Ivy League? UC’s? Nope, community college

Before starting high school, I had so many great expectations and was confident I would get into any university I wanted. I would look at seniors on College Decision Day and at their caps at graduation. I’d think to myself, community college? They must have not been very smart. Anything below a UC was unacceptable in my book. But then my little bubble of breezing past middle school with no thoughts, just teen drama and idolizing the gates of USC, burst. 

All of the sudden, I had to consider money, location, and what course of action would actually benefit me in the long run. And of course, the crushing possibility that I wouldn’t get into anywhere I applied — because living in the Bay Area automatically makes it harder to get accepted. Sure, scoring in the 99th percentile of the SAT is great and all — if you lived, say, somewhere in the middle of Iowa. A 1520 is painfully average in this area, and knowing that set quite a dark cloud over my future. With all that knowledge, I discovered a newfound respect for students going to community college.

Perhaps they couldn’t justify spending $50,000 a year to go someplace with mediocre dining, or they wanted to stay close to home, or the colleges they got accepted into just weren’t quite right for them. Whatever the reason, community college is a great choice: one that many students, like the old me, don’t even consider.

Going to one wouldn’t break your bank like other tuitions might. You pay less to explore the same prerequisite classes and have time to choose your major. Just 17% of community college students take out federal student loans, compared to 48% of students at four-year public institutions. You also have the opportunity to transfer to a university after two years — it doesn’t matter if you didn’t attend all four years, because the college you earn your degree from is what shows up on your resume. De Anza College is the top Silicon Valley college for transfers, with many students later attending UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC San Diego and UCLA, among others.

Another benefit is that attending someplace close will allow students to gradually transition to college life and develop a sense of what they want to pursue in their futures. If you got into Santa Clara University, known for their business education, but you are not interested in business, going to community college would be a better (and cheaper) option to figure out what you want to do. 

There are many benefits to attending a community college and the stigma around it is really just boosting the elitist views of selective universities. (We all saw that Netflix documentary on the college admissions scandal; the only difference between those students and us regular folk is half a million dollars). Don’t be swayed by what other people think or by fear of their opinions. Sure, some might judge, but when you end up just as or more successful, you can stunt on them at a high school reunion. 

I think the factor I was most hesitant about was the so-called “college experience.” But that’s really just a scam. You don’t need to spend thousands on dorms just to share communal bathrooms or join Greek life to experience the best years of your life. So when choosing where to end up, carefully consider all the important factors to make the best decision for yourself and your future. Don’t hold onto illogical childhood dreams or the meaningless opinions of others around you. 

In the end, college is truly what you make of it, whether that be at a community college or a four-year university.