High School Grads “Decision Day” Evolves into “Visit Year”

Batavia, New York - 

Letter to the Editor


Thomas Priester, Ed.D, Associate Vice President for Student Success

and Director, Educational Opportunity Program



            As if graduating high school during a global pandemic isn’t hard enough, thousands if not millions of high school seniors have another struggle before them. What to do next? May 1st is often referred to as “Decision Day” for college-bound seniors who must decide what college or university they will attend in the fall. On the eve of that all-important day, I would like to ease some of the stress and strain by suggesting a very viable alternative that is affordable, safe and within reach of millions of young Americans. The community college “Visit Year.”

Given these uncertain times, many seniors and their families are considering a “gap year” that typically involves waiting a year before investing the time and resources for full-time college enrollment. During this one-year postponement, some young adults work full-time to build up their bank account, while others may squeeze in a little travel that helps refine their college application essays. Gap years allow personal growth, and for some the exploration of interests and a boost to maturity.

The community college Visit Year offers all that, but also helps young minds focus on collegiate challenges without falling off or down any learning curves. It enriches the gap year with meaningful engagement that applies to and enables the student’s long-term goals and aspirations. And it comes packaged with a variety of community colleges benefits that are often ignored until something like a COVID-19 or a tough economy comes along. Here are the major benefits:

Visit Year Benefit #1: Why take an intro course in a large lecture hall with a hundred other students when the same course is taught in GCC’s classroom with only a dozen students? Students not only save a lot of money by taking courses such as PSY101, COM101 or HIS101 at GCC, but with the student to instructor ratio being 14:1, students enjoy plenty of one-on-one interaction and support. The State University of New York (SUNY) Pathways program ensures these college credits are SUNY transferrable. It makes sense and “cents” to earn general education course credit during a community college Visit Year.

Visit Year Benefit #2: Enterprising young students take Benefit #1 to the goal line, graduating from GCC with an associate degree allowing them to transfer as juniors, thus saving a full two years of tuition while earning their bachelor’s degree.

Visit Year Benefit #3: Transfer students still earn the prestigious degree from the well-known and respected four-year institution they had set their sights on, but they save two full years of costly tuition. We often say, “The smartest young adults earn their pedigree degrees, but they start them here at GCC.”  

Visit Year Benefit #4: Many young adults aren’t sure what occupation they want, and a community college is the perfect place to explore. The low cost of tuition means you can change majors many times without breaking the bank or acquiring huge student loans. You also meet and work directly with faculty who are at the cutting-edge of their field, yet focused on student success rather than academic research. The Visit Year brings this opportunity to your doorstep, or computer screen.

Visit Year Benefit #5: GCC has seven campus locations in four counties and hundreds of online courses. We may be the college closest to home, but our degrees and opportunities will take you anywhere you want to go. In addition, if a college course will be delivered online, why not take it for a lot less money and closer to home?    

Postponing the start of the college experience might bring some reassurance during this time of acute uncertainty, but why take this academic intermission when there is the opportunity to forge ahead that brings vast tuition savings, a high quality and high-tech education, and important, beneficial connections with your local community. Turn your gap year into a Visit Year - visit your local community college to get started!

For high school seniors in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming Counties, you can start this summer through the Genesee Promise Plus scholarship program that offers free tuition for up to two summer courses at Genesee Community College. Go to www.genesee.edu/promise and apply before June 19, 2020.

Decision Day just got a lot easier.

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Editor’s Note:

A photograph of Dr. Tom Priester is available through the link below: