4-year Universities vs. Community Colleges

 CC
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.

How to Win Over Freshmen and Influence People

Being a role model when you’re really not sure what you’re doing in your own life.

role model

by Natalie

Not to toot my own horn, but I am killing it in sophomore year.

In the past two months and seven days, I have started taking classes that I really, truly enjoy.  I have met some wonderful people.  I have written a handful of opinion columns that I’m very proud of (you can find the latest post here).  I started a club.  I finished a play and submitted it to a theatre competition.

But, most importantly, I have learned something new about myself: I’m pretty darn good at giving advice and being a support system.

At the beginning of this year, I began collecting freshman.  Not on purpose.  I didn’t go around with a butterfly net chasing the kids who still wore their high school state speech sweatshirts or letterman’s jackets.  I just, slowly but surely, became very close with a large network of first year students.  And, as I gained this new circle of friends, I gained a reputation for having the answers.  Which, if you’ve read any of my blogs from my freshman year, you’d know I don’t necessarily have.

Last year, I was an absolute disaster.

I spent my days panicking and not attending my classes.  This year, I have taken up the new habit of writing down exactly when I’m going to fulfill my responsibilities.  I’ve also taken to writing out To-Do lists.  Long story short, I’ve got my “poop in a group” this year.

As the year has progressed, I have become well-versed in taking people down, if you will. College is when a lot of people start to have mental health issues.  It’s stressful and challenging and there is a demand for a constant, shiny, happy attitude on college campuses.

It can become overwhelming.

Anxiety and depression are things I developed and learned to deal with last year.  My roommates have also struggled with mental health in their time in college.  So, because we have life experiences with not knowing how to deal, room 716 has become a popular hangout for first years who need help.

It’s fulfilling work, being a role model.  It brings me a lot of pride, knowing that I can help people because I’ve been in their shoes.  I have comforted these lost first years through times of self-doubt and it has strengthened my own ability to cope with overwhelming circumstances.  I have counseled a few of them through existential crises and “what if I hate my major” meltdowns and it has made clear to me that the struggles I faced last year were not unique.

Last year, when I began struggling with my schoolwork and mental health, my dad gave me an analogy that I have used on quite a few panicky freshmen this year:

When you forge friendships, you sign a contract for a shared emotional bank account.  We all have to withdraw sometimes when times get hard and the rent to live in our own heads goes up.  We all deposit into this account when we win the lottery and everything goes right.  Sometimes, you have to withdraw more than you deposit for a while.  But that’s fine because, eventually, you’ll be in a better place with a heavier emotional paycheck and you’ll be able to deposit back into the account when your friends need to withdraw.

There is a lot to be said for making it on your own, but there is more to be said for being able to ask for help.

When you arrive at college, a good thing to do is to seek out supportive friends.  It’s hard to see that at first glance but you’ll quickly learn who of your network of acquaintances is there for you.  Find and befriend your neighborhood know-it-all.  She/he knows where the counseling center is and how to study and how to lighten your load.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There is no shame in being in over your head.  There is no shame in struggling with your mental health or your classwork.  There is no shame in crying in front of your friends.

There is only shame in being too proud to admit to yourself that you can’t do it alone.

College is hard and sometimes, you just need to withdraw from your shared emotional bank account.

Midwest to West Coast

UC-Berkeley

by Maddi

Flying from Minneapolis to San Francisco International Airport, the first sign I saw when I stepped off the plane had directions to a yoga room. Needless to say, I had arrived in California! Too many suitcases and boxes in hand, my mom and I made our way through three-hour traffic over to the East Bay and our hotel right near my new school, the University of California at Berkeley.

yoga room

Move-in day was relatively smooth. My mom seemed to die a little inside each time she saw the size of my room, but I got the bottom bunk, which had been my main focus. To all future college dorm residents: the bottom bunk is essential to your overall happiness, so sacrifice other battles to win this one.

Along with the great bed situation, my randomly selected roommates turned out to be awesome. Picking random is a risk, but it also allows for the chance for you to meet people you might not normally reach out to, which is something that I definitely recommend.

So far, during the one month that I have lived here, Berkeley and life in California have lived up to almost every positive stereotype and expectation that I’d had coming from Minnesota.

It wasn’t just California’s weather that drew me here, but the stereotype that the people are generally open minded and progressive. The atmosphere of the student body and the type of people living in Berkeley were really important to me, and I think that these are factors that can greatly affect your adaptation to college, especially if you’re going far from home. I was able to bond with my floor-mates and most people I met quickly due to our similar values and mindsets. My Spanish class bonded right away through our discussions on Donald Trump and immigration, for example.

Another enticing feature of Berkeley for me was the stereotype that students were not only socially aware and passionate about creating change, but that they were less mainstream and a little weirder than most student bodies. This is something that I found to be true as soon as I moved in, and is one of my favorite parts of being here.

Anything and everything goes here – whether that concerns clothing or recreational activity or whatever else. I joined the Berkeley Quidditch team and am currently enrolled in a Harry Potter class called “UC Hogwarts.” These were two of the best decisions I have ever made. The unique personality of the student body largely corresponds to the cultural diversity of the campus, and this is another factor that I have found to be really important.

