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What to Expect at a Community College

by Carly Gerber

During the summer before my sophomore year of college, I knew I wasn't going back to the college I had been attending. It was too late to apply to a four-year university so I decided to attend a community college before entering a new university. From my experience, here's what you can expect while attending a community college:

  • Academics: Many students enter community college thinking it will be academically easier than a four-year college...but that couldn't be further from the truth. Community colleges are academically rigorous and the professors expected to see all your effort in your work. And if you need help, they have the right resources: My community college offered a writing center and a tutoring center, both of which I visited regularly.
  • Personal Life: A few students I met were balancing jobs, school and families. That’s obviously a lot of work but if students attended classes, did their homework and communicated with professors about their circumstances, many instructors were willing to work with the students to help them pass the class.
  • Community: Despite being part of the name, many students don’t think there will be a sense of community at community colleges. But there is! There were a number of sports teams and student organizations with lots of participation at my school. Plus, the college would have events going on during the school day, like a game of Jeopardy! that would bring students together and lighten the mood on a particularly stressful day.

Overall, I enjoyed the community college experience because it helped me grow both as a student and as a person. For those students who have also attended community colleges, how would you rate your experience?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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by Agnes Jasinski

You don't need to work retail or deliver pizzas to make money in college. Many on-campus opportunities have the potential to act as good resume-builders and keep you interested in the task at hand while providing you with a (modest) wage. They don't all have to be federal work study positions, either, although it does work in your favor if you have some financial need when applying for campus jobs, and some will bump up your hourly wage if you can boast some experience in that field.

And now the not so good news. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at student pay at the more unique campus jobs across the country. Not to scare you away from working through college at an on-campus job, but according to one example in that article, a student office assistant making $7.25/hour in the chemistry department at the University of Notre Dame would have to work 135 hours a week and 50 weeks of the year to cover tuition, room, and board. These wages will probably compare to most off-campus jobs you find near your college as well, however, so you may as well investigate all of your job options. Even if you'd be making more elsewhere, it may be worth the convenience and experience to work on campus.

Some examples of hourly wages at on-campus jobs:

It probably won't allow you to retire early, but an on-campus job could help you make ends meet and pay for some of those expenses that seem to crop up out of nowhere while you're pursuing that college degree. Balancing work and college certainly has its advantages - you're able to potentially lessen that student loan debt, build up your resume and learn the value of time management and responsibility - but it can be difficult, especially if you're a freshman being bombarded by all your campus has to offer. Browse through our site for tips on how to land and keep a job and keep your academics in line if your financial need means working your way through college.


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Alternatives to Going Home for Thanksgiving

by Agnes Jasinski

Not everyone will be saying grace and sitting down to football and multiple helpings of turkey and pie on Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Some of you will be spending the holiday in the dorms, or elsewhere on campus. Perhaps you're an international student who doesn't celebrate the holiday. Or maybe home is too far away to justify the costs of flying back for both the turkey dinner and winter break. You may then be wondering how you can make the most of your time off from class. Well, don't fret. You won't be the only one seemingly stranded, and there are on-campus alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.

If you know of others sticking around for the holiday, consider getting together. Your college could be hosting Thanksgiving Day-related events for students like you who are staying in town. Or, if you feel like you'll be missing out on that home-cooked meal, consider a potluck with those other students to eat on a budget. You don't need to break the bank for a Thanksgiving meal, especially if you're sharing the duties, so look for tips on Thanksgiving on a budget. Pick up the boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce rather than making things from scratch like  Mom might. If you're in the dorms, consider checking out the Thanksgiving meal deals on campus. If you're really lucky, you've made a good enough friend who wouldn't mind having you over to their family's Thanksgiving. Don't be shy about taking leftovers back to the dorm, which you'll surely be offered if you play the "I miss home" card.

Take the time to get acquainted with your college. You've probably been in too much of a rush balancing work and college or getting used to larger loads of homework to appreciate what the student center has to offer, or that new walking path on the outskirts of campus. Explore your surroundings, so that you have plenty to share when your friends come back from their long weekends home.

Study at your own pace. You'll probably have finals week on your heels shortly after this mini-break is over, so take advantage of a quieter campus and emptier student lounges to get the bulk of your studying done before everyone comes back and the chances of procrastination and distraction are greater. Enjoy the time off, but try your best to be productive, too. You'll feel a lot less stressed than everyone else when they're cramming and pulling all-nighters before their big exams.

