Why Community College May Be The Best Thing You Ever Do

If you’re anything like I was during senior year in high school, you have an idea of the college you want to attend, but you absolutely don’t have the GPA to get in. You’re looking back at the last four years you’ve spent as a high school student with loads of memories from your time with friends, spirit weeks and finding the best ways to hide your poor report cards from your parents.

If that doesn’t sound like you, then maybe you simply have no idea where you want to go and no clue what you would ever major in. Or, maybe community college is the best way to go for financial reasons.

Either way, congratulations on unhappily accepting that community college is the best option for you. At this state, it feels like you’re going into 13th grade because you can name at minimum 15 people in your graduating class who are also going to your local community college. Does that sound about right?

If you’ve happily accepted going to a community college, I applaud you, and encourage you to continue reading anyway.

I found my dream school during my sophomore year of high school, but when I graduated, I didn’t have the grades to get in. I’ll get really real here, I had a 2.3 GPA. Yikes. In high school, I cared way more about hanging out with friends, playing sports, providing free entertainment for my fellow classmates, and being that one person who knew everything about everyone.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/497788565035142327/

No really, my hair has always been huge. Look at this picture of 5-year-old me.

Color and tell you latest gossip I could do, math and science, I could not.

School was just not my forte. I strongly disliked teachers and I despised homework. I could not find anything that motivated me to do well in high school. Not even the wrath of mom and dad I would experience if I dared to once again bring home a less-than-stellar report card with comments that said something along the lines of, “Amanda has a bright personality, but she lacks commitment to her schoolwork.”

Even though I had supersized dreams of being the next Oprah or Ellen, my grades screamed 2007 Britney Spears.

Reality hit me senior year like Britney’s umbrella hit that car when I realized I would have to hold off on going to the college I really wanted to go to and instead venture seven minutes from my childhood home to attend a community college the next city over. It didn’t feel like I was taking that next big step in life; it was more of a baby step I dreaded taking as my former classmates passed me by on their way to their dorms somewhere far away. Admittedly, I was embarrassed when I had to tell people my plans for after high school. As someone who cares way too much about what other people think, it stung when I had to deliver the disappointing news. I immediately had to back it up with my overall plan to make it seem better…

I’m going to community college to get my associates in communications, but then I will transfer to my dream college in Boston to get my bachelors in Broadcast Journalism… eventually, I will be the school’s most esteemed Alumna with my own talk show, 16 mansions, and an entire building named after me at my alma mater.

I know, that second part is taking it too far, but it’s definitely where I saw this plan going.

So, “college” started and I can still remember my first day. It was pouring rain and I got lost walking from the parking garage to the main campus with Old Navy flip flops on my soaking wet feet. Those rubber flip flops aren’t well known for their fabulous traction, let’s just say that. It was like the cobblestone streets of Downtown turned into an ice skating rink. I could barely walk. It was off to a not-so-great start. I walked-slipped my way to campus with a fake smile on my face, when inside I was beating myself up for getting myself into this situation in the first place.

I learned my lesson and wore proper footwear to my classes thereafter. Now, I’m not sure if it was the fact that my feet were comfy and dry, but things started to really turn around for me as I continued going to classes.

I am not sure how long I was attending this melting pot of a school, but I eventually had a very important realization.

No one was going to accomplish my dreams for me. I was going to have to actually work to achieve the things I wanted. Mind blowing, right? It only took me 18 years to figure out this pretty obvious fact. But, I credit going to a community college for playing a big role in guiding me toward this newfound insight.

Community college has this stigma of being an “easy way out” or “not really being college”. I am here to encourage you to not belittle community college based on these stigmas and preconceived notions.

I sure learned how valuable a community college experience can be.

When I got over myself and accepted the place I was in, I worked hard in all of my classes and did everything I was supposed to do, and then some. I saw the payoff. I continuously received As, and I showed care, commitment and dedication to the work I was doing. I no longer wanted to hide my grades, but show them off. I think it was because I had something to work toward. I learned I was a very goal-oriented person. For the first time in a long time, I had something to be proud of. Something that was all mine.

This life-changing realization is something that continues to stick with me. In high school, I was always surrounded by what was familiar, by what felt comfortable, and anything beyond that was scary and I wanted to avoid it.

Going to a community college gave me the push I needed to get out of my comfort zone. Suddenly, I was surrounded by students with different goals, backgrounds and experiences. And, I was seeing exactly what I was capable of achieving.

I have no doubt in my mind that if I had gone to my preferred school right after high school, I would’ve sunk and not swam. Not only was I not ready academically, but I wasn’t ready socially or mentally either. I needed to be challenged with different perspectives and truly dive into the passion for learning and hard work.

Even though I still saw my friends and other people I went to high school with, the environment was completely different than high school. I was basically on my own, and that not only helped me figure out what I needed to do to achieve my own success and understand my definition of success, but it helped me to spread my wings and view people and the world a little bit differently. Naturally, I began to distance myself away from what was familiar so that I could voluntarily explore the unfamiliar.

Community college taught me how to be a real student, to understand the importance and value of education, and it gave me the tools and resources necessary to help me harness my strengths and use them for good.  I learned to identify my weaknesses and not let them hold me back. It taught me how to set a goal and do the work necessary to achieve it.

Don’t be ashamed to let people know that you will be attending a community college after high school. When you get where you want to go, you will not only swim, but you will flourish, and be way better off than you would be without a community college on your resume.

So, I know you’re wondering. Did I move on to that dream school?

Yes, I did. After 2 ½ years at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts, where it poured rain on the first day of classes every single year, I not only graduated with a 4.0 GPA, but I immediately transferred to Emerson College in the beautiful city of Boston where I majored in Journalism, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a 3.9 GPA. I know, they couldn’t have just given me the 4.0?!

I am now taping the second season of my talk show, I’m in the process of building my 4th mansion, and last year, they renamed one of the buildings on Boylston Street the “Amanda Bridge Journalism Building”. Just kidding. But, I did have a whole new set of adventures and life-changing realizations. That’s another blog post for a different day, though.

Of course, this is a financial blog, so you know I have to add in something involving money, right?

I’ll just leave you with this sad, dark truth.

I went to a community college for 2 ½ years. I am fortunate that I didn’t leave with any student debt. When I graduated from that dream private school, which I attended for just two years, I left with $110,000 in student loans. Not so dreamy, and not so fortunate. College is expensive. Imagine if I went all four years…

Consider community college with optimism. It could be the best thing you do for your future and for your wallet.

Shout out to Middlesex Community College. Feel free to have your people call my people to feature me in an Alumni Success Story… or to name a building after me. Whatever you feel like.

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