Moving On: The Tales of COM


By Tenaya Tremp

It’s officially college admissions season, and high school students everywhere are being bombarded by college merchandise, social media photos, and constant talk of future plans. Among all the college fever, however, some are straying from the expectation to go to a four-year college and choosing to instead stay close to home for the first two years of their college education.

For many, College of Marin is not a backup option but a community college that offers numerous benefits and that will help them move towards their overall life goals. Senior Hartley Hood, who is planning on attending COM this fall, is one of those students. “I’m in a band… and we decided that we all wanted to stay local after high school for at least the next two years or so, so that we can continue the band,” he said. “I actually made the decision pretty recently.”

After deciding to stay in the area, Hood began to lean more towards San Francisco State that COM, he said, but in the end the financial benefits of being able to live at home and not have to commute tipped the scale in COM’s favor. “SF State is cheaper than a lot of other schools, but going to COM would be a lot easier financially.”

For Hood, going to COM is simply a small step towards where he wants to be in a few years. He’s currently planning on going for only two years before transferring out. “I could go to a music school,” he said, “probably a UC. But, who knows, I can always change my mind by then.”

Alexandra Evans, another Tam senior, has what she calls a “weird path” leading her to COM. Evans is hoping to go  to a specific college in Zurich called ETH, or Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, that is home to one of the top physics programs in the world but in order to get in Evans must  complete some required credits not offered here at Tam. “Because the U.S. education system isn’t necessarily as advanced… they require at least one year at community college,” Evans said. And despite the reputation COM can get as being easier than other colleges, Evans’ course load will be far from light. “I’m taking physics, biology, chemistry and multivariable calculus,” she said, all with the goal of both preparing her to get into ETH University and helping her thrive once she begins studying there.

Evans also needs to be able to speak German to make it at the school, and she is going to spend this extra year in America studying to pass a proficiency exam needed to get in.

Tam senior, Nate Wood, shares some of his reasoning with Hood and Evans. “There are three reasons [I’m going to COM],” he said. “One, it’s significantly less money… Two, I don’t feel prepared to go off to college, like I don’t feel ready to leave… Three, I’ve heard a lot of good things about COM, especially as far as community colleges go.” Like the others, Wood plans on transferring out of COM after he gets enough credits. “I might go to a UC because I like California and I want to stay in the state,” he said.

Wood’s decision was fully supported by his family and friends, in part because his brother is already attending COM. Teachers have also been strong supporters of him. “Almost everybody has said that COM is a really good school and that saving the money is a good idea, teachers especially,” Wood said. Despite the general reaction he got, there was some negativity from people who “thought that community college was just a complete waste of time.” But Wood ignored those people, confident in the choice he’d made. “I put no value in their opinions,” he said.

Most of the reactions received have been pretty similar, relating to the financial benefits associated with COM. “A lot of people like the idea of COM because it’s a very financially respectable decision,” said Hood. For him, it was his parents that resisted the most. “It took [my parents] a little while to get warmed up to the idea of me staying local for the purpose of continuing the band,” he said, but eventually they realized the positive financial aspects and supported his decision. “Mostly it’s been a pretty positive reaction”

Evans also had mostly positive reactions from her friends after making her decision. “Most of my friends… are going to COM, so socially I haven’t felt so hesitant to talk about it.” Just like Hood, Alex’s parents were also slightly more hesitant than her peers. “Even though they know my plans, the concept of their kid going to community college isn’t necessarily the most positive.” When with extended family, she finds herself needing to “explain my plans as an excuse for going to community college.”

“[It] kind of sucks,” Evans said, “because COM is a good school.” But little by little the stigma around community college is being broken. Many students going to COM in the fall are planning on using it as a stepping stone on their path to another college, such as Wood, Evans and Hood. Many others decide that they will be able to flourish just as well at COM as they would at any other school and commit to it for the next four years of their lives. But no matter their reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact their choice is a respectable one, and that they are able to own it.