Monday, December 31, 2012

How to make 2013 your best year ever

Imagine that today is December 31, 2013. What would have had to happen for you to say: "2013 was my best year ever"? 

That was the question author Brian Tracy posed in a SUCCESS CD I listened to recently.

What is your answer? What would have to happen this year for you to be able to say, a year from now, that it was your best year ever?

Every year on December 31st I do an extensive New Years Eve ritual where I reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Every year I add more to the process, and every year is better than the last. 

I can honestly say today that 2012 was my best year ever. My book got published, I got to travel around the country and meet incredible college students, and I got to work from home and have my own business.

It's hard for me to believe that just a year ago those things were just dreams. But rather than just staying big dreams, last year I wrote them down and wrote a plan for what I could do to make those things happen. And it worked. 

And it can work for you too. 

Being intentional about your life and your goals really does produce results, and it's never too early to start. I encourage you to start to develop your own New Years tradition. You can read my blog from 2012 on the subject, or start from scratch on what would work best for you.

At the very least, find a nice quiet spot that inspires you and take some time to reflect on this year, what you're thankful for, and what you want to happen next year. And then, this is the most important part - reflect on what you need to do differently, every day, to make those things happen.

Happy New Year! I hope your 2013 is your best year ever. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Five ways to be fashionable on a budget

In case you are wanting to make the most of your Christmas gift cards, or simply want to know how to dress the way you want without breaking the bank, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ideas for being fashionable on a budget, in college, or anytime in your life. 

I grew up in a lower middle-class family. To me, Old Navy was for rich people; I didn't know about designer jeans until I transferred to a private school for my last two years of college. Throughout high school and college I spent many weekends thrift shopping with friends or alone. And I loved it. 

I still love putting together outfits each morning. It helps me feel alive and ready to tackle the day. And yet, I am far from a true fashionista. I've always admired people who instinctively know how to style an outfit. I do not have this skill.

But the skill I do have? Copying. I am a pretty good copycat, and so I've learned all my fashion sense from looking at pictures and copying the outfits or color combinations with what I already own, or with inexpensive options I find at some of my favorite stores, like H&M.

So below are my top five tips to help you find your college fashion inspiration on a budget:

1. Find websites with outfits that inspire you. 

In the past few months I've fallen in love with two great outfit-creating websites; I fill up my Pinterest fashion boards with their creations daily:

1. J's Everyday Fashion Blog

And guys, I didn't forget about you: 

1. Men's Fashion Section of College Fashionista
2. 10 College Fashion Tips for Guys

You can also gleam any website or catalog of your favorite store. 

2. Pin or print.

Once you've browsed pictures and found the ones you'd love to emulate, pin your favorite outfits on your Pinterest board (my favorite method) or print them out and post them in your closet for inspiration before putting together an outfit. 

3. Copy with what you have.

Look around your closet and see what you already have that can help you copy the kind of outfits/style that you love. You don't have to copy an outfit exactly, but use it to inspire you to put together new combinations you have never thought of before. You might be surprised how many "new" outfits you'll have waiting for you in your closet. 

4. Shop smart.

If there are some items you don't have that you think will help you create the style or outfits you want, then it's time to go shopping. But remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get the look you want. It's all about styling and fit, so shop smart and think about the key items that will help you create many outfits with what you already own (e.g. think accessories, shoes, key basics, etc.). My favorite three inexpensive places in college were thrift stores, H&M, and Plato's Closet.

And of course, shop the sales! shares a great list of coupons and sales every week. 

5. Make it fit. 

Clothes look more expensive when they fit. And if you're like me, getting things to fit isn't always easy (e.g. I'm very petite). However, a few years ago I discovered that getting clothes tailored wasn't that expensive. I still have shirts that I got tailored in college that still fit me perfectly and cost me less than $15, including the tailoring. I use a tailor that is in a dry cleaners. Just Google and price check to find the best tailor near you. 

Happy fashioning! ;) And feel free to share your style inspirations or outfit creations on our Facebook page

Monday, December 24, 2012

Five Fun Ways to Keep Your Brain Energized During Winter Break (from P.S. Blog)

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Below is an article I wrote for the P.S. Blog that I wanted to share with you too. Hope you have a great day today!

I can still see the dark gravel on the parking lot, somehow sparkling, even on that cloudy day. I was practically skipping to my car. What had put that spring in my step? I had just taken my last exam of the winter semester.

Unfortunately though, the intense highs and lows of exam time can cause many students to get sick over the winter break, or to just mentally check out for the next month.

You should definitely take some time to relax and forget about school for a while; refreshing your self and your mind is vital. But that doesn’t mean you want your brain to check out too.

