Image by Katerina Holmes.
Last May, I graduated from community college with my Associate’s Degree in Education and I transferred to a new university in September so I can continue pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I was full of nerves, as anyone dealing with a major change would be. Not only was I starting off somewhere completely different from the school I was previously attending, but I was also returning to in-person classes for the first time in over one year due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
My Community College Graduation.
Yes, I graduated from community college during a pandemic. About half of my experience there ended up occurring remotely. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, a community college is a two-year school that provides affordable (well, more affordable than most colleges) post-secondary education. Oftentimes, community college students transfer to a different school after they complete their program so they can pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. Nevertheless, the two years still count, and to commemorate them, community college students receive an associate’s degree. Certain majors or programs, or even jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree so some people end their schooling after community college, but in order to teach, I have to continue for another two years as a transfer student at my new school.
Earning my associate’s degree meant the world to me. Although community college is the more “affordable” option, you can still receive quality education there and the coursework is challenging. I had my bumps during my journey, between starting off by failing two of the courses in my first semester, which drastically lowered my grade point average, and not genuinely having an interest in college. I began in the journalism program since I figured I love writing and I might as well try to turn that passion into a career, yet I quickly realized that journalism goes way beyond what I thought it was and I could not see myself being happy as a journalist. The first red flag was when I looked at the course catalog and none of the courses sounded appealing; if I did not want to take the courses, then why would I enjoy doing any of what they entail after graduation?
When I switched and became an education major, I finally felt like I had found my purpose. I took courses that I loved and I learned so much from professors who inspired me, even more, to go into teaching. Having one degree means that I am significantly closer to teaching certification. I cannot wait to finish up so I can get my second degree and officially become a public school teacher.
The Transferring Process.
I had applied to a new university early last year and I found out in May that I had been accepted. I took a risk, only applying to one school. For me, there seemed to only be one option that made sense. Sure, there are thousands of colleges in the world, yet I had specific criteria in mind for where I wanted to go. Community college was previously my only choice and I do not regret going there. However, I appreciated that I had more options afterward and I wanted to make sure I picked the “perfect” school.
I decided I wanted to continue to stay close to home. My whole life is in my hometown- Dan, my family, my job, and my friends- so I did not want to leave any of that behind. I never planned to dorm either, as I know I probably would not enjoy that, which left me having to figure out how I would commute. My community college was only a short drive away from me so my mom mostly drove me to my classes, but I knew that would change once I transferred elsewhere. I had two options in mind; while one of the universities I was considering had a different program than I was looking for, it is much closer to me than the other university. Nevertheless, the university that is farther away has the exact program I was looking for and I felt it in my heart that I had to go there so that was the only school I filled out an application for. My advice to anyone who might be applying to colleges anytime soon- do not do that. Although it worked out for me, it would have ended poorly if I had been rejected and I had to be anxious about that while I was waiting for the decision. Give yourself peace of mind by having a backup option, or even multiple backup options, just in case.
Transfer Student Orientation.
I had my transfer student orientation in August, a few weeks before the fall semester began. As much as I did not want to go, I was excited to see the campus. Most people have campus visits before they commit to a college, but knowing I only had this one place in mind and combining that with it not being easy for me to get to, I skipped that crucial step in the college process. Despite that, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the campus is. It was an earthy, peaceful vibe, and I instantly felt comfortable there. This was a change from my community college experience. The campus itself was not bad at all, yet some of the people were an entirely different story. I had encounters that made me avoid being on that campus and so far at my new school, nothing like that has happened to me again.
Orientation was uneventful. Online, it sounded like it would be a big deal, except Dan and I barely stayed half an hour. There were presentations and after hearing similar ones when I had orientation at community college, I had no desire to attend these ones. All I did was get my student identification card, verify that my immunization records were processed, and explore the campus. We could have taken a proper tour with a tour guide, but it was more fun walking around by ourselves.
Fall Semester- My First Semester at a Four-Year University.
In order to qualify for financial aid, I have to be a full-time student. I was a part-time student for most of my stay at community college so this stressed me out. Most of the time, taking four courses is the minimum for a student to be considered full-time. However, I had to take a transfer transitions course and that was only one credit, which meant I had to take five courses to have the right amount of credits. I also enrolled in two English courses, one sociology course, and one education course.
Since I am an education major, I will start with the education course. It was a multicultural learners course and I was excited to take it. I had to get permission to take it because it is a more advanced course and within the first few weeks, I saw why- the workload. I had to complete a lot of hefty assignments in the beginning. Thankfully, that died down and the rest of the course was easier. I only had three short quizzes the whole semester. In addition, I had to make two lesson plans. Those were larger assignments that had the most significant impact on my final grade in the course. I did well on them and in the course, which is a relief after how hard I worked on those lesson plans.
The two English courses were requirements, as my content area as a teacher is going to be English. In the state of New Jersey, every pre-service teacher has to study a content area, even early childhood and elementary education majors who are going to teach all subjects. I do not mind this; while it is more work, I have always loved English. One of the courses was the structure and origins of the English language. I learned a lot about grammar and how English originated as a language. It was an interesting and beneficial course. Not to mention, I had a wonderful professor. Most of my class was education majors so she shared helpful resources with us throughout the semester. The other course was writing about literature. I had an unorganized professor and that made the coursework more confusing than it needed to be. Ultimately, I did not enjoy the course, between the disorganization and the fact that I did not have much of an interest in what we discussed in class.
The transfer transition course was another easy class. We had small weekly assignments for the most part. There were a few weeks we did not have to meet in person, which was a nice break. The final project was a literature paper so I wrote mine about the effects COVID-19 has had on children. It was nice to be able to write about a topic related to my field and the paper did not have to be that long, but it was annoying having to write it. Also, this course was my only course on the day I had it, and it always barely lasted one hour so I could not stand having to find ways to get to campus for that. Dan was nice enough to drive me whenever he was not working and he usually was not working when I had class. At least this one was an easy A.
I started the sociology course halfway through the semester. It was an online course and it was straightforward. We had a weekly discussion question, assignment, and quiz. The course was only eight weeks long and it was easy. I like sociology too so overall, I enjoyed taking this class, and I did well in it.
What is Next for Me in the Spring Semester?
My spring semester should be interesting. My university announced that we will be online for the first two weeks. As I have said, commuting there is a pain so I am relieved about that and I sort of hope my classes will continue remotely for as long as possible. I am taking four courses this time. Even though I qualify as a full-time student with them, I wanted to take five courses again because I am not sure if I will be able to graduate in two years otherwise. I still have so many courses to take before I can get my bachelor’s degree. Nonetheless, my fifth course was canceled last minute and I could not find anything to replace it with.
In the spring, I will be taking two basic requirements that had not been necessary for me at community college- art and music. Once you get to a four-year university, you should not have to take many basic requirements anymore, but hopefully, these ones will be fun. I am also taking British literature and working with infants/toddlers. I am especially looking forward to taking that last class. In addition, now that my first semester is behind me, I have a solidified grade point average and it is high enough for me to get into a national honor society so I joined one!
As always, thank you for reading. I cannot wait to see what experiences this new semester will bring.