The Orion

Community colleges help students develop life skills

Susan Whaley

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It felt like the first day of kindergarten. I was nervous and shaking but so excited to finally enter a different world. A world that I considered to be that of grown-ups.

This spring is my first semester as a transfer student at Chico State. I went to community college for eight years. Eight whole years getting my associate degree and transfer credits.

It’s difficult to convey the experience of a third-year transfer student to someone who came straight to a four-year university after high school. I will never understand their experience of living in a dorm on campus, eating university food or being totally immersed in the college experience while waking up and walking to class in pajamas.

Just as “straight-out-of-high schoolers” don’t understand being a 27 year old still in college, living in a small apartment and still working full time for 11 years straight.

Neither one is bad or good, wrong or right. They are different. But either way, college doesn’t always meet our expectations.

It’s not as scary as I thought it was going to be. I was afraid I was going to be the dumbest person in the class. That fear mostly came from my insecurities as being an older student.

I was wrong about this. My experience practically being a “professional student” has helped me more than I could have expected, except when it comes to walking through campus full of slow, phone-looking walkers.

During the first week, I was raising my hand, getting questions right and not feeling unfit to be here at all. Except that did make me feel like the ultimate suck-up to the professors and quickly realized making friends might be difficult.

I am not trying to tear down the people at university trying to get an education, but I cannot believe how many students aren’t taking education seriously.

People are on their phones in class, while others who are trying to skim an entire chapter before a quiz. The grades between these two categories of students is often undervalued.

I understand the importance of socialization in college. I had fun and made plenty of friends while at the community college, but the cost of failing because of socializing does not justify the outcome.

Chico State has an overall graduation rate of 59.3 percent, which is above average when compared nationally. However, only 19.7 percent of students graduate in four years, which is among the worst, according to CollegeFactual

When only paying $46 per unit at a community college, it is easy to slack off and not care. But when a semester of classes cost $3,500, slacking off becomes less humorous. At this point, it would be better to just go to community college.

On Chico State’s website, it says that books and supplies will cost around $1,792 for the academic year. However, that number didn’t even come close to my first semester. I spent $100 dollars on books and supplies. At the community college, every class I took used a textbook costing from $50 to $200 each.

The low cost of my books didn’t make my impression of Chico State go down, It made me respect the place more. Professors here seem to understand that textbooks are expensive while some even said they usually aren’t very good. I am finally getting my education from a professor rather than a book.

My education at a two-year college was nothing subpar to Chico State and it was no easy ride. Most of the professors were strict, tough graders and held high expectations for their students, just like any other college. Of course, there were students who failed and dropped, just as they do at Chico State.

Community college isn’t a bubble. There were older people with experience in the job force, people right out of high school and people getting their life back on track. It was a place of struggle, a place of different stories. But the goal was the same: finish up and get out.

As much as I loved my junior college, finally leaving that place and coming here was the best decision. It is too easy to stay put and get stuck in a habit because it seems comfortable when in reality it got a bit depressing. A two-year college can only get you so far, depending on your major and career goals.

Transfer students sacrifice the “college experience” but we gain a different kind of experience. One already in the real world where we get to take various jobs and figure out our passions on our own time.

Community college paved the way for me to find out my passion in life. And now at Chico state I know I am not wasting my money on an education I will never use.

Susan Whaley can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Community colleges help students develop life skills