Standing up for community colleges

Many seniors in high school understand the pressure of feeling like you need to go to a great big college like UCLA or Berkeley or even Stanford to feel like you’ve made it. I mean, since freshman year, your teachers and counselors have been trying to keep you on track for A-G requirements to get there. But what if you feel like school isn’t for you? What if the late nights of studying and competitive classes don’t interest you?

My sophomore and junior years of high school were where I struggled the most with keeping my grades up. If I wasn’t good at understanding my homework, almost immediately then I’d give up. Going to colleges like UC Davis or San Diego felt further and further out of my reach when I was barely hanging on to a D- in some classes. Of course, it doesn’t help that we were in the middle of a global pandemic and I was dealing with issues of my own. 

The point I’m trying to get to is that I was starting to give up on what I’ve wanted to do from a really young age, which was becoming a veterinarian. It wasn’t until the beginning of my senior year that I began to take school a lot more seriously. To be back in school in person was already one thing to have to get used to, but being in class surrounded by people who seemed to have everything figured out talking about what colleges they were applying to and getting accepted into was a whole other thing. Parts of me yearned to be like them; I sat in class wishing I was as excited about school and my future as they were. For weeks I dreaded going to class because I knew what most of the conversations surrounding me would be about, and I knew what I’d have to say when asked about my own plans. 

Although I don’t like to admit it, I was embarrassed to say that I’d be going to a community college instead of a four-year right away. I mean, I’m this former GATE kid who’s always done AP and honors classes, I have a sister and my dad that have been students at CLU, and I’m going to community? I felt like I was letting myself and everyone around me down. 

The reality of my situation, though, is that nobody thinks more or less of me because of the fact that I’m going to community college first. My parents aren’t going to kick me out of the house for not being some genius kid at the age of 17. In fact, everyone is just proud that I’m deciding to further my education. I’ve become proud of myself, too, for showing myself that I’m resilient and can get further than I thought. 

What I wasn’t realizing is that community college is great! There’s so many benefits to going somewhere like OC or Moorpark, such as being able to stay close to home, saving a lot of money on tuition, and having a better chance at transferring into a UC. Another cool factor that I’ve come to appreciate is that going to community right after not liking being in high school is a good transition compared to going to a four-year college right away. It brings me more comfort knowing that there will be less pressure in smaller classes, and that the people at school are from my very own community. 

There are a couple pieces of advice I’d like to offer anyone sharing the same feelings of embarrassment or shame that I was. It’s your decision whether or not you want to take it. 

The first is to take a step back and realize that the people who seem to have their lives all planned out are just as scared of entering adulthood as you are. We’re still little kids in the grand scheme of life, so there’s no reason to rush your plans. Take time to figure out what will work best for you, whether that be college, trade school, traveling, or going straight to work. 

The next is that other’s accomplishments do not diminish the greatness of yours. There is not one person on this planet who is exactly like the other, which means everyone’s goals and aspirations are different. When reaching these goals, no matter how big or small, it’s important to be proud rather than comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others. 

So be happy for yourself, and celebrate the fact that you made it this far!