Four-Year Schools Aren’t Your Only Option

Four-Year Schools Aren’t Your Only Option

Consider starting at a community college in a 2 + 2 plan

What does “2 + 2” mean?

“2 + 2” is shorthand for the process of starting the first two years of your education at a community college followed by two years at a traditional university. This adds up to a four-year bachelor degree.

How does it work?

You start at a community college for the first two years of a four-year degree program. At the community college, you take general education and pre-major classes. After completing the required classes, you then transfer to a four-year college or university. There, you’ll take courses in your major to complete the third and fourth years of your bachelor degree. 

What is community college?

A community college offers secondary school graduates an economical pathway to a bachelor degree. It is a higher-education institution that offers two-year degrees (called associate degrees). Almost all of the college’s courses are transferable, meaning that they meet the requirements for a bachelor degree. Therefore, you can easily move from a community college to a four-year school.

Benefit #1: Affordability

The biggest benefit of a 2 + 2 plan is affordability. Tuition at a community college is typically one-half or one-third the tuition of a university in the same area. Most accredited community colleges are public and are designed to provide low-cost tuition alternatives to nearby expensive universities.  

Benefit #2: Smaller classes

Starting at a community college, where classes are smaller than at many universities, can make for an easier transition to American-style education for international students. Many classes will have only 25 or 30 students, so professors can give students more individual attention. Also, with fewer students, there are more opportunities to participate in class discussions.

Benefit #3: Easy transfer to a 4-year university

Most community colleges have transfer agreements with nearby four-year universities. And, in many cases, it is easier to be accepted at a four-year university as a transferring community college student than as an incoming freshman. 

You can get transfer assistance from a college’s international student counseling office or transfer center; a counselor will help make sure you’re taking the correct classes and let you know about deadlines. Also, many colleges provide workshops to help you with your university application. 

An example of how you can save money by starting at a community college

Grossmont College is a community college in a San Diego suburb in southern California. The tuition for an international student for one year is about $8,000. Contrast that with two universities that are nearby: at San Diego State University, the tuition is approximately $19,000, and at University of California, San Diego, it’s approximately $45,000. That adds up to a big savings if you study for your first two years at a community college!


Student Journey 1

Han dreamed of working for an aerospace manufacturer, like Boeing.

Han began his degree at Tacoma Community College in the field of engineering.

In spring 2018, Han chose to continue his studies at Washington State University thanks to recommendations from the professors at Tacoma Community College and a guaranteed admission pathway.

Han graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in spring 2020.


Student Journey 2

1. Vicky began planning for her freshman year at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in high school, with the long-term goal of transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. 

2. Once at SRJC, she met with her academic counselor regularly to plan out what classes she needed to meet transfer requirements. 

3. After her first two semesters, Vicky began meeting regularly with a transfer counselor to review each university’s requirements. (Although Vicky knew she wanted to go to UC Berkeley, she also applied to other UC schools in Los Angeles,  Santa Barbara, and Irvine). Vicky’s transfer counselor helped work out details: IGETC* patterns, the pros and cons of each university, and LOTE** requirements. Vicky’s transfer counselor also arranged meetings for her with UC representatives.

4. Vicky submitted her application at the end of November 2019 and found out in the spring of 2020 that she got into all four of the UC schools she applied to! She started at UC Berkeley in the fall of 2020 as an English major.

*IGETC — Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum: A series of courses that California community college students can complete to satisfy freshman/sophomore level general education requirements before transferring to most colleges and majors at UC campuses.

**LOTE — Language Other Than English: A requirement for most international undergraduate majors to demonstrate competence in at least one language other than English.

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Original article written by Sandy Kuntz, international student specialist at American Collegiate English (ACE), the academic-focused intensive English program, at Grossmont College. 

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