At twenty-two years old and after four years devoted to studying, I am finally graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in history. Still, my college experience, while not wild in any way, was not one every student pursues, especially students who graduated from the high school I went to. See, being concious of my limited funds, I decided to go to community college for two years before transferring to a four year university.
The high school I went to happened to be one of the wealthiest in my area. This meant that many of my friends looked down on our local community college, which, by the way, was well-known in the country for being one of the top community colleges. Still, it did not seem to matter to people who were heading off to big schools downtown or across the country. When people heard I was going to community college, my fellow students and teachers alike, got this face about them. It was a face that said, “Oh, really? What a pity.”
I was a straight-A student, but scholarships could not cover everything, I knew I would have to work during school. I needed to save as much money as possible. Going away to school was not an option, and I was fine with that. Some of my friends, however, took the opportunity to be condescending. For the next couple of years, remarks like “Well, I am sure you can still have fun,” and “Kid, when you get to real college…” were commonplace. (Cue me: I didn’t fucking ask for your opinion, Brenda.)
Turns out, community college was wonderful. It was packed with students like me, students who tried, students who cared, and students who just needed a bit of time. No one at community college was studpid, as my high school experience tried to make me believe. Sure, there was the occaisonal burnout, the students who didn’t turn up for class, but overall, this was the most driven group of students I’ve ever spent time with. Eveyone worked and went to class. Some people were parents on top of that. My community college was a space of growth and potential. It was there that I fell in love with poetry, there that I moved beyond the fog of depression, and there that I met some of my closest friends, and, because of scholarships, I got to go for free.
So here’s some advice from this soon-to-be graduate: don’t let people shit on your experience. Shake it off. You’re doing your thing. Find people who can support that, and hang out with them instead.
When I transferred from community college to a small, private liberal arts college, I encountered similar remarks. People wondered if my new college was just a second community college, and because I was commuting from home, apparently I was missing out on the iconic college experience once again. (Heads up: I also did not give a shit about that. I’m not much fun at parties.)
Transferring was hard. It was shitty. It made me realize who my friend are, and it made me realize that I can be overly guarded. To be honest, I hated my new school with a passion, at first. I even ended up crying in the English chair’s office one day after fucking up an advising appointment. It was hard to feel welcomed in a small school where everyone knew each other, and students at the university seemed passionless compared to my previous experiences. Of course, I grew to love my new school. It was all about taking the right classes and having the right teachers.
Looking back, there is nothing I would change about this journey. Transferring from a community college is a smart move. Yes, I did have people giving me unsolicited consolation along the lines of, “I am sure you’ll still get hired with community college experience!” and “You can always have fun later!” My hindsight words to those people: fuck off. I knew that before I started. I never needed your pity. This was a good choice for me, and it’s a good choice for almost anyone who does it.
I’m not saying everyone should go to community college or that people who don’t are awful. I’m only writing this for people who did go, because everyone Ive talked to who did go loved it. We all learn in different ways, and community colleges are out there making education more accessible.