There is so much excitement for seniors graduating high school – homecoming, football games, and prom. However, there is also a lot of pressure for high school seniors.
A common dilemma these graduates face is what’s next. With so many options, it can be overwhelming.
For many, the biggest choice is whether to attend a four-year university straight off or if they would like to attend a community college first.
For me, that choice was easy. I went to my local community college for the first two years of my undergraduate degree. I attended Meridian Community College in my hometown of Meridian.
At first, attending a community college right of high school was not what I wanted. I thought I was ready to get out of my hometown and do my own thing, and I had planned to do that by going straight to the University of Mississippi.
However, my parents and I decided that Meridian Community College was a much better option for me to start my degree. Although I was disappointed that my dream of attending Ole Miss for four years was gone, very quickly I learned there are many positive benefits of choosing to continue your education at a community college first.
One of the biggest benefits is the cost of tuition. For example, Meridian Community College offers free tuition to those who graduate from any school in Lauderdale County, so economically it was the best choice for me.
My tuition at Meridian Community College averaged around $1,500 per semester, and I was able to save on living expenses since I was still living at home with my mom.
During my first semester at the University of Mississippi, tuition was approximately $6,500. That is almost four times the cost of my education per semester at my community college.
Unfortunately, $6,500 for tuition does not include my living expenses, which are approximately $5,000 a semester. It is very easy to see that I saved a ton of money by starting my degree at my local community college.
Another great benefit of MCC was that many of my friends from school and town chose to attend there before heading to a four-year university. I think having those close to me nearby made the transition into college life much easier.
One of my favorite parts of being able to attend a community college first was that, since I was living at home, I was always close to my friends and family. They were always positive and encouraging.
By staying at home, or close to home, for my first two years of college, I had many opportunities I might not have received otherwise. During my time in high school, I was very active in my community, and I continued that role while pursuing my education close to home. I volunteered with some of my favorite organizations, such as Merrehope Historical Home and the United Way.
Another amazing benefit of community college was how much easier I feel it was for me to adjust to the newfound freedom college gave me. Quickly after moving away from home, I realized how easy it is to get away from your schedule. Learning to manage your time is much more difficult to do when you are given more freedom.
Meridian Community College offered courses that were manageable, yet challenging enough to keep me focused. I kept my grades up and worked to save money so I could continue my degree.
One of the best reasons to attend a community college first is that, since the student/ teacher ratio is much smaller at a two-year institution than a four-year one, the teachers spend more time with their students if they needed help. One of my instructors, Mrs. Connie Brand, was probably the hardest teacher I have had in both high school and college, but she cared about her students.
She taught World Civilization I and II. Her strict instruction and passion for teaching made me love attending her class and made me more interested in history. I saw the subject like I never had before. I believe the smaller classroom size at my community college made it easier to transition from high school to a college setting.
Attending a four-year university right after high school is a great option for many, but I know it was not for me. I think far too often people look down on community colleges without realizing the benefits. I know I was also quick to judge before actually attending one.
I am so thankful for my time at Meridian Community College, and the opportunities it provided me. I know by choosing community college first that I made the right choice for me.