College Preparation

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College Toolkit


Welcome to Metropolitan Community College!

We want to help you make a smooth transition into MCC-KC by sharing information that is critical to you as a new student, and things you'll be expected to know when you start classes. Even returning students may learn something new!

This College Success Toolkit is a supplement to the New Student Orientation held on campus at each college. These pages give you information you need as you start and progress through your semester. We hope this online resource will help you feel positive, confident, and organized when you start the term.

While you may choose to go through these pages in any order, it is important that you read each section. Don't worry - we've kept them short. The best way is to start at the beginning. Just use the navigation at the top and bottom of each page to work through the various topics.

There are numerous differences you will find between high school and college, and if you are aware of some of them before you start school, the transition could be a little easier.

The table below lists some of the differences identified by students, staff and faculty from around the country.

It isn't an exhaustive list, as each individual has different experiences, but they do point out some common things everyone experiences.


High School is mandatory and usually free.

College is voluntary and expensive.

Your time is structured by others.

You manage your own time.

Teacher-student contact is closer and more frequent.

Instructor-student contact is less frequent (1-3 times per week).

Most of your classes are already selected for you.

You pick your own schedule in consultation with an advisor.

You attend class an entire day.

Your schedule looks light, with sometimes only 1 or 2 classes per day.

Homework outside of class is expected to only take you about a half-hour to hour to complete.

You are expected to spend up to 3 hours outside of class preparing for class and working on assignments for the class.

You are usually told what to do and corrected if the behavior is out of line.

You are expected to take responsibility for what you do and don't do, as well as face the consequences of your decisions.

You rarely need to read anything more than once, and sometimes listening in class is enough.

You need to review class notes and text material regularly.

You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often re-taught, in class.

You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be directly addressed in class.

Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance.

Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance.

Teachers are often available for conversation before, during or after class.

Professors expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours.

Teachers provide you with information you missed when you were absent.

Professors expect you to get notes you missed from your classmates, not them.


Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and due dates. They usually give you time to work on assignments in class.

Professors expect you to follow the syllabus and be responsible for turning your work in on time with very little reminding. It is rare if you get time in class to work on assignments.

Teachers carefully monitor class attendance, tardiness, etc.

Professors may not formally address attendance or tardiness, but they are still likely to know and it can account for grade differences, as they take it as a sign of your commitment to their class.

Teachers often write information on the board to be copied into your notes, or tell you what is important to know for a test.

Professors may lecture non-stop, expecting you to identify what is important or relevant. When professors write on the board it is to add to the lecture, not summarize it.

There are often many other assignments to make up grades; grades do not simply rely on tests over subject material.

Testing is infrequent, it covers a lot of material and makes up of a large portion of your grade. A course may only have 2 or 3 tests a semester.

Make up tests are often available.

Make up tests are rarely available and you need to request them if they are an option.

Teachers will rearrange test dates to avoid conflicts with other classes or school events.

Professors in different courses usually schedule tests without regard to the demands of other classes or outside activities.

Consistently good homework grades may raise your overall grade when test grades are low.

Grades on tests and major papers usually provide most of the course grade.

Initial test grades, especially when they are low, may not have an adverse effect on your final grade.

Watch out for your FIRST tests. These usually serve as an indicator to let you know what is expected, but they also may account for a substantial part of your course grade.

You may graduate as long as you have passed all required courses with a grade of D or higher.

You may graduate only if your average in classes meets the departmental standard, typically a 2.0 or C average.

There are some very important details that need to be taken care of in the beginning of the semester. Knowing what those details are could spare you from some long lines, fines and other inconveniences.

Parking Permits

Free parking permits are required at all MCC campuses. This permit or decal will allow you to park at any MCC campus. Check at your campus information desk for your parking permit/ decal. MCC parking lots, however, have designated spaces for faculty and staff. Each MCC campus charges a fine for parking in these spaces without proper identification. Fines are increased for parking in handicapped spaces.

