Thursday, September 29, 2011

Learning fashion, new Facebook, advice, and free stuff

*Weekend 4Cast*
4 things I’m dying to share with you that can’t wait until Monday

1 – How do you learn fashion?  
I’ve been getting a lot of questions/comments about my fashion lately both online and in person and have been thinking about how I learned my fashion. I didn't always have a great fashion sense and realized recently that I really started after a big research project I did which elucidated what tabloid communication about Britney Spears (this was in 2008) elucidated about our society’s perception of women. I do not recommend reading these magazines but seeing and reading about how fashion worked helped me understand what colors worked well together, how to keep it simple but interesting, and what worked and didn't work about an outfit. You can easily do this by looking up pictures of fashionable outfits online. Learning anything is all about exposure. 

Growing up in a lower class family “fashion” was something that seemed elusive – only for people who could afford it. But really, once I started learning what fashion was (and some of the artistic principles behind it) I was able to copy what I saw by shopping at thrift stores, H&M, and anywhere I could find a great deal. Fashion should never be the most important thing about you - but I found it truly fun and interesting and it has started a lot of great conversations that end up going much deeper than clothes.

I share this with you because a lot of students will say to me “wow I love that outfit I could never pull that off” or “I just love your clothes I wish I had style.” So I’m here to tell you that you can learn this! Because never forget you can learn anything. And the best way I’ve learned pretty much everything in my life has been to observe, ask, learn, copy what I learn has already worked for others that are successful, and then add my own unique twist as I continue to learn. You can do this with anything. 

2 – New Facebook 
What do you guys think of this new Facebook bar on the right? It is driving me crazy and stressing me out.  When I think about how much Facebook has changed and accelerated in the past few years it truly blows my mind. We are literally in the midst of a social media revolution and it has changed and will continue to change everything. How does it play a part of your life now? Are you using it to the best of its potential? How will it affect your future goals/job? See for yourself the impact of this revolution in this short and really cool video:

3 – Ask 
So few students are asking for help yet so many are falling behind, struggling with so many things, and even dropping out. Almost every day you should be asking someone for help or advice. Who will you ask today? Their advice could change your life. Trust me. (and if you aren’t sure who to ask start with me – 

4 – Free stuff –
I realized today after speaking at UCF to first generation students and seeing their incredible program for 1st Gen’s that at no other time in your life will people by dying to help you with your success (unless you continue to interact with me after you graduate ;) as much as they do in college. In higher ed there are so many dedicated people who have developed programs and are begging you to show up, participate, and find success in your life. Once you graduate that will be gone.

In college there are so many programs and services with the sole purpose of helping you succeed. Why aren’t you taking advantage of every single one? (e.g. career center, student life, multicultural services, free tutoring, clubs/organizations, etc.). At no other time in your life will people care so much and try so hard to help you reach your goals in life. You’ll be amazed at what happens if you just show up.

Have a great weekend! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Fighter Pilots Can Teach Us About College Success

I just started reading this fascinating book called That Used to Be Us by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum and in it they cite a concept from the U.S. Air Force that they use as a framework for what America needs to do in order to rise above its challenges.

And the framework they cite struck me immediately as exactly what college students must do in order to succeed. A huge light bulb went off in my head and I thought - whoa - this is big. 

U.S. Air Force officer John Boyd designed a framework called the “OODA loop.” OODA stands for “observe, orient, decide, and act” and Boyd said that whichever pilot had a faster OODA loop would be the one with the competitive advantage – the one that would win…or rather…survive.

The essential concept is that in a fast-paced environment you must observe your environment, orient yourself around what you observe, decide on a plan of action, and then follow through.

And both college and the world we live in today are fast-paced and high stakes environments in which you must make strategic moves in order to be successful. 

The OODA loop provides a perfect framework to help you successfully navigate your college flight. The key is to follow the stages in order, not to dwell on one too long, and to remember it is a loop, you must always reevaluate because both you and your environment will change often.  

