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The Importance of Community College

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Photo courtesy of GRCC Communications Department.

By Sherry Sokolowski

There are so many stereotypes and misconceptions that plague community colleges. For some reason, people undermine them – they think the education is “easier”, the degrees aren’t as valuable compared to degrees from four-year institutions, the students attend because they can’t get into universities…and the list goes on and on. It’s unfair to the community college’s dedicated and passionate students, faculty and staff. 

Don’t get me wrong – when I first started at GRCC, I believed some of these myths. While most of my friends were going off to massive universities, getting the “college experience”, I was going to my campus solely for classes and work and then going straight home. My friends would call me and tell me these elaborate stories about their experiences and I wouldn’t have much to say in return. I was feeling alone, slightly embarrassed, and wished I was at a university, too.

In hindsight, I should have never felt that way. You determine your community college experience – if you choose to go to campus merely for classes and then head straight home, then you probably will feel similar to how I did. However, if you choose to get involved and make the most of your time here, then your entire perspective will change. 

I would not be who I am now without attending GRCC. It has helped me grow and develop into the professional I want to be while providing me with new perspectives and introducing me to people from all walks of life. It has yielded me leadership skills that I would not have gained otherwise and presented me with amazing opportunities. 

I’ve had the opportunities to have three on-campus jobs, become a president of a student organization and a vice president of the Campus Activities Board, write for GRCC’s student newspaper, be apart of the Honors Program, and take a temporary job through the school for a study related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Once you get involved, you meet and build connections with so many wonderful people, which can help open doors for you across campus. There are a multitude of established student organizations ranging from gaming to gardening that you can join – and if you don’t find something that interests you, you can start your own club. 

The word “community” in community college is entirely accurate. You really do build a community – you’re at a smaller school which makes it easier to network and build connections all over campus. There have been countless times where I’ve worked with college deans, had conversations with our college president, and collaborated with other executive leadership and faculty. You definitely do not get that at a larger institution. 

One of the predominant benefits of a community college is the financial piece. You save a great deal of money and because of this, there is a great deal of flexibility. There’s not as much pressure to immediately determine a major as you can afford to take classes and figure out what you’re truly passionate about. 

Take it from me – I’ve changed my major five separate times. Luckily, I’ve had the flexibility to do so to ascertain where I truly see fit for myself without losing buckets of money. So far, I am unimpeded by student loan debt which my future self is already thankful for. By virtue of GRCC’s agreement with Ferris State University, I’ll even be able to get a third of my Bachelor’s degree completed here at GRCC’s tuition prices! 

During my time here at GRCC, it’s evident that the college staff does care about students, and they will do everything they can to help them and propel them forward into their career paths. I cannot imagine going to any other institution. 

Once you get into a community college setting, all of the stigmas surrounding it fall apart immediately. Community college is not a lesser quality of education – in fact, it’s greater.