Community college is a convenient option for international students who want some time to adjust to life in the USA, are trying to figure out their academic path, or haven’t been able to get into a traditional university because of low grades or competitive entrances.
Community colleges also offer programs where you can receive your associate degree, and then easily transition into a four-year bachelor’s degree program at a traditional college or university. This is known as the 2+2 arrangement.
Read on to find out exactly what the 2+2 arrangement entails, and how you can take advantage of it.
The 2+2 arrangement explained
The 2+2 arrangement is a program where you can attend the first two years of your four-year bachelor’s at a community college, and then transfer for the remaining two years to a traditional college or university.
At the community college level, you can take general education and pre-major classes. These courses go on for two years, after which you’ll have enough credits to transfer. In the third and fourth years at the traditional university, you can take courses to obtain your bachelor’s degree.
The two-year degree you earn at a community college is called an associate degree. After this, you can earn your bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution.
How can you transfer to four-year colleges and universities?
Before you transfer, think about the colleges and programs you may be interested in. Your community college will assign you an advisor. Talk to them and ask them to help you arrange a plan to get into a four year university.
If you graduate from a community college with an associate degree and a certain minimum grade point average, there will be a number of colleges and universities in which you can get guaranteed admission. For instance, if you graduate from one of Virginia’s 23 community colleges, you are guaranteed admission to more than 30 of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities. This makes it easier to seamlessly transfer to a four-year course, rather than joining it freshman year.
Some colleges also provide the option of pursuing your third and fourth year online.
What you should consider before transferring
In order to transfer, you will need to have completed a minimum number of courses with the required GPA. This number varies depending on the course and college of your choice. Check the transfer requirements of the college and work with that aim in mind.
If you want to pursue a technical degree like engineering, keep in mind that most community colleges do not offer required engineering courses. Many do not offer upper-level calculus and physics courses. So, make sure you attend a community college that offers the programs you need.
People usually think that any course you take at a community college in the college-level transfer program will be accepted by four-year colleges. This is degree-specific. For many degree tracks this is valid, but not for all of them.
Benefits of the 2+2 arrangement
Your college experience will become much cheaper
In the U.S., your undergraduate program can cost anywhere between $25,000 and $45,000 per year. Community colleges typically cost $2,500 to $3,000 per year. Additionally, you also have to consider accommodation and living expenses.
In a combined program, you can cut down the cost of the bachelor’s program by almost half. This can help you escape student debt, or at least reduce the amount considerably.
You get time to settle in
Coming to a whole new country is mentally taxing. Allowing yourself time to adjust to your new surroundings will help maintain your mental and emotional stability.
The courses in community colleges are typically not as academically rigorous, and you will have a lot more flexibility in your schedule.
If you’re planning to live in the U.S. long-term, taking this time can be incredibly beneficial. You can also use the extra time to work and save up money for a traditional university.
You can use the time to figure out your academic inclination
Not all high schoolers have their lives figured out. It is unrealistic to ask a teenager to decide on an academic path that they have to follow for the rest of their lives. This is why a lot of students take a gap year.
If you don’t want to lose time, you can use the two years in community college to understand your academic inclinations, and then make choices for your further education.
You can also take the time to talk to your professors and understand what college really is like before going further.
Your low GPA does not matter
If the reason you can’t get into a traditional university is your low GPA, community college is the solution. Community colleges generally have an open admission policy, so as long as you have a high school diploma, you can get into the college.
After you have built a good academic record at your community college, you can transfer to a traditional university.
You can get the advantages of both the community college and traditional university in the 2+2 arrangement. It will help you save money, as well as give you more time to adjust to your new life in the U.S.
Downsides of the 2+2 arrangement
On-campus living is usually not possible
Many community colleges do not offer student housing, as they largely serve existing members of the community. This means that you will have to arrange for off-campus accommodations for the first two years of your education.
This may mean renting an apartment with roommates, a homestay program, or living with family you have in the area, all depending on your situation.
If a homestay or living with family is not an option, this could present a challenge if you begin your freshman year before you turn 18. Most landlords in the U.S. cannot legally rent apartments to minors, so you will have to arrange another living situation until you are old enough to rent on your own.
There may not be courses for your major
If you plan to pursue a STEM degree, be aware that not all community colleges offer the necessary prerequisite courses to transfer directly into the third year of the program at four-year university.
Before you decide if the 2+2 arrangement is right for you, make sure you can enroll in all the necessary courses at the community college to prepare you to transfer. If you do not, you could be forced to take (and pay for) an extra semester of classes at the four-year university to qualify you for the bachelor’s degree program you’re interested in.
Community colleges are not always surrounded with an array of private student housing the way traditional colleges and universities are.
This means you may have to live farther from the campus, which can present a challenge if you have to rely on public transportation.
Therefore, make sure you have a reliable way to get to class each day. This could be a public bus or train, carpooling, or your own car.
You’ll miss out on part of the college experience
Spending the first two years of your higher education at a community college means that you will miss out on some of the experiences of being an underclassman (first of second-year student) at a four-year college or university. These experiences can include campus traditions, making friends with fellow new students, and dorm life with your classmates, as most upperclassmen tend to live off-campus.
Whether or not these experiences are important is entirely dependent on you. Are you solely focused on getting your degree while incurring as little debt as possible, or is the full college experience what you’re looking for? Your answer will determine your priorities.
Is 2+2 Right for You?
As you’ve seen, following the 2+2 arrangement can be a smart choice for many new students. It can nearly halve the cost of your education, ease you into American life with a less-rigorous academic schedule, and accommodate lower GPAs.
However, the 2+2 arrangement may not be suitable for all students and degrees. If you’re pursuing a technical program, you may not be able to take all of the necessary prerequisites at a community college. Plus, you may have more difficulties with housing and transportation, and could miss out on parts of the college experience.
In the end, there are benefits to both arrangements, and only you can make the right choice for your education.
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