I started community college at Mountain View College in 2016. I never imagined how much my time there would teach me about every aspect of my life. In my final year, which will come to an end this May, I have learned more than in my first two years collectively. And I would like to share five of those lessons.
1. Utilize your advisor
Even if your grades are good and you’re on track with your courses, go to your advisor. At some community colleges, meeting with an academic advisor is mandatory at specific times. This was the case my first year and part of my second. At my second advising meeting, I was able to create a two-year plan of all the classes I needed to take before transferring to a four-year school and I followed it, using it as a guide for course registration each semester.
I didn’t know that I could take communications courses—which aren’t available on my community college campus but are at other campuses in the district—and get an associate field of study in Journalism. When I consulted my advisor about some science courses, I was told about this associate plan and the five extra courses I’d need to take to receive it. In short, you can find out about more specific degree plans and special courses that align with your major from your advisor. You don’t always have to follow your course plan, but if you’re unsure about the classes you want or need to transfer, academic advising can help.
2. Start working on your CV
CV is the abbreviation for curriculum vitae, which is similar to a résumé, but longer and more detailed. It typically includes your skills, awards, honors, education, publications, and other credentials you may have.
I first learned about CVs from one of my mentors. I wish I had learned about them much sooner because they’re a great tool when you’re applying for scholarships, internships, jobs, and even your transfer schools. Why? If you’re at a loss for what to say in your essays or what to list under volunteer service and awards, you can reference your CV. Plus, it’s good to have on hand when applications explicitly ask for it.
3. Learn to interview, not just be interviewed
Until my last semester of community college, I never really had to interview anyone, so I didn’t appreciate the value of it. Being interviewed was easy for me, but being the interviewer took some practice. But this is a crucial skill to learn regardless of your major or career goals.
Conducting interviews is a process that starts with research to base your questions on. Then you have to formulate questions relevant to the subject and interviewee. You should practice before going to the actual interview. When you get there, you can use the most relevant responses and other questions that come up to complete your assignment or gain a better understanding of an event, career, or class you’d like to know more about.
After taking two media writing classes, I’ve learned several things about interviewing, including avoiding easy questions. An important thing is to have a conversation with your interviewee before starting your interview to make them feel comfortable. People love to talk about themselves, and they may provide great information and details you weren’t expecting. Learning the art of interviewing can make you a more effective communicator in everyday situations, helping you know when to talk and when to listen.
4. Get involved, but not over-involved
In community college, getting involved in activities and organizations can be a fun and engaging choice to make the most of your time there. It can also help you build different skills, meet new people, and even prepare you for participating in activities at a four-year university (if you plan to transfer). However, you need to keep your classes and health in mind too and find a balance.
I’ve always been active in at least one thing on or off campus, but I decided to amp up my involvement by taking several leadership positions in activities and volunteering last year. I eventually became overwhelmed with stress and wondered if I’d finish assignments on time with all my activities. I felt obligated to stick with everything and do it well.
Getting involved is good, and some students can handle a lot of activities, but you should learn what you can handle. Step away when it gets to be too much for your health and other priorities, or you may hurt yourself.
Related: How to Find Community on Campus
5. You can be an introvert and still be a leader
College in general can be hard when you’re an introvert. This was the case for me, as I avoided being the leader in most things because I was afraid of making mistakes and being criticized. I know I mentioned above that I took on multiple leadership positions, but I had to work up to that level of comfort. I made slow progress becoming more willing to lead, but I took my biggest step last fall when I became an officer for Phi Theta Kappa, a community college honor society on campus.
It may take some coaching and guidance from your peers and mentors, but it also takes motivation and dedication. I learned that my shyness and introversion didn’t prevent me from being a leader, but my insecurities and mindset did. Soon I took on other active roles in clubs and organizations and became a better communicator and speaker.
If you have trouble with shyness, taking on leadership roles can help prepare you for when you leave for your future four-year college or university. You’ll be more comfortable interacting outside your comfort zone, which makes the transition easier.