Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 things to stop procrastination (while I wrap myself in plastic wrap??)

Procrastination is one of the most popular topics students ask me about, so I'm loading up content at the beginning of the semester for those of you who really want to get a handle on this and not let procrastination stop you from getting good grades and reaching your full potential in college. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The worst mistake procrastinators make on their to-do lists

This is the time of year where the most popular topic is procrastination. Students e-mail me from all over the country desperate to overcome their procrastination.

And to be honest, I'm impressed. The fact that you want to stop procrastinating is kind of awesome. 

Today I want to share with you the worst mistake many people make (I've done this before too) when creating their to-do lists - a mistake that basically invites procrastination over to play video games with you and be your best friend (and not ever do any work).

Do you ever make this mistake? Test yourself with the following:

You're assigned an essay in a class. What is the first thing you do?
A) Put the due date in my calendar
B) Put "Write essay" on my to-do list
C) Think, "boo I hate essays" and then go check Instagram
D) Put "Create project to-do list and calendar reminders for essay" on my to-do list

Did you catch the mistake there? While obviously C is not so great, the real mistake is B. 

Writing a whole essay is overwhelming, even to straight-A students. I love reading and writing, but seeing "Write an essay" on my to-do list is enough to make me want to go play video games instead.

Looking at a big project will make even the best anti-procrastinators want to think of doing anything else but tackling that big ugly project. 

Instead, the first thing you should do when you're given an assignment is D, "Put 'Create project to-do list and calendar reminders for essay' on my to-do list." 

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you have to do to complete a big project. Instead, it's best to focus only on the very NEXT step you have to take, and do your best to forget about everything else.

That is why the first to-do item on your list should be to sit down and break that big project into smaller to-do items (as well as set SMS/mobile reminders on a calendar, like Google Calendar, to make sure you don't get behind).

Asana is what I use to create my to-do lists for work and I love it (you can use it on your phone and computer). You can literally create a project and then create the small items that need to be done under that project, each with their own due date.

So for example, instead of putting "write essay" on your to-do list, you'd make that essay a new "Project" in Asana, and then start creating to-do items, ideally tasks that would take less than an hour or so to complete. For example, tasks for an essay could look like this: 

- Brainstorm at least 4 possible thesis ideas
- Choose final essay topic
- Create a rough draft outline of essay
- Choose 5 sources for essay
- Create MLA bibliography for 5 sources
- Read source 1 and write out quotes for essay
- Read source 2 and write out quotes for essay
- Read source 3 and write out quotes for essay
- Read source 4 and write out quotes for essay
- Read source 5 and write out quotes for essay 
- Copy/paste quotes into the outline
- Edit final outline
- Write page 1 of rough draft 
- Write page 2 of rough draft
- Write page 3 of rough draft
- Write page 4 or rough draft
- Write page 5 of rough draft
- Bring rough draft to writing center for edits 
- Edit pgs 1-3 of rough draft
- Edit pgs 4-5 of rough draft
- Do full final edit 
- Turn in essay  

Now, that may seem like a lot, but the key here is that you would put all these items under a project, and then create another project like "Today's Tasks" and then just put only the next to-do item in that list, so all you can see is what you need to do that day. 

The more time you put into breaking a big project into smaller items, the easier it is to accomplish. When you sit down to "study" you then have a plan, instead of just starting at an essay and wondering where to begin, dreading the whole thing.

Let me know how this goes for you and please share in the comments any other things you have done that have helped you overcome procrastinator habits. 

You can do this! :) 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

TBT: What to expect your first week of college

The video below is a throwback from last year; it answers some of the most popular questions I receive about the first week of college, and shares some tips to ensure you ROCK your first week. Good luck!! :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to stop procrastination BEFORE it starts

Do you procrastinate on fixing your procrastination?


The WORST mistake you can make in college is not developing a plan to stop your procrastination before the semester starts. 

One of my most popular posts ever features 10 ways to stop procrastination, and I wanted to add another way you can stop it - BEFORE the semester starts.

(If you're reading this after a semester has started it's okay, this can still help.) 

Not only will this help you not procrastinate, but it can also help you improve your grades IMMENSELY. 

I've developed this really simple time management chart for you that you can download and do in a few minutes RIGHT now (see links below). 

I know you want to procrastinate this right? You're already opening a new window and thinking "well, Isa, that sounds good and all, but I'll do it tomorrow, right now I need to catch up on my Twitter feed"). 

Hold it right there. You can do this right now. I believe in you!! Tell that procrastinator in your brain to be quiet and keep scrolling.

