The “Community College” Conundrum 

Why does the thought of attending community college still leave such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth? I think we can all agree that the academic seriousness of community colleges today compared to years before has shown quite the improvement, and if you wanted you could also say it’s on the same level as a traditional 4-year university aside from some minor tweaks. In all actuality, the term “community” college was just recently adopted, 2-year institutions were often referred to as ‘junior colleges’. One name obviously sounds more appealing than the other so is it just a societal acceptance thing? I’m speaking from experience when I say I should have jumped at the opportunity to start my collegiate level journey at a community college rather than a university and let me tell you why:

Before I get to the bread and butter of things, I’ll start off by providing the actual textbook definitions to better understand the difference between the two institutions (special thanks to good old Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)

  • University: an institution of higher learning made up of an undergraduate division which confers bachelor’s degrees and a graduate division which comprises a graduate school and professional schools each of which may confer master’s degrees and doctorates
  • Community College: a 2-year government-supported college that offers an associate degree.

So essentially, the more time you spend in college the better the degree and the higher you climb on the financially stable ladder, allegedly.

Let’s move on to what I believe to be, the most important things to look for in a four year or two year college:

  1. Life on Campus: Being that universities are largely populated, diversed, and have living quarters, they tend to offer their students a wider range of clubs, organizations, and activities. As do community colleges, but each institution caters to their target audience so while a 4-year university looks to entertain the usual 18-23 year old students, community colleges seek to include their 40+.
  2. Class Size: Learning environments are typically more intimate at a community college which leaves room to be more vocal and on first-name basis with your professor. So while a traditional university class may have 100+ people a community college class usually has no more than 25-30 students.
  3. Cost: Community colleges are public government supported institutions so they are partially funded making tuition costs more realistic whereas the cost of a 4-year university could depend strictly on whether or not it is a public or private institutions. This doesn’t mean universities aren’t inexpensive or partially funded as well, it’s just not uncommon for a 4-year university to be costly.
  4. Location. That’s it, just…location. From home, from stores, is it in a good spot?

After weighing out all these options and finding no written fault in attending a community college maybe you’re like I was and something in your heart just wouldn’t allow you to want to go there. Is there something you’re missing? Maybe it’s just that twang community leaves in front of college that’s  rubbing you, me, and ever other person that’s shunned 2-year institutions, the wrong way.

Let’s take it back a bit and dwell on my experience so you’ll understand what I mean when I say it rubbed you the wrong way.

Now, I’m a “take life one day at a time” kind of person so even though I knew what I wanted to do for work in my adult life, I hadn’t thought as far as life after high school and the steps I needed to take to get to where I wanted to be, completely backwards of me right? I know. The entire apply for college process for me personally was pretty stressful. I didn’t get immediate feedback so the impatient-dramatic in me figured I wasn’t good or smart enough to get into anyone’s four year university and I only got into a 2-year college because they never turn anybody down so I must really be an idiot. I was determined to NOT attend that junior college, I didn’t want to be the laughing stock of my fairly intellectual group of friends how would that even look? I practically forced myself into each and every university I’d previously applied to and oddly enough it worked so here I am going into my second year at a university and it feels…..

Looking back at how I reacted during the soul crushing college application/acceptance letters process then and how the high school seniors of 2016 are reacting now, which is just as bad as I did, if not worse (openly on social media platforms might I add), after not receiving acceptance letters in a timely manner or just getting rejected altogether made me realize how much pressure we put on teenagers to not just go to college and get a degree, but to get that degree from a prestigious four year university because if you don’t that paper lacks power, and it’s actually pretty … petrifying.

I’ve been in college for about a year now and although my school is an ideal size, affordable, convienantly located and a public four year institution, I can’t help but wonder if maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here. I did my community college research (thank you Google and life experience) and being that I graduated from a small high school in a town where everybody knew about each other, I realized maybe I wasn’t as mentally or socially, even, prepared to take such a big step into a world I knew nothing about. I mean, sure you always have those friendly insiders that attempt to ease your nerves by telling you,

“Hey, it’s not that bad,”

“Get involved in as many things as you possibly can that’s how you make the best out of your experience here,”

Or the infamous “Of course it’s hard but that’s college, you have to work for what you want here this isn’t high school anymore.”

But does that really help you?

Now, call me overly dramatic if you will, but while that experienced individual sees these words as genuinely helpful “tips” to prepare a pure soul for the collegiate “real world” I look at them all as false hope. Like hurling bricks at a line of windows hoping that the outcome will be different each time. If only they would have told me instead how overwhelming a drastic change could be or that no matter how much I prepared myself, I would never truly be prepared, maybe they could have taped a side note to my acceptance letter saying,

p.s.: everyone’s experience is different. 

THEN I wouldn’t be trying to keep myself from internal combustion while trying to handle a major that requires more studying than I’ve done in my entire high school career, attending club interest meetings, interviews to be a part of exclusive (not so much) student organization, and other on-campus activities that, instead of  making me feel as though I’m having the best time, have seemed to only be pulling me under a body of water that’s already hard to breathe in. But that’s the only way I’ll ever get the ideal college experience so I have to do them right? Just got to maintain somehow, this is how it’s done in the real world. I wish someone would have just told me the truth. Forget that gold plated college experience they dream up for you, it will never compare to the experience you’ll carve out for yourself in those four years and don’t ever think you aren’t experiencing college right.

….So I went into this blog post determined to assure you that there’s nothing wrong with going to community college, but as you can see if you made it this far, I got a little carried away and  somehow managed to to turn this into a personal “What I Wish I Knew” letter to myself in less than 400 words (typical! Just typical) but if you have gotten this far in this post and learned absolutely nothing from it, except maybe that I’m serious rambler, just know that in college it’s all about doing what works for you. Knowing and understanding every possible option that you have laid out in front of you is so so, so important! SO whether you choose to attend that four year college that your parents dreamed of you going to since you were a baby or decide to cruise on that 2-year community college path, make sure you’re doing it because you want to and know that both roads lead to the same place and it ain’t easy but this is your journey, babe, take your time.

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