If someone told my 12-year-old self that I would be at a community college rather than at Oxford University penning the next greatest book series since Harry Potter, I would have most likely responded with a catty “that is never going to happen” eye-roll and avoided that individual out of snobby resentment.
Flash forward eight years and I am at the very place I never imagined to find myself: the quaint, hillside campus of GCC, or as some like to jokingly refer to it, “UC Verdugo.”
Yet, as the semester comes to a close, with some students preparing to transfer while others binge on energy drinks and fight off daily anxiety attacks over finals, I cannot help but feel a little warmth and attachment for the campus that gave me and so many others a second chance.
People from all walks of life attend community colleges for different reasons, ranging from poor high school grades to saving money during a time when tuition costs students pieces of their soul and maybe even a deal with the devil – or a loan officer, whichever title you prefer.
However, there is a black cloud of terror and myth surrounding community colleges. During most family gatherings, I am usually glued to a chair, listening to one relative or another babble on and on about how community colleges are like black holes where, once you get in, there is no getting out. Or like quicksand – once you step in, you just keep sinking.
This could not be further from the truth. Although there are students who stay at community colleges for more than two or three years, there are myriad reasons why, including but not limited to personal issues, lack of drive, or bad counseling.
CBS news reported that experts found little difference between students who started at a four-year schools and those who started at a junior college in terms of academic progress and achievement. Community college students who transfer are just as likely to obtain an undergraduate degree as students who began their academic careers at the universities.
Many California community college campuses have agreements with universities, including Cal States, UCs, and USC, directed toward helping students transfer.
I personally came to GCC in order to increase my chances of getting into my dream university and to save money. My study habits in high school were not very disciplined, as I spent most of my time obsessing over articles in the newsroom and researching financial gurus.
However, I decided to get a grip on myself and take control of my future, which meant getting more involved with campus activities and learning how to balance my writing ambitions with my educational goals.
This campus gave me a chance to grow up and prepare myself for a four- year university while saving me thousands of dollars in tuition costs – as it has done for many other students.
Hearing students rant about how much they hate the school really grinds my gears because, at the end of the day, it is an institution that allows students to move on to higher places if they are determined.
The idea that community colleges are a hell-hole for lowlifes is elitist claptrap. Naturally, going to an Ivy League or high-ranking public university right out of high school is commendable, but attending a community college before transferring does not equate to a lifetime of failure.
In fact, many well-known successful figures attended community colleges, including Walt Disney, Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood, Star Wars creator George Lucas, and retired NASA astronaut Eileen Collins.