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​How to Apply to Community College

Last updated November 1, 2023

There are so many great benefits of attending community college - like smaller class sizes, lower tuition costs, the ability to receive a degree in only two years - and more! Once you decide that attending community college is right for you, it's time to get your application information together. Here's what you need to know about enrolling in a 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 actually end up attending.

  • 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 over. If you’re unsure of what you want to major in, that’s totally okay too! Many students attending community college typically complete all of their general education requirements (Psychology 101, Writing 101, etc.) 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 field is more than likely going to be cosmetology as well. 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 and/or 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 admissions/enrollment office for guidance.

Prepare for your enrollment/placement exam

After you complete and submit the enrollment application and pay any application fees, you may need to take a placement exam. This exam will test your academic skills in math, science, and writing. After completing the exam, you will be placed into classes based on your performance on it. Note: you may not need to take a placement exam based on the grades reported from your transcript or if your community college does not have a testing requirement. Be sure to check in with your school to learn more.

Apply for financial aid

Visit your intended college's Financial Aid office to learn more about receiving financial aid. They can help answer your questions and assist you with submitting your FAFSA or any state-based financial aid applications. To apply for financial aid, you will need to provide some personal financial information - like household finances, pay stubs, your tax returns, etc. Be sure to check in with the financial aid office to see what exactly is required to submit.

Looking for extra aid for college? Check out our lists of scholarships available now!

Register for orientation and classes

After you enroll, you'll most likely receive an email to register for orientation. Whether it’s online or in-person, attending orientation is important to help you get familiar with essential campus resources like the learning center and career center. Additionally, orientation is a great time to make friends and familiarize yourself with the campus and surrounding community so you can find the best study spots, best places to eat, and more. Additionally, during orientation you'll most likely meet with an academic advisor who can help guide you through the class registration process and help you choose your classes for your first quarter/semester.

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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