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Looking back, you probably thought this day would never come, alas, the season is upon us. We are now in the final weeks of your senior year. The time seems to come so slow, but the final weeks will pass quickly. Before the time passes there are things that you should do before you say good bye to high school and embark on the new challenges of life. Here is a list of things to accomplish:

o Go to Prom. Prom is one of those once in a lifetime events that you cannot go back and redo. Some may not be into the primping, pomp, and presentation that comes with Prom, but you should still go. Be yourself, go with a friend if you do not have a date, and if you are not enjoying your time there you can leave.

o Do not skip graduation. Again, this is another once in a lifetime event. You will only graduate from high school once. This is the time to celebrate you and your successes, you may not believe it, but not everyone makes it to this point in their life and it truly is an accomplishment that you should celebrate.

o Get a yearbook. Again, one of those things that you may not care about now, but 5, 10, or 20 years from now it will be nearly impossible to get your hands on a copy. You tuck it away and bring it out later, because there is almost always a time that you will reminisce on high school and having a yearbook is necessary for memory lane.

o Connect with people you would like to stay in contact with after high school. Get their phone number, email, and social media handles. The friends you know in high school, will not be the same people you know after high school. There could be people at college that you meet from high school that you never knew, but you now have two thing in common; you are from the same town and went to the same school and have now ended up at the same school.

o Thank your teachers. Wrap up the year with a quick thank you note, graduation picture and even a gift. Your teachers have been there from the beginning with the goal of getting you to this point, so why not thank them and let them know how much you appreciate them helping you, developing you, encouraging you, and pushing you to this point. Don’t think about just this year or semester or even school. Think back to elementary and middle school. If there were teachers (coaches, guidance counselors, or principals) who impacted you, let them know. Teachers do not hear it enough and everyone love to be appreciated. Lastly, you think this may be the last time you will see them, but it may not be. You may need a letter of recommendation, complete internship hours, or need help with an assignment in college. The relationship is not ending, it is evolving.

o Let people know where you are going and what you are doing. Be sure to let your guidance counselor know where you are going and what your plans are after school. Again, the relationship is not ending it is evolving. There may be an opportunity for you to mentor students in the years to come if they are interested in a similar career path, or attending the same school, or are following in your footsteps. You may be asked to come and talk with a class and share your story, but if you do not share your story then no one will know.

o Work if you can. The best thing you can do is work and save money for your first semester. You will need books, supplies for school and your room, spending money for activities, and of course food. Have as much money saved as possible, because emergencies occur, and you want to be as prepared as possible. Avoiding work your first semester is ideal, because it allows you to get acclimated to school and the demands that it will bring. After first semester then you can consider a job.

o Get prepared for your next chapter. You do not want to wait until the last minute to gather the tings you need for the next chapter after high school. You can start to gather items for your room on campus, save money for textbooks, connect with your new roommate prior to arrival, and if available look at your syllabus so you can purchase books as soon as they are available.

o Celebrate your accomplishment. Go somewhere, do something, buy something memorable. Do something that YOU would like to do. Talk to your parents and figure out affordable, feasible, and approved ways that you can celebrate your accomplishment. For some it may be a trip, it may be a car, a spa date, a laptop/gadget, or it could simply be dinner at YOUR favorite place, or your favorite meal prepared by grandma. It does not have to be anything extravagant; it should simply be about you celebrating what you have worked for 12+ years to do.

o Spend the last few weeks with family, friends, and significant others. Taking the time to spend with important people in your life is critical. Your graduating affects everyone around you and anxiety levels are pretty high. Your siblings are nervous about you leaving home and what the family dynamic will look like without you. Your parents are nervous about you leaving the nest with all the information, skills, and tools that they tried to provide to you over the years. Your significant other is nervous about what the future will hold for you two. Lastly, your friends are nervous about what the new chapter brings, if you will still be friends, and how you will stay connected. This is a lot of anxiety to manage and navigate. Your role is critical to provide as smooth of a transition as possible. You do this by simply giving everyone some of your time before you leave. Allowing one group to monopolize your time will have a negative impact on the others. So, figure out a way to give some time to everyone before your next chapter begins.

o Thank your parents and grandparents. Your success has making it to this moment has truly been a investment. Find a special way to thank your parents and grandparents for te investment they have made in your success.

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Dating in college can be one of the most challenging aspects of the college experience. For some it will be easy; they may have come to college with their high school sweetheart and some may meet their “soulmate”. While for others it may be a bit challenging as they attempt to discover who they are and what they want or maintain a long-distance relationship. Regardless of your status there are a few things that you can do to safely navigate dating, love and everything in between.

