4 Indispensable Tips for Surviving Your 1st Semester of Community College

This summer will be wrapping up before we know of it, and your first semester at community college is rapidly approaching. Are you ready for it?

According to American College Testing (ACT), one out of every four college students will end up leaving college before finishing their sophomore year. With statistics like these, it’s easy to see why the first year of community college is critical to success. This is a chance to build not only an academic foundation, but a real-world foundation that will carry through college, career and the rest of your life. Todd Rhoad, Managing Director at Blitz Team Consulting, perhaps puts it best, “Students should begin community college with an open mind as this is their opportunity to begin to see the world in a whole new light and begin to develop a view of the world of possibilities.”

Community college presents different challenges and experiences than most four year universities, Todd believes. “Community Colleges aren’t as glamorous and flamboyant as the bigger campuses, which seem to be more interested in their architectural coherence and student social experience. Community colleges focus on the one thing that new students need; that is, the learning experience.”

If you’re getting ready to prep for your first semester, you’re in luck, because we’ve assembled four crucial tips to get you started.
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1. Set Your Goals and Have a Vision

The first step to success in community college is having a clear idea of what success...
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For many students, community college is the most affordable option for obtaining a higher education. The cost of tuition, fees, room, and board at a two-year institution averages a little over $8,500, while the same expenses for a four-year institution cost nearly double that at just under $17,000 per year. Yet, despite the cost savings, some community college students still need financial assistance to pay for their education. The financial aid application process can present a number of barriers, especially for first-time college students who are unfamiliar with the process. However, these barriers can easily be overcome when armed with the right information.

Always Apply For Aid

Each year, millions of college-bound students apply for federal financial aid. Yet, millions more eligible students don’t apply at all. During the 2011-2012 academic year, an estimated 2 million students who would have qualified for a Federal Pell Grant didn’t even fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even more surprisingly, approximately two-thirds of those students would have qualified for a full grant award that would have paid for all of their college expenses.

 

Instead, for a variety of reasons these students did not bother to apply. Nearly half the students who would have qualified for the Pell Grant simply believed they were not eligible for those funds. Another 34 percent reported that they didn’t want to take on debt, even though Pell Grants do not have to be repaid. Many more maintained that they did not have a financial...

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A new report released by the Campaign for College Opportunity shows that of the more than 60,000 students who obtained an associate’s degree in California during the 2012-2013 school year, half took over four years to get their degree. This is an alarmingly long time, especially when compared to the 4.7 years it takes the average student to complete a bachelor’s degree at California State University.

A significant number of community college students choose to take that route because of the affordability. According to data from College Board, in 2011, community college students paid on average $2,713 in tuition and fees, as compared to $7,605 for students who attended an in-state four-year institution. At less than half the cost, community colleges pose significant financial benefits for students who are on a tight budget.

Reference: Center on International Education Benchmarking

However, time seems to be the biggest enemy of students who begin their post-secondary education at the community college level. The College Board’s report shows that of the cohort of students who began their community college studies in 2005, only 21 percent graduated within three years – a full year longer than is traditionally required. Many of the financial benefits gained by attending a two-year institution are lost if students aren’t able to complete their degree on time. Yet, students who enroll in a two-year program are the ones who are most likely to be impacted by factors that extend their graduation timeline. These factors...
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In the summer of 2013, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the accrediting agency responsible for oversight of California’s massive community college system, came under fire for withdrawing its accreditation of the City College of San Francisco. Among the ACCJC’s findings was that the college failed to balance its budget and was deficient in staffing and facility repairs. Upon making their recommendation for revocation available to the public, ACCJC faced a firestorm of criticism, with supporters of the college claiming that the commission’s decision was fueled by political bias.
 
Additional criticism has since been leveled against the organization for not following its own policies during the accreditation process. In fact, ACCJC has been reprimanded by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to meet federal guidelines in its review of the City College of San Francisco. Furthermore, ACCJC is accused of violating conflict of interest laws by appointing the husband of the commission’s president to an accreditation review team.

 
What has resulted is a nationwide spotlight on the methods by which community colleges and other institutions of higher learning gain accreditation. Critics of the current system contend that without federal oversight – accrediting organizations are self-regulated – commissions are apt to abuse of power and work under a cloak of secrecy. While these allegations are specific to ACCJC, the criticisms of its policies and procedures have been echoed nationwide. Together with a general confusion regarding the process...
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The essential difference between competency-based education (CBE) and traditional programs is that CBE measures learning without regard to time. They utilize direct measures of assessment to determine understanding of content, as opposed to requiring a certain number of credits or contact hours of class time in order to earn a letter grade. Students instead demonstrate what they know when they know it well enough to be deemed competent. In essence, it is much like an AP exam, only on a far larger scale: AP students must pass a test with a certain level of competency in order to earn credit for the course. Students in a competency-based program must do the same for each course they undertake.
 
The first program completely based on competencies rather than credits was green-lighted by the Department of Education in August of 2013 at College of America, a community college associated with Southern New Hampshire University. Since then, there has been a push for this type of system to be implemented at community colleges across the country. This movement is the result of several shifts in the landscape of higher education in recent years. As the cost of a college education continues to rise, community colleges, universities, federal agencies, and private entities have been exploring a less expensive way for students to obtain a degree or certification. The individualized pacing of CBE is seen by many as a solution to this problem, as it is a system of learning completely free of time-based instruction.

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