View More

As we settle in for the start of another academic year, it is important to reflect on what went well and maybe not so well last year. We are all life long learners, inside and outside of the classroom. Learning from past experiences is the best way to improve yourself and continue to grow.

Here are three ways to get the school year started on the right foot:

1. Set goals

Setting goals is a great way to stay on track throughout the school year and achieve success. There are many goals you can set for yourself and they don’t necessarily have to be GPA related. Maybe you realize you were extremely sleep deprived last year. You can set a goal for how many hours of sleep you want to get each night and organize your days better so you can get plenty of rest. A goal like getting more sleep has a positive ripple effect on many aspects of your life, including improved memory and learning abilities. Maybe another goal could be exercising a few times a week. Often, when we are busy, we forget to prioritize our body’s health. A goal like exercising more enhances your mood and energy levels, which can help you in your academic year. These are common goals we all likely share, but I challenge you to think outside of the box when it comes to goals. What are objectives, specific to you and your studies that could help do better this year? Identify a weakness you have or something you would like to develop. Then, think about how you can work on bettering yourself while staying motivated. For example, maintaining friendships can be challenging, especially when you are on a demanding academic schedule. A goal could be to keep up with friends more often this school year. Whatever your goal may be, be proud of yourself for aiming for bigger and better things!

2. Create a Schedule and WRITE IT DOWN!

Yeah…yeah… yeah… we all know schedules are good. But Hey! Do not ignore this tip. This is the best tip of all tips! No, really. Studies show that writing down to-do lists has remarkable positive effects on your brain. Staying organized is the key to academic success. You can be a brilliant person, but if you can’t keep track of all the due dates and responsibilities you have, then it means nothing. You are no longer in high school or middle school where teachers write the homework on the board each day. This is college. You likely have several courses with various endless due dates. Write it down. You can do this in a planner, a calendar or maybe daily to do lists. Whatever organizational style floats your boat – just as long as you are writing things down. Your brain isn’t superhuman. We all forget things; so don’t rely on your brain alone. Your philosophy professor is not going to accept “I forgot” as excuse for missing the paper deadline.

3. Get Involved

Become better connected with your school and campus by getting involved with student activities. You can meet new people while boosting your resume and doing something that you love! Campuses have various student organizations such as Greek life, service trips, volunteer groups and intramural sports. College may be the only time in your life when you are able to go on a weeklong service trip – so seize the opportunity and do it with your peers during spring break! Maybe you played sports your whole life and you are really missing it now that you are in college. Look into what your school has to offer because there are plenty of club and intramural teams available to you. If you are interested in a career in TV production, maybe your campus has a TV studio where you can help out. Getting involved helps make college feel like home. You truly do meet great people by getting involved outside of the classroom. The extra curricular activities I participate in have taught me what career path I want to go on, more so then my classes have taught me. Take advantage of opportunities sitting at your disposal on your campus.

View More

The campus visit is a really big deal, because it is most likely going to be the most influential part your college selection process.  The way the campus visit makes you feel, the people that you meet, and the more you can visualize yourself on campus will all play a role in the connection you develop with the university. Below we will explore the things you should do to prepare for the visit and things to consider while on your college tour.

 

When planning your college visits keep these 5 things in mind:

  1. Seriously consider the school
    1. College visits can be fun, but you don’t want to take visits to schools that you are not seriously considering. It is okay to visit a school that you are open to, but you should narrow your list to 3-5 universities.
  2. Know where the school is located.
    1. It is not just about knowing the school’s city/state, but do you know how far the school is from transportation (local bus, the highway, the bus station, or the airport). Does the school make the city? When school is not in session, the town does not have a lot of life. Do you have liberal ideals, but the school is in a very conservative community?  Are you a city person in the middle of a rural community?
  3. Special characteristics.
    1. What attracted you to the community?  Is there a major that is only offered at the school?  Do they offer intramural sports?  Do they provide support to students in the form of a resource center, student organizations, or staffing?
  4. Consider the season
    1. Keep in mind the time of year you are visiting.  The campus will look different during the summer versus during the school year. The weather can have a major effect on the campus visit.  If it is raining or snowing you will not see much student activity on the quad.
  5. Number of people in attendance
    1. Take family and friends that will remain objective and provide additional insight. Taking your 5-year-old sister may not be able to assist you in the process.  You may also not want to take an entourage of 10 people.  Ask 1-2 people that will add value to the experience and allow them to be your sounding board. Â

