Bansari Upadhyay takes great pride in making the decision to attend College of DuPage.
“Toward the end of high school, I felt a strong urge to take a gap year in my studies to develop a better understanding of who I was at that point,” she said. “I felt behind and lost but found myself resisting the idea that attending a four-year college right after high school is the path for everyone, which was an idea pushed a lot in high school.
“I chose to attend COD despite dissenting opinions, and something valuable I have learned from it is that we have the ability to mold our decisions into being the right ones for us. I think this has done something significant in my growth process because, had I not chosen for myself and made it the best decision, I may not have gained this insight at the critical time that I did.”
Being named a Dean’s Scholar, which provided for a portion of her tuition, helped Upadhyay pay for college, as did receiving the COD Foundation’s Freshman Scholarship and Achiever Scholarship.
“These were helpful because they allowed me to prioritize my time in college rather than feeling pressured to work more than part-time. As a result, I could better balance education, extracurriculars, time with family and friends, as well as working part-time,” she said.
Upadhyay is pursuing psychology, an interest that stemmed from wanting to better understand people around her struggling with mental health issues.
“I distinctly remember once helping an elderly stranger with Alzheimer’s, and that made me even more fascinated with psychology,” she said. “Psychology is such a broad subject and I can apply it in so many different areas of my life. My current pursuit is industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology because it combines my interest in understanding human thought and behavior as well as my desire to improve the workplace.”
As for her own personal journey, Upadhyay pushed herself to build her self-confidence. She remembers standing outside the door of a meeting for COD’s chapter of Psi Beta, the national honor society for psychology, trying to convince herself to enter. She did and eventually served as vice president and treasurer.
She also took private voice lessons and subsequently joined the concert choir.
“I never imagined myself having the courage to join a choir or take voice lessons, so this experience makes me feel proud and reminds me that college is a time to explore,” she said.
Her decision to attend COD was fully validated when she earned her Associate in Arts degree, graduating with highest honors by achieving a 4.0 GPA and being named one of the College’s Outstanding Graduate finalists.
Upadhyay is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is currently completing a bachelor’s thesis and research certificate. After graduating in 2021, she plans to pursue professional research in the social/behavioral sciences and obtain a Ph.D. in I/O Psychology.
“I hope to find in psychology something that fulfills me intellectually and also contributes to society,” she said. “Because people spend so much of their time at work, it is essential to have a department in an organization that pushes toward making a more positive, growth-driven work experience.”
As for COD, Upadhyay looks back and wonders why she had so many doubts.
“People can be too quick to dismiss community colleges. But the quality of faculty, services and student life at College of DuPage is impressive and, although this is not the path for everyone, it is wise to first look into all that is offered here,” she said. “Even after graduating, I found myself being advised to not mention having attended a community college on job applications. I think, however, that by continuing to own and recognize the value of our experiences that we can fight the stigma and help encourage the next generation of students, particularly of a lower income background, to have more opportunities in education than they otherwise would have.
“Graduating was a bittersweet occasion, but I did not see it as the conclusion of my time at COD. There are a lot of classes that I still hope to take out of personal interest, including a study abroad. I love the idea of continuing to learn new skills and develop new ideas so, in that sense, COD really is a college for the community because it is a place people can go to in order to change careers, learn a new skill, earn a degree and meet new people.”