I can't take all the credit for this idea as I got the inspiration for it in a book I was reading this morning about teaching a college course. I added my own spin to it and I hope it helps. 

Doing this chart will help you plan to have plenty of time to do homework, readings, and study for each course AND enough time to get ahead and put in the time and effort required to get an A in any class.

I spent at least two hours in the library for every course each week and it enabled me to get straight-A's throughout college without stress or procrastination. I also almost never did homework on the weekends, which may not work for everyone, but I loved devoting Monday-Friday to school and then the weekends to pure fun. 

If you put the time and effort into building your schedule the way you want it (and make the necessary sacrifices to make your classes and the work required of them a priority, even over work) you can get the grades you know you're capable of and actually enjoy the learning process. 

You may feel like you need the last-minute pressure to do your work, but once you experience the thrill of doing something EARLY you may just find that can motivate you even more.

Click on one of the links below to download the chart to help you build your schedule and find the time you need to reach your full potential in college. I've made the documents available on Dropbox for you and the links are below.

It looks like this:
 I challenge you to do this right now. Go. Come on. You can conquer procrastination once and for all. 

Your GPA will thank you. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

10 supplies you should have for the first week of college

I've been getting a lot of emails and comments asking about college supplies, so here you go!


1. Pens

2. Pencils

3. Loose leaf paper

4. Colored 3-prong folder for each class (or binder with dividers...or some kind of organizational system that works for you; I preferred a different colored folder for each class, labeled, with loose leaf paper; I'd put the syllabus in the 3-prongs on the first day of class)

5. Calculator (unless for some reason your courses that semester are devoid of any math or science)

6. Textbooks (unless you like to enroll for more classes than you plan on taking and then dropping the one you like the least, I highly recommend getting all your textbooks ahead of time. You're prepared for the professors who assign homework right away, and you avoid the long lines at the bookstore that first week) 


7. Laptop/tablet (for note taking or doing homework between classes; I'd recommend, however, not pulling out your technology the first day of class to get the vibe of the class and the professor first. Laptops can also be distracting as no matter how good of a student you are it's still hard to resist the temptation of browsing the internet. Be mindful and make the best choice for your learning and focus)  

8. Different colored highlighters (for note taking and reading) 

9. Notebook (for taking notes for a particular class; I recommend any kind that has the Cornell style) 

10. Read the syllabus for each course closely to see if it lists any additional supplies. While rare, some professors do prefer you use certain supplies and will list them in the syllabus if that is their preference. 

And of course, any kind of tote or backpack will be fine to carry your supplies, whatever you like best! Find something durable, comfortable, and that works with your style. 

Make your college supply school shopping as fun as it was when you picked out that Lion King backpack and fresh pack of colored pencils before your first day of 2nd grade (that was me, complete with side-ponytail). 

You'll also probably like the video below. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Can you get scholarships during your junior year of college?

Below is an e-mail exchange I had last week with a student asking for scholarship help. With her permission I'm sharing the exchange in hopes it can help you too!

Dear Isa,

I am going to be a college junior this fall. I have looked up scholarship information on your website, my school's website, and have attended many info sessions about scholarships at my college.

There are only a few scholarships for juniors and seniors, but a lot for incoming freshman and graduate students. I have looked on and went to my local library to search for scholarships for my year. What other resources should be used?

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. It is highly appreciated.



Hi Ashley,

To be honest I always had a hard time finding good scholarships online too. It sounds like you are doing everything right so far, especially by attending info sessions at your college.

I had my entire college paid for through direct college scholarships (e.g. ones offered by the university to which I transferred after community college) and the Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship, and I applied for both during my sophomore year; so I'm not exactly the expert when it comes to finding many scholarships during your junior year.

However, my philosophy has always been to get to know mentors and professors on your campus and ask them for scholarship advice, as well as any creative ways to make money on campus (e.g. some groups offer stipends for involvement, like orientation leaders or student government). I did make money my junior year by becoming an orientation leader, and I loved it!

(I also became an SAT/ACT tutor as a part-time job, and was a nanny, which also helped pay the bills outside of tuition.)

Just because you're already halfway through college doesn't mean you can't find ways to pay for it - but it may mean you need to get more creative. And the people on campus are often the best resources (e.g. even the big scholarships I got I learned about from friends in clubs and professors). 

Ask advice from everyone on campus that you can. Be vulnerable about your situation and be willing to invest the time.

