By Micaela Itona, Layout Assistant
Through senior year of high school, it felt like everyone around me had their act together, and I did not. I was torn between two subjects – biology and sociology – when it came time to check that daunting little ‘Intended Major’ box on college applications. On top of that, I was absorbed by those big picture questions– how is the SAT score indicative of my academic competence? Will my major choice really influence the rest of my career and life? How can I be expected to make such decisions when just a few weeks ago, I had to ask permission to go to the bathroom?
One thing I was sure of by the end of high school though, was that community college was not an option. Bergen Community College (BCC), the closest community college to me, was a place where you went if you had no aspirations. No goals. No career path. No future – except maybe a job at McDonald’s. BCC was the butt of your joke if you wanted to jest about someone being unsuccessful. “At least I won’t end up at Bergen,” I used to say. I banked on the idea that everything would work out in the end, and I picked a school where I got into the Honor’s College with a decent scholarship.
I enrolled into a school in Manhattan for my first semester of college. I ended up hating it.
I had managed to make zero friends and spent too much money riding the subway and eating out. I was not enjoying my classes and had nothing in common with my classmates. I was so unhappy and stressed out that after finals that I had my hair chopped off until it was shorter than my brother’s.
In my free time, I looked up alternative schools and programs to transfer into. I found NJIT’s Science, Technology, and Society program and decided to transfer here for the Fall of 2015. Instead of wasting tuition at an institution where I was unhappy, I decided to take some cheaper credits at BCC that would be easier to transfer to NJIT because an agreement about transfer credits already existed between the two schools.
I went into my first and only semester at BCC not really knowing to expect. I kept my head low and my expectations lower about the quality of the students and classes I was to encounter. I got a part-time job on the side since the workload was a lot lighter than expected. Between the people I met at school (many of whom worked) and at work (many of whom also attended BCC), I came to understand that the people at community college are not very different from the hard working, driven, and motivated peers I had in high school. I found that community college students have different priorities: affording a car as opposed to conducting a research project to pad their resumes or landing a higher-paying position to build a career as opposed to landing a prestigious internship.
It is unfair to discount the work of a 2-year college student or compare his or her goals to a 4-year college student. It is also widely unfair to speak so condescendingly about a cohort that simply has different priorities- academic or otherwise. For many community college students, finances play a huge role in their college choice. Looking down community college students wrongly denigrates the achievements and hard work of underprivileged individuals that would do anything to attend a school like NJIT or Seton Hall.
We all have a unifying experience as millennial college students. We should be taking this time to learn from each other’s experiences, not discredit them.