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Alaysia Spruill

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Students are sweating bullets merely thinking about going off to college, throwing themselves at credits, scholarships, extracurriculars, and clubs, so they feel prepared for the inevitable: graduation. As graduation day gets closer, the academic requirements for students to satisfy during their junior and senior years intensify in demand; there’s a general push to “spiff up” transcripts, pushing for excellence and achievement.

Pursuing a competitive major, such as pre-med, law, and engineering at university can be a taxing. Every student has their own way of making the most of their high school years, including taking every Advanced Placement (AP) course possible, or doing SAT prep after school. 

It used to seem that with every grade you advanced, school would feel more  like a waste of time rather than a useful educational tool; according to Safe and Civil Schools, foregoing school for common work was a popular act of protest among the youth in the 1900s, causing the number of graduating students to hit a historical low which left American schools with a measly graduation rate of 10-30%.

Schools statewide now have guidance counselors to assist students in preparing to go to university and the overall mindset about learning has changed. There are more students taking AP courses, extracurriculars and clubs have gained recognition from Ivy Leagues, and student body organizations are rising to power.

However, not everyone is getting the private help they need from their counselors and teachers, so there are resources to help make the hunt for the right college as progressive as possible, such as  CollegeBoard, Niche, and The Princeton Review. The trouble is, not all of them are necessarily as detailed or factual enough, which can leave students with more questions than answers. This leaves them in a crisis.

Thankfully, SCPA now has its very own college guidance counselor, and her name is Melanie Lim. Lim is available every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 8 am-1 pm by appointment. She can give students advice about what to look for in colleges, and she is always open for discussion about her own experience in university and pre-med. If you want to make an appointment with Lim, write your name on the waiting list in the counseling office behind the front desk.

Community colleges in California

Before you begin your search for the right college, there are four main types you should know about: California State Universities (CSU), University Colleges (UC), private schools, and community colleges. Starting from cheapest to most expensive, let’s look closely at how these colleges operate. 

Community college is a two year school that provides affordable education for students wanting to complete basic courses before moving on to University. They have the highest enrollment status (2.1 million students per year in California) and also the cheapest tuition, at about $46 per unit and $552 per semester, not in including books, transportation, parking, food, or housing. Community colleges are known for their small class sizes and range in available courses, such as skills retraining, community enrichment programs, and cultural activities. Attending a community college will prepare you for higher education jobs, where community college officials will work with employers to develop flexible and affordable training programs. Because of this alliance, community colleges can maximize job training programs and job placement. With so much opportunity for individual attention, real-world job training, and some investment off of low tuition, advancing to a 4 year University is a more reachable goal. There are several websites where you can find out how much tuition you would pay at a California community college. A simple and easy-to-use source being I Can Afford College.

CSUs outshine community college tuition by thousands of dollars. The average tuition–which is the same fee for every student–is about $5,742 per year for undergraduate students taking more than six units per term; it’s $3,330 for undergraduates enrolled in six or fewer units. Despite its cost, going to a CSU has more benefits for academic interests than community college, according to They are not necessarily schools that will provide the appropriate education for those that wish to enter the work force in their chosen field, unless they are interested in research.”

CSUs in California




CSUs can be great for people who want to make up their extracurriculars in college, or specialize in a major that doesn’t require a masters; or who are looking for the units and experience needed to pass exams. For those who don’t want to be in a competitive to learn about academics, sports, or fine arts, going to a CSU could be the best choice: “Many CSUs offer honors programs for capable students who want a more academically challenging education. Furthermore, some CSUs offer online education or classes at smaller branch campuses to accommodate the needs of their students” (“The Ultimate Guide to Cal State Schools: How to Pick”, Berkman). Although they are more expensive than community college, they’re more affordable than a UC. Remember, financial aid is always an option or, you may even qualify for a scholarship!

UCs in California

Alright, it’s about to get pricey. The average tuition for attending a UC is…$34,700. But, this includes all campus-associated fees, like books, dorms, and transportation. Actually, the average tuition–without extra expenses–is $13,900. Because UC systems are known for training students to develop strengths in research, they are a good choice for postgraduate students. If you happen to take classes at a UC, chances are that a postgraduate student will be instructing the class. This sometimes causes problems for undergrad students who find it hard to follow along. Others might be comfortable with it and may reap the benefits of having two teachers in the classroom who are available for questioning. Although this custom seems unsettling, UCs still maintain a reputation among students statewide. Compared to community colleges and CSUs, UCs generally have more educational opportunities than the latter combined: 150 academic disciplines, 600 graduate degree programs, 61 Nobel laureates, 20,000 extension courses, 430,000 jobs supported, $7 gained for every $1 in research funding provided by California itself, etc. If anything, attending a UC could be your best opportunity to pursue your passions as a scholar and an artist, especially those who have maintained a steady, healthy reputation throughout their high school years.

The last in the competition are private universities. Let’s be frank. The only people who attend these schools are students who are dedicated solely to their studies because it would be very difficult  to work during school and have time to study, plus, “The time commitment required to succeed in a given class is high, and this will ultimately interfere with your ability to work,” (“The Pros and Cons of Private Colleges”, Private schools are not like University, where a student can get away with working part time at night and taking classes during the day.  

Private universities in California

 Private universities want students who are willing to, essentially, sacrifice social freedom and and the colloquial college experience for working on solely education instead; the goal is for students to graduate from university as a prime socialite ready to work; ready to make changes; ready to pass on their knowledge. They will make accommodations to fit students’ needs, including having small class sizes and a quiet environment for students to study. This is reason why they are so renowned. Consequently, they sometimes scare students away with their scary tuition (a wallet-emptying price of $51,442 at University of Southern California). Despite this, students are encouraged to pursue private schooling if education is [their]  prerogative during [their] college career ( Everything about private universities is designed to fit the criteria of budding scholars: advocating small class sizes and community involvement, hiring committed professors, handing out financial incentives, and more. They are the ultimate combination of every community college, UC, and CSU out there.

There are some drawbacks, however: A demanding schedule. The heavy workload would make it hard to maintain a job, social life, or extracurricular activities: Unvaried population. At most private universities, the population is uniform, and not as diverse as what you would see at San Diego State University. So, if you plan on attending a private university, it would be a good idea to see what types of students they attract; this will give you a feel for its environment. suggests looking at their student body: Transferring credits. Every private university has different crediting methods. It may be difficult to transfer and retain all the credits you have earned (

So out of all these options, which type of college should you begin your education? The answer is, it’s up to you.

You have enough options for educational pathways that you should feel confident that the right college is out there. Remember that there shouldn’t be any discrimination toward a particular school because of tuition or location; if you are gravitating towards a specific college that has caught your eye, you should not ignore it. Explore it, investigate it, look at what options they offer you, and if after all that research–if you are still drawn to it–go for it! Chase your dreams, even if you have to tackle them to get what you want.

The important thing to take away from this article is that choosing a college is entirely based on you and your preferences. Some of us have our eyes on private university, or are feeling attracted to a UC. But our goal is the same: to graduate and become scholars of our professions, to make money and lead a healthy lifestyle, and to influence others with our passions: it’s the most we could wish for as SCPA lions. 



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About the Writer
Alaysia Spruill, Student Journalist
Alaysia Spruill: First-class introvert, dancer, creative writer, and musician. She’s not a huge talker, but she has a lot to say, particularly in the form of poetry and debate. SCPA has been her home since the 7th grade and her heart has always belonged to its dance community, but as of 2017, her unknown love...
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