going to community colleges. Advisors at every community college can help you fill out the form and apply for assistance. They can also let you know if you are eligible for other scholarships and help you with those.

Unmudl Tip: Submit your FAFSA as early as January of the year you plan to take admission in. Most students make the mistake of applying to FAFSA very late in the year and end up getting reduced aid or missing out on financial assistance.
Applying for Community college Scholarship
Photo by Burdun from Freepik


Do community colleges reject anyone?

Well yes. While community colleges do have an open-door policy, there are reasons that can get you a rejection letter. Below is a list of things you need to watch out for.

Not having or not submitting your documents on time

A major reason for getting rejected is simply submitting an application with incomplete documentation to support it.

This usually happens when students delay the application process to the very last minute. When they become aware that they are missing documentation, they don’t have enough time left to furnish them. 

Unmudl Tip: The smartest thing to do is to start your application process as early as possible. This means that you should start planning for your application while still in the last year of high school.

High Enrollment

Because of the many benefits they offer, community colleges sometimes receive more applications than they have the capacity to accommodate. This means that they will have no other option but to reject students as soon as they reach their capacity.

The best way to avoid getting yourself into this scenario is to apply as soon as admissions open so that you are processed early on.

Not having a high school diploma or GED

Even if you didn’t go to high school, you can still take a GED exam and get an equivalency diploma. 

If you don’t have a GED then your acceptance is left to chance as most community colleges will probably not accept your applications for an associate’s program. 

The good news is that you can still apply for technical certificates at a community college and they will give you admission with some remedial classes in math and/or English as prerequisites.

SAT or ACT Scores

In certain cases, especially when it comes to very technical courses, a community college may require you to have an SAT or ACT score. However, this is rare. 

It is best to talk to your community college in advance to know what the specific requirements are for the program you are interested in. This will not only ensure you have the right credentials to get in but will also ensure that you have time to prepare and take the test that is required.

Will community college accept low GPA?

In most cases, a GPA of 2.0 or above will get you into community college but if it is any lower, then there is a chance you may get rejected by the college you are applying to. Having said that, all is not lost if you find yourself in this scenario.

The best thing to do is to approach your community college admissions very early on and make a passionate appeal. Most admissions officers may still accept your application if they see that you are passionate about doing something with yourself. 

You may have to accept extra courses to develop areas that you are weak in but you still have a shot at getting in.

Issues of Academic Suspension or Probation

If you are on academic suspension or probation when applying because of poor grades, plagiarizing, inappropriate behavior, etc., it might become a hurdle for admissions. 

If you apply during your suspension you will likely get rejected by a community college as admissions officers have access to this information and can check up on it themselves. If this scenario applies to you, it helps to be honest upfront with the college.

Do community colleges accept high school dropouts?

If you were not fortunate enough to have completed your high school, you can still get into community college. The best shot at getting you in is to study for and take the GED. 
As mentioned earlier, this is a high school equivalency test for students who could not complete high school for any reason. GED tests you in four major areas of reasoning:

  1. Mathematical Reasoning
  2. Reasoning Through Language Arts
  3. Science
  4. Social Studies

Benefits of attending community college

There is a long list of reasons why community colleges are becoming a popular option amongst Americans looking to gain higher education. We have listed three of the most popular reasons below

1. It is a more affordable option

The average tuition fee at a community college is $3,440. Compare that to a private university which may cost you an average of $32,410. Here is a great article on what community college will cost you compared to all other options.

2. A second chance to improve your GPA

If you have applied to a four-year university and gotten rejected, you can get admissions in a community college, work on a 2-year associate’s degree to improve your grade, and then transfer credits to a four-year university of your choice. Many students use this as a practical option to recover from bad grades.

3. Smaller class sizes more conducive to learning

The average community college has 25 to 35 students compared to a university class which may have anywhere from 150 to 300.For people who have a full real-life schedule like people with jobs or parents, juggling all of those personal matters and then college-level education can get difficult. 

Community colleges with smaller classes give students more access to instructors who are sympathetic to their struggles.

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.

Final Word

While it is true that community colleges have an open-door policy that basically allows them to accept anyone who meets basic criteria, you do need to be smart and apply early on. As community colleges become a popular option, some of them are facing high enrollment and they might have to reject students once they reach capacity.

Our advice to you is to start thinking about admissions in community college while you are in the last year of high school. This will not only help you prepare for admissions but also plan your future better. 

Finally, we have given you a list of community colleges that are welcoming to all kinds of students so go through them and the courses they offer. Best of luck with your admissions process and remember to check out the Unmudl site for information on colleges, courses, and blogs that will guide you through every aspect of studying at a community college.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get rejected by a community college?

Can I attend community college without a high school diploma?

What are the requirements to get into a community college?

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