Thursday, May 29, 2014

50 Things to Do This Summer (#TBT)

Today's Throwback Thursday features a video I literally filmed and posted one year ago exactly today. Have a great summer! :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

50 Ways to Make Friends in Community College

The number one thing students e-mail me about is how to make friends in college. While some people may think students should be worried about other things - I get it completely.

The first section of my book is literally about how to make friends in college and why having a supportive and positive peer group is so important to your college success. 

We all need those positive social connections; I've read tons of research that proves just how much we actually need each other. And social media is not enough. 

So inspired by all the heartfelt e-mails I receive from community college students around the world who are anxious about making friends in college, this is for you. 

You'll note none of the ideas below includes "wait around for someone to invite you to something." This is about taking action, being bold, and taking full ownership of your entire college experience. You can do this. 

50 Ways to Make Friends in Community College

1. Join an intramural sports team (or start one)

2. Start a study group for a big test

3. Join a club

4. Start a club

5. Ask someone in class for help

6. Compliment someone in your class

7. Pass around a piece of paper asking for basic contact info from anyone who wants to be a part of a study group (or send a group e-mail if you have access to that)

8. Plan something fun to do after a group project meeting (e.g. don't leave after the work is done - invite people to do something else after, even if just a meal; or plan a celebratory outing once you turn in your project)

9. Get comfortable with rejection: making new friends requires boldness, courage, and effort. Keep asking and inviting and don't take it personally if no one shows up. It doesn't say ANYTHING about you. People get stuck in their routines and it's hard for them to break out. Keep asking and eventually you'll find people you really click with.

10. Be bold and ask your classmates to connect with you on social media; instead of just commenting on their pictures online, make comments in person before/after class to start conversations (just don't be stalkerish...)

11. Get a part time job at the college that involves meeting/helping students

12. Go to tutoring or become a tutor


14. Study abroad

15. Go to ANY kind of conference or trip that your college offers

16. Join an honors or other specialty program (see if there is a Phi Theta Kappa chapter on your campus!)

17. Sit somewhere else in class if the people around you aren't very talkative/friendly

18. Don't be afraid to (kindly) jump into conversations you hear around you (nothing personal, of course, but when others are discussing general topics)

19. Start conversations in class about random topics of the day (e.g. what's trending on twitter, the latest goofy video, pop culture, news, etc.). Just ask "hey has anyone seen/heard....?" And watch what happens. (My fav way to quickly get the news each day is the Skimm.)

20. Ask a question of the whole class to get conversation going

21. Be the smartest person in the room (e.g.if you always go above and beyond in your classes people will quickly recognize it and ask you for help)


23. If you can, commit to being on campus all day for at least two full days so you have plenty of time to schedule hangouts and go to club meetings. To make friends you have to be willing to make time. 

24. Do your homework ahead of time so you have plenty of time to socialize

25. Form a consistent study group that meets weekly to do homework together and hang out (be the organizer, book a study room with the library or scope out a good place on campus) *but of course still study on your own; study groups should be more for reviewing information and hanging out

26. Volunteer at a local organization you care about. Making friends in college doesn't always have to mean your friends have to be in college too. Get involved in your community and socialize that way; I also recently read that giving social support to others is actually even more beneficial than receiving it.

27. Sign up for a peer mentor program (see if your college has one; if not - start one!)

28. Be a peer mentor

29. Invite five people on your social media out to lunch/coffee (or whatever your thing is) each week (usually only one will actually work out each week, so it's best to ask a lot of people). 

30. See if your college has a game room and hang out there (lots of friends were made around the pool table at my community college)

31. Visit your student life office and ask about clubs as well as other events and opportunities. Go to EVERY one you can and see what clicks.

32. E-mail the student life office right away and find out when Club Recruitment is so you don't miss it (this is when clubs set up tables to recruit new members). Go to this each semester and talk to every table until you find the people or organization you click with. 

33. Join as many clubs and attend as many events as you can the first semester. Get involved, go to events, help out wherever possible. Then decide which one you really want to commit to wholeheartedly and become an officer.

