7 Tips for Succeeding in Community College
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Leyla Barkhordar in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Get Organized. Stay Organized.
The key to success in college is to be organized. Take some time before each semester begins to figure out the best system for managing your time and information.
Manage Your Time
To manage your time, find a calendar that you will enjoy using and then commit to using it. This might be an online calendar like Google Calendar or a paper planner with month, week, and daily views.
A calendar is only as useful as the information it contains and you must develop a consistent practice of inputting appointments and deadlines. It can also be helpful to use methods like time-blocking where you reserve blocks of time to complete one large task or several smaller tasks. Read this article to learn about more strategies for managing your time.
In college, you will have to organize a lot of information from lectures, assigned readings, homework, term papers, and examinations. It’s imperative that you identify a system for organizing this information both digitally and physically.
In terms of digital organization, apps like Notion, Microsoft OneNote, and Google Drive are helpful for organizing text, files, and hyperlinks. Regarding physical organization, notebooks with dividers, binders with tabs, and file folders are all extremely useful.
Thoughtfully Design Your Class Schedule
As you design your schedule each semester, there are many considerations you will need to make when determining which classes to take. Here are a few questions to consider as you select your courses:
- Does this course satisfy the requirements for my major/minor?
- Does this course fulfill any prerequisites or help me prepare for more advanced coursework?
- How much time does this course require for me to be successful? Can I be successful in this class given the other courses that I’m taking, my extracurricular activities, and other commitments?
- Who is the professor? What is their reputation as a teacher? Is this a person whose background, expertise, and interests give them a unique perspective on the content they are presenting?
- What new knowledge and skills will I develop by taking this course and completing the assignments, projects, and examinations?
- How does this course parallel or intersect with the other courses I’ve taken thus far or will be taking this semester?
Go to Office Hours
Office hours are blocks of time, either pre-determined or by appointment, that a professor sets aside for students to come and ask questions about course material, assignments, and other related matters.
At the beginning of each semester, make sure to record office hours on your calendar and figure out which office hours to prioritize based on the difficulty of each class you are taking and your interest in engaging with the professors.
Understand the Course Material
On the surface, office hours are an opportunity for you to ask for help so that you can better understand what you are learning. It can be intimidating to ask a professor a question or try to engage with them in one-on-one or small group conversation. To avoid awkwardness or nerves, come prepared by pre-writing a list of questions that you have about a lecture topic, assignment, or upcoming exam.
Make sure that you’ve done your due diligence before office hours by reviewing your notes, doing additional research, and conferring with your peers so that when you ask your professor a question, you are asking them a question that you have tried your best to answer.
Build a Strong Relationship with Your Professors
At a deeper level, office hours are one of the primary forums for building a relationship with a professor. During office hours, the savvy student will come prepared to use the course materials as a vehicle for generating a broader and deeper dialogue with the professor.
Use the time together in office hours to ask the professor questions about their perspective, knowledge, and experiences and to share your own background, perspective, and questions. Oftentimes conversations like these can lead to deeper relationships with professors, research opportunities, internships, and strong letters of recommendation for graduate school, fellowship programs, jobs, and internships.
Build Community and Form Study Groups
Each class you take is an opportunity to build community. Introduce yourself to your classmates, create a group chat where people can ask questions about assignments and deadlines outside of class, or invite a few people to join a study group. Study groups are great opportunities for getting to know your classmates better through purposeful engagement with the course material and assignments.
Depending on the course material, a study group can make or break your performance in a class. For example, in a class on multivariable calculus with multiple problem sets due each week, a study group can be extremely helpful for sharing problem solving strategies and comparing answers. Alternatively, for classes with a high volume of reading and writing, it can be helpful to have a few friends with whom you can compare lecture and reading notes to ensure that you’ve captured and understood all relevant material.
Pursue Extracurricular Opportunities & Leadership Roles
Make an effort to join a few organizations that match your academic, professional, or personal interests. By participating in club meetings and events, you will have regular opportunities to socialize with your peers outside of the classroom environment and to build a strong network of people with similar goals and values.
Clubs offer great opportunities for developing strong leadership, event planning, and project management skills – soft skills that are extremely important to hone. It often takes time and experience to gain a leadership position in a club, especially when those positions are elected and not by application. Thus, it is important to have sustained commitment to at least one or two clubs throughout your community college career so that you can build relationships and experience over multiple semesters and be prepared to take on a leadership position when the time presents itself.
Expand Your Network
Actively pursue opportunities to expand your network by attending career fairs, workshops, public lectures, and other special events. Oftentimes people perceive “networking” as an uncomfortable or disingenuous act because they mistakenly approach networking as a transaction for the purposes of obtaining something – an internship, a powerful connection.
However, if you approach networking as an opportunity for genuinely connecting with others, learning about their interests and experiences, and sharing about yourself authentically, then networking has the potential to be a joyful or at least palatable activity.
Leverage Social Networking Platforms
Social networking goes hand-in-hand with in-person networking. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social networking platform to connect with people who you’ve met before, who you would like to meet, and who are doing the work that you aspire to do.
Depending on your background and interests, certain platforms will be more useful and appropriate for you to use than others.
For example, if you are studying finance and accounting and would like to get an internship at a bank, LinkedIn is the platform that you should prioritize leveraging. Attend workshops for understanding how to polish your LinkedIn profile, connect with as many people as you possibly can on LinkedIn, and post regular updates and content to your LinkedIn page.
Love Your Community College.
Attending community college is an immensely valuable opportunity for you to educate yourself and to advance academically, professionally, and personally. Make the most of the time you have to spend and people with whom you get to learn, work, and live with at community college.