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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The road less traveled: the community college route

In a typical year, somewhere from 10 to 15 percent of Saratoga High students will attend two-year universities after graduation, according to recent statistics. Students choose community college for a variety of reasons, whether it is the lower costs associated with the community colleges or the knowledge that transferring to a four-year university works well after attending a two-year community college.

One senior who has chosen this path is senior Sydney Torrens.

“I decided to attend a community college ultimately because I needed to buy more time,” Torrens said.

Torrens is a student in the Media Arts Program who aspires to work in the film industry in the future; however, she was unable to get into her dream film school or a similar one, something she still hopes to accomplish into in a couple of years.

In the meantime, she plans to go to community college to further her skills.  

“I know what my limits are when it comes to my skill set and study habits, and that's something that isn't talked a lot about at Saratoga,” Torrens said.

Torrens advises students who also struggle with test taking to realize early on that there's more to acquiring an education than scoring high.

“It's about working hard, pushing and then not beating yourself up about things you can't control, being proud of what you have done and trying to improve on the standards you've set for yourself and not others,” said Torrens.

Torrens is grateful for the open-mindedness of her family and others around her at school. This supportive mindset gave her the confidence she needed to look into other options besides a four-year college immediately after high school.

Torrens took a tour of De Anza in order to check out the  college that several friends had mentioned to her. This tour was one of the main reasons she chose to attend the college. She loved the atmosphere and plethora of opportunities there, not to mention costs that won’t put a huge dent her parents’ pocketbook.

In the next two years, she hopes to get an apartment with a few friends, graduate with an AA degree in Film Production and finally transfer to a film school she wants to attend.

Torrens also wants to be debt-free in 10 years so she can live without financial burden and travel. Attending a community college will save her and her family thousands of dollars and give her the opportunity to also save money through working jobs, she said.

“I want the best possible education in my area of interest, [film], and attending a community college gives me a second chance at finding the right film school that I didn’t have a chance to apply to during high school,” Torrens wrote in a blog post.   

One of her main concerns for attending De Anza is that the social atmosphere will be unlike that of a four-year college.

“Friends of mine at community colleges say that making friends and having a social life comes second to finishing up that AA degree and getting out of there and on to bigger and better things,” Torrens said. “The mentality is very ‘get in and out and just focus on yourself’ on a day-to-day basis.”

Torrens believes she will be able to focus on school while still seeking out connections through involvement in clubs and in classes.

One factor that shocked Torrens was De Anza’s high percent of community college graduates who go on to four-year universities.

“I was stunned. I guess I had always thought that community and junior colleges were meant to take a student halfway up the ladder,” Torrens said. “But I realized then that for many, their ladder's rungs stop at two years and that's enough.”

Torrens plans to get the most out of this opportunity at De Anza.

“I'm excited for this. I am thankful for the education I've received at Saratoga and I'm confident that this next part will be a piece of cake with a fair serving of challenge on the side in other ways,” Torrens said.

Alumni experience in junior college

In the class of 2014, 86 percent of students chose to attend a four-year university, while 14 percent of students went to a community college.

According to class of 2014 alumni Ethan Gelfand, a current a freshman at West Valley Community College, this smaller percentage can be attributed to uninformed judgment.

“Many [individuals] stereotype community college to be boring and dull, so they choose against it,” Gelfand said. He then added on stating that this in fact is false.   

Gelfand and his parents had planned for community college since the sixth grade. Gelfand said that money was the biggest factor in their decision.

Although many Saratoga High students gear themselves toward Ivy League schools, UCs and other elite colleges, Gelfand tried not to play this game.

“Everyone should strive to their goals. Me? I’m just happy to have the opportunity to go to college, whether it’s Stanford, California Polytechnic State University or West Valley,” Gelfand said.

One of the unique advantages that Gelfand enjoys includes meeting people of different ages. Although he feels that some of community college’s disadvantages include the lack of fraternities, sororities and dorm life, he points out that like four-year college students, he can still hold jobs and receive coveted internships.

According to Gelfand, one of the unique advantages of community college is the smaller class sizes. With around a dozen students per class, it is easier to contact the professor.

Gelfand is currently enrolled in several classes including Statistics and Calculus, which he states are much easier for him than other students because of the AP Calculus and AP Statistics courses he took in high school.

Gelfand also feels that the lesser percentage of students attending community colleges should not discourage students from considering it as a serious option.

“College is what you make it to be. I make [my experience] the best no matter what, not just with college but with anything,” Gelfand said. “It’s what makes life brighter when things aren’t going your way.”

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