There are three rules to take note of when it comes to dating:
1. Be comfortable with who you are. Before you start dating, you want to be comfortable in your own skin, confident in who you are, and know what you have to offer someone. Lacking confidence could make you susceptible to potentially harmful relationships.

2. Healthy relationships do not hurt. If you are in a situation where you are being physically, verbally, emotionally, or mentally abused…LEAVE!! This is a nonnegotiable component of dating! If you are being harmed in any way, you need to remove yourself immediately. Talk to a counselor about your concerns and remember who you are and what you bring to a relationship.

3. Know your intentions and find out theirs. No one wants to be led on, develop an emotional attachment and later find out that their feelings/intentions were not reciprocated. Be honest and up front about what you want and do not want. Just want to be friends; say that. Looking to be in a relationship; say that. Not looking to date anyone; say that.

Dating on campus can be challenging and difficult to navigate, below are a few tips.
1. Find out more about the person. Like their major, extracurricular activities, and friends that have on campus. See if you have things in common.

2. Learn more about the person’s dating history. Do they have a dating history with others the campus, do they have a reputation when it comes to dating on campus, or do they bring any drama to dating?

3. Have fun. Dating should be fun. Go out, spend time together, and enjoy each other’s company. Go out together and as a group to experience each other in both settings.

4. Stay focused. Your goal while in college is to ultimately graduate. Do not allow dating to interfere with that goal. The same goes for working, completing internships, and shadowing. Dating should never impact the factors that dictate your ability to graduate. Your school assignments should not be jeopardized, arrive late or missing classes, and simply not studying (enough) should not be a result of you dating. You want a partner that will encourage you to be your best self and accomplish the goals you have.

Long distance relationships require communication, trust, and patience. Below are a few tips:

1. Set expectations in the beginning. Let your partner know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. If you can only call once a day or visit once a month or want to video chat each night vocalize those requirements in the beginning. Come to an agreement with your partner, so you both have an understanding. Be sure to communication any new expectations should your needs change.

2. You will need to trust your partner. This may be the hardest part of the long-distance relationship. You will not always know where your partner is or what they are doing, but you must trust that they are being honest and doing what they say they are doing.

3. Long distance relationships also require a lot of patience. You will not always get to see your partner. Travelling can be expensive, so the face-to-face interactions will not always be feasible. With technology today, you can make the most of video and phone capabilities and it helps to make the time apart more bearable.

4. Do not let jealousy or loneliness ruin the foundation you have built with your partner. It is hard to see other couples having fun and doing things that you desire to do with your partner. Find other ways and thoughts to occupy your time and mind. Go out with friends, study with classmates, join organizations, get a job, or even volunteer. Do other things to occupy your time until you can reunite with your partner once again.

Dating in general can be very complex, now add in college and possibly long distance. You can imagine all the work that will be needed for relationships to flourish and grow. Use the tips above as a foundation as you explore dating on campus or navigating a long-distance relationship. Talk to family, friends, and professionals as needed as you navigate through the dating world.

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For many of freshmen, their first real-life exposure to Greek Life is when we step onto campus. Until stepping onto campus, you may have referenced Greek life through movies and television. There are reasonably some stereotypes, expectations, and possibly fears or hesitation about joining a Greek organization. Below are things to consider when thinking about joining a Greek organization.

1. Learn about the organizations that are available on your campus (and organizations not on your campus) and see what options you have.
a. You should become familiar with each organization on campus. Learn where they started, what they stand for, and what they offer to their members.

2. Make the decision for yourself. You want to make sure that you are joining the organization, because it is something you want to do and not due to peer pressure or someone else’s passion. You very well could be selected to become a member and your friend may not.

3. Get to know members of the organization. Invite them to lunch, get to know them, who they are and determine if it is someone you would like to spend more time with and develop a relationship with.

4. Think about the commitment. There is a certain time commitment and joining and being a member will be time consuming. Determine if you are able to balance the commitment with your other commitments i.e. school, work, extracurricular.

5. Factor in financial obligations. Greek life will require a certain amount of money. You will need money to join and money for events, activities, and service projects.

Once you make the decision on becoming Greek, there are certain stereotypes that may be true. You will need to work to determine the “type” of Greek you would like to be. Consider assuming a leadership role, determine how you want to service the community, and how you want to make an impact on the campus.

Unfortunately, partying can be negatively associated with Greek Life. You want to be aware of safe partying tips and ensure you and your friends are safe at all times. Below are a few tips if you choose to party.
1. Go with a friend and leave with the same friend. Stay together and be aware of each other’s location at all times.

2. Discuss a plan prior to attending. Have a general idea of when you want to arrive and leave. Ensure you are on the same page with your friend. As the evening progresses, check in and see if there has been a change in plans.

