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The basics
THE USA: Applying to University

Studying at community college: Q&A w/ Valencia College

Talia Popovski, Manager of International Student Recruitment at Valencia College, talks to us why international students should consider an American community college...

Valencia College

What would you say to an international student who is undecided about going straight to undergraduate study at a university?

Community colleges are a great option for students who may feel lost in a big U.S. university. The cost of a community college is usually about 40-50% less than a state university, the classes are generally smaller (23 students average at Valencia College), and you receive help from advisors and staff. Most community colleges offer a direct pathway through transfer agreements so you can ensure you have options upon graduation. Valencia College also offers transfer fairs a couple of times a year where students can meet with university representatives from all over the country. Community colleges give students a chance to explore majors and really find the university that is right for them.’   



What would an average day be like for a community college student?

‘Community college students get to make their own schedules based on course availability. Students at Valencia College can limit their classes to just a few days a week or pick a schedule that is completely in the morning, afternoon or evening. We even offer some classes online. A typical day usually starts with the student coming to campus for class, staying for lunch or a break, participating in events or club meetings in the afternoons, and then meeting with friends around town and/or working on homework. Many of our students also have a job on-campus at places like the computer lab, tutoring center or campus café. Other students have internships with local companies where they get practical experience in their fields.’ 



Students may have seen university campuses in films and TV shows. But what is a community college campus like? Is there much of a “campus culture”?

‘Community colleges are not exactly like what students see in American movies. We usually don’t have fraternities or sororities or big sports programs (although some community colleges do have sports). The school is smaller in scale, so students have an opportunity to get to know their fellow classmates well and develop relationships with faculty members. There are a lot of activities and events for students to make friends. We have clubs for all interests including an intercultural student association called VISA. VISA provides a great support system for international students that are studying in the U.S. on their own. VISA members host weekly meetings, events and often volunteer in the local community.’ 



What kinds of students attend community college?

‘Community colleges are known for attracting a diverse student body. At Valencia, the majority of students are young people who recently completed their secondary studies. These students are usually looking for an Associate in Arts degree that will help them to transfer to a university.  We also have people of all ages who are coming back for their degree or are switching to a new field of study. We even have international students that already have graduate degrees or are business owners and professionals in their home countries. The diversity of the population at Valencia College reflects the culturally diverse community and location of Orlando. Currently, there are students from more than 105 countries attending Valencia College with student visas.’ 



What kinds of subjects can an international student study at community college? 

‘There are generally two options of study at community colleges:  the Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree and the Associate in Science (A.S.) degree. The Associate in Arts degree gives students all of the general education courses they need toward a U.S. bachelor’s degree. It takes two years to complete the program and it prepares students to transfer to a university as a junior to complete two more years and earn a bachelor’s degree. The second option is an Associate in Science degree, which is more narrowly focused. The A.S. degree prepares students to directly enter the workforce upon graduation, although there are some programs that provide options to continue into bachelor’s degree programs as well. Some community colleges do offer limited bachelor degree programs. Valencia College offers international students a Bachelor of Science degree program in Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology.’






How easy is it for international students to transfer to an undergraduate degree at a university? 

‘It usually depends on the university that the student wants to transfer to, but generally the process is easy. Community colleges provide an excellent pathway to a university. After graduating with a two-year degree from Valencia, students can transfer to a U.S. university as a junior (third-year student) to complete a bachelor’s degree.


Valencia has many established transfer agreements including guaranteed admission to one of Florida’s 12 public universities and a partnership called DirectConnect to UCF. Through DirectConnect, Valencia A.A. and select A.S. graduates are guaranteed admission and a smooth transition to the second largest university in the country —the University of Central Florida (UCF) located in Orlando, Florida. We have students that transfer to universities all over Florida such as the University of Florida, Florida International University and the University of South Florida, among others. While most Valencia graduates tend to transfer to universities within the state of Florida, there are many who go out of state as well. Our academic advisors offer guidance in which courses students will need to complete and the grade point averages they will need to maintain in order to be competitive for admission. Some of the most popular out-of-state destinations include New York, California and Texas.’



Read more:

‘What is community college?’

‘6 Things Community taught us about community college’




Watch our full playlist from our Google Hangout with Taro, a former international community college graduate

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