September 21, 2008 10:27 PM

University vs. Community College

This comparison is strictly in retrospect to my personal experiences both at Ohlone College and here at UCB.

1. Opportunities
This is one of the first things that hit me. There are so many opportunities that UCB has to offer, which quite honestly I find overwhelming. They have everything from independent research to study abroad to classes about pretty much everything there is to have a class on. But as a junior I feel at a slight disadvantage simply because I, ideally, only have 2 years here which doesn't give me enough time to experience everything I would like. So my suggestion to people coming into to Cal as freshmen is to take advantage of as many of the opportunities as you can because you have no idea at how much of an advantage you really are.

2. Student Activities
This ties along with my first point in that there are so many! UCB has clubs/organizations that focus on so many different things. Apparently there is a rubber band club? At Ohlone I believe there were a total of 20+ clubs, some of which were constantly going from active to inactive and active again due to a lack of participation. That's the other thing, far more people are involved! Come to think of it, this makes sense. Most of the students at Cal live here away from home and in an effort to avoid feeling bored or lonely, they are forced to join some group of like-minded individuals. Ohlone on the other hand is a commuter school in which the majority of the student body are also working or have families to take care of or whatever. They just don't have any reason to stay on campus aside from classes. This has actually made things extremely difficult for clubs to gain any real steam because not only do you have a lack of manpower but also a lack of will or ability to fully participate. On top of that, student organizations have little to no funding at Ohlone so they are quite limited on what they can actually do. Whereas here at Cal they have budgets set aside yearly from various higher groups including the ASUC and the UC system. Yet despite Ohlone's many disadvantages, I feel that they are forced to think more creatively because they have to work with what little they have in order to accomplish their goals. And from my personal experience, student organizations there have made some major accomplishments.

3. Connection
Obviously with more people it's harder to maintain a close connection with others, particularly instructors. Yes, they have office hours and an email but even then they are so busy with other things like the other 50+ people in your class or the other 200+ students in their other classes or their own research, etc. Now, they're not to blame or anything, it's all part of the job. For example, I was taking a fitness class with 50+ people in it and the instructor would just yell out from the center of the room. In comparison, I was taking a similar class at Ohlone and the instructor would walk around to each of us (~20) and help us in our individual difficulties and give personal encouragements. I'm not looking for a personalized pat on the back or anything, but I do enjoy the individual attention so that I can better perform for myself. Isn't that why we put so much effort in our education? If anything, it creates more competition for you to stand out of the crowd and forces you to learn more about yourself, which isn't a bad thing at all.

4. Teaching vs. Research
I've been interviewing professors from both Berkeley and Ohlone just to get a better idea of both paths of education. It turns out the major difference is whether as a teacher you want to teach or you want to do research. If you want to do research, be a professor at a university. From those that I have asked, they spend 60% of their time doing research and 40% actually teaching...that's where the GSI's come in. Most of them already have some research under their belt before taking the job, which naturally played a role in their acceptance. But they went in knowing that they wanted to do research and that the university would provide them the funding for it because in return the university gets the prestige of their discoveries. Now on the otherhand, if you wanted to teach it seems that community college is the way to go. Professors at a community college seem to have a greater passion for teaching and thus spend more time doing just that. Most of their research, if they do any, is independently funded or they work very hard in locating grants from outside sources. But since they want to teach, this isn't really an issue.
Bottom line, the path you take is completely dependent on what you want to do. Of course, there are other facts that weigh one path over the other such as financial stability and job security, but that's something you'll have to weigh out for yourself.


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