Have you ever wondered whether certain colleges might have a friendlier atmosphere than others? Liz Smith, a former student of two Utah colleges, shares her thoughts on what it was like attending both Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah. Having only attended SLCC for a year and a half, Smith explains that she did what she could to gain as much as she could from her experience, as well as learning about different foreign languages in her classes.
While her desire was to return to school to finish her degree, Smith had the option of choosing between a smaller, local college such as SLCC, and a larger, more expensive school such as the University of Utah. “I picked [SLCC], first of all, ‘cuz it was cheaper than the U,” Smith say. At the time, Smith still had a lot of lower level classes to go through. Regardless, Smith explains that the college setting was just what she was looking for, “I just liked the idea of smaller classes, more access to the professors, and so on.” Smith later transffered to the University of Utah to finish her four-year degree.
The time Smith spent at SLCC was worthwhile, creating memories with classmates and professors along the way. “I was really sad to leave,” she says. “Everybody was really open and friendly. That’s what I enjoyed the most.” Smith appreciated the fact that students at SLCC were easy-going, helpful and willing to talk to everybody who was anybody. “[Everyone had] the attitude that says, ‘we’re all happy to be here,'” Even the professors at the college were understanding and willing to set aside time and help their students. “The professors, they weren’t so into the academics that they forgot the students,” Smith explains. “When you get into larger universities, they tend to forget that.”
While at SLCC, Smith had to take two years of a foreign language as part of her major. She chose French. “That just terrified me,” Smith says. “I don’t have a good ear for it, but had to do it.” The part that really stood out to Smith as she went through the course was her professor. Although she has long forgotten her name, Smith will always remember her kindness and accommodating nature. “[She] was really helpful,” Smith explains. “She was cohesive, and she was always available for questions. She never made us feel stupid or anything. She was always encouraging us.”
As enjoyable as SLCC was for Smith, she was able to view the other side of the coin while going into British Literature and Psychology at the University of Utah. While attending the community college, Smith received help, accommodations, made friends, found classes to be relaxing, etc. The U was a different story. “You don’t get that up at the U,” Smith says. “The U is a cold school, I think, overall, [whereas] SLCC is not.”
While attending the university, Smith discovered that the atmosphere was completely opposite from what SLCC was like. “There’s a high academic pressure at the U,” she explains. “You better get it on your own because it’s hard to get to the professors. Physically, they’re there, but emotionally, they’re not.” In other words, unless you make an effort to stand out, they’re not going to know who you are. From Smith’s perspective, “They don’t care.” Smith also became aware of the school’s intensity and intimidation. “It’s a good school to go to, but you gotta be willing to fight through it,” she says.
When Smith chose to go back to school, she explained that her focus was not to socialize by going to college sporting events or making friends. Instead, studying hard and doing well in her subjects was high on her list. “My focus was to get as many classes as I could, and get great grades so that it would look good on the transcript, and just get as much out of it as I could.” Smith tells of what a three-fold focus it was, but her goal was to get an education. While Smith did what she could to have a social life while in school, it came tough. She explained that while at the U, she made friends out of desperation, in part because she was much older and was past her teenage years.
By this time, it’s probably safe to say that Smith undoubtedly would put SLCC in her favor. There are those who would beg to differ, but in Smith’s opinion, “I think that SLCC has made a really good definition of the professors, who understand that this is different than a university, and they treat people different, and they act different, and they approach different. They’re still there for the academics, but they don’t just shove it at you. They’re very much involved and accessible.”
In terms of personal advice Smith can offer, “I tell everybody, if you’re thinkin’ about goin’ to college, don’t start out at a college, go to SLCC. It’s just a good place to start out. Don’t sweat it,” Smith says, “There’s a lot of help. All you have to do is ask.” And, “Don’t feel stupid to ask questions,” she advises. Everybody will help you out if they can.” The intent here is not to force anyone to choose between these two colleges. But if Smith were trying to persuade you to go, she’d pick SLCC. “It’s a great college; I’d encourage anybody to go,” she says. “I really enjoyed it.”