34. Start an event or initiative on your campus. Like-minded people will follow.

35. Start or join a book club

36. If you can afford it, move out of your parents house and re-create the dorm experience by getting an apartment with some roommates near campus

37. Don't be afraid to hang out with "old" friends IF they're still good friends. You should branch out and make new friends in college, but it doesn't mean high school friends should be tossed aside just because they're "old" friends. DO distance yourself from any friends, high school or college, who are bad influences. Focus on hanging out with people who encourage you, believe in your college/career dreams, and genuinely want the best for you.

38. Resist the comfort of your phone. Turn it off before class and make conversation instead. Nothing says "I'm not interested in making friends" more than being on your phone, even if of course that's not the message you're trying to send. It usually means "this feels awkward so I'm going to be on my phone." Embrace the awkward and make friends in class. 

39. Join a club

40. Join a club

41. Join a club

42. Join a club

43. Join a club

44. Join a club

45. Join a club

46. Join a club

47. Join a club

48. Join a club

49. Join a club

50. Join a club

Most colleges realize that socialization is important. That is why clubs exist at every college! It is by far the easiest and best way to make friends in college. 

You'd also be surprised at the leadership skills you already possess - if you don't see what you're looking for don't be afraid to start something new. There are most likely other people looking for the same thing. 

Choose your friends wisely and surround yourself with people who want to do well in school. 

Join clubs that seem fun, and then have fun! If you focus on having a great time in college, doing things you enjoy, and prioritizing your success, you'll find yourself with a wealth of opportunities and surrounded by some pretty outstanding people. 

Be brave. Be bold. Start things. Invite people. Keep trying. And remember that most of the people you talk to will be so grateful that you reached out to them. 

For more advice on making friends in college and building the kind of college community necessary for success, check out my book Community College Success. :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Just call me Professor Adney ;)

I want you to be one of the first to know the exciting news:

I'm going to be teaching two College Success courses this fall at Seminole State College!

Seriously, don't sign up for all my classes at once. One at a time, please. I don't want to break their system. ;)

As most of you know I've been a community college student and worked in administration, so I'm really excited to experience community college through the eyes of a faculty member, specifically an adjunct professor. 

I'll still be speaking and consulting and running my business and writing this blog, and I think this teaching experience is only going to enhance those things. 

I also seriously can't wait to meet the students who will be in my classes, to spend time with them, to teach them, and to learn from them every week. 

And here is where you come in:

In preparation for this new experience, I would love to get your advice; I've prepared a few forms to seek your feedback.

If you're a student, I'd love to know what you loved about certain courses and what you hated. And if you're a professor I'd love to know what you've done well and any advice you might have. 

If you're willing to share your thoughts and advice please just click on one of the forms below based on the perspective you'd like to share.

Thank you so much!

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Get Good Grades in College

How good does getting good grades feel?

You'll have to see the episode below to find out. ;)

But seriously, it feels great. And if you haven't experienced the elation of getting straight-A's, this video will show you how it can be possible. 

(spoiler alert: I dress up like a pageant queen and a wrestler; I'm waiting for my oscar nomination in the mail any day now.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Men of Color Share Community College Experience

If you're a community college student, especially a man (or woman) of color (like me), this video will feel familiar. You'll identify with what these men are sharing about how they experience college. 

From race to best teaching practices, these men share their feelings and experiences, as well as suggestions for how to make the community college experience better. I was blown away, and I hope you are too.

And if you're a community college administrator, or maybe even not a student of color, this video is just as important, if not more so. It uncovers what this experience is like, what these men deal with, and how we can do a better job of creating a community where their potential can soar.

Because in the end, that's what I was left with at the end of this video. Potential. Talent. That is what is so clearly evident in these guys. As the report that was released with the video shares, it's potential we're going to lose if we don't collectively do something about it. The time is now.

And if you like this video you'll also love this one featuring middle/high school young men sharing what it feels like to be discriminated against. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Association of Latin American Students Bravely Share Their Stories of Being Undocumented in Community College

I just had to share with you this video the Association of Latin American Students just released at Suffolk County Community College in New York

These stories are moving, depict what community college and the American Dream are all about, and features how community colleges impact student's whole lives. 

I hope it inspires you as it has inspired me. 

