Community colleges play a unique roll in the educational community and require potential students to be intentional if they are to be successful. George Vaugh writes in The Community College Story (2006) that open access is one important characteristic that distinguishes community colleges from other institutions of higher education.
However, open access does not mean anyone can enter a program without basic skills required for achievement at higher levels of learning. Potential students are more likely to be successful by taking specific steps to prepare and to engage in the natural opportunities that are part of the college environment. Otherwise the opportunity for unnecessary failure is significant.
Prepare for college
- Start with a well-defined and written plan including a school visit.
- Visit the financial aid office to investigate the financial assistance that is available based on individual circumstances.
- Take advantage of academic advisors to determine an appropriate program of study.
- Start small with one course that has a special interest or to improve a skill.
- Stay focused on taking courses that lead to specific educational goals, e.g. transfer, certification, continuing education.
- Get to know the faculty and administrators. Many community college instructors and administrators have real world experience. They have direct contacts to career employment opportunities.
- Establish relationships (network) with other students. They are a rich source for study groups, social contacts, employment possibilities, and helping to transition into the college environment.
- Develop human resources skills by serving on committees, joining clubs, and/or participating in sports.
- Take it serious. A college education has a major impact on what the future will be for each student.
- Start now.
Community colleges are an opportunity for students to continue their education in relatively safe, affordable, low risk environments. A well thought-out approach is important for most students to be successful. Following the steps suggested above do not guarantee success. However, by taking a deliberate carefully planned approach students improve the probability the experience will turn out to be a successful and a far more enjoyable journey.