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Connect to succeed

“Drive-through education” — go to class, then go home — won’t lead to a degree, writes Isa Adney in Community College Success. Connecting to classmates and professors, building a network of friends and mentors, is the key to success.

That’s not easy for a first-generation student, as I write in U.S. News.

“I had a lot of fear” in the first semester, Adney says. “Professors are incredibly intimidating. They’re up there. They know all this stuff.”

When a professor wrote “see me” on her paper, she was terrified. It turned out he wanted to tell her about the honors program.

First-generation community college students may not understand their instructors’ expectations, concludes Rebecca Cox, a Seton Hall education professor, in The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand One Another. Students in introductory classes told Cox they feared being exposed “as too stupid for college classes” if they spoke up in class or asked for help.

“Everyone’s scared” at first, Adney says. “It’s about the courage to take that first step.”

Once students connect with friends who’ll share information, they’re more likely to feel at home on campus and stay in school, researchers have found.

Students also need to think through why they’re in college, so they can set goals and develop an education plan, Adney advises. Like driving through, wandering doesn’t work well.