Unless you’re a daughter of Lori Loughlin or a descendant of a Yale alumni, you’re probably stressed about college. During junior year, the pressure of figuring out the next five years of our lives kicks into high gear. As if preparing for the SATs and keeping a high GPA isn’t stressful enough, it’s as if everyone has an opinion on how high schoolers shape their future.
Contributing to the stress of finding the perfect college, the cost of tuition rises each year. According to research from the College Board, expenses like housing, food, books, and transportation make the average cost of one student’s college experience at least $26,290 per year. Spending the next ten or so years paying it off doesn’t sound very appealing, and yet in 2017, 10.8 million students choose to pay the price. You could argue that it’s for education, but if that was the case students would be aware of the option the majority of us have been overlooking: community college.
The first two years of college are usually spent in general education classes. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for advanced versions of the classes you took in high school, community colleges offer what’s called a two and two.
A two and two is an option provided by community colleges that allow students to transfer over to a four-year college after completing their general education classes. College outreach specialist Angela Castonguay, who works with students to help find the best colleges for them and make the process less overwhelming, further explained the two and two process. “Many students are unsure when they start out what they want to study, and all four-year degrees require general education courses. By starting at a community college you can take your general education courses for the first two years and then once you know what you want to study you can take those courses at a four-year school of your choice,” said Castonguay.
If you choose to do a two and two, all your general education credits transfer to the four-year college so you’re able to take classes geared towards the profession you’re interested in. When you graduate, there’s nothing on your diploma that mentions your attendance at community college.
The stigma surrounding community college makes it seem like a school for students who aren’t smart enough to get into a four-year college. Castonguay puts the community college stigma to shame by saying, “there isn’t anybody I think community college is wrong for.”
A year ago if you had asked me if I was going to college I would have answered yes. I also would have told you that I planned to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. That is, of course, before I received my first paycheck and realized just how much money $73,000 is.
I had never even considered the idea of going to a community college until my friend, Giovanna Acioli, a junior at Dover High School, brought it up in conversation we were having about our overwhelming fear of college. She told me that she didn’t understand why community college was seen as a joke.
“Right away I noticed a huge stigma around community college,” said Acioli, who moved here from her home in Rio de Janeiro, where college is tuition free, a little over a year ago.
“One of the reasons I’m here is to get the opportunity to have a better education,” said Acioli, acknowledging the lack of commitment the school systems in Brazil have to its students and their education.
Acioli explained that she never expected to witness the downsizing of an educational opportunity in the U.S., especially from students. Commenting on the impact of the stigma she said, “I’ve never experienced such negative energy around a seemingly great opportunity.”
Although I haven’t completely ruled out Berklee, completing my general education classes at community college and then transferring sounds more appealing than any of the template letters I’ve received from various four-year colleges. Thinking back to the stack of letters, the only reason I can think of attending a four-year college during the time I’d be taking my required general education classes is on-campus living. This then poses the question: Is having the opportunity to live with the people I go to school with and build friendships that last a lifetime an experience I’m willing to miss out on?
Four-year colleges provide students with an opportunity to connect with classmates and experience living away from home. They offer a wide variety of courses and can connect you to companies providing students with internships for careers you’re considering pursuing.
Sophie Rogers (‘19), a freshman at Bishops University in Quebec, Canada, commented on her reasoning for attending a four-year university. “I think the benefits of a four-year college are, of course, a good education but also building relationships and getting to know so many people and experience so many things,” said Rogers.
The college experience is a topic my parents never get tired of talking about. I’m sure you’ve heard your parents rave about how college was the best time of their lives and how they wish they could go back. Here’s where my Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) kicks in and begs me to enroll in any university that offers a guaranteed good time. But is my fear of missing out enough reason to send myself into thousands of dollars of debt?
One of the drawbacks of community college is that there’s no on-campus housing, so you have to commute.
Ryan Merrill (‘19), a freshman at Manchester Community College commented on the downsides. “One small disadvantage of community college, I’d say, is the social aspect. This is just because you don’t always have events or people are only on cam
us for classes. Sometimes your only opportunity to talk to people is when you see them on campus,” said Merrill
This also means that you can kiss the infamous frat house parties goodbye seeing as there’s no greek life at community college. Although this difference between four-year and community college is one factor that makes four-year colleges so much more appealing, it’s also a $20,000 difference. According to a study done by the College Board, dormitory housing can cost up to $10,089 a year. If the classic college experience is what you desire, maybe it’s worth the price.
Of course, if you’re unable to live at home while attending community college the price will vary depending on where you plan on staying.
If you’re still confused about what you want your major to be or what career you want to pursue, attending a community college may be just what you need in order to explore your interests without the stress of throwing your savings away. Giving yourself time to grow and figure out life is something more students should do before making the transition into college.
“High school students should know that you still have plenty of options coming out of community college. Whether it’s pursuing your education further or going right into a career, the doors are still wide open,” said Merrill
There are success stories from all across the board. Whether you drop out of high school or attend Harvard Law, success all comes down to how hard you’re willing to work. Kim Cassamass, one of the school counselors at ORHS, added her thoughts about the importance of what you do after high school. “If you’re determined, it doesn’t matter where you go, or what that degree says, it’s all about your work ethic,” said Cassamass.
I’m still clueless when it comes to what I’m doing after high school, but I’m keeping all my options open and I suggest you do the same.
Artwork by Hannah Jeong