Buying Your Books

The bookstore sells both new and used textbooks. Don't unwrap shrink-wrapped materials or mark in your books until you are sure that you have the right books and will not be changing your schedule. Be sure to hold on to your receipt, too. If you have classes at different campuses, you will need to buy your text at the campus on which your class is located. Online textbooks are purchased at MCC-Business & Technology.

Student ID's

MCC works hard to ensure the privacy and safety of your personal information. You will receive an ID and password that will allow you to access different online resources. It might be a bit confusing at first to sort all these out, but be patient:

  1. The first is a seven-digit student number (for example "103097") which you will use when working with advisors, financial aid or the business office. It is also used to obtain a library card. This number is automatically assigned to you when your admissions application is entered in our system.
  2. You will also receive a user ID (for example "BSOMEBDY1121") which is used to login to the following systems:
    • Network (computer labs, but not all campuses require an individual's login)
    • myMCCKC (self service student records system)
    • Student e-mail (class e-mail communication)
    • Blackboard (for classes taught via the web)

    This login is delivered in a confidential envelope by mail 3-5 days after your admissions application has been filed. Keep this mailing, but if you should misplace it, stop by your campus business, cashier, or records office or the student service center for assistance.

  3. You will also receive passwords (used in conjunction with your User ID) to login to the network, myMCCKC, student e-mail and Blackboard. As detailed in the confidential mailer, your password for myMCCKC will be different than the one used for student e-mail, the network login, and for Blackboard (which all use your birth date in the format YYYYMMDD).

    Click here for system login instructions (PDF).

  4. MCC also provides students with a picture ID card, generally available from a student activities office or the college's information desk.

Campus Safety

MCC's annual compliance report titled "Student Right to Know" is available through a PDF document. Sign up for campus security or weather notices via text message at

It is very important that you attend the first day of class. You will meet your professor, who will outline the course and present the requirements of the class in what is called a syllabus. The syllabus will outline the grading scale and how your final grade is calculated as well as list their attendance policy.

Your instructor will also set some of their expectations for the class. Some professors may use the first day for introductions, and others may start course material that day. Either way, it is important that you are there to collect that information. Expect, too, to receive reading assignments on your first day, so you should make plans to get your class text if you haven't already.

Tools of the Trade

The following items are important for any college student. Many items will be essential before classes start. Being prepared earlier will help later.

  • Required textbooks and course materials (such as course packets found in the bookstore). If you have a class at other campuses, then you will need to purchase the text at that campus. Online texts are purchased at the MCC-Business & Technology campus.
  • Notebooks, loose leaf paper, folders with pockets
  • Writing utensils (pens and pencils)
  • Access to a computer and USB drive; you will be expected to type most if not all of your papers. Stationed computers are available in several computer labs across your campus. (If you take class notes using a laptop, please ask your instructor prior to class if it is all Toolket4.thmlright)
  • Assignment book or planner (take the time to log all your tests, assignments and paper due dates in one location and review it frequently; organization is a key element of success
  • Backpack, book bag, or briefcase
  • Portable recording device (please ask your instructor first if you may use these; some classes discuss sensitive material)
  • Watch or clock
  • Tools to make class preparation easier e.g., Calculator, highlighter, colored pens or pencils, index cards, stapler, paper clips
  • Dictionary and thesaurus

The first day of class is not too early to start studying. Manage your time wisely - final exams will be here before you know it!

Good classroom etiquette could improve your grade and help develop a good relationship with your instructor. Listed below are common classroom practices.

1. Practice common courtesy

Private conversations with your neighbor and cell phones ringing in class are two of the biggest pet peeves of instructors. Most instructors don't mind if you whisper a question to your neighbor to confirm something discussed in class but more than that is distracting. Your classmates deserve your respect and support.

2. Please be on time

One cannot control their arrival time if their car breaks down or if the previous class goes into overtime. Normally, however, students should plan on arriving on time. Entering the classroom after the instructor's presentation has started can be distracting both to the instructor as well as to other students.

Students who arrive late should consult other students about any announcements made at the beginning of class. Quizzes missed by late arrival, in most cases, cannot be "made up."

3. Avoid walking out halfway through class.

Students should not normally leave or re-enter the classroom during the class period. Doing this can be distracting, and can give the impression that you do not respect the educational process taking place.

