Throughout my time at Los Altos High School, I frequently joked that if everything falls apart, I’ll just go to community college, a place I thought was full of unmotivated, lazy students.
Flashforward to my senior year, I suffered multiple concussions and my doctors would not let me go away to a university. When they recommended I go to community college, I was livid. I didn’t spend years of studying and participating in clubs and athletics just to end up at an institution I believed was inferior to a four-year university. I was convinced that the community college environment wouldn’t challenge or suit me: the classes would be lower quality than those offered at universities, the teachers would be mediocre, and I’d be surrounded by unmotivated students. Further, I thought the academic and athletic resources would be limited and I wouldn’t have a social life.
The main factor behind my disdain for community college was the fact that I grew up in an achievement-based academic environment that taught me successful students went to universities and unsuccessful students went to community college. Turns out, I was dead wrong: Community college is intellectually stimulating and got me into my dream school.
When I began taking classes at Foothill College, I learned that they were not inferior. Rather, they were rigorous and the credits would transfer directly to a UC. My classmates were super motivated, facilitating interesting class discussions, and my professors were also incredibly accomplished. My humanities teacher was an assistant professor and got her PhD from Stanford; my anthropology teacher got her PhD from UCLA.
But better yet, they knew how to teach and their goal was to help me learn, not to force me to choose between a good grade and deep learning. Their availability and office hours were extensive and I was not relegated to being tutored by teaching assistants. The knowledge and passion they have for their fields is incredible and inspiring.
Further, the academic resources Foothill provides are copious: the Foothill College Promise gives two years of free tuition and covers textbooks. When I needed extra help, I could go to the STEM center to get free tutoring. If I needed help deciding classes, I could meet with a counselor in less than 15 minutes. In regards to athletics, I could go to the athletic trainer whenever I had an injury, and I had access to athletic facilities and an athlete-specific academic advisor. Foothill offers multiple sports teams that compete in a community college division that can help you get recruited to a university.
Most importantly, I didn’t have to pay a cent to attend Foothill, and it positioned me to transfer to my dream schools, UC Berkeley and UCLA. I’ll be transferring in as a junior after one year of community college because Foothill’s scheduling and counseling enabled me to take a course load that fulfilled all of the IGETC and AA (Associates of Arts Degree) requirements needed to transfer. IGETC is a course plan that students can take to fulfill Freshman and Sophomore general education requirements before transferring to a four year public university. Foothill equips students to be able to meet these requirements within a year, as I did.
Fortunately, my path is not the only avenue for students to achieve their academic dream. Although I did not do the Transfer Alliance Program (TAP), it greatly improves students’ chances of getting into UCLA. Compared to UCLA’s 12.4 percent acceptance rate for high school students, TAP boosts students’ chances of getting into this school to around 80 percent. Better yet, the acceptance rate to a UC as a transfer is much higher than high school applicants.
When I did not get accepted to UC Berkeley or UCLA as a high school senior, I was devastated. Seeing all my friends get accepted to their dream schools was bittersweet. They deserved it, but it was hard to celebrate when I was dying on the inside. Fortunately, Foothill gave me another shot at my dream and I hope you take a serious look at the advantages of a community college education.
The stereotypes around community college are just wrong. I went to community college because it was the only option I had. Now that I have attended Foothill, I have realized the incredible opportunities it provides. I saved two years of university tuition (Foothill is free!) and now have money saved up for graduate school. As I see students deciding what they want after high school, my wholehearted advice is to seriously consider community college. It isn’t just an alternative option, but also a great option.