City Blues: Why no one should feel bad about going to City College

Illustration by Jasmine Liang

“Where are you applying?”

With college application deadlines just around the corner, this question has been rearing its ugly head every way seniors turn. Most of the time it’s the same answers. UCs, Ivy Leagues, maybe a few state schools as backups.

Especially at an academic magnet school like Lowell, the expectation is to get into a name-brand college, somewhere our peers and parents will recognize. That’s what we’ve all been working towards, right?

Not necessarily. While City College is often looked down upon, it’s actually a good option for a lot of people. When considering which schools to apply to, the focus shouldn’t be on what our parents can brag about, it should be about which school fits the individual student the best. If that’s City College, that’s just as valid a choice as Harvard or Stanford.

Giping Huang graduated from Lowell in 2018 and currently attends City College. She wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to do academically, and she thought it seemed like a good opportunity to figure that out. “In some ways, City is like a second chance at life or college,” said Huang.

Two years at City College can fulfill a lot of the same general education requirements as two years at a four-year university, but for thousands of dollars less, and it gives students like Huang time to figure out what they are passionate about and may want to major in.

Going to City College for two years and then transferring to a university is a great option financially for a lot of people. It’s free for San Francisco residents, so apart from materials and textbook expenses, students don’t have to pay for their first two years of college, according to the City College website.

Adrian Hung, who graduated from Lowell in 2016, is now in his second year at City College. His primary reason for going was the cost difference, and his parents were supportive of his decision for the same reason.

Hung is happy that he decided to go to City College. “You get the feeling that the students truly want to be there to learn,” he said.

A lot of people aren’t able to afford a four-year university or college right out of high school, and the flexible schedule of City College leaves students time to work and save up for their next two years.

Another huge pull for City College students is the Transfer Admission Guarantee Program, or TAG program. This guarantees students admission to one UC that’s part of the program. To apply, students have to complete certain credit requirements and apply to one of the six UCs that are part of the program: Davis, Irvine, Merced, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Riverside.

Huang is planning on using TAG to get into UC Irvine, as well as apply normally to UC Los Angeles and UC San Diego. She wants to potentially major in business or finance or something along those lines, she said.

In reality, there are a lot of Lowell people going to City and it’s okay.

— Giping Huang

City college offers courses in over 50 programs in a wide variety of fields, and 95 percent of the professors hold master’s degrees, according to the City College website. It also has over 80 clubs, a student newspaper and radio and television stations, as well as events such as lectures and concerts throughout the year, according to the City College website.

Especially at Lowell, there’s a stigma surrounding City College, according to Huang. “I remember feeling very ashamed and dumb whenever I revealed that I was going to City,” she said. “The fact that no one talked about city college made me feel like I was the only one going and the only ‘dumb’ one in my friend group, but in reality, there are a lot of Lowell people going to City and it’s okay.”

Another problem Huang faced when making her decision was her family. Because anyone can go to city college, Huang’s parents were disappointed with its lack of prestige. Huang decided to go regardless. “It’s my life so I thought I have my own freedom to choose what I want to do.” she said.

Although Huang has days where she regrets her decision, she has great teachers and respects her peers there, who are curious, motivated and inspire her to be motivated as well. “There are people in my class who literally have kids but they still hustle and are still doing homework and raising their hands to ask questions,” Huang said.

For the Lowell students out there who are considering City College, don’t be discouraged by peer pressure or feel like you have to go to a specific type of school. CCSF is just as valid and much less expensive than a name-brand university.