3. Only partake in alcohol if you are of age and if you want to. Do not allow pee pressure to force you into ingesting things you do not want. Moderation is key, binge drinking should be avoided.

4. Only drink or eat items things from people that you know and trust. Pouring your own drink and eating before arriving, will help reduce your chances of someone giving you someone you are unaware of.

5. Make sure you have a fully charged phone. You will want to make sure you have plenty of battery like in case of emergency. You should be able to call your friends, request an Uber, or alert emergency personnel of needed. If you see something, be sure to say something.

It is about 6 weeks into the semester and you should be settled in and have a routine established. You have most likely made a late-night food run, experienced entertainment over the weekend, and maybe even attended a home football game. You have also had the flexibility to do things you’d like to do with little to no guidance from your parents. One of those areas that you have (or will start to have) control over is your money and how you choose to spend your money.

You are probably noticing how fast and how little it stretches without a plan. Money is one of the most challenging things to conquer. You will see that most of your spending will occur on entertainment (parties, events, and outings), food (food court, late nights, and groceries), and school related expenses (materials for presentations, decorating your room, and extracurricular activities).

How are you doing with your spending? Do you have money coming in or do you need to find creative ways to stretch the funds you have. Do you have money for the rest of the semester? Good, you are doing well and keep up the good spending practices. If you are running low on funds, you may need to implement one of the tactics below.

1. Know how much money you have and how long it needs to last. Look at the total and divide amongst the weeks and stay within those limits. Consider any one-time expenses, travel home, and things on your list of needs.
2. Limit food purchases. Food is an easy way to spend money without having anything to show for it. Daily Starbucks, late night Taco Bell, and everything in between adds up and now you do not have much to show for it. You have a meal plan that includes enough meals to address your appetite. Your meal plan may also have bucks to spend like cash on campus.
3. Look for FREE events on Campus. There are events held every week that are geared towards students and are free for students. You have to make the most out of your experience and there are usually free events for every interest.
4. Consider other events on-campus that are not free. Do you plan to join Greek Life, do you need to pay dues to a club or professional organization?
5. Plan events accordingly. Go to the football game, enjoy a show in the theater department, or participate in a service project. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to attend every game, donate financially, or get the best seats in the theater.
6. Save. It is never a bad idea to save for an emergency, a rainy day, or a possible Spring Break trip.

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The beauty of the first few weeks of the semester, is the ability to drop the class without a penalty. Before the semester begins, you will want to research the Registrars list of important dates. You will need to know the last day to add a class and the last day to drop a class.

Adding a class will be tricky, because it will be impacted by class occupancy, may require the professor’s signature, or clearance from the Dean. Even if a class is full at the beginning of the semester, you may have the opportunity to add the class in the event registered students already in the class decide to drop. Remember to be patient and allow the system to work. If you cannot get into the class this semester, try again next semester or next year.

Dropping a class will require you to monitor the calendar. There are two dates that you will need to observe. One will allow you to drop the class without the class showing on your transcript, while the other date will allow you to drop the class, but it will be reflected on your transcript negatively affecting your GPA.

Having the ability to pick your class can allow you the opportunity to “shop” your classes and professors. If a class is not a good fit for you, the ability to drop can alleviate some stress. Class shopping also allows you the opportunity to evaluate your course load and to step back if you determine you have too much on your plate. Keep in mind that the professor may not change with future offerings of the course. Additionally, the course may have a limited offering of once a year. Be mindful of the potential of a repeat experience if you elect to drop the class and attempt to retake it.

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The school year is right around the corner. As you prepare with the necessary items to live comfortably in your new home, you must also mentally prepare. Part of college is the mental rigor of wearing your critical thinking cap the majority of the time. For you to have to a relatively successful transition from summertime to academia, there ae a few things that will help make the transition an easy one.

1. Go to bed at a decent hour. You will want to start weaning yourself from the super late-night schedule you have developed in the summer. It may be a challenge to get in the bed at 10p, but you will soon see the difference when you are alert and energized while your peers struggle to get through the day.

2. Eat healthier. A healthy and balanced diet will also help your body run on good fuel and not be weighed down by the bad stuff.

3. Start reading. If you have a reading list, start early especially if reading is not your thing. This will help alleviate some of the reading load that you have. It also helps with retaining information and better understanding the material.

4. Purchase supplies. If you have your supply list, you should begin the procure items and books as soon as you can. The earlier you tackle the list, the better your chances to purchase used books of the best quality, supplies before they run out, and confirm you have everything prior to class starting.

