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.

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Throughout high school you have heard about college, but you may not have been exposed to college. As you begin or continue your quest to college, you will need to do some research, broaden your exposure, and find your college match. College can be compared to a pair of shoes. You may wear a size 7 in shoes, but not all size 7 shoes will fit you comfortably. College is similar; a university may offer your major, but it may not be a good fit for you.

With college price tags increasing each year, spending $20,000, $40,000, or $60,000 a year is a major investment. Before spending this type of money, consider if the university will give you all the things you desire and prepare you for life after college. Think about the things that are important to you and weigh the items you NEED in a university and the things you WANT in a university.

When considering a college to attend think about the following:
• Did your parents or another family member attend the school?
• Does the university offer the major and/or minor you would like to pursue?
• Are you interested in Greek Life? Does the university offer the organization you would like to join?
• What is the political climate on campus?
• What is the student demographic?
• What is the atmosphere on campus? Some schools thrive from the energy of students being and living on campus, while other campus are more commuter in nature.
• What are the housing options?
• Will you know anyone or have any connections on campus?
• What impact does athletics have on the university?
• Who are the faculty? What research are they doing?
• What is the average class size?
• How long will it take to complete your program?
• How close is the school to your home?
• Can you see yourself at the campus? Do you see people that look like you? Do they have things that interest you?

These are a few questions to get you started as you begin to work through the answers, you will find universities that you should consider. One of the best places to start your search is right at your school with your guidance counselor. Make an appointment to sit down and flush out your initial thoughts about colleges and majors. Your counselor may also have connections at universities, access to possible scholarship funding, and prompt you to consider somethings you have not previously considered.

Your research can be conducted by looking online, talking to current or previous students, and by visiting the university. You want to make sure you give this process adequate time as visiting universities can be time consuming and expensive if you are looking to attend school out of the state. Taking time to research university and finding the right university on your first attempt can save you money, extra coursework, and adjusting should you choose to transfer to a new university.

Although this is a major life decision that requires your attention and focus, it can be a fun process. You will be able to travel and visit schools, meet new people, and have a voice in making your college decision.

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You have been very patient up to this point.  You completed your application and submitted your completed packet to several universities of your choice.  You should have selected several options; at least 3-5 schools, to provide yourself with options. Waiting can be the hardest part, as each school has its own timeline and selection process.  With most things the decision that you are most anticipating will most likely be the last one to respond.    You should not feel discouraged and consider no news as good news.

As your decision letters begin to come in you should continue to reference the list or chart you made when determining which schools to submit your application. You will want to add to your decision list any information included in your admission letters.  You should take special note of your admission status, noting if you have full or conditional acceptance.  You will also want to note if any scholarship funding as been awarded.

Once you have heard back from all your options, compare your list.  You will want to consider all the items on your list (location, major, acceptance status, scholarship funding) and attempt to decide by May 1 or the deadline listed in the acceptance letter.  You will need confirm your attendance with the school of your choice, so they can prepare for your arrival, which includes orientation, housing, and classes. If you fail to respond by the requested deadline, you run a major risk of losing your space to another deserving student. 

Unfortunately, you will also need to prepare for some potential bad news.  You may have to cope with not receiving admission to your school of choice.  As you can imagine, schools receive thousands of applications each year.  They have a difficult decision to make from students of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences from all over the world.  Yes; the world!  Therefore, allowing admission to every applicant is simply not feasible.  As a precaution, you must prepare yourself for unfavorable news, should you not be admitted or if you receive a conditional acceptance. 

A conditional acceptance means you will be granted admission to the university, if you complete a set of requirements.  You may have to complete additional classes, provide proof of class completion, or successfully complete classes at a satellite campus before transferring to the main campus.  A conditional acceptance is not a denial and should not be viewed as one.  If that is your school of choice completing the conditions should be done as soon as possible to confirm your admission.

If you are not accepted at a university, take it as an opportunity to explore other options.  With many things in life, you will not always receive your first choice and instead you will continue the journey you were meant to travel. There are variety of reason why you may not have been accepted like not meeting the criteria, there not being enough room, an incomplete application, etc.  You should not concern yourself with why you were not accepted, just know you will be on the path and start the next chapter of your life journey. 

With any potential bad news, you may receive, you should have an alternative plan. So, consider your other school options, look at the benefits of trying a semester or year at a community college, volunteer, take classes over where your grades were not as favorable.  Look at what the other schools offer, because more scholarship funding from your second or third choice, leaving you to reconfigure your top school of choice. 

Deciding on your school is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Weigh your options, talk it over with your support system, and make the best decision for your situation.  Take comfort in knowing that your decision may change several times throughout the process and your top choice may change several times and where you end may not be where you started. Enjoy the process and may you have a happy and joyous acceptance process.

As you navigate through your career you will soon learn how to make professional connections. Those connections will allow you to collaborate with colleagues, mentor and be mentored, and assist as you navigate through your career.  As a rule of thumb, you never want to burn bridges.  You will learn that your industry, especially within your city and state can be a very close-knit community and you never know if you will cross paths with someone later down the line.   

As you progress as a professional, you will need to apply for internships, scholarships, membership into organizations, applying for graduate school, and seeking professional positions.  One of the things that you may need is a letter of recommendation.  Letters of recommendations will help you distinguish you from other applicants.  The letter will allow readers to paint a picture of who you are and what you have done or accomplished. 

One of the very first professional connections you will establish will be the person(s) you seek for a letter of recommendation.  If you have already identified a mentor, you may already have someone that you are comfortable with and can easily approach to assist you. If you do not have mentor and are unsure who to approach you may have to put more thought into your request.

If you are nervous or unsure who to approach, here are a few things to consider. 

1.       Update or create your resume.  Highlight your accomplishments, what you have done, and you are at a glance. Provide your resume when making the request so the person can refer to your accomplishments in the recommendation. 

2.       Identify a potential list of people to ask.  You may need 3 or more letters of recommendation and they may be required for different reasons.  One to speak on your work experience, one referencing your community service, and one that can speak to your educational aptitude. Consider coaches, professors, counselors and advisors, colleagues, classmates, and former supervisors.

3.       Ensure your recommender can speak to your skills and will have positive things to say.  You do not want to enlist the help of someone that has negative things to say about you, your work ethic, and your ability to succeed in the new capacity you are applying for.  

4.       Provide enough time for the recommendation to be completed. Provide ample time for the recommendation to be completed. 

5.       Know the requirements for the letter.  Make sure you know the required length, if there are specific questions or information that should be included. 

6.       Know the deadline and how recommendation should be submitted.  Some applications will require online submission while others will need to be physically mailed.   

7.       Be prepared to write your own letter.  Some people may need your guidance and for you to jumpstart the letter and they will adjust and add to suite their needs.

8.       Be prepared to hear “no”.  You may select someone that does not feel comfortable completing the recommendation.  The person may not have time or be able to meet your deadline.  The person may not know you well enough.