Community college is a stepping stone

AnnMarie Kent

In the final semester of my senior year of high school, all that was talked about was college— where people been accepted, where they plan on actually going and what they’re going to do about their roommate situation.

My answer was always “Oh, I’m just going to community college.”re-AnnMarie

Community college doesn’t sound flashy. I felt lame because I wasn’t going to be strolling down old, ornate halls of a prestigious, big name university. I felt I was stealing experiences from myself, the quintessential experience that was freshman year.

Instead of the seemingly freeing life of a 12 foot by 12 foot dorm, I’d be living in the very room that once held the crib I slept in. I thought I was condemning my college social life.

It wasn’t until fall of 2014 when I hauled my life five hours north to Marquette that I truly realized the gift I had given myself by going to Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) for my freshman year.

Community college is actually a great option for students coming out of high school. It wasn’t until I started classes at Northern that I realized how much more difficult classes were at universities. A biology major my freshman year, I performed decently in my classes and figured college wasn’t as difficult as people made it out to be.

That wasn’t true; it was just community college isn’t as difficult as a university usually is. So that first year gave me time to adjust to college classes. It acted as a stepping stone into the more difficult classes I would face at Northern.

My success at community college can also be attributed to the class sizes. I enjoyed that I was in classes where professors knew my name and took a vested interest in my education. I felt comfortable enough with them to ask for help when I needed it, and they knew me well enough to know how to help. The success I felt there is actually what drove me to choose NMU. Up until January of my freshman year, I felt there was no other school for me in the world than the University of Arizona.

It was warm all year long, it had a big, beautiful campus surrounded by a large range of mountains. Tucson had the big city life and the outdoor recreation I thought I needed.

But when I looked at the facts and saw just how many people would be in a class with me and just how much out-of-state tuition costs, I knew there had to be a better option. When I slept on the floor, a deflated air mattress between me and the tile, of my friend’s dorm room in Halverson Hall, I knew Northern had to be it. The classes were just right (and so was the tuition price).

I know I wasn’t alone in the grapple between university or community college, because according to the American Association of Community Colleges, 45 percent of undergrads went to a community college at some point for their bachelor’s degree. Also 41 percent of first-time freshman attend community college.

Community college really is a great way to subsidize the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a time when tuition prices are so high. I was able to pay for my entire first year of college in cash. I worked full time  and was still able to 16 credits a semester. Better than all of that, I was able to live rent free and didn’t have to pay for groceries; a luxury that I didn’t fully appreciate until my junior year when I got my first apartment.

When peers found out I was going to NMC, the first thing they would ask is, “aren’t you afraid you won’t be able to make friends once you get to a university?”

My answer was always something like “I’ll live in the dorms, it won’t be hard,” but my head screamed “yes, dear god, yes.”

The biggest stigma around spending time at community college is that it will stunt your social growth. As scared as I was, it ended up not being an issue.

Though I was determined to transfer my sophomore year so I wasn’t a junior in the dorms, the community at Northern is so accepting that making friends as a sophomore was easy. I got lucky and had a great roommate, and once I solidified my major I was able to make friends in my classes. I made the right decision and learned the value of community college.