I’ve thought about writing this post for years now. Ever since I started community college, I knew I wanted to weigh the pros and cons of community college versus four year institutions. I thought by graduation, I’d have answer as to which way is “the” way to go. But it turns out all I can say is that as my college life is officially over (I received my degree yesterday) that all these experiences make up my weird college life that brought the inconsistent blog ramblings of a late-teen/early-twenties girl just trying to find stability and tranquil in a difficult time.
So after my senior year of high school ended, I believed I was going to a four year institution, Suffolk University. This expectation stemmed from the fact that all of my sisters went to whatever schools they wanted to, on top of the support from my mother, speechlessly expressing that I could do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. But as the complication of family life, money problems, and school insecurities from my mother all boiled from one pot, I volunteered to go to community college. Instantly my mom was relieved and I could tell how much this meant to her. I felt that I was forced to, and that suddenly my entire life’s expectations crumbled into that one, pathetic moment of changing plans in front of everyone on social media. But it didn’t seem all that bad because a lot of my close friends were also going to the same community college.
I had higher expectations for myself in terms of an education and an experience, but the truth is that I got an experience that students at higher institutions could never experience. Nearly all the students I interacted with at Brookdale Community College had full time jobs–or close to it. And while students in other schools had jobs, it never compared to the work-workload (rather than school-workload) that these CC students worked. Most of the students who attended Brookdale had to work for their education per semester, compared to others who immediately got loans and often got financial help from parents. But when you live at home, your parents expect you to be the adult you need to be post-college. So here were all of these students working as hard as they would post-college, but while in college. And while the coursework was honestly easier than my coursework at Syracuse, it gave most of my friends a better work ethic and more drive. It helped me to deal with budgeting, scheduling (though I’m a very good planner to begin with), and balancing life. All while living from home. Which is never easy, despite the possibility of free rent.
But the coursework didn’t prepare me for how difficult Syracuse would be.
Especially since because all of my general education core requirement courses were all knocked out within my first two years at Brookdale, that meant that I only had room to take all of my majors and harder classes all at once for the remaining two years at Syracuse.
So I do feel that although my first two years were “easy” in terms of school work, I do feel strongly when I say that my two years at Syracuse were much harder than most of the other juniors and seniors I was classmates with. Trying to cram all of my requirements into four semesters proved to be difficult, but again, I’m good with planning.
So the question is, is community college worth it?
I absolutely loved every semester at Syracuse, no matter how hard it got. I loved the people I met. The activities and clubs that my school offered. I loved what I learned in most of my classes. I felt like I could have even practiced more and gotten better internships and opportunities had I attended Syracuse all four years. I would have made more friends and been closer with them had I had that my freshman year.
All of those things that I got from SU and wish I had more time with doesn’t negate my money saved and lessons learned from community college, though. Additionally, obtaining my Associates from Brookdale actually helped my transfer process into Syracuse. ALL of my credits were accepted from Brookdale at Syracuse and the Associates degree actually waived me of other SU requirements such as more science classes (my weakest subject). So not only did I get away with getting a Syracuse degree with only two years to show for it, but I also got away with only taking one lab science course and two math courses, and I spent less money getting all that.
So while I brag, I’m also pensive and slightly melancholic over those who got to attend schools such as Syracuse for all four years. The bonds I could have made with others would be stronger and over a longer period of time. The internships I could have had would show more of my worth and experience (and thus making me more hireable). The knowledge I would have gained from a variety of choice electives would have given me more liberty to explore. But I didn’t have any wiggle room aside from required skill classes since all of my general ed courses/electives were filled from Brookdale.
But I don’t resent the fact that I went to Brookdale. My whole college career was a journey–including the year and a half that I spent not in college. I gained that work ethic. I practiced “true” adulthood*. I am where I am because of where I was and I saved money in the meantime doing so.
So, again, the question was is community college worth it?
My answer comes down to a matter of privilege. If you have the opportunity and the expenditures for a four year institution, by all means, go. Get the “real” college experience. Make those friends, join those clubs, get those internships, create those bonds, cry those coursework-related stress tears.
But if you’re not so fortunate, community college is honestly a fine option. The counselors won’t work out your schedule for you. Know how to finish in 2 years. Get that good GPA to move forward. Know how to get out and explore on your own. Don’t get stuck. After that, you’re set. It’s a stepping stone. It’s independence. It’s still college. It’s still an accomplishment. And it’s still worth it since it gets you somewhere else next. Also–join. those. clubs.
I may not have a job 2 months after graduation, but I still made it because it was hard and I learned how to do (and pay) for it all on my own**. It’s still something I’m proud of even if I never get a job…..But please hire me.
*This morning I went out for breakfast and stacked coffee creamers into a pyramid because apparently I’m still 4 years old.