The New Normal
By Constance Bennett-Williams, director, Columbia College-Mesquite
Have you noticed the incredible diversity of students at Columbia College? The students that attend the Mesquite location come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and that diversity brings tremendous richness to the classroom experience. Nearly all of these students fit into the “non-traditional” category. What exactly does that mean?
Traditional students have been characterized as those individuals who go straight into college after they graduate from high school, usually enrolling full-time, living on a residential campus and still financially dependent on their parents. Interestingly, these “traditional” college students no longer make up the majority of students in the United States.
Instead, the type of students now termed “non-traditional”—the type served by Mesquite—are greater in number than the so-called traditional students. These folks are over 25 years of age, entered the workforce in the years following high school or served some time in the military, are financially independent and often enroll part-time. Non-traditional students have differing needs, expectations and challenges than their traditional counterparts, though.
For example, some of the challenges they face as a college student include:
- Feeling alienated from their peers who have already completed college.
- Experiencing financial pressure from increased expenses due to educational costs.
- Becoming engaged in learning process due to many outside distractors, which can also make them less likely to persist.
- Uncertainty over how to efficiently manage their time — not sure how much time will be needed to succeed academically.
- Facing concerns about their math, writing, test-taking, reading and study skills because they have been out of school for a while.
- Undergoing stress due to the multiple areas of responsibility they have — family, child or elder care, social and community activities, work, etc.
- Having family members who may not be fully aware of the time needed to spend on their studies and also worried about not spending enough time with their kids.
- May be a first-generation college student and not sure what to expect.
- Feeling concerns about being in classroom again and may be reluctant to participate.
- Experiencing possible technology challenges with unfamiliar systems.
- Raising questions about whether the time, money and effort put into school will yield a good return on investment for their career path.
On the flip side, though, non-traditional students also have greater opportunities for success in pursuing their education due to these positive qualities:
- More life experience and greater knowledge about the real world around them, which places new learning in proper context so that it can be practicably applied.
- A strong desire to finish college and to complete it as quickly as possible — more focused and determined to achieve a postsecondary degree.
- Well-prepared to make the sacrifices needed to reach educational goals.
- Knowing exactly why they are in school and what they want to gain from it.
- Familiar with technology as it is used in the working world.
- Able to achieve better grades due to greater effort and focus.
- A family that is supportive and encouraging and feeling proud of setting a good example for their kids (or grandkids).
That’s why we are here—our job at Columbia College-Mesquite is to help our non-traditional students overcome the challenges listed above and optimize their positive attributes so that they can succeed in achieving their educational goals. Columbia College as a whole is committed to helping this process by: offering different methods of course delivery (i.e., in-seat and online); scheduling classes in an accelerated format that allows students to progress through their program more quickly and achieve their degree sooner; making transfer credit policies that are student-friendly; connecting students to real advisors that can help navigate academic and financial concerns; and keeping tuition and fees affordable to reduce educational debt. You may be considered “non-traditional” in higher education, but you are definitely the type of student for whom we exist to serve here in Mesquite!
New job market research confirms you’re on the right path
by Department of Marketing (go to top)
Wondering about your job prospects after you complete your degree?
There’s good news on the horizon. New college graduates are seeing the best job market in years—and it spans across most industries, CNBC reported earlier this year.
There’s a good reason to be hopeful the trend will continue. Baby boomers—that large generation of workers born between 1946 and 1964—are retiring at staggering rates, leaving behind a trail of unprecedented opportunity.
So what does that mean for you?
You’re on the right path. Earning a degree now can have significant return on investment as employers scramble to fill these vacant professional roles over the coming years.
Here are a few things to consider as you prepare for new career opportunities:
- You’ll obviously want to stay the course and finish your degree. According to Marketwatch, nine out of 10 new jobs require a college degree. Employers will value your accredited degree, regardless of your major. They’re looking for the types of skills you’re developing—the ability to think critically, solve problems, manage your time effectively and work both independently and as part of a team. So be mindful of what you’re learning. In addition to knowing subject material, take note of the times you present in class, work on a team project or successfully balance your class, work and life obligations. These can be excellent skills to tout when you’re telling a future employer why you’d make a great addition to the team.
- Take advantage of the connections you’re making while in college. Be sure to get to know your classmates —regardless of whether you’re taking classes online with others from across the country or in seat with people from your community. This is a great time to network with like-minded peers, and you never know where these connections could lead.
- The same is true of your instructors. Be sure to ask questions, respond to online chats, speak up in class and meet with your advisor. Faculty members can be a great source for networking and can serve as a reference for you when it’s time to apply for a new job.
- Be sure to use the college’s Grossnickle Career Services Center. Even if you have an up-to-date resume that’s worked in the past, it’s always smart to get a fresh perspective. Prior to interviewing for that dream job, schedule a mock interview over the phone with a career advisor. And take a few minutes to scan the job openings on Handshake, our online job database: it may reveal opportunities you didn’t know existed.
- Outside of school, find experienced workers who have held the positions you are interested in. Ask them to describe their responsibilities and day-to-day duties. Seek their mentorship. Document what you learn. Employers will be impressed you took the time to know more.
- Finally—and it’s worth repeating—stay the course. Register for at least one class each session until you graduate.
There’s a “help wanted” sign hanging from the American job market. Now’s the perfect time to invest in the rest of your life.
Meet Tiffani Martin!
My name is Tiffani Martin, I’m the senior career specialist for the Grossnickle Career Services Center, and I’ve worked professionally in the field of human resources for the past eight years. I was employed by the State of Missouri for most of that time before joining the Career Services team at Columbia College last fall. Prior to my HR experience, I served as an educator (park naturalist) and manager for Missouri State Parks.
