Community college: Level up!

If life is a game, then community college is your chance to level-up and win.

Most students get it wrong when they see a price tag and think of only classes and textbooks. College is the last time in your life when people are paid to make you successful. That’s priceless. And, a community college gives you that same experience and support for a fraction of the cost of anywhere else. That’s just smart.

While other students are paying $20,000-$40,000 to “find” themselves for their first two years on main campuses, you can focus on getting out of high school habits, learn college etiquette, and easily track into your future passion. In just two trips around the sun, you’ll be main campus ready and primed to level-up.

Here is some game tips for students at community colleges:

1. Know your Opportunity Cost. An opportunity cost is the price you pay for choosing not to do something.

What is the cost of not sticking it out and finishing your degree? Not the price of tuition or fees, I mean: What is the cost of you not changing your life? Most people only look at starting salaries, but there’s so much growth that will happen with salaries, benefits, promotions, not to mention a lifetime of empowerment and open doors. That’s worth something. Add it up it will look like nearly a million dollars, a good life, and freedom. Figure this number out, write yourself a check for it, and consider it your signing bonus for making a good long-term decision and sticking it out.

2. Think “Transfer.” Have a main campus school in mind? Great. Keep your eyes on the prize, but also keep your options open because schools ranging from large public to small privates will compete for you. They do this in the form of financial aid packages
and scholarships which can lower the cost significantly. You don’t find this stuff on a homepage of a web site, you find it by talking to those staff people who are paid to make you successful.

There are enough people out there putting up barriers for you, don’t put one up for yourself. So, don’t shop by the overall sticker price of these universities, shop by the final price tag after available awards.

3. Get Involved, Discover the Money. Oh yes, there is money out there and it usually goes to those who simply show up and commit to complete. Phi Theta Kappa, in example, is a community college honor society. This organization takes in students enrolled in a two-year program, who can maintain a B+ academic standard, and can live with integrity.

The opportunity cost of not choosing to get involved with this group can be several thousands of dollars simply left on the table. While visiting a community college, I saw this organization’s “transfer scholarship” list. This list signifies piles of cash all of the schools that pay anywhere from $1,500 to $17,000 to transfer to them. Crazy talk. Go after it.

There are many reasons students who chose community colleges can be remarkably successful. These are just a few of the tips to move your further, faster, with great results. Remember: Know the cost of not sticking to your commitment, keep your options open and have a transfer-to-the-best-opportunity mindset from the start, and get involved in opportunities that literally pay you to help you win in life.

Credit // Author: Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is a first-generation college student who has spent much of his career researching and working with community college students. Learn more about Kevin and his keynotes at