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The Spring semester has officially started. You have had a couple of weeks to settle in and now is good time to do a pulse check. Examine how the first few weeks have unfolded; have you started strong, pick up where you left off in the Fall, or do you feel overwhelmed? Whatever you are feeling, it is okay and checking in now can help steer your semester to success.

Have you had a test, written a paper, completed a group assignment? How did it go? Take this pulse check to determine if you need to study harder (or differently), get a tutor, or revise the focus of the group project.

At the beginning of each semester, we have discussed in earlier blogs, that you should write down short- and long-term goals for the semester. Use notebook or a journal to detail things that went well, areas for improvement, accomplishments and defeats for the past semester. Use these to jumpstart your goals for this semester.

This semester, take your goal setting to the next level, find ways to keep yourself accountable. Find out what motivates you and will help push you to achieve your goals. It may also be beneficial to find an Accountability Partner. An Accountability Partner will help you stay on track with your goals and remind you should you lose focus. Consider rewarding yourself for your efforts; perhaps a trip, a new gadget, or a concert. For some students the intrinsic reward is enough.

Every goal requires an action plan. Take time to plan out your goals and how you plan to achieve the goal. You will need to break down into smaller goals, so the bigger goal is more manageable. For example, your long-term goal may be to get an “A” in class, but that can seem like a daunting task. However, setting smaller goals of reading 2 chapters a week, writing one page each day a week before a paper is due, or reviewing notes each week.

Remember a goal without a plan is just an idea. Take this time to assess your progress thus far, don’t get too far into the semester before making adjustments. Find someone to be your accountability partner. Explore ways to reward yourself and to help you stay the course.

You have survived a few rounds of questions around the Thanksgiving dinner table about how your semester is shaping up thus far. Now classes are back in session and you are a few weeks from wrapping up the semester. As you prepare for the end of the semester, you may encounter several culminating tasks to conclude the semester and test your knowledge of the course content. You may see a variety of options, such as a paper, a group project, a PowerPoint, a speech, or some other creative approach to determine your knowledge obtained in the course.
Now is a good time to assess your skill level in the varying areas. You should be able to review your syllabus for more information regarding what the final assignment will be. Over the last semester, you should be able to determine which areas you may need additional support or direction. Examine your experiences, look at grades on assignments, review notes from professors. These are all resources to help you identify your areas of need. Now that you have identified possible areas of improvement, there are resources on campus that can assist you. Below are a few resources that are available to you.

Writing Center: The Writing Center is available to review samples of your writing and provide feedback on how to take your work to the next level, things to consider, and areas of improvement.

Office Hours: Office hours are a great way for you to connect with the professor or teaching assistant about the information and expectations for the assignment. Asking the professor for assistance could help clarify things and shows you took some initiative.

Academic Success Center: The Academic Success Center is a very helpful resource, because they can assist with helping you to organize your thoughts, help you to understand the assignment, pair you with a tutor, or even look at public speaking and offer tips on the roles of successful team. You can

Testing Center: The testing center is another space that may be available on your campus. The center provides a quiet place to test, offers information on how to prepare for an exam, and provides tips for success.

Academic Advisor: Your advisor is another person you can discuss any concerns you may have and is definitely a good starting point. Your advisor can point in the direction of the appropriate university resource. Your advisor is a good person to discuss any struggles you have encountered and how to overcome those challenges.

Each university is unique in the resources that may or may not be readily available to you. Take time to assess how you have been performing and areas that could use some support. Your campus is full of support and now is the time to explore what options are available and how you can combat it.

Good luck as you prepare for the end of the semester.

It is about 6 weeks into the semester and you should be settled in and have a routine established. You have most likely made a late-night food run, experienced entertainment over the weekend, and maybe even attended a home football game. You have also had the flexibility to do things you’d like to do with little to no guidance from your parents. One of those areas that you have (or will start to have) control over is your money and how you choose to spend your money.

You are probably noticing how fast and how little it stretches without a plan. Money is one of the most challenging things to conquer. You will see that most of your spending will occur on entertainment (parties, events, and outings), food (food court, late nights, and groceries), and school related expenses (materials for presentations, decorating your room, and extracurricular activities).

