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.