The G.I.F.T of Education

by Thu Nguyen, Cerritos College Counselor

Lately I have met with students to discuss their probationary or terminated statuses with financial aid because they did not meet Satisfactory Academic Progress, which includes maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA and obtaining a 70% completion rate. It’s a difficult conversation to have, because many students encounter challenges that affected their grades or their ability to complete their courses. Some students have to work extra to help pay a mortgage, others have to take time to help sick family members, or some are taking courses that are more challenging than usual. As I reflected on this, I knew that I would not have been able to earn my college degree if it were not for the financial assistance that I received as a student. I have always valued my opportunity to attend college, and seeing how difficult it can be for others, I really feel like my education was a gift that I received and I’m grateful for.  

 I explored different strategies with students and the following are some key highlights. For me, mnemonic devices have always been helpful to remember information so here’s an example of using an acronym—G.I.F.T:

 Grades – aim high! Keep a minimum of 2.0 GPA, but aim for higher–‘A’s and ‘B’s. Consider:

  • Visiting your instructors’ office hours if you have questions about class topics
  • Getting a tutor – check with the Success Center
  • Forming a study group with classmates (find people who are motivated share the same goals of academic success as you)
  • Learning how to calculate your GPA by going to the Transfer Center website & click on GPA calculator on bottom right menu ‘Transfer Links’

Invest – reflect on why you are attending college. Make sure you understand the importance of your education and invest your energy in succeeding. Some investments you can make:

  • Buy your textbook and course materials on-time (buy things you ‘need’ before things you just ‘want’)
  • Choose to invest your energy into your course assignments before participating in other non-pressing activities (ex: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Unmotivated because you’re unsure of your major? Attend a Choosing a Major workshop through the Career Center

Finish – make the commitment to finish. Not completing or withdrawing from classes will decrease your completion rates.

  • Before withdrawing from a class, talk it through with someone like your instructor or a counselor about the ‘pros’ & ‘cons’
  • Know the deadlines to withdraw according to the Calendar of Important dates in the Class Schedule
  • Identify mentor(s) who can help motivate you to overcome barriers and persist. You can also check out Coaching Corps through iFALCON  
  • Learn how to calculate completion rates according to the 2012-13 SAP policy

 Time – make sure you have a well-balanced schedule between school, work, & other activities.

  • Focus on completing important tasks in advance before they become urgent. If you sort your tasks like this chart below, prioritize your time to complete tasks in Quadrant II first.




Not Urgent


Quadrant I (Important & Urgent)

  • Example:  staying up all night cramming for a test next morning

Quadrant II (Important, Not Urgent)

  • Example: start studying for your midterm 2 weeks in advance

Not Important

Quadrant III (Not Important & Urgent)

  • Example: fixing someone else’s problem

Quadrant IV (Not Important & Not Urgent)

  • Example: mindlessly watching television


  • Have a place to record all course assignments so that you can get them done on time. Organize your course assignments using a planner, a ‘to-do’ list, your phone calendar, a wall calendar…basically use whatever strategies work best for you!

What about other campus resources to help you stay on track?

  • Want to speak to a counselor but have a hard time getting an appointment? Attend a Counseling Tune Up workshop.
  • Want to be better prepared for exams? Attend a test preparation workshop at the Student Success Center.  
  • Feeling a high level of stress or anxiety? You can get psychological counseling at the Student Health Center.

There are many resources available to students at Cerritos College; I encourage you to start exploring them so that you not only maintain satisfactory academic progress if you are receiving financial aid but to perform your best in school.   

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2 Responses to The G.I.F.T of Education

  1. José says:

    Excellent! Didn’t realize I was doing all of these, it actually works!

  2. francisco says:

    I did not realize that I had a backlog for enrollment into classes that began this March/13. They are online classes but the problem is they are becoming too expensive. I am pounding on dropping them, but it looks like if I do it now they will be on my record. I think should be a way to minimize that effect. I already have a 12 unit load. Any advice?

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