Also - take note that a student organization created this. If you're a club leader, think about how you can use video to tell your college's compelling stories. Student organizations have such a tremendous opportunity to make an impact - don't waste it and do something big!

Highlights from the video: 

"It has changed my life. I've met great people who've helped me know what I really want to do. It's a great place and I've learned so much, not only about education, but also about life."

(Omg in the one below the young woman tears up when she says 'you're not alone' - made me cry too.) 

"Suffolk [ County Community College] has impacted my life in so many ways. When I first got to the school, I was lonely...When I came here all these people gave me help, and support, and they gave me a hand. And [they said] 'you're not alone,' and 'you have to keep going for what you want in life.'"

"It's hard, but not impossible." 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Success Series: What successful people know about procrastination

I've been writing this blog for over three years, and the most popular blog article by far is one I wrote in 2011 on....drumroll please....procrastination

People find this post from Google searching - and it seems students are Google searching procrastination a lot. 

Which tells me two things:

1) Students struggle with procrastination.
2) They want to get better.

I've read dozens of books about successful people and met many successful people, from CEO's to non-profit founders to New York Times Best selling authors to college presidents. Something has really struck me about my interactions with these people:

They don't seem to procrastinate. 

Seriously. Of all the people I connect with and e-mail, those who are most successful tend to get back to me the fastest. It almost doesn't make sense.

But it's true. 

When I sought out people to review my book for the inside and back covers, without fail those who were the most successful - the ones I thought would be the least likely to get back to me - got back to me before those who hadn't reached those heights in their careers.  

How can that be? My theory is that they got to where they are because they don't procrastinate - they just get things done right away, and are really good at knowing what is important. 

They only do the important things - and instead of procrastinating unimportant things, they just delegate them or get them out of their life. 

Successful people get to where they are by prioritizing the important things. 

Sometimes I procrastinate cleaning the kitchen or organizing a drawer. But I never procrastinated my school work when I was a student. Seriously, never.

Not because I'm just amazing. But because inherently I knew this was important. I wanted it. I wanted to do well. And I knew I had to get it done right away - I had to take action on an essay the day it was due to start to build momentum. Because I wasn't immune to procrastination - I just learned to protect myself against it. 

Procrastination can be a vicious cycle. Because the more you put something off the bigger it seems and the less you'll want to do it because it just seems so daunting.

One of the best ways to fight procrastination is to act on important tasks right away.

When you get an assignment - do something to move it forward right away. For example, when you get an essay assignment, do some research immediately, check out a book that will help you, or format a basic outline and save the document on your computer. I'm talking 5 minutes here.

The first step builds momentum that makes it seem less overwhelming. Sometimes you'll feel so buzzy from getting something done that you'll want to keep going. 

If that doesn't work, ask yourself if you need to raise the level of importance of your overall goal that the task relates to.

Is college actually important to you? Does getting the best grade you can really matter to you? Why are you in college? What do you want?

Sometimes procrastination might mean something isn't that important to you. Or maybe you're not just totally connecting how this task can actually help you get where you want to go.

Figure out how to raise the level of importance and put cues into your routine that will help remind you of that importance (like reading your goals every morning or meeting weekly with a mentor).

Or maybe sometimes you're procrastinating something because it's really not what you want. Maybe you need to change your major. Maybe you need to research a new path. 

Whatever you do, don't ignore procrastination. Take some time to think about what's happening and do something about it. I know, telling procrastinators to not procrastinate thinking about procrastination. Ha. 

But you get what I'm saying. And I know you can do this because, hey, you read this entire article, right? That means there's something that is important to you that you want to stop procrastinating.

Don't do anything else before you do something to move that task forward right now. Seriously. Stop reading. Go! ;) 

Monday, May 12, 2014

My secret sauce for staying motivated

From the Ask Isa Inbox:

Dear Isa,

How do you stay fully motivated?



Dear Unmotivated,

I'd be happy to share my secret of motivation with you - it's what has kept me motivated throughout my entire life to work hard each and every day. My "secret sauce," if you will. Are you ready?

Okay, here it is:

I'm not fully motivated all the time.

Whew. There. I said it. I feel better already. 