Don't forget about your family. If Thanksgiving is typically a big deal at home, but you just couldn't swing the costs of the trip, make sure you check in once in a while over the next few days. Chances are your family will be missing you just as much as you're missing them, and while you don't want to be moping around or hiding away in your dorm room the entire weekend, you want to make sure everyone knows you're thinking of them. Talk about how excited you are about the upcoming winter break, and your plans for your own alternative Thanksgiving Day on campus. It could be a pretty good time if you're a little creative.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Yes, the weather outside is frightful for many of you, and some of you really do have no place to go in the wake of the first big snowstorm of the winter season.

For the first time in 45 years, the University of Wisconsin at Madison canceled a full day of classes following a declared snow emergency that kept all but emergency services indoors during the worst of the blizzard Wednesday. According to the National Weather Service, more than 19 inches of snow fell in Madison earlier this week. The last time Madison saw that much snow was in 1990, when the school's chancellor offered the students a half day after realizing that it was improbable students would arrive in class on time - and in one piece. The last time a full day of classes was canceled was in 1965. The snow total was just under 7 inches that day, but it fell on top of freezing rain that made things that much more dangerous for Madison students and residents.

Des Moines was also hit hard this week, with a number of college closures, including at Grand View University and all Des Moines Area Community College campuses. And it isn't just mounds of snow that's causing problems, either. Montgomery County Instructional Center of Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette closed this week due to power outages following a bout with winter weather.

While we shouldn't be surprised at all by winter's arrival, especially in Midwestern states that get heavy snowfalls on an annual basis, it has been interesting to see the range of ways administrations are notifying students of school closures. The University of Wisconsin notified students and staff using not only mass emails and website announcements, but through Twitter, a social networking tool that has grown in popularity among not only college students, but college classrooms.

So what does a college student do on a snow day? If you're in Madison, you may have taken one look at the weather inside and stayed indoors with a mug of hot chocolate. Or you were a little more adventurous and you're like the students who went sledding on "borrowed" cafeteria trays this week. Either way, don't feel guilty about a break from your day-to-day. Madison students' snow revelry was short-lived. They were back in class Thursday and studying hard for final exam week.


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by Agnes Jasinski

College seniors who prioritize "prosocial" activities while on campus have a better chance to lead more productive lives in adulthood than their peers who may have focused more on their academics or landing a high-paying job post-graduation, according to a University of Notre Dame.

"Prosocial" activities are described as helping friends through difficult situations and participating in community service projects, not making sure your Friday and Saturday nights are planned well in advance. The researchers suggest the results point to the benefits of having goals focused on helping others rather than just helping yourself.

The two studies looked at a sample of 416 college seniors (57 percent were male) who were evaluated again 13 years after graduation, once they reached their mid-30s. As seniors, the respondents had four types of "life goals" in the following categories: creative ("becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts"), prosocial ("helping others who are in difficulty"), financial ("being successful in a business of my own"), and personal recognition ("becoming an authority in my field"). At adulthood, however, those who responded that they still considered themselves prosocial after all those years also described greater personal growth and integrity.

It isn't a stretch to believe that being kind to your peers and spending some time volunteering may make you a better person, or at least allow you to work toward being a better person. It's interesting to think, however, that how you behave in college may have a hand in shaping who you are as an adult. The studies suggest that if your purpose in life is helping others, you're set to become a well-rounded adult. Colleges may want to take notice and provide students with more of these types of activities and opportunities, or even promote service as part of their curriculums.

You don't need to allow your grades to slip or stop working hard to graduate on time and land that first job out of college. The studies are more a reminder that other things are important, too, like evaluating your life goals and giving yourself a priority check once in a while. Make the most of your college experience, and consider volunteerism and service as a way to make you more well-rounded. And if you are that go-getter worried about how the state of economy will hinder your job prospects post-graduation, consider this: community service looks great on a resume, and great on applications for advanced degrees. There are also a large number of scholarships that reward students for their service, so consider all of your options when you're planning that social calendar.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you're worried about how your food allergies will affect your experiences in that dorm cafeteria this fall, you're not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict the number of allergy sufferers will only continue to grow in the coming years, as record numbers of children with allergies grow up and head onto college campuses. To address the increase in coeds with allergies, many colleges have started to revamp their cafeteria kitchens and menus to make it easier for students to find allergy-free options.

According to the CDC, the number of Americans 18 and younger with allergies is at a record high. About 3 million, or 4 percent, of that age group suffers from food allergies; in 1997, about 2.3 million in that population reported food allergies. About 12 million people of all age groups in the United States have food allergies.