Getting into a routine that somewhat mimics your class schedule with aid in the transition once your schedule begins. Developing the habit of sleeping 8 hours each day, waking up to shower, eating balanced meals, heading to work, reading, studying, and balancing social interactions will help your transition. Too much or not enough of any of these things could contribute to your ability to successfully navigate through the semester. Lastly, creating these habits early will help with a strong start will require little adjustments when the semester begins. It is a good practice to repeat this before the beginning of each semester. Establishing a routine prior to the beginning of each semester will prove to be invaluable as you navigate your way through the semester.

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One of the most exciting things about college will be meeting new people. Although meeting new people is overall a positive experience. Meeting new people will be a perk and an exciting part of the college experience. New people will mean diversity and diversity means diverse ways of thinking, communicating, and engagement. Meeting new people comes naturally to others, while others may stumble upon new friendships. You will not always have clear lines to the friends that you will develop in your lifetime. The challenges of meeting new people include effectively communicating with others that think differently than you, your way of thinking being challenged, and finding the value in what others bring to the conversation. Various encounters will force you to acknowledge and own your bias, shortcomings, and closedminded perspectives. Meeting different people might also mean, you are forced to have conversations that push you, challenge your beliefs, and impact your way of thinking. They may also reinforce your beliefs and approach to various topics in life. Additionally, you may need to be the person that challenges the others way of thinking.

Having people with different opinions brings value to the conversation. It allows others to challenge the conversation, question the norm, expose the inconsistencies, bring humor, show compassion, express anger, diminish fear, or to just be open. The varying viewpoints in the conversation, are necessary! You may not understand it, you may be frustrated, and you may even be challenged to evoke change. You do not want to surround yourself with people just like you. It is easy to navigate towards those that think, act, and see things the way you do. However, relationships some time require intentional interactions, that push you to be the best person you can be.

Although there are never-ending benefits for incorporating diverse relationships in your daily life, it can also be challenging. Every disagreement is not going to be pleasant and some will challenge you, others will make yo uncomfortable, and others may lead to anger. Even during these difficult moments, you must find the beauty and know there is a lesson to be learned in the interaction. Just remember to be respectful, listen actively, and although the goal is not to convert the other person, you may have to simply learn to agree to disagree.

In the end, you will not enjoy every encounter, but you can learn something from every encounter. Take the time listen to others, really see who they are, and learn to accept people for who they are and where they are in life at the moment. Hopefully you will acquire new friends, that will enrich your life and provide the different perspectives to your newly evolving world.

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Freshman year will provide so many fresh starts and new experiences. You will meet new friends, try new foods, and have new experiences. For some students, this fresh start will be the opportunity to find their tribe. You will be able to find people that have the same interest, dress the same, and have a similar philosophy on life. For others, this experience may prove to be challenging and may not come as easy as things did in high school. You will be amongst others that may have been homecoming royalty, valedictorians, or brightest. Although you have grown into your previous role as a high schooler, you might be out of your element and need some time to adjust.

One thing remains the same in both scenarios, you must be authentically you. Walk with confidence, hold on to your beliefs and ideals, and don’t change who you are. Being you is the only way you will find the people that “get” you, the interest that speak to you, and the path you are meant to be on. Below are a few tips to help you be authentically you in your first semester.

1. Have an open mind. There will no longer be parents, siblings, or childhood influences. This will give you the opportunity to try new things. Your parents did not like sushi, but guess what, it may be your new favorite thing. Your siblings did not enjoy your favorite show, but you know what, a new season is about to start. Have an open mind and try not to be swayed by anyone.
2. Try something new each week. Make a decision to challenge yourself by trying something new each week. It can be a new exercise, a new smoothie, or even a new book. The idea is to keep things fresh and to not get stuck doing the same things week after week.
3. Meet someone new. Make friends with someone in your residence hall, one of your classes, or in the dining hall. A simple smile, sitting with someone alone at a table, or inviting someone to sit with you is an easy way to open up and meet new faces.
4. Learn to be confident in saying no. There may come a time when you are encouraged to participate in activities that you do not have an interest in. Learn to say no, instead of being sucked in, going with the flow, or following the crowd. If something does not look right or feel right, know that you can walk away.
5. Do what you love. Find an activity, an organization, or a class that you love. You will find other that will accept and welcome you with open arms. Not sure what you love, go back to #2 and repeat until you find something you love.
6. Be prepared to talk about your experiences. Other people want to know how things are going an how things are going. Be ready to share, as some people will learn from you, may offer support, or even have resources for you.

Freshman year brings a lot of changes, because you are learning, growing, and nurturing who you are and hope to be. So, take each day one day at a time and have fun learning who you are and how to stay true to yourself as you navigate your new world. Being yourself is the best way to embrace your new environment.