“I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, oh Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.”Psalm 26:6-7
Welp, I did it. Earlier this month, I walked across that stage. I received my diploma for my Associate’s degree with Highest Honors in Research, officially marking the halfway point in my journey through college, and I am currently debt-free. The whole experience felt surreal and incredible – and if you had asked me for my senior year in high school, I never would have pictured myself crossing that stage with my head high.
How did I do it?
There were many factors at play; a loving and supportive family, a tight-knit community, and developing a customized study routine, and one other thing:
Attending a community college.
Now, I know what you are probably thinking, “Oh Belen, aren’t community colleges for people whose grades weren’t good enough to get them into a 4-year university?”
And the answer is a resounding NO.
More and more, young people are choosing to attend community colleges for their Associates’ degrees before transferring to 4-year universities to earn their bachelor’s and master’ degrees. This is for a multitude of reasons, with the most obvious one being how much money it costs to attend a four-year university. If you are not on scholarships (which I always recommend applying for) or insanely rich, being at a 4-year college for all four years can put you into debt for the next twenty years, especially in the economy of the 21st century.
This does not mean that attending a university for all four years of college is impossible or guaranteed to push you into a pit of debt. Still, it is becoming harder and harder to graduate debt-free and ready to enter the workforce. On the other hand, students who transfer from community colleges are academically, mentally, and financially in unexpectedly good places when they move on to their higher education and careers.
So without further ado, here are 5 reasons that I think that if you are a high school senior or college hopeful, you should consider attending a community college.
- Your tuition tends to be insanely inexpensive.
I’m being completely serious when I say that community college tuition is less than a quarter of what it costs to attend a semester at a university. Over my time at my community college, I never had to pay a semester’s tuition that exceeded $1,300 in total. And community colleges tend to offer substantial financial aid to students in need, as well as plenty of merit-based scholarships for students with high grades and GPAs. One semester, I even had my college pay ME some money because I had gotten too much money in scholarships and tuition refunds.
- You get to interact with a variety of people.
When you attend a 4-year university, you are with your “peers,” meaning people your age pursuing the same degree and on roughly the same career path. In community college classes, however, you will be learning alongside working mothers, foreign exchange students, and many other types of people you might not normally interact within your daily life. This provides you with immense diversity in the kinds of perspectives and stories you get to experience.
- You are able to stay and study close to home.
Let’s face it: transitioning from high school to college is a BIG change. One minute you are just enjoying life as a teenager, and then BAM, you have all of the weight and choices of adulthood thrust on you when you turn 18 and/or graduate high school. This can give students a sense of whiplash as they are expected to move out of their family houses, start a full-time job, head off to a university, and begin living independent lives. However, since almost every city and district has community colleges close by, young people do not have to “rush off” to a university and can ease into adult life, living at home for as long as they need to and working locally in the community.
- There are tons of untapped opportunities.
Community colleges have TONS of resources available to their students! I was at my college for three years and was still discovering new things I had access to at the time of my graduation. Colleges have all kinds of opportunities, from scholarships, internships, competitions, campus events, and opportunities to be published or present at conferences locally and across the state. So you can get your name out there (academically) before you ever transfer to a prestigious big-name university!
- You are prepared to transition to university.
Community college offers a low-stakes trial run for one’s time at a university. There is still a good bit at stake, and the grades you get in your classes still go onto your transcript, but community colleges are typically much smaller than universities, both size and attendance-wise. In addition, you can form relationships with your instructors since your classes are small enough that they actually have time to learn each of their students’ names.
Of course, it is essential to remember that college, and school in general, is like a shoe: different kinds of institutions and education fit everyone differently. Some people do better at universities than at community colleges, which is perfectly fine. All I hope I was able to do in this post is slightly change your perspective on community colleges and what kind of people attend them.
Thank you for reading and I hope to be able to post again very soon.
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Until next time!