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Community colleges in all states of the USA are comparable in terms of how they are run, their general functioning, etc. The information given below is therefore a general guide for students researching community colleges in the US, and has applicability to colleges in each state. For the most current and specific details, students should also refer to individual state higher education agencies, as well as individual community colleges

What is a community college? How is it different from university or career college?
Community colleges in the USA are government-regulated post-secondary institutions offering 1- to 2-year academic and pre-professional certificates, diplomas, 2-year associate's degrees, 4-year applied degrees and other 4-year specialized bachelor's degrees. Community colleges differ from universities in their smaller class size and focus on a combination of academic and industry-centred programs and co-op/internship opportunities. The academics are generally more comprehensive than in the shorter and more vocationally-oriented programs at career colleges, and community colleges offer specific university transfer programs that allow students to transfer credits toward university programs.

What kinds of programs and credentials do community colleges offer? How long will they take?
Community colleges in the USA offer 4-year specialized and applied bachelor degrees, 2-year associate's degrees, 1- to 2-year diplomas, and certificates that run from 12 weeks to 1 year. The length of your study depends on the credential you take and whether you take it on a full-time, part-time or online basis.

What is an applied degree?
In the US, applied degrees are a kind of associate's degree--for example, Associate of Applied Sciences. The focus of applied degree programs is on advanced study in career or technical fields and these degrees are not intended for transfer. For instance, you can take an Associate of Applied Sciences in fields such as business, interior design, criminal justice, culinary arts, emergency medical services, film and media production, and other areas that lead to direct employment. Applied degree programs may include industry internship.

Do I need to speak a language other than English?
No. English is the main language of instruction at all colleges in the USA.

Do community colleges offer online or distance programs?
Often, yes, but not always. Community colleges aim to make learning accessible to as many communities in the United States as possible. Therefore, many colleges across the US offer online programs. Check with the college you are interested in.

Will there be other international students at community college in the USA?
Generally, yes. Different community colleges have different international enrollment numbers. Some colleges have several thousand international students, while others may have only tens. Some colleges have specific exchange programs for students from particular countries.

Are community colleges less expensive for international students than universities?
Both universities and community colleges in the USA charge special international student tuition. Tuition and other fees vary from school to school and state to state, but on average community colleges charge less for international tuition than universities.

How big are the classes at community colleges?
This depends on the school and the program. Some community college programs have extremely limited enrollment, while others accept more students. Unlike universities which can end up with classes of several thousand students, most community colleges have a cap on class size. Generally, community college class sizes average between 20 and 45 students.

What if the program I want to apply to is full? What is a "waitlist"?
Community colleges often have limited class sizes; therefore, it sometimes happens that a program has more applicants than available spaces. Some community colleges websites indicate which programs are still open. If a program you have applied for is full, you may be placed on a waitlist. A waitlist means that if a seat becomes available at a later date (if a student drops out or decides not to attend), you will be contacted. Waitlists may not carry over to the next academic year, so if you are not offered a seat in the year for which you applied, put in a new application early for the next academic year.

What housing options do community colleges provide for international students?
Some community colleges have on-campus residences or dormitories, while others are small and do not have on-campus housing. Community colleges that accept international students usually have people to help you organize a homestay or other off-campus housing.

Is financial aid available for international students to study at community college in the USA?
Yes, but not always from the school itself. Many American community colleges offer internally and externally administered scholarships for incoming international students. Criteria may include academic success, artistic merit, athletic excellence, community involvement, references from instructors, or financial need. Scholarship and award programs are also administered by the federal government, state governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some community groups in the college's city or town. Bursaries are also sometimes available for international students who demonstrate financial need and reasonable academic standing.

How do I get my transcripts and other documents translated?
The college's admissions office can inform you about the requirements for translation and authentication of your documents.

How do I know if my credentials will be accepted at a community college in the USA?
Community colleges each set their own admission requirements; therefore, you should contact the registrar or admissions office at each college to find out what they require in terms of assessing foreign credentials. Many community colleges have a special website section for international students. You can also consult one of the US's credential assessment and qualification recognition services. For a fee, these offices provide an evaluation that shows how your credentials compare with American credentials.

Can I transfer my community college credits to a university in the US? In my home country?
Community colleges in most states have transfer agreements with various universities within the state and even the country. Credit transfer between institutions within the US is usually possible, but it depends on the program. In terms of transferring credits to a university in your home country, it depends on your home country. American credentials are often accepted and recognized around the world; however, you should still ask about recognition of foreign community college credits and credentials in your country of origin.

What are the benefits of community colleges in the USA for international students?
Community colleges offer affordable tuition fees, the option of taking a degree or transferring credit toward a n American university program, small classes, a safe and close community environment, programs partly designed by industry leaders, bridging programs to help you meet institution and program requirements, employment training and work opportunities, industry connections, and extensive language and personal support for international students. Many community colleges in the United States boast high employment rates for their graduates.

Where can I go/ who can I talk to if I have questions or problems?
There are a number of resources if you have questions or problems, depending on the type of question or problem it is. Some helpful resources at community colleges are: Academic Counselling, Personal Counselling, International Student Services, Student Council, Student Services, Registrar's Office, Student Ombudsman.

Can international students participate in co-op education?
Yes. International students are not eligible for a standard work permit; however, to participate in an educational work-experience program (co-op, internship, etc), international students in the US must have an I-20 endorsed for OPT, and provide a USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

If my language test score isn't high enough, can I apply for an ESL course and be accepted into another program once I improve my language skills?
That depends on the school. Because community colleges each set their own entrance requirements, some offer the option of upgrading your language skills at the college before entering a program, while others are strict about fulfilling the language requirement before you can be admitted to any of the college's programs.
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