Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 things to help you succeed in remedial college courses

I recently learned about an incredible 5-million-dollar College Success Prize being offered by the Robin Hood Foundation to an individual or team that can create a scalable and innovative solution to help more more students in remedial courses graduate successfully. 

And while I'm not in the tech-creation business, I was deeply inspired by the ethos of this prize, and it spurred me to get closer to the remedial experience.

I reached out to some professors in my local area a few weeks ago and recently sat down with them; I also observed a remedial math course and worked closely with a student on her math program. 

Whether you're currently getting through remedial courses, or you just found out that you've been placed in remedial courses and you're freaking out, I wanted to share with you what I learned. 

Below are five things you REALLY should do to help ensure you're one of the ones who succeed in remedial courses:

1) Frame it as a chance to grow your brain
Some students feel like being placed on remedial classes is a failure. I want you to know it is NOT. It is a chance. It is an opportunity. And only those who see it as such will succeed. 

Realize that this is your shot and you are going to have the opportunity to grow your brain, learn, get smarter, and prepare for college-level courses. 

Being in remedial courses DOES NOT MEAN YOU'RE NOT SMART! It just means you need a refresher, need to make up for either lost time or maybe time in high school where you just weren't at the right place in your life to be able to focus in the way you're ready to focus now.

I HIGHLY recommend you read Mindset by Carol Dweck to learn more about how your understanding of your capacity for learning and growth can affect your success. 

Also, realize that you are awesome. 

The professors I met said students in their classes were HEROES. Literally, that is the word they used. 

They, like me, see you as someone with grit, perseverance, someone who wants to do more with their life. This is your chance to change your life. Embrace it as such, with a positive attitude. 

2) Latch on
I asked one professor what successful students in remediation were doing. She said the successful ones "latched on" to something. 

Whether it was a professor, a campus club, or another mentor in the college community, she said they were the ones who DID NOT just go to class and go home. 

I was thrilled to hear this because it's what my book is all about!

Meet with your professors the FIRST week of class during their office hours. Ask them questions like "what are the qualities you've seen in the students who are really successful in your class; how much time a week do you think I should be spending on this outside of class; is there a former student of yours who'd be willing to talk to me to share their advice; do you have any advice on anything I should get involved in outside of class?"

Do not just go to class and go home. Break the cycle, get out of your comfort zone, and get to know your college community. It's not just a "nice" thing to do - it's vital. 

3) Read college success books
Knowing how to learn and be successful in college is a course in itself (literally, most colleges have a "college success" class - take it!!) But even with courses you should still do a TON of self-learning to get on track and get up to speed on what it takes to succeed in college.

The great news is that the knowledge is out there - every secret and strategy for succeeding in college is out there. You just have to have the dedication to read it. 

My favorite books to start with are How to Win at College and How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport, as well as of course my book Community College Success!

College is HARD and requires A LOT of work and dedication outside of class. The amount of time, dedication, and outside work you do now while in remediation can pay off BIG time when it comes to your future.   

4) Go to the career center
Sometimes when you start in remediation it can make you feel behind, make you feel like your career outside of classes is so far away. But now is the time to start thinking about WHY you're in remediation. WHY is all this work actually worth it to you and your life?

A really compelling and exciting reason is the only thing that's going to get you through and propel you to keep doing all the extra work necessary to succeed in remediation and in college. 

Visit your college's career center (check the website or ask your professor if you aren't sure where their office is) and ask a career advice what career assessments they offer. Take the tests and begin to explore career options (I also really like 

Ask the career counselor for advice as you narrow down your interests. Then, when you think you know your career path go straight to your academic advisor to map out a plan after remediation (including a four-year plan if you want to transfer on and get a bachelor's degree).

Visit your transfer university. Read about your major. Do whatever it takes to get EXCITED about what comes after remediation. 

Last October I had to study for the GRE (again) to try to raise my math scores to apply to Harvard. I literally studied the ENTIRE month of October (at least 40 hours/week) to re-teach myself tons of math concepts I had long forgotten. 

It was HARD. It was boring. It was frustrating. BUT - I did it. I hung in there. Why? Because the potential reward (getting into Harvard) was worth it to me. And even though I didn't make it all the way to the Harvard program, I did raise my math score to Harvard-levels and did make it to the top 50 applicants and was flown to Boston to interview; I was so proud of that. 

You have to have a goal. Make finding out your burning reason for wanting to do this the most important thing right now. 

5) Go the extra mile
Doing the bare minimum will not work in any college course, but especially remediation. Your goal should not be just to "get by" or "get through" your courses. It should be to LEARN the material, to grow your brain, to get smarter so that you can succeed even more in the next course you take. 

Do things that no one else in your class is doing. Meet with the professor often. Spend extra time on your assignments. Focus on the things you don't get and keep working them until you get it.

Go to the tutoring center and work in the library every day. 

Read books outside of class. Talk to successful students. Form study groups. Join a club. Prioritize school over work. Get involved. 

Study. Study. Study. 


And finally, remember, you are a hero. You are not stopping. You are not giving up. You are taking ownership of your education. That is something you should be SO PROUD of. 

There is a whole college behind you, wishing your success. Why do you think The Robin Hood Foundation is putting out a 5-million-dollar College Success Prize to help students like you?

Because we all believe in your potential. Your college and community are trying to figure out the best ways to support you. But you also have to do your part. 

The best news? You're so capable. You've gotten yourself this far, right? And you read this entire blog post. That tells me you're basically the coolest student who's ever lived. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Success Series: 4 strategies to chase the American Dream

I've been thinking a lot about the American Dream lately. And I've realized something sobering. 

The American Dream is not a given. 

Where you start does not have to determine where you finish, but for far too many, it does. To say this isn't fair is an understatement. 

Our country relies on this particular brand of hope. And yet, despite all the inequality that surrounds us, I still, like so many, believe in the American Dream. 

Because while its promise can be tenuous, it's idea is still promising. It's an idea that moved so many great social movements and leaders, like Martin Luther King Jr. & the civil rights movement, forward. 

It's a lens in which to see the world - not rose colored necessarily, but a lens that shows us what could be. What's worth fighting for. What's worth working towards. 

I still think the American Dream is possible, and I fully believe it's worth chasing. Thinking of ways to help students break cycles of poverty through education is what sets my heart on fire. 

And that is my long-soap-boxy way of saying that today's success series is about chasing your American Dream, whatever it may be.

Below are four strategies that can help you in your chase of something better:

My Formula for Chasing the American Dream

1. Own your story
In any multi-movie series my favorite movie is always, always the first one; I love a good origin story (Tobey Maguire you are still my favorite Spiderman).

Your past, your family, your income-level, your race/ethnicity, your identity matters. 

Journal about who you are and what barriers and privileges have gotten you where you are today. Own where you've been lucky and where life has been unfair. Consider what you're going to do about it. 

2. Set your goals
Think about what you really want to do with your life. What skills do you want to develop? What kind of person do you want to become? What do you want to share with the world? 

Turn those dreams into goals. Write them down. And read them every day. 

3. Build your community
No one is successful alone. No one. Some have privileged connections due to their income level, but not having that does not mean you can't develop your own connections. It's not just helpful, it's mandatory.  

Start where you are. College is the best place to start building a community for success. Ask professors, advisors, and internship advisors for advice. Take the advice. Say thank you. Ask again. 

4. Prioritize your improvement
Learning how to learn is one of the most underestimated benefits of a college education. 

You can't get out of self-learning if you want to be successful. Improving yourself through learning is one of the best things you can do to achieve the American Dream. 

Let me say that again:

Improving yourself through learning is one of the best things you can do to achieve the American Dream. (Tweet this quote here). 

And I'm not talking about doing the bare minimum in class. I'm talking about a commitment to learning. 

Learning when it's hard. Learning when it's boring. Learning when no one else seems to care. Learning because you want to get better. Learning because you want to make a difference. Learning because you want to make the most of this opportunity you've been given.

Prioritizing your improvement means making sacrifices to make learning happen. Like, maybe watching less TV. Maybe working less while in college. Maybe spending more time in the library. Or maybe reading books outside of what's required (I recommend at least one per month). 


These are strategies for chasing the American Dream, and I use the term "chase" purposefully, because the American Dream isn't a guarantee. 

I'm sure you know a lot of really hard working people who can't seem to make ends meet, who can't seem to get ahead.

Chasing the American Dream at this point in history requires strategy, people, commitment, community, and your personal dedication. Nothing less.

And it requires even more if you have less.

We won't get anywhere without trailblazers who are willing to do the really hard parts. 

I'm so thankful for my grandma who did a lot of the really hard stuff to make what I am doing today possible. She moved to New York from Puerto Rico to sew other people's clothes and clean other people's bathrooms, all with only a fourth-grade education. 