Below are five fun ways to keep your brain energized over winter break so you can recover from exams without losing your brain-momentum...Read the rest of the article on the P.S. Blog :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Should you pick your major for your parents or for the salary? (One student's dilemma)

Lynn O'Shaugnessy, author of The College Solution book and blog, is one of my good friends and mentors. She writes many great articles, and I highly recommend her book about finding money for college

Today, with her permission, I wanted to share with you an article she wrote that I thought was right on. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

"Are you picking a college major based on lists of the country’s highest-paying college degrees?

Plenty of students are pursuing degrees that they perceive will generate the biggest salaries. I assume that’s why business is the most popular major – more than one out of every five students select it. I can’t resist mentioning that the blockbuster Academically Adrift study suggested that the grads who learned the least in college are business majors!

There are risks in picking majors by following the dollar signs, but before I explain why, please take a look at an email that I received over the weekend from a student I’ll call John:

I’m in a sticky situation. I am a freshman in college at the University of North Florida. Both my parents graduated with engineering degrees so I am being pressured to be major in something that in my parents view as important (engineering, biology, or law).

My dad makes good money so I felt like that the best option for me was engineering. Next semester I was supposed to take my Calculus I class to go on the engineering path, but I hit a road bump already because I got a 62% in Pre-Calculus. I have always thought of international business in the back of my mind and I talked to my counselor about double majoring with finance, accounting or an economics degree. Well I was wondering do any of these majors promise a job and a good future economically. Please help me!"

You can read the rest of the article on Lynn's Blog (start at the Picking the Wrong Major section) to find out her advice for this student, and maybe even for you too! Whether you've chosen your major or are still unsure, her advice will give you some things to think about to ensure you're on the right track. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A great gift for a college student

If you have any friends in community college, or want to spend any holiday cash you get on something for your future, I wanted to share my book with you. Community College Success was a dream I first had in the College Success class at my community college. 

We had to write down our goals, and I can remember my brain holding my hand back from writing the words "write a book" on that piece of paper. I remember a million voices telling me it was something I couldn't do. But I ignored them and wrote it down any way.

And then, it actually happened. The book exists, I swear! :)

And it's a book to help community college students do exactly what I started in that college success class - reach their dreams. 

Most community college students are up against many barriers: working full-time, taking care of a family, being the first in their family to navigate college, taking classes in their second language, not having family support to pursue education, struggling to afford transportation to and from class, or sometimes all of the above. 

While many students rise above these obstacles, the numbers are stark; too many students are being crushed by these barriers. And they are students with much to offer. They aren't dropping out because they aren't smart. They are dropping out because they are unsupported. 

My book is not magic. But I believe people are magic, and the book outlines specific strategies to encourage students to get involved and meet the people who will help them make the most of their college experience. 

You can get a free chapter of the book right now, or you can get the entire book on or

And, for the first time ever, I wanted to share an excerpt of the book on the blog:

       On my first day of community college, I cried like a little girl. Like so many students I’ve met since then, I didn’t want to be there. I felt alone, dejected, and lost. I also ended my community college experience with crying—on graduation when the president announced I’d won the $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. Dozens of people surrounded me with hugs and tears. I had friends, money, and a future. All this didn’t happen to me through luck or because I’m a super-genius (see my SAT scores). 

       The secret to success isn’t good fortune or a high IQ—it’s people. No matter how technological our world gets, the best opportunities in life will always happen through people. And the people you meet in community college will change your life. Millions of dollars in scholarships, incredible opportunities, and jobs are available to students who know how to connect with others. You deserve to be one of those students. It’s up to you to find the right people, ask for help, and admit you can’t do it alone. How do you find these people? How will you know what to say? How can you convince them to talk to you? And how does a conversation lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars and a life you can’t even imagine? I’ll show you. But first—to know where you’re going, it’s important to know where you’ve come from.

         I want to share a little about me so you’ll understand my background. As you read my story, I want you to consider your own story. Why are you in college? What barriers lie within your background? What opportunities? Only you have lived your life, and your personal story can teach you much about what holds you back, what pushes you forward, the things you value, and which problems in the world you want to fix. I grew up in a lower-middle class family and attended a high school where only 25 percent of the students go to college. My socio-economic status and family history never entered my consciousness growing up, but the year my grandpa died changed everything for me.

        After his death I learned more about how he and my grandma moved from Puerto Rico to New York before my father was born to make a better life for the Rosado family. My grandfather worked as a janitor for most of his life; my grandma was a maid. My dad made it into the open doors of community college, but never transferred to a university. He sacrificed and worked diligently as a case manager for a law firm, while my stay-at-home mom, my two younger brothers, and I lived on his income...

           And that’s why I ended up crying on the industrial carpet of my local community college. I felt so alone walking in there with my two-page application and a broken heart. This was not the idyllic college experience I imagined. I was supposed to be entering a lively freshman orientation, meeting new friends I’d have for life, picking out my classes and fresh books, and moving into the first place I could call my own. Instead, I was 15 minutes from home sitting in a small waiting room with strangers of all ages who looked as lost and alone as I felt. How did I get here?...

        My parents said I could go to college wherever I wanted. They said they would take out loans for my education because they believed in me. At the time, I was young and eager to take advantage of that offer. You may be wondering why, if I came from a low-income family, my parents were able and willing to take out loans for wherever I wanted to attend college. The truth is, they were willing—but not necessarily able. However, that didn’t stop them. I came from a family of sacrifice. And as a family that had been through hardship and gone into debt for many horrific things, they didn’t blink an eye when it came to going into debt for something good.

        When I was in high school, my younger brother, Tito, who was in seventh grade at the time, came home one day complaining of a stomach ache. The pain intensified, and when he began screaming and writhing in pain my mom rushed him to the hospital. They sent him home, saying he had food poisoning. The next morning he woke up paralyzed from the waist down from bacteria that migrated from his stomach to his spine. A few months later my second youngest brother Robby, who was four years old at the time, had a seizure, shaking and foaming at the mouth, in my parents’ bed at 4 a.m. My dad woke me up at 5 a.m., letting me know my mom had just left with my little brother in an ambulance, and for the first time I saw my father break. He cried and said, “I can’t take this anymore.” ...

        On a bright summer morning, I sat at our white kitchen table opening the mail that arrived for me. I chose to open the crisp white envelope from my new college first. Inside was my freshmen schedule. I looked at the classes I would attend in a few weeks, and then read about the fun and lively orientation activities. But with the next page, a dark cloud descended. This was the bill for my first year of college. And I’ll never forget what that number looked like, typed in small 12-point font, but so big to me.


In that instant, everything changed...Read the rest of the first chapter for free here or grab the book for less than $10 on - for a friend or for yourself. 

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!! :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

The best book to improve your writing

I just finished reading the classic Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Though it's been around forever, this was the first time I had ever read it, and I loved it.
Oh, one thing I should mention, The Elements of Style is a grammar book. Didn't know I was that much of a nerd, huh?

While yes, I am a writing nerd, I knew by the time I was halfway through the book that I had to share it with you too. Here's why I think you'd like it:

  • It's a super-small book that you can read in a day, read a few pages at a time over the winter break, or keep with you as a reference when you're writing a paper. 
  • It will help you feel more confident in your writing.
  • It will help you correct unconscious mistakes you've probably been making forever.
  • It will help you get better grades in your essay-based courses. 
  • It will give you writing super powers.
During my freshman year of college I had a professor sit down with me in his office, pull up my rough draft of my very first college research paper on his computer, and correct it with me, line by line. This book kind of felt like that conversation. And while it's not always fun, you always come out vastly improved. 

I know many college students dread writing. But once you get the hang of it and know the rules, you might find you actually enjoy being able to get your thoughts clearly out on paper. 

There is something wonderful about looking at a few of your typed pages and knowing that you've put your ideas out there for someone else to grasp. I find writing pretty magical; the words still fall like fairy dust every time I open a new book. 

And if you really like writing, one day that book could even be yours :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Congratulations to you! (A letter from me to you)

Hi Guys,

I just wanted to take a moment and congratulate all of you for finishing your Fall 2012 semester. There will never be another one again, and you should be so proud of what you've accomplished.

Exams are over!!! 

It's time to relax, appreciate the people around you, and sleep ;)

I hope you take a second right now and pat yourself on the back. Go one's watching. Did you do it? Awesome. 

You deserve it. 

Enjoy this time off and relish in this feeling. Multiply it by 100, and that is how it will feel when you graduate. Keep going. And thank you so much for letting me be a small part of your journey this year. I love you guys.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The only two things you need to know about networking

I just started sharing quick networking tips on Tout, and it's made me think a lot about networking.

I've realized that while there's always a lot of tips and ideas that can help you figure out who to network with and how to make that first approach, in the end it all boils down to two simple things: 

1. Word Hard
2. Make Friends

The end. :) 

Okay I'll explain a bit, though I'm sure you already see where this is going. 

Note: When I talk about networking, I'm not talking about the sleazy kind of using-people to get ahead kind of thing, because, really, that doesn't work. I'm talking about the most powerful kind of networking, the kind that moves people up ladders and towards their dreams through a mutually beneficial community. 

