Monday, December 30, 2013

College To-Do List Week 6 - What you should do before every Spring semester

The College To-Do list isn't going anywhere and is here to see you through until the end of your Spring 2014 semester! :) And the first step is planning what you want to accomplish this semester:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas...oops I mean college...To Do List Week 7 ;)

Your to do list item this week? HAVE FUN!!

I hope you enjoy this week and take some time to relax. 

And those of you living, well, not in Florida - please make a snowman for me!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Take some time to say thank you

For some reason in the past few weeks I've gotten more e-mails than ever from students thanking me for writing this blog and writing my book. The emails have come from people all over the country - yet the one that stood out the most was from someone who graduated from my high school.

She graduated three years after me, but she's been following this blog for a few years while attending community college and was just accepted to Columbia. I was so excited for her and so overwhelmingly thankful she'd shared  this with me. 

These messages do more for me than I can adequately express. Often we go through our lives and don't know if we're really making a difference, if what we do really matters. And sometimes all it takes is one 'thank you' to lift someone up for months, even years. 

You may think the people around you and the people who've helped you know how you feel about them, but you'd be surprised on what a difference it makes when you tell them.

Too often people go out of their way to complain or criticize (i.e. see YouTube or news article comments) and in general it seems there is too little effort spent on appreciating people.

I know it sounds quaint, but I believe there is significant beauty in putting more "thank you's" out there in the world. 

So the next time you read a great article or book, contact the author and tell them how much you appreciated their work. 

The next time someone is really friendly to you at a store, make a note of their name and tell the manager. 

And take some time this year to send a short thank you note to anyone who helped you this year in any way (like a professor, perhaps? *wink *wink). Trust me - you will make their day, and probably make yours too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ask Isa: "I feel ashamed for taking so long to complete community college."

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I've been attending community college for 2 years and I am still no where near close to getting my A.A. I've changed majors a few times. 

I feel like I should be a lot farther then I am right now. After two years I've finally figured out what it is I want to major in. 

Is it normal to feel ashamed that I've been in a community college longer than I should've. Do you have any advice for me??



Dear Ashamed,

It's totally normal to feel frustrated at not graduating as soon as you would have liked, but there's really NOTHING to be ashamed of!!! 

You are still in college and THAT is what is important. Congratulations! Seriously. You're still going and that says a lot about you.

I'm so happy to hear you've finally found what you want to major in. Keep going and try to go full time as much as possible so that you can start to move forward and transfer on to get your bachelor's degree. It doesn't matter how long it takes. 

I knew one amazing woman who took 10 years to get her AA and Bachelor's degree (she was single mom) and was accepted into a Harvard leadership program.

Your effort and dedication are what counts, not how long or how fast you get your degree.

Keep it up and enjoy your classes. If you have any other questions along the way feel free to reach out. Good luck!!!



Like this blog? Check out the book!

Monday, December 16, 2013

College To Do List Week 6: Make plans with friends

The holidays are a great time to spend with family, but the free time from college can also offer you some time to spend with friends (without all that exam stress hanging over you). 

I travel a lot during the college semesters, but like you in the winter time I get a little break. In addition to spending time reading and planning for next year, I also try to spend as much time with friends as possible. 

And it's wonderful. 

But, as I'm sure you already know, as you get older more effort is required to hang out with friends. Schedules get busy and thus plans (ahead of time) have to be made.

So today my charge to you is to not sit around waiting for someone to ask you to hang out. Be proactive, and start making plans with people you enjoy spending time with.

Don't worry if everyone can't always hang out - keep asking until some plans are made. I'm sure you already know what would be fun to you, but here are some ideas:

Theme parks
Holiday events in your community
Bake/cook at your place
Video games
See a play
Play a sport
Sign up for a 5K and train with friends
Trivia nights
Do Christmas shopping together
Have a wrapping party 
Volunteer with a non-profit

So pick an activity and text a friend. Then laugh and enjoy this study-free time for all it's worth.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ask Isa: 10 things to help you pick the best transfer university for you

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I'm in a pickle...I am in community college and am getting ready to transfer in the next year and am undecisive on which school to go to. One school I would like to go to because its cheaper and the other, if money were not an option, I would definitely go to. Your thoughts?



Dear Undecided,

There is not an easy answer to this question, and in the end only you can decide what is best for you. However, doing your research and asking for as much advice as possible will ensure you make the choice that will best help you reach your goals. 

College is the best investment you can make in yourself, so when it comes to taking out loans to pay for college, I think it can be beneficial if you have done your research and know that the benefits you will receive from attending that particular college are worth taking out loans for.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. I recommend writing down your answers:

(Let's call the cheaper college College A and the expensive college College B.) 

1) Why do I really want to go to College B? 
2) What benefits does College B offer me that College A cannot offer?
2a) Are those the type of benefits that could lead me closer to my goals? 
3) How much in loans would I have to take out to attend College A? Would the type of job I'm pursuing help me pay those back easily? 
4) Does College A offer important alumni connections to my desired industry that College B does not? 
5) Are there any benefits of College A, aside from being inexpensive, that I'm overlooking? 

Next, here are some things I highly recommend you do:

1) Check out the tools in LinkedIn Education and research the college's you're considering in relation to the careers people have after they've graduated from each. Compare. 
2) Reach out to alumni at College A and College B and ask if you can e-mail them a few questions or speak with them on the phone for a few minutes. Choose people who have a career you would aspire to. Ask them about their college experience and any advice they might have for you in making your choice. People love to mentor and share advice. 
3) Schedule a tour of each campus and pay close attention to the benefits of each. Bring lots of questions to ask the tour guide. 
4) Ask admissions officers at each college about all of the scholarship options. Sometimes students shy away from expensive or prestigious schools because they assume they can't afford it, when sometimes those are the schools that offer the best packages to students with great potential and great financial need. 
5) Apply to both schools and don't make your final decision until you receive the financial aid package for each. If you've done all the research above, once you get the packages you'll know what the best decision will be for you.

Best of luck and congratulations on your upcoming transfer!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Don't read this if you know exactly what you want to do with your life

Yesterday I had lunch with some friends who are in their last year of college and are feeling very anxious about the next steps. They shared:

"Ugh, I hate not knowing what I'm going to do with my life!"

And I thought I'd share with you what I shared with them.

It's okay. 

You don't have to know. 

While it is really important to have some kind of plan so you can focus your energy in a particular direction and towards developing a particular skill set, it's okay if you don't know exactly what your post-college future will look like. 

For many of you, the jobs you will have don't even exist yet. If you had asked me after college what I'd be doing I could have never pictured this. 

While traditional careers lend themselves to clear five-year plans, we are in a time of transition and rapid economic change, so the picture can be pretty uncertain. 

But the good news

In my many interviews and readings about successful people, it's become clear that those with the most exciting and successful careers were never quite able to answer the question "what is your dream job." 

A lot of really successful people who do big things in the world didn't know what their future would hold when they started out.

But of course that doesn't mean they just stared at the sky hoping the answer would come. Most feel that same anxiety about the future, but they don't let that stop them from working really hard to grow and contribute in the meantime. 

This became more evident than ever to me in the book I started reading last week, My Life With Martin Luther King, Jr., by Coretta Scott King. 

I was struck by a section where Coretta explained that when he was in his early 20's MLK Jr. knew he wanted to be a minister, and knew he cared deeply about the discrimination and segregation in the south, but he never could have imagined he'd be leading a civil rights movement. 

What he did during his early 20's, however, was key, and it's the same for anyone who wants to succeed even if they are unsure what they are going to do with their life at the moment:

1) Learn - MLK Jr. was determined to get the best training possible, and attained his PhD by the age of 25. Coretta explains that his intense studying did not stop after he received his doctoral diploma - he was always learning. 

Do not limit yourself to your college curriculum, and don't stop studying after college. Surround yourself with books that can teach you more about the subjects that fascinate you. 

2) Contribute - MLK Jr. began speaking publicly at a very young age, and his oratory skills were incredible. He immediately began using those skills to inspire and uplift others, becoming an assistant minister when he was in his early 20's. He recognized the privileges he had growing up, and began immediately using his oratory talents and education to empower others with a sense of hope and self that served as a crucial foundation to the beginnings of the civil rights movement. 

You should not wait to contribute. Do it now, with whatever you've got. You never know what it could be preparing you for. 

3) Act - When Rosa Parks decided to stay in her seat, MLK Jr. and the people he had been working with saw an opportunity to do something big. They organized the bus boycott and he soon became the symbol and the leader of the civil rights movement. Reading about his personal journey from his wife's perspective highlights how his years of learning and his spirit of contribution came to prepare him to lead such a crucial moment in history. 

