Where to go after high school | Editorial

By Maria Magana-Narvarro, Journal intern

The month of January marks the beginning of a new year. New year, new resolutions, “new me.” We as a collective have heard the same thing again and again, it’s nothing new, which is what someone like me would have said in the past. New years mark a new beginning and that truth holds more weight when you graduate. Graduation date is a year that seems so far, yet, so close at the same time. You think, “Well I still have time”, till the new year hits and the realization sinks deep. “Oh!” One thinks to themselves. “Graduation is in a couple of months.”

Most high school students or past students can agree that teachers, family, and friends hammer in the notion of attending college or university. There is an idea and general notion that junior year is the most challenging year of high school. One can beg to differ: senior year holds more significance and challenge. Financial aid, scholarships, career paths, and of course, applying for college. Applications don’t bear much weight till deadlines are right around the corner serving as a reminder that your future will change.

Choosing where to attend college is vastly difficult. The idea of college is also a challenge to those like me, who’ll be the first in their families to attend. What to study, what to major in, what to do? The questions spiral everywhere with an answer nobody, not even ourselves knows.

Something I wish I could’ve done earlier to ease the running thoughts is to visit college campuses. Many colleges and universities offer campus tours for students and parents. A big deciding factor with college picks is location, so what better way to choose a college than to visit the campus? Suburban, college town, rural, etc. There is a location for everyone; some might prefer one over the other.

With the Latinx club in the high school, we scheduled a campus tour at Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College.

Both colleges are located in Bellingham Washington, a mid-sized city filled with outdoor recreational activities. If you enjoy nature and island life Bellingham is similar to that. Except, of course, more resources and people are around.

Western Washington University is a mid-sized college with 14,561 undergraduates enrolled in Fall 2023. It’s a big school but not too large to the point one would feel lost. The average class size is 28 students per class, not large but not small either. Touring the campus halls one can note the large lecture halls, a typical styled college classroom that seats 100+ students in one room. Further noting, the dorm-styled housing, shops, and dining areas. The school offers many resources so it has just about everything you need. The day the group visited it was rainy and cloudy, typical Washington weather. The weather, however, didn’t take away from the beautiful views. Mountains, the sea, pine trees. All of it screams Mother Nature if that’s your vibe.

Whatcom Community College. Located near Western, Whatcom is a smaller campus with 2,785 students enrolled in Fall 2023. It does have a campus smaller than WWU, however the campus is beautiful. The class average is about 20 students per class and it doesn’t hold huge lecture halls. Community college is comparable to high school on the Islands, just on a bigger campus with more resources around you. One key difference between both schools was the overall vibe and feeling. In the past, I have visited Western a handful of times. It could be the cloudy rain that stretched over the sky every time I’ve visited, or something else. Typically when touring larger campuses, instead of feeling like a possible student, I end up feeling like a number to the school system. Not to say it’s a bad thing, but when coming from a community such as Friday Harbor, the change and feeling are persistent.

The student population is diverse varying from age, gender, and ethnicity. The faculty was also diverse and were lovely people. When comparing both colleges overall I enjoyed the tour at Whatcom Community College. It was easier to fit in and talk with students and faculty alike. The campus was great, the student population and faculty were great, and don’t forget the money saved when attending a community college.

Overall, both campuses were great and both colleges are great to attend. Touring a college campus is vastly different than knowing information about it, and I’d highly recommend it to students to help them decide where to go. Ultimately, who knows where we’ll end up in the future? But, something we can actively do is encourage campus tours to students so we can actively take on the next chapters in our lives.