By starting my academic career at a community college, I have gained the fundamentals skills to be a successful college student and in the process saved thousand dollars for the same introductory courses required across the state. My time at Austin Community College (ACC) helped me transform into a better student–and helped me achieve my ultimate dream of being accepted into the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, where I will start attending classes as a sophomore this Fall.
Community colleges, sometimes unfairly disparaged, can be a crucial stepping stone for some and a terminal degree that can lead to a variety of career paths for others. Attending a community college for certain introductory classes, for example, can help students avoid taking out huge student loans in the ultimate pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. In addition, an associate’s degree or professional certificate can set many students on the path toward long-term economic security. And, as my experience proves, community colleges can also play a vital role in helping aimless young people become driven students.
In high school, I assumed everything would fall into place without much effort needed on my side. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school, when all my friends were getting accepted to college that I realized my mistake. I was set to graduate with a horrible GPA and class rank–as well as the work ethic that got me there. Not wanting to be left out, I applied to several state colleges that I thought were going to accept me. Not a single one accepted me. I felt crushed, defeated and stupid.
The following fall I started classes at ACC. I was surrounded by amazing people. Many of my fellow students were my age, balancing a full time job, and providing both for themselves and their family. And my professors were involved in not only in ACC but also Austin as a whole.
But right across the city was the school I had dreamt of attending in high school, despite not being motivated enough to put in the work: the state’s best value school, the University of Texas at Austin. So on very first day of class at ACC I had promised myself I would get into UT.
I began to take full advantage of ACC’s resources. I spoke with advisors who helped map out my game plan, tailored my courses so that they would meet UT’s transfer criteria. The staff at ACC was always supporting and encouraging me to push myself which allowed me to grow and become a better student.
I went to my professors’ office hours and asked for clarification on assignments and problems I found difficult, and once again continued to bug my advisors, relentlessly. I started spending all my spare time at the library and when it closed. I taught myself discipline, diligence and hard work.
I applied to both the Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 semesters getting rejected both times. At first, I was shocked because in my heart I knew I belonged there. I had a 4.0 GPA, and several leadership positions both in and out of school. Apparently, there was still something I was lacking. However, It was clear to me that ACC had transformed me and made me a better student, and I finally felt qualified to get in. Staying true to my word, I decided to try one last time. After receiving yet another rejection, I drove to the admissions office to get clarification as to why I had not been accepted.Fortunately for me, they realized it was an administrative error,and just like that, the bar that was holding me back had been lifted. In the end, I was told that I’d be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall.
Looking back, starting my academic career at ACC was the best path for me. ACC taught me the importance of hard work and has pushed me to become the best possible version of myself. Community colleges offer an opportunity to students no matter if they are there just for a few classes or their entire educational career. By starting my journey at ACC, I have come to appreciate learning, a good challenge, accomplishing big goals. Starting off on the right track, I am excited to continue learning. Although I will definitely face bigger obstacles down the road, the experiences I learned from transferring into UT will better prepare me for what’s to come.
Pablo Pratt is a 19 year old who grew up in McAllen Texas, and will be starting at the University of Texas at Austin this fall,where he will pursue a degree in International Relations & Global Studies. He is a Scholar for Young Invincibles-South in Austin.