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The semester is winding down you are probably celebrating the completion of finals and ready to unplug.  While you spent time developing in the classroom and you were also developing outside the classroom as well.  One of your daily development opportunities is your interaction with your roommate(s).  The end of the semester is a good time to assess how things are going with your current living situation and to start thinking about next semester.  You and your roommate should have developed a friendship and if you are lukewarm to friendship, there should be a level of respect.

How do you and your roommate communicate?  Do you handle disagreements in a respectful manner?  Are you prepared to complete another semester with your current roommate?  Do you have any concerns?  Are they major concerns like health, safety, and ability to comfortably use your room? Are you a positive influence on each other?  These are questions you need to consider as you enter the new semester.

If you are experiencing major issues, those that are preventing you from comfortably enjoying your room, are safety threats, or those that may jeopardize your success in school, you need to address them before starting a new semester.  You should attempt to talk to your roommate and see if you are able to resolve.  If you are unable to resolve, you should consult your resident advisor.  If there are major concerns, that may be not be resolved you should explore a room transfer. The room transfer may not be an option, as there are several factors that impact the transfer.  A transfer may incur a fee, there may not be anywhere to transfer you or your transfer options will be limited, and it will require you to pack and move all of your belongings.  Another major factor to consider before transferring is really evaluating your current situation.  It is good to know wat you currently have, as entering a new situation will be encountering the unknown.  All the work that you have put into your current living situation, will also be required in your new situation.  This time you will be coming into an already established living arrangement, you will need to get to know your new roommate(s), and develop a new system, learn expectations, and earn each other’s respect.

If things are going well (and even if they are not) while thinking about next semester you also need to consider next year as well.  Housing selection for next year will occur rather early in the semester and if you wait until the end of the semester you may run the risk of not having housing or not obtaining your top choices.  Housing options to consider upperclassmen building, Greek Life housing, on or off campus apartment, or stay where you currently reside.  Whichever decision you choose, you will need to make a commitment as early as February (this is typically priority deadline for on-campus housing) and some started back in October (off campus housing recruitment can begin as early as October).

While you gear up for your winter break.  Take a few moments to reflect on your housing situation this semester and think about your housing options for next year.  This will serve as a great discussion piece with your parents over the break.  Let them know how things are going, get another perspective, and discuss options for next year.

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Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and can be a time of great happiness or great sadness. You may be gearing up for a weekend of time with family and friends.  You are looking forward to your family recipes, family traditions, and time to relax before intense finals. On the other hand, you may not be able to travel home and back to campus for such aa short amount of time and then turnaround to return home during the semester break. This time is one that you should savor and enjoy.

Like many students across the country, you may be heading home for the holiday. This will be a great time of inquiries, updates, and sharing.  Your entire family will want to know how your life on camps has unfolded.  Be ready to eagerly share your major, your dorm life, and things that you enjoy and dislike about school so far. Everyone will want to know more about your interest, things you have learned, and how things are different or may have changed especially if they are an alumnus.

Some of you may need to stay on campus due to your distance from home, work responsibility, or another reason.  If you cannot make it home, do not let it get you down. You have other viable options that may be suitable substitutes to being home. You could be the guest of one of your friends/classmates.  It may not be your home, but it will give you the family feel and is a great way to strengthen relationships with your friends and to gain a second family.  Another option is to host a “Friendsgiving” celebration. This is a newer name for a concept that has been around for some time. A Friendsgiving allows you and others staying on campus the opportunity to come together to enjoy dinner, games and great conversation.  You can try out one of your family’s recipes and experience traditions from other families and cultures.

Thanksgiving is a great time to go home and cure any homesickness that you may have be experiencing, but if you cannot make it home, do not let it get you down.  This holiday is just the precursor to the semester break which will give you more than enough time to connect with your family. Use this time to regroup and prepare for finals. If you can make it home, enjoy the time with family and recharge your battery as you prepare to return to campus and complete finals.

Whether you stay on campus or go home for the holiday enjoy the time and Happy Holidays from your Interactive Resident Assistants.

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.

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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.   

The summer can be a great time for you to learn life skills that seem to fall by the wayside in the midst of classes, hectic exam schedules, and student jobs. Now is the perfect opportunity for you to ask your parents for advice on all the tasks you might not already know how to do: change a tire, change your oil, wash the laundry (without bleaching, shrinking, or otherwise ruining anything), and how to make a meal (without a microwave or the word “instant” involved). Tackling these skills while you’re on break can help to fill your summer with meaningful learning, without opening a book or taking an exam. When you get back to college, you will be able to impress all your friends with your new knowledge!

Time these requests right! Ask your parents if you can tag along on errands such as grocery shopping so you can learn how to stretch your budget to feed multiple people. Ask to be taught how to do something that is already being done so as to make the most of the lesson! For instance, don’t ask to be taught how to make lasagna for dinner and expect to learn at 10 AM. Such a lesson would be much better timed closer to dinner. Your parents will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and you will still get to learn what you want.

The summer is also a great time to learn random skills that may or may not be at all useful. You can learn essentially anything you can dream of on YouTube. One summer I learned how to make paracord bracelets just because. Do you have an interest in some random skill? Try looking it up and see what you can learn with just the internet and your copious amounts of free time.