Isa's College Flight Strategy

OBSERVE: Observe your life experiences and what you want to make better or different. Read a wide variety of books and news and note the trends going on in the world. Note the problems in the world that you could help solve. Now observe what you are good at. What talents do you have?  What tasks do you enjoy the most? What do people compliment you on? What are you most proud of so far in your life? What skills do you enjoy using?

ORIENT: Once you mesh your best talents and skills with a passion or a problem you see in the world it’s time to position yourself to best achieve your goals. You must notice what is going on in the world and how you are a part of it. You must position yourself in clubs, organizations, and activities that give you more exposure and more experience in what it is that you want to contribute to the world.  You must do well in your classes and have the best possible credentials to position yourself to be ready for the best opportunities when they come your way. Because you never know when something will come fast. You must be ready or you will miss out. 

DECIDE: Choose a major. Choose a direction. Choose a passion and a focus. Write down your goals and make a plan to achieve them. And remember that this is a loop. You can always re-orient after you’ve observed more about yourself and your environment. But you must decide something in order to move forward.

ACT: Look at your goals and your plan and start acting on them today. Find mentors who have done what it is you aspire to do. Ask them for advice. ACT on their advice. Learn everything you can about what you want to do. Get inspired. Do things no one has done before. Be a leader.

Are you flying in the right direction? Are you even up in the air yet or are you still observing the skies, afraid to rise above? 

Or are you stuck? Are you too afraid to decide? Too afraid to act? Or have you acted and are you too afraid to start over again in a way that might lead you to a new, seemingly scarier action?

Now more than ever it is time to get on the right course. If you don't - your dreams and your future could pass you by, leaving you lost and alone and wondering why your life feels so devoid of any passion, joy, or fulfillment. The good news is - you are the pilot of your own life. 

We live in an incredibly fast-paced society, and as Thomas L. Friedman says, “the Age of Average is over.”

Do not get comfortable with average. You are more than average. FLY above average.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What to wear to college (Ask Isa)

In the vlog below I answer questions I've been getting on how to step up your fashion in college. Blog has been moved to a new night - Monday night! Keep sending your questions to and email or Facebook me pics of your favorite college outfits! Enjoy and I'll have more for you tomorrow :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Overcoming your deepest fear

Weekend 4Cast
The 4 things I’m dying to share that can’t wait until Monday

1 – Afraid to fail….or afraid to succeed? -
I heard this quote in an audio book I’m listening to right now (Stephen Covey’s The 8th Habit) and it was exactly what I needed to hear at the moment. One of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever encountered:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?...

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. - Marianne Williamson (bold mine)
“Do not get comfortable with average. You are more than average. Rise above average.” – Isa Adney ;)

2 – My favorite professor –
It seems tests are in the air and many of you are managing relationships with professors and figuring out where you stand after that first test. Having great relationships with my professors in and out of the classroom directly led to my winning the $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke scholarship and getting straight A's and 100's on tests/essays (and not because they liked me or because I was a super genius...but because I asked for their help early and often and took their advice).

How many conversations have you had with your professors so far this semester?  If you haven't started yet, I recommend starting with my fav – The Chatty Professor. Like her on Facebook. Read her blog. And unlock the door to opportunities and insights that only your professors can bring. 

3 – Win a FREE Samsonite backpack –
If you haven’t yet be sure to enter to win in the top right-hand corner. It is the famous Samsonite Tectonic backpack I wrote about a few weeks ago. I decided to give one away and was just going to buy it myself and send it to the winner and then Samsonite said they’d send it/pay for it themselves! How cool is that?! Enter for your chance to win. Contest will end 9/30.

4 – You you you you you you you you you I wanna talk about YOU :) –
I want to know more about you. As I’ve been getting paid speaking gigs and as I’m writing my book I’ve been thinking deeply about what you really need and really want. I know I have tons of information that will help you in your life, but I also know it will never help anyone if it doesn’t address your true concerns, your true goals, your true needs. 