Work Hard
Before you start to think about networking, you'll first want to develop a strong work ethic. You don't have to know what you want to do with your life, but you do absolutely have to work hard at whatever it is you are doing. People with a strong work ethic are constantly growing, and thus have something to offer about when they meet new people. 

As your career blossoms, as it does for hard-working people, you will eventually be able to help your network too. But in the meantime, being  a hard-worker gives you something meaningful to talk about; you're able to share your mutual love of wanting to make a difference in the world. 

To develop your work ethic, read books like The Compound Effect, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Outliers. Also there's this pretty cool book to help you achieve and network in college, written by the coolest author ever... ;)

Make Friends
People hire their friends -- from the President of the United States to the president of a club. And while many times it can feel unfair, it is something that will never change. The key word, though, is friends. People don't hire the sleezy people who just try to use them. And they don't hire acquaintances.

They are hiring and helping friends. Real friends. Ask anyone who has a large powerful network and they'll be able to tell you personal details about each person - stuff outside of work. They'll know about their kids, their hobbies, their personalities, their favorite weekend activities, their favorite sports teams, etc. Do you know those things about the people in your network? Make no mistake, it takes a lot of effort and selflessness to develop these kinds of rich relationships, but it is well worth it. 

My two favorite books that really focus on the friendship of networking is How to Win Friends and Influence People and The Little Black Book of Connections

I think we often over-think networking. In the end, it's as simple as kindergarten. Get to know people. Enjoy people. Have fun. Be yourself. You'll know you have it right when you forget the word networking all together and realize you just have a lot of great friends. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are you always learning?

I consult for Pearson Students and one of the things I'm excited to be doing with them is contributing to their new P.S. Blog

I recently wrote a post about how always learning has changed my life, and three things you can do right now to make it a part of your life, and I wanted to share it with you too: 

"A lot of people ask me how I have been so successful at such a young age. I still have a long way to go, but my answer is always the same: I’m always learning.

If you walked into my apartment right now you would see six writing books on my “to-read” bookshelf. (Yes, I name my bookshelves. No, I’m not weird I promise)...." Read the rest of the article here!

I hope you enjoy :) 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Secret to Career Success - “Grustle”: CBS Sports Writer Adena Andrews Shares Her Career Advice

Adena Andrews, recently a columnist for ESPN, is a new writer for, and is one of only four black female sports columnists in the nation. To break barriers in any industry, you have to be able to continually work hard, even in the face of opposition.

Adena once heard a basketball player call this unique quality, “grustle" and the term has stuck with her and embodies everything she has done to achieve success.
She recently shared some of those secrets with me, and they are things every college student should consider when going from college to career.

First of all, tell me more about grustle? How do you define it?
It really is an X factor. You either have it or you don’t. I think everyone has it for something in life. You may have majored in business but your grustle may be in fashion. I think it’s important for students to follow what gives them grustle.

How did you figure out you wanted to work in journalism?
My high school had a broadcast Journalism course and I pounced on that. I told myself, I think I want to do this for a living, because it never seemed like work. So I decided that was what I wanted to major in. I was an athlete my entire life (e.g. swimming), and sports seemed like a great topic to write about. So I started writing about swimming.

How did you take your love of a class to a career?
I majored in journalism at USC. And then I started going to out into the community saying I was a sports writer and essentially telling them “I’ll do anything you want for free…” and I was able to start writing and getting even more clips, covering high school games and even Lakers games. I like to say, “A closed mouth don’t get fed.” If you don’t tell people what you want to do, there’s no way they can give you what you want.

It was hard to be a writer, and I thought it was too lofty of a goal as a college graduate. But I kept telling people, and within two weeks of graduation I was an intern at ESPN magazine.

I encourage students to join professional associations. As a student I joined the National Association of Black Journalists, and that’s how I got my gig at ESPN. I told someone there, my mentor, that I wanted to work for ESPN. He talked to somebody, and he talked to somebody, and they made it happen. But of course I had to be ready! I had clips and I was prepared. I was scared to tell people what I wanted to do, but I’m a big proponent of telling people what I want. It makes things happen.

How did you turn your internship into a full-time career?
Don’t front. If you go places as an intern do not sit there at dinners with folks and go to networking events and pretend you work for ESPN full time. Be sure to say you are just an intern, so the people you meet during your internship will know that you still need a job after the internship ends. I never portrayed something I wasn’t.

So when ESPN sent me out to cover the NBA transition camp program, I met someone from the NBA there; I just said hey this is what I’m trying to do with my future, can you help me. A job opened up on and that person was able to help me. Use your internship as a networking opportunity!