Over half of my floor is international and thus racially and culturally diverse. In the one month I’ve lived here I have already learned more about east Asian and Indian culture than in my whole life up until now!

school board

Just as Berkeley exceeded my social expectations, the rigor of the academics was by no means exaggerated!

I walked into my first day of chemistry class with 400 very intelligent students to find a rotating blackboard filled with foreign concepts entitled, “A review of the fundamentals.” That being said, don’t be discouraged from applying or attending a prestigious school. I soon realized that most people were in the same boat as I was and I’ve developed good study habits that benefit my schedule.

I look forward to providing more Berkeley updates throughout the coming year!

Picking a Major/Path

major

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.

Opportunities = Endless

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by Ariana

First and foremost, the most important thing I have learned from college, is that going to school provides endless opportunities.

No doubt, this is the best aspect of college. There is so much you can do, it is honestly mind-blowing. Before I started college I made a promise to myself that I would be a part of anything that spiked my interest and to get out of my comfort zone.

And so I did.

I joined 6 clubs and 2 organizations. I soon found out that it was a bit too much for me to handle, I had spent all my time going to meetings, talking to different people, learning about new things, discovering so much about U of M – Duluth. But it was great. College was in the palm of my hands and I couldn’t wait to get a taste of it.

Every school year, during the 3rd week of school, UMD has an activities fair, all of the clubs and organizations present themselves so that you can join their force. Here at UMD we have over 300 clubs and organizations.

I’ll sum it up like this: I went to that fair twice to make sure I went through them all. I was definitely eager to become a part of this college community. I became an Intern for the General election this past November, I was a part of Student Ambassadors where I gave tours and spoke to all the high school students that would come to visit our campus and I was a Student Advisor helping incoming transfer students register for classes.

As far as clubs, I am a part of Psychology Club; UMD Serve (community service club); Students Today, Leaders Forever, “STLF,” (Community service trips across the country); and I was a part of International club and Latino/Chicana Student Association, “LCSA,” (Hispanic club). I almost did it all, while also maintaining a job on campus at the Box Office.

All of these organization have taught me a lot.

When I was working on the election, I got to meet a lot of really awesome candidates, including the governor of Minnesota. Student Ambassadors is something I am also passionate about, because I want students to learn about UMD through our experiences or to even just ask questions about life here at UMD, because I was once in their shoes, and I knew what it was like.

Other opportunities are Internships and volunteering – this semester I am becoming a Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, “PAVSA,” advocate. PAVSA is a state wide organization that is a program aid for victims of sexual assault. I will be starting training in February and then I will be working with the organization through UMD’s office. The reason why I am pursuing this opportunity is because my ultimate goal is to be a mental health counselor and doing this will give me good experience with counseling and helping people in need. I am very excited to take this step and it is a great example of how you can do anything on a college campus.

Also recently, the career and internship services came into my class to talk about how they can help you find a job or an internship and that they have connections all over the state. I strongly encourage all of the college-bound students that are reading this to make sure to take advantage of every opportunity presented, trust me you will not regret it and you’ll have more fun than you’ve ever imagined.

Until next time

-Ariana

Summer Break: More Than Just A Time For Fun

summer

by Cara

There’s more to summer break than binge watching Netflix, going to the mall with friends, and staying up late just because you can. While the summer is a good time to relax, it’s also a great time to start planning ahead for the path you’ll take after high school. Making use of your summer break by taking part in programs will look great on college and scholarship applications.

Whether you want to get an early start on the college application process or explore your academic interests, there is a program for you. The programs I attended during the summer helped me decided what to study in college, and I also think they helped me stand out in my applications.

Below are three summer programs that I think are worth checking out. The best part is all of these programs are free, and one of them even pays its participants!

Questbridge College Prep Scholarship

The Questbrige College Prep Scholarship is not a traditional scholarship because you do not receive money to pay college expenses. Instead, it is a pathway to summer opportunities and getting a head start on the college application process for current juniors.

I didn’t apply to this when I was in high school but I know a lot about the application process because it’s similar to their senior year program for which I was a finalist. Seniors can apply for their National College Match program that helps high-achieving, low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to selective colleges such as Columbia, Stanford, and Yale.

Students selected as College Prep Scholars will receive free test prep, priority consideration to receive all-expense-paid college visits, early access to the National College Match application, and assistance from Questbridge to strengthen their National College Match application.

Scholars may also receive one or more of the following: full scholarships to college summer programs, an invitation to a college admissions conference, personalized college essay support, telementoring with college students, and/or Quest for Excellence Awards.

The application opens in February and will be due on March 25, 2015.

To be eligible, students must be juniors who are planning to apply to college during the fall of their senior year. They must also meet the citizenship requirement by being a U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident, or international student attending high school in the United States.

Questbrige is looking for students who have shown outstanding academic ability despite any economic challenges their family has faced. Many College Prep Scholars come from households earning less than $60,000 annually for a family of four and have also experienced long-term economic hardship.