 

What to expect while on your visit:

  1. Walking
    1. Expect to do lots of walking. Your tour will consist of a lot of walking, as your tour guide will take you to see the very best of the campus.  You will see the admissions office, residence halls, dining halls, and of course a classroom. There may be other stops along the way like the fitness center, the student union, and the building where many of your classes will be held.
  2. Meeting with someone from your major.
    1. Your tour will most likely involve speaking with someone from the department where you will complete many of your classes. Use this time to learn about the history of the department, opportunities for your professional development, and other information about the program, instructions. And course load.
  3. Interactions with other students.
    1. On your tour, get face-to-face with as many students as possible.  Ask them what they like about the school, what they don’t like about the institution, what they would change, and how their lives have been impacted since attending the school.
  4. A lot of information.
    1. The visit will provide a wealth of information and it will probably be a lot to take in.  Take notes and attempt to get as much information as possible.  Take notes, snap pictures, and gather handouts.  You can use all the information you gathered to later review and help in making your decision.
  5. The best sides of the university.
    1. You will only be exposed to the best aspects of the campus.  It is up to you uncover the bad and the ugly of the university. Do your research, ask questions, and gather as much information as you can.

The college visit is an exciting and scary time. Use this time to get to know the college, its people, and what it has to offer.  See if you are a good fit for the university, see if you can envision yourself on the quad, and interacting with the other students. Be sure to prepare a list of questions, address your concerns, and gather as much information as possible. Take the information from each visit and compare finding the right fit for you.

Dun… Dun… Dun…. (probably) the most dreaded moment of your high school career has arrived… Standardized testing. AH! Your teachers, parents and friends have been talking about it for years and it’s probably stressing you out. Unfortunately, there is no study guide that will help you get a perfect score and there is no secret formula to absolutely blowing the test out of the water. BUT there are a few things you CAN do to score higher on standardized testing.

Here is one secret that more people should know: The SATs and ACTs are becoming increasingly irrelevant to many college admissions processes. Yes, I said it: irrelevant. Many schools are now test optional, meaning that you do not have submit your tests scores. Even schools that do require an SAT or ACT score are recognizing that standardized test scores provide a less prominent role in admissions decisions than in pervious decades. So, deep breath fellow scholars, standardized testing is not a matter of life and death. However, for those applying to schools that take into account testing scores, here is some advice that can help you battle through this stressful process with grace:

1. Pick the test that caters to your skills

The SAT and the ACT are very different. Some students excel on the SAT but not so much on the ACT and vise versa. Take a practice test of each and analyze which test format better fits your learning style.

2. Take practice tests

This is not like your average midterm exam. You cannot simply review and memorize the material taught in the last few sections of the textbook. Instead, it will be helpful to become familiar with the test format. The time constraints for each section and the question carefully worded to require critical thinking, are pretty unique to standardized testing. Knowing what to expect is half the battle.

3. If possible, use test prep services

Educational centers like Princeton Review and Kaplan offer courses to help prepare students for the SATs or ACTs. These classes can review material that commonly appears on these tests. They also provide strategies on how to deduce the correct answer. If this option is financially viable, I highly suggest taking advantage of it. If not, don’t fret. There are books that you can rent or buy that cover the same material as these courses. There are online resources available, as well! See what services your school offers to help students prepare for these tests. Sometimes, they incorporate practice tests and tips into curriculum or host test review sessions after school hours.

4. Take care of yourself

At the end of the day, you can spend endless hours preparing for these tests, but it means nothing if you are not well rested. Getting enough sleep and eating a good meal before the exam is key to full brainpower and your ability to focus. Also, remember that it is not the end of the world. If you feel too stressed, you may sabotage your own ability to succeed. As always, remind yourself that this test score does not define you.

Selecting a college is much like making a large purchase. When you think about it, college could be a $50,000 a year investment.  Like all major purchases and big decisions, you will want to weigh all options to make the right choice.  There are a few questions you will ask yourself and a few things to consider when selecting the school that is right for you.  Below are areas to consider as you are navigating through the college selection process.

