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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.

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Did the fall semester get past you? Were there things that you wanted to do, but did not have the opportunity to complete?  Did you learn about opportunities or organizations when it was too far into the semester?  Spring semester provides another chance to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities you missed in the fall semester.  Each semester offers new opportunities to engage and try new things. If there are things you were unable to accomplish, participate in, or finish, use the new semester as a fresh start. 

Each semester also offers a new opportunity for change.  There will be students who change universities, graduate from school, or rearrange responsibilities due to schedule demands.  These changes will provide possible new opportunities for jobs, involvement, and exposure.  So, do not be afraid to ask about a vacancy, seek membership, or dive deeper into new found passions.

Here are a few ways you can get involved:

1.       Attend Rush and learn more about Greek Life on campus.

2.       Visit the Work-Study office for possible jobs

3.       Go to an organization fair and see what options are available on campus.

4.       Talk to a professor or your advisor about opportunities to get involved in the department.

5.       Reach out to a classmate that is already involved and learn about any upcoming opportunities.

6.       Consider local government and run for a position in your classes election.  Help with someone else’s campaign or serve as an election judge.

7.       Apply to be an RA for the fall semester. Applications are due early spring semester and may require a 2 or 3 step interview process.

8.       Read posters and flyers on campus for possible information about events and opportunities.

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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.

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Besides showing up and participating, taking notes will be one of the most important things you do in the classroom.  Taking notes will help you pay attention, retain information, and serve as a helpful study tool.

Here are a few keys to successful note taking.

  1. Find the medium that works best for you. Do you prefer to handwrite notes, type on a tablet or laptop, or a combination of either while recording the lecture?  You will need to confirm if your professors have any restrictions on how notes can be taken.
  2. Do not write word for word. Find ways to shorten longer words, use abbreviations, and summarize bigger ideas.
  3. Ensure your notes are organized and are easy to understand.  Remember, you will refer to your notes in a few weeks (for a quiz or midterm) and possibly a few months (for a final).
  4. Compare notes with classmates. See if your classmate’s notes offer something different than your own notes.
  5. Review your notes often.  After class, before your next class, at the end of a chapter or section, and before tests. Reviewing your notes will allow the information to stay fresh and offer greater understanding of the information and build on new information being presented.

Learning to take notes early in your college career will not only be beneficial throughout your time in undergraduate school, it will also be helpful in graduate school, post graduate school, and later in your professional career.  Taking notes will help you take direction, review directives, and execute assignments. Although it will be time consuming, it will prove to be beneficial tool throughout your life.

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Have you ever heard the saying “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know?” Well that motto directly relates to networking. If you are not familiar with networking, this is something that you should start now as a student and take with you into the work force.  Networking is the exchange of information between people that could develop as your community of colleagues and may become your friends.

 

Networking is a very valuable tool as it allows you to connect and build relationships with others who may or may not be in your industry. Networking will allow you the opportunity to reach out to others and utilize them brainstorm ideas, determine benchmarks, develop mentor relationships, and of course for possible career opportunities.

 

You should see every interaction with people as an opportunity to network. Your very first exposure of networking may be in the form of family.  Career choices can be influenced by a family member or friend of the family.  These people will know you best and speak of your character.  They will be able to provide insight and advice on their career journey and it may have a positive impact on your journey.  When you need an internship, job shadowing experience, and professional interviews these will be your go to people.  Your relationship and performance may land you a career opportunity.

 

Your classmates will serve as the second source of networking opportunities. You will spend an immense amount of time with your classmates throughout your college career.  Be mindful of how you interact with others, how you make others feel, your work ethic, and overall relationship with them.  There may come a day when you may work with, work for, or rely on their opinion as it could impact your career.

 

The next group of people that serve as valuable networking tools, are your professors. Believe it or not, your professors are incredibly connected in the field.  They were in the field for years (and may still be in the field), they have friends in the field, and they may have access to a variety of professional opportunities.  Your professors will also be able to speak of your professional and academic skills.  You want to make sure you have a positive review from your professors by attending class and submitting assignments on time, working well with others, positively participating in the classroom, getting involved in your major’s professional organization, writing articles, attending conferences, participating in research opportunities, and volunteering whenever you can.  These things will shine a positive light on you and your professors will not hesitate to present professional opportunities to you.

 

The last source of networking that is available to you is the career development office on campus. If you have no idea where to start, not sure what events to attend, or how to approach potential networking opportunities the career center is the place to start.  This will allow you the opportunity to practice, get feedback, and obtain information about upcoming opportunities to network.  Stop by and see what services are available to you.  The services are free and you should utilize the career center every chance you get.

 

The most important part of networking is to connect with others, so you will want to have business cards or have your resume handy. If you don’t have either, add the person to your contacts in your phone and be sure to follow-up, so they also know how to contact you.

 

When it comes to networking, put your best foot forward, be yourself, and showcase your knowledge and skills.