By Dr. Eric Leshinskie
Vice President of Academic Affairs at Paradise Valley Community College

As summer winds down and fall quickly approaches, many high school graduates may still be considering their next step both personally and professionally. Furthermore, as the job market continues to show signs of improvement, many working adults may be looking for ways to get ahead in their current job or may be interested in switching careers. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or a working adult, starting or returning to college today will definitely help you to create a better tomorrow.

In my 15 years working with community college students, I am constantly amazed with just how many activities and responsibilities are part of our students’ lives. Many college students juggle their studies with part-time jobs and family responsibilities, often pulling them in multiple directions. Sometimes, students are able to thrive with such busy lives, and they can handle the hectic pace of managing college while having so little free time. These success stories are often so inspiring! Other students, however, struggle to fit their studies into their busy schedules and consequently, may choose to postpone their college career until their lives are more manageable. Unfortunately, many students who make this decision often do not return to college because life often gets in the way. This is why I encourage students to start their college journey, even if only enrolling in one class, to experience the excitement of the college learning environment and to begin to build a better tomorrow.

Fortunately, college campuses are becoming better prepared to meet the needs of students leading such busy lives. Faculty, staff, and administrators are working to reshape the mindset from whether students are ready for college to whether colleges are ready for students. This paradigm shift creates more innovative ways to support learning and to support students in achieving their goals. First, most colleges offer flexible start dates for their courses. Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC), for example, offers a wide array of courses that start throughout each semester, providing students with flexibility to begin courses in a timeframe that meets their needs. In addition, most colleges offer different ways to take courses, either face-to-face or in an online learning environment. This variety appeals to the working professional or the busy parent, again providing the necessary flexibility for students to take courses in a manner that best suits their learning needs.

College campuses are also redesigning their support services to meet students’ needs. For example, online tutoring services are offered at most colleges to allow students to receive the additional support they need when they need it. Similarly, the PVCC library offers a 24/7 Ask a Librarian service that provides around the clock research support for students. Finally, colleges have created electronic student centers that allow students the ability to enroll and pay for classes, and even to seek advising.

Students sometimes experience anxiety when stepping into a college classroom for the first time, questioning whether they will be able to keep up with the pace of the college coursework, or if college is even the right place for them. One of the hallmarks of community colleges, however, is they strive to provide a supportive and welcoming environment. One way this is accomplished is by having lower class sizes, with most classes ranging from 20-30 students. Additionally, instructors take the time to get to know their students, placing a high value on building relationships in the classroom to support student learning. Finally, colleges offer college success courses to assist students in transitioning back to the classroom. These courses, taught by highly qualified faculty counselors, provide students with the necessary tips and strategies to be successful.

Starting college now is a great choice. There will be a variety of reasons why you shouldn’t start your college journey today; however, colleges are designed to meet your needs. You are definitely ready to help yourself create a better future.

Dr. Eric Leshinskie is the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC). PVCC offers courses classes at two convenient locations. The PVCC Union Hills campus is located on Union Hills and 32nd Street. PVCC at Black Mountain is located on 60th street and Carefree Highway.