In recent years, it has been difficult for Berkeley High School students to sign up for classes at Berkeley City College due to the strenuous process of enrolling and hard to read website. Without counselor guidance, it can be challenging to navigate and some students have even tried to apply to a different community college to avoid systematic difficulties.
BHS senior Eliot Jensen, who has taken a variety of classes at community colleges, was frustrated by the absence of communication when he first attempted to enroll in a course. “I got to a roadblock where I had to email an administration, and they just never responded,” he said.
Additionally, BIHS senior Anna Sofia Cornish said that while the application process was fairly simple for her, finding the classes she wanted to take was the challenging aspect. “Their online course catalog was a little hard to find and it’s glitchy,” said Cornish, discussing the navigational difficulties of the college’s website.
BCC counselor Skyler Barton addressed the issue, saying, “One or more of my colleagues have been working on a toolkit which is very user friendly that can be provided to high school students to support you all with navigating the process in addition to our website.” He said that applying to any new college presents challenges, and BCC hopes to make the process as seamless as possible in the future.
A graduate of BHS and former BHS college and career counselor, Barton developed a passion for supporting students in higher education and helping them reach their aspirations in their post-graduate careers. Barton’s background as a coach and mentor has led him to take on a similar approach when advising students, and he as well as other counselors at BCC are determined to help students navigate and plan their goals in higher education.
Barton mentioned two main factors to keep in mind when starting the college process. “Our classes move much faster than a traditional high school class. For example, one semester of a language class is equivalent to two full years of high school language classes.” Due to the faster-paced classes, Barton stressed the importance of communication with professors and peers to succeed in college level classes. He said that it is the students’ responsibility to keep up with the class, and with faster paced classes that means learning how to communicate your needs.
Jensen has come to understand the truth in this advice throughout his years taking classes at various community colleges in the Bay Area.
“It’s definitely less personal, class size wise, it’s 30 to 180 (students),” Jensen said. “You get to know the professor because you are watching them and learning from them but they don’t get to know because they’re looking at some hundreds of faces.”
BCC’s dual enrollment program provides high schoolers the opportunity to earn college credits at no cost and without having to take an AP exam, which saves a large amount of money. Furthermore, community college often offers classes that most high schools do not, giving students the opportunity to explore more advanced and specific courses.
“I know a lot more about psychology, a lot more about my interests than I did before,” Cornish said. “I also know more of what a college class is structured like.” She said she was able to learn more about psychology and her interests through BCC as the majority of the courses weren’t offered at BHS.
Along with counseling, Barton teaches a course called “Life and Career Planning” geared toward high school students to guide them in planning for future careers and giving them the knowledge to function in a postsecondary world.
To aid high school students who are planning to or are taking BCC classes, the Dual Enrolled Students Club (DESC) helps students learn more about the college’s courses and enrollment process. The DESC meets bi-monthly on Fridays, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in-person at BCC.
Barton hopes that students will continue to take courses through BCC, and he wants to help students reach their full potential and achieve their personal goals. “Every student is in a different place, my role is to help students be aligned with their version of success.”