Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The best thing you can do for the community college cause

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I believe very strongly in what community college students can accomplish.

In short, I believe in you.

And, if we can get real with each other for a second, I really want to ask something of you. Something serious. Something important. 

Let me explain:

The backstory
I'm currently teaching a College Success course at the community college from which I graduated, and I just found out about someone who also graduated with an A.A. from that same college. 

Her name? Paula Pell, long-timer writer for SNL (she wrote one of my favorite characters, Debbie Downer!). She recently wrote a movie starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler ("The Nest," coming out December 2015.)

I often share in my speeches that moment when I won the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship that would allow me to get a master's degree - that moment where I got weak in the knees and wept because of this thought: "People like me don't get master's degrees; that's for other people. Rich people. Smart people. Not for people like me...but now...I guess that's not true."

"People like me." Three simple words that we know make no logical sense. We know, intellectually, that almost anything any person can do we can do too; they don't need to look like us or come from where we come from or have anything externally in common with us. 

But, we tend to internalize things behind the logical part of our brain. And we tend to set limits on ourselves based on what we think "people like us" are allowed to achieve.

My biggest aim in writing this blog and doing everything I do in regards to community colleges has always been about one simple thing:

Making sure YOU never feel less than you are. Making sure YOU never think "people like me" CAN'T do [insert your dream here.]

When I read about Paula Pell (the alum from my community college) and thought about all she'd accomplished, that non-logical but oh-so-powerful part of my brain kicked in: "hey, if she can...maybe you can too!" Sound familiar?

To me, there is nothing more inspiring and empowering then hearing a community college success story. There is nothing more exciting than being reminded that success is about SO MUCH MORE then where you go to college. Community college is a great start and it is a place that feeds success if you're willing to do the work. 

So now I want to do three very important things, including asking you something very important:

1. Thank you, Paula Pell
 Thank you for being excellent at what you do. Your very excellence inspires me, and I hope can now inspire all the community college students who read this. 

2. The Ask
You don't have to work in a community college (though that'd be awesome if that's what you want to do!) to make a difference for community college students. The very BEST thing you can do to give back to your community college is to BE EXCELLENT.

That is what I want to ask of you. If this blog helps you in any way, if community college helps you in any way, please give back by being excellent.

Don't settle for less than your very best. Prove everyone wrong. Reach higher than people expect "people like you" to reach. 

Keep going when it seems impossibly hard and hardly possible. 

Find a job you'd like to do and be really, really, really good. Be the BEST, in fact. 

And then, please don't be afraid to tell others that you went to community college. Showcase it on your LinkedIn profile. Blaze it on your resume. Share it with the world.

Proclaim boldly: "YES I went to community college and I am excellent! And NO that is NOT an oxymoron, you're an oxymoron if you think that, because...!!" haha....just kidding...[stepping off soapbox now]

3. Celebrate Alumni at your college
Whether you're a student or a community college staff member reading this, please do something to tell students at your college about the AWESOME people who have graduated from your college and gone on to do great things.

When we learn about students who've come from where we've come from, walked the same halls, started at the same place, who have gone on to do amazing things, it just makes us stand a little taller. It makes us believe a little more that maybe that extra hour spent studying might actually pay off one day.

That maybe community college could be the start of something big in our lives. 

That maybe, just maybe, excellence is possible - the kind of excellence that scares us. The kind we think is for "other people." I'm here to tell you, it's not for other people. It's for you if you want it. Go get it. 

And for the good yourself and community college students everywhere: be excellent.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Should you go to college full time or part time?

Answer these three questions to yourself before reading this post:

How many credits are you taking this semester? 

Do you wish you were taking more or less? 


I was inspired to write this post after reading some articles on the "15 to Finish" initiative that many states are undertaking to ensure students graduate within four years. According to Complete College America President Stan Jones, “When students start with just 12 credit hours per semester, they are already on the five year plan.”

They are encouraging states to see full-time as 15 credits per semester.

I've also been inspired by programs like the CUNY ASAP program for community colleges in New York City, providing students with the resources needed to attend classes full-time, such as tuition waivers, free textbooks, and a free metro card. 