The truth is, people often confuse hard work and persistence with the emotion of motivation. Motivation is important - it is - but it's an emotion that ebbs and flows. It isn't constant. And that's okay.

The secret is that to stay "motivated" all the time what you really have to do is build habits and routines into your life that keep you on the right track EVEN WHEN YOU AREN'T MOTIVATED.

Make sense?

Let me give you an example: when it comes to college, write down your goals. Ask yourself: Why are you in college? What do you want your life to look like after you graduate? What's in it for you? Why are you doing this? How will your life change?

Write down what you see, and what your goals are, and THEN, build into your routine a time where you read them each day. I also recommend journaling at that time as well as reading a book that will help you reach your goals (whether it's a college success book or a book related to what you want to do in your career, or an inspiring biography or memoir).

All of the above are part of my morning routine, in addition to this:

Write down the top three tasks you want to accomplish each morning and do at least one task right away. 

Building routines and developing good habits in your life is what helps you act yourself into the feeling of motivation.

I've rarely just "felt" motivated - if ever. What happens is that I do something towards my goals and motivation follows.

It's kind of hard to explain, but once you experience it you'll know it. Here's a quick list of some of my go-to activities when I'm feeling "meh." 

1) Have lunch with a friend
2) Grab coffee with a mentor
3) Read a book about a subject I'm interested in
4) Browse a bookstore for a new book about something I want to accomplish
5) Read a biography or memoir about someone I admire
6) Volunteer with an organization that inspires me
7) Edit my goals and re-think what I really want
8) Write or read my mission statement
9) Read The Alchemist (again)
10) Take a walk outside, preferably somewhere pretty
11) Tackle a big task I've been procrastinating
12) Make a list of what I've accomplished so far to remind myself that my actions can affect my future

Try some of these things and let me know how it works ( 

And if you have anything to add please share in the comments of this blog or on the Facebook page

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ask Isa: "I don't see why a college degree is needed"

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I feel like CC is really a place that had made me reevaluate the value of my education. I don't see why a college degree is needed. 

I understand that we, as American's, are extremely lucky to get to go to college but a college degree isn't always a guarantee at a successful life. 

What I am saying is, I go to a ​community college​ and it's hard for me to get through it, what advice do you have?​



Dear Questioning,

Kudos to you for reevaluating the value of your education. I don't think anyone should go to college or pursue any kind of education without first valuing what it means to them and considering the effort required and what they're willing to put forth. 

College is HARD. Despite the wrongful stereotypes, community college classes ARE rigorous and require a lot of effort. 

To get through it, like any big hard thing in life, you have to have a goal that is meaningful to you personally. You have to be able to imagine what your life will be like after you reach that goal, and it has to be a picture that motivates you when things are hard, because they will be.

I love that you appreciate that getting to pursue a college education IS a huge privilege. But you are right, a college degree alone isn't an automatic ticket to success. 

It DOES, however, open doors of opportunity to pursue success through many more avenues. The numbers don't lie, and those with higher degrees on average do earn significantly more over a lifetime. They just do.

However, another great thing about this country is the freedom you have to choose. No one is forcing you towards your college education, and ultimately it is up to you to decide what is best for you. What do you really want? What is going to motivate you to work hard? 

I'm not an expert when it comes to vocational and technical programs, but what I do know is that I have tremendous respect for them and the people who work hard to train in those programs and use their skills for things we all need every day. 

These types of trainings aren't easy either though. Neither is working full time for that matter. But of course, I get the impression you're not just looking for the "easy" way, but the way that will motivate you; the way that seems worth it to you and your goals.

It's all about deciding what are you willing to work hard at. What are you willing to get really good at? What interests you enough to want to keep learning about it even after the training or course is over?

So here is what I recommend you do:

​1) Go to the career center at your community college right away. Be honest and share your dilemma. Ask if they offer a career test you can take based on your interests. Then ask where you can find a listing of all the programs the college offers. 

Does anything excite you? Does anything seem worth it to you? If so, go to your advisor right away and reevaluate your education plan, either based on classes you are taking or maybe you want to switch to another program. 

If you're not sure, ask to meet with the director of the program you're considering and/or ask to observe a class or talk to someone in the program to see if it's right for you.

