Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The one question you must be able to answer to graduate college

How to succeed in college is why I write this blog and why I wrote my book. I teach how to build the relationships that are integral to college and career success. 

And you read this blog (and my book I hope) because you want to succeed. You want to do more with your life. You want to know how.

And I applaud you for that. You're way ahead of most people, and the fact that you're even reading this sentence shows you are a pretty dedicated person. Kudos to you. 

There is a question, however, whose answer can make or break the "how to succeed" in anything, especially something as demanding as college. 

It starts with one word - why.

Why do you want to graduate college?

Before you answer, consider the following:

1. WHY do you want to graduate college

How to succeed in college will mean nothing if you don't have a good reason why. I firmly believe that the large number of students who drop out of community college aren't doing it because they aren't smart or capable. 

While there are many external reasons, I think the primary internal problem is that they don't have a strong enough 'why' to push them to find the resources, time, and support they need to complete. 

2. Why do YOU want to graduate college

Your reason should be for you. It should be deeply personal and motivating. If money motivates you, then maybe it's the salary benefits. If you're motivated by the difference you can make in the world, maybe it's a certain community you want to help. 

Maybe there's a dream job you want that requires a college degree. Or maybe you have no idea what you want to do after college but you know you want to have options to choose and not get stuck in a job you hate (that was my why). 

Going to college for anyone else or for any reason other than your own won't work, especially if you have the kind of obstacles that come with being a low-income or first generation student. 

Your personal why may seem selfish, but it's not. It's the best thing you can do for your family and your community. 

Dream big.

3. Why do you want to GRADUATE college:

Going to college is the first step, and it's a difficult one so congratulations if you've made it that far! However, sadly too many students in community college do not graduate. 

Your reason for going to college should be rooted in your reason for graduating. What is your end goal and why? Once you graduate from community college do you want to go on to get a Bachelor's, a Master's, a J.D., an M.BA., an M.D. or a Ph.D? What degrees do you want and why? 

Again, make it personal, and think about the end goal. What would walking down that aisle to receive that diploma really mean to you? 


I got my Master's diploma in the mail in the summer of 2012, on the day my grandma Isabel died. In that moment I knew that my degree was so much more than a piece of paper. It was more than projected lifetime earnings. It was hope. And it was opportunity to do more than my grandma ever had the opportunity to do. 

Why are you in college? Why do you want to graduate college? If you don't have a reason that makes your heart beat faster and your motivation swell then schedule a meeting with a professor or mentor and start talking about it.

Slugging along through classes without a good "why" is dangerous.

But once you do have that "why," write it down and read it every morning. And if you're willing, please e-mail it to me at with your first name and name of your college (or you can request to be anonymous) as I'd love to share some of your whys in an upcoming blog post. 

How to succeed in college requires a lot of diligence and hard work. Our brains are hardwired to give up when something is too difficult - unless the 'why' is strong enough. 

Find your why and get your degree. You deserve it. 

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


  1. I loved your article. I find that when you start with why the "how" and the "what" become secondary. Why do I want to graduate from college? So I can be successful and pursue my passion. Even if the "how" and "why" are not easy, the why drives the necessity of the adversity. Very well done!

    Dane Barner


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