Lifestyle

Advice for new college students: Start small

By JANICA LOCKHART

For the Mirror

One thing I want to tell high school seniors is to choose a college or university you will attend wisely.

My friends laughed at me when I told them I couldn’t attend a four-year college right out of high school and would have to probably attend a community college. For my Harvard-bound friends, this seemed like an embarrassment.

I was embarrassed, myself. I received scholarships and was at the top of my high school class. I had no savings, my parents had no money for college at the time and I knew I couldn’t afford all four years at a university.

I swayed back and forth between community college or just immediately diving into a four-year college.

It was a heart-breaking decision, but my decision to attend Highline Community College before the University of Washington was a wise one.

At Highline, I received special attention in my small classes when I needed help and was even able to pass calculus. That special attention led to many recommendations from my professors for scholarships and universities. I felt unique and didn’t mind the incredible amount of homework I got each night.

Because of the small, tight-knit community that Highline provided, I became and active member in the journalism program, which made me feel welcomed and at ease. I got to know all the staff and faculty, and they got to know me.

This fall, I started at the University of Washington with excitement, but the excitement quickly turned to regret. The 55,000-student, faculty and staff population was too overwhelming.

I was in my junior year of college and got stuck in the 400-student Psychology 101 and an Introduction to the New Testament class because I had to register with freshmen, since I was a transfer student. These classes couldn’t be used toward my major.

I saw more of the teaching assistants than the professors, who didn’t even know my name. No wonder I hear horror stories of freshmen wanting to drop out their first year of college.

Another problem was that no one told me that when I got to the UW, I would be treated like a freshman with little or no respect within the university community. When I tried to apply to my major, journalism, I was immediately turned away because I had no UW credits. The associate of arts degree at Highline seemed not to exist at the UW, and for most of the quarter I felt not welcomed. I had trouble concentrating and learning. For a student who loves school, this was a tough thing to deal with. I came home from school every day regretting my choice to attend such an impersonal university. I wanted to get to know people but it was nearly impossible with my huge classes.

I have decided to attend a smaller university this fall. I even took the quarter off from school to reflect on the past three months and decide what I want different with the next college I attend.

I remember a time when I was little that the UW was called a great institution, but because of its overcrowding and class-size, I now see a private or smaller university as my best bet.

When I ask a high school senior about what university they plan to attend, I warn them about the isolation that can be felt at such a big university like the UW. For students who enjoyed special attention from their teachers in high school, a smaller school can be a great choice, especially community colleges.

The cost for community colleges, even with the rise of tuition, is still surprisingly low, and there is more of an opportunity to get to know professors.

I’m glad now, when I look back, that I didn’t listen to my friends and went to a school closer to home that was cheaper and more personal. Even all the problems with transferring my credits to the UW, the experience was well worth it.

Now, all I have to worry about is what college I want to get my journalism degree from.

Janica Lockhart is a former news intern and staff writer for the Mirror.

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