I began at Elgin Community College a little discouraged and disappointed that I wasn't at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I've always planned on attending. The only thing holding me back was the financial situation, as I would still have to take loans out to afford school. My parents then asked me to consider ECC. I had already been coming here my senior year of high school to take Calculus 2 and 3, so it wouldn't be much of a change of environment for me. Therefore, I was mad that I wasn't going to experience anything new like most of my friends who went away for school.
From my first semester, I started taking honors classes right away. However, I kept to myself because I knew I would only be here for a couple semesters since I had advanced placement credits that would transfer. Additionally, I planned all my classes on Mondays and Wednesdays so I was wasn't on campus often. As the semester went on, I looked into joining Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society on campus. There, I realized all the students were inviting, encouraging, and welcoming. That's when I realized ECC is most definitely for students like me. Most of these students excelled in their academics, while working, and balancing schoolwork with volunteerism as well.
As my second and third semesters at ECC rolled around, I started seeing more familiar faces in my honors classes that I met at PTK events, eventually becoming close to those students. My third and final semester at ECC I decided to apply for a chair position for the service officer of our Phi Theta Kappa society. I became much more involved in the chapter and helping our community as well as meeting more individuals like myself. Also, my honors classes at ECC and the professors challenged me and allowed me to reach those high expectations of myself. I was able to accomplish just as much as I would in a four-year university and even more.
What started as a hesitant decision that I was trying to get through quickly, actually ended up as the most successful 1.5 years of my life. It definitely helped me prepare myself for future classes to come when I transfer to UIUC in the fall of 2018. I was able to save up money as I have no college debt, whereas I would have had at least a couple thousand had I went straight out of high school to a four-year university.
I would definitely recommend ECC to students who don't have a specific direction for their careers or are not ready to move far from home. Enrolling in the Honors Program and then graduating from it helped me feel that sense of accomplishment I needed to experience through these three semesters. Coming to ECC turned out to be one of my best decisions yet.
~ Klaudia Staszczuk, Algonquin