All About Abby: How Community College Changed My Life

Abby Hathorn

Growing up in Mississippi, I always thought I would carry on the family legacy of attending Mississippi State University or Delta State University; however, that wasn’t going to be the case. As my family and I moved from Mississippi to Alabama to Tennessee because of my dad’s job, the last three years of my high school education were anything but normal.

While living in Alabama, I made plans to go to the University of Alabama at Birmingham or Auburn; however, toward the end of all of the preparations, we moved to Tennessee. When I moved to Johnson City, I had no idea about “good” colleges in the area, and I only had a few months to get things in order before the fall semester began.

I was freaking out—I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t have the time to put the research into it like I did in Mississippi and Alabama—and I really did not want to spend the extra money on out-of-state tuition, and I had missed the deadlines for out-of-state-tuition scholarships. So, having nowhere else to turn, I took my panic to Google, and that is when I stumbled upon the college that changed my life forever—Northeast State Community College.

At first, my parents were skeptical about sending me to a community college because neither of them had attended one, and I was convinced from some of the opinionated people in my life that all of the “cool kids” went straight to the “big” universities—not community colleges. So, I took a deep breath, said a little prayer and set up a campus tour at Northeast State. Wow! I remember thinking while on the tour.

A COMMUNITY COLLEGE has all of this?! I was informed about how Northeast State has over 40 different school clubs and organizations, tons of degree programs—a lot of them transfer degrees. As my mom and I walked through each building on campus, we were truly blown away by how nice and state-of-the-art everything was.

I couldn’t believe my idea of community colleges had been so skewed by some comments from family, friends, high school classmates and even strangers. They had me believing community colleges were where students had to go when they had no other options, BUT that most definitely is NOT the case—especially at Northeast State Community College. Community colleges are a wonderful opportunity for students of all ages and backgrounds to get involved and experience college without some of the stresses a big university might generate. After touring Northeast State, I knew community college was going to be the first step on my journey to collegiate success because I was going to be more than just a number there.

Now, as a sophomore at Northeast State triple-majoring in Broadcasting, Public Relations/Advertising and Speech Communication, I can honestly say that community college has changed my life forever. When I started at Northeast, I had no idea I would fall in love with broadcasting—thanks to an awesome professor at Northeast, I discovered I had a talent for it. Thanks to all of the wonderful staff at Northeast State, I have been able to excel not only in my studies and student life, but also in my career path. Recently, I had the opportunity to host an interview with NBC correspondent Tracie Potts on our student-run television show Direction: Northeast, and I am involved on campus as a Navigator (student ambassador) and an Orientation Leader. So, if you decide to go to Northeast State, you might see me at your orientation

So, why in the world did I decide to write an article about community college? Well, recently, I have been touring colleges because I will be graduating from Northeast State soon, and I need to have all of my ducks in a row, eggs in a basket, and so on and so forth. So far, I have toured Emory & Henry College and East Tennessee State University. While on those tours, I ran into a lot of panicking freshman who reminded me of myself not too long ago. I gave them a few tips as they asked me about my college experience, and then I had the idea to share tips with anyone who might be freaking out about college in an All About Abby article. Now, without further ado, here are some quick tips I have learned not only from being in college, but also from giving informational tours and orientations at Northeast State.

1. Pay Attention to Deadlines: This is a “gimme” for most of us; however, you would be amazed at how many wait until the day of or the day before to submit forms and paperwork. For certain scholarships and federal funding, the earlier you submit applications, the more money you can get—and who doesn’t want more money for school *wink* So, don’t wait until the last minute! Also, deadlines can make or break you when applying for a university. The earlier you get accepted, the better dorm options you have + it opens bigger doors for better scholarships. So, always, always, always stay way ahead of the deadlines.

2. Get involved: Even if you just want to get in and get out of college without worrying about extra collegiate activities, I encourage you to consider joining at least one club or organization on campus. Lots of schools have a variety of clubs, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that fits your interests. Getting involved will also help you to make new friends who have similar passions.

3. Always keep an open mind: There is no doubt that college is stressful—whether you are at a community college or a university—so, it is important to keep an open mind throughout your experience. Just because things might be hard, it doesn’t mean things will always be hard—so, don’t give up! Don’t drop out when school seems overwhelming and impossible. Instead, ask for help. All colleges have free counselors on campus, who are there for you when the going gets tough. So, chin up buttercups — you got this.

All About Abby Question of the Week:

What is your best tip or advice for incoming freshmen and transfer students?

All About Abby is written by Abby Hathorn, a Johnson City college student and contributing community blogger. The views represented by community columnists do not necessarily represent those of the Johnson City Press.