Do you have questions about applying to community college? I have answers!
For starters, most community colleges do not require ACT scores. In fact, the vast majority are open enrollment: as long as you meet a few basic requirements (the main one is generally having a high school diploma or GED), you’re in.
The exception to this rule is if you're interested in more selective programs in science or law enforcement or if you're planning to transfer to a four-year university. In these cases, you may need to take the SAT or ACT.
In this post, I’ll explain the application process for community colleges in more depth and what steps you’ll need to take to apply.
What Do You Need to Apply to Community College?
The application for community college is very easy. It has just two, or sometimes three, parts:
- an application form with some basic information
- your high school transcript or GED
- in some cases, an application fee (though many schools don't require one)
Keep in mind that filling out the application is just the first step. Once you’re accepted, you may need to take a placement test and/or meet with an academic counselor.
What If You've Already Taken the ACT?
Again, most community colleges don’t require ACT scores for admission, so you shouldn’t register for the test.
That being said, if you’ve already taken the test, you may end up wanting to send your scores to the school.
As I mentioned above, community colleges generally require a placement test to determine what level your English and math skills are at and whether you need remedial help. If you scored highly enough on your ACT, you may be able to opt out of this part of the enrollment process.
Keep in mind, however, that if you haven’t taken the ACT it will probably be cheaper (or even free) to take the placement test offered by the school.
University of Oregon (Jeff Ozvold/Flickr)
Are There Any Reasons Why You Would Need the ACT for Community College?
Although community colleges themselves don't ask for standardized test scores, you may still need them, depending on your long-term plan. Those students who want to apply to a specialized program or transfer to a four-year university may need to submit ACT or SAT scores.
Applying to Specialized Programs
Certain community college programs, like nursing and law enforcement, often have more selective requirements than the school as a whole, and some may request standardized test scores.
If you’re interested in a specific program make sure to check with your college and find out what its admission requirements are and what you’ll need to do to meet them.
Transferring to a Four-Year School
Additionally, you may need to take the ACT if you're planning to transfer to a four-year college or university. For some schools, transfer applicants (whether from other four-year schools or from community colleges) are asked to submit standardized test scores, though the exact requirements often depend on how many credits you've completed.
Policies on standardized tests for transfer students vary, but, generally, the fewer credits you've completed, the more likely it is that you'll need to submit ACT or SAT scores. (It's often best if you've completed your associate degree.) Pathway programs, which provides priority admission at an affiliated four-year school, also tend to allow you to skip the standardized testing.
However, some colleges and universities—mostly, though not exclusively, selective private schools— do require standardized test scores from all students who apply. I've listed some examples of each type below.
Schools that Require SATs or ACTs for Upper-Level Transfer Students
- Harvard University
- University of Chicago
- University of Virginia
- Tulane University
Schools that Don't Require SATs or ACTs for Upper-Level Transfer Students
- University of California
- University of Colorado
- Pitzer College
- University of Texas
- University of Florida
- Miami University (Ohio)
This list is obviously not exhaustive, so no matter what, double check the requirements to transfer to the specific school and program you'd like to attend.
What Are Your Next Steps?
Confirm Admission Requirements with the School You’re Interested In
This article offers general advice that will apply to most schools, but there’s always a chance that the community college you’re interested in will have different requirements. Make sure to research the application process for the school you want to attend.
This info can usually be found on the school’s website, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to go ahead and call the people at the admissions office. They’re there to help!
Study for the Placement TestJust because it’s not the ACT doesn’t mean the placement test isn’t important—make sure you’re prepared so that you don’t have to repeat a bunch of material you already know.
Plan for the Future
If you are planning on transferring to a four-year school down the road, set yourself up for success by checking the transfer requirements at the schools where you want to apply well in advance. Here are some good questions to ask:
- what kind of classes do you need to take?
- is there an admission agreement between your community college and the university you want to attend?
- are there other requirements like recommendation letters, standardized test scores, or supplemental essays?
Knowing what will be expected of you from the beginning helps ensure that you're in the best position to transfer to a four-year school after completing your associate degree.
Other Recommended Reading
If you do need to take the ACT, take a look at our test prep guides and check whether you wouldn't rather take the SAT.
Also check out ourcomplete guide to transferring colleges!
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.