Community college is genuinely an amazing option for so many people, and I want to share why it worked so well for me. I feel like community colleges get such a bad rap for being “low quality education for people who aren’t smart enough for university.” But this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe community college is a smart option to consider which happens to save you a lot of money while getting the same credits you would get for about three times the price at a university. The Washington State average for community college in-state tuition cost was $4,232 per year for the 2019-20 school year, whereas universities in Washington can be around three times as expensive. For example, the University of Washington Seattle’s cost of in-state tuition for the 2020-21 school year is $11,745. Starting at a community college also doesn’t mean you have to stop there. If you still plan to get your Bachelor’s degree, you always have the option to transfer to a university after attending a two-year college.
Even though I always thought I would go to college right after high school and get my Bachelor’s degree within four years, I had no idea the kinds of obstacles that would be thrown my way to slow me down. Those barriers included a lack of guidance, finances, and direction. I was not prepared for all the work that came with applying for colleges. My solution? Not to apply to any colleges during my senior year of high school and ignore the stress that came with it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to just anyone, especially because everyone’s situation is different, but I personally didn’t have a lot of support in this area. Neither of my parents went to college for a Bachelor's degree and had no idea how the application process worked. Although they were super supportive of me, they just didn’t have the appropriate experience, nor the finances, to help me out.
I knew I couldn’t afford all those dollar signs, plus I had no idea what I wanted to go to school for, so I worked a retail job to save up. It really was the only way I thought I could afford school. Eventually, I applied to Cascadia College, which is co-located with UW Bothell. I had a feeling this school would be a good fit for me because I had heard great things from people I knew who went there, and it has the bonus of being able to share resources with a reputable university. Aside from Cascadia’s relationship with UWB, I believe Cascadia is a great stand-alone college as well with a variety of programs, support, and helpful resources along with great professors. The campus is beautiful, which is a plus; and the class sizes are small, which I much prefer as opposed to large lecture halls. I ended up being able to pay my way through without assistance or aid because the tuition was affordable with the help of my savings and I took my time with the amount of classes I enrolled for. I knew I didn’t want to take out loans to end up racking up debt, and this was a good solution for me.
There are a couple things I want to mention. I highly encourage anyone to apply for FAFSA or WASFA as well as any scholarships you can find. I wish I had applied because I could have actually gotten some help. Also, you do need to be careful about the credits you are getting if there is a particular major that you’re interested in. You can always work closely with an academic advisor or counselor to help you map out the classes you will need that will transfer over to your desired program. One last thing is that you can go at your own pace. If being a full-time student doesn’t work for you, remember that college is not a race and you do have the option to take it slower.
My journey at Cascadia eventually came to an end when I got my Associate’s degree and transferred over to their neighbor, the University of Washington Bothell. UWB’s similar campus, class sizes, and resources made me feel right at home and I’ve met so many great professors and classmates along the way. I’m finally coming up to my last couple of quarters until I finish my Bachelor’s in Media and Communication Studies and I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at. Although it took me longer than most of my other friends to get my degree, I’m happy I took my time. I would not be where I am today if I rushed through it without taking the time to figure out my direction.