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5 Ways for International Students to Research U.S. Community Colleges

Turn to reputable rankings and forums to research U.S. community colleges as an international student.

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International students can use reputable online resources such as the American Association of Community Colleges website to research community colleges.

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International students who seek a different higher education experience might want to learn more about 2+2 transfer programs, where students move from a community college to a university. Students who go the 2+2 route spend two years at a community college before transferring to a university to spend their junior and senior years.

After finishing my secondary school studies in Singapore, the idea of continuing my education in Singapore seemed slightly unappealing. I cherish the time I spent there, but the education system is strict and I felt like I needed a change. 

One of my relatives introduced me to the idea of a 2+2 program. I was lucky enough to meet an education agency in Indonesia with plenty of experience in terms of community colleges. Through the agency, I was introduced to my former community college, Green River Community College, in Washington.

Fewer international students take this path, and as a result, it is often harder to find information about studying at U.S. community colleges. Here are some tips on how international students can research these schools.

[Check out the new U.S. News Community College Directory.]

1. Check out the American Association of Community Colleges website: The organization provides all kinds of information, starting from the history of community colleges in the U.S. in general to recent news and, most importantly, the Community College Finder. You can find the tool either by clicking the link at the top of the page or by navigating to the resources tab on the right side of the website.

The website will then present you with a map of the U.S., and once you select one of the states, the finder will give you a list of community colleges in that state. You can also narrow down your search by using the "attributes" tab to select characteristics such as the city, control type and enrollment.

After you click a particular community college, the website will display information regarding the enrollment, demographics and other things such as the school's address and tuition. While you are online you should also check out the group's "International Student Guide to U.S. Community Colleges."

[Get tips and advice on transferring from a community college to a four-year school.]

2. Refer to CNN Money’s community college ranking: Although rankings may not show definitively how a particular community college stacks up compared with another, it may be a good way for some students to kick off the research process. It is usually challenging to find a reliable source for rankings and information online, as you typically do not know how a ranking is put together, and what factors contributed to it.

However, CNN Money teamed up with College Measures and came up with a ranking of community colleges based on what they call "success rate." The Washington Monthly also has a ranking of community colleges which you can find online.

3. Check out the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office: Aside from New York and the District of Columbia, California is one of the states that is particularly attractive to international students. There are various reasons for this, ranging from the size of the state to the abundance of community colleges in California. There is also the fact that it is home to some of the U.S.’s most popular tourist cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

If you have decided that you want to attend a community college in California, then it would be wise to check out the chancellor's office. Its website is similar to the AACC website, as it provides a list of all the community colleges in California.

Since the office is centered on California, it presents users with much more information on each college. You can discover the current weather conditions at that community college, calculate the cost of attending a particular community college and even find out the transfer rate to schools within the University of California and California State University systems.

4. Visit individual community college websites: The AACC and chancellor's office websites are great ways to start off your search, because they allow you to narrow down your search using important attributes, such as location and enrollment. Once you have a shorter list of community colleges, I would suggest researching deeper into the specific community colleges you're interested in by visiting their own websites.

Most community colleges have a page dedicated specifically to international students. I would suggest researching about the admissions process, the transfer history of past students, any specific programs they have for international students, tuition and fees and scholarships.

If you aren’t able to find specific information, send out an email to their international students office. Some community colleges even hire international students to help recruit other students, so you might even get a response back from an international student from your own country.

[Find resources and advice on paying for community colleges.]

5. Ask questions on community college forums: If you have gone through all these steps and still have not found what you are looking for, it never hurts to drop a question on forums.

CollegeConfidential is one forum in particular that you should check out. If you go to the community college section, on the top you will see a featured threads section along with all the other threads that have been posted recently.

I would normally scroll through the threads looking for topics that interested me, and would occasionally start a new thread if I didn’t find a topic I was looking for information about. International students have asked questions about summer classes, for advice on choosing between specific community colleges and what the transfer process is like.

You should also consider posting a question on the news and discussion site Reddit, in the /r/College subreddit.