Should I register for classes in the fall?
July 21, 2009 12:56 PM   Subscribe

So I'm about to start my 7th year of community college...

Yeah, I've been going to community college for six years. God, I want to throw up. I'm just trying to figure out if I should register for fall, if I should take a single class, if I should take a full-time courseload, or what.

All the boring details follow:

My dad forced me into going to school at first; I really wanted to take off a year after high school, and in retrospect really wish I'd had the guts to do so. It would have been fine, but I was afraid of my dad at the time. I did badly that first year, and got a couple Fs and Ws.

After that, I got a job and moved out while going to school at night. I did okay for a while, but progress was very slow going. A couple years of that later, I moved back in with my parents, thinking that I would be able to deal with all the parental bullshit much better now that I'd proven myself by supporting myself for a while and being responsible.

Not so. Living with my parents is fraught with the threat of emotional, verbal and occasionally physical abuse at any time. Some people would be able to tolerate these occasional outbursts in exchange for the weeks of rent-free living in between them, but soon I fell into deep depression. There's a good 9-12 month period there after I moved back in of blankness, stagnation, depressive blackness. My grades steadily got worse, and much of that time was spent re-taking classes I'd failed my first year anyway.

So I got another job and moved out last year. I got over my depression. But goddamn it, I couldn't go back to taking a single class a semester while having so little time for a social life or my hobbies. I saved up a little money, I registered for a full-time course load last spring. I moved back in with my parents and promptly procrastinated my way into withdrawing from half my classes.

This past summer, I registered for a single, six-week English class. I told myself I would focus on just one class and grind it out. It started out okay, but a bunch of fighting erupted at home and I couldn't concentrate, even after the fighting ended. I couldn't go from fighting to sitting down with coffee and writing a paper about gender identity or whatever the fuck. So I failed that class.

The thing is, once I was able to actually turn a paper in on time in that English class, I got an A on it no problem. And I've gotten A's in the past. I know I am capable of good work, of hard work. But it's always one thing after another with my fucking family. There is just constant conflict and tension. I mean, we get along one on one, but when you get more than three of us together in a room there's going to be some yelling, so we usually avoid situations that put us together like that. I can't live like this. There are some people who can compromise on the day to day like this and deal; I'm not one of them. My dad is one of them, and he's usually the guy instigating the fights.

So basically where I'm at now is I have to move out, for good, and never ever come back here. But I don't want to give up on school. For one, it seems like a cruel joke that it's only in the last year or so that I know what I want to study whereas for years after I started college I had no idea. I want to get to a university where I can actually delve into this subject (since they don't teach it at community college). I have just over a year's worth of credits but the general ed requirements I have left will take me a year full-time. I just cannot imagine going to school full-time if I'm working to support myself, even with the financial aid I'm getting.

I really don't want to quit school. I've been going for a long time and I just don't have time to lose by taking a semester or year to "find myself" or "get situated." I know what I want to study now, and I know what the problem is: my family. What I don't know is how I'm going to pay for it. So I don't know what to do here. I'm really at a loss. Every time I think I'm coming to a decision I get pulled towards the other side.

If I take a single class this semester, I'm pushing back transferring to at least one and a half years from now, if not two, because of pre-requisites. If I take both the pre-reqs I need to, which add up to nine units, I don't see how I'll have enough time to work to save up any money to get the fuck out of here and I don't see how I can succeed when a fight can erupt at any moment.

What do I do?!?!

I have an email address, , if you want to ask me a question or something. Thanks for reading! :)
posted by anonymous to Education (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you go full-time, you'll be eligible for more financial aid, perhaps enough for you to be able to afford to move out now, if you can find a roommate and a part-time job. My financial aid package was always nearly enough to do this, I just had to work full-time during the summer to make ends meet. You sound like you really need to cut the strings and get away from your family, they're not the source of stability that you need right now.
posted by bluejayk at 1:02 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is ultimately a question of your own priorities. But if it were me, I would stop going to school for a while, and save up enough money to allow you to get our of the family situation. Then go back to school if you want to.

p.s. The value of college is overrated anyway. I regret bothering to go to a real university for five years.
posted by bingo at 1:03 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really don't want to quit school.

So put school on hold, instead. Work. Save up. Move out. Then go to school.

Going to school while living with your parents isn't working for you, and hasn't been for years. Rather than spending more miserable time failing classes and living at home, do what you need to do to get yourself out of that situation.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:18 PM on July 21, 2009

Seconding bingo on both points.

