4-year Universities vs. Community Colleges

By Alia

Let’s start by playing a little true or false.

1. Universities are big while community colleges are puny.

Answer: FALSE; there is such a thing as a small university and community colleges are plenty big.

2. You get a better education going to 4-year universities versus community colleges.

Answer: FALSE; you get equal education in my opinion (but some universities are picky and might not take credits from elsewhere).

3. Community colleges are for people who weren’t successful the first time around or are behind and need to play catch up.

Answer: FALSE; plenty of people go to community colleges – it’s easier on the wallet, not because they lack the ability to go somewhere else.

4. You need to be super rich or take out a student loan to afford college.

Answer: FALSE; you can get scholarships and grants (free money) to go to college and there are even programs like Power of You (POY) that pay for everything.

5. The system is corrupt and if I’m not the right color I won’t make it.

Answer: FALSE; anyone can make it and you’d be surprised how many people want to see you succeed.

Conclusion – Much of what you hear relating to who goes to community colleges and who goes to 4-year universities is false.

So what’s true?

The difference between going to a community college or university is where you plan to go and how you plan to get there.

Universities are great for their high reputations, they offer more classes, they offer high degrees.

Community colleges are for everyone, they are cheaper than universities, they can be the start or finish.

My advice to you, someone who is in high school right now, is go to a community college and then university if you so desire. Starting out at a big university could be everything you dreamed of, but more than likely you will have more debt. You might end up changing your major and realize you wasted not only your time, but a lot of someone else’s money.

If you want a path where you pay less and get more, I say take my advice. I say go somewhere where people come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and ages with all different backgrounds. I say go somewhere where you can get the same education for less hassle and less out of your pocket. I say go somewhere where you can stumble and get back up with little to no repercussions.

Take it or leave it, but that’s my advice.

When I was deciding where I wanted to go to college, my first choice was the U of M: Twin Cities Campus. I used to work there in the multicultural center in Appleby Hall. I got to learn the layout of the campus by giving tours to children in grades K-8.

I loved it there. I loved the art, I loved the science, I loved the tree full of shoes.

That long bridge was the coolest canvas every club had claim to. I felt alive every day I went to work there and sometimes it was a painful reminder being alive. I didn’t even want to look at other schools, that’s where I wanted to go, but the college and career center at my high school wouldn’t let me pick just one place. They said I needed to apply to at least three schools and I was so bummed, I didn’t care about anyplace else.

I finally gave in and “looked” at some other places. I didn’t want to leave the city, so that narrowed my search fast. I found the Arts Institute and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) both were in the right place and offered majors I liked. Then I compared costs and saw something surprising – the tuition at MCTC was nowhere near the tuition for the other two options.

I thought, “well they must be so cheap for a reason,” and decided to check out what exactly they were lacking. I took a visit to the school and it didn’t take long before I heard about the Power Of You program. It also didn’t take long before I realized there was nothing missing. There were so many paths for me to take at MCTC for a fraction of the cost, excuse me, for no cost.

I was baffled.

I didn’t know you could go to college for free. The Power Of You program at MCTC took me in and I was surrounded by a group of hard working staff ready to pay for my tuition. All they asked was that I say “hello” every so often, go full-time, have a decent GPA, give back to the community and graduate from a Minneapolis high school.

My parents were sold, and even though I loved the U of M to death, I was too. I did my big exams in high school, sent out my applications, etc. Both the U of M and MCTC accepted me, but at the end of the day, I chose to go to MCTC after doing all my research on the two choices.

MCTC is everything I wanted in a college, even more so than the U of M was. I go to MCTC now as a full time student and I work for the school as a tutor helping other students. I have never been more at home on a campus, they have everything I want/need.

Best of all, I can still continue on to finish a 4-year degree at the U of M, if that’s what I decide to do, and I will have spent a lot less on earning credits my initial years out of high school!

It’s not really a secret, but I never liked school. I did well, but middle school and high school were not only zoos, they were claustrophobic to me. After seeing students trying to jump out of windows on the 3rd floor and dancing on tables and bullying left and right, I was so sick.

