When international students think of higher education, most tend to think of large 4-year universities such as Harvard or UCLA.  However, there are a surprising number of foreign nationals that are unaware of a perfectly viable alternative – the 2-year community college system.

Although you can’t earn a four year degree at most community colleges, you can earn an Associate’s degree or transfer to a 4-year university after completing your first 2 years at the college.  So what are the benefits of attending a community college BEFORE enrolling into a 4-year university?

  1. Lower TOEFL Score & Chance to Improve your English

Community college admissions requirements are much less severe by comparison to most universities.   The average TOEFL iBT score requirement for 4-year universities tends to be around 60-80 points for undergraduate international students.  In contrast, the average score requirement is 45 points at community colleges.  Additionally, international students can use their time in college to improve their confidence in English while earning transferrable college credits at a significantly lower cost.


  1. Graduate faster from a University

In addition to having lower admissions requirements, international students can complete their general education requirements (all university students need to complete general education and major core classes to graduate), minimizing the number of classes they need to take after they transfer to a 4-year university.  The more they’re able to complete at a community college, the fewer classes they’ll need to take at the university.


  1. Get the same degree at a MUCH lower cost

Perhaps the biggest benefit of transferring from a community college to a 4-year university is the financial savings to both domestic and international students.  Below is a cost comparison on estimated costs between 2-year community colleges and 4-year universities.



We can easily see that the total cost per year for international students at a community college ($17,125) is significantly lower to that of a university ($60,729) in California.  Now if we compared the total tuition-only cost over a period of 4 years



We can see that international students can save up to $40,000 in tuition costs alone if they attend 2 years at a community college and 2 years at a university!  If money is a concern, then there really isn’t much choice in terms of which route is the more economical one.