2) If nothing is exciting you, if getting through it just doesn't feel worth it, then there is no shame in deciding to work for a while instead. There is no need to put yourself in debt when you aren't even sure why you're there. 

I've met so many successful people who really needed to work first and see what is out there before they had the motivation to return to school. Some went from 1.0 GPAs to 4.0 GPAs. The only thing that changed was their motivation and understanding of what kinds of opportunities were really out there without a college degree.

But keep in mind waiting on college can sometimes make it harder - especially if you start a family. However, it's never impossible.

Your job right now is to work as hard as you can to explore career options and decide what you are willing to work really hard for. The truth is college degrees can and do lead to more opportunities, but your effort and strategy matter A WHOLE LOT too.

Figure out what you really want, seek out many mentors along the way, and then decide what path will get you to where you want to go. 

I love Michelle Obama's new Reach Higher campaign, and I encourage you that in whatever you decide, to keep in that in mind. 

Reach higher than expectations. Don't do something you don't want to do just because you think you should, but also, don't sell yourself short of your amazing potential.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What I learned from my first job out of college OR Why college grads should choose the best opportunity over the best salary

I never felt more awful then when I was looking for my first job out of college. From interviewing for sales jobs I was so wrong for to considering being a Disney costumed character I was epically lost.

Sure, when I started out I had all these dreams when I started college. But when I graduated, I lost my vision completely.

Suddenly, I just had to get a job. That was the next step and it needed to happen right away and it needed to be “good.”

The world became small again and my lack of professional experience and understanding felt overwhelming. What did people actually DO in work? What was this whole professional world all about? Where in the world do I fit in?

I did informational interviews all over the place and while they were incredibly helpful, so far all the interviews were showing me what I DIDN’T want to do.

Eventually, I found my way back to working in education, at my local community college. I took an entry-level job and a tiny itty-bitty salary, and even worked for $10/hour for the first month.

While my role was in the back office processing baccalaureate applications (the community college had just started offering a few bachelor’s degrees) I also filled in a few hours each day on the “floor” where we helped incoming students fill out and prepare for enrolling in community college.

That floor is where I began my journey of learning about the community college experience in an entirely new way. I saw life “on the other side.” I saw what happened in administration and how it affects students, and more importantly, I got to interact with so many hopeful students pursuing their education.

I fell in love with the students who walked into that office. They were so diverse in every way, with one thing in common – they all desperately wanted an education.

I’ll never forget talking to one student from Laos – at the time I had never even heard of the country (pathetic, I know). He was wrapped in a beautiful deep orange cloth and had the widest smile and brightest eyes. He had come so far to be here. Wow.

And then of course there were the adorable toddlers who often sat across from me as their mom or dad filled out their college application.

While I hated being at a desk all day, I loved the people I got to meet during that time in my life, and that experience was integral to my work today.

Eventually another position opened up at the college in the Student Life office and I jumped at it. It was competitive but my previous experience working at the college was definitely a huge benefit.

And that brings me to my point (you knew I’d get there eventually, right?).

When you’re looking for your first job out of college, focus more on the right opportunity then the right salary or the best sounding job.

And by right opportunity I mean the position that is going to give you the best chance in getting where you really want to go.

Because chances are, your first job WON’T be where you really want to be. Chances are it won’t be perfect. It will be hard. It may be frustrating. It may not be what you hoped.

And that’s okay.

Because if you choose the right opportunity, you can use your first job to be a training ground, a place to learn, a place to connect with people in your industry, and a chance to contribute something that can help you get to the next step.

This is the time where you can take risks and go for what you really want. Live with your parents if they let you to save money and focus on taking the right opportunity (sorry parents!).

Channel everything you have in getting yourself into the right organization, the right industry, and the right circle of people. Even if that means working hourly or doing something you’re not totally excited to do.

While doing a menial job to get an “in” in a particular organization can be beneficial, it can also be a really good strategy to choose an opportunity at a smaller organization where you will have a lot chances to contribute creative work or manage your own projects.

The key: choose something that has a huge potential for future growth – whether it’s through a particular company or through the tasks you’ll be able to do and learn from.

