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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.

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House parties and fart parties are a way of life for many college freshmen. Whether you rushed a Greek organization or just know someone who did, chances are you may end up at a party by your senior year. These parties can be a lot of fun, but it is important to know how to stay safe while you’re doing so.

The number one way to stay safe while in an environment you are unfamiliar with is to have a plan ahead of time. Don’t just show up at the door-go in knowing your limits. How many drinks will you have? Which friends are you going with and who do you know in the house? If you’re going to be offered a place to stay for the night, will you accept or do you plan to head home at a certain time? It may seem kind of foolish to “plan your fun” but you’ll be thankful for it when a situation is sprung on you and you already have an answer.

The second important factor in staying safe is to be familiar with the safety resources your campus has to offer. For instance, knowing how you’ll get to and from a party is very important, particularly if you plan to be drinking. My university had a bus that ran on a set schedule on campus and some off campus places, as well as a campus transit option that would pick you up when you called and take you anywhere else on campus. Knowing your campus resources can be life-saving, especially if you planned for a different ride that backs out at the last minute. You should also program your campus police number as well as the local area number, just in case.

No one wants to plan for the worst to happen at a party, but planning ahead can make your time much more enjoyable. You won’t have to worry about what might happen because you’ll be at ease knowing that no matter what happens you’ll be ready.

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It is just about time for midterms, you are just about half way through the semester. It is usually around this time stress levels begin to surge.  Before the stressful time commences, you should mentally prepare by finding balance, peace, and taking time for yourself.  Your mental health is the foundation for your academic success and overall well-being.  Be sure you are listening to what your body, mind and spirit are telling you. There are a number of things you can do to stay mentally fit as you navigate through the stressful times of the semester. Be sure to review helpful de-stressing tips below. These tips could be helpful to you or a friend as you navigate midterms. Be sure to keep your mental health in shape, but also check on the health of your peers.  Midterms and Finals bring out the lowest points in a student’s semester and having a good support system will be just what a peer may need. Be sure to build your support system and be open to being a part of someone else’s support system.

Exercise– take time to release some endorphins to help you look and feel better. Exercising will give you a chance to focus on something other than the stress of school.  Go to the fitness center on campus, take a group class, or simply walk around the campus.  The physical activity will help de-stress and will also help you sleep better.

Get some sleep– rest is the next most important thing to your academic success after studying. It is important that you try to regular full night of sleep. Attempt to sleep in a quiet dark room uninterrupted.

Prepare for the task ahead– be sure you have a plan in place on how you will successfully study for up to six tests at one time.  You cannot cram for all of the exams one day before the exam.  You must develop a plan to effectively dedicate enough time for each course.  Taking time to study prior to the week of the exams. Dedicating a little time each day to each class will help you take achieve little piece of the puzzle, by the time exams arrive you will have the whole picture.

Stay spiritually grounded– if you have a spiritual background, now is the time to dig deeper into your faith.  You want to stay spiritually fit before and during these stressful times.  Being spiritually fit will allow you to be calm and centered during the exams. If you do not have a spiritual background, now is a good time to explore your spiritual needs.  Don’t know where to start? Ask a friend, look at campus groups, or see if there are spiritual resources on campus.  Showing up is the first step and all you have to do is determine how you feel.  If you do not like what you see or hear you do not have to stay or return.  Just because you do not like one option does not mean you cannot explore other options.

Utilize campus resources– The campus has a wealth of resources available to you.  Your tuition covers the costs of these resources so feel free to utilize them.  Outside of the fitness center and the spiritual resources that may be available, you also have access to counselors and advisors.  Your advisor and a counselor can serve as sounding boards during stressful times. They can listen to your concerns, allow you to vent, and help navigate your steps.  Don’t be ashamed or feel like you are imposing, these professionals are on campus to be of service to you.  So if you need them just reach out and set up an appointment.

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If this is your senior year, February is about when you start hearing back from all the colleges you’ve been applying to this year. Understanding what these letters from colleges mean can help you make an easier transition into your freshman year.

If you’re accepted into a college, you usually get a big package from them. This can sometimes include university memorabilia, but will definitely include information about the school, how you can register for orientation, signing up for housing, and so on. At first glance it might seem like a lot of information but it is all very important so make sure to pay attention. Most notably, many colleges require you to accept your place there by a certain date. If you are still waiting to hear from other colleges, you are under no obligation to respond immediately. Make sure you write this date down on your calendar however, because if you don’t respond by then you will often lose your spot.

If you’re rejected from a college, it’s tempting to be devastated. While it is okay to be upset, don’t take it too hard. Sometimes this just means you and the college are not a good fit together, and you should look at this as an opportunity to find a college that more closely matches what you are interested in. Look at the college carefully and think about what inspired you to apply, and use that information to help narrow down other colleges that you’re thinking of applying to. If the college provided information about why specifically they didn’t choose your application, use that to shape your application for the future.

