Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Truth About Community College

As I'm getting ready to start my sophomore year of college, I've been reflecting on my experiences this last year. My freshman college experience was a bit on the untraditional side. I lived at home with my family, instead of moving to a dorm. I commuted by bus or car, three days a week, 40 minutes away, to a community college. I wasn't in a sorority, but I was in the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. I worked part-time, still did chores, took care of my pets, and ate dinners with my family most nights. The most unexpected part for me, was the reaction I got when people found out I was going to a community college. It was a mixture- my friends were supportive, adults were usually encouraging, but other college students would give me "the look". You know the one. The look where they either feel bad for you, or they think you're weird, or they think you weren't smart enough. Then I got the questions. Why do you still live at home? When are you going to move out? When are you going to come to a real university? I wish I could tell them that I'm happy with my life. I love the experiences I've had. In fact, my community college experience has been a lot different than the stereotypes you hear about.... while other stereotypes have been right on point.

-Community College is NOT filled with people that don't know what they're doing with their life. I hate the common assumption that community college is a gathering of weirdos, that are just messing around with classes because they have no life plan. That's probably about 3% of the actual campus. Majority of the students, are freshmans and sophmores that are saving money and then transferring to a university their sophomore or junior year.

-I LOVE the older generation at community college! Community colleges are very diverse, and I love the number of retirees I see, that come back to school because they love learning so much. In my Spanish class this last semester I had 4 women that were 55+. I had some of the sweetest conversations with them and I loved the wisdom and maturity they brought to the class.

-I am NOT at community college, because I didn't get accepted to a four year university. I keep a 3.5+ GPA, make A's and B's in all of my classes, and keep spots on the Honor Roll and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. I'm at a community college, because I refuse to go in debt or take out loans over school. In order to make that possible, I'm saving money by going to a community college for the first two years.

-Community colleges are not "easier" than four year universities. I really don't like it when people think that. My class sizes are smaller, but I'm still taught the same material, with the same homework load, and the same expectations from professors. Community college might be a little less overwhelming because it's smaller, but that does not make it any less of a college.

-Yes, community colleges do have smaller campuses, but that's how it's supposed to be. One of the perks I see at community college is the smaller campus. Somehow I still end up walking a lot, but it's nice not getting lost on a big university campus.

-Just because it's a community college, doesn't mean it isn't a nice school. I can't speak for all community colleges, but mine is pretty nice. My college sits on a really lovely spread of 245 acres, and has about 20,000 students. Our staff is friendly and helpful, our janitorial team keeps the campus insanely clean, and our courtyard is perfect for lunch breaks.

Community college has certainly been filled with many experiences, both good and bad. Sure there are days where I don't want to ride a bus with a bunch of strangers. There are days I get tired of the small class sizes because it means almost always getting called on. There are times where I see my friends Instagraming about their university life, and I feel a little left out. But there is much that makes up for it. Being on a small campus means that I get to know so many people. Last semester alone I made tons of friends in my classes. Going to Spanish class felt like I was just going to hang out with friends. I've made friends with my bus drivers and we always ask each other about our days. I met an amazing old man that works on campus and goes around during his breaks so he can share the gospel with students! I became friends with my Econ professor and we had so many amazing conversations after class about politics. I've encountered so many kind-hearted professors that genuinely care about their students and want to see them succeed. Most of the classes have a light-hearted, small group atmosphere that I know I won't get anywhere else. My point is that despite every bad day I've had, there are so many highlights to community college life.

In a society that lives for "status" I understand why community colleges get the bad rap. During your senior year of high school, everyone cares about what schools they get into and what scholarships they get offered. Then, freshman year, everyone cares about what school they're going to, how nice it is, if they're joining greek life, if they're joining sports teams or special clubs, and what dorms they're living in. So of course, next to all of this, community college seems "less than". For the last time though, I want to be clear that community college is not "less than". I could argue that it is the smarter choice. The more responsible choice. That by choosing to go to a community college, I'm going to be better off financially as an adult. The truth is, different things are right for different people. Community college is the right fit for me at this time, and I'm going to happily be spending one more year there.

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