4. Show patience toward the end of class.

The instructor has the right to finish his or her thought at the end of the class period. Please do not start putting books away, closing up notebooks, and zipping up book bags 5 minutes before the official end of class. (There is a separate list of rules for instructors. On that list is a rule that says "Do not routinely keep students more than a minute or two after the official end of the period.")

5. Common things not to ask your instructor

If you have missed or skipped class you will want to retrieve any missed information. There are certain ways you should not retrieve this information. Don't ask these questions, which are classic annoyances for professors:

"I missed class.  Did we do anything important?"

After chatting with your friend for five minutes: "Could you repeat that?"

As your only question about an upcoming assignment: "How long does the paper have to be?"

In the middle of a fascinating discussion on a new concept: "Will this be on the test?"

At the end of the semester after missing numerous assignments: "Is there extra credit in this class?"

Instead, enlist the help of other students you trust in class who can give you any needed information or handouts given in the class(es) you missed.

6. Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be honest and ethical at all times in their pursuit of academic goals. Class members who participate in any violation of academic integrity will be subject to disciplinary action.

Plagiarism is a serious violation and one that instructors take to heart. Some instructors use software and other aids to spot plagiarized material. If you are unsure what plagiarism is, or are unaware of how to "cite" information you find, talk with library staff and faculty.

Violations are listed in the "Conduct Code for Students" and include (but are not limited to) cheating on exams or assignments, informing others of exam questions, submitting work of another person without giving due credit to that person, and using study aids not authorized by the instructor.

7. If you are struggling with your coursework, seek assistance

Your instructors are willing to assist you; however, there are other ways to get help. Your campus Library or Resource Center will have tutorial assistance available for many courses. There are also many resources (brochures and individuals) on campus which can help you with study strategies and other areas where you might be struggling.

Attend classes.

Obvious right? But, nothing lowers your chance for success more quickly than skipping classes. As simple as that sounds, many students do not attend class regularly once they realize their particular instructor does not "take roll." The same can be said of being tardy to class on a regular basis. Make sure you don't send the message that you "don't care." It could come back to haunt you at grade time. Plus, it's hard to get caught up after you've been away.

Become an expert on course requirements and due dates.

A syllabus or outline, given by your instructor at the beginning of a course, includes instructor contact information, description of course objectives and assignment deadlines often for the whole semester, and details how the final grade will be computed. Know what is expected of you and when. The lamest excuse you can give an instructor: "I didn't know it was due today."

Be an active participant in class.

Engage in classroom discussions and apply the class content to your own life. Have an open mind for new ideas and challenge yourself in each class. This will help you not only retain class information but to "think critically" which is what employers want. Sit up front in the classroom, take notes. (Presentation on note taking - PDF)


Manage your time well.

First-year students tell us that one of their greatest challenges is learning how to manage their time well. Take control of your time with time-management strategies (Time Management Worksheet - PDF) and organizing yourself and class material.

Turn assignments in on time!

You should not plan to finish them up during class time or give any excuse -- no matter how compelling -- about why you did not have a chance to finish. One thing you should never do is tell an instructor that you could not finish the assigned work because you were to busy studying for another class. You do not want your instructor to think their class is last on your list of priorities.


Make college your full-time job if at all possible. Remember the 2-to-1 rule: It is expected that you dedicate 2 hours a week of study for every 1 credit you are taking. So a 12-credit semester means 24 hours of study time, and when you add in the time you spend in class that's almost a full-time job. (Presentation on note taking - PDF)

Know you are in charge.

Remind yourself that you can work on an assignment or paper even if you don't feel like it. If you wait till you feel inspired, and have three or four hours of free time ahead of you, you'll be waiting forever. These two things rarely happen together. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them.


Monitor your own grade progress.

