California Community Colleges

As my class was graduating at the end of last year, many students who were previously unfocused became focused.  I was asked by several students how to choose a community college and in doing so, I realized that many do not know how to use a college catalog or schedule of classes and once they’ve chosen a school, they don’t know how to plan their schedule.

I can think of a couple of good ways to start looking at community colleges. The first would involve schools you know of in your own area and the second is an all out search. The state of California has an amazing network of 112 community colleges from College of the Siskiyous in the north to Imperial Valley College in the south serving 2.1 million students.

If there is a school or schools near you that you would consider attending, do some investigating.  Go walk around the campus and look through the school’s website. Important things to check would be the school’s own description of themselves, the look, size and feeling of the school, and the courses and majors offered.

The key written material would be the course catalog and the class schedule both of which will be found on the school website and sometimes still in print at the bookstore. Course catalogs at community colleges all have pretty much the same format. General overview information is at the beginning. About twenty percent of the way in are the degree and transfer plans, usually followed by the certificates and majors offered and the courses required to receive them. Descriptions of individual courses follow each major or are listed alphabetically at the end of the catalog.

California community colleges list three plans toward an associate degree and/or transfer.  Plan A is the general ed for the associate degree; Plan B is the California State University (CSU) general ed breadth requirements; and Plan C is the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) for the CSU and University of California. Students can also choose to pursue a certificate which does not include general ed and can lead directly to employment. Students who are planning to transfer to a private or out of state college or university can visit the community college transfer center.  All students should work with a counselor at the school to make sure they are getting the courses they need for the path they are following.

The schedule of classes, which is publicized separately for the fall, spring and summer sessions, lists the classes offered with times, location, and instructor. This is useful to see which of the courses listed in the catalog are being taught and during which session.

A student with a definite interest or major should choose a school based on the availability of that major.  If multiple nearby schools have the desired major, then look at each one and compare the courses and degrees. Most schools have the more common majors like history, English, psychology, sociology, math, sciences, etc. and also have their own less common majors that they can become known for. Even the same major can vary tremendously with the courses and sequence from school to school.

Two excellent websites to use when searching are the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website,, and  The California Community College website will allow you to search for colleges by address, academic program, and area.  The Assist website is used by community college students for major transfer information for CSU’s and UC’s and gives articulation agreements with the public 4 year universities.

Happy planning!  Your school and program are out there!


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