I’ve learned so much by talking to students every day in my job and at my speaking engagements, but I want to know more. I want to know you. You taking the time to share where you are in life right now will not only help you in the reflective process, but it will help countless others who were too busy to share what college students need. Please tell me more about you in one of three ways:

And as always keep sending any question/scenario/life situation you’re dealing with to Some questions will end up on the vlog (anonymously and with your permission of course) and all questions will be answered personally.

I hope you know how much you inspire me. Every single day. I couldn’t do it without your dreams. Your honesty. Your hard work. Your dedication. 

Thank you so much! Have a great weekend. Do something relaxing. And sleep. Please sleep all my procrastinator students who have been putting off sleep to study. You know who you are ;) 

Monday, September 19, 2011

I want to know about YOU :)

So I'm always talking about my stories on this blog but now I want to know more about you. What is really important to you in your life right now? What are you going through? What might you need help with? What has worked well for you? What hasn't?

I'd really love to know your thoughts. Please fill out this really quick 10-question survey I made (your answers will be anonymous) and let me know what you're dealing with so I can better serve you. I may be contacting some of you to even be in my book!

I know you're incredibly busy so taking time to complete this survey means the world to me. Thank you SO much :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Looking 4 Love in Community College

Keep sending me your questions at! They make my day and I LOVE reading them. I will be answering every single one.  

How to Choose Your Major and Your Path

What are you majoring in? What do you want to do when you grow up? What is your five-year plan? 

Do you know the answers to these questions? 

It’s okay if you don’t. Many of my blogs have focused on reminding you that it is okay to change your mind and keep exploring who you are and what you want to do with your life. It is an adventure that can continue for the rest of your life. But there is an important piece of this puzzle I have yet to address. 

If you had asked me 5 years ago what my major was and what I was going to do with my life I wouldn’t have ever dreamed I’d be where I am today. I wouldn't have known what I was going to get my Master's degree in or what my job was going to be. 

But. And this is huge. I would have had an answer.

Was I always 100% sure of that answer? No.

Did my answer change? All the time.

Did having a direction help me get money for college, stay motivated, and enjoy college? Yes

Every day, I had some kind of goal and direction for my life based on what I knew about myself and the world at that time. As I grew older, took more classes, and became more exposed to the world I learned more about myself and what opportunities were out there and naturally my career goals changed. They still change and evolve all the time. 

But I've never moved through life without some sort of goal. And while your choice of major can certainly change from one extreme to another, you should eventually get yourself on a path that moves away from dramatic shifts in focus to simply becoming more and more refined as you learn and grow.

I just read an article this week that said choosing a path in community college leads to higher grad rates. Without even reading the article I am sure you can guess why this is true. I certainly did.  If I didn’t have a greater goal in mind (e.g. my initial goal in community college was to be an English teacher) it would have been almost impossible for me to find the motivation to get through my math classes.

Honestly, it would be hard to even wake up in the morning to go to class without knowing how it affected your life and your goals and your dreams and your direction.

I always saw the greater purpose in what I was doing every single day. It kept me focused. It kept me motivated. It kept me in college. 

So while you don’t need to define your entire life's future today, you do need to start building your path.

That path may twist and turn and take you through places you could have never dreamed. But you’ll never be able to experience that adventure if you don’t pick a direction. You can’t just stand in the middle of the woods hoping someone will show you the way.

So how do you start picking a direction if you have no idea? There are many ways you can start exploring options and making decisions. Below are the ones that worked best for me:

1. Go to your career center and take every career assessment they have.

2. Pay attention to the careers that match your personality and interest you.

3. Find someone who majored in that subject or works in that industry and ask them what they like about their job, what they don’t like about their job, what type of person is most successful in that job, and what advice they have for you.

4. Rinse and repeat for any career/major that you find interesting.

5. Talk to a lot of trusted mentors and friends about what you’ve learned and about what careers/majors you’re considering. Get their feedback.

6. Research your major possibilities online. “Jobs for major X” or  “majors for career X” or “Jobs for personality X.”

7. If you're still unsure, consider choosing a general major (e.g. When I transferred to community college I still wasn't 100% sure what job I wanted, so I chose communications because I loved people, loved studying how we communicate, and loved the course descriptions.