Here is what I know about going to college full time:

1. It's a full time job.

College requires a lot of time (and money). And if you do the work ahead of time to figure out what you want out of college and your career and commit yourself to doing whatever it takes, then I think it's one of the best investments of time and money that you can make. 

If you have the time, the money, and a plan, you should go to college full-time.

If you don't have any of those things but would like to get them, there's still hope. Ask for help!

Find out what opportunities your college offers when it comes to scholarships, jobs on campus, accelerated degree programs, career advisors, or anything else you think you'll need to plan out your college degree goals and your time. Don't just search the website, but start asking real people. Keep asking and asking.

Getting your degree done faster means you can be working a full time job with a potentially higher salary much faster.

However - that may not always be the right choice for everyone. I've known some incredible single moms, for example, for whom it took ten years for them to achieve their degree. But they did it with 4.0 GPAs and were able to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. 

Was it hard? They'll be the first to tell you "Oh yes!" Would they have preferred to do it faster? Definitely. But they did what they had to do at the time, and it's incredibly admirable.

How do you know what's best for you? Ask yourself this question:

Do you have the time to spend at least two hours outside of class studying for every one hour you're spending in class?

Don't just make time for attending classes. You must be able to make time for all the other things that accompany being a successful student.

If that means you can only take one or two classes per semester, then start there and continue to ask for help along the way and keep your eyes open for any opportunities that would allow you to accelerate your progress. 

Sit down with an academic advisor at your college as soon as possible and talk about the pace you're thinking of doing college and ask for advice. 

Fill out this time management chart and bring it to your advisor to talk through your plan. When do you want to graduate? How many classes do you need to take to make that possible? What adjustments can you make? Can you find a more flexible job? Is there a way you can find other means of financing your education so you can work less? 

Doing college fast does have a lot of benefits, but doing college well is most important. 

If going to college part time is what you require to do college well right now, then that is great. It's better to pace yourself and do really well then rush through and have your grades reflect your lack of time versus your true ability.

But I want to leave you with this: If you can find a way to go to college full time and give it your 110% focus, it is a wise investment. You owe it to yourself to at least look into what's possible. The creative options you can find may surprise you. 

If you've decided you want a college degree, then do whatever it takes to make getting that degree a priority. Because, the truth: it requires nothing less. 

As I say in the #SoCanU project: It's not that it's easy, it's that it's possible.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do you have to buy a computer for college? #AskIsa

Have a question you'd like to see me answer just for you in a video? Ask it in the comments, tweet it to @IsaAdney, or send me an e-mail at! The student featured in this video is struggling with procrastination and isn't sure if he should buy a computer for college. 

Check out the answer below! :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The easiest way to improve your grades (and your college experience)


And no, I don't just  mean your textbooks (though you should definitely read those!)

You should read books on college success. Or your intended career path. Or anything that can give you new ideas and strategies in order to get where you are trying to go in your life.

Most people think they don't have time to read extra in college because of all the required reading. My advice?

Make time.

I read at least 10 minutes every morning. Sometimes it turns in to 30 minutes and sometimes in to more than an hour. But most days it's just 10 minutes. And while 10 minutes doesn't seem like a lot in a day, in a year you'll be amazed how how much you've read and how much you've learned. 

What astounds me whenever I'm looking for a new book is that the answers to almost anything people are trying to achieve are out there. 

Trying to be successful in community college? There's a book for that.

Trying to stop procrastinating? There's a book for that.

Trying to improve your grades? There's a book for that.

Trying to figure out what kind of career you might like? There's a book for that.

See where I'm going with this? ;)

There are also a lot of great resources online (like this blog... ;)) that you can fit into your reading time.

The key, is simple. Just read. Make it a daily habit.

Start with books that can help you be successful in college. Even if you're already doing great, I promise you will learn a new strategy or get a new idea from the college success books out there.

I was already a straight-A student and Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winner when I took a College Success class at my community college. And I still learned so many things - things I still use to this day - that helped me be even more effective.

