Layne Weitzel

The road to becoming a Florida Gator can be a bit daunting, but you won't find yourself alone on that road. Layne Weitzel of Gainesville experienced the bumpy road, but is now a proud Gator journalism major and Santa Fe College alumna.

February 10, 2012 was one of the worst days of my life. I found out then that I had been denied admission to my dream school, the University of Florida. I was absolutely heartbroken, but after bawling my eyes out for a couple hours, I realized that I still wanted to be a Gator.

I had never imagined myself even considering going to SF before UF denied me. However, when I discovered that going there meant I still had a chance being accepted to UF through the transfer process, I pushed all the "what-will-everyone-else-think" thoughts out of my mind and went for it. I can now safely say that going to community college has been one of the best decisions of my life.

SF is an excellent stepping-stone to four-year schools

Sitting in an introductory-level class with 500 other students has always freaked me out a little bit, especially coming from a small high school where I knew everybody and only had 50 people in my graduating class. To me, SF is kind of like easing into a pool versus getting pushed off the high dive. There are no huge lecture halls on the SF campus. All of my classes are in normal-sized classrooms, and I usually have around 20 classmates. Since there aren't a million people in every class, you can get a good amount of one-on-one time with professors. It is much harder to get lost in the shuffle because there are less people around you.

To me, SF is kind of like easing into a pool versus getting pushed off the high dive. 

By completing all of my general education courses at SF, I have basically skipped the whole taking-classes-in-subjects-I'm-really-not-interested-in-alongside-the-entire-freshman-enrollment scenario, a characteristic of big schools that has always been criticized. I can now spend my time at UF studying topics I actually care about in smaller class sizes. I consider that a win-win.

There are some quality teachers who are amazing at, well, teaching

At SF, I have found that the teachers make themselves very accessible and often give you their email addresses, office hours and cell phone numbers and encourage you to ask questions. This past semester I took microeconomics, a subject I had a lot of trouble with during my senior year of high school. Thankfully, I had an absolutely incredible teacher who somehow made it very easy (or as easy as you can make marginal cost curves and the law of diminishing marginal utility) to understand the material.

My American national government professor attended Notre Dame for undergrad, George Washington University (in Washington, D.C.) for his master's and is completing his doctorate at UF. He's also worked on Capitol Hill. I'm pretty sure he's 30 years old. How's that for higher learning?

You have just as many choices in terms of getting involved

I've discovered that there is always something going on around campus. SF has tons of clubs and organizations to get involved in, such as Phi Theta Kappa (the community college honor society), Graphic Design Student Association, Polished Professionals (a business etiquette club) and even Society for Nerds. Student Government throws fairs usually during the beginning of every semester to inform students about their extracurricular options. You can also start your own organization if it doesn't already exist — Polished Professionals is only a couple months old.

SF isn't lacking in athletics either. Men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball all compete at the varsity level and have been very successful over the years (plus students can get in free with their IDs.) You can also play club or recreational sports like ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball, football and soccer.

In the end, my "plan B" worked. I will receive my A.A. degree in August (I did a two-year degree in one year — that's a story for another day) and was accepted to the University of Florida in January. I am head over heels excited to be officially going to UF in August (and living on campus!). SF has made me more mentally tough and persistent, not only in my schoolwork, but in life as well. After all, "it's not where you start, it's where you finish," and community college has helped me get to where I want to go!