And I knew the major would transfer into many different careers as I talked to a lot of people with different jobs I liked and they all had majored in communications). If you're deeply unsure do not choose a major that translates into a very specific industry (e.g. medicine). 

8. Choose a direction. Choose a major. Pick one.

9. Find the educational plan in the catalog/website of the university you want to transfer to after you finish community college. Print it out and make an appointment with an educational advisor at your community college. Compare the educational plan with your current course schedule plan at community college and ensure you’re on track.

10. Never stop exploring, researching, and staying on top of your path and direction. This should be fun. If it isn’t fun to continue to explore your future, then restart at the beginning and find a direction that you find invigorating, exciting, and that moves you to want to contribute to the world in your own unique way.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Community college isn't 13th grade - NEW Vlog format! =)

My YouTube channel is now "Ask Isa" and will feature my personal answers to all of the questions you've been e-mailing me at

Check it out and keep the questions coming :)
And don't forget to enter to win a free Samsonite Backpack straight from me to you in the top right-hand corner of the blog. 

A Six-Figure Skill

If I say the word “essay” I know you’ll exit out of this immediately. But if you do - it could be a terrible mistake. 

Because for some essays -  every sentence could be worth thousands.

Someone who helped me with my scholarship essays once gave me that advice when I was feeling overwhelmed by writing so many extra essays in addition to all of my other homework. And that advice paid off.

My essays once won me $110,000 in scholarships (see Jack Kent Cooke scholarship whose applications are now open). And a $2,000 research grant. And admission into the college of my choice.  And a free trip to Boston (and just submitted one today for a trip to NY). And countless other opportunities.

What have your essays gotten you?

If nothing – yet – then I can show you how.

The thing about community college is that most students have to apply to college twice. And (should) apply for scholarships often.

In addition – so many great opportunities out there require essays. And yet it seems so many are tempted to just fly through these types of essays and just "hope" for the best. 

But you can do much more to ensure you are writing winning essays.  And you don’t have to be an English whiz to craft a compelling and winning essay. There are particular secrets and skills to use.

And yes it will take more effort and time than just typing out the first 500 words that come to you and thinking you're done. But the rewards can literally be thousands and thousands of dollars per sentence.

Trust me, it’s worth it. And you can do it. 

So get excited (okay so I know it's hard to get excited about essays...but will help) and get ready to write essays that will get you into the schools you want, win you the scholarships you deserve, and open you up to opportunities you could have never imagined. 

If you’re not getting ready to apply to any colleges or scholarships in the next 2 months be sure to  bookmark this blog post and read this again. If you follow these tips exactly you are guaranteed to start getting incredible results from your essays. 

What should I write about?
I have tutored many students in writing their college application and scholarship essays and anytime they bring me their first draft it is usually painfully boring. They write what they think they are “supposed” to write, and end up dryly listing details of an experience or accomplishments. I work with them to think about who they really are and how to communicate that in the most interesting way possible. Here are the secrets to choosing the best topic for your essay.
  • Read the essay prompt question at least 5 times before you start. Make sure you understand EXACTLY what the question is looking for.
  • Once you have narrowed down exactly what they want (and usually it’s pretty general), think about your unique life experiences and what you can draw from to answer the question.
  • Focus on any obstacles you’ve overcome, insights you’ve drawn, and how you’ve reached personal success.
  • Paint a picture with your writing. Use all five senses. Help them see and feel your experience and your life story.
  • Be focused and have a goal in mind for your life. You may not know what you want to do, but many essays seek to find people who are passionate, driven, and know what they want to do with their life. It’s okay if you’re not 100% sure, but you must have a clear direction for most essays. It may change and that’s okay. But for the essay you must clearly communicate the vision you have for your life as of now and how the scholarship, college, or opportunity will help fuel that vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your deepest struggles. But do not wallow. Explain how you broke through the barriers in your life and how those obstacles shape the person you are today and the goals you now have for your life.