Returning home for the summer after being away at college for an entire year can be a challenging transition. You are back in your parents’ home, but you’ve become used to making your own decisions and not having to be accountable to anyone about where you are or what you’re doing. Your parents, however, probably remember you as the high school senior who had rules and curfews, and they don’t necessarily expect that to change. Such attitudes about living at home for the summer from both sides can cause major tension, so it’s important to talk to your parents about your expectations and ask them what their expectations for you are.

Sitting down and talking with your parents about the summer is an important first step. Talk about everything, even little things you think might not matter. Ask if they expect you to have a curfew, let them know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and if they expect you to ask permission not to attend events the rest of your family plans to attend. These are things that they most likely expected from you in high school, but that you have gotten used to ignoring in college. As a freshman, nobody checked to make sure you were in your room at 11 PM or came to find you if you didn’t go to class. Your parents are a little more likely to wonder about your whereabouts.

When you talk to your parents, keep in mind extenuating circumstances in your house. Do you rely on your parents for use of one of their cars, meaning you can’t always just leave or go somewhere when you want? Do you have much younger siblings that might result in your parents wanting you not to watch that R-rated movie in the living room? Simple things you might have forgotten about make a big difference, especially in households with younger children who have to keep some semblance of order even though you’re on vacation.

Whatever decisions you and your parents come to, remember that the summer after your freshman year is just a summer. It can be a lot of fun to get to hang out with your family and spend time with them, and this is a unique opportunity to spend time with your parents as more of an adult than a child. You can get to know them more as individuals instead of just your parents. The reverse, of course, is that too much togetherness can have you yearning for the freedom of college again. If you decide you hate it this year, then you can make other plans for next summer. No matter what, make the most of this summer and the experiences you can enjoy.

It’s almost here-Summer break! The long awaited break from all those books, papers, and classes is just around the corner. As tempting as it may be to kick back and relax all summer long, you’ll probably find that after a week or two doing nothing gets really boring. This is why summer can actually be one of the most important times in a college student’s life! This is where you get to explore who you are outside of school, and sometimes even away from home!

Deciding what you want to do all summer can be a hard task. Maybe you have a job waiting for you back home, and you plan to make a little extra cash to get you through next year. Maybe your family wants to take a vacation to the middle of nowhere for a few weeks. Or maybe you’re one of those stellar freshmen who have already managed to line up an internship! Whatever you plan to spend the summer doing, there are a couple things to keep in mind for making the most of your summer!

First, vacations will mess up the timeline for just about anything else. It can be really hard to get a job or internship when you already know that you’ll be missing a set amount of time, but you don’t know when. For this reason, convince your parents to set dates for vacation well in advance. You can still take the time to spend time with your family, but you’ll also have a much easier time finding employment when you already know when you won’t be able to work. To make it extra easy, try to schedule vacations for the very beginning or very end of summer. You’ll be able to schedule your job around the vacation, instead of trying to get time off.

Second, internships are only as helpful as you make them. Everyone says internships will make or break your future career, and in some ways that’s accurate. However, it really depends on what field you’re going into, what internship you get, and how much time you spend there. For instance, if you’re an accounting major and you get an internship at a movie studio doing set work, that’s not going to be very helpful when you apply to major accounting firms. If you go home and work the books for a small local store, that’s going to be a lot more specialized experience, even though it isn’t an internship or with a really big, famous company.

Whatever you do this summer, keep in mind that you still have a few more summers to make the most of your college experience. If you plan things right, by the time you get out of college you’ll have a wealth of work experience and educational opportunities (like study abroad) to show exactly how much effort you put into getting ahead. By graduation, you’ll be a summer break pro!

Spring Break 2015 is almost here, and it seems like everyone you know is headed to the beach, back home, or some other epic trip. If you aren’t planning to travel, staying on your campus can feel isolating and like there is nothing to do. Campus is deserted, all your friends are gone, and for all that we may plan to do our homework over break, no one ever really wants to do that.

Spending spring break on campus can be a very rewarding experience. It’s peaceful, there’s no one coming into the hall at 3 AM and waking you up, and you can still sleep in your own bed and not a hotel somewhere. This is the perfect time to take advantage of some opportunities that might slip away from you during the craziness that can be a school week. Here are some ideas for what you can do without breaking the bank and traveling.

Check out the local movie theater. Since you’re not in class, you can attend matinee shows which are much cheaper than regular showings. Go see that movie you’ve wanted to see for a while, and treat yourself to some popcorn with your leftover ticket money. Chances are the theater will be quite empty with most college students and local school families traveling. If movies aren’t quite your style, see what’s being offered on campus. A lot of universities plan activities during spring break for students who didn’t go home or who aren’t able to do so for whatever reason. This can be a good way to make some new friends and to get some free food. This is also right around the time that outdoor sports are really taking off, so get out there and watch a game or two! Watch your campus team if they have any home games during your break, and if not try checking out some local community teams. Who knows, it may inspire you to join!

The important thing about spring break to remember is just that-it’s a break. Take advantage of this time free of classes to relax and recuperate for the rest of the semester. Sleep in, go to the gym, play some video games, or go for a walk. Now is the time to enjoy those activities that make you feel rested while you have the chance. Spring break doesn’t have to be about beaches and partying, it’s about whatever you will enjoy for the week or so you have off school. Make the most of it.