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Navigating the Community College Maze

The first time my teenagers were considering a class at the community college, I started trying to figure out which classes would be the most beneficial and the least repetition for them and I felt like I needed a college degree to just figure out how they were supposed to get one, probably partially because I didn’t grow up with this college system, but nevertheless, I’ve learned how to navigate it all and am now doing it almost in my sleep, so I wanted to share some of the information with you that was helpful to me. 

My goal was this: I wanted my children to fulfill all high school requirements, all AA requirements and IGETC requirements (to make sure they can transfer to a CSU or UC university as a junior).  What I did was project (make a calculated guess) of which AA my sons would be interested in and at which college.  Each college has their own numbering system for the classes and also a slight difference in graduation requirements, so it can get quite confusing.  A student can take credits at different colleges and transfer them between the community colleges as long as they take at least 12 of their 60 credits for an AA from the college they want to graduate from.

Here are the steps I took:

  1. Print out the CA High school graduation requirements from the Department of Education website:
  2. Print out the AA general Ed requirements for the college of your choice.  Here is the link for the requirements at COC.
  3. Print out the IGETC requirements for the college of your choice
  4. Now go through the CA High School graduation requirements (since that has to be achieved first of all) and start circling the classes on the college forms that will cover the same requirements for all 3 the requirements mentioned above.  You might need to consult the college catalogs on the college websites too to determine which class numbers are the corresponding courses that you are looking for.
  5. Keep in mind that for every year of high school that is required a semester at a community college in that subject is enough to satisfy the high school requirement of 1 year.
  6. As you pick classes together that they could take to fulfill all these requirements, try to match them with classes that they might have an interest in, e.g. when my son was interested in Art, I chose that to fulfill his high school requirement for fine arts and also fulfill his major that he thought he would pursue at the time, with his ultimate goals in mind.
  7. College counselors come in very handy as well to make sure all bases are covered, so once you have completed some classes, you might want to check in with them and see what you still need to fulfill all the requirements for whatever you are trying to accomplish.


The last step is just to adjust the elective classes as your children gets more narrowed down in what direction they would want to go.  They can really never take enough elective classes in topics they are interested in, because all classes will benefit them in some educational way, even if they don’t end up pursuing a degree in that specific field.

Regarding books:  Instead of buying books at the bookstore at full price, you can consider renting books through services like Chegg.com, which saves money and trees or search on either Amazon.com or Ebay.com for used books.  Books needed will be listed on the college websites under Bookstore where you pick the class and instructor you are looking for.

How do I register for a class?  If you are still a high school student, there are several extra rules that apply.  At most of the colleges, students will have to re-apply every semester and personally deliver with their parent a concurrent enrollment or special admissions form.  If you file your own private school affidavit, you need to take a copy of the confirmation of that with you and sometimes they require everyone listed on that affidavit to be there, but that is rare.  These all have to be handed in before registration starts.  High School students register last, so often can’t get into the classes they want.  It is important to know that you need to keep checking and keep trying to register, because the online registration system is not live and not always updated when people drop out of classes.  If you still can’t register by the first day of classes, you go to the class, as if you are registered and the instructor will ask or say if they will be giving out add codes in the class.  Sometimes classes are completely full and you can’t get in, but if not, they usually will be able to give you an add code.  You might have to keep going to the class a few times without knowing if you will definitely get in, but as long as you keep going, you usually can get an add code.  So far it has only happened to my kids once each that they couldn’t get into a class and they are almost done with all their IGETC and AA requirements and of course high school.  It is good though to have a few backup classes/times for what you really want to get into in case something doesn’t work out.