Instructors grade many assignments throughout a semester and record many grades at a time, so it is unlikely that they will know off the top of their head what your grade is. And it is unlikely your instructor will approach you if you are doing poorly in the class. Keep track of your assignment and test scores and know how to compute your grades for each class. Remember, your instructor does not give grades, you earn them.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Don't drop a course at the first sign of trouble. Connect with your campus resources. For example, instructors schedule office hours for the sole purpose of meeting with students and many instructors believe these hours are underutilized. Also, each college has a tutoring center where you can receive assistance and helpful pamphlets (and it is the "A" and "B" students who use the tutoring center). Try to make connections with students in your class by forming a study group.

Get involved.

Some of the best times to be had in college are outside the classroom. Some of the most important things you learn will be outside the classroom, such as leadership skills, team work and communication with a group. Get involved with a club, the newspaper, a sport, whatever interests you. If the college doesn't have something that interests you, start a club of your own. College is not just about studying; it is about becoming a well-rounded individual, a fascinating person with interests.

Find time to rest and exercise.

You must be well rested and in good health to get the most out of your education. Not only does exhaustion hamper your study skills and ability to think and retain new information, it also hampers your body's ability to fight off sickness and infection.

Know important institutional dates and deadlines . . .

. . . by reading the academic calendar. This calendar lists financial aid, class drop and withdraw deadlines. Institutions are unforgiving -- and a deadline is a deadline.

One last tip:

You are entitled to the best education your instructors know how to give. You are entitled to courtesy and fairness from your instructors. Anything beyond that, you need to earn. If you want favors from instructors, or anyone else for that matter, be nice to them. Your ability to get along with others is your best asset.

So what happens if your professor doesn't do the things they are obligated to do? Go speak with them calmly and voice your concerns. If things do not change then follow the chain of command: first to the department chair, then to the appropriate dean.

1. Find a routine study place.

A good study area should have a desk or a table big enough to spread out your books without them all being on top of each other. You should also have lots of light. Ideally, you will be near a window with an overhead light and perhaps even a small reading lamp. Most importantly, you need a place that is relatively free from distractions. That means no TV on in the room, no children running past, no phone conversations to listen in on. Whether or not you listen to music while you study depends on your personal preference. It could be that this place is not in your house, but at school or the public library.

2. Find a routine time to study.

For every hour you spend in class, you will probably need two to three hours outside of class to study. Figure out what time of day you can concentrate best, and what works into your schedule. Use that time every day to study. Try to make sure it is not too late in the evening. Remember that studying includes more than doing your homework. It means reviewing your notes and making sure you understand them, reading your syllabus to know what is coming up in class and doing reading assignments.

3. Schedule your study time.

Make a quick schedule of what you are going to do and how you are going to use your time. Don't be afraid to schedule in short breaks every hour to get fresh air and give your brain a break. Avoid marathon study sessions and spread your studying throughout the day if possible. The fresher you are, the more you will concentrate and absorb what you are studying.

4. Take care of personal business before beginning.

Take care of any personal phone calls, lingering errands, hunger or sleep before you begin to study. This will help you concentrate on the subject at hand instead of feeling like you need to answer the phone, get a snack or any other item that will keep you from fully participating in studying. You'd be amazed at how much time you waste going to or from the refrigerator or daydreaming about the other things that need to get done.

5. Study the hard subjects or the ones you like the least first.

Studying those subjects when you are fresh allows you intake that information and focus on understanding it. If you are tired, you might choose not to study it or not fully understand it because you are tired. Besides, if you do it first, you won't dwell on the fact it still has to be done during your other study time.

6. Make use of the study resources on campus.

Find out about and use labs, tutors, videos, computer programs and the alternate texts. Ask a librarian to give you a tour of where things are located in the library and don't be afraid to ask a computer lab technician for assistance if you have any questions about a program. Get to know your professors and advisors. Don't be afraid to ask questions to get the assistance you need or want.

7. Make use of your class breaks.

Back to back classes can be nice, but can also wear you out. If you allow for a break in your day, it allows you to automatically review the material you just covered or prepare for the next class.

8. Find a study buddy or two.

Studies show that studying with someone else on a regular basis can help you make better grades. Motivation may also be greater knowing that you are responsible to someone else in your class. Plus, teaching a concept or new idea to someone else is a sure way to make sure you understand. Just be careful not to make your study time social time.

