Category: Suzanne Wegmiller’s Blog Posts

Suzanne Wegmiller, Executive Director, shares her thoughts on hot topics, common questions, and all things higher education.

Making a Perfect Choice

Many high school seniors have a difficult time trying to figure out what to do after high school. One of the reasons is the fear of making the “wrong” choice. Which college is the perfect choice? What major is the perfect choice?

I’m writing this blog post to say I don’t think there is a “perfect” choice. For every student, there are probably two or three choices that would be great. Several colleges could be a good fit and provide a solid education.

So there might not need a “perfect” choice, but everyone needs at least one good choice. Preparing early is one of the best ways to make sure you will have a good option after graduation. Crosby Scholars works with students in middle school. It’s not too early for them to start thinking about their future selves. Do they want to go to college for 4 years, or would they prefer a shorter 2-year path? What kind of lifestyle do they want to achieve?

High school students can prepare to have several good choices after graduation.  Building leadership skills and volunteering will improve the chances of getting a scholarship. By studying hard and making the effort, they can learn time management and other good habits. Students who do this earn good grades.

The trouble is, many students don’t worry about these things until their senior year. By then, time is too short. High school success starts the first day of freshman year. (Some students get a head start by developing good academic habits in middle school!

There’s a song called, Freewill, by Rush. Some of the lyrics are “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Think about it. If you choose to do no planning or preparation for your future, you are making a choice. You’re choosing to limit your options.

I spoke to middle school students several years ago about rowing the boat or floating in the current. If you choose to float, you are at the mercy of the tides or currents. You may run into rocks or overturn because of a  branch in your path. If you choose to row, you have to use energy to work, but you also have control. You can steer clear of danger and speed up or slow down.  Most of us enjoy having some control!

Crosby Scholars is here to encourage students to plan for a future they want. We help provide resources and support to help students row their boat in the direction they wish to go.

Community College is not a Dirty Word

Are you a parent thinking community college is fine—as long as it’s not where your student will attend? Students, do you think less of your peers if they attend community college? Face it, whether we like it or not, there is a stigma about attending a two-year college.  

It’s time to change the idea that a community college education is only a fallback plan. Many students and their parents don’t even consider community college. They believe that classes or the campus experience at a two-year school are not as good.  

Last year, Mitchell Community College was the top choice for Crosby Scholar graduates. But, “I’m only/just going to Mitchell” is a statement we heard way too often! Students should be proud to attend community college. Crosby Scholar alums who attend community college aren’t there because they lacked options. They chose a two-year college for good reasons.  


The old adage, “you get what you pay for” doesn’t work when talking about college. The price of college (which varies widely) doesn’t always reflect the value of what you are earning. Instead of seeing community college as a great value, people assume that if it is cheaper, it must not be as good. There is nothing wrong in wanting to earn a degree in a cost-effective way. One semester of tuition and fees at App State will cost about the same as three semesters at MCC. Avoiding student debt is a very good reason for choosing an economical education. 

Students who choose a career degree at a community college also do well. There are two-year degree programs that result in high-wage occupations. (Think R.N.’s, medical technologists, engineering technicians, etc.). For students interested in these careers, community college is a no-brainer!  


In NC, we are lucky to have a community college in every county. Students who have family responsibilities or a job are able to commute. Room and board prices at colleges are often as much or more than tuition and fees. Families have already covered those costs, so living at home doesn’t add to the bill for parents.  

Big fish, smaller pond 

Students at community college won’t find themselves in a class of 100 or 200 students. They will also have professors as teachers, not graduate students. Professors at community colleges spend most of their time in the classroom, teaching. Community colleges have libraries, student clubs, campus activities, and new people to meet.  

Career and transfer options 

Many students want to transfer credits from a community college to a university. To make this possible, courses must be similar. Two- and four-year colleges earn accreditation from the same organization. They must meet the same standards for faculty credentials. 

Every four-year college accepts transfer students—even the most competitive institutions. Research shows that two-year college graduates complete a four-year degree more often than other students. Those same two-year graduates are also have higher grades than their counterparts who were at the university for four years. 

Support systems 

Why do these students do better? Some of these students realize they are not ready to move out and take on more responsibility. By commuting to school, they maintain support systems with local teachers and family members. Gaining confidence through successful college work is valuable before starting at a university. 

So, let’s all work to get rid of the stigma that community college is less. The only way to correct this perception is to change our own attitudes and behaviors. Students should not be “looked down upon” for selecting a higher education path that is the best fit for them. Instead, let’s congratulate students on making the right choice for them! 

A Secret to College Success: Awesome Academic Advising

Coordinator of Advising and Assessment—my first position after completing graduate school. At Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio, I trained faculty advisors to work in the Advising Center. These expert advisors could explain a variety of options and possibilities for every student. They knew about every program offered at the college. 

Like today, students struggled with transportation and budgets. As advisors, we knew that it was important to take all these factors into account as we worked with people. We stayed in close contact with financial aid, career counseling, and other student services. We helped connect students to other resources available to them.

Students I knew came to college to make their lives better. Some were re-training after a lay-off. Others were coming to college for the first time after children were older. A few were starting over after making a poor attempt at college right after high school. So why, then and now, do students who come to the college so motivated, not finish a degree? Why is there such a high rate of attrition at community colleges and universities? 

There are many answers to those questions. This blog is focused on one. Students don’t finish degrees when they never see a clear pathway to the goal. Taking a class here and there with little direction means that a student often doesn’t see a finish line. Or, because of haphazard scheduling, the finish line is further away than it could have been. Most students, though, do have a goal that they want to complete—usually in the shortest time possible. 

When I was a freshman, I received a paper worksheet that listed all the requirements for my degree. My path was visible on that 8.5 x 11 page. I loved using my highlighter to cross off classes every quarter. I felt a great deal of satisfaction as I completed more and more pieces of my program. Today, many of those worksheets are digital, but still a powerful tool and motivator!

I had the advantage of knowing the degree I wanted to pursue when I started college. But, it’s okay to start as an “undecided” or “undeclared” major. These students need advisors and information more than anyone! One benefit of not declaring a major is the freedom to explore options. Yet, this can and should happen with a plan in mind. Advisors can recommend courses to a student based on conversations with him or her. The advisor knows the course offerings, professors, and “insider” information. By working with an advisor, the student’s schedule can be the best possible choice each term. 

Colleges publish plenty of information about degree plans and program offerings. But, advisors always know more than what’s in writing. They know which professors might be on sabbatical or medical leave. They often know what type of research a professor is conducting. Advisors know which courses are offered in certain patterns. Although 100 level courses are for freshmen, the advisor knows which ones tend to be more difficult than described. They can suggest good fits during the semester that requires several difficult courses. They also know about clubs and organizations on campus that might interest a student. Students who know their academic advisors well receive more than a signature on a schedule each semester. 

Students, though, should not depend on the advisor alone. Each student must become a self-advisor, too. Students need to know the degree requirements and the recommended course sequences. Undergrads should read the college catalog. They should explore study abroad, online, and other options. Good advising happens when a student brings a tentative schedule to the appointment. Instead of dealing only with scheduling questions, there will be time to talk about internships or co-op experiences. Students and advisors might also discuss the best options for classes in a minor field of study. Job opportunities in the field could also be a topic of conversation. 

Advising is offered by colleges to support students. Students should take full advantage!