An Open Letter To Future College Students

image - Flickr / John Gevers
image – Flickr / John Gevers

With autumn just around the corner, universities will soon be back in session. Freshman will be clinging to schedules and seniors begin to count down the days until graduation. With all the hubbub happening I’ve started to think back on my own freshman experience, or lack thereof.

Dear Future College Student,

Certain kinds of colleges have been created for certain kinds of students. That is something high schools tell you, but most of their information does not take into account personal experience. Much of their literature talks about where to go to college only based on extracurricular interests and grades. No one ever mentions the lifelong friends to be made and both good and bad experiences that will change your entire lifetime.

Community colleges are best for students with the will to go to college but lacking the grades to attend. These students are the ones that need to just suck it up for a year to create a whole new gpa, one that will grant entry to a four year institution. Community colleges are also best for those living full lives outside of school. This includes but is not limited to parents, students with exponential responsibility at home, and students unsure if college is the option. For everyone else, community colleges lack exactly what they say they have in their name, community.

Big or even small universities are for everyone else. Not everyone needs to go to a BIG university, but you all need to find a real fit somewhere. My reason for going to community college freshman year was purely financial, and if you know what you’re doing, that is a total joke. Transfer students are less likely to get scholarships than those straight out of high school unless you are attending a school with an agreement between it and a community college. While that is nice, it does limit selection down to only a handful, maybe even less, that hold an agreement with your district community college. Going out of state is also not really possible. Very rarely will a community college have an agreement with a school out of state because of the way state funding works.

One of my roommates senior year at the University of Colorado received a very hefty scholarship coming in as a freshman. The highest scholarship as a transfer student coming in with a 4.0 gpa was $2,000; I’m pretty sure my roommate’s was somewhere around ten times that amount. In the end, for her four years and my two, we spent about the same amount, both including room and board. If that doesn’t start swaying you, I’m not sure what will.

Aside from school provided scholarships, there are also hundreds and thousands of untapped resources I wish I had known about as a freshman, or even pre-freshman. Scholarship websites, good test scores, high school advisor’s offices, are just a few.

You’re probably thinking that still isn’t reason enough. Well that’s okay, I have more. The big things I missed out on freshman year by being at a community college mostly had to do with making friends and joining community organizations, oh and that lack of responsibly and pure stupidity experienced by all freshman.

If you are thinking about greek life, don’t even consider a community college. Most sororities and some fraternities are less likely to consider you if you are coming in as anything other than a freshman. In the greek life it is very important to grow up with your peers at the university; by coming in as a transfer, your class has already made their lifelong bff-ers and now it is time for you to play catch up, which is a lot harder than it sounds.

Not only is it difficult to start fitting in the greek life as a transfer, it happens outside of their walls as well. Had I not had two friends from my hometown at the university already when I transferred, I don’t think I would have met anyone. Most friends are made in the dorms as freshman or in pledge classes in the greek life. This is a fact. No ands, ifs, or buts about it. It isn’t impossible to meet people after that, but most of the time you won’t feel like you fit in fully because everyone has already taken up their positions within a group of friends.

But do not get disheartened if you are already at a community college and in the transfer process. Those friends that you do make at a university, the real friends, ones you can count on, will last a lifetime. Although it is harder to make them as a transfer, I did. A prime example of how strong these college friendships are, let me tell you a story. Four days ago I arrived back in Colorado with another fellow alum to pick up some of the last of our belongings. This trip was planned last minute and until a few hours before we arrived, we didn’t have anywhere to stay. About two hours out, we called one of the friends we both made in our first years, and no questions asked, he texted us his address. As I type now I am sitting on the floor of his living room. And that should say it all.

I only have a handful of friends from college that I can say are lifelong. A part of me wishes there were more, and through greek life and other social university organizations, I could have built a much larger and more solid group to depend on. But I am still lucky to have the few that I do.

The last thing that I really wish I had been able to do was screw around and act like a total idiot. Coming in as a junior, already twenty, I had learned to grow up quite a bit. No longer did I have the stupid freshman excuse of naivety when I drank too much or made a fool of myself completely sober. That clean slate that I would subsequently screw up is something I really wish I had. Being an adult sucks, in and out of college, so if you can, wait until after college to really start that party.

Those of you considering community college, please reconsider. I have only mentioned a few of the things that I missed out on, but each one is devastating to me as I think back on what could have been. If it is an issue of financial struggle, look into every resource there is. There are so many that go untapped each year that they either disappear or roll over to the next year. Your parents may miss you, and convincing your mom to let you take the dog once you get into a house off campus instead of the dorms may not be easy, but these struggles are all worth it. Unless you couldn’t get in anywhere else, or community college is the only way to your dream, take the university route. You will be much happier and thanking me that you took my advice.

Sincerely,

University Envy (Allison Shelby) TC mark

This post originally appeared at Writtalin.

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