How are you doing with your spending? Do you have money coming in or do you need to find creative ways to stretch the funds you have. Do you have money for the rest of the semester? Good, you are doing well and keep up the good spending practices. If you are running low on funds, you may need to implement one of the tactics below.

1. Know how much money you have and how long it needs to last. Look at the total and divide amongst the weeks and stay within those limits. Consider any one-time expenses, travel home, and things on your list of needs.
2. Limit food purchases. Food is an easy way to spend money without having anything to show for it. Daily Starbucks, late night Taco Bell, and everything in between adds up and now you do not have much to show for it. You have a meal plan that includes enough meals to address your appetite. Your meal plan may also have bucks to spend like cash on campus.
3. Look for FREE events on Campus. There are events held every week that are geared towards students and are free for students. You have to make the most out of your experience and there are usually free events for every interest.
4. Consider other events on-campus that are not free. Do you plan to join Greek Life, do you need to pay dues to a club or professional organization?
5. Plan events accordingly. Go to the football game, enjoy a show in the theater department, or participate in a service project. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to attend every game, donate financially, or get the best seats in the theater.
6. Save. It is never a bad idea to save for an emergency, a rainy day, or a possible Spring Break trip.

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The beauty of the first few weeks of the semester, is the ability to drop the class without a penalty. Before the semester begins, you will want to research the Registrars list of important dates. You will need to know the last day to add a class and the last day to drop a class.

Adding a class will be tricky, because it will be impacted by class occupancy, may require the professor’s signature, or clearance from the Dean. Even if a class is full at the beginning of the semester, you may have the opportunity to add the class in the event registered students already in the class decide to drop. Remember to be patient and allow the system to work. If you cannot get into the class this semester, try again next semester or next year.

Dropping a class will require you to monitor the calendar. There are two dates that you will need to observe. One will allow you to drop the class without the class showing on your transcript, while the other date will allow you to drop the class, but it will be reflected on your transcript negatively affecting your GPA.

Having the ability to pick your class can allow you the opportunity to “shop” your classes and professors. If a class is not a good fit for you, the ability to drop can alleviate some stress. Class shopping also allows you the opportunity to evaluate your course load and to step back if you determine you have too much on your plate. Keep in mind that the professor may not change with future offerings of the course. Additionally, the course may have a limited offering of once a year. Be mindful of the potential of a repeat experience if you elect to drop the class and attempt to retake it.

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The school year is right around the corner. As you prepare with the necessary items to live comfortably in your new home, you must also mentally prepare. Part of college is the mental rigor of wearing your critical thinking cap the majority of the time. For you to have to a relatively successful transition from summertime to academia, there ae a few things that will help make the transition an easy one.

1. Go to bed at a decent hour. You will want to start weaning yourself from the super late-night schedule you have developed in the summer. It may be a challenge to get in the bed at 10p, but you will soon see the difference when you are alert and energized while your peers struggle to get through the day.

2. Eat healthier. A healthy and balanced diet will also help your body run on good fuel and not be weighed down by the bad stuff.

3. Start reading. If you have a reading list, start early especially if reading is not your thing. This will help alleviate some of the reading load that you have. It also helps with retaining information and better understanding the material.

4. Purchase supplies. If you have your supply list, you should begin the procure items and books as soon as you can. The earlier you tackle the list, the better your chances to purchase used books of the best quality, supplies before they run out, and confirm you have everything prior to class starting.

Getting into a routine that somewhat mimics your class schedule with aid in the transition once your schedule begins. Developing the habit of sleeping 8 hours each day, waking up to shower, eating balanced meals, heading to work, reading, studying, and balancing social interactions will help your transition. Too much or not enough of any of these things could contribute to your ability to successfully navigate through the semester. Lastly, creating these habits early will help with a strong start will require little adjustments when the semester begins. It is a good practice to repeat this before the beginning of each semester. Establishing a routine prior to the beginning of each semester will prove to be invaluable as you navigate your way through the semester.

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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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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.