You will severely limit your success and your potential if you just read what's required of you. Read more. Read often. And watch, just watch, what happens. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The craziest thing you can do in college

If you're looking for a wild idea for your college experience, one that's right on the edge - risky - that could even cause you to possibly not graduate, then you've come to the right place.

No, I'm not talking about any nutty party antics (did I just say "nutty?" can tell I've never been a party person).

What I am talking about is the craziest thing college students do - something that makes NO sense, and yet something the majority of students do when they start out - myself included.

It's a crazy thing that you should STOP as soon as possible if you want to be successful in college. But for the most part it's impossible to stop until someone tells you why you should.

What am I talking about?

Doing college alone. 

I spoke to students about college completion yesterday and the Student Life Director who hired me told me about a term her colleague had come up with - "PCP students." It stood for their typical college routine:

Parking Lot - Class - Parking Lot.

In my book I call that drive-thru education.

And it's crazy. It's nutty. It doesn't make sense. And it's the most insane thing you can do.


College completion is a team sport.

And trying to do it alone is like one football player - no matter how good he might be - trying to play against an entire team. It makes no sense. He doesn't have a chance. He'll lose, and the dangerous part is that he may think it's his fault - that he's not good enough, that maybe he's not cut out for this.

But the truth is that he's trying to play a team sport alone. He could be great with a team. 

The same is true for you.

I think one of the major reasons students drop out of college is they don't understand how to get connected beyond the PCP routine. 

This is especially relevant to commuter students, of which most community college students are. 

When I started community college I was crazy too. I just went to class and went home. I didn't know there was anything more to do. I figured that was basically all that was important.

Class, of course, IS the most important thing in college. BUT - your ability to stay engaged and do your best in class is also affected by the team you've build around you to help you succeed.

I'm talking about having friends to study with, having professors whose offices you can frequent to ask for help and advice, and knowing the right staff throughout the college who can help you manage your entire college experience (e.g. see 15 places you must visit on your college campus).  

Don't be crazy and try to do college alone. Even Harvard students have a team of over six types of mentors to help them navigate the experience. Everyone needs help!!

Here are three steps to start building your team and not be a crazy person ;) ==>

1) Go visit the Student Life office on your campus and ask about clubs and other events and opportunities they offer. Then make it a priority in your schedule to GO. Join your favorite club. Become an officer.

2) Visit your professors during their office hours to ask about advice on an upcoming assignment, check in with a current assignment you're working on to make sure you're on the right track, or ask their advice about a question you're having about college in general. 

3) Build free-time in your schedule next semester in between classes. Do not schedule your classes back-to-back. Space them out to force yourself to stay on campus where you'll have the time to meet people, ask for help, and explore all the hidden opportunities at your college (as well as having important time to do your HW in the library!). As much as possible, try to work only on nights and weekends so you can dedicate your weekdays to having a successful college experience. 

Okay, so stop being a nutty crazy pants and go build your college success team! You're now officially out of excuses, because now you know. ;)

Oh and BONUS tip - my book is literally all about how to build your college success team. It includes how to make friends, exactly what you can ask professors, and sample e-mail scripts to reach out to professional mentors. Check it out here!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Why you should teach a community college class

I just started teaching a College Success course at a community college - the same college where only 9 years ago I was crying in the advising office, wondering where my life was going to go. 

Here's how I feel about teaching so far:

!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Makes sense, yes? I have no words. I know I've only just started, but I'm in love with everything about it already.

A picture I took while preparing for my first class
And like any new endeavor I pursue, I read tons of book about it, and I wanted to share them with you.

I originally planned on sharing them on another outlet since I thought, students won't really care about teaching books, right?

But then, I thought, you know what, I'm GOING to write this article here because I want you to start thinking NOW about teaching a community college course one day.

(In general to teach a community college course you have to have a master's degree and 18 graduate hours in the subject you'd like to teach.)

No matter what your future career, I want to challenge you to teach one community college course sometime in your career (many people adjunct one evening class along with a full time job). 

You certainly don't have to be a community college graduate to be an excellent community college instructor. But here's the thing, if you are a community college graduate, you do know exactly what your students are going through. You can share your success story. You can inspire them. 

