Students expecting to attend a community college as their back up plan may be sorely surprised when denied admission. While community colleges try to keep admission open to everyone, high-demand community colleges may have a limited capacity due to funding, says David Baime, Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Research of the American Association of Community Colleges.
Generally, students can overcome the capacity issue by applying early. Most community colleges accept students on a first-come, first-serve basis until all spots are filled, says Baime. For example, the deadline for City University of New York (CUNY) Colleges, which includes both community and four-year colleges, admissions passed in February. This does not mean students shouldn’t apply, but it does mean that they should apply soon. The CUNY website notes, it takes 6 to 8 weeks after applying to view application status on their site.
Certain programs may fill up faster. No matter what school you plan on applying to, students should call the program office that houses their major to see if spots are still available. This way they’ll avoid the application fee for a program that has already been filled and have more time to contact other community colleges or programs to find out where there are still openings. They can continue to check to see if spots open up or if the school recommends they apply, and may get selected from a waiting list.
Competitive vs. open admission
While calling, check to see if program admission is first-time, first-serve or more competitive. Because of restraints such as available lab spaces, some community colleges are selective based on academic performance. Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, NC, has a competitive admissions system for health sciences programs such as surgical technology, dental assisting, dental hygiene, and nursing. When all prospective students meet basic admissions requirements, admission is awarded on a merit-based points system. The rankings are based on early college courses.
How does the ranking system apply to recent high school graduates? Recent graduates may have taken some of the required courses at a community college during high school summers or have Advanced Placement Program credits that help them meet requirements to be admitted into these programs. Students interested in a competitive program need to call an academic advisor as soon as possible at the community college they’re considering to look over credits they have. If students need more college-level coursework before gaining program admission, they should apply to the school for general admission to complete these courses first. Then study hard and get the best grades they can.
Credits that count
The final obstacle to admission isn’t about admission to a program or often not even to the college. It’s about being able to take college credits in courses that will transfer to four-year universities or count towards completing an associate degree. If considering attending a community college, check to see what placement tests are needed to take college level English or math. The exact test may differ by college or region. However, the community college does post which test is required. Often, practice tests are available online and the school may have free tutoring or workshops. Students should take placement tests as soon as they’re ready. Exemptions may be made for academics or by SAT/ACT scores.
When I returned to a four-year college after five years, I had to take a placement test in Texas. My SAT scores were high enough to exempt me from placement testing, but my scores were too old. I was worried I’d have to waste time taking extra math courses before taking college-level math. I studied for the test and got the needed scores. If I didn’t pass, I would have had to take the test again for more important reasons, too. In Texas, passing The Texas Academic Skills Program Test is required for anyone who isn’t exempt before degree completion.
Community colleges are still an inexpensive way to start gaining college credits before transferring or to get an associate degree. In certain cases, a few bachelor’s degrees are offered on campus, too. But students need to pay careful attention to academic and placement testing requirements as well as admissions deadlines. Otherwise, they may not be enrolled anywhere next fall.