In junior high, I promised myself I would work hard in school so I would never have to go to a community college. I wanted to get out of the small suburban town I lived in all 18 years of my life, if not the entire state of California. Senior year rolled around, I applied to about 14 schools; I was rejected from most, but by some miracle I was accepted to into my dream school. However, as middle class family, I was afforded no aid from the school and very little from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As a result, it cost way too much for my family to afford. I would have been drowning in student loans for the rest of my life. The realization that I would be going to my local community college was devastating for me. I wasn’t going to my dream school not because I wasn’t good enough, but because of money. The fear set in. I thought I would have no opportunities and the idea of being “trapped” in my suburban valley was never what I had envisioned. It was especially difficult, because I was so close to having my dream. It slipped away because of financial reason.

Despite all this, I knew I was going to make the best of what I was dealt. After being in a very negative mindset for a month, I came to terms with the fact I was not going to a four year university. Soon, I realized that my life was not actually over. I could still pursue my dreams and the career I wanted too – with less debt. To my own surprise, I have loved every minute of my time at my community college. As I prepare and send my applications for transfer to a private university for the fall of 2018, I have a bittersweet feeling about leaving a community that has help me grow so much and given me so of the most amazing experiences and memories. Here is a list of reason on what made community college an amazing experience for me and how you can make it an amazing experience for you.

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Community college saves money

First and foremost, community college saves money. According to the College Boards 2016-2017 publication regarding trends in college pricing, the average fees and in-state tuition in a public four-year institution was $9,650. The average fees and out-of-state tuition at public four year institutions was a total of $35,370. Lastly, a private four-year institution averaged a total cost including tuition and fees at $45,370. This compares with the average cost of fees and tuition of a public two-year institution at a total of $3,520.

This steep cost of college contributes to the massive amount of debt students accumulate. Data from The Institute for College Access and Success in a 2012 study showed that 1.3 million students graduate with debt. Furthermore, 66 percent of graduates from public colleges had loans that averaged at a debt of $25,550 and 75 percent of graduates from private nonprofit colleges had loans that averaged at a debt of $32,300.

However, statistics show that attending community college helps decrease the amount of loans a student takes out. An Association of Community College Trustees study showed that in 2012, only 17 percent of community college students took out federal loans. This is vastly lower than the average of four-year students which showed that 60 percent at non-profit colleges and 48 percent at public four-year institutions took out loans. These result are shocking. The data continues to support that fact the community college saves money and can be a good investment in the long run.  

Flexibility

At a public two-year institution, you are able to explore different majors and interest, while not having to worry about the burden of costs and extended time to graduate that would be present at a four-year institution. Students have the ability to move at their own pace and form schedules that fit with their needs.

Community colleges traditionally offer night classes, allowing students to balance a job along with other responsibilities. This gives students trying to save money, people with children, or people returning the school the ability to still support themselves or their families while attending.

The community and resources

A major concern I had regarding attending a community college was that I would have no opportunities. I was completely wrong. At my first College Republicans meeting, someone who worked for my district’s congressman spoke to us and told us they were looking for interns. I applied that night and had the internship within the next few weeks. Many community colleges have career centers as well as internship and job databases to help find opportunities in the community that would fit for career goals. Seek those out.

Joining clubs or academic teams is also one of the best ways to get opportunities, meet new people, and network. In addition to College Republicans, I also joined my school’s Model United Nations team. This team has advanced and grown my public speaking and leadership skills more than I ever anticipated. Ithas allowed me to travel and meet some of the most amazing, hardworking, and kind people ever from colleges all across the nation. The members of this team became some of my best friends at my college and made going to school something to look forward too.

Lastly, the professors at community college are there to help. They want to best for you and assist you in transferring to the four year university of your dreams. Professors have written me letters of recommendations along with telling me internships and other opportunities I could apply for. Reach out to your professors as they are more than willing to help you.

Grow as a student and strengthen your application

What you did and your grades in high school no longer matter. This a fresh start on a clean slate. If you use this opportunity efficiently, you will be an even better student than before.

Your GPA starts over. As long as you maintain good grades in college, your GPA will stay high. Some people find community college better and enjoy how the classes are formatted better than high school which can help with achieving high grades. That will allow you to join your school’s honors program if they have one; letting you take honors courses and be a stronger candidate for universities. Also, you get to take classes that actually interest you. Use this to your advantage. 

RELATED: Even After Getting Accepted To 8 Colleges, I Still Chose Community College

Good grades and a long list of extracurriculars will make you an attractive candidate to four year instiutions should you choose to transfer. It can even help you obtain a scholarship. 

Admission agreements with four year universities

In California specifically, the community colleges have admission agreements with six of the 8 University of California schools (UCs). The Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) is a program that allows students who attend a community college in California guaranteed admission to specific universities in the public university system. The requirements for eligibility include completing 60 semester units that follow the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) and maintaining a “C” grade point average. The TAG program allows you to tag one campus giving early admission notification, guidance on how to prepare for your major, and early review of your academic record. This increases the likelihood of being accepted. Many states offer this incentive, so make sure to check with your state! 

Community college is what you make of it. I have had an amazing experience at community college. You might too. 

Carlie B
CONTRIBUTOR