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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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One of the most exciting things about college will be meeting new people. Although meeting new people is overall a positive experience. Meeting new people will be a perk and an exciting part of the college experience. New people will mean diversity and diversity means diverse ways of thinking, communicating, and engagement. Meeting new people comes naturally to others, while others may stumble upon new friendships. You will not always have clear lines to the friends that you will develop in your lifetime. The challenges of meeting new people include effectively communicating with others that think differently than you, your way of thinking being challenged, and finding the value in what others bring to the conversation. Various encounters will force you to acknowledge and own your bias, shortcomings, and closedminded perspectives. Meeting different people might also mean, you are forced to have conversations that push you, challenge your beliefs, and impact your way of thinking. They may also reinforce your beliefs and approach to various topics in life. Additionally, you may need to be the person that challenges the others way of thinking.

Having people with different opinions brings value to the conversation. It allows others to challenge the conversation, question the norm, expose the inconsistencies, bring humor, show compassion, express anger, diminish fear, or to just be open. The varying viewpoints in the conversation, are necessary! You may not understand it, you may be frustrated, and you may even be challenged to evoke change. You do not want to surround yourself with people just like you. It is easy to navigate towards those that think, act, and see things the way you do. However, relationships some time require intentional interactions, that push you to be the best person you can be.

Although there are never-ending benefits for incorporating diverse relationships in your daily life, it can also be challenging. Every disagreement is not going to be pleasant and some will challenge you, others will make yo uncomfortable, and others may lead to anger. Even during these difficult moments, you must find the beauty and know there is a lesson to be learned in the interaction. Just remember to be respectful, listen actively, and although the goal is not to convert the other person, you may have to simply learn to agree to disagree.

In the end, you will not enjoy every encounter, but you can learn something from every encounter. Take the time listen to others, really see who they are, and learn to accept people for who they are and where they are in life at the moment. Hopefully you will acquire new friends, that will enrich your life and provide the different perspectives to your newly evolving world.

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Freshman year will provide so many fresh starts and new experiences. You will meet new friends, try new foods, and have new experiences. For some students, this fresh start will be the opportunity to find their tribe. You will be able to find people that have the same interest, dress the same, and have a similar philosophy on life. For others, this experience may prove to be challenging and may not come as easy as things did in high school. You will be amongst others that may have been homecoming royalty, valedictorians, or brightest. Although you have grown into your previous role as a high schooler, you might be out of your element and need some time to adjust.

One thing remains the same in both scenarios, you must be authentically you. Walk with confidence, hold on to your beliefs and ideals, and don’t change who you are. Being you is the only way you will find the people that “get” you, the interest that speak to you, and the path you are meant to be on. Below are a few tips to help you be authentically you in your first semester.

1. Have an open mind. There will no longer be parents, siblings, or childhood influences. This will give you the opportunity to try new things. Your parents did not like sushi, but guess what, it may be your new favorite thing. Your siblings did not enjoy your favorite show, but you know what, a new season is about to start. Have an open mind and try not to be swayed by anyone.
2. Try something new each week. Make a decision to challenge yourself by trying something new each week. It can be a new exercise, a new smoothie, or even a new book. The idea is to keep things fresh and to not get stuck doing the same things week after week.
3. Meet someone new. Make friends with someone in your residence hall, one of your classes, or in the dining hall. A simple smile, sitting with someone alone at a table, or inviting someone to sit with you is an easy way to open up and meet new faces.
4. Learn to be confident in saying no. There may come a time when you are encouraged to participate in activities that you do not have an interest in. Learn to say no, instead of being sucked in, going with the flow, or following the crowd. If something does not look right or feel right, know that you can walk away.
5. Do what you love. Find an activity, an organization, or a class that you love. You will find other that will accept and welcome you with open arms. Not sure what you love, go back to #2 and repeat until you find something you love.
6. Be prepared to talk about your experiences. Other people want to know how things are going an how things are going. Be ready to share, as some people will learn from you, may offer support, or even have resources for you.

Freshman year brings a lot of changes, because you are learning, growing, and nurturing who you are and hope to be. So, take each day one day at a time and have fun learning who you are and how to stay true to yourself as you navigate your new world. Being yourself is the best way to embrace your new environment.

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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.