"They Never Told Me What to Expect, So I Didn't Know What to Do": Defining and Clarifying the Role of a Community College Student
Increasing the number of young people who attain postsecondary credentials has become one of the primary educational objectives of the 2010s. While low college success rates are typically linked to students' lack of academic preparation for college and their subsequent need for developmental or remedial instruction, research suggests that even many students who are deemed "college-ready" by virtue of their placement test scores or completion of developmental coursework still do not earn a credential. This paper builds on previous work arguing that community college success is dependent not only upon academic preparation but also upon a host of important skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are often left unspoken. Drawing on role theory and on a qualitative study conducted at three community colleges, this paper aims to clarify the role of community college student and the components of that role that must be enacted for students to be successful. Using data from interviews at the study sites, we provide a concrete, actionable description of the community college student role. We also present a framework that practitioners can use to help students learn how to be successful community college students.
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