Okay so now I have my topic - how do I write it well?
  • Write the first draft way ahead of time. At least a month before the essay is due.
  • Remember your audience. Who will be reading this? What do they care about? (e.g. admissions committees want someone who can contribute to their college’s reputation; scholarship committees want someone who is deserving of the scholarship and will represent them well)
  • Your first draft should never be the final draft. It should go through at least 3 full edits.
  • Review the essay prompt question again after you finish each paragraph to ensure you’re on the right track.
  • Use your best writing and use (but DO NOT overuse) the thesaurus when appropriate.
  • There is no quick fix to improve your writing. Read often and write often. What helped me the improve my writing more than anything else was a professor who sat me down and edited my essay sentence by sentence. If you can - find someone who will do that with you. 
  • After you write, wait at least a day until you edit.
  • Read your essay aloud when you self-edit.
  • Ask professors and writing centers to edit your essay.

 As you're going through this process keep reminding yourself why you are writing the essay and what the rewards could be. And never forget that the writing process itself will help you improve your grades and your focus.  

You will always be very busy when it is time to write these essays and it can often be hard to find the motivation when you aren’t getting a “grade” on the essay. But these essays are so valuable, and the rewards are given to those who do the work. And those rewards are often life changing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Special Update: Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Application is NOW open!

Learn more about applying for the $30,000/year Jack Kent Cooke undergraduate transfer scholarship. 

It can change your life. It changed mine. 

Weekend 4Cast: How do you define success? (& my new fav book)

Weekend 4Cast
4 things I want to share with you that can't wait until Monday
1 - Quote - 
"You can be successful but not significant, but you cannot be significant without being successful." - Darren Hardy, editor of SUCCESS magazine.

Consider society's definition of success. Who do we "look up" to? Is it really significant that so and so wore that dress to the grammy's or so and so is getting married or so and so just bought a 12.5 million dollar house?

How do you define success for yourself? Are you heading in the right direction? The one that will fulfill you?

2 - Stellar Speaker - 
Adam LoDolce spoke at our college this week and I just wanted to tell EVERYONE to go hire him as a speaker for your college  - especially community college.

 Adam teaches students how to step outside your comfort zones, how to attract more people to you, and how to really be yourself without the fear of rejection. And he does this in a relatable, interactive, and very funny way.

This is so valuable to community colleges as we often have to work extra hard to try to get students involved on campus and step outside their comfort zones to try new things (since they don't live on campus). Get Adam to make your next event one that is enlightening, really fun, interactive, and that encourages more of your student body to get involved. I was so impressed.

3 - Great Resource 2 Find a Job - 
First off - go to your college's career center today!

And also check out this awesome job projections site from the US Dept. of Labor. It lists hundreds of job titles and tells you exactly what that job does, what the projected salaries are going to be, and how the job is projected to be affected in the next 7 years. If you're like me who knew nothing of what kinds of jobs were out there besides teacher, doctor, lawyer - then browse this site. You just might find something that interests you that you've never thought of before. 

4 - The Help -
I just finished reading the book The Help and loved it so much. I had seen the yellow cover with the purple birds for a while now, but didn't give it much thought. A friend said it was good last week and then boom I bought it and read it and LOVED it (can't wait to see the movie now too). 

With all the marketing in the world it's funny that what seems to still always work is friend to friend recommendations - word of mouth. Share the stuff you love because while you think everyone may know - you'd be surprised. Share your expertise, your solutions, your favorite things. People will appreciate it. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

One of My Biggest Dreams Has Come True – And Yours Can Too

Do you have dreams that you never tell anyone?

Not the kind that happen when you sleep, but the kind that tug on your heart. Those deep wishes you have for your life. Those things that you sometimes try to push away because they seem too stupid, too unrealistic, something for someone else – not you.

I used to do that all the time. I’ll never forget in 9th grade when we had to write – using all our senses – what our life would look like in 10 years. 

I remember the white flowy curtains, the condo overlooking the bright blue ocean and sky, the line between them almost indistinguishable. And I remember writing a book at my desk. I was an author.