A recent article in USA Today took a look at colleges that have been making changes to their students' dining options. Franklin and Marshall College went nut-free about three years ago. (Nuts are the most problematic and common food allergy. Many places, like elementary schools and airlines, have already banned them from their menus.)  The University of New Hampshire is stocked with gluten-free foods, and its dining halls include cookware used solely in the preparation of gluten-free dishes. (You can't make a food less allergenic by cooking it, by the way.) At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, students are able to determine the exact ingredients in foods available on campus. Eventually, the school plans to run a database that catalogs foods with allergens in them. The College of the Holy Cross allows students interested in the school's meal plans to pre-order their meals via email. The school is also opening an allergy-free kitchen this fall, making it easier for students to eat in the dining hall with their friends.

The article also points to a recent initiative from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Last October, the group premiered its College Network, a database that allows college students to determine who they should contact at schools about their food allergies, and information about colleges that have taken measures to address food allergies. The site also gives tips on dorm living with allergies, determining whether your allergy will affect living with a roommate, and steps to take once you arrive on campus to make sure those around you know about what you're allergic to and what to do if you have an allergic reaction.


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by Kevin Ladd

Since around the middle of the twentieth century, when more and more women began to seek careers, American culture, particularly in the workplace, has had to evolve and expand to accommodate this change. While it once was assumed that practically every employee with children had a spouse and that they (wife) handled all the "family stuff" during the workday and when said employee (husband) was on the road, now allowances for maternity leave, time-off to attend PTA meetings, school plays, etc. had to be made. It seems somewhat ironic that they’ve mostly, if not exclusively, been made with respect to womens' schedules. Apparently it is still assumed, though they are now every bit the career person their spouse is, that women are the ones who must handle all of the aforementioned "family stuff". At least, this appears to be the case on college campuses, according to a recent study.

There are many problems with the apparently common practice of making more allowances for women as parents than are made for men and I only have the time and space to get into a few of them, unfortunately. While this policy was clearly intended as a way to allow women to have the requisite career flexibility to have both children and profession, is this not still sexist? Does it not make an extremely broad generalization about all male/female relationships and the responsibilities and gender-based assignments that were common a century ago? I am sure it gets even more complicated in the case of female/female partnerships and male/male partnerships where children are involved.

Apparently, one of the problems with changing this all-too-common policy is that men generally tend to find it much more difficult to admit to being unhappy with their work/home balance. It seems that, traditionally, it is not nearly as acceptable for men to complain about spending too much time at work and not enough caring for and spending time with their family. There is the older male faculty to consider, for starters. Those who might come from a different generation and whose mother more likely was a homemaker and whose father worked six days a week. Those who would not really understand the plight of their younger male counterpart, and this could discourage a younger man to complain or communicate any sort of displeasure with this policy until he has tenure. Often, men in the employ of a college or university might even try to put off having children until they have achieved this level of career stability, making it easier for them to balance their career schedule and their family schedule with greater confidence and control. Those still trying to get tenure are much less likely to ask for time off for any reason, for fear of doing anything at all that might jeopardize their chances at this desirable, almost necessary, status at a university. It should be noted, too, that this can be much more difficult for a woman to do and is just one more way in which this policy is detrimental to both men and women.

I think it’s time we, as a society, respect and recognize both parents in any given family as responsible for the raising of their children and afford them equal benefits and opportunities not just for employment but of employment. Without either gender having to admit displeasure with the terms of their employment or work/home balance when surveyed, each person should be afforded the option to occasionally tailor their schedule based upon their responsibilities as parents without worrying it might cost them their career.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A new survey looking at entering community college students' opinions on the obstacles they face during their first year found that those students need more guidance to succeed as they transition from high school to higher education.

The study, released yesterday, was the ongoing Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE), which was first given to poll students in 2006. Since then, more than 91,000 students have been polled, with the results used by community colleges to improve preparedness programs and tactics to help new students achieve. The survey this time around looked at data from more than 50,000 students at 120 participating community colleges in 31 states and the Marshall Islands.

The survey looks to examine the first three weeks of new community college students' experiences at their respective colleges. Most of the respondents felt their colleges were doing a good job with the welcome wagons, and making them feel comfortable in their new surroundings. But others still felt more could be done to help them prepare for college, and to navigate administrative processes that seemed complicated at times. The findings included the following:

  • About 72 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they felt welcome the first time they came to their colleges; 25 percent expressed no opinion on this item, which concerned the providers of the SENSE survey.
  • About 49 percent said they agree or strongly agree that their colleges provided them with adequate information about financial aid, while 25 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • About 33 percent agreed or strongly agreed that a college staff member helped them determine whether they qualified for financial assistance; 40 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • About 45 percent agreed or strongly agreed that at least one college staff member (other than an instructor) learned their names, compared with 37 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • About 23 percent said that a specific person was assigned to them so they could see that person each time they needed information or assistance.
  • About 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they have the motivation to succeed in college, but about a quarter of those students also admitted to skipping class or failing to turn an assignment in at least once.