Because of her my dad was able to get an associates degree. Because of him I was able to get a bachelors degree and then a masters degree. 

My ultimate American Dream is that stories of the American Dream won't be amazing extraordinary exceptions. My dream is that one day success stories of minority and low-income people will be as ordinary as the success of anyone else.  

It's not that it's easy. It's that it's possible

Monday, April 28, 2014

5 things to do the day after a conference

I just returned from the Phi Theta Kappa international convention, also known as Nerd Nation. 

And it was, in a word, epic. 

But, it always is.

Conferences have a way of imbuing a sense of hope and possibility. 
Connecting w/ my readers @ conferences inspires me to keep going.
Some people are able to take the knowledge and excitement they get from a convention and apply it to their lives, while others enjoy the event but somehow find themselves coming down hard back to "real life" and can't figure out how to translate the convention excitement and motivation into the daily grind.

Do not let that conference excitement you're feeling go to waste. It's very real and can be important fuel for your future if you know how to use it. 

Here are five things I do the day after every conference that I hope help you make the most of your post-conference motivation:

1) Journal
Before you do anything else take a moment and reflect on the conference experience. What did you learn? What was your favorite part? What do you want to change? Who do you want to be? What are you inspired to do?

2) Translate notes into action items
Hopefully you took some notes during the conference when an idea struck you or a speech caught your attention. Translate each note into an action item on your to-do list so those ideas do not get lost. 

3) Follow up with all your new friends
Get all the business cards you collected and/or check your social media channels for all the new friends you met. Reach out with an e-mail or a message reflecting on your conversation and following up on any action-items you both discussed. Schedule a call to talk more with anyone you really clicked with. 

4) Take a walk
Take at least five minutes to walk outside - whether it's on campus or outside your home, just get outside and move. Conferences are highly stimulating and you have so much swirling around in your sub-concious. A walk is a great time to let that knowledge settle and then connect into good ideas.  

5) Do one big thing
After your walk come back to the action items you wrote down in step #2 and choose the one item that could have the biggest impact on your life and DO IT IMMEDIATELY.



Why are you still reading this? 



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: 5 reasons to join PTK

One of the most popular posts on my blog is 5 reasons to join Phi Theta Kappa, and I thought today it would be the perfect Throwback Thursday post because I am at PTK Nerd Nation (their annual conference) right now!

I can't help but think about my first time attending the conference in 2007 as a sophomore in college. I was the president of my PTK chapter. And it was the very first time I rode on an airplane.

I can't believe I'm here again, this time as an alum, to do a book signing. It's crazy and I'm so thankful for all the opportunities community college offered me. 

I hope you enjoy this Throwback Thursday post, and I hope to see you at a PTK Nerd Nation event one day!

Me in 2007 @ PTK in Nashville!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top 5 things to help you choose which university to attend

I recently sat down with a community college graduate who was trying to decide between two transfer universities. One was in-state, one out of state. One had full tuition covered and the other would require tens of thousands in loans. 

She was torn and feeling a lot of anxiety about making the "right" choice. 

I shared with her the key things I thought she should look into, and she found them so helpful that I thought I should share them with you too!

If you're not sure which university will be the best choice for you, here are five things you can do:

1) Visit each campus
Get up-close-and-personal with the campus. Ask the admissions office to visit a class and/or the program director or dean of your intended major. Eat in the cafeteria. Go to an athletic event. Sit in the library. 

Don't just do the standard walk-around-tour. Some colleges even offer a chance to stay overnight - do it! This is an investment and getting as close as possible will reveal a lot and will help you make a better gut-level decision.

2) Check out alumni on LinkedIn 
LinkedIn has this new feature that I'm obsessed with. Go to and click on the "Prospective Students" tab. Then type in the universities you're considering and after you click to "view" the school you're looking for, click "explore careers of alumni." Keep clicking "show more" until you find the industry and/or company that most closely matches your dream career. 

You can click on one industry or a few, and then scroll down and explore the alumni of that college. Look at a few profiles that intrigue you and consider their career path. Is it something you want to model? 

For the bold, reach out to a few alumni that you admire and ask if they'd be willing to share their experience with the university. Nothing is better than a first-hand account. Sometimes admissions offices will also arrange an alumni conversation.

If you have a very specific post-college goal then also be on the lookout for alumni who fit that profile.

