How to not get “stuck” at a Community College


I have been in my position here with the college for over four (4) years now, and without fail the most common question I get is “do students get stuck for years at GWC?” The answer is no, when you are speaking of the word “stuck.” In taking a look at this term, it assumes that something happened to the student that is out of their control. This “getting stuck” phrase is a complete mis-conception. Now, this being said, students can (in any college atmosphere) set themselves behind in their education, causing them to put in additional semesters and therefore spending more money.

Before I get into the various causes for student set-backs, let’s take a brief look at why students come to a community college to begin with. Being one of the 112 community colleges in the state of California, GWC is designed to offer students options for their education and/or career training at a fraction of the cost of a private vocational school and four year university.  We offer options for transfer, re-training, career certificates and Associate of Arts (A.A.) degrees-which are your two-year degrees. In identifying each student’s individual needs, we find that not all students’ original plan involves a transfer to a university.  Some students come to take exploratory classes, some re-train after losing a job or changing careers, and some follow the career certificate path in order to get the training necessary for careers in such fields as Nursing, Criminal Justice, Automotive, Cosmetology, etc. These are all careers that do not currently require an advanced degree.

Ok, now let’s talk how a student who is transfer bound can set themselves back.  First word of advice for High School Seniors…TAKE MATH YOUR SENIOR YEAR! If you are anything like me, when you don’t keep up your math skills, you lose them. This can set you back in the number of classes you will have to fulfill, and therefore semesters depending on where you place in math on your SOAR placement tests (Math/English placement) and what your major will require.

Next possibility is one that is most common, not knowing your major. Community Colleges are geared to help these students explore their major options at minimal cost. It is very common for students to be uncertain at the end of their senior year, and even for those who seem certain, the average major change per student even at the UC and Cal State level is 3 times. Students need to be careful when switching majors at the university level as it can change their admission to the college, the school they attend may not have the desired major of their choice, and it is expensive to add classes to your overall goal at the four year level. But in simple terms, adding classes= more time and more money no matter where you go to school.

One of the common set-backs I have currently heard about from students who have been part of our GWC family are those that have chosen one of our career certificate programs as their path, and decided not to take their math and English placement tests because it is not required. Well, they later decided to get their AA or to transfer, and now they hardly even remember the basics in math, and writing essays in a certain format has become foreign. When they did test for placement, they were placed in a remedial course (which doesn’t even count, it is a refresher). The way to avoid this is to take your placement tests in the spring time of your senior year (SOAR testing- stay tuned for the SOAR blog). These placement tests will sit on your records in our system for 2 years, giving you some time to decide what direction you are headed in your education. If you took the placement tests at another community college, or you want to attend another community college and you did your testing with GWC, keep in mind that we accept each other’s testing scores. Just take your test results to the assessment center at the school of your choice.

I certainly hope that this has helped clear up this topic. Please feel free to contact me at anytime with your questions and/or concerns. We can address any of these in a part 2 of this blog if they come up.


Best Regards,