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As we settle in for the start of another academic year, it is important to reflect on what went well and maybe not so well last year. We are all life long learners, inside and outside of the classroom. Learning from past experiences is the best way to improve yourself and continue to grow.

Here are three ways to get the school year started on the right foot:

1. Set goals

Setting goals is a great way to stay on track throughout the school year and achieve success. There are many goals you can set for yourself and they don’t necessarily have to be GPA related. Maybe you realize you were extremely sleep deprived last year. You can set a goal for how many hours of sleep you want to get each night and organize your days better so you can get plenty of rest. A goal like getting more sleep has a positive ripple effect on many aspects of your life, including improved memory and learning abilities. Maybe another goal could be exercising a few times a week. Often, when we are busy, we forget to prioritize our body’s health. A goal like exercising more enhances your mood and energy levels, which can help you in your academic year. These are common goals we all likely share, but I challenge you to think outside of the box when it comes to goals. What are objectives, specific to you and your studies that could help do better this year? Identify a weakness you have or something you would like to develop. Then, think about how you can work on bettering yourself while staying motivated. For example, maintaining friendships can be challenging, especially when you are on a demanding academic schedule. A goal could be to keep up with friends more often this school year. Whatever your goal may be, be proud of yourself for aiming for bigger and better things!

2. Create a Schedule and WRITE IT DOWN!

Yeah…yeah… yeah… we all know schedules are good. But Hey! Do not ignore this tip. This is the best tip of all tips! No, really. Studies show that writing down to-do lists has remarkable positive effects on your brain. Staying organized is the key to academic success. You can be a brilliant person, but if you can’t keep track of all the due dates and responsibilities you have, then it means nothing. You are no longer in high school or middle school where teachers write the homework on the board each day. This is college. You likely have several courses with various endless due dates. Write it down. You can do this in a planner, a calendar or maybe daily to do lists. Whatever organizational style floats your boat – just as long as you are writing things down. Your brain isn’t superhuman. We all forget things; so don’t rely on your brain alone. Your philosophy professor is not going to accept “I forgot” as excuse for missing the paper deadline.

3. Get Involved

Become better connected with your school and campus by getting involved with student activities. You can meet new people while boosting your resume and doing something that you love! Campuses have various student organizations such as Greek life, service trips, volunteer groups and intramural sports. College may be the only time in your life when you are able to go on a weeklong service trip – so seize the opportunity and do it with your peers during spring break! Maybe you played sports your whole life and you are really missing it now that you are in college. Look into what your school has to offer because there are plenty of club and intramural teams available to you. If you are interested in a career in TV production, maybe your campus has a TV studio where you can help out. Getting involved helps make college feel like home. You truly do meet great people by getting involved outside of the classroom. The extra curricular activities I participate in have taught me what career path I want to go on, more so then my classes have taught me. Take advantage of opportunities sitting at your disposal on your campus.

It is the second semester of your senior year and it is time to ensure you have things in place to be successfully admitted to a university this fall.  If you have not already applied for a university, now is the time to complete the process and below are a few tips to assist you in the application process.

1.        Be organized.  Take the time to create a file, get a notebook, or organize information on your computer. Being organized will help you to easily identify materials needed for each application and reference when needed.

2.       Know your deadlines.  In your planner, on your phone, or put on the calendar; whatever your system may be, just ensure you know the dates.  Once you know the deadlines, create new deadlines that occur 2-4 weeks prior to the actual deadline. If something could go wrong, it most definitely will when you wait until the actual deadline.  You are asking for your application to get lost in the mail, miss the postmarked deadline, or not allot enough time for your recommendation letter to be received, if you do not allow time for any possible mistakes. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the application requirements, but also leave room for error.

3.       Read the instructions carefully. Yes; almost all universities will require you to undergo a similar process to be considered for enrollment. However, each application will request the information in a different way. 

Be sure to read the information very carefully and ensure you are providing the exact information that is being requested. When your application is reviewed for admission consideration, if you have an incomplete application, do not address the essay question as listed, and do not include all requested documents, your application could be denied.

The application process can be extremely competitive, you don’t want to give the reviewers a reason to throw your application out of the pool.  Complete all sections, include all accompaniments, and thoroughly respond to the essay question.  

4.        Proofread EVERTHING! Take your time and complete your entire application and essay.  Walk away from it! Yes; walk away and come back in 24 hours. Using your fresh eyes, now review all the information you have completed on the application including your name, address, and essay.  Again, you do not want to give the reviewers any reason to disregard your application.  A simple spelling mistake could have an impact on your application.

5.       Gather necessary documents. A complete application will take some time to complete.  You will need the following for your application to be completed:

a.       Thorough responses to all parts of the application.  Ensure each area requesting information is completed.

b.       A well-developed essay. Take your time to develop your main idea, supporting information, and conclusion that ties everything together.  Be sure to answer the question that the application is specifically requesting.  Recruit a second pair of eyes to proofread and provide feedback.

c.       Minimum of three letters of recommendation.  Make sure you formally and personally ask each recommender.  They may require a resume, a list of your awards, and to know more about your career goals.

d.       Proof of income. You will need to work with your parents to secure the requested documents that provide proof of your household income.

e.       Obtain your transcript.  You will need official copies of your transcript. Copies will cost you per copy and require that your account is clear of any other outstanding charges. 

