By Jane Bowden
“Where are you going to college?” — a question that I avoided like the plague for three years. Why? Because I went to community college, or what many referred to it as “High School Part II,” to which people often responded with “Oh…that’s nice.”
During my senior year of high school, as friends talked about what they’d be writing for their Common App essay, I felt out of place and insecure. I couldn’t relate to my peers who were embarking on college tours with their families, wearing shirts decorated with their school’s colors and waiting for the letters that would determine where they’d be going for the next four years.
To me, the years of spending hours on homework and studying, taking the SAT multiple times and stressing about my GPA had gone to waste. Since everyone who applies to community college is accepted, I didn’t need to convince a dean of admissions why I belonged at their school with a college essay. Instead, my letter of acceptance came in the form of an automatic email that read “Congrats!” only seconds after I applied online.
When my freshman year of college started, social media became a major trigger for loneliness, depression and F.O.M.O. — fear of missing out. While others spent their days hanging out with new friends and going to parties, I was stuck in my hometown, working part-time at my retail job and spending most of my time in my house. Everyone at college looked happy on social media, and I wanted that happiness.
As crazy as it sounds, I even wanted to live in a dorm without air conditioning, spend every day in the library while stressing about assignments and exams, and eat totally-not-digusting food from the dining hall. Although the grass didn’t really look greener on the other side — and I have to admit that going to community college did have its perks — I wanted what the average college student had, even if that meant swapping home-cooked meals for undercooked chicken and powdered scrambled eggs.
The worst part about being at community college? The amount of guilt I had from feeling ashamed in the first place. How dare I be ungrateful for receiving an education that many people would dream to have or that other students had worked hard to afford?
I also felt guilty about my feelings of loneliness, which eventually led to depression and other mental disorders. How would my parents and then boyfriend feel knowing that even when they were around, I still felt alone and hated being in my hometown? Would they be heartbroken and feel like they weren’t enough to make me happy? Was I even allowed to feel stressed and sad, since I had the luxury of living at home?
Despite all of this shame and guilt, I knew that although there was not much I could do about where I was going to school, I could alter my perspective on community college — and that’s when everything changed.
Now that I’m a senior at the College and a proud transfer, I can honestly say that going to community college was the best decision I’ve ever made, and it’s a choice that I recommend to everyone.
First of all, I saved a ton of money. As a result of the high grades I received in high school, I was able to attend my community college for free, only paying textbooks and gas. Even if that weren’t the case, the average cost of community college is about $6,125 per year, according to Community College Review.
Second, despite its infamous “High School Part II” nickname, community college still provided me with an education that challenged me and made me excited to learn new things, like American Sign Language and astronomy. I was even able to study abroad in Ireland for 10 days and take classes that would eventually count towards my major at the College, which allowed me to pick up a minor.
Finally, I was able to get part of the college experience I thought I’d miss out on. Sure, I will never have the obvious thrill of living in Travers and Wolfe Halls. But community college gave me the opportunity to work as an editor for the newspaper, form friendships with people I still talk to today and feel more prepared to be a student at the College.
Today, I don’t carry the immense shame and guilt I once had. I’m proud to have gone to community college, and I support anyone who has to go or wants to go. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you went to college — what matters is what relationships you formed, what you learned and how you will shape your future.