pexels cottonbro 5989941

New to community college? You’re not alone: how career coaches help pave the way for a positive experience back in school

Sometimes, all it takes is having a positive attitude, working hard and connecting with a good leader to help you accomplish your goals. While higher education can be intimidating, career coaches from community colleges across Virginia shared their best advice for getting started back at school. And while each career coach had slightly different tips to share, they all agreed that one of the best ways to be successful is taking advantage of the resources and staff there to help.

All types of resources

Whether it’s learning about financial aid options, borrowing a loaner laptop or even preparing for a job interview, career coaches support students in and out of the classroom to ensure they have everything they need to succeed.  

“My team and I try to offer resources that minimize barriers for students: laptop loaners, tutoring, gas cards and Kroger gift cards. I also connect students with community resources, such as the Department of Social Services, SNAP and disability assistance, if needed,” said Asia Harrison with Patrick Henry Community College.

The average out-of-pocket cost of a FastForward training course is less than $700, but with so many state-funded financial programs available, including G3, VA Ready, FANTIC and more, you can cut the cost down even more. Working with a career coach early-on will help you navigate the multitude of funding sources, so you can get trained without accumulating large amounts of debt.

Checking in throughout the year

Career coaches have regular check-ins with students throughout the semester to work through and accommodate for life events that may require additional support. Adrianna Culbertson with Southwest Virginia Community College explained that her involvement with students starts the first day of class and continues all the way until they walk across the stage at graduation and beyond.

“We provide lots of resources to ensure success. In the beginning, when meeting and registering a student, financial support is provided. During the class, I check in with both the student and instructor to see if tutoring or other services are needed, like access to our food bank.  And when the class is winding down, I help students connect to our Career Services Coordinator for help with resumes, interview tips and finding employers,” Culbertson said.

Surrounded by similar backgrounds

While it’s normal to feel like you are surrounded by students with years of experience, Mary Pat Hudgins with the Community College Workforce Alliance shared that lots of students are new to community college and starting from a similar place.  

“If this is a new situation for you, it’s important to know that you are in good company. The colleges provide excellent support through tutoring, math and English labs, great advising and connections to other resources through Single Stop,” Hudgins said.

Plus—FastForward training programs take a hands-on approach, which helps ease students into the industry with tangible skills that extend beyond the classroom.

Positive outlook

Lastly, a positive attitude and a willingness to seek help are both critical components to start off strong.

“They can do it. Bring a good work ethic to class, and we will work to help you succeed,” said Perry Hughes with Wytheville Community College.

Even if there are bumps along the way, Lee Davis with Mountain Empire Community College said, “Don’t give up. There are people willing to help. Adult education, community colleges, and workforce centers are there to help you get were you want to go.”

Remember, career coaches, instructors and staff members just want to see you succeed. With their support and these tips, feel confident enrolling in a FastForward training program at your local community college and gearing up for your future career.

To connect with a career coach and explore FastForward’s training programs at your local community college, click this link.