In middle school my bullying experiences weren’t from other students, they were from the dean. So you can see, I thought school was a joke. A very messed up joke. I wasn’t even proud of myself when I graduated. I thought college would be as lame if not MORE lame, but college has been awesome. It sometimes doesn’t even feel like school to me, I have too much fun.

Maybe you like school already, that’s cool. I just know too many of us go through it unhappy. I even mentioned before, I have depression. Why am I being so personal? Because I want you to hear my story and maybe it will help you.

My real point is don’t give up. Don’t give up even if things look bad and you feel gross. Don’t give up even if it seems you have no place to go, you always do. Like I’ve said, college isn’t for everyone, but what’s important is that anyone can go to college.

Whether you pick a community college or university, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re a step closer to your dreams and you aren’t being worn down. Make the healthy choice, make the smart choice.

I know you can succeed.

Picking a Major/Path


by Alia

Many of us are asked at a young age what we want to be when we grow up. For some of us the answer stays the same, but for many of us the answer changes over time. In some families and cultures certain paths or careers are seen as better than others. For example, parents might tell us what we should become when we’re older.

Parents usually just want what’s best for their children, they want their children to be successful and bring pride to the family name. The problem in many cases is that parents don’t always know what is truly best – they know what they wish they did with their lives, they know what opportunities they didn’t have, they know what jobs are seen as good by the masses.

If your parent or other parental-like figure is telling you who you should become, then really ask yourself who’s dream job is this? Is it just theirs – or yours also? If you are feeling pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer or something high-paying or respectable like that by your parents take a step back and look at yourself. What do you want to be when you’re older? What do you want to be right now? What are your passions? If it’s not the same as what your parents want for you, then maybe what your parents want isn’t right for you.

Why do so many college students switch majors? In my opinion, it’s because they go into a field not sure what their true passions are. In high school most of us aren’t exposed to the world and all of its possibilities. We only see what our high school and other things in life have shown us.

It’s not just young college students dealing with this either. You might think what you’re going to become is dead-set, but be prepared for changes because they are going to happen. Your path isn’t set until you’ve made it to the end of your journey. As long as you’re alive your path can always change, you can always change as a person. Your passions can change, they can become more or less clear with time.

You are less likely to change your major when you know and understand what really drives you inside. If you’re not doing it for yourself, someday the motivation will dwindle. Exerting yourself for others’ dreams and passions when you don’t share those dreams and passion will eventually wear you down.

Do it for you.

It’s your life, so why should anyone else be writing off your story or your destiny. This may sound like a debate on free will, but let me tell you, some things will happen no matter what and some things are just up to you in life. What you like, what drives you – that’s up to you and no one else.

What if you don’t know what you like, you don’t know your passion in life?

Like I said, be prepared for changes. Maybe you don’t know right now, but you will know some day. College isn’t for everyone. Maybe taking some time off to find yourself is what you need. Explore some different jobs, explore the world, explore yourself and your values. Let time tell the story you don’t yet know. If you’re very passionate about going to college or feel like you have to, then go!

Try liberal arts or another major that lets you explore your options. Do your generals and take a variety of different classes until something clicks inside and you finally know where you want to go. Trial and error is one of the best teachers throughout life’s journey. Some things you have to learn for yourself. All of us have weaknesses and all of us have strengths, so find yours, and that will help you uncover your passion someday.

What if your problem is not that you don’t know your passion – what if you want to do too many things? What if you love too many things, and are passionate about too many things?

Don’t listen if someone tells you to pick just one, don’t lower that bar on your options. Be free and express yourself in everything you love. Some things will become hobbies over time, but never completely give up on your passions just because they become hobbies.

Life can take so many turns so always have a back-up plan and back-up plan for your back-up plan.

Be talented and passionate in multiple things so that no matter what is thrown at you, you can still keep going. My uncle only studied one field, he did well in that one field until it no longer existed. He didn’t have a back-up plan and he never saw this change happening. Now he is jobless and just barely scrapping along because he doesn’t believe he can do anything else.