Go for something that excites you and motivates you to put your all into the position, even when it’s hard and not perfect.

If I hadn’t of worked at a community college this blog, my book, my entire career right now – would not exist.

I’m SO beyond thankful I was able to begin my career at a place that I really cared about, a place that offered me so many rich opportunities to learn and grow.

Don’t be afraid to choose the right place, the right opportunity.

This is your chance to take risks. Be fearless. It will not be easy. You may sometimes cry (and/or turn to Oreos and Full House re-runs as I did on bad days).

The beginning of your career can be really really hard, and I do wish someone would have told me that. But what I do know is that it’s also THE time to “set the table” for what your career can be.

Do it right in the early stages and you can set yourself up for a career you’ll actually like, maybe even love.

For more career advice check out my summer series,!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

5 things to do to avoid the “sorry this class won’t transfer” moment

Transferring from community college to a university with your Associate of Arts degree is one of the best benefits of community college, and most students report that is their very goal upon enrolling at a community college.

However, it’s not always easy.

I just met with a friend and superstar community college graduate this morning who told me she just found out (a year before graduation from her 4-year university) that she’d have to take chemistry because her university and major required a physical science and she had taken two non-physical sciences at her community college.


Her community college education plan was matched with the university’s education plan for her particular major, but unfortunately the science requirement wasn’t communicated.

This happens a lot. And not only to community college students. I’ve had so many friends who’ve had issues with their transcripts, transfer credits, and graduation applications.

The credit-system is not perfect and advisors are swamped with so many students and reliant on computer systems that are not immune to both technological and human error.

While institutionally this should improve, you don’t want to just wait for things to get better or cross your fingers and hope this doesn’t happen to you.

As in all my content, I’m a big believer in giving you the tools necessary to advocate for yourself. So below are 5 things you can do to make sure you are only taking the classes you need to graduate on time:

1. Choose your transfer university and major ASAP
As soon as you can decide on your top-choice* transfer university and intended major at that university. Look online at the college catalog** and print out the degree plan for that major and bring it with you to every appointment with your community college advisor.

*If there are a few colleges you’re considering look at the course catalog education plans for all of them to see if there are any differences. If not, choose one to work from; if there are differences, choose the one that would best fit all the universities requirements.

**If this all sounds confusing to you ask a college graduate to help you navigate the university’s website or call the admissions office to ask for help looking for the education plan for the major you’re interested in. Don’t stop asking for help until you get what you need.

2. Meet with your advisor every semester to talk about your educational plan and graduation track
Show your academic advisor your four-year college catalog plan from the university and ask for help to map out your community college courses to meet those requirements. Check in every semester to ensure you’re still on the right track to graduate on time with the requirements your transfer university requires.

3. Review your transcript closely every semester and match it with your transfer university’s course catalog
This can be difficult at first but ask your academic advisor for help translating the transcript and understanding how it relates to your four-year educational plan. Get used to how it looks and pay attention to your progress towards graduation so that you’ll be attuned to notice if things get off track.

4. When possible meet with an advisor or admissions person at your transfer university to double-check that you’re on the right track
If you can’t meet with someone from your transfer university before you’re admitted, try bringing your transcript to a professor you trust as a mentor and ask for help. Professors have graduate degrees and can be a great second-eye on your transcript and educational plan.

5. Partner with a friend to do a transcript review exchange
Buddy up with a friend (ideally with the same plan as you, but it doesn’t have to be) and review each other’s transcripts every semester along with each other’s four-year educational plan. Getting a second or third eye on your transcript and degree progress is SO helpful.

My advisor at my 4-year university told me I was going to have to take 17 credits my final semester. I was all signed up for a ton of classes until a friend looked at my transcript for me and saw there was a mistake – I only needed 12 credits and was able to drop a class!

This may seem like a lot of extra work, but it’s the only way to ensure you graduate on time. No one cares about your educational plan and progress more than you.

Be your own advocate and be diligent in ensuring you are on the right track. Ultimately this is your life, your education. There are tons of people who will help you all along the way – it’s just up to you to ask and keep on asking.

Good luck and happy transferring. Remember that this journey, while complicated, is an exciting opportunity.