9. Break up long-term projects.

Larger projects need to be broken into smaller components to make them manageable. For example, these components could be such things as gathering notes, writing a rough draft, making corrections or additions, writing a bibliography, and completing the final copy. Set yourself a deadline for completing each component and make sure you stick to it. While you may think you work better under pressure, you will actually be more thorough if you work on the project in stages.

10. Be good to yourself.

Make sure you get sleep prior to studying for that big test or working on that big project. Avoid short-term energy food and drinks, such as soda and candy, because they will only cause you to be more tired when they wear off. Also, when you complete the things on your schedule or one of the smaller steps of a big project, give yourself a reward. This will keep you motivated to continue.

A Strategy for Reading Textbooks

SQRW is a four-step strategy for reading and taking notes from chapters in a textbook. Each letter stands for one step in the strategy. Using SQRW will help you to understand what you read and to prepare a written record of what you learned. The written record will be valuable when you have to participate in a class discussion and again when you study for a test.

Learn what to do for each step in SQRW:


Surveying brings to mind what you already know about the topic of a chapter and prepares you for learning more. To survey a chapter, read the title, introduction, headings, and the summary or conclusion. Also, examine all visuals such as pictures, tables, maps, and/or graphs and read the caption that goes with each. By surveying a chapter, you will quickly learn what the chapter is about.


You need to have questions in your mind as you read. Questions give you a purpose for reading and help you stay focused on the reading assignment. Form questions by changing each chapter heading into a question. Use the words who, what, when, where, why, or how to form questions.

For example, for the heading "Uses of Electricity" in a chapter about how science improves lives, you might form the question "What are some uses of electricity?" If a heading is stated as a question, use that question. When a heading contains more than one idea, form a question for each idea. Do not form questions for the Introduction, Summary, or Conclusion.


Read the information that follows each heading to find the answer to each question you formed. As you do this, you may decide you need to change a question or turn it into several questions to be answered. Stay focused and flexible so you can gather as much information as you need to answer each question.


Write each question and its answer in your notebook. Reread each of your written answers to be sure each answer is legible and contains all the important information needed to answer the question.

As you practice using SQRW, you will find you learn more and have good study notes to use to prepare for class participation and tests.

Hint: Once you complete the Survey step for the entire chapter, complete the Question, Read, and Write steps for the first heading. Then complete the Question, Read, and Write steps for the second heading, and so on for the remaining headings in the chapter.

Strategy quoted from

Establishing Your Presence in the Class Early

  • Get to class early and sit near the front.
  • Ask questions/ make a decision to get involved.
  • Answer questions or make comments about the lecture or reading.
  • Have a positive attitude in class. Show interest and involvement.
  • Greet your professor outside of class/ remember their name.
  • If you don't understand something, make an appointment with your professor.
  • Make it a point to interact with your professor before the first test or assignment.
  • Professors enjoy teaching and working with students who want to learn.

Establishing Your Credibility as a Conscientious Student in Class

  • Be familiar with your syllabus, e.g:
    • Test dates and due dates for assignments
    • Attendance and tardy policies
    • Make-up tests and late assignment policies
    • Weather policies
  • Because notebooks can be lost or stolen, make extra copies of papers and handouts and keep them in a separate place.
  • Attend all labs, study sessions or Supplemental Instruction Programs associated with a class. Your grades should show marked improvement!
  • Turn in all of your assignments in a timely manner.
  • Ask several people in your class for their phone numbers for missed notes.
  • If you missed an assignment, ask two different people in class about what you need to do to catch up. Try to avoid asking the professor a question that could easily be answered by fellow students.
  • Professors are extremely busy people. Use their time and your time wisely and productively.

Make an Appointment with Your Professor

  • Choose a time to talk or make an appointment when you and your professor are not in a rush.
  • Make use of your professor's office hours.
  • Do not begin a personal conversation with your professor when class is ready to start and certainly not in the middle of class.
  • The end of class may be the best time to ask to see the professor. However, ask if it is a convenient time to talk.Professors have back-to-back classes too.
  • If you are upset, wait until you have calmed down to talk or make an appointment.
  • Only call your professor to make an appointment. Never telephone a professor to discuss a grade. That kind of conversation should be in person. Never phone a professor at home unless it is a true emergency.

