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The Hudsucker is an online magazine made up of unique and dedicated writers with fresh voices from across the country and overseas. Our team of writers are passionate and driven, bringing forth their personalities in each article. Since its inception in 2012, The Hudsucker has continuously proven how writing is our strongest fingerprint. By creating a smart and ambitious environment for readers, the digital magazine focusing on popular culture aims to be relatable through experiences and passions.

Community College Isn’t As Bad As You Think: Learnings from a Current Student

Santa Fe College spring 2013 commencement (image credit: Brad McClenny / The Gainesville Sun)

February 10, 2012 was one of the worst days of my life.

I found out then that I had been denied admission to my dream school, the University of Florida. I was absolutely heartbroken, but after bawling my eyes out for a couple hours, I realized that I still wanted to be a Gator.

Gainesville, Fla. may be the heart of Gator Nation, but a lot of people forget that it’s the home of Santa Fe College as well. SF is a well-respected community college with an enrollment of about 24,000 students, many of whom attend to earn an associate degree, which is usually the key to transferring into a four-year school.

I had never imagined myself even considering going to SF before UF denied me. I am an alumna of a private college prep school and was part of an extremely competitive class — most of the people I graduated with are now enrolled at universities such as Yale, Princeton, Notre Dame and UCLA. It’s uncommon for people from my high school to go to or desire to go to community college. Because of this, there was a tiny bit of hesitation on my part on whether or not to go to SF. However, when I discovered that going there meant I still had a chance being accepted to UF through the transfer process, I pushed all the “what-will-everyone-else-think” thoughts out of my mind and went for it. I can now safely say that going to community college has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Throughout my time at SF, I’ve found that a lot of what people say about community college just isn’t true. I thought I’d clear up a few of those misconceptions.

Community college is an excellent stepping stone to four-year schools.

Sitting in an introductory-level class with 500 other students has always freaked me out a little bit, especially coming from a small school where I knew everybody and only had 50 people in my graduating class. To me, community college seems like a watered-down version of normal four-year school. It’s kind of like easing into a pool versus getting pushed off the high dive. There are no huge lecture halls on the SF campus. All of my classes are in normal-sized classrooms, and I usually have around 20 classmates. Since there aren’t a million people in every class, you can get a good amount of one-on-one time with professors. It is much harder to get lost in the shuffle because there are less people around you.

By completing all of my general education courses at SF, I have basically skipped the whole taking-classes-in-subjects-I’m-really-not-interested-in-alongside-the-entire-freshman-enrollment scenario, a characteristic of big schools that has always been criticized. I can now spend my time at UF studying topics I actually care about in smaller class sizes. I consider that a win-win.

There are some quality teachers who are amazing at, well, teaching.

Especially at bigger universities, many professors both teach and conduct research in their field, which can lead to questions about how committed they are to their students. At SF, I have found that the teachers I have had are very focused on educating their classes rather than doing research. They make themselves very accessible and often give you their email addresses, office hours and cell phone numbers and encourage you to ask questions. This past semester I took microeconomics, a subject I had a lot of trouble with during my senior year of high school. Thankfully, I had an absolutely incredible teacher who somehow made it very easy (or as easy as you can make marginal cost curves and the law of diminishing marginal utility) to understand the material. He would give us a week to take each quiz online and allowed us to ask questions about how to solve the problems before we turned it in for a grade.

Also, don’t believe statements like “community college professors are less educated than university professors.” Wrong. They are just as educated, if not more in some cases. My American national government professor attended Notre Dame for undergrad, George Washington University (in Washington, D.C.) for his master’s and is completing his doctorate at UF. He’s also worked on Capitol Hill. I’m pretty sure he’s 30 years old. How’s that for higher learning?

You have just as many choices in terms of getting involved.

I have a part-time job at SF working as a communications assistant for the Communications & Creative Services department, meaning that faculty, staff and occasionally students email me tips or stories to write about. I’ve only been working since the end of November, but through my work, I’ve discovered that there is always something going on around campus. SF has tons of clubs and organizations to get involved in, such as Phi Theta Kappa (the community college honor society), Graphic Design Student Association, Polished Professionals (a business etiquette club) and even Society for Nerds. Student Government throws fairs usually during the beginning of every semester to inform students about their extracurricular options. You can also start your own organization if it doesn’t already exist — Polished Professionals is only a couple months old.

SF isn’t lacking in athletics either. Men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball all compete at the varsity level and have been very successful over the years (plus students can get in free with their IDs — at UF, students have to pay to see a Gator football game). You can also play club or recreational sports like ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball, football and soccer.

In the end, my “plan B” worked. I will receive my AA degree in August (I did a two-year degree in one year — that’s a story for another day) and was accepted to the University of Florida in January. I am head over heels excited to be officially going to UF in August (and living on campus!), but I have no ill will and zero regrets toward having to go to SF first. I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason,” and SF has made me more mentally tough and persistent, not only in my schoolwork, but in life as well. After all, “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” and community college has helped me get to where I want to go!

About the Authors

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Layne Weitzel was a contributing writer to The Hudsucker. She is a freshman at Santa Fe College, where she also works part-time as a communications assistant, and will be transferring to the University of Florida in August 2013. She is a proud supporter and advocate of the March of Dimes, which works to eliminate prematurity and birth defects in babies. She enjoys watching too much TV, inhaling popcorn and Trader Joe’s cookie butter, laughing at things that aren’t that funny and denying constant requests to straighten her hair, among countless other things. Layne lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Follow Layne on Twitter: @laynejweitzel

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