When you engage deeply, learn intensely, and care about others you will see opportunities no one else does. And when you act, you never have to think about "what you should do with your life." Because you'll just be doing it. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

College To-Do List: Week 5

The end of the fall semester is here, and there's one more thing I recommend you do before you leave campus and head home for a few weeks! Check out the short video below to find out what it is. :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

How to pay for college

Season 2 of TCC22's The SKiNNY is here! Check out the first episode below (only 10min!) to 

1) learn how to pay for college, 
2) find out what you must do every semester to get your money,
3) see the new game show segment, and 
4) see me freak out during a game of Monopoly. ;) 


Monday, December 2, 2013

College To-Do List: Week 4

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break!!

It's Week 4 in the College To-Do List series! Check out the short video below for a quick and easy task you can do this week to continue to build the kind of habits in college that will help you get ahead and reach your goals. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank you!!

As tomorrow marks Thanksgiving it also marks almost three years since I started this blog.

I'll never forget writing my first post, dreaming that it could one day turn into a book. That dream would have never come to fruition without you.

I want to thank you for reading this blog, for following me on this journey, and for being the kind of person who wants to fight for your own success in college and beyond. 

College is tough for everyone, but it's especially hard if you come from a low-income or underprivileged background. You guys are breaking those barriers every day, and you're the reason why this work is still exciting. 

I get so many e-mails from those of you who are fervently trying to succeed and care more about your education than many probably give you credit for. I just wanted to take this Thanksgiving week to remind you how awesome you really are.

Thank you for being the kind of person who wakes up every day and works hard. Thank you for trying. Thank you for not giving up. 

Keep going, and enjoy your Turkey Day tomorrow. :)



Monday, November 25, 2013

College To-Do List Week 3

Success is all about taking small steps, each day, over a long period of time. Good habits can take you far. 

So for the rest of the 2013-2014 school year, each Monday I'll release a short video with one small thing for you to do that week that will lead you to success. Try it, and you'll be amazed by what can happen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

College To-Do List - Week 2

Success is all about taking small steps, each day, over a long period of time. Good habits can take you far. 

So for the rest of the 2013-2014 school year, each Monday I'll release a short video with one small thing for you to do that week that will lead you to success. Try it, and you'll be amazed by what can happen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ask Isa: "What do I do when my 4.0 is in danger?"

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I'm having such a hard time in two of my classes this semester. I'm a full time, straight-A student but I can't seem to get higher than a 88 on my exams in both courses. They happen to be with the same professor also. 

This is my second to last semester and losing my 4.0 is not an option for me. I'm not doing anything different from previous semesters. I work hard, study hard, and attend class regularly. I have mentioned my concerns to my professor and she said, "tests were not meant to be easy." 

I don't know how to correct this problem and turn things around to improve my grade. Can you please offer me some advice?


Heartbroken, Devastated, and Worried

Dear Heartbroken,

Congratulations on getting such stellar grades so far and for being so concerned with doing well. That desire alone will take you far, but it's important not to let it overwhelm your desire to learn and grow. 

I too an am overachiever and worked hard to keep my 4.0 throughout high school, college, and graduate school. And I'll never forget my first B's.

In high school it was pottery and geometry.

In college it was qualitative analysis.

And I agonized much in the same way you are. I looked at my habits and asked myself if any of these grades were because I wasn't working hard enough. I came to the same conclusion you did - I was doing everything I could. 

It's vital to recognize our academic strengths and weaknesses, and remember that your effort, not your grades, is what will take you the farthest in your life.

Your grades do not define you, and while I think it is a good thing to work as hard as you can to get a 4.0, getting anything less does not mean you are a failure.

Use any B's (or any grade less than an A for that matter) as a chance to learn. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Did I do everything I could to do well on this?
2) Was there more time I should have spent studying or seeking a tutor?
3) Did I seek the professor's feedback multiple times throughout the process of studying or doing the project to be sure I was on the right track?
4) Is this class similar to something I'm majoring in?
5) Do I want to continue to take classes like this in my future?

When I got B's I asked myself these questions, and usually came to the conclusion that those subjects were not in my strength areas, and thus allowed myself to actually be proud of my B's, versus letting them get me down.