Conferencing with Your Professor

  • Be prepared! Bring your syllabus, text, test papers and assignments with you.
  • Be on time and knock on the office door before you enter.
  • If the professor is speaking to someone on the phone or to another person, don't stand just outside the door. Make your presence known and then move several feet away. Respect the privacy of others.
  • Never barge into a professor's office outside of office hours, without first asking if meeting at that time is convenient.
  • Use some of these phrases:
    • "Thank you for seeing me, Dr. Jones."
    • "I wanted to have a conference with you because I don't understand a concept you went over in class. I need your help to figure it out."
    • "I am concerned about my last test grade. In order to improve, I'd like to go over my answers with you."
    • "I interpreted this test question in the following way. . ."
    • "Please show me how you arrived at the correct answer."
    • "Do you have any old tests or workbooks that I could review?"
    • "What can you suggest that I do to learn more and improve my grades in your class?"
    • "What would be the best method to study successfully for your class?"
    • Close the conference positively. "Thank you for your help, Dr. Jones; I'll see you in class."
  • Be courteous and respectful at all times.

If You Feel You Have Been Treated Unfairly:

  • Calmly and clearly state your concerns to your professor and ask for him / her to reconsider.
  • If that fails, put your concerns in writing and give it to the professor. (Be sure your argument is clear, well supported, and well written.)
  • Seek advice from a counselor or academic advisor.
  • Ask the secretary for a copy of the department's grievance procedures.
  • Build your credibility. Your manner should be calm, rational and respectful to everyone you come in contact with during this time.
  • Remember, our first impressions of situations are oftentimes incorrect!
  • Confront your professor outside of the classroom, not in front of other students or in the middle of class
  • Avoid writing e-mails when you're upset. Think over your issue before putting it in writing.

Last Thoughts:

Don't let falling behind in your coursework keep you from talking with your instructor. They are well aware of the struggles students are faced with.

Your Professors/ Instructors want you to succeed - never be embarrassed to talk with them.

My Secrets of Success

By Frank Koscielski
(and some others tips we added):

  1. Never go anywhere without a textbook or a workbook. Time spent waiting in line or in the car while someone is shopping or playing soccer or whatever can be study time.

  2. Keep a recorder in the car. After reading a chapter or a book sometimes the ideas flow when you can't write things down. I have dictated entire papers this way.

  3. Find a quiet place to study and be a little selfish with your time. A quiet place to study is a must so you can focus on your work. You may have been the person who used to do everything but you have to learn to say no. You no longer have the time to do everything and go to school.

  4. Use post-it notes as bookmarks. Simply put a word or two at the top to create your own reference index. When writing a paper this saves you from having to reread whole chapters.

  5. Kill your TV! If you must, discipline yourself to record a selected show that you can watch later and zip through the commercials. No need to waste any time!

  6. Be an active reader. Take notes as you read. In your own books write in the margins. Highlight the most important parts with codes you will understand. Do not waste time rereading irrelevant material.

  7. Find time to rest. If you allow yourself to get run down, not only will you be unable to learn, but you could get sick, putting you further behind. If you keep falling asleep while reading, don't blame the text; don't tell your teacher the course is "boring," get some sleep!

  8. Exercise a bit. It stimulates blood flow to the brain and relieves tension. Colleges often have physical education classes you can take to help you with this, as well as fitness centers at a greatly reduced cost for students.

  9. Read all your work aloud to someone else. It'll save valuable time proofreading and improve your writing. If it sounds bad, it probably is.

  10. Take a reading course if it is recommended to you. Many of your courses in college are going to require a lot of outside reading. A reading course can help you fine-tune those skills needed to read an out-of-class reading assignment and retain the details of it.

  11. Do not hesitate to use interlibrary loan. You will find that the college library gives you access to great material from other libraries-for free.
Last Modified: 5/28/14