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.

Summer Break: More Than Just A Time For Fun


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!

Scholarships: They Can Make Your Dreams Come True

One benefit of receiving scholarships is that some organizations hold ceremonies for the winners! These are a few programs I have collected from the celebrations

by Cara

If scholarships didn’t exist, I don’t think I’d be sitting in a library at the University of St. Thomas right now. I knew that if I wanted to attend college, scholarships would certainly be involved. Don’t let financial barriers stop you from going after your dream of attending college. It’s never too early to start seeking out scholarships. There is a scholarship for every major and career interest. Local scholarships are especially worth applying to because fewer people are eligible for them which increases your chances.

A great resource that led me to many of the scholarships I applied for was the weekly AchieveMpls College & Career Center announcements. Check out Southwest’s here or South’s here. Most people don’t take the time to read the emails their school sends them about scholarships and other opportunities, but take the five minutes and you could end up getting a head start on paying for college!

This isn’t my first time writing about scholarships; click here for an article I wrote for TheProspect.net, a college admissions advice website, on ways to improve your chances of winning scholarships. Since I’ve previously written about general ways to help students in their scholarship search, I thought it would be helpful to focus on specific scholarship programs that MPS students can benefit from.

Here are two scholarships you should take the time to apply for because they will benefit you in many ways more than just financial support:

Page Education Foundation

I am proud to be a Page Scholar! The PEF awards scholarships in the range of $1,000-$2,500 depending of the type of college the student will attend. Page Scholars agree to spend at least 50 hours during the year tutoring and mentoring children in grades K-8. The scholarships can be renewed each year, all the way through graduate school. For my Service-To-Children project, I am tutoring fourth graders in math and reading at a local elementary school. It is my first time volunteering with children, and I’ll admit I was nervous at first. Don’t let the volunteer component deter you from applying. It feels great to know you are inspiring and helping a child succeed.

The main eligibility requirements:

  • A student of color
  • A graduate of a Minnesota high school
  • Planning to attend or already enrolled in a community or technical college, vocational school, or 4-year college in Minnesota
  • Willing to complete a minimum of 50 hours for a Service-to-Children project

Two recommendations, an essay, and information about the activities you are involved in are required. Financial need is also taken into account when selecting scholars. The application will be available in January 2015 and due in May 2015.

Wallin Education Partners

I am also proud to be a Ronald Scholar through the Wallin Education Partners! Each scholar has a specific donor, whether it is a business such as General Mills or an individual. The scholarship is worth $16,000 over four years, or $4,000 per year. In addition to the financial support, each scholar is assigned a Wallin advisor to help them navigate the transition to college. At the start of the school year, all of the scholars at my school attended a gathering held by the foundation and there will be more held throughout the year. We also have access to other events such as career fairs and volunteering opportunities.

Here are the requirements to be eligible for the scholarship:

  • Senior at one of the seven traditional Minneapolis Public Schools (Students at St. Paul, Anoka-Hennepin, and North Metro schools are also eligible)
  • G.P.A of 3.0 or higher
  • ACT score of 19 or higher
  • Applying to at least one 4-year college in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, or one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
  • Family taxable income of $75,000 or less

Aside from your academic performance, two essays, letters of recommendation, and your service and leadership involvement play a role in their selection process. The application will open up this December and is usually due in mid-January.

A few other opportunities worth checking out are the Gates Millenium Scholars Program, Minnesota Association of Counselors of Color scholarship, Pohlad Scholars Program, QuestBridge Programs and the Horatio Alger Association scholarships.

Scholarships can help your dreams come true, so start planning to apply now. If you’re a senior make a list of those you want to apply to, which teachers you’ll ask for recommendations, and brainstorm essay topics. If you’re a junior or younger, bookmark the scholarship links or save them in a Google Doc. You’ll be thankful when the stress of senior year arrives.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive the first scholarships you apply for. Or the first five. You’ll have your moment. Don’t give up and view each application as a chance to improve. I questioned if I’d ever have my moment, then I was pulled out of my Spanish class during February of my senior year. It was my admissions counselor from the University of St. Thomas letting me know they were offering me a full-tuition scholarship for all four years. Never give up, work hard, and it’ll all pay off in the end. Check out the new process recently put in place for this scholarship here.

If you have any questions for me about the scholarships listed, or scholarships in general, feel free to leave a comment!

When it comes to Scholarships, be like Mr. Krabs


by Lucillia

Who doesn’t love free money? However, if anybody needs it, I am pretty sure that college students would top the list.

When I first started high school I didn’t think that college was really a choice of mine. Going into my freshman year of high school, my brother was beginning his freshman year at St. Cloud State. Before the first semester ended, however, he moved back home due to his inability to keep up with the costs. The thing that really worried me was that my parents said they wouldn’t co-sign a loan for him. And if they wouldn’t do it for him, then they sure wouldn’t do it for me. But I was naïve back then. There are sooo many ways to pay for school above and beyond just taking the entire cost out in loans.

Going into my sophomore year of high school, and looking back on his poor decisions I realized where he messed up. He got good grades, but he wasn’t really involved, he wasn’t networking and he wasn’t enrolled in any college prep programs such as AVID or College Possible.

Despite my fear of not being able to afford college, I really wanted to go. So I kind of “over did it” with my involvement. But boyyyyy, did it pay off!

Long story short, I was awarded three scholarships. One from St Thomas that covers pretty much everything except room and board, and two others to cover my room and board. If I hadn’t gotten the scholarships that I did, I wouldn’t have been able to go to St Thomas.

Some factors that I believe to have helped me to succeed in securing scholarships:

1. College Possible (I won’t go into details in what they do, blah, blah, blah, check out the link – but just know that you should join!);

2. I was also an AVID student;

3. Educational Talent Search student;

4. I took challenging courses; and

5. I networked.

I also went to college visits that my high school’s College and Career Center (CCC) hosts. Sometimes students go out as field trips and sometimes they have Admissions Counselors from a particular college come and give small presentations about their school.

Now remember that I never could have even dreamed about going to an expensive private school. But I decided to go any way. I personally talked my Admissions counselor and went on my way. A couple of months later he was back at my school, wanting to speak to me. I didn’t know what to expect, but he ended up selecting me as a Dease Scholar.

The moral of this little story is networking. Learn what it is, and do it often. You never know who you are going to meet, and when an opportunity will present itself. It’s very important to always leave a great first impression. It’s also great to be involved. Programs like College Possible, AVID and TRIO can help you out so much in the long run.

Yes it is a lot of work, and exhausting. But in the end, it’s so worth it!