 

Consider Location

Location can often be the determining factor when selecting a school. Ask yourself if being closer or further away from home is important to you.  Are you okay with staying at home with your parents, would you be okay being a plane ride away from home or would you like to have the flexibility to drive home frequently?  Do your parents need you close to home, do you have younger siblings that look up to you, or are you free from other obligations? These are all questions that you should factor into your decision-making process when it comes to selecting the best location.  Staying close to home offers benefits like frequent trips home throughout the year for birthdays, holidays, and should there be any family emergencies. Going away could help expand your independence, sense of adventure, but may create a strong case of homesickness.

Do you have a dream school? Have you considered your parents alma mater?  Are others providing you with their suggestions to consider?  What makes these options so special? What stands out about each choice? What does each option offer that the others do not?

 

Factor in Costs 

How much will each option cost you out of pocket? When you look at college, you should consider it an investment?  What will the return be on your investment?  Will your choice carry weight in your industry after graduation? Will you be connected to other professionals in your field?  Will your degree require additional education, certifications, or licensures?

Student loans can be follow you for up to 10, 15, or 20 years. Selecting a school that will require the least amount of debt, will have a major impact later in life when you are considering a home purchase, starting a family, or enjoying a new hobby.

Look at scholarship opportunities that can help assist with costs.  Scholarships are available for a variety of reasons and will provide you with some financial relief.  Scholarships are available for athletes, and not just football and basketball players.  There are scholarships for golf, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and more. Be sure to research programs and showcase your talents to a recruiter or coach.  There are also a host of other scholarships for women, men, left-handed people, first generation college students, and much more. Scholarships can also be found at the university, in the community, at your parent’ job, at your job, or even your high school.

 

Look at Admission Requirement

Do you know your SAT score? Do you know what score is required to gain admission to the university of your choice?  Do you need to write an essay?  Can you get creative with your admission application?  Do you need letters of recommendation? Will you need to complete an interview? Be sure to review the requirement for admission and ensure your application is submitted with all required information.

Be mindful of deadlines for application submissions.  Set aside enough time to complete, review, and mail the application. You do not want to exert a lot of energy into an application that will not be considered, because it is incomplete or missed the deadline.

 

Determine other factors that are important to you

Is there anything else on your college wish list? Do you want intramural sports, arts, or perhaps extracurricular activities?  Do you want Greek life, cultural experiences, service learning, or leadership opportunities?  How is the food on campus? What are the class sizes?  Do you have flexibility with designing your major, adding a minor, or double majoring? Are you required to live on campus, can you get open communication from the various offices on campus, do you feel welcome on campus?

Selecting a college is quite the task and should not be taken lightly.  You should take your time to identify the school(s) of your choice. Research requirements and how each school compares to your ideal college. College admissions can be extremely selective and with so many people applying you want to submit a thoroughly completed application on time.  In addition, you should select 3-5 schools and submit applications.  When your acceptance letters start to arrive, you will have the opportunity to select the school that is best for you.

 

Good luck during the process as you move one huge step closer to your college career.

View More

Whew!

You made it to the end of the semester.  By this time, you probably do not want to think about another reading assignment, a group project, or balancing the various things you had on your plate just a few short weeks ago.  Right now, sitting in a corner playing Candy Crush, double tapping on Instagram, reading articles/books for fun, or taking the latest BuzzFeed quiz is the only thing on your agenda.  As enticing as those past times sound and as easily as you may be lured in, you want to be sure that you really utilize the summer to productively decompress from the semester. 

The summer could be used to reconnect with old friends, strengthen your bond with family, or explore some of your new-found interest. Below are some ways to not get sucked into the time spiraling daze of your smart phone.  

Ways to avoid losing your summer to your smart phone:

1.       Go to a concert.  Take it up a notch and attend a concert in another city, state, or even country.

2.       Go on a trip.  Pick a place you’ve never been.  Try travelling by train, bus, or drive.

3.       Make a new friend.  Put yourself out there and introduce yourself to someone you do not know.

4.       Try a new work-out routine.  Pilates, Cross-Fit, or training for a race will help keep you active.

5.       Go for a walk around the neighborhood with your parents.

6.       Take your younger sibling to the local arcade.

7.       Volunteer to assist at a local organization for charity or to gain experience in your field.

8.       Jumpstart your required reading for next semester.

9.       Pick up ice cream and visit your grandparents.

10.   Host a slumber party. You can invite new and old friends. 

11.   Help your siblings navigate through their summer reading list.

12.   Assist your parents with a project around the house.

13.   Stay connected to classmates.  Invite them to spend time with you and accept their offers when presented.

14.   Join a challenge to help count the days and keep you engaged.  Think cooking, weight loss, or financial savings challenge.