 

Follow these steps and watch the decision letters welcoming you to your new university roll in.  Good luck in the application process.

The summer is winding down and it is almost time to head to school. You’re almost ready, but before you leave for school, you want to ensure you have all of the necessary “tools” to be successful.  As you embark the new chapter in your life titled college, do not become overwhelmed anxiety.  Small bouts of anxiety are normal and using the helpful tips below will hopefully allow you to ease the anxiety and transition smoothly. Below can assist you in creating your checklist regarding the things you need to complete prior to your arrival will help with the transition.

  1. Confirm your orientation.  You will need to know what day you will need to arrive.  Haven’t received orientation information? Giving the Admissions office a call and confirm date, time, and location.  You will also need to confirm is the orientation all day, overnight, and if there is anything you need to bring. Be ready as you could do everything from tor the campus, to selecting courses for the semester, to complete all financial aid documents.
  2. Confirm your housing. At this point you should know where you are living.  If you don’t know at this point, give Residence Life a call and see if your application was received, if you have a placement, and if they know your assigned roommate.
  3. Get to know your roommate.  Most institutions will send your housing assignment with contact information for your new roommate.  Utilize the information, reach out to them and start to build the relationship early.  Become friends on social media, determine a shopping list for your new space.  You don’t want to both show up with two microwaves, fridges, and vacuums.
  4. Start gathering your belongings.  In your housing welcome packet there should be a list of suggested items for you to consider. You can also find lists with a quick Google search. You will be surprised how many items you have when you begin to gather everything.  Start early and gather a small piece at a time, start with books, kitchen items, food, and end with your clothes. Believe it or not, you don’t have to take everything you own with you.  You will be back in 4 months (maybe sooner if your university offers a Fall Break) and you can exchange items and grab things you may need.
  5. Get supplies.  In addition to your usual notebooks and pens, you will need additional supplies as you prepare for school.  Consider laptops/tablets, what device will work best for you? You will have term papers to write, PowerPoint presentations to create, and research to complete. How will you accomplish these task and what tool will be the best to help you accomplish the task? Also, know the tools of your major are you an art student, are you an athlete, are you in theater? Consider the tools special to your trade.
  6. Save as much money as you can.  You will need money for many items such as textbooks that can range anywhere from $50-$200 each for your 6-8 classes. Although you will most likely have a meal plan, you will need food for after-hours meals. You will need to shop for essentials for your room; think shower caddy, lamp, bathrobe, and much more. In general, you will want money just to have in the event you and your new friends decide to go on a coffee run, grab a movie, or hit the popular diner down the street.
  7. Consider transportation.  How will you get to school? Once you arrive, will you need to get around? Some campuses are a brisk five-minute walk, while other require a more calculated transit. If you do bring your car, where will you park it? These are all things that you need to consider when considering if a car will be needed.
  8. Say your goodbyes.  There will never be enough time and this next chapter in your life will move at lightening speeds. Speed time with your grandparents, close friends going to other universities, little siblings, and most of all your parents.  Your transition to college not only affects you, but everyone that has regular contact with you. Do your best to spread your time among family, work, and friends before you leave.

Take time to create your “Off to School Checklist”. The checklist will keep you mindful of the items you need to complete prior to your departure.  Use your resources to ensure you are well-equipped and prepared for this next step in your life. Talk to older siblings, review information provided by the university, read the Freshmen Survival Guide, and use search the internet for other resources available. After you complete this checklist you WILL be ready!

list clip art           With the close of the school year, it’s time to start thinking about your plans for next year. What classes would you like to take or are there any clubs you’re interested in joining? Thinking about these kinds of things ahead of time gives you plenty of time to make a decision instead of feeling like you are under pressure to make all your decisions right away. Sit down this summer and make a bucket list for next year!

In regards to class schedules, try to schedule classes as early as possible. Popular classes get chosen very quickly and you’ll want to make sure you get a spot. If you have certain classes you’re required to take by a specific semester try to take them as early possible. Class deadlines are the same as any regular deadlines-the earlier you meet the requirements the easier you will breathe.

Planning your activities out in conjunction with your class schedules can give you a better idea of how much free time you’ll have after all you want to do. Trying to overstretch yourself can end in you being exhausted and overwhelmed as opposed to feeling engaged in everything you want to do. Keep your schedule as full as you want it, but make sure to pencil in time for yourself as well. Take that rock climbing course you’ve always wanted to, check out that indie theater you keep saying you’ll attend, or go hang out in that coffee shop. Doing something for yourself can help make you feel at peace with the rest of the schedule that you can’t always control.

Whether you make your bucket list on a computer, write it down in a book, or just keep it in your head, having an idea of what you want to do can make your life much less stressful. Planning ahead can help you decide what is or isn’t the most important use of your time. A more thought out plan for the next year can give you more free time and leave you feeling in control. The idea of a bucket list for college might seem silly, but trust me. Checking off your wish list will give you a feeling of accomplishment unsurpassed by anything else.

