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Tips to Prepare for—and Succeed in—Community College

Here's what you need to know to get ready for the next step in your education.

Take a deep breath and get ready. Next stop: . 

When it comes to choosing where to go, many Poway students enroll at a community college first and then transfer to a four-year university. However, just because it is community college does not mean there is less to consider. There is just as much to get done when enrolling as when attending a four-year university.

If you have not filed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), then the time to do so is now. Filling out your FAFSA will enable you to potentially receive aid for your education from the government. While the priority deadline has passed, there is still time to file for the 2011-2012 academic year.

California State University and University of California requirements

When enrolling in community college, you should already have an idea of whether or not you want to transfer. If so, then you should also know if you prefer the California State University system or the University of California system.

In community college, there are different requirements between the two regarding which general education course must be fulfilled before transferring. General education courses are mainly English, math, science, language, multicultural and other elective courses.

After choosing a university system, you can then plan which classes to take and when. Community colleges often have outlines that show the course subject and choices for each system’s requirements. This is something that you should keep during your duration at community college.

Major

It is easy to walk into community college without knowing what you would like to major in. However, it is easier to walk in knowing which degree you wish to pursue.

If you plan on taking general education classes to transfer out, the timetable of choosing a major is flexible. Choosing a major early, however, will ease the task of planning out courses to take in the future.

If there is one place to change a major, it’s in community college. Changing majors can be expensive at the university level. Community college rates ensure your indecisiveness does not come back to hurt your wallet. While you may have to spend an extra semester taking courses to transfer, you will leave—hopefully—with a major in mind.

Visit a counselor

Counselors at the university level can be tough to meet with. With large enrollment and busy schedules, booking a meeting should be a course in itself. At community colleges—while it may take a while to meet with someone—the experience is often much easier.

Counselors will be able to assist you in planning your courses—sometimes up to two years out—and recommending how to balance the courses you enroll in for a given semester. Counselors can also suggest resources to find out which classes can be transferred should you go to an out-of-state college.

It is helpful to meet with a counselor at the beginning of your community college stay, once in the middle and then one last time toward the end. That way you can plan your course work, monitor it and then plan the next steps upon leaving community college.

Counselors are there for you, the student. It would be wise to make use of them.

Placement testing and enrollment dates

Placement tests are often inevitable. You may need to take a test for both math and English to evaluate what course level is best for you to start with. Do not forget to take these tests. Delaying them will only delay your enrollment and thus, delay your stay at a community college. That is unless you plan for an extended stay.  

Your date to enroll in courses will most likely be cleared after you have taken placement tests and finished filling out forms for enrollment. Most times, this date is emailed or mailed to you. Plan to enroll the minute you are allowed to as classes fill up quickly. With statewide cuts to education, fewer classes are being offered and more students are trying to get in. Stick to your assigned date.

Even while you may not get into the class you need on your assigned enrollment date, you have the opportunity to be put on the waitlist. Being waitlisted for a class is something to take seriously as more students will likely do the same and others will “crash” the class, or show up without any course enrollment.

If you are either one of these students, show up early and stay till the end. Keep attending the class to show you have made a time commitment in your schedule. Professors like commitment and generally note that.

If you feel overwhelmed, don’t. Many of these tasks can be taken care of in a one day orientation. Some are tasks that require constant effort during your entire stay at community college. Remember, going to community college is the first step to a university. Treat it as a university until the time to transfer and you will have no problems.

Good luck on your pursuit of higher education and enjoy it. College is known for providing the best years of your life.

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