Any final advice for students trying to figure out what to do with their lives and how to get there?
Find out what you have grustle for, what you’d stay up till 3am to do, or what you’d do in your free time. Also, don’t worry too much about it, because our generation will have at least four careers over our lifetime. What you decide now may not be what you retire as, not like our parents. Your life is still ahead of you.

Thank you so much Adena! You can check out Adena’s ESPN archives and follow her on Twitter

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gift ideas for your CC friends, professors, and mentors

Christmas is a great time to tell people you care about what they mean to you. Showing your thanks is also the best way to strengthen your network. Because as I always say, real networking is more like friendship.

So take some time now to list a few people you want to thank this year, and consider these gift ideas to help make their day and let them know how much they mean to you. You will be amazed at how much your small gesture will mean to them. 

My favorite gift ideas 

(note: none of these are promotions and are just things I truly love and have personally used)

  • Use their name: Put someone's name on a pen or something they like. has great options. I love their wooden pen
  • Write it out: Buy a few cards that are blank inside, and just write a few words telling that person what you see in them and what they mean to you. This is probably one of the most impactful gifts you can give. 
  • Think back to past conversations: Think about what that person likes by remembering something he or she might have mentioned in a past conversation, and find a way to surprise him/her by showing that you were listening (e.g. I once got a friend whom I overheard planning a ski trip a beanie based on his favorite sports team.)
  • Notice their space: If you're getting a gift for a professor, visit their office and notice what kinds of things are in it. There may be clues to what they like. 
  • Use pictures: I'm a huge fan of Snapfish and the many photo projects you can do. I've gotten my dad a coffee mug with a picture of us dancing at my wedding, and once made my husband a photo book of our favorite trips over the years. 
  • Be mindful with food: Usually it would be "when in doubt, give food," but after working in an office, I realized this isn't always the best thing. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with sweets during the holidays and try to give away such gifts. Only give out treats when they are personalized to that person and you know he/she loves a particular item.
  • Small gift cards: Even a gift card for a small amount (e.g. $5) for places like Starbucks or iTunes can be a great surprise and delight to someone as they're opening a holiday card. Just make sure it's something you know he/she would use (e.g. you could see if any of the cafe's on your campus have gift cards). 

From a silver sparkle ring to a stuffed horse, I can name every gift a student has ever given me. More importantly, I can name every student. Small unexpected gestures have a huge impact on people, and being the giver is just as delightful as being the receiver. 

Remember: The more you personalize the gift, the more it will mean to someone; once you try it, you will see it's worth the extra time and effort. 

So make your list, check it twice, and feel free to get creative, doing whatever you know will make each person feel valued and special. They will never forget you for it. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Community College Hip Hop Video

Because even though you may feel super awkward stepping outside your comfort zone in community college, you'll never be as awkward as I am in this video. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to help students complete college on your campus

College completion is a hot topic right now, because, well, we are falling behind. As a student, I'm sure you can guess why. College is hard, and many students struggle with affording college and finding the time to manage coursework and put food on the table. Others just feel lost and alone, many as the first in their families to attempt this journey. 

The good news is that people are paying attention, and a lot of good is being done. From the incredible work of foundations like the Lumina and Gates, to what individual students are doing as part of Phi Theta Kappa's C4 Completion effort.

I have had the privilege of seeing some amazing college completion events as part of my speaking travels this year, and I recently put together a list of the incredible completion event ideas that have inspired me. The resource can help you start a completion event on your campus if you haven't already, and shares some of the fun and creative things other colleges are doing around the country. 

These days are making a difference; I can tell just by walking on the campuses and meeting the students. Nothing compares to walking on a campus and knowing it's a special day, knowing that everyone is behind this idea that college completion matters, and, more importantly, that you matter. Students on your campus will feel it too. 

So feel free to check out this free resource to get you inspired to do your part to make a difference when it comes to college completion on your campus. Almost all of the ideas I share come from students just like you. It's amazing what you can accomplish - and whose lives on your campus you can change. 

Commit to Complete :) 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Should you get a two-year or four-year degree?

I recently had a student in his first year of community college ask me if he should get a two-year or four-year degree. My book talks all about how community college is a great place to get your two-year associates degree and then transfer to a university to get your bachelor's degree.

I think it's great to get your bachelor's degree, especially if you aren't one-hundered-percent sure what you want to do. Bachelor's degrees open a lot of doors. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do when I started college, so I am so thankful for my bachelor's degree; I even went on to get my master's degree - something I never thought possible

I love school, and I think you should take your education as far as you want. But that is the key - how far will it take to get you to where you want to go? For some people that may mean a PhD. But for others - it might mean a two-year degree. There is not only one right path. 