Not so. Living with my parents is fraught with the threat of emotional, verbal and occasionally physical abuse at any time. Some people would be able to tolerate these occasional outbursts in exchange for the weeks of rent-free living in between them, but soon I fell into deep depression.

that's your answer right there. I don't think these "some people" you're judging yourself against exist; abusive situations are intolerable to everyone, and there's no shame in running as far and as fast from them as you possibly can- quite the opposite actually. Move out! Your first priority needs to be yourself and your own mental health. And you've already proven the home situation is too shitty for you to be able to concentrate on school anyway.

Like bingo, I got a BA because I thought that was what i was "supposed to do" and "what everyone did." In hindsight I didn't get a lot out of it, future-employment wise or otherwise. There are a million different successful paths through life.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:18 PM on July 21, 2009

You haven't been able to make this work and have a list of excuses as to why not--none of it being your fault. That sounds to me like you really aren't as dedicated to this as you claim to be, and so registering for more classes would be more waste of time any money. People have made this work with no money by working while going to school. Colleges--even community colleges--have libraries and labs open very late where you may go to work on assignments uninterrupted. If you're serious about it now, go ahead and register. If you know what you want out of college, if you have a goal and going to college fulfills it, then go ahead and register. But there's little point in going if you're doing it because your dad wants you do or because you have a vague idea that you just think you should.
posted by Polychrome at 1:23 PM on July 21, 2009

Everything that Polychrome said.

You are 25 and still blaming your parents? If you really want to go back to school, do this:
1. Get a full-time job.
2. Get a cheap apartment.
3. Go to school at night.

Believe me, LOTS of people do this, successfully. It means trading your spare time and hobbies for buckling down with the books. It means paying for tuition instead of a lot of other optional things. But when you are ready to go back to school, and you are ready to be successful at it, you will be more than willing to make those sacrifices.
posted by Houstonian at 1:50 PM on July 21, 2009

In my opinion, you should not register for classes in the fall. Nothing you have said so far has given me any indication that you have a chance of succeeding if you do so. Think of this as the same song, eighth verse. I could be wrong, but I encounter a lot of students with similar situations as yours and get to see which ones pull through and which ones don't. What you do not need at this point is affirmation, but to make a fundamental change in your life. You seem to think that means removing yourself from your parents home. That's probably a good start, but that also will probably not be sufficient. You may have some other things going on that are traditional barriers to academic success that you aren't mentioning here. Those will need to be dealt with as well. I'm not saying that success is beyond your reach, because if you are at the point where you are seriously trying to puzzle through what you're doing wrong, you are on the right track. You will, however, need to prepare for academic success a little more earnestly. Others here have given you advice and it's probably good advice generally, but I'm not sure advice is going to be enough to help you because what really needs to change is you. Period.
posted by mrmojoflying at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

What I notice about your story is what's not there; or maybe you're just not bogging us down with the details of your plan. You mention finishing, and transferring (to B.A. college?) but why will that be different? If that will be different and better, why not do that now? Or maybe I misunderstood the "more school" plan, and you've got a different goal.

Important - what do you want out of this? What are you hoping your college will do for you? Do you need the degree, or are you following the "college teaches me to deal with life" idea?

For some people it works out that that having a series of concrete goals (I will get a B+ in this course and I will do X, Y, Z to make this happen) helps them work though other aspects of life, and that's a really valuable thing, too... if only because items X, Y, Z can be just as useful, if not more so, than the B+. But, it sounds like that's not working out for you right now, and shelling out tuition money isn't going to make everything cascade into place. Decide what's important - the credits (to get a transfer)? the information? the sense of accomplishment? the checkbox on the job application? the feeling that you're taking charge of your life? - and chase that specific thing.
posted by aimedwander at 3:38 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


1) Get away from your parents. Especially if they impede your quality of life. If this means working full time, do it. If these means going to school full time in another state, do it (this will make you eligible for all kinds of student housing, etc.).

2) Figure out exactly what you're going to school for. My husband went to community college for 4 years after high school because he had no money and had no idea what he wanted to do. When he finally realized he wanted to be a graphic designer, he applied to Auburn, got in, quit what was one in a long string of awful jobs, and got the hell out of dodge. Knowing what you're working toward is the most motivating thing in the world. He had never really done well in high school or at community college because he was bored out of his freaking mind. When he was working toward a definite goal, he buckled down, worked his ass off, and got a degree he was proud of. This gave him the confidence to pursue further graduate work later on.

3) Don't just go to school to be going to school. Use school (community college, or a state school, or whatever) to help you achieve a goal you have set for yourself. I can't say this enough. I happen to be the kind of person who loves to learn for learning sake, but it still helps to know what I'm working toward.

