Why I’m Choosing Community College Over a UC

by Chris Weldon
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Chris Weldon has decided not to apply to a four-year college during his senior year. (Photo: Alex Espinoza)

I’m a high school senior. This year, I’ve been getting many questions from my classmates and teachers about my post-high school plans. It’s like people expect this huge, detailed timeline… And I don’t have it.

When I look at my friends, one guy wants to pursue marine biology at Santa Cruz. A whole group intend to study film at UCLA. Another wants to study neuroscience at UC-Davis.

Honestly? It’s daunting. My future still looks like a blank slate. I entertain ideas about business or media. But I know those aren’t jobs, exactly. And I’m not sure where I would fit in. Sometimes, I feel like I’m running out of time.

So, I decided to enroll in community college next year. This choice was unexpected. For my first two years in high school, I was regimented. My parents pushed me to take honors and AP classes, because they wanted me to be competitive for college. For a while, this path seemed predestined. But then, last year, over dinner, my mom asked me which colleges I wanted to tour. She wanted to start planning, and when I told her I wasn’t ready to tour colleges, she seemed a little surprised.

Then I explained my reasoning that I felt I shouldn’t spend money on tuition before I know what direction I’m going in. She understands.

These days, my peers seem jealous that I’m opting out of the stress of senior year. They’re writing college essays, crashing on application deadlines, and waiting to hear back from schools. I’m just kind of cruising through until graduation.

My friends also ask me if I feel worried about missing out on that classic college experience: moving out of my parents house when I turn 18, living in dorms, college parties. And, you know what? I kind of am sad to miss out on these early adult milestones. But I’m also okay with the tradeoff. I think it’s worth it to not take on student debt, while I’m still feeling lost. Essentially, I’m buying myself some more time. And when I do go to college, it’ll be on my terms.

An abridged version of this commentary previously aired on KCBS.

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