Don’t be like my uncle, be open and explorative to your options. A hobby could become a career and a career could become a hobby. Don’t limit yourself; be bold and be you. I am double majoring because I couldn’t choose just one thing to be and guess what? I would triple or quadruple major if I was able to. Maybe it sounds like a lot of work, but I am passionate about what I’m studying and so far I haven’t had any problems. This could be you too. The wonderful thing about college is you get to decide what you do for yourself. No one is going to hold your hand and say “be there,” or “do this,” or “you have to”. You get to say those things to yourself because finally it’s something you care about.

College shouldn’t be a chore, it should be the education and experience you always wished you had before. Some people think that can only happen outside of college, but college is an open door and you can do whatever you put your mind to.

You’re only limited by your thinking – by your imagination. Nothing is impossible. Never tell yourself that you can’t do something or become something someday. Maybe odds are stacked against you, but break those odds because there is no one on this Earth like you and averages or stereotypes shouldn’t define what you’re capable of.

Choose your path for yourself and maybe some things will not be in your control, but this is something you decide. If you’re thinking money will stop you, guess what? There are countless scholarships and other ways to pay for college, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. There are programs like Power of You that will pay for it all, if you can do your part.

So don’t falter under the dollar because that piece of fabric ain’t worth the worry when it’s your dreams and your life we are talking about. If you think you don’t have the brains or the skill, guess what? You can develop the brains, you can cultivate the skill. It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you have the drive. Don’t let people step on your dreams because no one can stop you from dreaming.

Those Pesky High School Counselors

high school counselor images

by Alia

Today I want to talk about counselors, many of us avoid them like the plague.

Well guess what? Counselors may be hard to deal with at times, but their help is golden/key to your success. When you first start high school it’s okay to brush off your counselor(s) a bit, but in your second year you need to be on them about your requirements and dream classes.

If you leave your counselor unattended for more than a year they might totally mess you up. Counselors are the “order” people, their job is to keep you on track to graduate and help coordinate your schedule.

Ask yourself what classes you have to take to graduate.

All students have specific requirements, for example math, social studies, English, PE, health, and science. Make sure you have taken and passed those classes before the end of your senior year. Divide them up so you take an English, social studies, science and math class each year. Depending on your school you may not have to take a math or science class in your senior year, but colleges will think fondly of you and accuplacer tests will be easier if you do so.

The order in which you do PE and health classes usually doesn’t matter. I did both my PE and health requirements during my Junior and Senior year surrounded by crazy freshmen who would not take it seriously. Not all freshmen are wild and crazy, but many are.

When you’re a freshmen, you can go one of three ways with your schedule. You can 1) be proactive do everything you have to do so you don’t have to later; 2) wait and take a break from requirements and take what you want; or 3) you can do a mix of those two options.

It’s ideal to make a plan of schedules to come before going to your counselor. If you come to your counselor prepared with the knowledge of what you want to do and what you need to do, not only will you look smart and capable, but your counselor will take you more seriously. Having a concrete plan to follow versus picking classes at random could be the difference between graduating or not.

Here is an example of a schedule planning table

Year Social Studies Math/Other Science/Other English Other
Freshmen geography algebra 1 biology English 9 art & music
Sophomore world history geometry chemistry English 10 PE 1&2
Junior us history algebra 2 physics English 11 Health 1&2
Senior economics/


pre calc or elective IB/AP science class or elective English 12 Some other electives 

In no way does this example have to be your class schedule, but this example sheds some light on how to format a schedule plan to present to your counselor. It is always a good thing to take at least one IB/AP class throughout high school. It’s better to take more than one, but not everyone is cut out for that kind of extra work (also the tests aren’t easy).

Create some sort of relationship with your counselor; try to be “friends” (not like hang out or anything, but share some personal info and get to know them/let them get to know you). Having some contextual knowledge about you will help your counselor keep your values in mind and getting to know your counselor will help you know in what ways you can rely on them as a counselor.

Be careful when dealing with counselors, not all of them are on top of it. Think about if you were a counselor, would you be able to manage the success of hundreds of students? Counselors have a life too, they’re not always in the best condition to counsel.

If your counselor says you can substitute a class for PE 1 or 2, DO NOT DO IT!!! There is a special curriculum that is followed in PE classes that are not followed in similar classes. This special curriculum is what makes PE a graduation requirement. It’s like putting a student who has been playing guitar for 7 years in a piano class for students who have been playing piano for 7 years. The two classes may be similar, but they focus around two totally separate things. This may also apply to other classes that are required for graduation such as certain English and math classes, however, situations vary.

