Welcome back to my blog! This post will be a little more personal just because I’ve been meaning to get this message out for maybe a year now and have had some difficulty trying to put all my emotions into words. This post only applies to Community Colleges in the state of California.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION (skip if you already know how a CC works):
If you’re not aware or you don’t know me, I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and I’m starting off by spending some time at a community college. If you don’t know what a Community College is, let me break it down for you. A Community College is a 2-year college in the United States (for me at least) that offers various Associate Degrees. An Associate Degree is a step down from an undergraduate Bachelor’s Degree. The thing about Community Colleges that attract people is that anyone (as long as it is legal for you to study in the US) can enroll in the college to work towards a degree if they want to. There is no regulation of any sort that normal Universities might have where they need to see your application, results, resume and pick students for admission. Hence, there are no barriers to admission to a community college. Even international students can come join as long as they take more than 12 units of courses (or any amount that the college indicates) every quarter to maintain their “full-time student” status.
Here is the really cool thing about joining a CC (let’s use this abbreviation from now)…after 2 years (typically), you get to apply to transfer to an actual University that has an articulation agreement with your CC. This includes all California State Universities and University of California branches (UC Berkeley, UCLA, etc.). I’m speaking from a Californian system point of view. Systems may vary according to the state in which you are attending a CC. And many may think, “Oh so after you transfer, you need to spend an additional 4 years of university…so in total that would add up to 6 years of college education?” The answer is NO. After transferring to a University of choice, you will only (typically) need to do the REMAINING 2 years of your university education because you’ve already completed the FIRST 2 years at your CC.
I want to start from the very beginning. The very first time I heard the term ‘Community College’, I just thought, “Nah. I wouldn’t go there.” I’m going to be completely honest, Community College doesn’t sound like the most prestigious place to be and especially to a Singapore-native like me, it just didn’t seem appetizing at all. About a year and a half ago, I would’ve never thought I’d be here at De Anza College pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree and that’s because I was someone who thought I was better than this and I’ve always kept the notion that I’d sail through my life, going to a normal University like all of my peers back in Singapore are right now. I am a different person now with a drastically different goal and perspective on this issue now.
To give you an idea of how I was like before coming to De Anza College, I will tell you about my educational background. I am from Singapore and it’s a very small country with one of the highest standards of overall education in the world. We are all very academically competitive people to say the least. Growing up, I’ve always thought I wanted to be a doctor. I would’ve said it wasn’t because of the prestige, but part of me knew I was lying. My educational journey was great until Junior College. Junior College isn’t a very universal concept, so let’s just say it’s not high school but it’s not college either, but Singaporeans either had to go to JC (Junior College) or go to a Polytechnic. Most “overachievers” went the JC route because it offers a more secure route for people who wanted to go to a University. I attended Raffles Institution and I’m not bragging or anything, but it was considered the best Junior College (or maybe 2nd best if you like HCJC better) in Singapore. I got in because I did really well on my O Level examination.
Now, when it came to choosing my subject combination in RI (Raffles Institution), I chose a very science-based combination because I knew that it would allow me to pursue any career, whether it’s in the medical field, law, sciences, arts. etc. Choosing a more artsy combination, on the other hand, wouldn’t allow me to pursue Medicine or the sciences. Even though I knew that I preferred other more artsy subjects over Physics and Chemistry, I took the science subjects anyway because I thought I was a genius at the time and I thought I could handle it and pass with FLYING colors.
It turns out, I was horrible at the sciences and hated it. Halfway through JC, I realized that I wasn’t made to do Physics and Chemistry but it was KINDA too late too just change subjects. Needless to say, I ultimately flunked out of the national A Levels examination which was what Universities would look at to see whether or not to accept you. Please also note that besides my academic struggles, I was struggling with my family moving away from Singapore and settling in the US (BAY AREA LEMME HEAR YOU). It was a difficult time for me. AND ON TOP OF ALL THIS, I had no goals because I had no idea what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I felt so unmotivated and if you know how this feels, you know how hard it is. All I wanted to do was sleep. I slept any chance I got and my aunt, whom I was living with at the time, told every relative that I was an avid sleeper. It wasn’t that I loved sleeping, but that was coping mechanism. I needed an escape from all my troubles.
So after I received my horrible A Level results, I was literally at rock bottom. The worst of the worst had happened- no University in Singapore wanted to take me. I didn’t even try applying for Business Administration at any local University because I just KNEW they wouldn’t take me. I applied to do Real Estate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and even after appealing, they didn’t accept me. So I was left with 2 choices. It was either applying to some other major at a local university that I knew I would get accepted to but I didn’t feel passionate about, or up and move to California to go to De Anza College. Of course, I chose the latter and have not regretted my decision once.
Beyond getting to major in something I really liked, I personally feel like coming to the US has changed my life in a way that I’m now exposed to a whole different culture, work ethic and all sorts of great individuals. Back in Singapore, I was living in my own little bubble and it’s a small country so everyone knew everyone else and I didn’t know anything besides what I was taught in school. All throughout my life, the emphasis has always been on academics and nothing much else. Everyone did everything for the prestige and very few actually had passion and professionalism.
Coming to the US, I started joining clubs and campaign organizations and volunteered my time to various organizations. At first, it was because I needed all this on my resume, but as time passed and I started learning so much so quickly about this new community, I found myself becoming much more involved and more outspoken. I got elected as the Public Relations officer for the De Anza Marketing Club after an intense election session and I loved hearing different people’s stories and their successes and failures. People really are very outspoken and fluent in communication around here. I even started being involved in a political campaign which is so unlike my old-self. I was apathetic to politics in the past. I gained so much new knowledge that couldn’t be spoonfed to me from inside a classroom.
The bottom-line is, I have a totally different goal now and am still learning how to be the best Business student I can be and a much better individual than I was before. I am now a strong advocate for always doing what makes YOU passionate and never doing anything for the money, the prestige, or because of expectations. I also realized that the value of a Community College lies in the fact that it provides education for anyone and everyone who wishes to pursue it, which is exactly what we should work towards. Everyone deserves higher education, whether they have the “qualifications” or not. Life is all about learning and we should be given the chance to learn if we want to. School fees are also much cheaper here and that’s to cater to the lower-income students needs. With rising University tuition fees, many are left with few options when it comes to getting a college education and a huge purpose of a CC is to provide education to those who can’t afford it anywhere else.
I will start to apply to various UCs in the Fall and will be transferring to some UC (depends on who accepts me) next year to further my university education. I urge those of you who have met similar difficulties like I did to consider coming here (DE ANZA COLLEGE) to pursue your degree. It is a great place, trust me and if anyone has any questions or comments…leave them below! I’ll leave some links to the best CCs in California down below so check them out if you want!
Best Community Colleges in California: