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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.

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.

Midterms are finishing up and it is time sit back and do nothing right? Wrong! Spring Break is a great time to recharge, but it also a great time to explore, serve, and learn.  Thoughtfully plan out your Spring Break, be intentional about how you choose to spend your time. You can accomplish so much of your to-do list or squander away time if not executed with a plan in mind.

Spring Break can be spent several different ways and you do not have to spend a lot of money to make Spring Break worthwhile. The most obvious Spring Break idea is to go on vacation to some exotic, sand-clad resort. This could result in a number of ways.  Spring Break for you will also include Spring Break for THOUSANDS of other college students, which means massive crowds, loud and obnoxious encounters with others, countless bad decisions, and money for travel. A better alternative is to go somewhere fairly local, within an hour or two that will take you out of your dorm room and allow you to see new sights.  You will still enjoy the “vacation like feel” and avoid the crowds. You may also want to consider staying local and acting like a tourist in your city or a neighboring city.  Again, you will enjoy being away while learning something new about your college town.  Research shows many graduates relocate to an area near their college after graduation.  Now is a good time for you to learn more about what could be your new home. You may want to also consider going on an Alternative Spring Break trip.  These trips are designed to give students a chance to travel during Spring Break, but also give back to deserving community by performing service projects.  Lastly, talk to your parents and organize a family vacation during your Spring Break.  This option, may be the most economical and cost you little to nothing.  Your family has missed not having you around the past 6-7 months and would love to spend time with you and see what you have been learning and doing since August (or at least Christmas, if you went home).

Regardless of how you spend your break, make a plan and make the time as useful as possible. A well planned and executed Spring Break can result in a lifetime of memories.  Below are a few more ideas to consider for your Spring Break planning:

  1. Change your room around.  A change in scenery would be nice for the remainder of the semester.
  2. Secure housing for next school year.  Moving off campus? Now is a good time to go explore your options, take tours, and sign a lease.  The good spaces are taken fast, so cease the moment while everyone is away.
  3. Read for fun. You probably do not do much of this anymore.  It has been all chapter this, article that. Get back to the novels, short stories, and series you love.
  4. Spring Clean!!!! Go through your clothes and shoes and donate anything you are not wearing and cannot fit. Also, CLEAN your entire place top to bottom, dusting, mopping, and giving the attention to areas you may have neglected. Do some laundry: clean bedding and linens, clean winter wardrobe and store away, and bring out your spring/summer wardrobe.
  5. Start working on your Final projects and papers.  The library and labs will be empty now is a great time to get a jump start.
  6. Start looking for a summer job. Now is a good time to go out into the community and see if anyone is looking for help.
  7. Volunteer.  Give back to your community or local church.
  8. Read chapters for school.  Another great way to get a head start in classes or a chance to catch up.
  9. Go to a concert.  Find your favorite band and travel to see their show.
  10. Start a Bucket-List.  There are several different versions: college list, a hometown list, or an overall adventure list.
  11. Work out.  Get into the fitness groove, while nothing else is competing for your attention.
  12. Work overtime. If you currently have a job, inquire about extra hours; pick up hours for others going on vacation.
  13. Visit your grandparents.  You probably have not called like you said you would, so now is the perfect time to go spend time with them.
  14. Go for a walk or a bike ride.  Just walk/ride, no destination in mind, learn something new about your community.
  15. Try something new.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just try it.  If you don’t like it great at least you tried it and know it wasn’t for you. It can be a food, musical, hairstyle, or new outfit.
  16. Go on an adventure. Try white water rafting, skydiving, or camping with friends.
  17. Plan a group activity.  Go bowling, skating, paintball shooting, or laser tag.
  18. Start a blog.  Whatever you like to do and enjoy, write about it.
  19.  Host a movie marathon.  Pick an actor/actress and watch all of their films.
  20. Netflix day.  Look through Netflix and find a new series to watch or catch up on a show you use to watch.
  21. Take a class for fun.  It can be yoga, art, dance, sewing, crafts, go to one drop-in class and see if you like it.
  22. Start packing.  The end of the semester will be here before you know it.  Pack items you know you will not need or use in the next month or so.
  23. Go on a special date.  Make it fun and well thought out. Give it a theme, make it a puzzle, or incorporate a scavenger hunt.
  24. Back-up your computer.  Now is a great time to save all of your work, pictures, and music.  For some reason computers tend to fail around Finals, when you need them most. If you ensure your computer is cleaned, delete unused data, and save your important information, you will be in a good place should your laptop crash later in the semester.
  25. Sleep.  You have probably not been getting a full 8 hours each night.  Use this time to sleep and enjoy not having to get up and go to class.

The week of costumes, candy, and “tricks” is upon us.  Halloween is the second biggest social event (after Homecoming) of the Fall semester. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to showcase your creative costume, engage in alcohol/drugs, and overall make bad decisions.  People like to use Halloween as their scapegoat for bad decision making.  We want you to be prepared, equipped with the right information, and safely enjoy your Halloween experience while in college.  Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Costume Choice: Be creative in your choice.  You want something that will be fun, cheap, and not offensive.  Try visiting your closet to see what you can pull together to create the look you want to achieve. Then explore thrift shops for cheap finds.  Lastly, recruit the talents of your friends; there may be make-up artist and stylist among other talents.  When picking your costume try to avoid stereotypes, mocking other cultures, and poking at touchy subjects. Group costumes are fun and allow you the opportunity to bond with others.
  2.  Alcohol/Drugs: Be careful with the type of parties you choose to attend.  Some will be heavily supplied with alcohol and drug activity.  Make the decision on who will serve as a designated driver and party in pairs.  While at the party you should always keep an eye on your partner and know where they are and what they are doing at all times.  Be sure to watch beverages and never leave them unattended, parties are the perfect time to slip something into your unsuspecting drink.  Try to avoid binge drinking games such as beer pong and power hour.  These games are dangerous in nature as they require a person to consume large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. If you think something is wrong err on the safe side and assume something is wrong.  If your partner has been gone for a while, assume they need your help and go find them.  If someone needs medical attention, do not assume they will be okay in the morning, take them to a professional right away to make the determination.  If you do not feel comfortable with what is happening at a party, trust your gut and leave. Alcohol and Drugs do not constitute having a good time.  Find ways to have fun that do not require you to alter your frame of mind.
  3. Bad Decisions: The nature of Halloween allows people to dress-up and live the night as someone else.  Taking on an alter ego and having the ability to escape your day-to-day life for one night can be an exhilarating idea.  Keep in mind what you do in that one night can have to potential to affect the rest of your life. Disorderly conduct, pranks, and unprotected sex can all lead to unfavorable consequences.  A night of fun can wind up being a night in jail, a suspension (or expulsion) from school, a STD or unplanned pregnancy.

Make the most of Halloween, it is a fun time and there are a variety of things you can do to celebrate.  Haunted Houses, community service projects for neighborhood kids, a movie night with friends, pumpkin carving and fun treats are all safe and fun ways to celebrate Halloween.  Whatever you choose to do to celebrate, make sure you make wise decisions and enjoy what the night has to offer.  The iRAs are here to answer any questions you may have about Halloween festivities.