My new sociological awareness for this week was that the middle class is really on the poor side, in terms of being able to afford important things like college and housing simultaneously, particularly during a recession. I was talking to some friends about our summer and next school year plans. We all managed fees this year fine because of loans and everything, but next year is going to be so much less certain and harder. My Dad is under employed and Mom is newly unemployed, but at least we have tenants in our house, and I have found a full time job for summer. So I think I will carry on barely having enough money, at least if Mom finds something by next fall. But my friends have no federal aid, and have private loans that are not going to be continued for next year. That is so terrible. I don’t really understand how people with incomes above the aid ceiling can’t afford college out of pocket, but apparently the ceiling is too low. The other thing is that it seems from our presence on campus that we are in fact able to pay tuition, and it is just people in high school and community college and in the work force for whom tuition is a barrier to higher education, and that is not always the case. I was in juggling club at Cowell Field when I had this discussion. It is a really beautiful place to juggle, and it is fun because you always run into people you know walking down the path there, and some of my friends got to try a unicycle for the first time. Well, juggling is from 3:30-6:30, and when I went to Soc section afterward I totally agreed that the state should help more to pay for higher education. So that was a little change. I don’t know what a bigger change can be. Maybe if community colleges were made more rigorous and engaging so people could go there for the first half of their college. I know people are technically already able to do that, but in my experience that is not a real solution: I went to 4 community colleges when I was in highschool (because it is totally free, instead of almost free! Also if you didn’t take courses there or at UC Berkeley you had to attend the whole school day, which felt like jail to me) and except for one course (Japanese 2 at Diablo Valley College) nothing was at all rigorous. And if something is not rigorous for a 15 year old highschool sophomore*, how is it supposed to prepare someone for the UCs or another 4 year college? So there is not even a real low cost option for people who want to transfer. Maybe I will do a presentation at my old highschool about how easy and manageable community college during highschool is. That would not really solve anything, but it would mean some people have a few fewer units to pay for at four year school. *In our district no one was allowed to take classes at community college until the summer before sophomore year of highschool. At the time I just thought that was frustrating and unfair, but in retrospect it was probably because it would be embarrassing to the community colleges to have 7th graders or something passing their courses.
I applied to 3 schools. I was ranked 6th in my highschool graduating class, got 1970 or something on my SATs, and had 48 college credits between AP exams and community college classes, with a 3.4 college average and something like a 3.8 gpa in highschool. So, pretty good. Not like I was obsessed with school or my GPA, but stats that reflect that I am smart, test pretty well, and love to learn new things and find opportunities to gain knowledge. I was pretty sure I would get in everywhere, because I am smart. I did not want to go to a small school, bc I did that to death in highschool. Twice. I wanted to go to a public school, because of the cost. I did not want to go to a CSU because Mom did and it just seemed like I wouldn't enjoy the courses because they would not be academic enough. So. Berkeley, San Diego, and Santa Cruz. San Diego said no, Berkeley said nothing (there was probably some sort of followup I was supposed to do, like a web portal or something.), and Santa Cruz said yes. So. That made the decision quite straightforward. Should I go to Santa Cruz, or finish getting an Associates degree and apply everywhere again? I picked Santa Cruz because even though I sort of got a lot out of community college, at the same time I knew that it would not be hard enough, rewarding enough, or fun enough.
My first 2 quarters were rough. I lived miles from campus with no good way of getting to school and back. My commute by bike was unsafe, a fact that was reinforced by all of the roadkill I saw every day, and the time a car hit me. And it was uncomfortably wet and cold, especially after my mandatory freshman class that got out at 9 pm on tuesdays. I wouldn't get home until around 11:30, because after 9 the bus to Felton is infrequent. It was also rough because I was not savvy enough to navigate the course schedule, and ended up taking (and passing with a D) upper division political science and upper division art history (B+! Yay!) completely unaware that they were not intro level, only caring that the descriptions looked interesting. I had a hard time getting any job interviews, partly because I could not work nights, or get to SC very early, especially on weekends, because of the Felton bus schedule. I for some reason thought that getting a degree in business management and economics was a really good, fun idea. So. It was not all that smooth, and it was not all that easy. I needed much more support than I was able to access.
But I am really glad I am here. I think it is the exact perfect school for me. Setting, rigor, students, distance from home, strength of the art department, variety of non art courses offered (yay for intro science courses for non science majors!) everything. I was going to say more about how this year all of my classes seem just designed for me, for the way I think and the pace I can work at (10 week quarters, 3 classes per quarter), but I feel kind of drained from writing about frosh year. So, I guess I will just say that I feel really thankful that I ended up here and that I will hopefully be able to carry on straight through to graduation.