15.   Take a class at the local community college. Taking a special interest class such as Pottery, Event Planning, or Computer Coding may spark new passions within you. 

16.   Clean and organize things around the house.  Talk to your parents about projects they have put off and would like to finish.  

17.   Work. Find a part time job to assist with saving for the next semester.

18.   Get involved on campus.  Orientation leaders and volunteers are needed to help assist with incoming freshmen.

19.    Write an article in your field.  Once written attempt to get it published within your professional organization.

20.   Try something new.  No matter how big or small, keep a positive outlook and try something you have never experienced.   

View More

It’s perfectly fine to be undecided about your major, but if you are looking to make a decision, here are some things you can do to help discern which major is best for you. Here are three key points to remember…

1. Stay open minded
Choosing a major can be a difficult process that involves some serious self-reflection. During your discernment period, it is important to explore all potential options. Try not to give yourself a label of what “type of person” you are to pick a type of major you “should be”. Unfortunately, people often share opinions of what major you “should” select. Whether it’s a parent or a friend weighing in, know that you can think for yourself on this one. No one knows you better than you!

Consider your interests. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? When are you happiest? Maybe your favorite thing is meeting new people and investing in friendships. Perhaps that could translate into studying communication or psychology. Maybe your relationships interest you because of the engaging and thought provoking conversations you have. If so, studying philosophy might be fascinating. Let’s say you love watching and playing soccer. Even though you may think your love of soccer could not turn into a career, check it out. Do your research. Maybe you could work sports marketing for a soccer team. Or possibly, your experience of playing soccer could lead to an interesting career in physical therapy or sports medicine. Follow your passion and explore how it can develop into a lifelong career.

Being open minded also means paying attention in your core curricular classes. Most schools require students to take a wide range of core courses. If you are unsure about a major, take the required core classes first. This way you don’t waste any credits and you can get a taste of several areas of study that you may not have anticipated enjoying. Perhaps political science is an option for a core requirement. That class could uncover your interests and lead to a career in law, public policy, social work, etc. Be aware of what you like to do and what classes you find interesting. This awareness can translate to an easier decision.

2. Job shadow
Shadowing someone at work is a great way to get a sneak peak into the daily lifestyle of a certain career path. Many colleges have career centers that can help you get matched with a job shadowing opportunity. You can also network in your personal relationships to set up a shadowing day. Maybe your friend’s mother is a newscaster and that career seems interesting to you. If you love what you see, it can open your mind to pursuing a career in that field. If you are not a fan, who cares! It was one day and a positive learning experience. Finding out what you do not want to pursue is just as important as finding out your passion.

3. Know that a major does not define you.
Picking your major can be stressful. There’s often an air of anxiety around making a monumental decision that shapes your college experience. However, remind yourself that this decision does not define you. It may impact the career options you have down the road, but it certainly does not control your future. Many majors apply to many things. Meet with your advisors to discuss the flexibility you have before making a decision. Be open and honest about not knowing what you want to do. They likely have good ideas and resources to help you.

Remember that changing majors is always an option but specifically early on. Don’t be afraid to transition to a new area of study if you start to feel that this major isn’t for you. Keep in mind the sooner you switch the better so that you can graduate on time!

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

View More

There are approximately 15 weeks in a semester and right now you are in the final stretch of the year.  Now is the time to continue to push forward and finish strong. You will have a whirlwind last few weeks, filled with study groups, testing, papers, and presentations.  The final weeks of the semester require a lot of time, energy, and brain power.  You can successfully conquer the end of the semester if you follow these simple steps:

1.       Get some rest.  It may seem unachievable, but it is necessary for your brain and body to get a full 8 hours of sleep.  Getting enough rest will help to rejuvenate the mind and allow you to stay sharp.

2.       Eat.  Providing food to your body provides nourishment to the brain.  When studying, have snacks available to help your brain stay sharp and focused on the task.

3.       Align yourself with others.  Reach out to others in the class to study, ask questions, and gauge yourself against their knowledge and progress.  It is helpful to utilize others in the class to stay on track and to see if their understanding aligns with your understanding.  You may have notes or information that they need and you may need something as well.

