By Darren Johnson
You did it. It may not feel like an accomplishment – being in a community college – but it is; at the very least, it’s a golden opportunity.
Sure, orientation was kind of a joke, various bureaucrats gave you pieces of paper to take from office to office to get signed, a placement test said you need some help in either English or Math (don’t feel bad, few people pass these tests completely), and maybe a tired adviser tried to steer you into some classes you really don’t want to take (though, usually, they know best).
Then, parking’s a nightmare (it gets better as some less-serious students drop out), maybe one of your professors is like that guy from “Ferris Bueller,” and the one online course you’re taking is on Angel or some other decidedly 1990s learning system, built for big CRT monitors and Pac-Man graphics, not your smart phone.
Add to that some of your friends have gallivanted off to four-year colleges, and maybe a few others decided to just skip college and they are earning an OK pay working a trade. Meanwhile, you are living in the same town, your car has a bit of a sputter going on and you’re trying to cobble together four or five courses while also working a service job. Your manager at the service job is a little older than you; he or she has developed a bit of a paunch, with a careless hairstyle, reciting corporate rules and regulations, and you swear to yourself you don’t want to turn into him or her.
So, here you are, in college, trying to change your fate. Now that we’ve gone over the negatives, let’s go over the positives – there are many, many more of them:
This Is College!
Just like in the movie “300” when Leonides declared “This is Sparta!,” there’s no mistaking it. You are at a college. There are professors, credits, computer labs, libraries, sports teams, clubs and some social activities.
It may not be like when you watch college football on TV and you see all the fresh-faced students in the audience, so in love with their school, and it may not be like the Toga Party in “Animal House,” but we are in the apathetic Northeast – and even the four-year colleges, for the most part, are not like we see on TV.
The fact is, you are sitting in each class about three hours a week, just like at any college, and you are learning from a professor with a doctorate or master’s, just like at any college. The textbooks are the same. The credits, for the most part, transfer to other colleges. So, despite that this isn’t a 24-7 party, it is college.
There Are Things Happening!
OK, it may not be like on TV, but there are various events happening on this campus. Your community college is bigger than many four-year colleges, after all.
First, there are sports. I know it’s weird going to a game when there are only, say, 25 people in the stands, but why not make it 26? Better, consider playing a sport. Ask around, it might not be that hard to make the team. Many college teams are less competitive than high school teams – you maybe even can play a sport you’ve never tried before. Some people are late bloomers and become good at sports after high school, so even if you weren’t a jock back then, maybe you can be now. You’ll get to travel on team buses, stay in occasional hotels, and it’s a free way to get in shape. Then, for the rest of your life, you’ll be able to say you played a college sport! Start getting in shape now for a winter or spring sport!
Then there are clubs – always wanted to act? There’s a school play going on. Always wanted to write? There’s surely some journalism and/or literary club. Anime? Dance? You get the picture. If your college doesn’t have the club you want, start one. It’s easy. Just go to Student Affairs and get a form. They may approve your club if you can prove that at least a couple of other students are interested.
Last, there are one-time events. Poetry readings, comedians, talent shows, dances, trips to Broadway, art exhibit openings and so on. Why not sign up for these? You will someday look back fondly on whatever extra-curriculars you did while a student.
Lead by Example
Are you always complaining about how boring community college is? How some of the students don’t give their best efforts, either in class or their personal appearance? About the lack of activities?
Then be THAT person. Not the person who complains, but the one who fights for change. The one who dresses better than the other students, who answers the professor in class, who volunteers to lead events. If you can become that person, those skills you develop will help you greatly in the professional world. The professional world needs leaders and trendsetters.
This is college – it is supposed to be competitive. Win. Win with the best style, the best attitude and with A’s in the classroom. It’s an open playing field right now. You can reinvent yourself and take charge. Do it!
Think of All the Money You’re Saving
This should make you feel better. You’re spending a fraction of what students at four-year colleges are spending for the exact same credits. Again, not all credits transfer to all institutions (call your future four-year college’s advisement office before making your schedule), but you should be fine with most basic 100-level courses, such as Intro to Psychology, Freshman Composition, American History I and II, and so on. With all of the money you’re saving, not only will you better be able to afford to go on to a two-more-years bachelor’s but maybe even have some money left for a master’s someday!
At Least This Isn’t Dowling College or ITT Tech
Those are two colleges that recently shut down, leaving their students in the lurch. Community colleges are stable and not going anywhere. This community college will be around for years to come. Community colleges, as well, for the most part, operate transparently and above-board – you are getting exactly what is billed.
While it might not seem like it now, these college years really will be some of the best years of your life. If they are not, you may be doing something wrong. Now is when you become YOU. Open your mind, let go of any past baggage, and reinvent yourself here, now. Be that testimonial in the college brochures that has his or her act together and is on pace to graduate and transfer or get a job.
While you may be working and have local family responsibilities that the students who go away to fancy four-year colleges don’t have, life doesn’t have to be drudgery.
Take a break from that smart phone – for community college students, what’s on there is mostly your past bothering you: Your family and old friends on social media or your job asking you about some mundane thing that really doesn’t matter, or they’re trying to guilt you into working more hours.
But this is a new you, and this is a new day. Put down the device and look around. Breathe in the fresh air as you travel between class buildings, embrace your quiet time, read something printed on paper. This Is College! Enjoy!