I have been to two community colleges and a four-year college in my undergraduate journey. I spent three years at Foothill College in Los Altos, CA; one and a half years at Harold Washington College in Chicago, and now I am studying Film at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. My journey hasn’t been easy — my total credits from both community colleges placed me as a lower junior at my current college, which was troubling. It represents the incoherence in our higher education system.
One mistake that I made transferring between the schools was not counting my credits carefully. As someone who worried about the tuition cost and financial aid at each institution I attended, I was happy when most of my credits successfully transferred. Even still, while both Harold Washington College and Sarah Lawrence College took my credits from prior institutions, some of those credits disappeared during that process. It’s like pawning away your valuables knowing that you will not get all your worth back. The college entry experience makes you feel like you are not entitled to anything more than what the college can offer, and you should take whatever the school gives you because of its selective admission and pricey prestige.
But college should not be this way.
It usually takes students to attend college for a while to realize that it is not as helpful and prestigious as it claims to be. Around 70% of college students who graduate from their institutions do not work in the industry that they went to school for. In every school I have attended, the gap between administrators and the students they serve is disturbing. Oftentimes, students are actually left to deal with the decisions that the administration makes about them. For example, even though I was told that I had become legally independent from my parents two months into my school year, I was still considered dependent because I entered the school as such. As a result, I was not able to receive the appropriate scholarship and financial aid as an independent student.
The overall price and importance of attending college deserves a deeper and harder look for every student body in America. As someone who wants to work in the film industry as an actor and a filmmaker, a degree is optional. Yet, too many students are content with their bubbles on campus, away from the reality outside.
Shing Chung is a student at Sarah Lawrence College, and a Spring 2021 Young Advocate with YI-New York.