California community colleges (CCCs) may not be the most glamorous option, but they do provide a good pathway to the UCs (financially or otherwise). Just remember, six of the nine UCs participate in Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG)!
Generally speaking, students who are self-directed tend to do better in community college. While there are lots of resources, students are often required to locate them and/or make requests in order to receive them. Students also need to independently verify the transfer information they receive from various sources (human errors do occur, occasionally with devastating consequences). Those who require hand-holding or are too shy to ask for help will likely fall through the cracks (and potentially spend many years floundering in community college).
Here are the steps to get you started if attending a CCC is right for you:
Step 1: Apply NOW! If you plan to go to community college, apply now for the Summer/Fall 2021 term. If you are not sure, apply anyway! CCC applications are FREE to file (international students studying in the U.S. on a student visa may be required to pay an application fee) and take less than 30 minutes to complete. Course registration appointments are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis and most community colleges require first-time attendees to go through a series of tasks before providing the appointment (apply, attend orientation, go through placement, and receive academic counseling). The sooner you apply and complete those tasks, the sooner you can enroll and the easier it will be to get the classes you want/need. Consider applying to two community colleges (or more if feasible) so you have more enrollment choices (you may be able to get different classes at different colleges).
Step 2: Location, Location, Location! While UCs do not give preference based on the community college you attend, some community colleges offer special transfer programs or difficult-to-find major prep courses that can make you more competitive for transfer admission. To figure out which community colleges are resource-rich, see the California Community College new enrollments at UC infographic from the UC Information Center (click on a UC campus to see the number of transfer students each CCC sends to that UC campus).
Step 3: Scholars/Honors Program! Most high school graduates will qualify for the scholars/honors program at the community colleges that offer it, you just have to apply to get in. UCLA gives priority consideration to transfer applicants applying to majors in the College of Letters & Science who are TAP certified (certified Scholars/Honors Program applicant from participating CCCs). Even if you are not interested in UCLA, you should consider participating because program students often get priority registration, which means you get first dibs on hard-to-get core/required courses.
Step 4: Transfer Admission Guarantee! Take advantage of the guarantee offered by six of the nine UC campuses (Berkeley, UCLA, and San Diego do NOT participate). Review the TAG requirements and familiarize yourself with the process.
Gap Year – if you are thinking about taking a gap year, you may still take community college courses (but ONLY during the summer term immediately following high school graduation). You will still qualify as a freshman applicant as long as you do NOT enroll during a REGULAR term (fall or spring for community colleges on the semester system; fall, winter, or spring for community colleges on the quarter system). But beware that some UCs may inadvertently disqualify you for freshman admission if you have ANY community college courses after high school graduation; be sure to provide an explanation in Additional Comments that you ONLY enrolled in the summer term immediately following high school graduation and therefore still qualify as a freshman applicant.
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