I really am horrible at pottery. My spatial intelligence is pathetic (never ask me to read a map for you). And qualitative analysis was just a really tough class.

I used this information, however, to my advantage when making choices in my future. For example, I decided to focus on algebra and statistics when I had math choices, I focused on drawing electives instead of pottery, and when it came time for me to do my undergraduate research, I chose rhetorical analysis instead of qualitative. 

Use the knowledge about yourself that you're gaining to your advantage and be strategic. 

And finally, when talking to your professor, do not lament over your grades (do that with close friends or mentors), but instead use your time with your professor to ask for honest feedback

Go over the questions you missed on the exams and identify the problems. While it's helpful to focus on your strengths, you can also improve by focusing hard on those weaknesses to help improve your grades in those classes. 

Also ask your professor for advice on what you can do to improve. Your professor will be much more apt to help you improve then to comfort you when you're sad about your grades. Use that advice to your advantage.

Best of luck, and remember that your grades do not define you. A 4.0 is a wonderful goal, and aiming high will take you far. But do not let it limit your confidence or your potential to learn from every grade and appreciate your efforts.

You are doing a great job, and don't let any letter ever make you feel less than what you are - a successful and dedicated student.

Keep up the good work!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ask Isa: When is the best semester to begin college?

From the Ask Isa Inbox:

Hi Isa,

Are there any disadvantages to incoming Freshman starting early (Spring Session/Summer Session) instead of starting when everyone else their age starts (Fall Semester)? I'm scared that it might affect making friends, opportunities, joining clubs, etc.



Dear Confused/Scared,

While I can't speak from direct experience since I did start college during the Fall Semester, I do know that every college can vary in the programs it offers each semester, so I highly encourage you to ask this question of an admissions counselor at your college right away. 

While it can be great to start in a traditional route as most colleges build their schedules and activities with that schedule in mind, most community colleges have programs year-round, and other colleges also recognize students start at different semesters. It's all about your priorities.

For many students starting college in the summer or spring offers great advantages because of their own preferences or other things going on in their lives (e.g. I also had a student e-mail me asking the same question as you - they wanted to start college early so as not to have too long a gap between high school and college).

The great thing about starting college early is that you can get a head start and have extra time to get comfortable with the new environment. It certainly won't negatively affect you when it comes to making friends, because you'll be able to make friends with the other students going to school at that time. 

In the working world it's vital to be able to make friends who aren't your age, and interact with a diversity of people, so even if you find starting early mixes you in with students who aren't your age, that can actually be a good thing.

So in short, I do not think you will put yourself at a disadvantage if you start college in a semester other than the fall. Just be sure to talk about it with your admissions counselor so that if there are any particular programs or opportunities at your college that would only be available to you if you started in the fall you can then weigh your options. 

Congrats to you for going to college - that alone will put you at a huge advantage no matter when you start. It's quite an adventure and I can tell you are going to be great at it! Best of luck!



Monday, November 11, 2013

College To-Do List - Week 1

Success is all about taking small steps, each day, over a long period of time. Good habits can take you far. 

So for the rest of the 2013-2014 school year, each Monday I'll release a short video with one small thing for you to do that week that will lead you to success. Try it, and you'll be amazed by what can happen.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How to study for the GRE

You may have noticed I've been a bit MIA on the blog recently and I wanted to tell you why:

I recently retook the GRE. And I want to share with you some tips for doing well and raising your score. 

I first took the GRE a few years ago before I was admitted to my Master's program. When I finished my M.Ed I felt like I was so DONE with school. A doctorate? Five years? No, not for me. 

And then, about a year later, I started missing school desperately. And I found an incredible doctoral program at an ivy league that only required three years and covered full tuition. 

I decided to apply for next Fall 2014.

However, aside from my writing score, my GRE scores were not close to the average of the previous incoming class that the university's graduate website reported. I was going to be applying to one of the most selective schools in the world, and thus I knew I was going to have to prepare for a standardized test like I'd never prepared in my life.

I learned a ton throughout the process these past two months (and was able to raise my scores to the ivy league level for the first time in my life!), and I wanted to pass on that knowledge to you as I get so many e-mails from many of you who're interested in going to graduate school. 

So below are the things I did that helped me raise my scores and (hopefully) qualify to get into the doctorate of my dreams. I hope some of these things can help you do the same. 