As a recruiter, what were some of the most common mistakes you saw applicants make?
Overlooking the value of a cover letter was one of the most common mistakes I saw applicants make. Many of the candidates I vetted over the years relied on their resumes to get them a seat in front of the interview panel. That doesn’t always work, especially when a recruiter or hiring manager has a lot of resumes to sift through. Providing a quality cover letter that serves as an extension of the resume is always more impressive than simply relying on a one-page resume to sell yourself.
Another common mistake was not completing the application correctly. Whether or not a person can follow instructions is a good way for a hiring manager to learn a bit about that applicant’s work style before even speaking to them. If there’s an application…even if it asks for the same information you provide on your resume…always fill it out and submit it with your resume! In many instances, that application is just as much a test as it is a request for basic information.
What were some of the primary things you looked for on a resume during your first glance?
First and foremost for my employer was education. Most of the vacancies I worked with were full-time positions that required a college degree. Putting your education at the top of your resume where it catches the eye of the recruiter or hiring manager is a plus. However, if the position you’re applying for doesn’t call for an advanced degree, and you believe your experience provides a better example of your eligibility, move your education down lower on the page.
It’s important to note that most recruiters won’t read your entire resume. I paid particular attention to the layout of each resume I reviewed. If it was nicely put together, neatly arranged, and consistent in formatting, I then checked education, graduation date, and skimmed the details of the first job listed under Work Experience. Misspelled words were a big flag. Basic grammar and editing are important, so be sure to have someone check your resume before submitting it to a potential employer.
During an interview, how important were the candidate’s non-verbal cues and why?
As much as I completely understand the nervousness that comes along with every interview, it’s important to keep your head about you and focus on answering the questions rather than your nerves. Yes, you will probably sweat and fidget, so put on some extra deodorant that morning and fidget under the table out of sight of the interviewers. I’ve sat through some pretty uncomfortable interviews, and not because of what the candidate said. The more nervous the candidate appeared, the more uncomfortable I was, and unfortunately, that is remembered.
How do you avoid that nervousness? Practice your interviewing skills whenever and with whomever you can! The more you put yourself on the spot, the easier it will be the day of the actual interview. I’m not saying you’ll feel completely comfortable, but practice will certainly help.
What do you enjoy about working at Columbia College?
The team of people I work with is one-of-a-kind. We laugh together, we help each other out, we complement each other, and we have (actual) fun at work. That’s hard to find! After the team comes the students. Columbia College students are courteous, smart, and driven to succeed. I love hearing success stories from current students and alums; those stories make my job even more rewarding. I also enjoy hearing from employers that hire our students, whether full-time, part-time, or as interns. I haven’t gotten a negative comment yet!
ASL award highlights scholarship opportunities for all
by Kevin Fletcher (go to top)
Seven years ago, Lielbeyn Blackman was not in a good place in her life. She had just removed herself from an abusive marriage, was struggling and was scared. For the next four years, she’d move to a different home each year because of financial struggles. Finally, in 2016, she decided to enroll in college.
As a full-time working mother and honor student, Blackman earned an associate degree from Columbia College-Fort Sill in 2018; she is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. One way to make it easier to reach your educational goals is to apply for scholarships; Blackman was one of 120 applicants representing 78 colleges and universities for a scholarship from Alpha Sigma Lambda, the national honor society for adult learners.
In June, Liel learned that she was one of 13 recipients of a $3,500 ASL scholarship.
“I am writing to encourage someone else that does not believe in themselves or the impact that education can have on their lives,” wrote Blackman in an essay to Alpha Sigma Lambda. “It’s not going to be easy, but I can say that it is not impossible. Anything you put your mind to is achievable, and it cannot happen until you take away the fear by deciding to begin the journey. We may not know each other, but I believe in you, and you should believe in yourself too.”
Liel also earned one of eight $1,000 scholarships this summer from the Columbia College Alumni Association. “Columbia College has been so helpful through it all, and now because of everyone’s support and encouragement, I now have that support system. Today, I am stronger, wiser and forever grateful.”
Get information on the CCAA Scholars Program, look for application information early next year, and apply for scholarships!
Get your e-books here!
By Stafford Library (go to top)
Did you know that Columbia College’s Stafford Library provides access to e-books? The Library’s main provider of e-books is EBSCO. EBSCO e-books are online versions of print books that the library has either licensed or provided through an annual subscription. E-books that are owned will be available to the library as long as the Library provides access; e-books available through subscription are renewed yearly for access through the Library. EBSCO e-books are available in many different subjects and fields. With EBSCO e-books you can:
- Download titles to mobile devices.
- Search a book for specific words or phrases
- Save, print, or email chapters or sections
- Copy and paste portions of text for easy access during the research process
- Link to books or book chapters for easy reference
- Save a list of books to a personal book shelf
- Generate or export citations to citation tools
- Save notes to a folder with an myEBSCOhost account
EBSCO e-books can be found either through CougarSearch on the Library’s main page or through the Books tab located above the CougarSearch box. Librarians have also created course and subject guides in each major and minor and various other topics, complete with suggested e-books in each of the guides. Guides can be located below the CougarSearch box or at library.ccis.edu/guides. All e-books are available at any time. If you have any questions, the library can be contacted by phone at (573) 875-7381 or (800) 231-2391, ext. 7381; by email at email@example.com; by text at (573) 535-5449; or by chat on the library’s homepage.