Community colleges offer incredible career-focused two-year programs. Below is a short vlog I did explaining some things for you to think about if you are considering what degree is right for you. The #1 thing you should do is talk to a college advisor and a career counselor in your career center. The key is research, and I hope this can get you started in figuring out what is best for you and your goals. 

The video is below, as well as some great articles that might also help if you don't know a lot about two-year degree options:

Forbes 2012: Highest Paying 2-Year Degree Jobs in the US
Madame Noir 2011: The Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs Requiring a Two Year Degree
CNN Money: Why college grads are heading community college

To keep up with future blog posts, join the coolest people ever at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why it's okay to seek mental health resources on your campus

When I transferred to my four-year university I learned that they had a full-service mental health facility that provided a slew of counseling services for its students. 

However, for far too many students, on-campus mental health and counseling services are resources that are unknown.

And sometimes, especially for schools facing budget cuts, those services can often be understaffed or lack the resources to advertise themselves thoroughly to students on campus. 

But, that doesn't mean that they aren't there for you if you look hard enough. While there isn't always a formal center for counseling at every college, most community college advising offices have counselors who are licensed in mental health, or they have relationships with services that they can refer students to.   

Because when college gets tough, the difficulty of the day-to-day workload can wear some students down and cause depression. And they aren't alone

But like any obstacle that presents itself in college, steps can be taken to excel. If you are dealing with depression or anxiety during college, reach out to the awesome professionals on your campus for help.  

Because you aren't alone. And while I don't have a degree in counseling and am no mental health expert, I hope this blog can be here to remind you that those professionals do exist on your campus and are there for you if you ever need them.

No one can do college alone. Ask for help in every area where you need it. Your college may have more resources than you realize.

To keep up with future blog posts and ask me questions, join the coolest people ever and be my best friend at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Procrastination Problem

Don't hate me when I say this:

I'm not a procrastinator.

I know, I know, annoying right? 

I've always done my work ahead of time, because I can't stand the pressure of a deadline looming over my head. 

My procrastination blog post is one of the most popular blogs and vlogs on my websites. Because a lot of people really do struggle with procrastination and want it to stop - my husband is one them.

He works well under pressure, he says, which works okay - until something goes wrong. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Printer is out of ink. You get sick. The paper takes longer than you thought it would. 

My husband is in graduate school right now, and he had a paper due at the end of Thanksgiving break. Tempting as it was, he decided to tackle the paper before Turkey Day (I like to think that is because even he takes my advice).

After he wrote down the outline of his paper he told me, "you know, I'm realizing that essays feel impossible before you start. Literally impossible and huge, which is why you put it off. But once you start, all of a sudden, it seems doable, and you realize it really isn't as much work as you built inside your head."

When you avoid your work, it grows.

And the thing is, the work really isn't as hard as you build it up to be. Once you start, especially ahead of time, the more you'll realize that you can do this. And as your confidence builds, your procrastination will wane.

So whenever you get a big project - especially an essay - start it that same day. It doesn't matter if you spend only five minutes thinking about it or jotting a few things down. Just put something down on paper to stop that ugly procrastination monster from growing.

Because as it turns out, The Procrastination Problem starts in your head. The good news about that? It's all under your control. 

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Choosing the best college major for you

Below is the latest episode of The SKiNNY that premiered today on TCC22. Check it to get some great tips on how to choose the best college major for you and your future (and if you're in a hurry, fast forward to around 22:20 to see what "not" to do when choosing a major...) ;)

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Monday, November 26, 2012

How to adjust to transferring after CC

One of the best things about community college is that you can transfer almost anywhere with your A.A. degree to continue to your bachelor's degree.

However, the transfer process is not always easy. Yes, transferring credits can be complicated at some schools, but what most students struggle with is the social transfer.

In my book, I write all about this in the chapter called "The New Kid Again," because that is exactly how I felt when I transferred from community college to a small university.

It felt like everyone already knew each other and had no desire to meet anyone new. Most of them had made friends in the dorms years earlier and/or in their sororities. It was a hard adjustment.

But I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. Because the experience I gained transferring helped me:

  • understand the work required to build and maintain friendships
  • learn how to step outside my comfort zone even when I'm afraid, and 
  • gain the courage to get involved and step up, which really paid off when it came time to be the 'new kid again' in the 'real world.'

Yesterday a student asked me about the transfer process on our Facebook page, and I wanted to share the Q&A with you in case you're ever struggling with or want to prepare for your transfer process:


Hey Isa. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your book, especially Chapter 6, dealing with transferring to a new university. I am going through this now as a first semester transfer student and it's scary, lol. I wanted to ask you, how long did it take you to adjust when you transferred? 


