When I first went to college out of high school, I didn't really know about the admissions process and my (sort of controlling) mom pushed me to go to this Christian college so not really knowing better on top of without having any friends to ask for help and my guidance counselor not being very helpful, I attended this school. I really hated it, and most of my classes consisted of modules such as the foundations of being a Christian, how to be a better Christian, learning about the school's denomination of Christianity in general, their interpretation of the Bible, etc.; basically the core classes required of the school's definition of a Christian faith. Aside from that, there were lots of restrictions; you couldn't listen to certain music, watch certain films, wear certain styles of clothing, etc. You also had to go to chapel every day or you'd get fined some money every time you didn't attend, and if you missed a certain amount you'd get kicked out of school. Anyway, the environment + my non-belief in this type of Christianity made me fail every single one of my classes, mostly because I disagreed and refused to accept certain "truths" they introduced. I have nothing against religion in general and I believe religion can encourage and help an individual with their life with positive morals so I don't refute religion, but some of the things they taught were pretty ridiculous in my opinion. I dropped out my first semester, and I went travelling around the U.S. for a while (mostly to get away from my mom). I worked/hung out in several different states, and my mom was causing a ton of trouble back home in regards to my person so I had to go back to make her stop. I didn't want to make a bad name for myself so I stayed at home for a bit and just worked for her friends to make whatever money I could. Somehow she convinced me go back to a different Christian college, one that was heavily sponsored by the church she was attending at the time and I didn't want to be embarrassed by her since this was a pretty big church (a couple thousand members?) and she went around running her mouth about how I needed God's help, etc. Anyway, I reasoned with myself that it wouldn't be so bad this time and it was another chance to get away. So, I went again... It was EXACTLY the same type of environment and I hate myself for ruining my academic record. I failed all my classes again, dropped out, and I left home for good. So now I have been working and I just got accepted into a CUNY community college. I think I am scheduled for a meeting with an advisor there some time this summer, but I wanted to gather some intel beforehand and prepare to make some decisions. The way I see it, I can take one of two paths: 1) Spend 2 years at community college, then transfer to another school with Physics Engineering as a major, then get my PhD in the same field. I'll probably rack up something like $50,000 in debt in the end, since there are no nearby schools that offer Physics Engineering which means I will have to dorm at a school farther away. 2) Spend 2 years at community college, transfer to a nearby school (walking distance from my current residence) that only offers Physics as a major, but is much, much cheaper (if I maintain a ~3.0 @ CC I can probably get a full ride, if not then it's still only like less than $1,000 per year with financial aid/Pell/TAP which I can pay off almost immediately with part-time jobs). I can get a degree in Physics there, then apply to work on another degree related to Physics since I've already taken some classes in my previous degree, which will bring up my GPA to counteract the massive cumulative 0.0 GPAs I had gotten during my Christian college run. Then transfer to a Physics Engineering program at a higher-ranked school than in the aforementioned 'path 1' which requires a minimum of 3.3 GPA, but is also free tuition/board/rooming since I make pretty much poverty-line income. This will probably allow me to gain better research experience with higher-powered professors in the field than in 'path 1' and thus result in acceptance to a better PhD program for my line of studies, which means access to better lab equipment, and possibly a brand name degree which will probably help me in future career prospectives. So 'path 2' will probably take about 3-4 more years longer, but I will not be in any debt, with the perks of having a title in a higher ranked program (such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Caltech, Berkeley, etc.). Would the latter option be worth the wait, considering the pros and cons of both?