As school rapidly encroaches, you're forced to watch as your friends anxiously count-down the days until welcome weekend. You walk into Target and you're met with a barrage of dorm supplies you don't need. You see friends at the grocery store and upon the inevitable "So where are you going to school in the fall?" question, you're forced to admit you're actually going to community college. Sometimes this response is met with an accompanying blush, a pair of downturned eyes, or sometimes a "but I'm transferring to....".
I've been there. I've felt the envy you undoubtedly feel. I've felt like my life is unexciting, uneventful, uninteresting. I've even felt the indistinguishable sting of failure.
But I've also been the freshly-graduated 18-year-old packing for move-in-day. I've felt the excitement of welcome weekend, newfound freedom, and an endless plethora of opportunities of re-discovery and personal re-creation.
In High School, community college was rarely discussed. I recall one counselor interrupting my AP Literature class to casually ask if any one of us were interested in attending community college, in her arms lay the informational packets she would never pass out. No one said a word; no hands were raised. And with that she left the classroom, noting to herself "I thought so." This was a class full of academic super-stars, and in our minds, community college was not an option. Instead we were busy filling out applications to Michigan State, and The University of Michigan. We never stopped to consider that, despite our intelligence, big universities were not for everyone. We never stopped to consider whether we were making the right choice. To us, it was the only choice.
Little did we know, not all of us would succeed. Little did we know some of us would drop out of our respective universities, and do the one thing we never once considered: enroll in community college.
I can also vividly recall the night I called my mother, my voice muffled, my words incomprehensible through my tears. I was pacing back and fourth in my dorm room, admitting my own failure, my mother listening, with anger and perplexity resonating in her voice. I had assured her I could do this, back in August, when my nativity had led me to believe I was capable. It was December when I made that call-- all self-assurance and confidence gone, having been replaced by mounting doubt in October. The next day, my mom enrolled me in community college for the following semester.
I was angry -- at her for deciding my fate, and at me for failing. Community college was never something I envisioned for myself, but it quickly became my best decision yet.
When people talk admiringly about community college they inevitably discuss the advantage of saving money, but my year at a community college taught me that is not the only advantage.
During my year at community college I changed my major in a low-risk environment. As opposed to spending $500+ a credit hour at a big university taking exploratory classes and "finding my way," I was able to do so at a community college with little financial regret. Changing majors is a common practice in college, which makes community college a great start for high school graduates. Despite uncertainty, many university students will feel pressured to maintain their major as to not waste thousands of dollars. I certainty felt that pressure, and had I stayed at a university, I would definitely be receiving a degree in something I no longer loved.
Community college also prepared me for the day I'd pack up my things and go away to a university (again). I wasn't ready the first time, but I was certainly ready the second time, making my transition an easy one. While at community college I learned the importance of organization and studying. I assumed college would be similar to high school, so I made no personal changes when I went away to my university -- a choice that proved disastrous. College is nothing like high school, and a good high school performance is not an indication of college readiness. In high school, I never kept a planner, read my textbooks, or studied-- however, I still managed straight A's with the occasional B. So naturally I assumed these same academic strategies would carry me through college. I was wrong. My first semester of college was marred with C's and one incomplete after I dropped a course. My GPA and confidence needed help, and community college helped revive both. I learned how to be an excellent student in community college and was able to take that knowledge with me to Grand Valley State University.
Along with valuable college skills, I was able to enhance my maturity level while in community college. I will be the first to admit that I was not emotionally ready to go away to college after graduation. I skipped class, stayed up late watching Netflix, didn't study, ignored my homework. I never realized it'd catch up because my poor study habits had never caught up with me before. I had never received any penalty for my irresponsibility before, so I continued my bad habits. Having to leave my university and attend community college was the wake-up call I needed.
Community college is such an integral part of my journey and it's something I'm eternally grateful for. So whether you're dreading your first day at a community college, envious of your friends who are attending a university, or simply think you're "too good" for community college, consider whether community college could benefit you. Raise your hand and take the informational packet. Make community college a choice. And never, ever be ashamed to admit you attend community college. Embrace it, and appreciate it.
Remember, your university of choice will be there when you're ready.