Is community college a waste?

This high school senior is scared of being left behind.

Don’t despair, says our elder. And don’t discount community college.


Dear EWC

Hi, I’m currently a high school senior, and I have no idea what to do once I graduate. I was thinking of going to college for Library Science, but I have no idea if I’ll even get into college. I’m passing school, sure, but that’s it. I don’t think anyone would accept me. I know community college is an option, but honestly, should I even bother? The way people talk about community college makes it seem like I’d just be wasting my time. I just don’t know. This is the modern age; jobs require so much and I don’t have much at all. And I’m not smart enough to even qualify for the help I need. I’m scared I’m going to end up left behind. Just… are there any options? I don’t want to sound snobby but I really don’t want to end up in poverty. Not because I’m like, too good for it, but because again: this is the modern age. We can’t just work in factories with union jobs anymore. It’s a cubicle or standing for eight-hour shifts working for peanuts. I want to be able to have a family, to pay for field trips and vacations. I feel like I’ve worried enough, I’d like to minimize money worries. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just worrying. But it’s be nice to hear some advice from someone who’s already done the whole “life” thing. Thank you.


Ketchman replies

I’m glad you contacted us. I’ll try to help.

Well, I may be the person you’re looking for – in as much as I’ve done most “of the whole ‘life’ thing”. Hopefully, I’ve still got a few years left.

There’s no need to despair. Really. You’ve got many years ahead of you full of opportunities that you are, or can be, well qualified for. If you truly want to study library science there are over 50 universities in the US that offer a Library Science degree. I’m pretty sure there will be several that will accept you and, from the bit of research I did, after reading your message, most people who completed that field of study were satisfied with their choice.

Let’s talk about community college. I know it’s got a bad rep among a lot of high schoolers. That’s very unfortunate. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in university studies and got the degrees to prove it but, of all the schools I’ve attended, my two years in a public community college were the most worthwhile. What that school did for me, and can do for you, was to offer some useful career counseling that – best of all – introduced me to a number of career alternatives I had never considered or even heard of, got me qualified in one so that after graduation I was able to find work that was relatively secure, well paid, and provided a springboard for other interesting opportunities. Community colleges also enable you to complete up to two years of credits that can be transferred to a four-year university at far less cost than taking those years at the university. If you’re unsure about what career you’d like to follow, a public community college is a good place to be while you’re trying to figure it out.

Even if you choose, or otherwise end up in, a job that doesn’t require a four-year degree, you have much better alternatives than “a cubicle or standing for eight-hour shifts working for peanuts”. That’s provided you get the post high school training that a public community college or, in some cases, an industrial employer, can provide. There are quite a few blue-collar professions that will pay considerably more than many university graduates can expect to earn. I’ve no idea of what might interest you, but, for example, I randomly picked out a few jobs that you can get qualified for in two years or less. A paralegal can make an average of close to $50,000 a year, a heavy equipment operator close to $70,000, and a surgical technician somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000. You’ve got options.

There are other things you might try. The military – a choice that’s certainly not for everyone – has long been used as sort of a “placeholder” for those who can’t figure out what to do with themselves after high school. That choice, along with its obvious risks, can teach you a trade and pay for university or other training as well as provide experiences, good and not so good, available nowhere else. I’ve got some experience with that alternative so, if you like, let me know and we can discuss it.

I hope I’ve convinced you there’s no reason why you should be destined to end up in poverty or working some kind of soul-destroying job. As long as you’re willing to do a little research and get the necessary training you’ll discover there’s a whole world of career opportunities out there that will help you gain financial security, a fulfilling career, and the ability to have a family, save for retirement, and have a bit of fun along the way. You sent us a well written message that, nicely, made your point so I know you’re smart enough; and you took the initiative to reach out to us so I know you’ve got what it takes to succeed on whatever paths you choose.  We’d love to accompany you on that journey. Take us along as a resource to turn towards whenever you’d like a second opinion or bit of advice on ‘most anything. If you like, you can always ask for me and I’ll be happy to respond. Thank you for giving me a chance to help. I hope I have.

Article #: 485121

Category: School

One Comment

  1. I have been pondering the same question. I am currently on my second university and am considering transferring to a community college just now.

    I had a full tuition scholarship at my first university but the way they handled the pandemic and online classes made me leave and the current institution I am at is taking money from me that I don’t really have. I am a first generation college student and went to a public city school – I didn’t have the best grades either. What I have found is colleges want your story. I only apply to test optional schools for that reason. It’s not about the grades at that point. What do you want to offer to humanity? What changes do you want to make within yourself through your academic work that can reflect well on others?

    I was just as lost after high school and took a gap year to work, I found it really beneficial and eye opening because it prepared me for what kind of work space I want to be in and also allowed me the space to contemplate what kind of work environment I see myself in. Now, I’m in college with academic honors and still just as lost. At the end of the day don’t fear about the needs and qualifications if you constantly bring into your reality the kinds of things you want, they will be there because the truth is they already are they are just waiting for you to find them.

    I think community college is a safer bet because like the above person, if you transfer to a four year university you will save more money and on top of that I think it creates more academic discipline and creates a willingness to change. I should have listened to what I am saying to you now when I was a senior.

    Best of luck 🙂

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