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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.

Love is in the air, as John Paul Young would say. Valentine’s Day is soon to be upon us. Have you started planning how you will celebrate? Maybe you aren’t planning to celebrate at all, or maybe you’re going to be spending the day with a significant other or a group of friends. However you plan to celebrate, enjoying yourself-and enjoying yourself affordably is key for a successful Valentine’s Day!

To begin with, if you are single, think about how you would like to spend the day. If you’d rather spend time by yourself, queue up your favorite Netflix show and indulge in a delicious treat all for you. If you want to celebrate with a group of friends, find an affordable option in your local area. Maybe your student government is putting on an event, or a local restaurant you love is offering a special. Check out your options a few days before so that you and your friends have ample time to plan before the big day.

If you’re in a relationship, then your options depend on whether your significant other is close by or far away. If you’re in a long-distance relationship, think about things you and your significant other can enjoy. Technology has made so much more possible these days. Try ordering your favorite takeout for each other, sending a gift, and watching a movie you love together on Skype. If you’re in the same city, then you have even more options! You can go out to eat, see a show, or catch a free community event! Your budget should determine how you want to spend the day. If you have a low budget, try a romantic walk in the park instead. Take a picnic with you and make a day of it!

On the topic of presents, try to think about something your significant other or friend would truly enjoy. A sentimental card can sometimes mean more than a bouquet of roses. Valentine’s Day gifts can get expensive quite quickly, so if you are planning to buy presents set a budget for yourself. Don’t feel obligated to buy the largest teddy bear or all the roses in the store. Remember, it’s the thought that counts!

No matter what you choose, recognize that Valentine’s Day is just another day. Whether you choose to celebrate or not is completely up to you and/or your significant other. Don’t feel pressured to buy expensive gifts for each other or spend a lot of money on a romantic night out, and don’t feel bad if you do! Plan your version of a special day early to relieve stress and make the most of it.

Love is in the air, because tomorrow is February 14th! Valentine’s Day! The Day of Love! … or Single’s Awareness Day! Or to the more counterbalanced individuals among us, it may just be Thursday! Regardless of the holiday you find yourself celebrating tomorrow and who you are celebrating it with, be it a boyfriend, girlfriend, a single friend, or group of friends, cat, dog, fish, hamster, or, as it is commonly referred to as nowadays, being “forever alone” (cheers!) this time of year raises the questions, concerns, (and hormones,) of many a college student in regards to the universal favorite topic of sex and relationships.

 

Let me begin by disclaiming that I will sound like a broken record repeating a lot of the same information pounded into your head many a time already, but that is because our buddy Cupid over here fires his arrows and bolts, never sticking around for the fallout that sometimes carries over from careless actions that college kids falsely believe they are immune from. At the risk of sounding like the ageing RA that sternly wags his finger at you, I have seen it time and time again. So, I decided to team up with our beloved winger archer and tie some helpful hints to the arrows you may find yourself prodded with this year.

 

Cupid’s Arrow #1: Meet the Ugly Green Monster’s Equally as Ugly Relative

Sometimes, students come into college with very little or no experience about their sexuality, so when they hear their friends and peers boasting about their latest sexual conquests the night prior, they may get trailed upon by that obnoxious brute called Peer Pressure.

 

Before we even begin to dive in further here, let me just stop and give a friendly piece of advice: Never Force Anything. Attempting to force friendships usually does not get you very far, attempting to force relationships usually is a sign Cupid had a bit of a cockeyed shot, and attempting to force sex just finds you in a whole world of hurt, both ethically and legally.

 

Unquestionably, we all desire for connection and intimacy, but that should not encourage you to force anything just because “everyone else is doing it.” Mistakes derived from peer pressure can have some unsatisfying and regretful consequences attached with them. Case in point: a very good friend of mine was on a bit of a sexual dry spell, and after a bit of peer pressure from a few of his teammates, he had sex with a girl that he hardly knew and had zero connection with. The next morning, he felt extremely embarrassed over his hasty decision and was ashamed with himself, not to mention it managed to destroy a friendship between him and one of his other friends who actually knew the girl.

 

At the end of the day, it really is okay to take things slow and do things your own way, regardless of what your peers around you say or think. Dr. Seuss said it best when he said, “People who mind don’t matter, and people who matter don’t mind.”

 

Cupid’s Arrow #2: Welcome to College, Where the Hormones Rage (As Do the Risks)

Okay, so college is all about meeting people, and sometimes these connections create friendships, and sometimes they develop into something more, and when this happens, clothes tend to come off. College kids are notoriously bad at thinking, however, that not practicing safe sex is still okay because y’all are 17-22 years old and immortal. However, you aren’t.

 

Sure, I understand sex feels better without a condom, but I know that it also is not worth an unplanned pregnancy or even contracting an STD or AIDS. This day and age, we are lucky as young adults to have the widest variety of condom choices, including thin condoms that still feel great and keep you protected.

 

Also, guys and girls, always have condoms around ready for use. Nowadays, you can buy condoms that come in small safety packets that keep the condom safe from elements such as heat, being crushed or ripped, or anything else that would weaken most other condoms. This way, you can keep them in your wallets, purses, in the glove box of your car, or in the sock drawer back home. Then, they are always willing and ready to go, just like you!

 

Cupid’s Arrow #3: Person A Meet Person B

By no means is any piece of relationship advice sound and foolproof for every couple in the entire world, because we are all different and we tend to all interact and love others in unique ways. Therefore, in this regard, I have very little advice to give if you are already in a relationship, because you discover what works and does not work as a couple on your own. However, I do have this: Communicate.

 

Communication is still how this world works, the last time I checked. Distance undoubtedly puts a massive strain on any relationship, especially those couples at two different colleges across the country/globe. So be sure to communicate with one another, and trust what the other is saying. Same goes for you couples who attend the same college. Communication is still just as vital. And for those of you single, you know what, that’s cool too. College is a great time to find your groomsmen, not necessarily your wife.

 

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!