“If you can’t get into a fancy college, what should you do? Transfer. In most cases, it’s a whole lot easier to get into a good school as a junior, where dropouts have left empty slots, rather than as a freshman, where you’re up against everybody. Get into a second or even third tier university... and then work your ass off: a great GPA, honors programs, awards, service clubs, etc. This is also a much cheaper route as well.”
-Scott Galloway, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
There’s no way I could have gotten into any fancy, big-name college right after high school. I was that kid in class: showed up late, sat in the back, participated as little as possible, never paid attention, and consequently was extremely shocked come test day. I was a straight-C student who couldn’t even tell you my GPA if you asked. When junior year came around and my peers started talking about college, I was uninterested. It was never a question of whether or not I would apply. College was never a thought in my head. Hardly anyone in my immediate family attended, and the few who did dropped out early on. My parents didn’t know anything about the application process, so I wasn’t ever put on the college track or bombarded with questions like my friends were. “Do you have enough volunteer hours?” “Did you have a teacher look over your personal statement?” “Did you submit this before the deadline?”
Come senior year and it seemed like everyone was submitting their final applications and ecstatically waiting for their letters of acceptance from their dream schools. I, on the other hand, had other plans. I loved photography and my time spent as the yearbook editor and head photographer. I truly believed that I was not cut out for academia. Rather, I’d venture out of my small bubble, move to LA, and find a job in television. I wound up doing just that. The job lasted for about 8 months with an opportunity to continue. However, I was at a crossroads. Feeling unsure if this field was right for me, and feeling anxious that I couldn’t figure out what field would ever be right for me, I decided to move back home and enroll in my community college.
In high school there was a stigma surrounding community college. Those who enrolled in it must not have been smart enough to get into a good college; they were going nowhere in life. Yet, once I began classes at my local community college, I quickly learned that none of these stereotypes were true at all. It was at community college where I met some of the most hard-working, down-to-earth, helpful people my city had to offer. There were moms working and going to school full-time, seniors earning degrees to fulfill their life-long dreams, people who never finished high school trying to get their lives back on track, and high school graduates who either couldn’t afford a four-year university or simply didn’t know what they wanted as a career. Everyone had a story to tell. Everyone had a reason for being there. We all were working toward something bigger.
My biggest recommendation to those entering community college is to have a plan going in. Go to your college’s counseling center and make an appointment. Heck, make 5 appointments with 5 different counselors so you can rake in all the advice from different perspectives. Grab all the forms and handouts you see in the building. Read them all. Only take classes that are transferrable to the colleges you want to get into. If you take a class that isn’t even transferrable to a four-year university, then you have wasted your time and money, as the units will not count when you transfer and you will have to retake the course at your new college (or even worse – you will not get into the college you want!). Assist.org will be your best friend when figuring out which classes these are. Make an appointment with a counselor at least twice a semester: once in the middle and once near the end. Double – no – triple check that the classes you want to enroll in are indeed transferrable. When your enrollment period comes, be glued to your computer at least ten minutes before. If you get to enroll in classes at midnight, stay up until midnight and do not wait because classes fill up fast. If you absolutely need this statistics course to graduate, chances are 300 other people need it too and they will all be waiting to click “enroll” once their time comes. Get into your required classes as soon as you possibly can to ensure you don’t have to wait for 3 more semesters to take it.
Work hard at community college. Come up with a goal – any goal. Stick to your plan. Get a part-time job if you’re able. Volunteer on the weekends. Network with your professors and peers. Find a passion for learning that you might not have had in high school. Try everything (pottery, drawing, astronomy, sociology, computer science). Get good grades (attend office hours, do every assignment, study hard). Bask in the fact that you are spending a lot less than your counterparts who went straight to four-year universities. A lot less. Treat community college as a mere stepping stone on the most valuable path you will take.
When I graduated high school, I could not have gotten into a fancy, big-name college. By the time I was finished with community college, I had a 4.0, tons of volunteer experience, honed my writing skills, a newfound passion for sociology, career goals, and academic goals. I was accepted into every school I applied to, even UC Berkeley.
Attending community college was one of the most important decisions I have ever made. It gave me an opportunity that I completely ignored in high school.