According to an analysis of the survey from Inside Higher Ed yesterday, the results point to the missed opportunities that face students and administrators on a daily basis on community college campuses. When students were asked to elaborate on their answers using short answers, some said they were forced to make decisions on choosing college courses, for example, with little guidance from their counselors, something they could well enough do on their own. The article also pointed to contradictions in the study; for example, students responded that they enjoyed the access they had to college staff members, but still felt unprepared to navigate college processes.

The providers of the survey suggest more needs to be done to engage students, and that administrators should take regular looks at their processes to make them even more easy to access by students who may need more help as first-year community college students.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many colleges and universities offer students dorms particular to their fields of study. A future engineer can bunk with others interested in engineering, for example, or future educators may find a place for others interested in becoming teachers. The dorms then become learning communities, and allow students a built-in support network when they're struggling with homework or an upcoming exam.

Some schools, however, have been experimenting with communal living for interests outside of students' majors, perhaps to get more students interested in those colleges, keep students already enrolled happy, or to get students to live in the dorms beyond their first years. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores the kinds of dorm communities that are cropping up on college campuses across the country, and they're as diverse as students' interests come.

At the University of Vermont, students interested in healthy eating, anime or Harry Potter are able to live in dorms set aside for students with those interests. (According to The Chronicle, The Harry Potter dorm caters more to those interested in social justice issues, and how "magic is symbolic for an individual's ability to change the world." It couldn't be all fun.) Students at the school must come with proposals of their own for the special interest dorms to take shape, and find student leaders who will come up with extracurricular activities and collaborate with faculty advisers.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, themed dorms explore the less academic side of science. The 160 or so students who live in the learning communities are able to find dorms based on their interests in humor, robotics, space colonization, and the science of food, according to The Chronicle. Faculty members, who say the students living in the themed dorms are more engaged in their learning able to converse about academic subjects more easily than their peers, meet with the students once a week. At Ball State University, students from all majors interested in film, video, and emerging media, are able to live in a dorm that provides them with all of the technical equipment they would need to shoot projects on their own time. The dorm cost the school about $60,000 to renovate and equip.

What kinds of themed dorms, if any, does your school offer undergraduates? Do you like the idea, or do you think students should live with others who have more varied interests? Let us know what you think about the specialized dorms.


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by Agnes Jasinski

In the wake of the first lawsuits filed against the Arizona immigration law, the University of Arizona’s President Robert E. Shelton released a letter Thursday describing the effects the law has already had on the school’s admissions.

In that letter, Shelton says administrators are worried about the international community on the school system’s campuses. He goes on to say the college will do whatever they need to do to keep the “health and safety” of those international students a top priority, and will put procedures in place to allow them the “free movement” they are accustomed to on the college’s campuses. Perhaps most significantly, however, Shelton describes how the law has already hurt the college on the admissions level:

“We have already begun to feel an impact from SB1070. The families of a number of out-of-state students (to date all of them honors students) have told us that they are changing their plans and will be sending their children to universities in other states. This should sadden anyone who cares about attracting the best and brightest students to Arizona."

The new law requires all immigrants in the state to have their alien registration documents or other documents proving citizenship available at all times, and allows police to stop and question anyone in the state suspected of being in the United States illegally. The law would also crack down on illegal day laborers looking for work and those who hire them. There has been a national uproar since the law was passed, with many concerned that the law encourages racial profiling against Latinos.

College students have been particularly vocal. A story on CNN.com today describes the mood on the University of Arizona’s Tucson campus. One student there, Francisco Baires, has been circulating a petition summing up students’ concerns with the new law. He and others plan to present that petition to the school’s president next week, and will ask him to sign it himself. Another student, Jessica Mejia, organized Immigration Awareness Week on the campus, which included a series of programs and informational sessions on the intricacies of the law and acted as a place where students could share their personal immigration stories.

Students outside of Arizona have protested the measure as well. Throughout the Denver area today, hundreds of both high school and college students will stage a walk-out in protest. Administrators at the schools and police departments are all in on the walk-out. Is anything happening at your high school or college campus related to Arizona’s immigration law? What do you think about the immigration law, and what has the mood been like at your school since it was passed?


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