5 Strategies underserved students can use to successfully enroll at a community college


Going to college immediately after high school or within a few years may seem like a gradual progression for many.  For underserved students, especially ones who live in poverty, the dream of attending college is far from gradual.  Unfortunately, these students face immediate challenges like securing food, shelter, child care and transportation Kita Graham– rather than establishing long term needs.

Many underserved students work part-time jobs to support their current needs – leaving little room for setting long-term goals.  Underserved students don’t always know what great resources are available to them, especially if they attend a community college. For instance, many often qualify for financial aid, TRIO programs and childcare assistance, which makes attending college highly possible.

Underserved students can apply these strategies to create seamless pathways to higher education

  1. Motivation – Create a vision and determine what steps are needed to make it happen. Students usually have special interests, but don’t always think beyond the ‘now.’ Planning ahead inspires goal setting and strategic thinking.  It’s also important for students to surround themselves with people who support their goals and dreams.
  1. Research – Discover how the vision can be translated into a career – ultimately selecting an appropriate major. This means reading the institution’s website to learn about admission requirements, tuition costs, academic programs and transfer agreements.  Campus tours are a great way to discover the culture of the college. Completing a free career assessment can be a helpful resource.
  1. Patience – Completing the enrollment steps may not always move as fast as a prospective student expects. Tidewater Community College’s concise enrollment steps guides them through the process.  A number of factors may impact the overall pace.  For example, transcripts, tax forms, proof of residency and guardianship are often required during the enrollment phase. This is usually where students become frustrated and easily give up on attending college.
  1. Follow-through – The majority of enrollment steps are completed electronically, but still require action from the prospective student. Having updated contact information, a working telephone number and computer access all help make the enrollment process efficient.  Most communities have these free resources at Workforce Development agencies to support job and school matters.
  1. Persistence – As the saying goes, “there’s nothing to it but to do it!” Hopefully, the momentum gained during the enrollment process will continue throughout the student’s academic career – for successful program completion.

Kita Graham is a high school career coach at Tidewater Community College where she also teaches student development courses. Kita has worked at several higher education institutions in career services, academic counseling/advising, workforce development and Opening Doors, a national community college program designed to identify successful degree completion outcomes for low-income, adult learner students. Kita holds a M.A. in Organizational Leadership, Higher Education Student Affairs from Regent University and a B.A. in Communications from Middle Tennessee State University.

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