10 tips for first-year community college students

Issue Date: November 2, 2007

10 tips for first-year community college students

1) Think long-term: Don’t wait to start thinking about where you will transfer. Research potential schools and programs that you might be interested in. Once you have identified a program or school that you want to go to, you can join a mentorship program where you link up with current students at that school.

2) Create a plan with your goals in mind: Begin taking classes and completing the general requirements that correspond to the school where you want to end up. This will help you save time and money by avoiding classes you don’t need.

3) Visit the student transfer center: All community colleges should have transfer centers on campus. This center will help you to identify schools that admit transfer students, or that have special agreements with your community college. The center will help you to navigate individual schools’ admission requirements.

4) Don’t wait on finding financial aid: Scholarships , grants and loans can help alleviate the stress of going to school. Visit the financial aid office as soon as possible to see what funds you qualify for.

5) Develop a relationship with an academic counselor: Look on a school directory to find the location of your school’s academic counseling center. These centers can most often be found near the administration offices. It is important that you work with a counselor you feel comfortable talking with. A good counselor will take the time to thoroughly answer all your questions and will direct you to outside resources such as tutoring , if necessary. You may come into contact with a counselor who does not understand your needs. If this happens, it is a good idea to go back to the counseling office for a second opinion. When you find a counselor you feel comfortable with, ask to work with that person each time you go in.

6) Get your records in order: When going to receive help, it is crucial that you bring all related documents. Call the office ahead of time to ask them which documents you will need to bring with you. Examples of necessary documents include tax records, W-2 form, identification and transcripts .

7) Make grades a priority: You can set yourself up for good grades by taking classes that interest you. You may enter college not knowing what area of study you want to focus on. One of the benefits of starting at a city college is that it is a fraction of the cost of other schools. Use this first year as an opportunity to explore. Easing into school will ensure that you have the time to focus on achieving high grades.

8) Take classes that satisfy requirements: The most efficient way to choose your first-year class schedule is to begin by taking classes that satisfy general education requirements. Keep in mind that requirements vary depending on the college or university that you want to transfer to.

9) Talk to your professors: Make yourself recognizable and show interest in class. Your professors can help you narrow down a career path. A great way to talk with professors is by visiting their office during posted hours.

10) Talk to your peers: Your fellow students may turn out to be your best resource. Getting to know other students in and outside of classes will allow you to create a network where you can share resources, ideas and experiences. If you are not very social, ask your counselor about getting set up with a mentor on campus.

-- Anne Driscoll, New America Media