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The Et Cetera

There’s No Need for Rushed Degrees

Lucero Guzman

I pushed myself as much as I could during high school, and graduated in the top 6% of my class because of it. However, I knew that I was on the verge of extreme academic burnout, so I chose to attend community college instead of a four-year university. My academic life has followed an unconventional timeline ever since, but I no longer think that’s a bad thing. 

There’s an uncomfortable stigma around community colleges, insinuating that attending a two-year institution is somehow less respectable than going to a four-year university right out of high school. 

This notion is not only incorrect, but it can even be damaging to the self esteem of someone who goes to community college. 

There’s a myriad of reasons why a student might choose to go to a community college, such as the lessened burden of expenses or the uncertainty of whether or not higher education is the best choice for them. 

We shouldn’t cherry-pick the circumstances through which we applaud anyone for continuing their education, nor should we hold widespread societal conventions about what defines success in terms of higher education. 

Likewise, another negative view that people tend to believe is that gap years are detrimental to a student’s progress. The implications here are not friendly: Students must push themselves to complete school in a specific time frame whether they feel like they can or not. 

The idea that pressure must be an inherent part of a student’s experience is incredibly unfair, and to force this pressure upon a scholar is even worse. Those pursuing higher education should be allowed to make their own choices, and if that includes taking a gap year, or spanning their education out over a longer period of time, that should be perfectly acceptable. It’s better for someone to pace themselves and reach their goal later than it is to rush and overwhelm that person to the point of giving up. 

Star student or not, everyone has their limits, and they should be respected. I‘m happy for my friends I was in honors classes with who have gone on to graduate with academic distinctions, but I’m also proud of my friends who were in honors and decided to stop school altogether. We have different paths in life, and I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to label someone who didn’t pursue a bachelor’s degree as “wasted potential,” regardless of the classes they took in high school. 

I knew people who judged me for my decision to go to community college, and I know there are even more who would be concerned with the fact that I’m barely getting my associate degree this spring. It doesn’t bother me anymore, though. I take life at my own pace, and I encourage every student who finds themselves in a rough academic situation to truly consider if braving through the storm is the best option. 

In the end, societal expectations are just that: societal. There is no such thing as graduating “on time.” The only “right” time is your own time.

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