A third option you will receive from a college is a wait list notice. This means that the college is interested in you, but might not have any more available spaces. Remember we talked about that date you have to let colleges know if you accept your place by? This is how people move up the waitlist; as people turn down their spots, people on the wait list are offered the position. You should plan, however, to attend a different college. Accept your place, and follow their instructions to begin planning to attend for your freshman year. If your wait-listed college ends up accepting you, you can decide to attend there instead. This way, you have a secured place and aren’t left in the lurch if you don’t get accepted. There are many ways to improve your chances on the wait list as well. Follow the instructions in your letter; contact the university to find out where you are on the list; and update them on major changes in your academic status, such as improved test scores, additional classes, and financial aid needs. Contact an admissions counselor at the school and ask for advice. They help students all the time, so they are well-equipped to answer any of your questions.

The last question that often plagues high school seniors is the inevitable “What If?” questions. What if your friends all get accepted to your top university and you don’t? In your senior year, this can seem devastating. You now face the possibility of having to find a whole new group of friends, going to a new place by yourself, and losing contact with your old friends. Going to a different school doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your friendship. Technology has progressed to the point where you can see your friends across the country through Skype or Facetime; we have text messaging, instant messaging, even apps that connect you instantly! While it will take a bit more work, your friendship can grow even stronger if you apply the effort.

The college application process is the first step toward the next important part of your life. With careful planning, you can make the right decisions for you without becoming totally overwhelmed. Remember that your parents, guidance counselors, university admissions counselors, and college recruiters are all there to help you. Make sure you take full advantage of these resources by asking as many questions as you need answered. You can do this!

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In January, students often feel that they need to make a resolution. After all, everyone else is doing it. The key to a successful resolution is viewing it as a lifestyle change instead of a goal you need to meet for an x-amount of time. This is why you often seen the university recreation centers packed for the entire month of January, but as soon as February 1st rolls around those people disappear. If you truly want to be successful, sit down and commit to yourself to make changes in your life, not a resolution.

With this in mind, think about the changes you’d like to make in your life. Do you need to set aside more time for homework or get to bed earlier? Do you want to start going to the gym every day or spend more time with your friends? Whatever your goal is, putting it down on paper makes you more likely to follow through since you’ll have a visual reminder. Set a number of days you want to keep doing an activity before you reward yourself. For example, “When I go to the gym 14 days in a row, I can treat myself to ice cream.” Small rewards will keep you excited about your new lifestyle and you can look back and see how successful you’ve been.

One of the most effective things I ever did in college was set a school-night bedtime of 12:00 AM. During my freshmen and sophomore years, I pulled a lot of all-nighters to get things done, and it really wore on me. Once I set a time that I had to be in bed by, I noticed an improvement in my organization, my academic work, and my overall mood. Small things can vastly improve your life. Take this month to make some changes in your life, and reap the benefits all semester long!

Partying at college is often seen as a rite of passage, with many people assuming that you can’t have any fun at all if you aren’t into partying. While you can have lots of fun at college if partying isn’t your style, it’s also totally fine to admit that you like partying with your friends on weekends to celebrate surviving another week of classes. What’s important to note here is that you get to make your own decisions now: whether partying is or isn’t for you, whether you will drink alcohol or whether you’d rather steer clear, and how partying stacks up against your own values.

The most important key here is that you need to make these decisions before you’re pressured into going out. Knowing what you want to do ahead of time takes the stress off of you in the moment, and helps you make wise decisions instead of decisions based on alcohol or peer pressure. Sit down with yourself and take a good hard look at what you plan to do. The obvious question is whether you will or won’t drink alcohol. Try to decide ahead of time how many drinks you’ll have, because when you reach that level at the party you’ll be more likely to stop yourself. It’s very easy in the moment to say “Well, I’ll just have one more.”

Second, if you plan to go with friends, make sure you know what the plan is before people start drinking. Know who your designated driver is going to be, and make sure you know whether or not you are all planning to leave together. The last thing you want is to be running around at 3 AM looking for one of your friends. With that in mind, make sure you hold onto your phone, keys, and license. If you do happen to lose your license, do not panic! Wait until the next day and call the bar or the party host. Often people drop their licenses, and during clean-up they are piled up in a stack for the people who will call to collect them. If you’re at a bar and you paid with a credit card, make sure you close your tab before you leave. That way you will get your card back and know how much money you spent.

Regardless of what you choose, be aware of how the choices you make can affect your future. Remember the lesson about “The Internet is Forever,” and be very careful about posting pictures that show you being drunk or behaving in a way you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. While partying can certainly be a lot of fun, you do not want to regret it in the morning.