I did two years of community college, and it didn’t ruin my life.
The idea seems preposterous now that I’m more grown and have (hopefully) a more robust and realistic outlook on the world, but I remember when I was eighteen and freshly graduated from high school that community college was my worst nightmare. As all of my friends were shopping for floofy decorations for their soon-to-be dorms and attending orientation sessions on beautiful university campuses, I spent all summer cringing at the idea of High School 2.0 (as I had dubbed it).
I went to high school in an affluent suburban area close to Washington D.C., where everyone has money and the alumni license plates to prove it. With so many prestigious universities within driving distance, community college was only an option if you couldn’t get in anywhere else. In other words, if you were stupid. Apparently. It was ridiculous how often I had to explain to people when I was attending community college, with shame literally seeping from my pores, that I was only doing it to save money. I have been very involved in my education since I was a young child, and I pushed myself all through middle and high school to ensure I could get into a good college. Thus, you can imagine my disappointment when I made the decision to go tear up my fancy college acceptance letters and fill out the five-minute application for Northern Virginia Community College.
I honestly can’t remember. I’ve always highly respected my parents, and they thought it was a good idea, so I adopted it. Four years later, this is how I feel about community college:
- You will save SO much money. Astronomical amounts of money. The university I originally wanted to go to was about $10,000 a semester, while NOVA was $2,500. You do the math.
- I was able to keep living at home. “Exactly how is that a plus?” you might ask. I personally don’t believe I was ready to move out. Our culture pushes teenagers to grow up overnight, and that is why society universally hates college freshmen. Most of them probably need more parental supervision than they get, if we’re being honest. So, no, it wasn’t ideal for me at the time, but I think staying at home an extra two years gave me the balance of supervision and freedom that I needed, rather than just shoving my innocent self headfirst into the world of college debauchery.
- It gave me time to figure things out. Community college did not do much to develop my interests and passions, but it gave me the time to figure them out myself. We grow and change so much in the years after high school, and what I thought I was interested in at the beginning of community college was practically opposite of what I was interested in at the end. This had less to do with my coursework in community college than it did simply with the time that had passed. I grew, I changed. And rather than spending $40,000 to grow and change my mind, I spent a fraction of that.
- Community college is boring and unfulfilling. I can think of three community college courses that I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. The rest were fillers, and I probably have forgotten everything I learned in them. Unfortunately, you have to take gen-eds no matter where you go to school, although the professors at universities are probably much better at their jobs.
- My credits didn’t transfer completely. The issue with attending two different schools (community college and then university) is that there can be discrepancies in curriculum and requirements. My situation was somewhat unique, because I attended schools in different states. Therefore, I probably had a little more trouble that most people would have had. However, it’s still something to keep in mind. The nice thing about attending the same school for all four years is that your plan and requirements are set in stone from the get-go. As long as you don’t change your mind on majors and minors (;
- I didn’t get to have those traditional first two years of college. A small part of me (a very, very small part) wishes I could have experienced the dorms and living on a college campus. Those years, while chaotic, looked like a lot of fun for my peers. You get the opportunity to meet a lot more people that way, because everyone lives and studies in close quarters. In community college, students don’t even really interact with each other. University campus culture is something that can’t really be simulated.
Or, if you want to just scratch everything I just said, decide this way: debt or no debt?
Cover photo found here.