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Community college and the transfer pathway

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While this site primarily focuses on four-year colleges, students and parents should remember that the California Community Colleges (CCC) represent another important option for students coming out of high school, including those students who wish to graduate with a four-year degree. CCCs enroll far more students than UCs and CSUs combined, and can be particularly important for students who have not completed all of the necessary coursework to apply to a four-year school, need or wish to attend school part time, or are interested in pursuing careers not requiring a four-year college education.

The California Community Colleges’ open enrollment policies (anyone eighteen or older or with a high school degree or equivalent can attend) and low cost has made them a popular option for many students coming out of high school.  Unfortunately, some students see CCCs as “second-rate” and therefore do not take advantage of the many courses and programs they have to offer.

CCCs can be especially important for those who want to graduate from a four-year university, but are not ready or interested in entering one upon graduation from high school.  One of the community college’s primary missions is to prepare students for transfer to a four-year university. Students should also be counseled about the value of such a transfer: this is perhaps the best-paved and least expensive route to any college or university. About one-third of UC graduates, for example, began their post-secondary educations at a CCC.

Students planning to enter a four-year school from a CCC should plan their high school education just as carefully as students who are going directly to a four-year school. Students who are eligible for UC or CSU (and choose to go to a CCC instead) generally are guaranteed admittance to that university when they are ready to transfer.

Community colleges offer a chance for students to bring themselves up top college level in a variety of subjects.  Students may need to take remedial coursework, for example, if they were unable to earn C’s in higher-level math in high school. Remedial coursework typically doesn’t yield degree or transfer credit.  Therefore, the need to take such classes will slow down students who wish to transfer to a four-year school (or earn a two-year degree.

No matter what students’ ultimate goal, they should enter community college ready to take college-level courses.  All high school students considering this path should remember to:

  • Keep their grades up
  • Take a-g courses
  • Participate in a dual (also known as concurrent) enrollment program and take college courses while in high school, either on their high school campus or at the local community college
  • Take advantage of tutoring and advising services offered at their school to improve their academic skills and become college-ready

All of these steps will help them to be better prepared for community college and a possible transfer to a four-year school.

A helpful tool for students looking to transfer to a CSU or UC campus from a California Community College is the Assist web site. At the prompts, a student can enter the community college they are attending, which UC or CSU campus they want to transfer to, and what they want to major in, and this web site will tell them what courses they need to take at their community college. Students can also visit CSU Mentor or UC Transfer for transfer requirements to these levels. The website of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities provides information on private institutions, and the California web site provides guidance on college and career planning.


Articulation System Stimulating Interinstitutional Student Transfer (ASSIST)

California State Legislature, University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges

ASSIST is a computerized student-transfer information system that can be accessed over the World Wide Web. It displays reports of how course credits earned at one California college or university can be applied when transferred to another. ASSIST is the official repository of articulation for California’s colleges and universities and therefore provides the most accurate and up-to-date information available about student transfer in California.

UC Answers for Transfers

University of California Office of the President

Yearly UC publication that contains comprehensive information about the transfer process.

UC Transfer

University of California Office of the President

Information for Community Colleges students looking to transfer to UC.

CSU Transfer Applicant Overview and Definitions

California State University

Information for community college students looking to transfer to CSU.

CCC Online Application Center

California Community College Chancellor’s Office

Frequently Asked Questions page of a Web site where students can learn about - and apply to - each of the state’s community colleges.

Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities

Information for Community College students looking to transfer to one of the many California independent colleges and universities.


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Last modified on 1/1/2010

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