Education - Camie Leard
Misconception 4: You Have to Have a Lot
of Free Time to Go to College
This misconception is based on the familiar image of the full-time college student, the student who either lives at home or is enrolled in a residential college and is supported by parents. Again, this is an out-of-date, traditional image. A full-time college load, based on the semester system, is 15 units. This means that you only sit in class 15 hours a week even when you are taking a complete program. Of course, you are supposed to be studying two hours for every hour in class. So 15 units suggests a total investment of 45 hours a week.
Mary B. is a full-time homemaker with three children. Gary K. is a husband and father who is the sole supporter of his family; he works 40 hours
a week in a grocery store. Pamela S. is a single parent raising two children;
• she works 20 hours a week as a waitress. Can any of these people go to college? It would seem that they don’t have the time. Alt of them are successful college students. Their programs vary. Some go to classes only evenings. Others, like Pamela, are able to attend two mornings a week and one evening. None of them carry 15 units. It is best, when attending college part time, to take only two or three classes (6 to 9 units on the semester plan). If the class schedule can be arranged in terms of your work or family responsibilities, you can generally find times and places to study because this is done strictly on your own.
Misconception 5: It Takes a Lot of Money
to Go to College
It is true, of course, that it takes some money to go to college. There are some basic costs, such as enrollment fees, tuition, and textbooks to buy. However, the average community college is subsidized by state and local taxes. Consequently, fees are low. The whole idea is to provide accessibility to people of average means. If money is very tight, and it often is, you can consult the college’s financial aid office. There are both grants and loans available to most students. I am not talking about scholarships for exceptional individuals. I am talking about money that is available to the great majority of applicants. The school and the government want you to go to college.
And don’t worry about clothes. The average college student wears
casual everyday clothes. You don’t have to have a “wardrobe” to go to
Misconception 6: It Takes a Long, Long
Time to Complete a College Program
If you can afford to go to college full time, with summers off, you can earn either the standard Bachelor of Arts degree or Bachelor of Science degree in four years. By going during the summers and by taking more units, some students accomplish this in three years.
If you are going part time, as is almost certainly the way you will have to do it, add about 50 to 60 percent to the standard time. In other words, by going part time you will probably earn a bachelor’s degree in six or seven years. This may sound a little discouraging at first. Pamela S., referred to earlier, is 26 years old. She told her counselor, “At the rate I’m going I’ll be 32 years old when I graduate.” She indicated that she was thinking of dropping out and letting go of some of her dreams. The
counselor, a 40-year-old woman who had herself started college at the age of 27 and who now holds a Master of Arts degree in psychology, gently said, “Yes, you’ll be 32 when you earn your college degree if you stay in school. And if you drop out, the time will pass anyway and you’ll eventually be a 32-year-old woman without a college degree.”
Not all college programs require the equivalent of four full-time years. Many community colleges offer Associate of Arts degrees that can be earned in the equivalent of two full-time years. These degrees open many job opportunities, depending on the subject matter major or area of concentration. Also, many community colleges offer certificate programs that require a limited number of courses. These certificate programs are generally in trade and vocational areas ranging from accounting to food- service management, from word processing to real estate appraising. Most of these certificate programs can be completed in less than the equivalent of two full-time years.
Misconception 7: You Have to Pass
Entrance Examinations in Order to Go to College
Just before the U.S. Civil War began, young Horatio Alger, Jr., eventual author of many rags-to-riches novels, took entrance examinations for Harvard University Two eight-hour days were devoted to the examinations, and he had to achieve satisfactory scores in such subject areas as algebra, geometry, Latin, and English.
Times have changed. Although high scores on standardized examinations such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) are required for direct admission to some state universities and selective private colleges, this is not true of community colleges.
It is true that in many cases you will have to take entrance examinations in order to enroll in courses at a community college. But, believe it or not, you don’t have to pass them with scores defined in advance. At many, perhaps most, community colleges, your examination scores are strictly for advisory purposes. You don’t have to abide by them. It is becoming increasingly difficult for counselors and colleges to enforce mandatory assignment to classes based on verbal and mathematical scores obtained on standardized tests. Some people claim that the scores discriminate unfairly against members of racial and ethnic minorities as well as nontraditional students. Also, the standardized tests are neither absolutely valid nor completely reliable. If you do want to use the information from a standardized test as advisory in nature, many colleges offer remedial courses in English, arithmetic, and other basic skills that make it possible to increase these skills and thus take courses that will count toward a degree program. You will find that the vast majority of community colleges have what is known as an open door policy, meaning that all applicants are welcome.
If you do your first two years of college work toward a bachelor’s degree at a community college, which I recommend for most adult students, you will find that your work will transfer to a university or four-year college. The four-year institutions have agreements with the two-year ones, and you can enter with third-year (i.e., junior) standing without entrance examinations. I know this sounds too good to be true, but look into it. You’ll find that what I’m telling you is so.