I’m going to a community college and that does not make me lesser than those accepted into the universities. No one ever said this to me. No one came up to me and insulted my choice in colleges, however it was an internal conflict that I still have to come to terms with myself.
As my senior year of high school came to a close and many of my classmates began to get their acceptance letters, teachers began to ask where everyone was accepting the offer.
There was redhead Cam, who was one of the most intelligent girls in our class, who got accepted into her first choice, but could have gone on to any university she wanted to regardless of the money. There was Sandy, the spunky raven haired know it all that applied to multiple schools and got accepted to Virginia Tech, and so did her boyfriend. Andrea was the athlete, gorgeous and bright, and kind hearted despite our arguments. She was my only friend who stuck around, and she was accepted into yet another university which I do not remember right at this moment.
One by one I begin to notice that for the most part, my class was all going to the bigger campuses. Come august, they would be packing for their dorm room, finding their way in the world, growing into an independent young man or woman- and part of me was completely and utterly envious.
When our teacher reached me, she looked risen browed and expectant for something along the lines of VCU or UVA, but what came out was the lowest of the low- John Tyler. I can’t deny there is a twinge of embarrassment as I admit it, after all- it’s no Mary Washington. But I am confident with this, and I know why I chose it.
When I say lowest of the Low, I want to clarify that John Tyler is a good college. The instructors and staff are kind, the campus is easy to get around, the library is among one of my favorite places to do work and I get a lot done with the focus I am able to maintain. That being said, there is a stigma to community colleges.
When I answer with my college of choice, I get multiple reactions- most of which are positive. My homeroom teacher said that it was “still a college” and told me (as well as a few other students) to stop prefacing it with “just John Tyler.” and my specialty teacher told me it was a smart decision as well, and agreed with my logic listed below.
That being said, there are some reactions that reinforce the idea that my decision may have been a waste, such as the way my guidance counselor asked if I was sure, because I could go to a better school and university, or the pitiful “oh” and short nod when Sandy heard, and the way she had to force herself to rationalize why it was a good option.
Community college is often seen as the last resort. Community college is seen as the option you have when no one else will accept you, or the option you have when you missed a few years and want to pick up where you left off. It is the option that people view to be the easiest way, because everyone can get into it! There is no hierarchy as long as you have decent grades and a placement test, your set!
But the truth is, I’m satisfied with settling. Even with my straight A’s and my GPA being high enough for a Longwood or Liberty or ODU or maybe even Mary Baldwin. I learned to take pride in the idea that maybe community college was not a cop out or a waste of my perfectly decent grades.
With community college, there is less of a price to pay. With scholarships and grants, I was only force to pull a hundred dollars from my savings account for the first semester- and that hundred went towards two half priced textbooks, and while room and board does help with the social life, it adds to the cost. The money which I set aside is going to be used for internships, or so I plan.
With community college, I am able to see my young niece and nephew, and to participate in family gatherings as well as school functions.
With community college, I can focus more on my future, and my opportunities that may cost me as well. While this is not entirely impossible at a university, it helps that there is not a party atmosphere where I am, as I am easily distracted and need grounding.
Community college has it’s flaws, and I can see the appeal of university, but this in truth is not to persuade anyone that community college is better than University, but instead denote the stigma that is that community college is the weaker option, and teenagers don’t need to waste time or money on two years of universities if starting at a community college is a plausible solution. As long as I get my degree, who cares where the credits came from?
A name is just a name.