1) Research GRE requirements: Every graduate program has different requirements; some don't even require the GRE! Do your research first and identify your target score. The best way to find out for sure is to talk to an admissions counselor for the program you're interested in.

2) Register for the test: Ask the admissions counselor when the GRE scores are due for your application and then register to take your test at least a month or two before that date. If you are ahead of the game, try to take it as early as possible to give yourself room to retake it if needed (keep in mind you have to wait a few weeks between retakes). Also leave yourself at least a month or two to study. 

3) Buy study materials with practice tests: This is the time to invest and I think it's absolutely worth it. The ETS website offers some great free resources, but I also recommend getting other resources or perhaps signing up for a class if that's right for you. I purchased and loved the Kaplan GRE book, the ETS GRE book, and the Kaplan vocabulary flash cards

4) Schedule A LOT of time for studying: Studying for a standardized test requires a lot of time because you have to study a lot of things that may not be on the test. Since you don't know exactly what is going to be on the test, you have to study everything. That takes time, and the time spent will pay off. Dedicate time into your schedule; it will require making some short-term sacrifices in your schedule to find the time. (I probably studied about 75 hours.)

5) Divide your studying into manageable chunks: I dedicated the entire month of October to studying for the GRE (I scheduled my test for October 31, for an application due December 13). With about 30 days to study, I divided the 5 practice tests I received with my books throughout the week and scheduled them in my calendar. I also took the 500 words, divided them by 30 days, and memorized just those words each day. 

6) Tell people: I was nervous to tell people at first, for fear I would fail. But I knew I had to take the advice I give students, so I started telling people, and while it was scary, I knew I had to be accountable; it encouraged me to stick with my study plan. 

7) Take practice tests: I learned the most by taking practice tests and then going over the answers I missed. Take as many as possible and dedicate the time to go over the answers. 

8) Identify your strongest area: After you take your first practice test identify your strongest area and focus on studying to improve your weakest areas. My strongest area is writing, so all I did to prepare for the essay portion was read the sample perfect-score essays to get an idea of tone. I focused 65% of my time on math and the other 35% on vocabulary.

9) Meet with a tutor/friend for help: Ask for help in your weakest areas. I'm lucky to be married to a math whiz so I was able to get free tutoring. Find someone who can help you figure out the problems that the book alone can't explain well. If writing isn't your strongest area, have people read your essays to get help. 

10) Be strategic: Think about what your graduate program requires; for example, I know the one I'm applying for isn't focused at all on math, which was good for me because my math scores were still struggling. I knew that while I could get my math scores to the bare minimum, they weren't going to be impressive. That is why, though I was very good at the Verbal section, I still focused heavily on studying for it. I decided if I could get almost perfect scores in Verbal and Writing it would overshadow my average math score. This paid off big time as I was able to take my verbal score from a percentile rank in the 70's to the 90's.

11) Get creative: Have fun with your studying as much as possible and find ways to work with the material; staring at a book alone will not work. I entered the vocab words I kept struggling with into Quizlet, as well as found GRE flash cards others had made. I loved playing Scatter with them and doing the practice tests. 

12) Relax: Do not study the night before the test or the day of. Plan to have a nice dinner, a healthy breakfast, and then relax. Listen to your favorite music on the drive to the test. Wear a comfortable but nice outfit that gives you confidence. Breathe. Know that all of your studying will pay off. And that, in the end, it's just a test. It doesn't define you. 

Please share any of your tips on the Facebook page, and best of luck in your graduate plans! It's quite an adventure. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Miley Cyrus reminded me about college

As I've been starting to pack to move to a new place in a few weeks I stumbled across my senior thesis. The title? 

Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”: The Incongruous Juxtaposition of Girlhood and Womanhood in Mediated Portrayals of Britney Spears

I opened it up and this paragraph (written in 2008) caught my attention:

       As represented by Spears, when women try to perfect the incongruous standards of girlhood and womanhood, certain destruction follows. Yet these conflicting expectations are still being mediated, as represented by the slew of criticisms that follow new emerging starlets. 
        For example, many question if young pop star Miley Cyrus will go down the same destructive path as Spears (“Teen Stars”). Their shared Southern roots and claims to innocence make many believe Cyrus will also rebel with sexual promiscuity. Media outlets have been on the lookout for these instances, and are already beginning to criticize some of her outfits...
       Cyrus has become a symbolic replacement for Spears; it seems the public is anxious to see if she too will mismanage her transition from girlhood to womanhood.
(It turns out I can predict the future.)

