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A multi-colored cartoon illustration of a variety of scenes with people confronted by education-related imagery.
Higher education promises a lot of things but trying to make it happen is not so straightforward.
(Illustration by Alborz Kamalizad
How To Get To College In California
Higher education promises a lot of things: jobs, better pay, fantastic opportunities, lifelong success. But trying to make it all happen is, uh, not so straightforward.

We can't tell you exactly what choices to make. But we can sketch out the landscape — tell you the basics of what’s out there, highlight helpful resources, discuss pros and cons of different options, and point you to real humans who can talk you through it. Good luck!

Read this guide in other languages: Español | 中文 | 한국인 | Tiếng Việt

What We Mean By Higher Education
  • We’re talking about a lot of things: bachelor’s or associate’s degrees, a certificate, or job training through an educational institution. A lot of this information can apply to advanced degrees like master's or Ph.D.s, but we don't discuss those in depth.

  • We’ll highlight resources from public schools (the community college, California State University, and University of California systems) because they’re the largest school networks in the state, but we’ll also spotlight what might be available at online-only schools, trade schools, and private schools in general.

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Support & Credits


We had many long phone calls with higher education advocates, consultants and officials all around Southern California whose expertise informed this guide. Here are just some of the people we spoke to:

Shukry Cattan, Tiyya Foundation
Avisha Chugani, Pasadena City College
Armineh Dereghishian, Los Angeles City College
Sarah Fay, Safe Place for Youth
Rebecca Fishman, Upwardly Global
Tamar Frolichstein-Appel, Upwardly Global
Jenna Gausman, Santa Monica College
Grace Halvey, Understood
Elizabeth Hamblet, Learning Disabilities Consultant
Eric Hubbard, Jovenes, Inc.
Henan Joof, Los Angeles City College
Nancy Jodaitis, Immigrants Rising
Jina Krause-Vilmar, Upwardly Global
Jessica Ku Kim, L.A. County Economic Development Corporation
Romarilyn Ralston, Project Rebound, Cal State Fullerton
Victoria Rothman, Santa Monica College
Kelsey Torosyan, Colledge
Tatum Tricarico, YO! Disabled & Proud
Jenny Umhofer, Colledge
Rocio Veliz, Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)
Danielle Ward, Understood
Deacon John Wilson, Education & Enrichment Program, West Angeles Church of God in Christ

Student Readers

As part of our editing process, we shared an early draft with current, former, and prospective students to get feedback based on their experiences. Special thanks to those who shared their thoughts with us:

Angelica Ayala
Janel Blessing
Brenda Cruz
Christian Jackson

Writing, Editing & Production

Reporter: Brianna Lee

With Contributions From: Jill Replogle

Editors: Suzanne Levy, Tony Marcano, Ashley Alvarado

Fact Checking: Daisy Ramirez, UCLA

Copy Editing: Mike Roe

Illustrations: Alborz Kamalizad

Special Thanks To: Caitlin Hernandez, Zoe Ives, Ethan Ward

This project was made possible with support from College Futures Foundation.