Distinguished Education Consultant Aims to Improve First Generation and Minority Student Success

Getting into college is hard enough, but for many students, graduating is another obstacle that only 57 percent achieve in six years. That number is lower for minority students, with only 49 percent of Hispanic students and 40 percent of black students earning their bachelor’s degree in six years.

I can finish collegeMarcia Cantarella, PhD, believes that fear is the biggest obstacle to student success, and has compiled her 20-plus years of experience in higher education into the new college guide, I Can Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide 

I Can Finish College is designed to answer questions students did not even know they had, from admissions to college life and academics to looking ahead to your career after graduation.

The book takes students through the central issues, experiences, processes, and relationships they will encounter in the years leading up to getting a college degree, including:

  • Why College?: Clarify your goals, and find a school that aligns with your college plan. Also outlines options for non-U.S. citizens.
  • Which Courses?: How to select your major, courses, and electives, and the impact of transferring schools
  • The Professors: What the faculty really does, how they can be helpful, and the best ways to approach professors. Also what to do if you disagree about a grade.
  • Time Management and Study Skills: How to balance the demands of coursework, a job, a relationship, and leadership roles, and still make the grade
  • Preparing for Life after College: Building toward a career while you are still in school and practical tips for transitioning to a career or graduate school


A STUDENT’S STRATEGY:  OPAL HOPE BENNETT, New York University ’98, Attorney 

My best practices for time management while in school involved having the right plan and the right tools.

The Plan

  • Always record your obligations in a space where you can see them all at one time (for example, syllabus assignments; committee meetings; Aunt Sally’s birthday).
  • Take the time to plan out a to-do list that covers a week, a month, and a semester at a time.
  • Only use a plan to the extent that it helps; don’t obsess over it.
  • Don’t overload yourself by taking on too many obligations.  Always keep your principal endeavor first.  Always make time for play.

The Tools

  • I used a desk blotter calendar that I mounted on my wall, and I had four different color markers for four categories of activities: Personal, Class, Extracurricular, and Assignments/Deadlines.
  • A day planner is essential. 

Note: Opal worked as an undergraduate 20 hours a week in a college office, was a leader in several clubs, took graduate level courses, had an outstanding GPA and always knew where the free events in the city were on weekends.

P. 164 I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide  

Marcia Y. Cantarella, PhD  is the author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide  (www.icanfinishcollege.com) and a consultant on higher education, access and success. (mycantarella@icanfinishcollege.com) More tips, stories and information on managing time in college can be found in Chapter 8 of I CAN Finish College

Marcia CantarellaMarcia Y. Cantarella, PhD, has held positions at Hunter College, Princeton University, New York University, and Metropolitan College of New York during her distinguished career as a dean and vice president of student affairs. Through her expertise in delivering student services and strategies, she has enhanced the academic experiences of and outcomes for generations of students.

She is president of Cantarella Consulting in New York City, where she works with colleges and organizations on issues of higher education pipelines, access, diversity, and student access.  She is the daughter of the late civil rights leader Whitney M. Young, Jr.

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