Rebecca Caraway is a journalism junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News. 

I loved my community college experience. Despite it being moved online, community college taught me a lot. 

I grew up in a very small and sheltered (but loving) world. While that world was just fine, I needed a space to grow and learn without drowning from financial stress. 

I didn’t choose to go to community college. The word choose would imply that I had options –– my tiny world did not have many options. If I wanted to go to college, community college was the only way. Despite it not being a path I ‘chose,’ I’m glad it happened to me. 

So many people I know are in their third or fourth year of college and no longer have the same passion and interest in the major that their 17 or 18 year old selves chose. However, by that time, it is too late for them to change their major and Cal Poly in particular makes it difficult to change one’s major. 

Now, if you go to community college, you have time to decide what you really want to do. You don’t have to stress over the fact that you wasted all this time and money to pursue a career path that you are no longer interested in. You can take a bunch of different general education courses and explore different things.

Another advantage of community college is that it allows for more flexibility. There are usually multiple formats and times you can take each class at. Community colleges also offer more online and night classes, making it easier for students that have jobs. 

For many, the most important reason to go to community college is to save money. The cost of tuition and fees for new students at Cal Poly is $11,022, which means after four years you have paid $44,088. That’s not even including housing, transportation, textbooks or food. 

Most community colleges in California offer free tuition for those that enroll right after high school. If you stay at home, you would mostly be paying for transportation and textbooks, making it easier to save money for when you do eventually go off to a four-year school. 

Cal Poly transfer students who finish their degree within two years pay $22,044 for tuition and fees, instead of $44,088 –– and that’s before financial aid. 

Then, one of the best parts of community college for me, ended up being that I had time to figure out what university I would transfer to. I knew nothing about universities when I was 18. I can’t imagine having to decide what you want in a school and city for the next four years at that age. Going to community college meant I was making those decisions at 20. 

I learned from my friends who went to a four-year school after high school about what they wish they knew before committing to a university. I was able to do more research about what school and program would work best for me. I was able to think about the kind of city I would want to live in and what I wanted to focus on. 

Of course incoming freshmen can do the same thing, but for me, taking a few years allowed me to make a more informed decision about what I really wanted my life to look like. Eighteen year old me would have made very different decisions, so I’m glad I had a fews years to figure myself out before deciding on a university and major. 

College is the first big adult decision we make in our lives. If you choose community college you are setting yourself up for a better financial future, since you will save so much money in the long run and you can still find ways to have fun in community college.

Like many things in life, community college is what you make of it. It’s up to you to decide what kind of experience you will have.