And in the end, remember that your education is the BEST investment you can make. Taking out loans or paying out of pocket is NOT a failure (especially if you choose a low-cost and reputable public college). It's one of the smartest things you can do for yourself, so don't get discouraged if you come up short of what you're hoping for when it comes to scholarships. 

The most important thing is that you are putting your 100% into your classes and experiences (e.g. getting involved and internships) so you can make the most of your investment.

Good luck and thanks for reaching out!


Isa :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

#TBT: Community college isn’t 13th grade

The video below was filmed September 2011. Almost three years ago.

To be honest it's a little awkward for me to watch myself three years ago. But I can't help but remember that when I was filming it - just a totally amateur video from my dining room - I had no idea it would be viewed by over 20,000 people. I feel like a different person now than I was then, but I’m so glad I started early.

One of my favorite concepts from the book The Promise of a Pencil was when author Adam Braun said that the great thing about going for things when you're young is just that you're so young that you don't even know what you can't do -  so you do it any way.

I love that, and I want to extend that same sentiment to you.

There’s something you have to say. Something you can do. A problem you can make better. Go do it.

Don’t worry about your age or whether you know enough. As I dig deeper and deeper into education, I'm learning that you’ll NEVER know it all. And to be honest, most of the time your gut instincts are right on.

Put yourself out there and just GO. Trust me, if I can do it...#SoCanU! ;)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#SoCanU: From Community College to the Ivy League (to med school!)

Featured below is an interview with another #SoCanU project rockstar, Felix! Felix graduated from Atlantic Cape Community College Spring 2014 and will graduate with his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016.

Favorite thing to do on the weekends?
Spending time with friends and family is by far the best way to have fun.

Favorite food/meal? 
I love everything my girlfriend cooks for me.

What made you decide to choose community college?I had no idea what to do with my life and at the time I was not bold enough to apply to any other kind of higher education.

Were there any obstacles in your life prior to attending community college that you had to overcome?
I had to overcome the fact that I had more potential than what I once believed. As a child I never took education serious thus, I felled behind in all subjects. 

I had to work during my community college experience and take 5-7 courses a semester in order to graduate with my three degrees. There were many times I crashed because I believed I was not good enough for this, but man was I wrong.

I stayed extremely focused, a little too focused if you ask me. You see I came to the point that I wanted to understand how I learn and how I can study most effectively. I literally took a semester or two not doing any extracurricular because I had to understand how to ace my courses. 

I consolidated the fact your resume means nothing if you can’t balance your courses. So I remained positive and through my actions, I began to think big instead of small. 

With time and perseverance I managed to learn how time-manage all my courses, work, girlfriend, friends, family, extracurricular, and having a life.

What are you most excited about for your future right now?
I am really excited to apply to medical school. My premed adviser gave me the two thumbs up that I am a very competitive applicant for medical school despite the fact that I began at a community college.

What is the best piece of advice you can give our readers who are currently attending community college?
Do not ever let society make your decisions. Remain humble and do not accept anything life throws at you. Stay definite in all of your aspirations and be ready to have a couple of failures throughout your life. 

But do not take these failures as negative, look at it as a positive to aid you in what you have done wrong in order to improve your future. Have a well-organized plan and stick to them. 

Have a major goal in life and always work hard to obtain and have many minor goals, all in which will lead to your central scheme. Don’t ever blame others for your mistakes and always have full control your mind and use it for great purposes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

#SoCanU: From CC to PhD, an adult student proves it's never too late to go back to college

Featured below is an interview with another #SoCanU project rockstar, Jan! Jan graduated from Clatsop Community College in 2006 graduated with her bachelor's degree at Pacific University Magna Cum Laude with a triple major in art, creative writing, and literature. She is currently a PhD candidate. 

Favorite thing to do on the weekends? 
I love church with my Welsh friends, Skyping family in the US, and reading or watching episodes of Star Trek!

Favorite food/meal?
Homemade fish and chips... sooooooo incredibly good.

What made you decide to choose community college? 
It was the nearest school and as a "more mature" student (I graduated high school in 1965 - seriously!), it just felt like a great place to start.

Were there any obstacles in your life prior to attending community college that you had to overcome? 
 My father didn't think girls needed further education as he thought educated women took jobs from men, who would ultimately provide for families. 

I disagree and feel that an educated populace is the way to peace. All eight of my children have been educated beyond high school and are currently giving back to the world, being part of the solution to today's challenges...and four of them are girls!

