Friday, August 18, 2006

Seniors Get Sucked into the Community College Trap

It’s so easy, and not to mention CHEAPER! Students can slack off all through high school without having to worry about applying to college because they can just go strait to community college and transfer to a bigger University. It is easy, effective, and saves students from a lifetime of debt in unnecessary student loans. I have a secret…it’s a trap!

I fell into the community-college-first trap. My freshman year of High School, I had intended to go strait to UCLA out of high school and get strait A’s and do so well. I was in the Honors Program and on my way to becoming an AP student by my senior year. I had confidence, drive, determination, I would have developed good study skills and healthy relationships with peers.

But then my parents heard about the idea of going to Community College first. Students could go to Community College to get their first 2 years of General Education Requirements out of the way for one one-hundredth of the cost of University, and then students could transfer to whichever University they so chose. It almost sounds like common sense not to take this route, I mean who would want to pay that much just to take the same things they could take closer to home, and at that much of a bargain.

The thing about bargains is that they suck. My parents started heavily discouraging me from attending University out of high school, and said I would be “smarter” if I didn’t go to University first. I wanted to be smart, so I allowed myself to be brainwashed into thinking that this was just the better option, and AP students were stupid for not taking that route. However, all of the sudden High School just wasn’t important, since I would be able to take all the classes at Community College anyway…what was the point?

I lost motivation. High School isn’t hard, but it’s an awful lot of work. If you don’t like the work you’re doing, and you can’t see a reason to continue doing it, you start to lapse. It wasn't like I wasn't a hard worker or a very dedicated person, it's just that taking away the relevancy of my hard work made it that much harder. High School just wasn’t necessary, in Community College I would knuckle down and really get the job done because then it would matter…high school just doesn’t matter.

When I found out you don’t even need a diploma to go to Community College, things got even worse. I started not being able to even see a reason to go to high school at all. Just going felt pointless, and the fact that by junior year no one wants to be there made just going to school a phenomenal drain. There was just no point. There was just no point in making myself go through this. The human mind and body can go through tremendous things, if there is a reason for it. My reasons for going to high school had been taken from me.

By the time I reached senior year, the pointlessness became overwhelming, and I dropped out. There were many other problems that made it so that I physically just couldn’t go back to that campus, but I think the main thing is that I didn’t have any drive to go back. I just didn’t have the energy to expend on something that I’d been taught to think wasn’t necessary anyway. My famous “If I would have known” is that if I would have know that it would be this way, I would have knuckled down first chance I had.

Now that I am in Community College, I have no energy left. My emotions are spent because I’m so used to being a strait-F student with poor attendance that getting a B- is a great accomplishment for me. Changing that has taken such an emotional toll that University just doesn’t even seem that important anymore. I might never get there. It hurts me to write this down…but I might not even get through Community College. Its lack of discipline, lack of energy, lack of motivation, and learned helplessness that have made a once potential college-bound student into a struggling student.

Seniors. Don’t make my mistake! Go strait to a 4 year and apply for as many Cal Grants as you are eligible for along with whatever scholarships you can gain. In some very large Ivy League Colleges like Berkeley I believe, if you get accepted to their school from a disadvantaged area like LA Unified, and you cannot afford the cost, the University will pay for your education. Plus you can take community college classes concurrently with your University classes to get your general ed out of the way for half the price anyway (that’s what most University students do). Even if you can’t get that much financial aid, get jobs, get 2 full times, work very hard and get those 4 years OVER WITH!

There are also some of the larger Ivy Leagues that don't accept ANY transfers. Harvard and Oxford being some of the most sought after Universities for gifted minds accept less than 1% of transfer students into their student population (the ironic thing being that many of the most gifted minds usually don't do well in High School). Forein Universities like The University of Heidelburg in Germany don't accept Community College kids, why would they? They have their own population to educate.

Don't forget about West Point or Annapolis. Dreams of attending the most prestigious Military Academies in the world? 15% of the most gifted applicants get accepted, the competition is fierce. First one must maintain a 4.00gpa ALL FOUR YEARS of high school (including freshman year), stand out in an ROTC troop, spend all of your free time involved in community service and pretty much beat out 90% of all the best applicants who apply. Not to mention that applicants with Veterans in their families are given special concideration.

You might think "oh well I'm never going to go to one of those highly presigious institutions." How do you know though? Why shoot yourself in the foot before you get on the battlefield? Why limit yourself now to the things you think you may not be interested in when a lot is going to change in your life, and you may regret not going for something more when you had the chance? Maybe you think you aren't good enough? Well you'll never know unless you apply, and you can't apply unless you meet their minimum requirements.

However, if you choose not to take my advice and pursue the community college route anyway, DO NOT take classes in high school. Many high school students take community college classes thinking they are getting a head start on their education. They are actually digging themselves into a bigger hole. If you’re a brainy freshman who placed into the 100 level College English Class your first try, you’re still no better than the 40 year old returning student who started at English 20 Basic Writing. Classes taken in high school cannot be taken for Scholars Honors at the College Level, therefore when you get to JC and are ready to transfer, all of those classes you hit it up with real college students with are only regular ed classes…you didn’t take them for honors, and your transcript is not going to show that you took them while you were still in High School. Tough break kiddo.

Don’t do it guys. 10% of high school students actually graduate, 10% of those go to college, where only 10% of seniors will graduate with a degree. The odds are stacked against you whatever way you look at it. Don’t try to be smart and take a bunch of shortcuts, just follow the program, stick with what works, and make it easier on yourself! The price of your success should be irrelevant. Don’t let the dreams on the sale rack deter you from true success.