7 Ways to Succeed in Community College

Last Updated Oct 5, 2010 9:10 AM EDT

Today the White House is hosting its first-ever White House summit on community colleges to highlight Community college building with lots of windowsthe important and growing role that the roughly 1,200 community colleges play in educating Americans.

In recognition of the community college summit, I wanted to share seven ways that students can increase their chances of experiencing success:


Get the real scoop.

Before selecting a community college, review how it fared in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement. The CCSSE, which is based at a nonprofit on the University of Texas, Austin campus, attempts to measure the academic excellence at community colleges.

Students at participating community colleges fill out questionnaires on such topics as student and faculty interactions and academic rigor. You can find scores for individual schools at the CCSSE website.

Check out the best community college rankings.

I'm not a big fan of four-year college rankings, but I applaud Washington Monthly for providing the rankings of the best community colleges. The magazine uses the CCSSE survey results, as well as graduation rates from the U.S. Department of Education, in picking the best community colleges. FYI, it drives the CCSSE folks nuts that the Washington Monthly produces these community college rankings.

Focus on transferring credits.

The classes that you take at a community college ultimately need to transfer to a four-year institution. One way to make sure that your credits transfer is to consult an academic adviser at your community college.

Unfortunately, most community college students never ask advisers at their schools for academic advice. In one survey, only 41% of students taking college-level classes and 26% in remedial courses sought help.

Ask about articulation agreements.

Before committing to a school, check out the community colleges' articulation agreements. Two-year schools maintain these agreements with four-year institutions to make the transfer between their schools as seamless as possible. While many articulation agreements involve state universities, there are also partnerships with private institutions.

You can find articulation agreements among institutions in individual states by visiting FinAid.

Get help.

If you've got a learning Achilles' heel, seek help. Community colleges, just like four-year universities, offer free tutors and not nearly enough students take advantage of them.

Check for honors colleges.

Some community colleges, which hope to attract bright students who normally would start at four-year schools, now offer honors colleges. A community college with an honors component can be a great alternative for smart students who are strapped for money. You can search for community colleges with these programs through the National Collegiate Honors Council.

Consider living on campus.

Some students balk at community colleges because they don't have the same feel as residential schools. However, hundreds of community colleges, both public and private institutions, have dorms, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, and the numbers continue to grow.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.
Community college image by Mike tn. CC 2.0.

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