For example, the student I talked with really wanted to go to graduate school at an ivy league after she graduated with her bachelor's, so I told her to try to find out which university prepared more graduates to study at an ivy league and/or had alumni who worked at her dream organizations (e.g. The New York Times). 

3) Talk to a current student 
When you visit campus be bold and ask students around you quick questions. Walk up to a group eating in the cafeteria and explain you're a prospective student and ask them if you can ask them a few questions about how they like the college.

The worst thing that can happen is that they say no, which may tell you something about the campus culture.

Some questions to get you started: 1) What made you choose this college? 2) What is your favorite part about going here? 3) What is your major? 4) What do you like most about classes here? 5) What do you like to do for fun here? 6) What do you know about [program you're interested in]? 7) What is the most challenging part of going to this college? 8) What is one thing you wished someone had told you before enrolling here? 

4) Research your intended major/career
One of my favorite websites for this is Explore your intended career intensively and consider your major with a lot of thought. Then look at the programs at each college to determine which one will best prepare you for what you really want to to learn and do.

One of the best things you can do is connect with someone doing your dream job and tell them about the colleges and programs you're trying to decide between. There is nothing better than getting advice from someone who is in the industry and knows what kind of weight their industry places on particular colleges and programs. 

5) Cost
I put cost last very deliberately. I think community college is a great option because it is so cost effective, but that doesn't mean you always have to go for the cheapest option. 

Wait until you've completed steps 1-4 and then consider your financial aid offerings from each university and map out the cost. 

Here are a few reasons when it can be a good idea to go with the more expensive university: 1) if there are a ton of alumni who went on to your dream organization or dream graduate school 2) if someone in your dream industry says that university opens A LOT more doors in your field than the other 3) if the academic program you want to major in is one of the best 4) if it's an ivy-league university whose recognized name can open a lot of doors

Small loans are fine as you are the best investment you can make. However, if after doing all the research you think you can get all of the things above for less money at an accredited school, then go for it.

There's no reason to take out crazy loans for a private school if it doesn't really offer the things that you want and need for your future. 


And finally, remember that you've just graduated from community college - something not everyone is able to do. You should be so proud of how far you've come and realize that you have proven you can make the best of wherever you go to school. 

Be smart and strategic, but do not be anxious. Whatever choice you make, as long as you continue to work hard, commit to the experience, and build a college community, you are going to be successful.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Success Series: Are you dealing with stress backwards?

Our culture has a kind of backwards way of looking at stress.

When we're stressed we too often decide the first things that must go are

1. Sleep
2. Heathy food
3. Time with friends/family

And yet these are the things we need most when dealing with stressful times in our lives. The above three things are actually proven to reduce stress, but for some reason we think it's a good idea to let them go when we need them most. 

Life in general can ebb and flow stress into your life, and stress isn't necessarily bad. There is "good stress," and I even read today in Shawn Achor's latest book Before Happiness that changing how you perceive stress (e.g. seeing how it can enhance your productivity and sense of purpose) can actually change how it effects you.

I'm no psychologist nor have done the studies Achor talks about in his book, but I thought the end of the semester would be a good time to remind you not to give up on the things you need most to help you get through the times when it seems you have more on your plate than usual.

So below are the three things I hear over and over again in articles about successful people and stress. I hope they help you as much as they've helped me:

1. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. 

2. Eat good healthy food (e.g. think vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lots of water, and foods with ingredients that sound like food and not chemicals, etc.)

3. Schedule time with people who make you happy. Whether it's friends, family, mentors, colleagues - anyone with whom you like to have fun. Resist the strong urge to hermit yourself during times of stress and instead start planning lunch dates or nights out and make it a priority to take some time to laugh with people you really like.

Laughter is a pretty good stress reliever too. :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

College To-Do List Week 21: Summer Internships!

The college to-do list is almost over! I hope you're excited for the end of the semester. Now may feel like the time to slow down, but not quite! Keep going strong and that last day of the semester will be even sweeter. You can do this! Remember to take care of yourself, get lots of sleep, and eat healthy during stressful times. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Solid advice from ESPN Host Bomani Jones

As you may know by now I host The SKiNNY on College Success, and recently one of the student reporters, Sarah, interviewed Bomani Jones after he was on campus speaking to Tallahassee Community College!

In other words - our first celebrity interview!! :) Bomani is crazy successful, and you can learn a lot from his journey and advice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Success Series: Why "curiosity killed the cat" is bad advice

Have you ever heard the saying "curiosity killed the cat"?

