Dual-enrollment programs are changing. In the past, they referred primarily to high school students studying part-time at a community college. Today, the new face of dual-enrollment allows community college students to begin studies at a university. Traditionally, U.S. community college students complete a two-year associate's degree (diploma) and then transfer to a university to complete two additional years of study to obtain a bachelor's degree. This is known as the 2 + 2 model. The new dual-enrollment program changes the model to allow qualified students to begin studying either in university-level upper division or specialization coursework while still completing a community college diploma.
The benefits of dual-enrollment programs are numerous. International students have access to advisors from both schools for academic and immigration issues. They know where they can transfer after just one year of studies, giving them more flexibility with making a class schedule. They may use facilities such as the library, email accounts, health services, and residence halls. These benefits are in addition to the unique advantages offered by American community colleges, including lower tuition rates, smaller class sizes, access to English Language Programs, and greater access to advisors and student programs. Students who are accepted to dual-enrollment programs will have the traditional transfer model available to them if they wish to attend another university as well.
When considering schools that offer dual-enrollment, international students should ask about the following issues:
- If the program is available to international students
- The application requirements and deadlines
- The distance between the community college and the university, and what transportation options are available
- The difference in tuition rates and how those are paid
- How enrollment in courses is verified by each institution to ensure that immigration status is maintained
- Which academic programs at the university accept dually-enrolled students.
One example of a dual-enrollment program is at the University of Washington Bothell (UWB). Cascadia Community College –the newest two-year college in Washington–shares a campus with UWB. This co-location is ideal because students become familiar with both institutions and all of their shared resources. Students also avoid commuting between schools. Additionally, when students complete a transfer from the college to the university, they will not have to move to a new residence. All of their friends and advisors will also be at the same campus.
The new face of dual-enrollment is definitely one that international students should consider.
Easing your transition to university
Students who start their education at an American community college often transfer to a U.S. university to complete their bachelor's degrees. The following aspects of college transfer often surprise them. First, the size of a community college campus is often smaller than the size of a university. Students sometimes feel lost at a university after they have spent two years on a community college campus, where they had close relationships with faculty and advisors and saw their friends often. Students who feel lost may find new friends by joining student clubs and activities. As time passes, students at universities begin feeling more comfortable and more familiar with the university environment.
College students sometimes transfer to universities that have different academic calendars than the college. College students who come from a semester calendar system and transfer into a quarter calendar system often find that classes may seem faster-paced. Sometimes this can cause them to fall behind in their assignments. It is important to manage time well and to keep up with assignments. Always talk to professors if you are experiencing difficulty with the pace of studies, as they can either give you extra time or refer you to campus resources that can help you. Those college students who transfer to a semester system from a quarter system may find the pace of classes to be slow. Getting involved in activities on campus, such as student government, can help fill the time. Students can also spend more time on special research and projects, which may be beneficial if you are considering graduate school in the future.
Another distinct characteristic of an American university is the competitive atmosphere. Be confident that your experience at a community college prepared you to be academically successful at a university. Four-year U.S. universities, especially those with graduate schools, also expect their students to be more independent. If you need assistance and support, counseling services are available at many U.S. universities, so remember to take care of yourself. It is also a good reminder to seek support and advice from your friendly international student advisor.
As you transfer from a college to a university, it is important to expect and accept the changes and to make the most out of your time in the U.S.A.!