Hi Maryann,

Thanks so much for your kind words about the book  - I'm so glad it's helping!  As far as transferring timing, it took me about a month or two to adjust. 

I remember the moment I finally felt good - it was after a study group when a girl and I really connected. After our study session she started telling me a funny story about her ex-boyfriend. We laughed so loudly waiting outside for our next class that a student had to come out and ask us to keep it down because they were taking a test (oops!). 

But it was the moment I felt like I was finally a part of the school. She became my closest friend all two years, and was also a transfer student. 

While I didn't make huge groups of friends (e.g. greek life wasn't for me and I was a commuter), just having one close friend made all the difference.

I also joined the dance team, the commuter club, and became an orientation leader for transfer students. Starting in each of those groups was terrifying, and I didn't always perfectly fit in with each group - but I never stopped trying.

The involvement also led to me becoming the commencement speaker when I graduated, getting a free trip to London and New Orleans, and winning the award for the top graduating senior at graduation (which also came with a $3,000 check!). 

I also had a great faculty mentor who helped me find out about and win all of those opportunities. It was weird being the speaker when I knew so many of the students were probably thinking "who the heck is this girl? I don't remember her at freshman orientation." 

Anything is possible for you when you transfer, including making friends and fitting in. It may not ever be perfect, but if you keep trying, you will find that you will grow in ways that will serve you the rest of your life; truly successful people know how to adjust to new and scary situations. 

Consider starting study groups, try out a bunch of clubs, and find other transfer students. Don't be afraid to invite people to lunch or coffee, and keep putting yourself out there until something clicks. And don't feel bad if it takes a while.
The very fact that you're asking about this shows you're on the right track :) 



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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

7 ways to pay for graduate school

I never thought I could go to graduate school. 

For me, graduate school was for "other" people. "Rich" people. "Academic" people. Doctors. Laywers. Professors. Not someone like me...

But then I won the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship and all of that changed. I fell to my knees and cried my eyes out because for the first time in my life I had realized I was holding myself back

Sure, it was easy for me to realize it was possible because in a moment it was paid for - but I cried at the knowledge that I could have gone to graduate school no matter what. I could have made it happen if I wanted it too. If only I believed I could. 

If you're like me and are the first in your family to attend college, graduate school can seem even more daunting and impossible. And yes, it can seem like too much money, and in some cases, going to graduate school doesn't guarantee making more money. 

But I want you to know that if you want to go to grad school, or if it's a little dream in the back of your head that seems impossible or unaffordable, it's not. 

Below are seven ways you can go to graduate school for incredible cheap or even free!

1. Fellowships/Teaching Assistantships: Search the graduate section of the college website and click on any information they provide about fellowships or teaching assistantships and the application process (it is usually a separate process from your admissions application). If you can't find the information online, contact a graduate admissions counselor. These programs allow you to work for the college in the classroom (or doing research) and have it cover most or all of your tuition (similar to work-study, but more focused on your subject area). 

2. Programs where acceptance covers tuition: Some graduate programs allow you to attend for free if you get accepted, such as Harvard's E.D.L.D.

3. AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps is a volunteer program that provides a financial education award, as well as living expenses and a stipend during service. They place you with non-profits across the country. I'm not an expert on this but the people I've met who've done it are incredible! Check out to learn more. 

4. Teach for America: Teach for America is a program that pays new teachers to serve in low-income areas. You will get a salary while teaching and an educational award

5. McNair: The McNair Scholars Program is a branch of the TRiO program, which serves first generation students. Check this list to see if your undergraduate institution has a McNair Scholars Program. McNair prepares undergraduates to gain acceptance to graduate school. The McNair website also has a great comprehensive list of graduate funding opportunities at institutions across the country, categorized by discipline. 

6. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship currently allows for scholars to "reapply" after they receive their undergraduate degree to win a $50,000 graduate award. You do not compete against others, but only your previous record. JKC also awards $50,000/year graduate scholarships in the arts, as well as a dissertation fellowship

7. Work for a college or company that covers tuition: Once you've received your Bachelor's degree, you can consider working full-time at a college or company that covers college tuition. Many companies will do this if you are pursuing a degree in their industry. You can also check out job openings at the college's where you'd like to attend graduate school, as most colleges and universities allow their employees to take classes tuition-free. 

There are endless options. If you decide it's something you want, then let nothing stop you, especially money. You can do it!

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Five reasons community college is more than a "back up plan"

Community colleges have a bad rep as a "back up plan", the place you go when you can’t get into college anywhere else.

