There's a question that's been rolling around the back of my mind for some time now. Years actually. Why doesn't every college-bound high school senior in Northeast Michigan attend Alpena Community College first?
Graduation season is fast approaching and next fall many local graduates will start day one of their college lives. Applications are being filed, hopes are up for acceptance, and excitement is growing for a new chapter in life. I've heard a number of parents exasperatedly exclaim over the past year about how their son or daughter wants to go to University XYZ that costs an astronomical ABC number of dollars per semester and they don't know how to make it work. I know a handful of students every year receive academic or sports scholarships from specific schools and that's a different story. Thousands more don't have such benefits and have to make a choice of where to attend.
Since about the fifth grade I knew what university I wanted to attend. But there was never a question that I would pack up and move without first going to ACC. It was a given. I looked forward to it. My two year experience at ACC was probably more beneficial for my growth than the years I spent at Michigan State University. Here are just a few of the benefits of attending one or two years at ACC:
Get prerequisites out of the way for less money. All majors have basic prerequisites. Why not pay a fraction of the cost for them than you would at a larger school? You can save thousands.
Give yourself time to mature. I know this is a tough one for young adults to admit but I'm glad I went local first. It allowed me to have fun but still get my bearings as an adult. When I transferred I was mature enough to handle a larger school. Anyone who has talked or listened to freshman at a large university will understand what I'm talking about. (Note to Moms and Dads: Even some straight A honor students have a burst of wildness from their newfound freedom away from home. While you may believe they are attentively sitting in class or studying they are actually well, you probably don't want to know what they are actually doing. But there is a lot less of this at a community college).
Meet new people. Some believe that community college is a repeat of a high school social scene. I didn't find that to be true at all. I met many, many new people from all across Michigan who I still keep in touch with today. You also get to know your instructors and they get to know you.
Learn how to be a college student. I know it sounds odd but college is different. Just because high school was a breeze doesn't mean college will be the same.
ACC gives you more attention. Smaller class size means better atmospheres for learning. One class I didn't take at ACC that I probably should have was economics. At MSU there were hundreds of students in my class. The professor had a heavy accent that was hard for me to understand. I was just another face in the crowd identified by my student number. As a student at ACC you have a name and your instructors remember it. I've also experienced the deep care and compassion all staff has for each and every student. From the receptionist in Van Lare Hall to the instructor in The Center Building, each staff member is there to make sure all students have a good experience.
Give yourself time to decide. The average student changes their major 5-7 times throughout their college career. Why not get prerequisites out of the way for less money and explore electives to be sure your chosen path is right for you.
Save housing costs. Apartments and dorm packages are expensive. The benefit of staying at home for two more years saves thousands in housing costs. Students, I know at this point the thought of living at home one more minute than you have to sounds awful but you will thank me later when you've been able to save tons of money.
There are more benefits of attending ACC for one or two years after high school but I'm limited in how long these columns can be. The college didn't ask me to write on this topic, by the way. In fact, they won't even know about it unless they have read the paper. I wanted to talk about it because I feel so strongly that we have a gem here in Northeast Michigan that needs to be taken advantage of. My question still remains. For the hundreds of local students who are college bound next fall - why not attend Alpena Community College first? It's the smart choice.
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town appears bi-weekly on Tuesdays.