4) Also, if you are worried you might not get into a state university after your academic history at community college, try applying/transferring in for the school of your choice's spring semester. A lot of schools take people they might not have admitted in the fall for the spring semester because of freshman dropping out. Universities have quotas they have to fill, and ultimately, they are run like one big businesses anyway. I have a friend who got waitlisted at GA Tech because his SAT scores sucked balls, but Tech took him in their spring admissions. He now works for Boeing (very smart, just not the best standardized test taker).

Good luck! (And by that I mean, don't beat yourself up over all the hard work and hard decisions you are going to have to make to create a better living situation for steps. Make a plan. Stick to it.)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:48 PM on July 21, 2009

I agree with whimsicalnymph. Do not go back to school at LEAST until you aren't living with Mom and Dad. Do not go back until you're pretty sure you want to stick with it AND know what you are shooting for degree-wise, rather than wasting more money to flunk out again and again. I know you really really don't want to drop out again, but I don't think you're going to start succeeding in school until you go in with a drastically different life situation. I'm pleased that your school situation has improved some from how it's been going, but this is a sensitive enough subject for you that I think you need to wait to return until you're in a better position. And at the very least, the parent thing screws you up every single time.

I work in transfer student stuff and I can tell you from seeing a billion transcripts that you're not terribly unique. A surprisingly large number of people go to community college for like 8 years (most of them from my hometown, hmmm), switch schools a bunch of times, take classes at a bunch of different colleges, have transfer work from the 1970's, and still managed to transfer into a university. Now, I don't know about getting financial aid for JC schools (especially these days), but even if you can't get financial aid, it probably won't make your school career any worse if you need to work and save up for a few more years before you can do the full time student thing, if you can't handle school and a job at once (and some can't).
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2009

OK, it took me eight years to finally get my BA, after a rocky start, and I very much believe it was worth it - starting a competitive program in a field I *love* in the fall. So. Here is my official I Have Been In Your Shoes advice.

1. Fill out your FAFSA.
Since you are over the age of 24, you now qualify as an independent student through the Dept. of Education. If you personally are of limited financial means (I think it's under $10,000/year income for a single person or something), you can get quite good financial aid. Using it to pay for community college will leave you plenty of that money for...

2. Moving the fuck out.
I do not come from a toxic family situation such as yours, but I had the usual level of suburban neglect. I lived with my uninterested, unsupportive family for my second year of school (first at community college!) after a dismal experience living in dorms at a huge state university. I did terribly that first year of community college. I moved out for unrelated reasons.

And here's the great thing about moving out: when you are forced to be responsible for your basic, day to day living, you tend to become more responsible in other fields as well. I did work during the day, school at night, then bed for several years. Basically, the school stuff just became a part of my routine. Get off of work, drive to class, sit in class for a couple hours, then home. Repeat.

It's actually kind of pleasant to do like that. Attending classes is the one of the main ways you can keep yourself motivated to turn in work, and do well. I mean, you're already there, you might as well keep up.

3. Don't keep track of the time.
If you take six, seven more years before you get your undergrad done and over with, then that's how long it takes. Sign up for your classes, and attend them. Oh yes, attend them. Have I mentioned that yet? A semester is only 15 weeks long at most schools. Don't think of the time you've wasted or how far behind you are other people your age. It doesn't matter at this point.

4. Seriously. Attend classes.
I don't know you from Adam, but you and I sound like we suffer from a similar ailment: good enough to do well in classes without much work, but still failing and withdrawing from classes. Smart, but kind of lazy and irresponsible. It's really common, and it's not impossible to get over. Attending classes was the #1 difference in terms of me failing/withdrawing or passing with 4.0s. Why?

Because, man, most lectures are not that interesting on any given day, but they're the time and place when instructors tell you flat out 'Here's how you get an A in this class.' By attending class you are reminded of due dates. It made the class just seem more real than when I didn't attend. If class is just an abstract -Philosophy 101 MW 3-4:20 - then you may feel less inclined to put concrete and real effort into it.

Listen: you can do this. Anyone can finish college. But very few of us are born college students - those weirdos who finish in four years and were in the Honors track for all four years and so on. Most of us aren't like that. It took me 6 years in community college, then two at the university level. And the first four years of community college for me sound like we did about the same kind of awesome.

Find out what kind of money the government will give you. Move out of your negative situation. Attend class. Slog through. You'll do fine.
posted by palindromic at 6:53 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

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