Aside from turning that assignment in I never talked about my dream of writing a book. It just seemed silly.  And so I never thought about it again.

Until one day in a College Success class at my community college. We were asked to write down declarative goals for our life.

All of a sudden I remembered that 9th grade assignment.

So I wrote it down: I will write a book.

And then last year, I wrote it down for the third time. This time, I printed it out and taped it all over my apartment. Now my walls were keeping me accountable and it was time to move forward.  The goal was all over the place on little yellow post-its:

Have book published by August 2011.

And on August 30th exactly – I got the e-mail from my agent saying a publisher wanted my community college success book and would be sending the contract over shortly.

The reality of this still hasn’t fully hit me. The image of that young woman in her beachside condo writing a book has always been so vivid to me – and deep down it’s always seemed like someone else. And now I can hardly believe it’s actually me.

While I don’t live on the beach (yet) I’m writing you right now starting at the pond outside my window (close enough…for now) and realizing that I wrote that “what will your life be like in 10 years” assignment when I was 14. My book is being published at age 24.

If you do the math correctly, this will tell you that writing your goals down actually works. And more than that, believing in yourself  (even when you feel doubtful) is key.

How do you picture your life in a few years? What do you see? What do you smell? How do you feel?

What do you want?

Picture it. Taste it. Feel like it’s already your life.

Write it down.

And then believe you can do it. And go.  

College can be starting off point for your dreams. If it is anything less then why bother?

Making your dreams a reality is so easy it’s almost scary. The problem is so many of us get hung up in our own heads, our own negative thinking. The first and most important step is truly believing you are capable of reaching that goal.

Step 1 - Imagine what you want your life to be. How do you feel? What is around you? How are you contributing to the world?

Step 2 – Write it down. All of it.

Step 3 – Start talking about your dreams to other people. And like Yoda says, stop yourself from using the word “try.”

Step 4 - Start doing something today that moves you towards that goal.

Step 5 – Remember that failure is a good sign - it means you’re trying.

Step 6 – Keep going. Every day.

If you'd like to be a part of my book dream and be the first to know when my book will be available, what it's all about, and learn about ways you can get involved - join my mailing list in the top right-hand corner =) Thanks!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Weekend 4Cast: Best Student Leadership Conference 4 Networking

*Weekend 4Cast*
4 things I'm dying to share with you that can't wait until Monday

1 - Quote: What have you been putting off? - 
"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Martin Luther King Jr. 

2 - Conference: Circle of Change - 
Nothing inspires me more or moves my life forward more than a great conference with like-minded individuals and successful speakers. The Circle of Change Leadership Conference is one of the best student conferences out there. 

What makes it different? Worth it? Not only does it attract some of the most incredible speakers/leaders, but it also has a panel of 50 highly successful people from top companies that you can meet and network with. From a US Congresswoman to the CFO of Fox Searchlight Productions to the Executive Director of Teach for America - the people you meet at this conference could dramatically change your life and your opportunities. 

In my life networking and gaining the advice from successful people at calibers that I had never encountered before was the key to most of my successes. This Conference is the end of October and early registration is only $70! Talk to your advisors, get your club to go - or be really bold and just go yourself. Trust me - it is these kinds of experiences that can change everything for you. 

3 - Inspiring People: Glamour - 
Check out these inspiring young women from Glamour's top 5 women of the year contest. You can even vote for your favorite. 

And as you read these short descriptions of the incredible things these young women have done - don't let yourself think "man what am I doing with my life" or "I could never do something like that." Instead, let their short stories remind you that it is possible for you to affect change right now, with whatever resources you have around you. What excuses are you making? Let these women inspire you and remind you that we don't really have any excuses. 

4 - Blog: TalkNerdy2Me - 
Have you checked out the National Society of Collegiate Scholars' blog TalkNerdy2Me yet? I wrote an article for them about how to start your own blog, and they have a ton of great resources for you - both in their blog and in their honors society. One of my favorite recent posts: 5 Warnings I Wish I'd Gotten Before Moving 1,000 Miles Away from Home.