5 Ways To Make The Most Of Community College
While it’s always hard to leave behind the sunlit days of going to the river and heading out on spontaneous roadtrips to go inside and study, getting ready to go back to college after a summer away is an exciting time. Finding furniture for your new apartment, reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in a few months, getting to know your new roommates, finally getting out of your parents house… right? Well, not always. If you’re a community college student, those rituals might have very little to do with your back to school reality, and if you spend your last few weeks of summer listening to all your friends talk about their plans, you can find yourself in a bit of a slump. It’s hard feeling like you’re the only one staying at home when the summer ends.
I’ve noticed that this tends to happen to many students who go the community college route instead of going straight to university. They know they aren’t going to get the coveted “College Experience,” so they give up on the idea that their first two years of higher education will be any kind of worthwhile experience at all. It becomes an extended transition time between high school and when their real life starts. This was definitely me right before my first term of college. All my friends were getting ready to live on their own for the first time and I wasn’t going anywhere. I started my college career without the highest of hopes that I’d have an enjoyable or memorable experience. My approach was essentially this: get through it as quickly as possible so that you can go to real college. Needless to say, going in with this kind of attitude led to a very uneventful couple of terms. I expected nothing, and I got nothing.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Attending a community college can be great if you go in with the right mindset. It’s true, my first two quarters of college were not exactly exciting. But now, two years of community college down and one quarter to go before I head off to the university world, I’ve found my niche and figured out how to make the most of a community college experience.
People are quick to dismiss community colleges as schools for the unmotivated, and for some reason this perception, which comes almost entirely from people who have no idea what they’re talking about, sneaks itself into the subconscious of those of us who attend community colleges, making us give up all hope that our school is anything to get excited about. Not anymore! Get those glass-half-empty thoughts out of your head and stop telling yourself that this year will be anything short of fantastic. Whether it’s going to be your first year at community college or if you’re a seasoned student, there are so many ways to take advantage of your time and make this year the one that you’ll remember.
Tip #1: Don’t Take Classes Online
…at least, not your first term. I know it’s tempting. Doing class work in your room instead of commuting across town? Sounds great! But taking online courses is a sure-fire way to make sure you won’t meet anyone. It will be depressing halfway through the term when having no reason to get out of bed stops being a novelty. Also, adjusting to a college setting can be hard enough without having a seemingly abstract and intangible course to deal with. I’ve known several people who took online classes right off the bat and ended up dropping them halfway through because it’s hard to keep up with when its presence in your life isn’t a specific date and time on a schedule. There is, of course, a place for online classes. They are great for people with kids or who work inflexible hours. But if you are right out of high school starting your first year… try not to take any.
Tip #2: Explore The Classes Offered
Look through the entire course catalog, you’ll be surprised at how many different kinds of classes are offered. People automatically assume that since it’s community college all that’s available is the bare minimum you need for an Associates or transfer degree. This is definitely not the case, there are tons of options. If you’ve always wanted to take a painting class, or dark room photography, now’s the time. For transfer degrees you will need a certain amount of electives in addition to the specific requirements, so you’ll be taking a class you enjoy and staying on track for your degree. Making sure you always have one class you can look forward to is also great for breaking up your schedule and making the day less tedious.
Tip #3: Get To Know Your Teachers
One of the great things about community college is that class sizes are generally small, meaning that your teachers actually know you and you can have one-on-one time if you need help. The same class that at a university would be held in a giant lecture hall with a hundred students might only have 20 or 30 if taken at a community college. Also, in my experience, the professors who end up at community colleges really love teaching. Of course this isn’t always the case, but throughout my two years as a community college student I have only had one or two bad teachers. Community college professors are not obligated to do additional research like professors at a university are, so the teachers that are there are there because teaching is what they’re passionate about.
Tip #4: Get Involved
See what you can get involved in. I’m going to be honest here: it isn’t always easy to make friends at a community college. At universities, close proximity through dorm housing leads to people making friends almost immediately. If you’re attending a community college, these conveniences in friend-making are not afforded to you. There is a huge age range among students and many people just aren’t there to make friends, but there are like-minded people around if you know where to look for them. See what kind of extra curricular activities are offered. Some of these may be in the form of an actual class that you can take for credit, and some might just be student groups or associations. Every school is different, but it’s very likely that your school has at least some of the following: sports teams, music groups, honors society, gay-straight alliance, a school newspaper, theatre or improv clubs, fraternities and sororities. Within a week of joining my school’s choir I had met more people than I’d met in the entire previous year of school. So many people go through community college without ever knowing these opportunities are available. I was a part of the school choir and studied abroad for a term through my school, and often when I tell fellow students about my experiences their response is that they had no idea those kinds of things were offered at community college. They are! Just look around and you’re sure to find something you’re interested in.
Tip #5: Keep A Positive Attitude
If there’s anyone in your life giving you flak because you’re going to community college instead of university, brush it off. No need to waste any time citing to people all the reasons that this is a good decision for you. Your experience might not be exactly the same as someone who moves away to college and lives on campus, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be just as worthwhile. School is what you make it, so give it all you’ve got! If you do, I promise that you will leave after your two years (or three, or however many) with good memories from the time you spent there. I have one term left before it’s time for me to transfer, and I am already starting to feel nostalgic for the wonderful community I found at my community college.
Study hard, kids, and have a great year!
Do you or will you be attending community college? What has your experience been like? What are you looking forward to or dreading? Leave us a comment and share!
Written by Cleo McClintock