I have come across hundreds of students who want to obtain a university degree in the United States, but seem to have no clear path on how to do so. American universities and colleges and held in high regards all over the world. Although higher education is without a doubt expensive in the United States, a degree from an American university remains sought after by millions because it will not only lead to better pay and job opportunities back home, but afford the average foreign student a chance to find career opportunities in the US as well. However, I’ve met countless students who want to get an American degree, but feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of paying American standards of tuition and scoring at least an 80 on a difficult TOEFL exam. Each time a student comes to me they are always frustrated by these two facts and my advice for them is always the same. The best path for obtaining a bachelor’s degree in the United States is by FIRST ATTENDING A COMMUNITY COLLEGE. Here are 5 reasons why international students should attend a community college in the United States.
1) Pay much less in tuition fees. The average tuition cost for a community college in the United States is around$6,500 per year. This is significantly cheaper considering the average state university will charge somewhere around $15,000 to $18,000 per year. Those who think that they will receive a higher quality of education if they attend a four-year state university from the beginning are wrong! The assumption that the level of education at a four-year university is superior to that of a community college is incorrect. Sure, there may be a few bad community colleges just as there are a few bad universities, but most community colleges offer an educational experience that is sometimes better than a four-year university. International students should keep in mind that in the American collegiate system, each student must focus on elective classes regardless if they attend a community college or a university during their first two years. So if the quality of education is the same, why would one want to pay double or even triple the tuition price for the same education?
2) A TOEFL score is either not required or a lower score is acceptable. Paying American tuitions is not the only seemingly insurmountable obstacle for international students. Getting a score of an 80 or 90 on a TOEFL exam is NOT EASY! Registering a high score the TOEFL is not only about having adequate English proficiency, but just as much about being a good test taker. I’ve met heaps of students who cannot seem to score higher than a 75 on the TOEFL, but posses English proficiency in both speaking and writing that is sufficient enough for an American university. The problem is that these students sometimes get nervous while taking the TOEFL or just aren’t good at taking an Internet-based exam. Preparing and ultimately taking the TOEFL is often a very time consuming and stressful experience for most students. I’ve even seen individuals become so discouraged by the TOEFL that they return to their countries early and give up on attending an American university.
There are some community colleges that do not require a TOEFL score and the rest only require a score between 40 to 60 on the Internet-based TOEFL exam. International students should consider that this will also save them money. Achieving a score of 80 or higher on the TOEFL also means shelling out a good amount of money to a langauge school for an additional 3 to 5 months of TOEFL training. International students wishing to attend a community college should check the TOEFL requirements for each school.
3) Smaller classes mean that International students receive a better education at community colleges. This may seem contrary to conventional wisdom, but in the majority of cases it is true that international students will generally get a better education during their first two years at a community college than they would at a four-year university. This also applies for many American students. The main reason is because community college classes are smaller, which is exactly what international students need. Large universities may have impressive facilities and vast lecture halls, but the average international student will often find him or herself lost in a class with a 100 students and little or no interaction with the professor.
A typical class in a community college will range from 15 to 35 students with a few exceptions. This means students have a chance to interact with the instructor and ask questions when do not fully understand. Moreover, smaller classes provide international students a chance to transition their English abilities from a smaller scale to a larger stage of the university during their junior and senior years. In addition, there are excellent professors teaching at community colleges throughout the United States and many of those same professors also teach at four-year universities.
4) Community college credits easily transfer to a four-year university and the final four-year diploma will only have the university’s name written on it. Many students ask me, “can I transfer all of my credits from a community college to a respectable four-year university and will my four-year degree be less significant if I attend a community college?” The answer is absolutely yes to the first question and definitely no to the second one. Most community colleges and universities work in conjunction with each other and four-year universities often recruit prospective students from community colleges. Personally, I attended the Community College of Southern Nevada (now called the College of Southern Nevada) and I had no trouble at all transferring my credits. Community colleges are designed so that both American born and international students can easily transfer to a four-year university. As for the second question, when a student finally gets that four-year degree in his or her hand, it will ony have the name of the four-year university written on it. It counts exactly the same regardless if a student attended the university all four years or first went to a community college.
5) Community colleges offer a friendly, diverse and relaxed environment. I spent two years at the Community College of Southern Nevada (CSN) before going on to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas(UNLV). Personally, my most enjoyable and memorable time studying was during my first two years at the community college level. Community colleges tend to offer a more friendly, laid back and open environment where it is easy for students to make friends, study and feel comfortable. Smaller classrooms and campuses means more familiarity and ability to speak with people on a more personal level. In addition, most community colleges are geared towards attracting international students and extend services specifically to help international students make the transition to their new American life.
Don’t be deterred by stereotypes or negative people who spread inaccurate messages about community colleges. The American community college is not only a great place to study for international students, but for Americans as well. Paying a lot less money, smaller classes, a faster admission process and a friendly environment are all reasons why international students should study at community colleges.