1. Home
  2. Education
  3. news
  4. I saved so much money by going to community college — and then, I was able to transfer to UC Berkeley

I saved so much money by going to community college — and then, I was able to transfer to UC Berkeley

Kaitlin Clapinski   

I saved so much money by going to community college — and then, I was able to transfer to UC Berkeley
  • I didn't want to go to a community college, but then I realized I would save a lot of money.
  • At my community college, I found great teachers, inspiring classes, and engaged students.

I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with $40,000 in student debt. Consolidating four years of college experience into one large, daunting number feels grim. But that number could have been so much worse.

Instead of spending all four years at UC Berkeley, I enrolled in a community college in San Diego for my freshman and sophomore years, saving thousands of dollars. If I hadn't, I would owe six figures in student debt.

Community college changed my life for the better.

At first, the idea of going to community college was a hard pill to swallow

I grew up in a middle-class family, so the cost of college felt like a punch in the gut.

Plus, I was only 17 at the time and unsure whether my niche hobby would one day become my career. My younger self was also worried about making a decision; the thought of choosing a place to spend the next four years — and thousands of dollars — paralyzed me.

When it finally came time to choose, I started looking into my local community college. On the outside, a two-year school is anything but enticing. I always thought community college was for people with bad grades who carelessly floated by with no direction or ambition. I also thought the campuses weren't up to date and the curriculum was less than optimal.

But once I started doing research, I learned that my local community college would be free for me through the California Promise Program, which waives first-time students' enrollment fees and, in my case, tuition. On top of this, I learned I could join the school's soccer program, which gave me a community of friends and a few extra years to play my favorite sport competitively.

It was a done deal: I decided to enroll in San Diego Mesa College.

My 2 years at the community college were better than I'd expected

My experience in community college wasn't all positive. It was hard to make friends, and navigating transfer requirements wasn't easy. Plus, I often found myself comparing my experience with that of my peers at four-year universities.

But community college relit a spark of motivation to challenge myself in school. I had amazing teachers who wanted to make sure I succeeded. And because of the college credits I earned in high school, I could experiment with fun classes such as fermentation, art history, and political theory.

The best part was that I didn't feel rushed to choose a major. I had the freedom and time to let my frontal lobe develop a little longer before I had to pick a course for my life, which wouldn't have been the case at a four-year school. I felt there was less pressure to choose a major at my two-year school than there is at a four-year school.

Little by little, I was able to gain back my confidence. I realized it was OK if I wanted to get a liberal-arts degree, and I was able to reassure myself that a financially stable future was possible without a passion for STEM or finance.

My preconceived notions of community college began to dissolve as I continued school. The campus at Mesa was quaint, and I met driven, passionate students.

What's more, I began to reevaluate my, and many of my peers', relationship with education. I met other students who also believed that the typical college experience of living in a dorm and joining a sorority wasn't worth going into debt for. Going to a community college made me value college for what it is — an education.

I'm so grateful for my time at community college and what it taught me about myself

When I graduated from my community college, I was able to enroll in UC Berkeley — my dream school. Once I transferred, I felt empowered and more prepared for the traditional college experience.

I learned that it's not a bad thing to give yourself more time to grow up before taking out thousands of dollars in debt or choosing the career path you'll have forever.

Believing in community college was the best decision I've ever made.

Popular Right Now