Adapting to Your New Life as a Community College Student

Life as a college student is different from what you’re accustomed to. Here are a few tips and pointers to help you adapt to college life and thrive as a student.

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Whether you are in a virtual class or face-to-face, the faculty at a community college take the time to know your name and your circumstances. Teaching and learning are the core of the community college mission, and the average class size at a community college is 19 – so you can count on more individualized attention from your instructors.

In your first two years at a four-year university, many classes will be taught lecture-style in a large auditorium with a few hundred students often by graduate students. At a community college, the smaller class sizes allow experienced professors to use more interactive teaching techniques, promoting greater student success.

Many community colleges recruit industry professionals as professors for a variety of career-tech programs. In addition to delivering cutting-edge education, these instructors offer students a real-world perspective of the career field by drawing upon their own work experiences. Their connections to the industry can further assist students in securing future learning and employment opportunities in their field.


Community colleges have many student support services that make a real difference in boosting your success in college. Each community college has its own individualized supports, and for most colleges, you can count on a wide variety of supports that come to you at no extra charge.  Here is a list of the most common services you will find in community colleges.

Tutoring and Other Academic Support Services

Studies show that students who use tutoring services are much more likely to be successful in their short-term goals (passing math!) and their long-term goals (getting a degree or job).

Learning Communities

Learning communities include a cohort of students who take classes together, have the same professors, study together, and take part in enhanced advising and tutoring services.

Advising and Counseling Services

Advisors can help students formulate an academic plan, from what classes to take each semester to stay on track for graduation, to assistance with enrolling into courses and checking to ensure students meet prerequisites for courses. Many colleges offer specialized counselors for veteran students, and others provide mental health counselors.

Job Placement and Transfer Services

Helping students transition from college to the workforce or to another institution of higher learning is often a function of “student success centers” on campus. Many community colleges also offer career and transfer services as part of their advising and counseling program.


Work Opportunities

Internships and apprenticeships connect community college students with the workforce. Though they have some similarities, it helps to understand their differences when determining how they could benefit your career plan.


If you are undecided about your career path, an internship can help you preview a career field before you commit to the education it requires. Internships usually last only one to three months. While you perform some tasks related to the career field, others will be more general and entry level. Not all include pay, but many allow you to earn college credit, which can be valuable too.


If you are ready to jumpstart your career, consider an apprenticeship in a career-tech field. You can earn paid, relevant, on-the-job experience while obtaining skills and credentials that employers value. According to the U.S. Department of Labor the outlook for apprentices looks bright. Ninety-two percent of those who complete an apprenticeship retain employment and earn an average annual salary of $72,000.

When compared to internships, apprenticeships are usually longer (ranging from 1-3 years). Apprentices are often paired with industry mentors who guide them through the experience. The programs are more structured than internships, focusing on the mastery of specific skills, ultimately earning portable credentials while minimizing student debt.

Clubs and Organizations

As a college student, sometimes it helps to take a break from the books, relax your brain, and just have a little fun. Engaging in college clubs and organizations can be a great way to do that. Consider these tips when exploring the clubs and organizations your college offers.

Visit the college club fair. These events give you the opportunity to test-drive several organizations at once. You can learn about what they do, meet their members, and find the right fit for you. A bonus – these events usually happen during the first week of classes, so you won’t be the only newbie there!

There is something for everyone. Even the smallest of community colleges have loads of clubs and organizations. Whether you’re interested in sports, culture, hobbies, academics, career, or volunteerism, you are sure to find a club (or several) that match your interests.

Engagement gives your resume a boost. Participating in student engagement opportunities can teach you essential skills that employers are looking for. Don’t sleep on the soft skills – interviewing, networking, elevator pitches, and similar skills will prove invaluable when you start looking for a job, and these skills aren’t necessarily taught in the classroom.

You’ll meet people and make connections. Taking the first step to introduce yourself to a new group can be scary, but the rewards are well worth the effort. As you engage with fellow students, you’ll develop friends who become part of your support network. Plus, by working on club projects you’ll make connections with campus and community leaders and gain experience that can lead to future employment.

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Community college can offer student-athletes a great start to their college journey. Here, athletes find low-cost, high-quality education along with personalized resources that help them level up athletically and academically.

Think community college athletics don’t measure up? Think again!  Each year, over 3,400 teams compete in 28 different sports across multiple divisions in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Community college athletes benefit from increased playing time and more chances to rack up district, regional, and national honors at this level.

First-generation students, non-traditional students, and international students all find a fit in athletic programs at community colleges. Regardless of age or background, athletics pair highly competitive sports participation with an affordable higher education experience that leads to unlimited career paths.

Student-athletes benefit from increased access to professors and coaches, support from fellow classmates, and resources designed to support their academic success. As part of a team, athletes build essential soft skills like time management and leadership that can add value beyond the playing field into their careers.

By participating in sports at the community college level, students can save money via scholarships and earn an associate degree, while also being exposed to varying competition levels – that sounds like a BIG win to us!