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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!

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Happy New Year!!!!

It is a new year, which means a new semester and a new set of goals.  Before you begin to form your list of new goals, you must reflect on the goals from last semester. Take a look at the short and long term goals you created last semester. How did you do?  Did you accomplish everything on your list?  Did you surpass what you set out to do? Let’s take stock of what you have accomplished (and did not accomplish).  Look at what you were able to do! Congratulate and reward yourself for a job well done.  Look at the factors that affected why you were able to accomplish the goals.  What formula did you have in place that allowed you to succeed? How can you apply that formula to the new set of goals for yourself? 

 

At the same time, reflect on the goals you were unable to achieve, hold yourself accountable for the goals that you did not obtain.  Now is not the time to beat yourself for not achieving your goals. This is where you evaluate the goal(s) you did not accomplish and discover why they were not achieved.  Were there factors within your control? Were there uncontrollable factors? Did you almost meet the goal?  Look at all of the factors associated with each missed goal.  A missed goal does not mean the goal is lost forever.  It could just be bad timing or the lack of balance.  Pinpointing the reason why the goal was not accomplished will help to decipher if the goal is lost or should be revisited.  If it is salvageable, add the goal to the list of goals for the new semester. If the goal is not salvageable, evaluate all of the reasons why you were unable to accomplish the goal and try to prevent those factors from reoccurring.

After evaluating your goals, reflect on how you would do things differently.  Did your goals challenge you, did they push you to the next level of your (personal, professional, academic, financial) life, did you accomplish your goals to fast? Ask yourself these things and gear up for the new semester.  Make a list of the things you would like to accomplish this semester. Divide the list into short term and long term goals; indicating items you would like to accomplish at the beginning of the semester, items by the midpoint, and items to complete by the end of the semester. Ensure there is variety within your goals and you take a holistic approach to your goal setting.  Becoming stronger and more competent in one area of your life will not help you most in the long run.  You want to ensure you are developing and balancing all aspects of your life. Focus on your personal growth (spiritual, social, physical, financial), as well as, your professional growth (academics, experience, and skillsets).

Goal setting can be challenging especially if you are coming off a semester where you did not accomplish all you hoped.  Try to look at goals as small pictures that will come together to achieve one big picture. Accomplishing the small goals, step-by-step will help you to tackle the bigger goals piece-by-piece.  Instead of saying you want to lose 50lbs; try saying you want to lose 4lbs a month.  Instead of saying you want to earn an “A” in Molecular Biology, try focusing on earning an “A” one assignment at a time. Instead of saying you want to make new friends, try one new activity a month. Each of the smaller goals are a part of the bigger picture and as you accomplish the smaller goals they will propel you towards the bigger goal.

The number one dreaded response to a question you ask your professor is “It’s on the syllabus.” Professors love this phrase almost as much as students hate it. However, it’s important to understand that your college career will be so much easier if you make friends with your syllabus. This is your guide to surviving the semester, and the best part is you usually get all of them at the exact same time.

The most important information for students on the syllabus is the attendance policy. Some professors are very lenient about attending class (although it will always pay off for you to go) while others have a very strict “one-and-done” policy. If this information is on your syllabus, it can help you to plan for those inconveniences of life. For instance, you might be able to schedule a doctor’s appointment during Stats 1001 if you have to, but you definitely can’t go to the dentist during English 1010. Try your very best to save those absences for when you really need them, and always contact your professor to let them know you won’t make it before the class if at all possible. Professors appreciate this consideration for their time, and you will definitely notice the difference in their persona toward you.

The second most important information is the book list. Knowing ahead of time which books you’ll be reading for the semester can help you plan this out. Check and see if you know any friends who have the book and check university Facebook pages to see if another student is selling the book you need. While your university bookstore is an excellent resource, we all know that they tend to have some of the most expensive books. However, occasionally you’ll have a class where the professor has written their own book, and it’s usually only available at the university bookstore. This is where you get to make the fun decision whether to rent or buy the book. In my experience, if the difference between the price to rent or buy is only a few dollars, go ahead and buy the book. It will be much less stressful than trying to keep from accidentally damaging it all semester, and you’ll get to put it on your shelf and look cultured to all your friends.

Last but not least, take note of assignment dates. Most syllabus have all the dates for assignments, exams, and project deadlines. Write these down at the very beginning of the semester so that you can plan when to start each assignment and when to start studying for your exams. Knowing this information ahead of time will also help you plan for finals week. Many universities have policies about the number of finals you can take in a 72-hour period, but you have to request to move these finals very early in the semester. Don’t be that person to wait until Thanksgiving to realize you have four finals in 48 hours. Give yourself and your professors a break and find out that information now.

Knowing the syllabus inside and out before you really get into the semester will be the single biggest time saver for you. This will help you prioritize assignments between classes, manage your time, and improve your study skills. Make an effort each semester before classes start to sit down with each syllabus. You won’t regret it!