By Kristina Drendel
I used to hate telling people that I went to community college before transferring to a four-year school. There was nothing inherently shameful in going but I often felt like this was something that would forever tarnish my reputation. It seemed like for some reason, whenever I told someone that I had committed to my local community college I was met with blank stares, or worse: “Oh, well, at least you’ll save money”. I was far from a slacker in high school and yet, the second I mentioned the words ”community college” to my peers, it seemed like I suddenly became a second-class citizen to them. Even my closest friends advised me against going to a community college and told me that going would be settling and putting too few expectations on myself. I was “too good for community college” they said, but somehow there I was a second-semester senior committing with nowhere else to go. Let’s back up. I had been fortunate enough to have gotten into a high-tier university, but my momentary joy was quickly shattered when my parents broke the news to me that there was no way I could afford it. My heart was broken and the other school I had been accepted to I had absolutely hated upon visiting the dreary central Illinois campus. The only option I had left was my local community college.
The day my friends moved to their respective campuses I cried my eyes out. I specifically remember feeling this huge sense of dread that I had just made a huge mistake and had no way of fixing it. Eventually, this feeling settled, and I started college with this absurd attitude that I was too good for it because that was what everyone had relayed to me. I started community college with the assumption that I would naturally excel in all my classes and there would be no need to study. I could not have been more wrong. My first semester, I took a course in Environmental Biology. I had taken A.P. chemistry my senior year of high school, so I figured a biology course at a community college would be a walk in the park. I cannot describe the shock that ascended me when I realized I would be ending the semester with a B in that class. I had done all the homework, gone to all the labs, and even did the extra credit assignments! Getting a B in a course that was, in my erroneous expectations, supposed to be easy hit me with the stark realization that community college does not offer easier courses than other colleges, and that the courses offered were of the same caliber as the ones my friends at their “prestigious” universities were receiving, for a mere fraction of the price.
Going to community college helped me grow immensely as a performer and allowed me to feel ready to continue my growth as a performer after I transferred. Throughout my two semesters, I participated in all three of the mainstage productions and was graced with the opportunity to take a master class from two prestigious musical theatre performers. My second semester, I even served as vice president of my college’s Performing Arts Club, and participated in an open mic night. Before going to community college, I was extremely insecure in my talent and often gave poor auditions. My time at community college gave me the confidence to pursue a career in musical theatre, and my experiences there allowed me to walk into auditions without having panic attacks anymore. If I had not gone to community college, I truly believe that my fear would have held me back from pursuing my passion.
Looking back, I find it incredibly pompous and absurd that I ever thought I could be too good for community college. My time there only prepared me to go on to great things in the performing arts, but also helped shaped who I am as a person. A year ago, I never would have thought I could go to karaoke and enjoy myself or walk into an audition with confidence, and yet today, I am able to accomplish both tasks with grace. It’s time we stop with the stigma surrounding community college that causes students to feel like they are second-best to their peers at other schools. Ultimately, the only thing that matters in the decision process should be where you feel happiest and most likely to succeed, NOT based on the opinions of other people. Oh yeah, and I also did end up saving a lot of money like everyone told me.
Edited by: Emily Chance