You can choose to take some classes online or through PSEO (in a college setting), before doing so you should talk with your counselor to see how this will fit in your schedule and if it is right for you. Not everyone has the work ethic to do classes online, I myself failed PE online and was rather embarrassed by it. PSEO is a great opportunity to not only learn at a college level, but see what taking college classes is like. The problem is the deadlines, make sure you tell your counselor you want to get in before the deadline runs out.

If you failed a required class in the past you should talk about it with your counselor so you can figure out how to make up the needed credits before you graduate. I know some students who didn’t get to graduate because they were a few credits short, make sure to check in with your counselor regularly to make sure you’re on track and record what they say (because they might change what they say later: warning). Perhaps have them email you or sign something to certify you are on track and not missing anything.

I know someone who checked in with his counselor regularly to make sure he could graduate on time (he was a senior). His counselor put him in appropriate classes to catch up on credits, he did all of his work and even bought his cap/gown for graduation.

On the day before the graduation ceremony he realized his name was not on the list of graduates, he went to his counselor to find out what was the problem and his counselor said he/she forgot to tell him he was still missing 3 credits despite everything. Don’t be a victim like my friend was, stay on top of your classes and manage your counselor.

To avoid such problems stay a step ahead. Know more than or as much as your counselor on your progress and what you need to do. Don’t rely solely on your counselor, get others involved in your success in case your counselor’s help fails or something happens to them during a time of need. Print out your transcript to help see what areas you have completed and what areas you still need to complete.

When you sign up for classes, your counselor usually has the last say. If you feel taking a certain class is important make sure to communicate that to your counselor so they know not to take if off of your list.

Depending on what classes you take first your senior year may be compact with little to no wiggle room. If you really like a class, but don’t have room for it in your schedule look into taking a related club (math = math club; debate = debate team; art = mural/art club; music = band/jazz combo; gym = a sport…etc.) Make sure you get done what needs to be done above all else. Don’t ignore your passions, but also don’t let them get in your way of graduating.

If you’re having trouble with a counselor (they keep changing their story or aren’t helping you), then go to the next highest official like the assistant principal or the principal. If the next highest official is unable to help talk to a dean or close teacher and maybe they can help or at least give you some advice (they’ve got experience). If no one in your school appears to be able to help you in your academic success, go to the school board or consider changing schools.

Graduating is important in the world today. Some don’t think it will amount to anything or they’re not graduation material, but that is not so. Everyone who goes to school and tries their best can graduate, sometimes it takes a year or two extra to do so, but everyone has the potential. Graduating or not could mean the difference between getting a nice job or even a job at all.

Life happens.

Some of us have jobs, family conflicts, life-changing dilemmas, children, sick family members, mental illnesses, relationship drama, biological deformities/differences, physical illnesses, bullies, and/or an unstable environment that often gets in the way of doing school work or being able to go to school. Don’t let these things get in the way; if need be take a break from school, but don’t give up on it.

Counselors can be great resources, be sure to use their advice and that your voice is being heard.

To set up an appointment with your counselor go to the main office and request to meet with him/her. If you don’t know who your counselor is, ask the person at the office desk if they can look it up for you or how you might find out.

Extra-Curriculars: The Opportunity of a Lifetime!

EXCTRA images

by Alia

Hello and welcome! My first two months in college have been a breeze and I want to take some time to talk about actions you can take while you’re in high school that will make the transition easier.

I want you all to take a moment and ask yourself what you’re truly passionate about. Is it sports, art, music, martial arts, dancing, lifting, cheering, anime, video games, acting, writing, singing, chess, world languages, LGBT, sculpting, helping others, math, science, history, reading…etc?

If you don’t know that’s fine too, I just want to encourage you to get yourself out there! Find a club or sport (in or outside of your school) that you love or think you could love if you tried it and get involved! I’d say 3+ clubs/sports while you’re in high school is ideal. Colleges love students who will add to their community; they love the bright and talented.

So what if you’re shy?

Find a club where you can sit in and watch, who knows, you might just fall in love.

