Adventures at Community College


So, as you may or may not be aware, I am a college dropout.

I attended Central Oregon Community College at various levels of intensity from the ages of 15 to 18. I could have earned my Associate’s Degree at the tender age of 19 had I been willing to stay at COCC for one or two more quarters, but I got tired of it, and frustrated at myself after a quarter where I got all Cs (a revolutionary concept in my life of As and a few sorry Bs,) I stopped going.

Instead I chose to focus on working (making coffee is awesome,) playing, and being generally lazy.

I’m only a little bit ashamed.

During the two years that I was out of school, I moved a few times, got a couple of awesome jobs, and generally increased my understanding of who I am and what I want out of life.

So when my dad called me a couple months ago and told me he wanted me to finish my degree, I wasn’t too resistant. He offered to help me sort out financial things, and I applied to Portland Community College online that day.

Unsurprisingly, I was admitted. Since I didn’t want to deal with transferring credits, I haven’t yet. But I perused the class schedule, meticulously choosing classes that both sounded interesting to me and helped fulfill the requirements for my AAOT.

I counted down to registration; since I was a new student, I was in the very last bracket. I wasn’t worried– getting waitlisted is no big deal as long as you’re stubborn.

So when I woke up early to register for my classes online, I was more than a little bit disgruntled to learn that I couldn’t register until I’d seen an adviser. Lovely. Also, the only advising for the weeks of registration was drop-in. Even better. And I tried to register on a Friday and had to work, so I couldn’t see an adviser until Monday.

At this point, I almost said screw it, I’ll try again next term. But then I realized that would be like giving up.

Over the two years I’ve been out of school, I’ve learned something important about me; I hate giving up. I HATE admitting defeat.

So bright and early Monday morning, I embarked in the Starship to North Portland, where my campus of choice is.

I assumed that since it was pretty early in the day, I wouldn’t have to wait too long to see an adviser. But oh, how misguided I was in my sweet youth.

I waltzed up to the desk, took a number, and nonchalantly asked about wait times. I wasn’t worried; I didn’t have to work for another three hours. So I was shocked and disgruntled when the receptionist told me to expect at LEAST two hours.

Fortunately, I had a book with me.

Unfortunately, the campus was giving me such intense flashbacks that I couldn’t focus.

There are certain types of people you find at community colleges. I didn’t realize how universal this seemed to be. (I will be writing about this later, don’t worry.)

Although I was agitated, the two hour wait could have been a lot worse. Everyone else in the building waiting to talk to an adviser or financial aid was projecting crazy stressed out and negative vibes, so while I was observing how much more pissed off everyone else was I felt pretty okay about life.

I obsessively tracked the dragging time. I knew it would take me nearly a full half hour to get from campus to work, and I was worried about getting a parking ticket.

I stood, placing my book in my bag and moving toward the front door, ready to leave, when my number was finally, finally called. I power walked to the door of the advising office, and was ushered in by a small frazzled man in glasses.

He had obviously seen too many people in one day. I had to be at work, and I didn’t want to waste my time any more than he wanted to talk to me.

“Look,” I said, “I’ve been in school before. I have all the pre-reqs. I just want you to clear me to register.”

He looked over the degree evaluation I had printed out, made a comment about how it wasn’t an official transcript which I knew and didn’t apologize for. He cleared me to register, and I left.

I waited two hours for a two minute advising session which I neither wanted nor benefited from.

Anyway, so time passed and finally the first week of classes arrived. I lost my phone the day before classes started, leaving me without a way to contact the outside world.

I showed up to psychology class and was pleased to see a relatively small class size. I approached the teacher after class because I couldn’t remember if I was on the wait list or not.

“That’s funny,” he commented, flipping pages, “You aren’t on my list at all.”

“Oh,” I said, “Well. That’s weird.”

He signed my add slip, though, and I made my way to the registrar’s office.

After waiting in line another stupidly long time, I made my way to the window and another frazzled receptionist. “Hi,” I greeted her, “I just want to add this class and check on whether or not I’m on the waitlist for my other classes. Also I couldn’t log in at the computer lab.”

She clicked and typed and typed and clicked, and said, “You’re not in any classes.”

A moment of silence.

“What?”

“You’re not even in the system for this term,” she continued, “You got deleted for non-payment.”

Frustration and anger boiled up within me, and obnoxiously translated into tears. “Okay,” I said, struggling to remain composed, fighting against the lump in my throat. “Well, I’d like to add this class, anyway. And then reset my password for the computer lab.”

She unsympathetically obliged, and I walked away, seeking refuge in the library. I successfully got onto a computer lab, and sent my mother four or five panicked emails.

Apparently these days when you go to Portland Community College you must cough up your tuition two weeks in advance, which seems stupid to me. When I was at COCC you had two weeks AFTER the start of term to pay your tuition. Maybe it’s just a way to try to weed out people (like me) who are flying by the butt of their pants and don’t get their financial situation sorted out until the last minute.

Still seems dumb to me.

Anyway, long story short I got into the two classes I need the most, despite the initial hassle. So far they’re going well.

Stay tuned for more Adventures In Community College! In next week’s episode, we’ll talk about the People You Always See on Community College Campuses.

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    • April 11th, 2013

    Oh man, there’s a special kind of hell that is educational bureaucracy. Congrats on surviving round 1.

    So, what classes are you taking this term?

    • I know, right? I don’t understand why they have to make it so complicated!
      Currently I’m taking Pschology 201 and Biology 101. Interestingly, there are several bio majors in my psych class and psych majors in my bio class.

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