4.       Start Early.  There is never too much studying and preparation: the more you do, the more you connect and retain the information. Cramming can work for short-term retention of information. You are not working to remember the information long-term, you are simply working to regurgitate the information in a short amount of time.

5.       Prepare for mistakes.  When something goes wrong, it will most definitely go wrong at the most inopportune time. For example, the Wi-Fi will go out, the printer will not work, someone in the group will get sick, you will have to work late, another paper or project will take more time to complete than what you projected.  Take time to plan in case of an interruption or emergency.  You will be grateful when things do not go according to plan and you have time to resolve, restructure, and execute another plan of action.

6.       Ask your professor.  Waiting until finals to talk to your professor is not the most ideal thing to do. Getting face-to-face with your professor as early as possible in the semester will help send a message to the professor that you are serious about your field and that you are an engaged student.  Waiting until the very end of the semester may send the message that you are a slacker.

7.       Check your syllabus.  Please sure to thoroughly review the syllabus.  This is extremely important, because the syllabus lists all requirements, due dates, and possible extra credit opportunities.  The syllabus is a good starting point for your assignment or to see possible topics on the exam.  You should become very familiar with the syllabus and what is being required of you each week.

8.       No cheating.  If you are thinking about cheating, do not it. Cheating can get you suspended from school and ruin your academic career.  Do not participate with friends who may plan to cheat. Do not utilize a previously written paper.  Do not plagiarize a paper. Take the time to truly research the information and present your own knowledge and ideas.  There are so many ways you can get caught cheating and most universities take a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cheating.

9.       Get another set of eyes.  Reach out to friends, classmates, professors, or teaching assistants and ask them to provide feedback on your paper or presentation.  Having another set of eyes will help determine if you missed something, if you are clear in your thoughts, and if you need to tweak anything.  This will require a little planning as you will need to factor in time for you to write the paper or create the presentation, have someone review your materials, and revise it before submitting.  

10.   Relax.  Finals are a stressful time, but take time to relax and unwind throughout the process.  Find a healthy way to release stress;,like exercising, meditating, or listening to music.  Stress can lead to unhealthy anxiety and cause you to perform worse than you should.  Take time to encourage yourself and know that you’ve got things under control.  You went to class all semester, you took notes, you dedicated time to study and you know your stuff.  Tell yourself you got this and be confident in your abilities and knowledge.   

View More

Roommates: Whether you’re approaching your freshman or sophomore year, it’s time to think about roommates. What are your deal breakers and what have you learned? Here’s some advice on how to have a positive roommate experience:

The key to a successful relationship with your roommate is communication.

  • No one can read your mind, so communicate your wants and needs. Even if you think it is obvious that you would like all the lights to be off when you fall asleep, you can’t assume that your roommate knows that. Before you move in together or when you first meet, ask about his or her study habits, sleeping habits, whether they consider themselves a neat freak, etc. This way you understand how to be a respectful roommate. Passive aggressive hints are counterproductive so be open and honest about your pet peeves and deal breakers.
  • Some communication tips: use “I feel” so that statements do not come across as attacks or accusations. Also, stay away from definitive words such as “always” and “never.” For example, “you never take out the trash, its rude,” is an accusation. Whereas, “I feel like I take out the trash a lot, can you grab it this time?” is a more respectful request.

It’s all about compromise.

  • It is impossible for two people to completely agree on everything, especially when you’re stuck together in what seems to be a 2 by 2 cement box. Maybe you need to use your headphones instead of blaring music out loud. Maybe you need to kindly ask your roommate to talk on the phone in the longue while you are trying to sleep. Equal negations are key.

Have realistic expectation.

  • Let’s face it: even if your roommate is the perfect match, you may get on each other’s nerves. It is important to accept this fact or else things may snowball. If you are feeling frustrated about something, try to approach the issue and stay resolution focused. Some people may expect to be best friends with their roommate and that may not always happen. Regardless of whether you end up as BFFs or not, it is important to be a courteous living partner.

It takes effort

  • Living harmoniously with someone takes effort. Even married couples in the honeymoon stage struggle with it. We are all creatures of habit so be conscious of your habits and how they may affect a living partner. Communicate, compromise and have realistic expectations! Read chapter 3 of The Freshman Survival Guide for expert advise on navigating the roommate journey.