Should I drop out of my IB Diploma and join a Community College?

A rising phenomenon that we see here in Asia is the promotion of community colleges, particularly by agents. It sounds like a good deal to some of our students, skip completing your IB Diploma, guarantee a place in University, one or two years less schooling for your parents to pay for. What a great deal !

However, at GJIS, we believe otherwise. We’ve often warned that these agents are being paid a commission by the Universities, they are not looking out for your best interests, so we asked Pak Mark Gathercole, University Advisor for Independent University Advising his advice.

                                                            Community College?

“If I send my son or daughter to community college in the United States after grade 10 or 11, without finishing high school, will it help them get into a good university after?”

This is an important question.  I had my own opinion about this, but just to be sure, I wrote to nineteen admissions officers at some of the best universities in the United States (Harvard, Berkeley, UCLA, Yale, Duke, Northwestern, Wesleyan, Wheaton, USC, Stanford, and many others), and asked them that question.  All nineteen of them wrote back with the same answer – it does not help the student get in, and at many universities, it hurts their chances.

All of the admissions people wrote that in their opinion it is better for students to stay in high school through Grade/Year 12.  Here are the reasons given by admissions officers:

1) Students are too young at that age for college.  15 year-olds mixing with 20 and 21 year old students is not appropriate socially, and it harms their social development.

2) Students at that age should be with their families in their last two years of high school; they grow and mature better with the guidance of their parents.

3) At most of these universities, it is more difficult to get in as a transfer student than as a first-year applicant.

4) And most importantly to the universities – the IB curriculum is stronger academically than community college curriculum.  Students are better prepared for university after doing the IB diploma or IB certificates. 

Some of you know someone whose son or daughter got into a good university after doing two years at community college.  Of course it happens; but according to admissions officers, a student who finishes high school with the IB has a better chance of getting into a good university than one who attends community college.

Some of you have heard that some community colleges in California or Washington state have agreements with the university systems in that state.  This is true, but only at a very limited number of campuses.  UC – Davis Irvine and a few others have this agreement, but UCLA and Berkeley and San Diego do not.  The university of Washington has this agreement, but not at its main campus – only its branch campus in Tacoma.

I also spoke recently to the international admissions person at Foothill and DeAnza colleges, very well-respected community colleges in California.  They advise parent not to send their students to them before finishing high school, because they are too young, and the colleges do not think it’s a good idea.

Why then, do agents and community college representatives try to persuade you to do this?  Money.  Money.  Money.  Community colleges are usually funded mainly by the government (Foothill and DeAnza are not – they are private colleges), and because of budget cuts, they need your money – as soon as they can get it.  And agents get paid for every student who enrolls at one of the colleges they represent.

There may be some very legitimate reasons for some families, under some circumstances, to send their student to community colleges before finishing high school – but getting an edge into a good university is generally not one of them.  So before you do this, think very carefully, ask questions, and make an informed decision.  Don’t believe everything you hear – even from me – do your own research!

I am not an agent and do not work at GJIS.  I am an independent university advisor with 17 years of experience advising international students about university in the United States.  I urge you to do what’s best for your student, NOT what’s best for the agent or community college.

Mark Gathercole

University Advisor

Independent University Advising


Question:  If a student left high school before graduating, and enrolled in a community college instead of staying in high school to do the IB, would that give them a better chance of being admitted to your college/university?

                                                              Universities who replied:

Boston University UCLA Pennsylvania State University
Stanford University University of Washington Pomona College
Brown University Middlebury College Vassar College
Tufts University MIT Wheaton College
Georgetown University Loyola Marymount University Wesleyan University
UC – Berkeley Northwestern University Yale University
Harvard University

None of the colleges or universities who replied were in favor of this idea.  Some of the answers:

  • “They are not getting the same level of instruction or class discussion as an IB program in high school.”
  • “The odds of admission are much lower for a transfer student.  I wouldn’t recommend dropping out of high school to jump to a community college.”
  • A student who sticks around and does IB courses will be seen as a much more competitive student.  We stick to these preferences even when it comes to transfer students. If we see a student who went to community college before finishing high school, we won’t look as favorably upon that student as one who completed IB courses.”
  • Bottom line is that this is a terrible idea.  For our school–and I assume for most quality schools–a student who left secondary school without finishing would not be a realistic candidate.  Moreover, attending a community college in the US would put them in an applicant pool 3 or 4 times less likely to be admitted.
  • “My quick reaction is that they would be getting a watered down education.  And we’d probably look upon it as a cop out and a cheap strategy.”
  • “Would a student have a better chance of entry to our school if they left high school for community college in the U.S. after grade 10?   ABSOLUTELY NOT.  We wouldn’t consider a student who left high school after grade 10 and came to the US to attend a community college.”
  • “I strongly believe that students would be better served by completing their high school curriculum and then applying to schools like ours as first year students.  There is a wide range of quality in community colleges and the IB program would be more rigorous and a better preparation for a school like ours than a community college would be.  Also, it is extremely rare for U.S. colleges and universities to have any financial aid for international transfer students.”
  • “Obviously a student who is in an advanced academic program like IB, A level, AP, etc. will have some admission advantage because they are in a rigorous high school program.  For students who go to community college before finishing high school, they are competing with students who are earning IB diplomas or A level certificates.”
  • “Yes, this is a trend we see a lot from Indonesian students/families and has been a topic of discussion not just amongst my office but other colleagues as well.  In more cases than not they come less prepared and more immature, and struggle to some extent.  I feel that a student who does the IB Diploma/A-Level is better prepared than an international student who does two years of high school then community college.”

About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
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2 Responses to Should I drop out of my IB Diploma and join a Community College?

  1. Pingback: Should I drop out of my IB Diploma and join a Community College ... | IB News |

  2. Pingback: Are Community Colleges are good short cut to great Universities? | Sekolah Victory Plus; Educating for a better world

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