So what if you think you don’t have any talents?

I think you’re looking at it wrong, if you don’t think you’re good at anything because everyone is good at something.

Either way, find your talent or make your talent. High school clubs/sports are a once in a lifetime opportunity. Sure there are clubs/sports in college, but there are things in high school that don’t happen in college like prom, yearbooks, etc. Join something while you’re in high school so you can expose yourself to awesome experiences and people you might not otherwise meet.

Throughout my high school experience I was involved in 2 martial arts, 1 sport, and around 8 or 9 clubs. You don’t have to do as much as I did, but I would encourage you to try because being involved in those activities were some of the greatest experiences of my young life. I met people who I’ll never forget and who I still see years later.

Sometimes in this world it’s not what you know, but who you know (remember that!). Joining clubs/sports can help you know what you want to do with your life, they can help open up horizons for you, and they can help you find yourself. Trial and error are good too, if you try out a club/sport and it’s not what you were looking for, well at least now you know that, right?

I tried out soccer because I love to play soccer, but my team was so much more competitive than me (I played for love of the game and not to win). I left my team with the knowledge that I’m not into overly competitive sports and I learned something about myself. Try out something and if it’s not for you that’s okay, but at least give it a try first.

You can do what you’re friends are doing or you can make your own path. Most of us go to high school and don’t know half of the people there when we start – clubs are a great way for freshmen to make new friends and become part of something.

When I started high school I only knew like 2-3 people at my school. I mentioned to someone that I liked anime and the next day some upperclassmen grabbed me during lunch, brought me to a table full of strangers and said “you are now one of us,” it was the anime club. I didn’t know how to react, but I joined them and made lots of friends in an instant.

Even if you’re not a freshman, clubs/sports are awesome opportunities to expand yourself and your social circle. You might even find yourself doing something you never thought you could/would do.

I have a friend named Bianca who was this shy girl with a lot of hidden talent, when she joined the soccer team she found something in herself she didn’t know was there and she later rose to the top. Now she’s also a brilliant artist who at first couldn’t see it in herself.

Never tell yourself that you can’t do something because you lack the “it” that makes it so other people can. You might be surprised what talents you haven’t found in yourself yet, being a teenager there’s plenty more for you to learn about yourself.

If there isn’t a club/sport at your school that you like, you can look elsewhere. I was part of Village Parks, a group that meets at park buildings and tries to connect with cultures all around the world. It had nothing to do with my high school, but it was an organized club that worked in the community. I also did martial arts that were not offered by my school, the point is to get out there.

Be yourself, be brave and be active.

Prove to me and colleges that you’re something to be reckoned with, that you’re just what we need in a certain area. The point is that everybody can get out there, but not everybody will. Be the somebody who does/did rather than the somebody who could have. Look inside and let what’s in there free.

“A dream is what you want to do, but still haven’t pursued” -Aesop Rock.

Find yourself and be yourself through clubs/sports. You are capable.

Introducing Alia – MCTC

AliaHi, my name is Alia T. and I’m starting my second year of college at MCTC.

I’m not a religious person, but I do have some beliefs. I believe that everything happens for a reason and everything has purpose. Life can seem hopeless at times, being a person with depression I understand this. The thing is that even so we need to rise to the challenge and make our lives what we want them to be. School may be hard, but everyone can make it through.

I was raised by a non-biological parent & I wasn’t told the truth until I was 16. Even today I am still learning things I never knew about myself. I had a twin who died. I’m a 3rd Kyu (Brown Belt) in Shotokan Karate. I’m an artist, photographer, editor, writer, girlfriend, daughter, sister and I hope one day I can be someone’s mother too.

  • High School: Roosevelt High School
  • College: Minneapolis Community and Technical College
  • Majors: Cinema and Liberal Arts
  • Dream Career: Jack of Many Trades
  • Spirit Animal: White Tiger (mythological: Dragon)
  • Hobbies/Interests: Drawing, editing movies, photography, biology, psychology, martial arts, writing, face-painting, working with kids, photoshopping, Arabic, Japanese, studies of ascension…etc
  • Favorite Food: Tie between Mandu (Korean Dumplings) and House Special Fried Rice