What obstacles did you overcome in community college and/or in your transfer university to achieve your degree? 
I didn't realize that there can be some prejudice in universities toward transfer students. I became VP and then President of Connections, a program designed to help those in transition. It was great to be part of the solution.

What is one of the most important things that helped you succeed in community college and beyond? 
Reaching out and becoming involved, exercising curiosity about others, and a having a desire to learn.

What are you most excited about for your future right now? 
I will finish my PhD in Creative Writing in 2015 and graduate in with my cohort in 2016. I've written an historic novel, learned to research, developed a network of friends all over the world and look forward to lecturing, writing, and sharing what I have gained. 

What is the best piece of advice you can give our readers who are currently attending community college? 
Learn more than is assigned, dream big, and above all, ask questions and discover how to find answers. By doing this you will also become part of the solution to humanity's challenges and make the world a better place.

Monday, August 4, 2014

#SoCanU: CC grad speaker explains how getting involved helped at her CC & University

Featured below is an interview with another #SoCanU project rockstar, Maryann! Maryann graduated from Massasoit Community College in 2012 and is currently attending Bridgewater State University studying Elementary Education, Special Education, and History. 
Favorite thing to do on the weekends?
The beach!

Favorite food/meal?
I love making chicken broccoli alfredo.

What made you decide to choose community college?At my high school graduation party, towards the end of the night, I started worrying about where exactly I was going to commit to go to college.

 I applied to four schools and was accepted into all of them. What worried me the most was the financial burden attached with these colleges. 

At the time a community college was ideal for the time being. I wanted so bad to go to a prestigious college and it felt like I was letting myself down by attending a community college until my thoughts before attending completely changed.

Were there any obstacles in your life prior to attending community college that you had to overcome?
Attending college for the first time was challenging for me as a student. I was very much a shy student didn't open up to many people in high school. 

The first week attending my community college I told myself, "This is it. Your time is now."

I began the search to actively look for clubs to become involved with. I reunited with a former friend of mine from elementary school who happened to be in the drama club I was interested in.

I started recruiting new people to join and began to meet friends in my freshman classes. I was able to start a new journey.

What obstacles did you overcome in community college and/or in your transfer university to achieve your degree?
I overcame the fear of public speaking/being able to make presentations. I took an intro to speech class at my community college during my freshman year and was a little shaky and would get nervous. 

However, during my last two years at my community college I worked as a Presidential Student Ambassador, became Chapter Secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa Alpha Kappa Upsilon Chapter, and a Writer for the Student Voice Newspaper. 

These experiences along with the people I have met through these organizations and clubs on campus encouraged me and gave me confidence to become the leader I am today and achieve my Associates Degree. 

With this encouragement I applied to become the Commencement Speaker at Graduation and felt on top of the world that day. My chapter at my community college is one that I will never forget in my entire life.

But, another door had to open for me at Bridgewater State University. Starting the next fall at Bridgewater State University was challenging. It felt that I lost everything that I once had...confidence in myself. 

At times, I felt defeated but then I remembered that I just have to keep going not matter what. I became involved in BSU's Notewothy and began singing once again. I even joined the Ensemble Theater Group. 

As a student at BSU I began to check out all of the clubs and events. I even attended a Women's Leadership Conference which helped me spring-back my confidence that I once had. 

This past year at BSU I found myself becoming more involved within the community. I began working as a Peer Mentor on campus, member of BSU's Noteworthy and began to attend more events on campus. I even got a nomination for the Who's Who Award! 

Let's just say I began to feel comfortable once again and knew deep down that I shouldn't give up on what I want to accomplish in this life.

What is one of the most important things that helped you succeed in community college and beyond?
At my community college one of the most important things that helped me succeed to where I am today is the friends, mentors, and professors I have met along the way. Without them, I don't think I would have been able to accomplish what I had at my community college.

At Bridgewater State University one of the most important things that has helped me succeed towards my bachelors degree was meeting friends from other community colleges and knowing that I was not the only transfer students on campus. 

Also, it was important for me to become involved on campus as much as possible. This is how I was able to meet so many students and become familiar with campus life as much as possible.

What are you most excited about for your future right now?
I am excited to graduate and become a Teacher. I am currently taking my MTEL's which are exams for students who want to become educators. I am excited to begin my career and be able to inspire my future students everyday.

What is the best piece of advice you can give our readers who are currently attending community college?
I think the best piece of advice I could give is to not be shy (this is YOUR TIME to succeed), get involved on your campus (because it may open doors for you in the future) and no matter what do not give up on yourself and your educational goals. 

Believe that you can and will succeed throughout your college career.