Exploring Other Paths

Community College Week — an annual opportunity for students to learn about the non-university options for higher education — kicked off on April 12. Students could attend Zoom workshops each day except for Tuesday, which was dedicated to asynchronous virtual tours.

“We’ll be talking about everything that has to do with community colleges,” College and Career Center Counselor Crystal Laguna said. “All the things that you can do there, all the different pathways for students, a workshop specifically for the transfer process because it’s one of the most popular items. We’ll also have an application workshop, and we’ll hear from Paly alumni who are at community colleges and what their experiences have been.”

Paly class of 2019 graduate Carlos Diaz said Community College Week helped, him when he was at Paly, to make the decision to attend community college.

“Community college was always in the back of my mind, but I think the counselors did a great job of presenting me with my options,” Diaz said. “They’re so busy with like 2000 kids. It’s crazy that they could take time out of their day to help me.”

Diaz said community college helped him focus more on academics.

“In high school, I wasn’t doing the extra things I needed to do, such as utilizing tutorials,” Diaz said. “I was playing soccer, and I was on the cross country team and the track team, and we had school, and then I had a two and a half hour practice after. Still being here in Palo Alto (has) been nice, because it’s not different but, without the sports, I feel like it’s just easier to focus and time manage because now I have much more time. It’s been nice just to reflect on that.”

Foothill Community College Transfer Counselor Cleve Freeman said many transfer options are available to community college students.

These include the Transfer Admission Guarantee option, which guarantees admissions into some UCs; the Associate Degree for Transfer program, which guarantees admission into CSUs and HBCUs and the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, which reduces tuition at out-of-state schools.

“Students can see transferring as a second chance to get into schools they didn’t get into before or as an option to save money,” Freeman said.

Freeman said there are other reasons for students to go to community college.

“Community college can help students who don’t feel they’re ready to leave home yet, or don’t know what careers they want to pursue,” Freeman said. “Community college counselors can help them find what they want, and they don’t have to spend a lot of money at a university instead.”

Community colleges also offer associate’s degree programs, which help students learn vocational skills to pursue such careers as electrician, plumber and mechanic.

Applying from community college can also increase a student’s chances of being accepted to CSUs and UCs.

“Let’s say there are 100 California community college students that apply to a UC and there are 1000 high school students that apply to it,” Freeman said. “The universities might say, ‘You know what? We are going to accept 55 out of those 100 California community college students.’ And then from the 1000 high school students, they might say, ‘You know what? We’re going to accept maybe 500 students’.”

Laguna said every student should be aware of all the options available to them, including all of the programs that come with community college.

“I’ve noticed that there’s been an increase in students interested in community college,” Laguna said. “This could be for different reasons, whether that be that they’re not ready to go to a four-year for financial reasons, or because they may not know what they want to do. It’s just important for students to know all these different pathways that are available to them to reach a level of success.”

Freeman also said it’s important to eliminate the stigma of community college.

“I hear things from students and parents where they say community college is not a good option,” Freeman said. “I really want to challenge that stereotype and say it’s for anybody that’s interested. I think it’s a great opportunity to learn and grow and to meet people. I have met California community college students that have been admitted to Ivy league (schools and) Stanford. I just wish that there was a way that I could break the myth that community college is only for a certain student. I think it’s for everyone that’s interested and it’s a great place to learn and grow.”