It was a calm evening in early March when Anthony joined us at the Cappex office. It wasn’t long before the world would shut down due to COVID-19, but we didn’t know that yet. We said our hellos, shook hands, got the ever-required LaCroix for our guest (lime), and got settled in our little shooting studio.
Energetic and free with his facial expressions, Anthony openly talked about his transfer story, from the College of DuPage to DePaul University—including why he began his college career at a 2-year institution.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he admitted. “I was just worried about what am I gonna eat for breakfast?”
Joking aside, Anthony had a problem that a lot of students deal with: he hadn’t been all that interested in education while in high school. It was primarily his parents that had pushed him to continue his education at a community college until he figured out what he wanted to do with his life.
“When I got to College of DuPage, at the time I didn’t want to be there. But, slowly, as I started talking to my professors, actually getting engaged in the classroom, I kind of realized, alright, I kind of like what they’re talking about.” He laughed. “It’s pretty interesting, you know?” Like many students, he realized the value of education later in life. He also realized something else, though: “2-year college” is not synonymous with easy.
“I thought, you know, they just wanted to get as many people out of there as possible, but, honestly, [College of DuPage] really changed my perspective,” he said. “I had a lot of great teachers.”
Anthony is referring to something many of us know as “diploma mills.” Though the actual term refers to illegitimate companies that masquerade as universities and sell the physical paper of a diploma, rather than the education it’s supposed to indicate. The term is also used derogatorily about colleges or universities that are “so easy anyone can graduate” — which is what a lot of people think about 2-year institutions.
Anthony’s experience was in direct contrast to this.
“One of my professors, in particular, he was my philosophy professor, and he really shaped the way I was thinking. Professor Wolf, was his name, and he was honestly one of the most insightful teachers. Similarly, he was in my position, and other students, as well. He started off at College of DuPage, from there he transferred to, I think it was NYU, and then from NYU he went to Princeton*. So, he really jumped…. It helped to reassure me that, even though I’m at College of DuPage, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stay here, this isn’t where the ending of my story is going to be. He really pushed me to get outside of my comfort zone.”
Many professors at community colleges have earned degrees from prestigious universities. Even more pull double duty — they work at multiple institutions. Sometimes they’re adjuncts, sometimes full time, but they often put in a significant amount of time at 4-year institutions, some of which are big name ones.
His time at community college also did something else, though: helped Anthony forge a connection with learning and critical thinking, ultimately making him ruminate on his choice of major while receiving a top-notch education from well-educated professors.
The value of community college was certainly not lost on Anthony, either. He appreciated the ease of taking random classes, finding his interests, and building his character. It wasn’t long after all this that Anthony was ready to make the leap to a 4-year university.
“What really sparked my interest for DePaul was that my mom previously went there for a little bit,” he said. “And Chicago is one of the best cities in the world.” (We agree!)
Between Anthony’s love for Chicago, his friend-base already at DePaul, and wanting to forge a path different from his sisters’ (who both went to rural schools), Anthony chose DePaul University — which he praised for the seamless transfer process.
“DePaul did a great job of easing students in. [They] really made the experience worthwhile,” Anthony said, then launched into a comprehensive explanation of the orientation DePaul provided, as well as the numerous resources. He was provided with opportunities to network, to apply for internships, and more while being introduced to the college.
His transfer experience only improved from there.
“One of the great things I would say about DePaul is they make it really, really easy to pick up a minor. They have their Academic Report, you could say, where you could hypothetically see, like, okay, if I were to change my major, if I were to change my minor, where would I be at academically standing.”
For Anthony, this opened up a whole world of opportunities — it meant that he could really examine his interests, join clubs, and re-assess his wants in life all while seeing how it would impact the rest of his college career. It was an undecided major’s dream.
“At the time I was determined to be an economics major. But I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go, I was trying to get into financial advising, but after I joined my club, the DePaul Investment Group — I highly recommend it to anyone who’s a business major — I actually just recently switched to Finance, and minoring in Data Science.”
Ultimately, it was being around other motivated, driven individuals that gave Anthony the push he needed to find his passion and adopt a minor. It was easy to assess the feasibility, too.
Anthony was able to enter this change into his Academic Report and determine which of his classes counted for what credits, if he could stay on track to graduate on time, and what other classes he needed to take.
The biggest change, without question, was the huge difference in tuition cost.
“When I was at College of DuPage, one of things I realized is how cheap community college is compared to a standard university,” he said, immediately, the moment we brought up the cost.
He became emphatically clear that he did not regret going to community college first — it saved him from years of owing money, thousands of dollars in debt, and he still gets to have his “classic college experience.”
“If you’re going to go to community college, don’t take it for granted and realize that the teachers there are actually teaching you, giving you a good education. And you’re getting your money’s worth,” he said seriously.
That said, he admitted that the financial aspect of attending DePaul was challenging. They offered him a good scholarship and he was able to work with his parents to figure out how to handle the leftover cost, but it wasn’t easy.
“I’m really fortunate to have my family, my mom, my dad, they really care about me and they’re willing to make some sacrifices in order for me to get the full experience, as well as start building my professional career,” he said, one of a few times he expressed his gratitude for family. “It kind of just helps, in the back of the head a little bit, my parents are doing all of this for me, what am I doing for them?”
The greatest reward for parents is to see their kid happy and successful — and Anthony sounds like he’s well on track!
As his final parting advice, for all students, people, everyone, he says: “Regardless of what school you’re going to go to, I heard this quote in a TV show… basically, get outside your comfort zone. Until you do, you won’t know what you’re capable of. I take that with me everywhere.”
*Professor Leslie Wolf actually attended Yale University for both his MA and PhD in Philosophy