I don't know where it comes from, but I know it's not a good metaphor for success. 

Poor kitties aside, curiosity is vital to your success. 

Look closely into the stories of successful people and you'll often find their journey began with a spark of curiosity that they chased with a fury. And I'm not talking about following your passion. 

I'm talking about chasing down something you want to know. You might not even know if you're passionate about it or not - and that's okay. All you have to know is that you have to know more. 

That is the kind of curiosity I'm talking about - and I want to challenge you to chase yours. 

Is there something you've been wondering about lately? Something you think is cool? Something you wish you knew more about but aren't sure where to start, or maybe even are too scared to admit you don't know much about it? 

Start learning and let your curiosity lead you. 

Most industries are in desperate need of fresh perspectives, so often your lack of current knowledge, matched with a burning curiosity, can offer tremendous solutions.

Most innovations and ideas come from intensely curious people. 

And college is the perfect place to start chasing those curiosities. Take a variety of classes. Explore random internships. Read lots of books. 

Don't question what you're curious about and don't you dare tell yourself it doesn't matter or is too obscure. Chase your curiosities. It won't kill you, but it might just lead to a whole new life. 

You'll never know until you try. :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

College To-Do List Week 20: Set your goals

College To-Do list is almost over (which means your semester is almost over!!). Congratulations and keep on going strong. You're almost there!

Below is a to-do list item that you should definitely do if you haven't already. It's something I still do every day. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What to carry in your college backpack

A YouTube subscriber recently asked me to do a video on this, so here it is! You can also use the quick summary list below the video. Hope it helps! And a huge thank you to everyone on Facebook who contributed!

College ID card
Folders or binder for each class

Phone/Laptop chargers
Flash cards
Bottle of water
Digital Recorder to record lectures

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ask Isa: The truth about community college stereotypes [spoiler alert: they're wrong]

I've received so many questions that allude to stereotypes about community colleges and wanted to address them here for anyone thinking about going to community college for an associates degree, a career program or to transfer on to eventually earn a bachelors degree. Hope it helps! :)

I feel like some people act like there is something wrong with community colleges, that they're for "dumb" people. Is that true?

There is NOTHING wrong with community colleges. But you are right the stereotype is there. It's just wrong. 

Community colleges started to open access to college for all people, especially those who may have been shut out in the past (e.g. low-income people, minorities, veterans, etc.).

Our culture is obsessed with status, and thus community colleges are seen as "less than" because you don't have to apply to "get in." That's why the tagline to my blog is "Because going to community college doesn't mean you couldn't get in anywhere else."

Community colleges are brimming with bright students, and many community college alumni go on to do amazing things

Community college courses are not for "dumb" people. (And really, I don't think there are "dumb" people. I think there are just people who haven't had the opportunity to see what they're capable of.) 

Many university students take summer classes at community colleges that transfer back to their universities! I've known many community college students who've gone on to the Ivy League, even Harvard. 

A reason you may sense a negative reaction to community colleges is that their graduation rates do tend to be low. 

But the reasons students drop out (keep in mind community colleges serve a large proportion of low-income and first generation students) seem to have much more to do with them not having enough money or schedule flexibility - not because they aren't smart or because the institution doesn't provide resources for success. 

The biggest difference is that in college, especially a large inexpensive community college, it is now up to you to seek out those resources on a daily basis (that's what my book is all about!).

In short: community college is a wonderful place to start and there is nothing wrong it.

Anyone who attends should be so proud. To me, community colleges are the
American Dream.

Can I really be successful with an associates degree? What if I just want to do a two-year program and don't want to transfer to a university? 

I see nothing wrong with getting an associates degree! You can check out some basic statistics on earnings here, and I encourage you to search the internet for additional reputable sources to find out more. 

Two of my other favorite places to research careers when it comes to degree requirements and earnings potential are the U.S. Dept of Labor's Occupational Handbook and

I think you are so smart for asking these questions now and doing the research early will serve you well. 

If you've done the research and you find out your ultimate dream career does not require a bachelor's degree then you are good to go! 

The best way to know is to ask advice of someone who is in that career and ask them what degree they got and what degree they think will help you best get the entry level job you want as well as create a sustainable career to allow you to move up to where you ultimately think you want to go in your future.

Also keep in mind it's never too late to get a bachelors or other advanced degree if you decide later. I've known many who've gone back in their 40's and 50's and done very well, though they do say getting it done earlier (before kids and mortgages) is preferable when possible. That's why it's so smart you're doing the research now.

