10 Questions Community College Students Should Ask Their Advisor

As a community college student, you probably have a lot of things on your mind: keeping your grades up, graduating and maybe even transferring to a 4-year school. Community college advisors can help you achieve your goals, but what are the best questions to ask them? There are probably a few you haven't even considered yet.

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1. How Many More Semesters Until I Graduate and/or Transfer?

Most community college students are concerned about graduation or transfer timelines. In community college, 2-year programs are the baseline, but your individual goals could require a shorter or longer amount of time. A college advisor can help you create a plan that considers your individual major requirements and/or transfer goals, any courses you've already taken, and what you still need to complete on a semester-by-semester basis. Even better, the plan can be adjusted as needed.

2. Where Can I Find Disability or Special Needs Assistance?

If you have any sort of disability (physical, learning, developmental, or psychological) that may hinder your success in college, there are services on every campus that can help. Many schools have advisors who specialize in assisting disabled students; these advisors can evaluate your needs and determine what kind of assistance will be most beneficial. If you're transferring soon, you can schedule an appointment with your new school's disabled student services advisor to ensure necessary services are ready when you arrive.

3. How Do I Transfer to Another School?

As soon as you know you want to transfer, meet with your advisor so you don't miss any important classes, deadlines, or steps in the process. Ask your advisor if your community college has articulation agreements (sometimes called 2+2 agreements) with potential transfer institutions. An articulation agreement is a partnership between a community college and a 4-year school. It guarantees that your associate degree will fulfill freshman and sophomore general education requirements, or it maximizes transfer units you earned at the community college level. The more courses you complete at a community college, the fewer courses you need to pay for at an expensive 4-year school.

Your advisor may also refer you to your community college's transfer center. This department can help you select a 4-year college, fill out the correct forms, and meet special transfer student deadlines.

4. How Does Military Service Affect My College Career?

As a veteran or current member of the U.S. military, you have many educational options to consider. Most colleges have specific advisors that can help you access your GI Bill or veterans benefits. These advisors can also help you apply for course credits based on your military service or transfer courses off your military transcript (if you have one). They may also refer you to a financial aid specialist to ensure you maximize all financial aid options. If you're a disabled veteran, your advisor can help you access other campus resources to ensure academic success.

5. What Extracurriculars Should I Join?

College advisors usually know what kinds of extracurricular activities or clubs are available on campus - they may even be involved in some of them. Your advisor also knows you and which activities won't interfere with your classes or study time. He or she may even dissuade you from joining any groups if your grades need work. If you want to join a club, team, or campus-based group, your advisor is a great person to ask.

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6. What Kinds of Financial Aid Are Available?

There are typically four types of financial aid: scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans. An academic advisor may help you navigate all of them and build an aid package that meets your needs, or you'll be referred to your school's financial aid specialist. Here's a basic overview:

Scholarships

There are scholarships available for just about anything you can think of, including strong GPAs, financial need, career interests, heritage, or special needs. Scholarships also come in varying amounts and have different application requirements and deadlines. If available, scholarships are an excellent financial aid option - you don't need to pay them back.

Grants

Grants are available through state or federal government programs, and they're usually offered to students with financial need and/or strong GPAs. To apply for most grants, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Like scholarships, grants don't need to be paid back.

Work-Study Programs

If you qualify for a work-study award, you'll work on campus to pay for your courses. Work-study jobs have benefits other positions don't have - you can often work around your class schedule, and commuting between your job and school usually isn't required.

Student Loans

You should maximize all other financial aid offers before looking into student loans. These loans must be paid back with interest, and payments usually begin six months after you leave college or graduate. If you already have student loans and are returning to school, check with your lender about deferring payments until you finish.

7. Can I Take Classes Online?

Online classes are growing in popularity because of their convenience. By taking classes online, you can bypass a hectic schedule, a long commute, or other restrictions and get things done on your own time. A word of advice: Don't be fooled into thinking online classes are easier than campus-based classes. Many times, more homework and more tests are required to ensure you're keeping up and understanding the material. Check to see what online courses are available at your college.

8. Will All of My Credits Transfer?

If you're planning to transfer to another college, it's an absolute must that you meet with your advisor to see which credits will transfer. Your advisor can help with the transition by explaining which colleges will accept your existing credits, as well as what courses you can still take before transferring. This can help you avoid taking extra courses, spending more money on classes and books, and playing catch-up once you do transfer.

9. How Does My Student Account Work?

Most colleges now have an online account or e-mail system designed specifically for students. These systems are excellent for staying in touch with teachers, other students, and even your academic advisor. Many web-based student accounts also include an online version of your education plan, so you can access it any time to monitor your progress. Make sure you know how your account works, how to log in, and what to do if you encounter any problems. Staying connected is crucial during your college career, so don't hesitate to ask questions.

10. Where Do I Get Textbooks?

Unlike big universities, some community colleges don't have an on-campus bookstore, and figuring out where to get textbooks can be confusing. While you can search eBay and Amazon, you might also ask your advisor for additional resources. Chances are they've been asked that question before, and they'll likely have a wealth of information to help you get the books you need.

Not sure what education plans are right for you? Check out this guide to adult education options!

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