After community college I transferred to Stetson University where we were required to write a senior thesis; the project took over a year and was one of the most intense experiences of my life.

And, looking back now, I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Reading it over four years later reminded me how wonderful the learning process of college really can be.

The rhetoric surrounding whether or not college is worth it today focuses heavily on numbers, career outcomes, and speed.

While I truly believe college should help many have access to a good career and be done efficiently, I think it's easy to forget the actual privilege of learning. 

Aside from a few professions, there will be no other time in your life where your sole goal is to learn. 

While there are times in college where you will dream about the day where your life isn't dedicated to learning, I daresay you might be surprised when you miss it.

I won't lie - I don't miss exams. 

But I do miss the life dedicated to nothing but your own learning and growth. It was such a beautiful, magnificent privilege.

And that is what we can't forget. College and learning are a privilege. Just ask the millions around the world who would love to be in your shoes right now. 

The best thing you can do to show your gratitude for this privilege is to take full advantage of it. Bask in the knowledge. Learn deeply about the world. Pursue classes that excite you. 

Many think what they learn in college isn't relevant to their futures. At first glance you may think mediated portrayals of Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have nothing to do with my current career. But you would be mistaken. 

That research project was the foundation to everything I'm doing now. It taught me to think in a way I still think every single day. (Critical thinking: it's highly underrated.) 

It also taught me how to manage a big writing project (when people ask me how I was able to write a book at such a young age I usually point to this research project). 

And it also taught me to fall in love with learning for learning's sake. I chose to research this topic for no other reason than it fascinated me. I wasn't thinking about my future career. I wasn't thinking about what would be easy. I was thinking about what I wanted to learn more about. 

It paid off: I got a $2,000 research grant and was flown to New Orleans (beignets also changed my life) to present it at a national conference. 

Learning is wonderful. If you aren't in love with learning right now it might mean you're not pursuing something that fascinates you.

Learning what you love isn't easy, of course. A good college education is excruciatingly difficult. But it's the appreciation of what you are learning that makes the challenge fun. 

So when choosing the next topic for a project, or your major, go for something you want to know just for the sake of knowing it

I have learned that being curious, thinking critically, and pursuing knowledge that fascinates you lead to a tremendous career, even if at times you have no idea where it's going to go. 

The habit of learning is the best thing college can give you. But it's up to you to run with it. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ask Isa: "How do I calm my nerves as a returning adult student?"

From the Ask Isa Inbox:

Dear Isa

This is for students who have been out of school for over 15 years: How do calm your aniexty? I feel so scared and nervous because I don't want to feel like the old, dumb lady in class.


Over the Hill

Dear Over the Hill,

Actually, let's change your name...

Dear Amazing Go-Getter,

Congratulations on going back to college! All students feel nervous before starting college, and I know the nerves can be even greater for non-traditional students returning to school after some time. 

However, I want to let you know that you are one of the main reasons I fell in love with community colleges. While I was traditional age when I started community college, many of my friends were older. And here's the thing...

I didn't really notice.

There's something beautifully democratic and equalizing about the classroom environment; in my experience, age became hazy and we were all just students trying to learn. 

Here are some things that I hope will help calm your nerves:

1) Remember that you are doing something many other adults dream of doing but let that (understandable) fear get in the way of taking that first step. Take a moment and allow yourself to be proud of what you've done so far.

2) Sit in the front of the class and do all of your homework. You have just as much skill and potential as everyone else in the class. Hard work, not age, will determine success.  

3) Visit each professor and explain your anxiety. Ask for their advice. I've only ever heard professors speak highly of their adult students - they often love their motivation and diligence. 

4) Join a club that interests you and get involved on campus. Though adult students often have more responsibilities outside of the classroom, I've still seen many find the time to become club leaders and win amazing scholarships. It's also a great way to begin to get more comfortable. 

5) Find other non-traditional students and share your stories. Some campuses have clubs just for adult students. You are not alone, and it can be very comforting to find other students in your situation. Don't hide your anxiety but instead be open and share it with others. You'll be surprised to find out most in your situation are feeling the same way, and those who are younger will often exclaim they don't even think of you as "old" but just as their classmate. 