Can I really be successful if I only go to community college and don't get a bachelor's degree?

Yes I truly believe that you can. I think success relies more on the effort you put forth, the self-learning you do, and the attitude you have much more than the type of college you attend. 

Statistics show that generally advanced degrees do equal higher earnings, so some form of post-secondary education is a great way to get a successful path started. And of course - it also depends how you define success! The amount of money you can make may not always be what drives you. 

I fully believe education is the best investment you can make. You are a good investment - but only when you are doing the research to make sure you're investing in something you really want to do and are able to bring your 100% to the process. 

And finally, as I'm sure you know, a degree alone isn't enough to equal automatic success. 

It takes so much more, but if you are asking these types of questions and doing the research then you are already on that path.

Keep doing the research, find out what you really want to do, set goals, plan your journey, seek mentors, adjust when necessary, and put in your 100% every single day. 

If you do that, you can absolutely be successful. Community college is a great place to start, and I think career programs (e.g. culinary, nursing, law enforcement, EMT, automotive, dental hygienist, welding, etc.) are some of the things that make community colleges so special, in addition to the opportunity to transfer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why your story matters: introducing the #SoCanU project

The first time I shared my story was in an essay to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship

I had to put on paper who I was, how I'd gotten to where I was, and who I wanted to be. 

A few years after I won the scholarship and returned to that very community college to work in the Student Life office, the president of the college asked me to be the speaker at the college's annual fundraising gala.

I would have to put on a fancy dress and share my story in a microphone for the first time - in front of a bunch of rich people I didn't know.

I was terrified. 

I sat down and wrote out the points of my story - the points that changed me or affected where I am today. Then I went over them with a close friend and mentor who helped me rearrange the points for optimal impact, and practice, practice, practice.

That first speech ended with a standing ovation. And I was in shock. How did this happen? How did my story - my little, story - help me win a $110,000 scholarship and win the applause of an audience? (and eventually turn into a full time business?!)

I promise you it's not because I'm just the greatest. And it's certainly not because I have an amazing story. 

It's simply because I shared my story in a vulnerable way. 

I went to the depths of what I felt when I lost hope in that community college advising office. I re-lived the moment when I broke down on my knees after winning the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, thinking "people like me don't get Master's degrees."

I dug into my family history. I considered the barriers that came from being from a low-income Latino family, the first in my family to pursue a bachelor's degree. 

But I also considered all the privileges I had; when I speak to community college staff I always emphasize that if I needed such support to succeed, how much more do those who don't have the privileges of a safe home, loving parents, a roof over their head, or full scholarships need in order to make it

[Answer: a lot more.] 

The more I've met community college students around the country and learned more about poverty the more privileged I've felt. I tell my story not because it's the best or most inspiring, but because it's the only one I have to tell.

You have a story too. And it can inspire people more than you know. Seriously. 

And I know that little voice in your head says the same things it says to me: "Who are you to think your story matters? People have had it way worse than you so don't talk about your little struggles. No one wants to hear about your life. Your story doesn't matter."

But your story does matter. There is tremendous power in it if you're brave enough to share. 

A few weeks ago I watched an HBO documentary called Paycheck to Paycheck that features just one woman's story - a single mom of three named Katrina, trying to make it on minimum wage and get into college. 

That one story highlighted the plight of so many. 

That's what stories do.

They illustrate the everyday happenings of our lives. They give life to big concepts. They help people who can't relate understand. And they help people who can relate feel less alone. 

I believe in stories. And I believe in your story. 

That is why I started the #SoCanU project. I want to celebrate your story so that other people can see what is possible through what you have accomplished.

Please check out the project and click Join the Movement to share your story with the world. It matters. And it can inspire others more than you know.

Monday, April 7, 2014

College To-Do List Week 19: Organization 101

Being organized is one of the keys to college success, and it's crazy simple. The hardest part is just getting started.

Below is the first step, which, if you're reading this blog, you've probably already got covered - but be sure to watch just in case, and pass along to your friends! :)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to succeed in online classes

"Oh, I don't eat fast food."  Find out what I'm talking about in the newest episode of TheSKiNNY below, which features my academy-award winning acting AND some myth-busting facts about online classes and tips to help you ace your online courses!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What to do when you're overwhelmed in college

Ever have that moment when you're like, "oh my gosh how am I going to get all of this done in time?" Then this is for you.

For more videos of advice subscribe to my channel at