And I hope you do. 

We don't graduate college successfully without the help and inspiration of so many. I want to encourage you to pay it forward. It doesn't have to be teaching of course, but I hope now at least you know it's an option.

And for any of the professionals or current faculty members who've stumbled upon this blog, below are the books that I have just LOVED when it comes to learning about what makes a truly great professor. 

1. What the Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain
The author did a study of the best college teachers around the country and shares, well, what they do! And by "best," he means the ones who really engage all their students in transformative learning experiences. 

2. On Course, by James Lang
This is an ideal book before you teach a college course for the first time. James has a great sense of humor so this is also a fun book to read. 

3. Happy Professor, by Erin Lovell Ebanks
 Erin and I recently became friends and both her book and her presence on the opposite side of a Panera table have pumped me up for teaching like nothing else. Erin IS a happy professor. She has made a full time job out of adjuncting at colleges in the area, and truly loves the opportunity to make a difference in students' lives.

Her book shares how she does it, as well as tips for how to get adjunct teaching positions and how to make the most of the opportunity (including some fascinating tips on how to not spend a lot of money). Erin also writes the Happy Professor blog. No one has inspired me like she has when it comes to finding joy in teaching. Go ahead, let her make you happy. :)

4. Student Engagement Techniques, by Elizabeth F. Barkley
To be honest I just started reading this one this morning, but I'm already in love with it. It's jam packed with actual activities and techniques to engage students in learning. 

If community college has made a difference in your life and you plan on getting a master's degree I do hope you'll seriously consider teaching a course one day. Just a warning though, you might fall in love with it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

15 places on your campus you should visit your first semester

Check this list and make a note to visit any of the places you haven't already! Trust me, knowing where they are and what they're for will pay off big time.

1. Financial Aid Office
If you don't cry, wait, or feel frustrated at some point in this office, I'm not sure if you can call yourself an actual college student. ;)

2. Records Office

Where you'll deal with paperwork for things like withdrawing from a class or applying for graduation. 

3. Advising Office
Don't only go here when it's mandatory! Check in often to make sure you're on track to graduate and/or transfer. Be sure to ask about creating an educational plan. 

4. Counseling Office 
Sometimes this is housed within the advising office. Trained professionals are on hand to help you with any personal issues you may be having that are affecting your college success.

5. Library 
I always did my homework here. Quiet and distraction free. The librarians are also your best friends when it comes to research papers. Ask for help!

6. Computer Lab
Sometimes also housed within the library. Great place to do homework and print.

7. Security 

Often where you'll get your parking pass.

8. Tutoring Center 
Use this! It's free. (Well, technically, you are paying for it in your go get your money's worth!!)

9. Career Center
Ask about all the services they offer and then pick one. Just kidding, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM ALL!!! My favorites were the career personality assessments and the mentor database.

10. Student Life Office 
Ask about clubs on your campus and ways to get involved. 

11. Disability Services Center 
They offer a lot of great services to help get you what you need to be successful in college.

12. Gym 

You'd be surprised how many community colleges have workout facilities or group classes. Ask around. 

13. Online student center
Okay, so these next three aren't technically "on" campus, but they are just as vital. Get to know your online student center very well - this is the place where you'll see your schedule and often do things with financial aid, like deferring your payments (when you don't do this you can get dropped from all your classes!)

14. Student email 

Get your student email forwarded to your main account and your phone. Be sure to check this a few times a day - lots of important reminders and information will come through here. 

15. Learning management system
There are a few different ones out there, and it should be clear on your college's website which one they use. This is where you'll manage your online classes, as well as online components for on-campus classes (e.g. discussion boards). Get familiar with it early so that your grades don't ever suffer because of a technical issue.

Get on your college's website, grab a campus map, and get going! ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Finding travel opportunities in community college: an international student shares her story

The short video below features a me interviewing a successful international student for the college success TV show I host, The SKiNNY on College Success.

Whether you're an international student or not, her story offers some great insights - including some unique ways to volunteer and travel while in community college!