Best of luck in this new endeavor. I applaud you for taking this big step; it's exciting! You are what community colleges are all about. 

And remember that nerves usually mean you're about to do something important. 



Any non-traditional students out there? Please share what helped you calm your nerves and succeed in the comments or on the Facebook page!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New speaking video!

A few months ago I had the honor of speaking to all of the new students at Guttman Community College's orientation. I wanted to give you the first peek of the short 5-min video featuring clips from that speech. You can also watch the full version here if you like. :)

Ask Isa: What do you do when you get discouraged?

My favorite thing to do in my day-to-day job is read questions from the Ask Isa inbox. Sadly I've been so behind in answering the questions during what's been a very busy speaking season.

I want to get back to it today and want to thank you for being so honest and sharing your questions. They keep me going when things get tough.

And that brings us to our question for today: 

Dear Isa,

What do you do when you get discouraged?



Dear :(,

Discouragement is the worst. 

The more I read about success and successful people, the more I see how common their failures are

I'd heard my whole life that failure is part of success (for years my little brother had that Michael Jordan poster about how many shots he missed and games he lost), but it's really hard to stay focused when you're in the pit of discouragement. 

I've recently had some discouraging times in my life, including last night when I checked my e-mail right before bed (bad idea!) and saw a YouTube comment where the person called me an idiot multiple times and talked about why community colleges were the worst. 

What helps me cope with those kinds of things is based on something Marie Forleo said - she never receives harsh criticism from someone who is more successful and whom she admires. If you think about it, the same is probably true for us all. 

Because successful people usually don't have time to dedicate to make someone else feel awful; they also know it's not a path to success.

I know criticism may not be what's discouraging you now, but it's definitely something that discourages me. Even though I know it's part of the process and journey, it still hurts. 

Below are the four things that help me get through the many many moments of discouragement and self-doubt that come when trying to move forward in your life. I hope they help:

1) Meet with close friends/mentors
Schedule a coffee or lunch with someone.Talk about why you're discouraged and ask for advice. More importantly, though, ask that person about their life and just listen. 

2) Write down your past successes and what you're thankful for
I'm all about writing down your goals, but sometimes you need to write down what you've already accomplished to remind yourself of how far you've come. Then write about the things that you're currently thankful for.

3) Journal
My journal is my best friend when it comes to discouragement. I journal every morning, even if it's only a few sentences; it helps me clear my head.

4) Read
Read books about successful people you admire. Every book about a successful person is jam packed with failure and discouragement. It's actually comforting, because reminds you that discouragement is normal and not a precursor to failure if you don't want it to be. 

It's how you handle discouragement that can set you apart and help you reach greater heights. 

So next time you're discouraged, see it as an opportunity to become more resilient, resourceful, and successful. 

And at the risk of sounding incredible cheesy, well, forget it, I'm going to just be cheesy and end with a line from a song I love:

It's always darkest before the dawn...




You can submit your question to the Ask Isa inbox here! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How One Professor changed my life

Go to class. Go home. Go to class. Go home.

That is what I did in my first few weeks of community college. I didn't know any better. 

But then a professor wrote two words on an essay that changed my life:

"See Me."

I was terrified. But I went to his office anyway to find out if I was failing miserably in college.

It turned out, however, that he wanted to tell me about the college's honors program and how I could join. He also told me how community college could be a launching point to wherever I wanted to go in my life.

He challenged me to be more, to do more, and to accomplish more. 

That moment is what inspired the One Professor campaign that has today yielded over 500 videos from students across the country, sharing moments of how a professor has changed their life. 

I've learned that I'm not the only one with moments like this. Students have shown us that professors are helping them reach their goals both inside and especially outside the classroom. 

Most of the time it's those little moments of encouragement and advice that can make all the difference in a student's life. 

The One Professor campaign continues, and it now offers the ability for you to honor your professor in just a few minutes without having to turn on your camera - simply go to and write a sentence or two about how a professor has made a difference in your life! 

Your quote will be turned into a meme and be added to our Pinterest wall of quotes. Your professor will see the quote and be mailed a certificate of thanks.

So what are you waiting for? Take a few minutes and thank a professor for helping you get through this complicated journey called college, and become a part of this national movement. It would mean a lot to me as well.

I can't wait to read about you and your professor!

Fill out the form to thank your One Professor here.