While many community college students will admit it wasn’t their first choice (even I “ended up” in community college after I realized I couldn’t put my debt-ridden lower-middle-class family in a hundred thousand dollars of more debt for my education), it doesn’t mean it isn’t a good choice.

For me, it was a choice that changed my life and made it possible for me to go all the way to graduate school, debt free. It was a choice that opened my eyes to the socio-economic disparities in our country; and it was a choice that allowed me to thrive in a way I could have never imagined, a way that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t attended community college.

Some people think community colleges are somehow "less-than" academically because "anyone" can get in. But community colleges don’t just let “anyone” in – they let everyone in. And that is what makes them such an important part of the American Dream.

While there is still much to be done to improve community college graduation rates, community colleges are still helping an important group of students graduate each semester, many of whom would never have had a chance at an education otherwise. 

And those students who are graduating are doing so with more advantages than some may realize.

Below are five reasons students who choose (or even “end up”) in community college can rest assured that they have made a great choice.

1. Reduced or no debt: College is becoming incredibly expensive, but community college prices remain incredibly reasonable. That might mean they don't have a state-of-the-art gym or cafeteria, but in the end, do you really need that to learn?

2. Transfer scholarships: There are incredible full-tuition scholarships out there that are only for community college students, such as the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship and many others offered by Phi Theta Kappa. These kinds of scholarships cover tuition at many top universities when students transfer with an A.A. degree. Many community college transfer scholars have gone on to Ivy Leagues with these scholarships.

3. Small classes: Most community colleges have small classes; I've never been in a classroom with more than 30 students in my life. While I don't have experience with the 200+ classroom auditoriums, I have heard it is easy to feel invisible. Small classes allow you to better connect with your classmates and professor.

4. Professors have more time to teach: While I am so thankful for the incredible research university professors are doing around the country, what I loved most about community college professors is that, since research is not a priority at most two-year schools, they had a lot of extra time to help me individually. The one-on-one attention I received at my community college made me a better writer, a better thinker, and the kind of student who could win the $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. I couldn’t have done it alone.

5. Leadership opportunities: At many universities it can be difficult to become a president of a club your freshman year, because you are competing with students who are older. But at community college, you can easily become president of a club your freshman or sophomore year. You also have the opportunity to get involved in the stellar honor society only for two-year college students - Phi Theta Kappa.

So whether you're enjoying your community college experience now, unsure of how to make the most of it, or feeling unsure about whether community college is right for you, rest assured that community college is a wonderful option, rich with benefits.

Community college is more than a back up plan. Thinking of it in that way can only harm the students who are attending, by making them feel like they are "less-than." In the end, where you go to college matters very little when compared with how much effort you put into it.

As I say on the headline of my blog: Community College Success: Because going to community college doesn't mean you couldn't get in anywhere else.

Join me in sharing what community college means to you on Twitter using the hash tag #CCPride. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Four things you can do right now to help you choose your major

The most popular question I get in my inbox is: 

I don't know what I want to do with my life. How do I choose a major? 

There is a lot you can do, but today I wanted to share the top four things I tell students who e-mail me to do right away. I hope they help you too!

1. Visit Your Career Center: Drop everything right now, go on your college's website, and search for the career center. Find out what they offer, if you need to make an appointment with a career counselor or can just walk in, and then take advantage of every single resource they offer. At my career center, I took multiple assessments and read books that helped me understand what I was good at and what kinds of careers aligned with my values and passions. I then was able to talk to a career counselor to help me figure out how all of that fit into a major. 

2. Take the Free Major Assessment: These assessments are not prescriptive, but when you're feeling lost, they are a great way to get you started in any direction.

3. Take the Free Myers-Briggs Assessment: This is my favorite personality test. At my community college we learned about this in a leadership retreat and in College Success class, and the things I learned about myself still help me to this day, including guiding my work. Once you get the four-letter-code that best matches you, just Google it with words like "career" or "majors" and see what happens. You can also Google it with "celebrities" which can be kind of fun. 

4. Check Out InsideJobs is my favorite interface for learning more about current careers (you can se the interview I did with one of their employees, Annie, here!) My favorite thing they do is organize jobs into categories like exploring jobs for "Creative Types," "Social Media Ninjas," and "Law and Order Fans." Check it out to find your favorite and explore jobs you might like!

The most important thing to consider about your major is if you love the core classes (which you take in the last two years, and can be found in the college catalog of the 4-year university where you want to attend). If you love the core classes, then you are in a good place. Keep searching until you find something you really love to learn. The rest will fall into place as you continue to work hard every day and grow your skills.