Coming out of high school the big question everyone was asking was “where are you going to college?” For me, this question gave me anxiety because frankly I didn’t know. I didn’t have a plan and I honestly did not feel ready for college. I wasn’t ready to move out and live on my own. I wasn’t ready to be an adult with real responsibilities when I could barley get myself out of bed in the morning without hitting SNOOZE on my phone.
And even though I know now I wasn’t the only person feeling this way, at the time I thought I was. All of my friends were getting their acceptance letters and looking for roommates and I did feel left out as one could imagine. The truth is, I didn’t apply to many universities. I sent in my grades and personal essay to maybe 3 colleges that I wasn’t even remotely interested in going to… it just felt like the thing I was supposed to do because everyone was doing it.
I’ll skip all the details leading up to going to a junior college because that’s what you’re really here for… the fall everyone was leaving for university, I was driving 45 minutes to a college I was very reluctant to go to. Before going to a community college I will admit I went in with a bad attitude. As I have noticed (at least where I live) community colleges don’t get the best of reputations. A lot of people think that if you or someone else is going to one it’s because they “weren’t smart enough” or not “motivated enough” to go to a four-year university. But really that isn’t the case. Sure, there are people who didn’t try in high school or didn’t care about school so they go to a J.C., but most of the people I met in my time there had many different reasons for not going straight to a four-year university.
Let’s face it: college is expensive. Unfortunately not everyone can get financial aid and a lot of kids go into student debt because they can’t afford their university. This is one of the reasons I chose to go to a J.C. Not only was I not ready to leave but I also had no idea what I was doing; I had no plan about what I wanted to do. Going into college, I had the idea that I would be a psychology major. Spoiler alert: I am no longer a psych major and I saved thousands of dollars by figuring this out at a college that was a fraction of the cost. Going to a community college gave me the opportunity to try out different classes without having to commit to it before I even knew if I liked it.
On top of that, I was able to try my hand at tons of subjects I would never have tried somewhere else. Depending on the school, many places charge hundreds of dollars for classes and that’s before the books. So spending less than $100 per class was really something I tried to take advantage of. I got to try astronomy, forensics, psychology, creative writing, media… If I didn’t have this, I probably wouldn’t have found something I truly love to do.
A lot of people ask me what the social life of community college is like. Honestly for me, being social and making friends was tough. As someone who isn’t extremely outgoing, this was one of the hardest things about going to this type of school. The J.C. I went to had no on-campus housing making it a commuter school meaning if I wanted to see someone or hang out with someone outside of class I couldn’t just walk across campus to their dorm. Most people I befriended lived at least an hour from where I live so it made it extremely difficult.
I did, however, create bonds with people that I really do appreciate. My first year at this school I befriended several students from all over the world including Thailand, Africa, Italy, Germany, Sweden, and Turkey. I learned a lot more from these people than I will ever learn in a class room and I value that so much more than anything else. I loved learning about their cultures and experiences that were so different from mine.
So what are some tips I have for people who are going into a junior college or thinking about it?
- If you don’t know what you want to do in the future career wise, go to a community college. You will save money and get to try different things that will help you decide what you’re passionate about.
- Do your research on the teachers. A lot of the time, teachers from big universities will teach a class or two at a community college. However there are always bad teachers and you can avoid them by doing your research.
- If the teacher says to buy the book, buy the book. Don’t try to put it off and think you won’t need it, because you probably will. But books are expensive! You can rent your books a lot of the time off of Amazon or the school’s website. Don’t spend the extra cash if you don’t have to.
- Make an effort with the other students. Your peers can be very valuable to you when it comes to studying and group projects. You can also learn a lot from the people around you.
- Respect your professors. They are the bridge you have from community college to a university if you are trying to transfer. You will most likely need a letter of recommendation and no one will give you one if you are disrespectful.
- Understand that just because you are there for the right reason, not everyone is. You will have people in your classes that will seem like they don’t care and it will bother you. Just know you’ll go further than them and they’ll be working for you one day.
- If you need help, don’t be afraid to get it or ask for it. Most J.C.s offer free tutoring for students where they will help you with homework and studying. Many teachers will also make the time and effort to give you extra help during their office hours and appreciate students who take advantage of that time to ask questions.
- There is nothing wrong with going to a junior college first. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are inferior for going to a community college first. You have your reasons and frankly its no one’s business anyway.
- Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. You are your own person with your own strengths and weaknesses. You have your own plans, your own vision, your own ideas. Think about what is best for you and not everyone else. You’ll figure it all out, don’t worry!
- Don’t give up. You’ll get there and when you do, you will be so proud of yourself. Three years ago I never would have thought I’d be going to a university as great as the one I will be going to next fall. Working hard pays off and you will see results. You got this!