Expert Tips for Freshmen Ease Drop-Out Rates

Jonathan Caballeros, El Vaquero Staff Writer

Approximately half of community college freshmen drop out in their first year, according to the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE).

About 2,000 freshmen attend GCC every fall semester. Under the PACE analysis, about 1,000 will drop out by the end of the spring semester.

To help increase retention rates, professors, counselors and students have come up with some tips on how to keep students coming back to campus and how to handle the college lifestyle in terms of finance and counseling.

There are many ways for students to keep the price of college to a minimum.

Students can go to the financial aid office located at SF 110 and apply for the financial support they need to continue on the path of higher learning.

Students can also check if they qualify for financial aid on the internet, by visiting and starting a new FAFSA application.

“Remember that financial aid is limited,” said Interim Controller and Instructor of Accounting Amir Nour. “Use your financial aid wisely. There is a six year cap to it.”

Scholarships are also another way to pay for college expenses, whether or not the student is qualified for financial aid.

The scholarship office, located at J.W. Smith Center, can help students who have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and have completed 12 units on campus, with applying for GCC scholarships.

GCC gives more than 500 scholarships, totaling around $300,000 every year, and the scholarships are typically used for registration, tuition and books.

If students would like to know more about GCC scholarships, they can visit to see which scholarship can be right for them.

The deadline for GCC scholarships is on March 20, so with only two weeks, it’s best to apply as quickly as possible.

Another way to save money while attending college is by taking advantage of public transportation.

According to AAA, as of April 2012, the average sedan costs 59.6 cents a mile to drive and costs an average of $8,946 annually to maintain, assuming an annual driving distance of 15,000 miles.

On the other hand, a Metro student bus pass cost $36 a month, or $432 annually. A Glendale resident can save more money by using the Beeline, as student Beeline passes cost $22 a month, or $264 annually. Getting a regular Metro bus pass, which costs $75 a month, or $900 annually, would save the rider more than $8,000 a year.

An option for mass transit users is the EZ Transit pass which cost $84 a month and $1,008 annually, which is $7,900 less than the cost of driving. The card allows students to ride most buses in LA County such as Big Blue Bus, DASH, Beeline and Metro as well as a reduced fares for express buses.

If transit is not much of a problem, but choosing classes or a major is, there are many resources for students to use.

The campus transfer center, located on the second floor of the San Rafael building, has many counselors to help students who want to graduate on campus and/or transfer to a four-year institution.

“Keep an open mind where you are going,” said Kevin Meza, a counselor and Transfer Center coordinator. “Try to finish math and English first, so you have time to focus on your other classes as well.”

“Don’t complain about reading the material, because in university you’ll be reading 10 times as much,” said Nick Smith, communications professor.

Students also had a say in how to do well in college.

“One thing you must do is you have to read your assignments,” said Bernardo Parada, 19, a fire science major. “It’s nearly impossible to do very well playing ‘catch-up’ in class.”

Alex Davis, 19, a second year student on campus, said that freshmen shouldn’t let the new freedom of being in college go to their heads.

“It’s so easy to get behind, because of the freedom,” said Davis. “You have to stay on top of homework.”

Even GCC Interim Superintendent/President Jim Riggs had a few tips for freshmen.

“Set aside time to study, and make it routine,” said Riggs. “And also try to be open and explore, try joining a student club. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

After a year of being on campus, students may still not know about all of the programs on campus. Exploring the many resources and options that the campus offers is always a great thing to do.

Whether it is learning about new scholarships and classes or finding a new club or niche on campus, freshmen, as well as all students, should always look for options to stay in class, and excel in school.