There are numerous economic, social, and practical reasons for choosing to attend a community college before heading to a traditional university. Since the quality of the education you will receive at a community college is just as good as that of a traditional four year university, a community college is a perfect starting point if you wish to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree and here are just a few reasons why.

To Save Money

Students are able to earn an associate’s degree at the community college level while paying low tuition costs, and then transfer to a university to complete the two additional years of college needed to earn a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges are very affordable; this is why many students opt to take their general education requirements at a community college. In some cases, you can take a class at a community college for a tenth of the price you would pay for a class at a university. As an international student, you’ll be charged a higher rate than other students, but the tuition at a community college is less than tuition at a four year college or university in general. Life in the United States can be very expensive, so having to pay less for tuition is certainly a perk to studying at a community college- especially when you can receive the same quality of education that you would receive at a university.

Easier Admissions Process

Some colleges are extremely competitive at the freshman admissions level, but not as competitive at the transfer admissions level. Meaning, to get into a traditional four year college or university, a prospective freshman must compete with thousands of other students. However, if an international student applies as a transfer student his or her chances of getting into a traditional university might be better; this is because many traditional universities have agreements or partnerships with community colleges that allow community college graduates to be automatically admitted into the university program of their choice assuming the student meets all other admission requirements (such as a satisfactory grade point average and having certain coursework completed). Every community college is different which means the type of partnership or agreement you’ll find will vary from one school to the next. Some partnerships will be related to programs of study; for example, a nursing program at a community college might have an agreement with a nursing program at a four year university. Other community colleges might have automatic admissions programs with select universities that are not major dependent. Check with the community college you’re interested in to see if any agreements or partnerships exist that you could eventually take advantage of.

Additionally, while most universities require international students to take the TOEFL as part of the admissions process, many community colleges do not require TOEFL scores. Instead, community colleges give students the opportunity to take an assessment on-site to determine a student’s level of English proficiency and from there a student can take English as a second language classes to improve their English speaking, reading, and writing skills, if needed. Community colleges can make the admissions process less stressful by requiring less assessments and more accessible by not using the TOEFL as part of the admissions decision. While community colleges require some sort of placement test before taking college level courses such as freshman level English or math, the SAT or ACT is normally not needed as part of your admissions application. This means that your scores on the SAT or ACT don’t matter to community colleges. If you’re able to prove that you’re college ready through your community college placement test, then the SAT or ACT is not needed. Lastly, it’s important to know that the majority of community colleges have an open admissions policy which means that no one is denied entry; if you apply, you will be accepted.

Additional Advantages

For many international students, starting at the community college level and earning a high grade point average (GPA) can prove to college admissions staff that they can handle the academic rigor of an American university. This is especially helpful for students who do not have a strong GPA prior to attending a community college.

Additionally, community colleges are normally smaller and therefore able to offer more support to their study body. At a four year university, you’ll find large classes of sometimes hundreds of people piled into an auditorium; on the flip side, at community colleges it isn’t uncommon to only have fifteen or twenty other students in your class. This smaller class size gives you more access to your instructor and the ability to form close relationships with other students. Those interpersonal relationships should not be taken for granted since instructors can easily be mentors that help you find that first job after college or a fellow student can be a source of inspiration for a business you’re interested in pursuing.