When looking at your application they look at academic achievement, financial need, and personal circumstances. To apply you need to submit a transcript, one recommendation from a core subject teacher, an essay and short answer questions, financial information, and any test score information if you have taken any of these tests: PSAT, SAT, PLAN, ACT, Subject Tests, IB, and AP.

Most students selected have an average GPA of 3.88, an ACT score of 27 or higher, and are in the top 10% of their class. One of the great aspects of this program is that they are willing to consider your personal circumstances, so don’t let a lower GPA, ACT score, and/or class rank stop you from applying.

Carleton Liberal Arts Experience: July 5-11, 2015

I did not attend this program, but I think it is a great opportunity for current sophomores, especially those interested in attending Carleton College or another small liberal arts college. Students spend the week living at Carleton and learning about liberal art education by taking courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology.

Workshops are also held to inform participants on topics such as ACT prep and the financial aid process. The program covers all costs including living in the residence halls and travel to the Carleton College campus.

To be eligible, students must plan to attend college after high school. They must also be of African American descent or have an interest in African American culture. The application requires students to answer seven short essay questions, submit a transcript with their freshman and sophomore year grades, and submit at least one letter of recommendation from an academic teacher.

The application is available now and is due on April 1, 2015.

GopherBusiness Program: July 17-25, 2015

This program is run by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Participants compete in a business case competition, take business classes, live in the dorms on campus for a week, and visit local businesses.

The business case competition involves a different local non-profit each year. The program is free and you even earn a stipend! If you attend the Carlson School after graduating from the program, you will also receive a scholarship.

From the program website, “each year, we select approximately 45 students to be a part of the GopherBusiness program. It’s a highly selective program. GopherBusiness applicants should be:

  • Current high school sophomores or juniors.
  • Interested in business, non-profit or organizational leadership.
  • From a diverse background; a future first-generation college student; from an economically disadvantaged background; students with disabilities; females; or students of LGBT and related identities.”

The ideal applicants for the program will have a minimum 3.4 cumulative grade point average, strong math and science coursework, and demonstrated leadership and involvement.

When I applied to the program, the application required a couple of essays, a list of activities I was involved in, and a form that my counselor needed to fill out.

The application for this summer’s program will open on February 6, 2015 and is due April 3, 2015.

Getting to live on a college campus for a week during the GopherBusiness camp really helped me feel prepared to leave for college this past fall. I met so many great people and I’m still in regular contact with my roommate and people from my competition group.

If you have any interest in studying business after high school, I highly recommend this program.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about applying to these programs!

College Culture Shock

lucille_stthomasclub_2014

by Lucillia

Culture shock is something that a person deals with when going into a new environment. For some it could be traveling to a new country where you’re not familiar with the culture and language. Or it could be as simple as going to a new school where it’s obvious that you represent the minority, as was the case for me.

My high school – Thomas Edison High –  was very diverse. Because my norm is being surrounded by many different cultures and ethnicities, coming to the University of St. Thomas has been very different for me.

In three of my four classes, I am one of the only African Americans. To me, it’s the “elephant in the room”. While I was typing this blog, I became curious if others felt this way too. I asked my friend (who represents the majority) if she noticed how “not diverse” our classes are. She said that she isn’t really aware of it. I wonder why that is…

So anyway, how can one who looks like an outsider fit in?

For me, the adjustment started this past summer. St Thomas offers a program each summer for incoming freshman who are “under represented” called The REAL Program (REAL stands for Reaching Excellence in Academics). My group consisted of 16 mixed people, Asians, Indians, African Americans and Latinos, and the program lasted five weeks (basically my WHOLE summer!). We took a theology course (which is required to graduate), got on-campus jobs, learned about and utilized many campus resources, lived on campus, did fun activities like Valley Fair, Minnesota United FC soccer games, movie nights, etc. (all for free!).

And most importantly, I met 15 of my best friends. Programs like this help with the transition from high school to college and bring awareness to diversity on campus. Some of my high school friends laughed at me for doing the REAL Program because it took up my whole summer, but it was really one of the best experiences of my life.

Looking for these types of programs is actually super easy. I took five minutes to search for diversity programs at different colleges in Minnesota. Hamline University in St. Paul has diversity scholarships (as most colleges do), the University of Minnesota has diversity leadership workshops and Mankato State University hosts enriching educational programs and cultural activity conferences for not only students, but faculty and staff as well. These groups and activities will help you feel included on campus and get some connections started.

In my three weeks so far on campus I have joined the Hana club, which is the biggest diversity club on campus. They host activities to promote awareness of different cultures. I really enjoy this club because there is a strong sense of community, like we’re all united. My roommate also identifies with the African American community, so this has helped with my transition from high school to college as well.

Dealing with culture shock is a serious thing. It causes you to be confused, sad, lonely and nervous. However, there are ways of dealing with it. Join clubs, make friends with everybody and just remember that lots of other people are in the same boat as you.

Most importantly, try and ignore it. Being able to adapt to new environments is a skill and it can be learned. Realize that you are part of the community, too!