Community College Advice from Isa Adney

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Author, speaker, entrepreneur and community college superstar Isa Adney serves as inspiration for many by sharing candid advice as a first-generation college graduate. From her book Community College Success to her work as a mentor with StudentMentor.org, she speaks to the importance of creating a support system of peers, colleagues and friends. She is sharing this excerpt from her recent book Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams with Civitas Learning Space. To learn more about Isa, her speaking and her books visit IsaAdney.com.
Tear-filled Beginnings and Endings
On my first day of community college, I cried like a little girl. Like so many students I’ve met since then, I didn’t want to be there. I felt alone, dejected, and lost. I also ended my community college experience with crying—on graduation when the president announced I’d won the $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. Dozens of people surrounded me with hugs and tears. I had friends, money, and a future. All this didn’t happen to me through luck or because I’m a super-genius (see my SAT scores). The secret to success isn’t good fortune or a high IQ—it’s people. No matter how technological our world gets, the best opportunities in life will always happen through people.
The Secret to Success
The people you meet in community college will change your life. Millions of dollars in scholarships, incredible opportunities and jobs are available to students who know how to connect with others. Community colleges have historically been an incredible gateway for access. Yet, sadly, those who don’t understand think they are schools where anyone can get in, thereby assuming they are colleges without prestige or high standards. That tide is changing as people begin to realize the crucial role community colleges (and state colleges) play in our national economy. More importantly, they play a role in helping incredible students rise above average and achieve a first-class education they might otherwise miss. Community colleges are filled with bright, intelligent students, professors who care and enjoy teaching, and staff who are in tune with the community and know how their college can improve lives.
Like Private School at Public School Cost
After a year in community college, I began telling people it was like a private-school experience at public-school cost. The small class sizes and personal attention I received were integral to my success. In this economy, saving such a substantial amount of money during those first two years of college can prevent loads of unwanted debt. Community college is a smart choice. That’s something to be proud of. The next step, however, is to make sure all those eager, worthy students are walking out with their goals met and a degree in hand.
Working Learners Juggle Priorities
The pursuit of a college education is changing because so many students must work, support families, live off campus, and juggle their private lives while attending school. However, the energy and attention required for a college education hasn’t changed—and thus we must all figure out how to balance our lives while taking full advantage of an education that has the potential to catapult us wherever we want our lives to go. In my book you’ll find the answers you need to make the most of your college experience, your talents, and most importantly, your life. These answers are unique. They aren’t about studying harder, having a high IQ, or beating the system. The answers—the secrets—are about the people all around you, including the ones you don’t know yet. Specifically—your peers, professors, and professionals.
Your Connections Count
Any successful person can easily name ten people who helped him succeed. I can name twenty. We are social, interconnected beings who need one another. We have so much to learn from each other, and at no other time in life are so many people willing to help you. Yet, sadly, not every student takes advantage of this hidden wealth. If you are like me and come from a low-income family, if you are the first in your family to attend college, or if you are a minority student, you need these people in your life more than you know. They will help you break barriers, make money, learn about careers you didn’t know existed, get you into universities or careers you thought were beyond your reach, and show you how to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. You only need one thing to shape your life into what you know it’s meant to be: You must want to rise above average and make the most of your college experience and your future. I cannot teach desire, passion, perseverance, or diligence, but if you have these qualities, I will help you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. I also know, if you’re reading this right now, you are that person. You’re the kind of college student who inspires me every day. You are why I do this. And I know you’ll take what’s in my book and do great things with your life. Thank you for making the extra effort to create your life and succeed in your education. I promise I won’t let you down. So, new friend, it’s time to turn the pages and begin meeting people who will change your life.

Isa Adney

Isa Adney, MEd, is an author, speaker and community college advocate. The first in her family to earn a degree, Isa’s speeches, books and work as a mentor are inspiring first-generation students to set goals, build networks of people who care about them, and break the cycle of poverty through education.