Planning to study in the USA can be an overwhelming experience for someone who is not familiar with the American education system. If you are one of those prospective students, here is some information that will help you unlock that mystery and decide whether to enroll or not to enroll. You still might find that the more you learn about the different options, the bigger rainbow of possibilities you will face.
But in this article we will narrow down the options and answer questions such as: What is the difference between community colleges and state universities? What are the most important considerations to make before you actually make up your mind? And, most importantly, where to start?
Differences Between Community Colleges and State Universities
To answer the first question, consider some basic facts. In general, American community colleges have the purpose of serving their community; that is, the county, city or town where they are located. Because they were created with that purpose of service, they offer a more flexible structure than the universities.
Of course, this does not mean that classes are easier! Most colleges have an open admissions policy. They offer two-year careers and certificates, which allow students a rapid access to the workforce, and, in most cases, tuition is a bit cheaper than at any university. In terms of careers, a technical approach, called associate of science degree, or AS, is a career path that covers an average of 64 credit hours, or two years of study as a full-time student. You will also find that there is an academic career option as well called an associate of arts degree, or AA.
It is a 60-credit-hour career, or two years of study, that provides you with requirements to be able to transfer to a four-year university. That is, you would need two additional years at the university to obtain a bachelor’s degree after transferring with an AA from a community college.
Your choice of career path at the community college will depend on the number of years you are planning to study in the USA. For example, if you plan to obtain a master’s in business, you may have to get started with an AA degree in business at the community college.
But if you intend to open your own business in your country in the next couple of years, then you have to opt for an AS degree in business administration. The good thing about the technical options is that you may combine them so as to become more employable upon graduation. For instance, a certificate in accounting would very well strengthen your skills to obtain an AS degree in business administration.
Another example is the AS in nursing. This technical career bears very much importance at the time of entering the university to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. But an AS degree in nursing gives a candidate a much better chance of being admitted to an registered nurse program at most universities, especially because they usually have a limited admissions policy. The key to career selection is to take enough time to explore all possible alternatives. Just do your homework!
As mentioned above, unlike universities, community colleges usually have an open admissions policy. If you are not familiar with this, it is very simple. This implies that you must go through a 1-2-3 step procedure.
- Provide all required documentation for admissions to the college, including documents to apply for your student visa.
- Wait for your application to be processed.
- Receive your welcome letter! One thing is important though; you will receive your letter of admissions only if you provide all the required documentation.
The Most Important Considerations
Let’s take a look at universities now. When it comes to being admitted, universities like law schools may have more requirements, conditions and criteria for selecting prospective students. In this sense, universities are, if we can say, a little stricter.
Since the universities are organized in colleges — for instance, College of Business, College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Sciences, and the like — you will find that applying involves a double consideration on your part.
Besides providing the required admissions and student visa documents to the universities office of admissions, you might also be required to apply to the pertaining department of the college. That means that you may also need to attach letters of recommendation, a resume or transcripts from previous schools attended.
Additionally, universities usually have a faculty selecting committee per college. This group of professors takes on the responsibility of reviewing all applicants’ documentation — like college entrance tests scores, letters of application and resumes — and makes the difficult decision of who gets admitted and who doesn’t. Sounds scary, but don’t be discouraged!
In order to be successful, it is important that you select the university of your interest based on full knowledge of the programs it offers. You should not hesitate to contact the department of the college of your interest. Of course, this is an easier task today since the Internet provides you with fast access to most universities Web sites.
Where and How to Start?
Having a contact person is the best way to go. That person may be a professor, a adviser or even the best college admission counselor. All these people have the knowledge to guide you through the whole admissions process and even more. You may notice that, unlike community colleges, universities have professors as advisers, especially in graduate school.
Establishing a fluent communication with your adviser is also important when you are already studying in the program because you will always need guidance or mentoring even after graduation. This type of support may help you save money by taking the right type of courses, graduating on time and even enjoying your experience as an international student in the USA.
As you may sense from these recommendations, priority admission to any university is not extremely difficult if you have done a careful research and obtained all necessary information. But there is a question you must ask yourself to be on target: Do I have all of the requirements and conditions? If your answer is yes, then, go for it and apply! You will very likely be a good candidate.
But if your answer is no, you might need to review your checklist and find out what items you are missing. Is your TOEFL, or Test English as a Foreign Language, score too low? Is your high school transcript valid in the USA? Are your high school grades too low?
In any case, you should discuss with an adviser, or someone of similar expertise, how to go about improving your qualifications.
In general, either community colleges or universities provide a comfortable environment for students of all ages and cultural backgrounds. A college student could be 18 or 58. Surprised?
Well, you haven’t heard enough yet. Student diversity is not only a commonality in the American classrooms, but there are also returning students who hold other degrees from universities overseas. Although it might sound weird to you, this is becoming quite common in the USA due to the flexibility of the hundreds of degree programs offered.
Ultimately, this is the reason why international students find it interesting and feel eager to obtain admissions to colleges and universities in the USA. If you are one of those students, go ahead make up your mind, make your choice and enroll!