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​How to Apply to Community College

Last updated May 28, 2024

There are many benefits of attending community college, such as small class sizes, low tuition costs, and the ability to receive a degree in two years. Once you decide that attending community college is right for you, it's time to work on your application. We share tips on how to apply to community college!

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Research with your goals in mind

As you begin to research community colleges near you, take some time to reflect on your academic and career goals. Attending community college can be a fantastic stepping stone to your future, so it's important to begin with some goals and plans in mind. It's totally okay if these change over time, but having a general idea of majors and careers that interest you can help you narrow down where you attend.

  • If your goal is to eventually transfer to a four-year college or university, consider the majors and areas of study offered at the community college you want to attend. It may be helpful to have a general idea of what you plan to study once you transfer to ensure that any prerequisite credits you’re taking in community college will transfer as well. If you’re unsure of what you want to major in, that’s totally okay too! Many students attending community college typically complete all or most of their general education requirements before transferring and taking classes dedicated to their major.
  • If your goal is to receive a technical (trade) certificate or degree, consider which programs interest you. These programs are very career-oriented, meaning that your area of study can directly translate into your field of work. For example, if you study cosmetology at a local community college, your career options will be oriented toward the cosmetology industry. Do research on which community colleges offer which types of programs, as not all of them will have the same programs across the board. For example, if you know that you want to be an electrician, and a community college you're researching doesn't offer any electrician certificates or degrees, it's probably best to take that one off your list.
  • If your goal is to receive your associate degree and enter the workforce, spend some time researching which career paths you can pursue after graduating, as different fields will require different types of degrees. For example, many healthcare jobs will only require a high school diploma or associate degree, while teaching jobs will almost always require a bachelor's degree. If you feel confident about pursuing a specific career path, it's important to know ahead of time what steps you'll need to take to enter into it.

Compare and contrast

Once you have your goals in mind, start comparing and contrasting each of the community colleges on your list. Do some research on their website and jot down their:

  • Application requirements
  • Enrollment deadlines
  • Tuition costs
  • Class fees
  • Offered majors
  • Student involvement opportunities (clubs, sports, etc.)
  • Campus culture
  • Commuting distance

Having all of this information up front can help you decide which one will be the best academic, financial, and social fit. Need some help staying organized during your college search? Use our free college application requirements tracker!

Prepare your application materials

When you fill out an application to enroll in community college, you will usually need to provide:

  • Personal information: State ID or driver's license, social security number, and/or birth certificate.
  • Proof of residency: Rental or lease agreements, utility bills, etc.
  • Academic history: High school diploma, GED, or certified high school transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and/or any previous college credit.
  • Citizenship status: Passport, Permanent Resident Card (green card), and/or proof of DACA status.

If you check the admissions page of the community college you are interested in, they will typically have a breakdown of all the steps you’ll need to complete to start taking classes there. If you're unsure about how to start the application process or obtain any of the documents listed above, check in with the college's admissions or enrollment offices for guidance.

Prepare for your placement test

Once you're enrolled, you may need to take a placement test, which gauges your proficiency in subjects like reading, writing, and math. Your performance on your placement test will help your college place you into classes that are an academic match for you. Depending on your college's testing requirements, or grades on your transcripts, you may not need to take a placement test. Check in with your college to learn more once you enroll.

Apply for financial aid

Visit your college's financial aid office to learn about receiving aid. They can answer your questions and assist you with submitting your FAFSA or state-based financial aid application. They can also walk you through your financial aid options, such as scholarships (private and institutional), grants, and loans. Additionally, they can help you make sure that all your aid is finalized and good to go before starting your first term of college. 

Looking for college financial aid? Use our free Scholarship Finder to find and apply for 16,000+ scholarships!

Register for orientation and classes

After you enroll, you'll likely receive an email to register for orientation. Whether it’s online or in-person, attending orientation is important! It can help you become familiar with essential campus resources like the academic success center and career center, make friends, get to know your new campus, and register for classes with your academic advisor. This time and space to ease into your new college life can make the transition much smoother! 

Have any questions about applying to community college? We're here to help! Text #College to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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