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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.

Selecting a college is much like making a large purchase. When you think about it, college could be a $50,000 a year investment.  Like all major purchases and big decisions, you will want to weigh all options to make the right choice.  There are a few questions you will ask yourself and a few things to consider when selecting the school that is right for you.  Below are areas to consider as you are navigating through the college selection process.

 

Consider Location

Location can often be the determining factor when selecting a school. Ask yourself if being closer or further away from home is important to you.  Are you okay with staying at home with your parents, would you be okay being a plane ride away from home or would you like to have the flexibility to drive home frequently?  Do your parents need you close to home, do you have younger siblings that look up to you, or are you free from other obligations? These are all questions that you should factor into your decision-making process when it comes to selecting the best location.  Staying close to home offers benefits like frequent trips home throughout the year for birthdays, holidays, and should there be any family emergencies. Going away could help expand your independence, sense of adventure, but may create a strong case of homesickness.

Do you have a dream school? Have you considered your parents alma mater?  Are others providing you with their suggestions to consider?  What makes these options so special? What stands out about each choice? What does each option offer that the others do not?

 

Factor in Costs 

How much will each option cost you out of pocket? When you look at college, you should consider it an investment?  What will the return be on your investment?  Will your choice carry weight in your industry after graduation? Will you be connected to other professionals in your field?  Will your degree require additional education, certifications, or licensures?

Student loans can be follow you for up to 10, 15, or 20 years. Selecting a school that will require the least amount of debt, will have a major impact later in life when you are considering a home purchase, starting a family, or enjoying a new hobby.

Look at scholarship opportunities that can help assist with costs.  Scholarships are available for a variety of reasons and will provide you with some financial relief.  Scholarships are available for athletes, and not just football and basketball players.  There are scholarships for golf, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and more. Be sure to research programs and showcase your talents to a recruiter or coach.  There are also a host of other scholarships for women, men, left-handed people, first generation college students, and much more. Scholarships can also be found at the university, in the community, at your parent’ job, at your job, or even your high school.

 

Look at Admission Requirement

Do you know your SAT score? Do you know what score is required to gain admission to the university of your choice?  Do you need to write an essay?  Can you get creative with your admission application?  Do you need letters of recommendation? Will you need to complete an interview? Be sure to review the requirement for admission and ensure your application is submitted with all required information.

Be mindful of deadlines for application submissions.  Set aside enough time to complete, review, and mail the application. You do not want to exert a lot of energy into an application that will not be considered, because it is incomplete or missed the deadline.

 

Determine other factors that are important to you

Is there anything else on your college wish list? Do you want intramural sports, arts, or perhaps extracurricular activities?  Do you want Greek life, cultural experiences, service learning, or leadership opportunities?  How is the food on campus? What are the class sizes?  Do you have flexibility with designing your major, adding a minor, or double majoring? Are you required to live on campus, can you get open communication from the various offices on campus, do you feel welcome on campus?

Selecting a college is quite the task and should not be taken lightly.  You should take your time to identify the school(s) of your choice. Research requirements and how each school compares to your ideal college. College admissions can be extremely selective and with so many people applying you want to submit a thoroughly completed application on time.  In addition, you should select 3-5 schools and submit applications.  When your acceptance letters start to arrive, you will have the opportunity to select the school that is best for you.

 

Good luck during the process as you move one huge step closer to your college career.

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Whew!

You made it to the end of the semester.  By this time, you probably do not want to think about another reading assignment, a group project, or balancing the various things you had on your plate just a few short weeks ago.  Right now, sitting in a corner playing Candy Crush, double tapping on Instagram, reading articles/books for fun, or taking the latest BuzzFeed quiz is the only thing on your agenda.  As enticing as those past times sound and as easily as you may be lured in, you want to be sure that you really utilize the summer to productively decompress from the semester. 

The summer could be used to reconnect with old friends, strengthen your bond with family, or explore some of your new-found interest. Below are some ways to not get sucked into the time spiraling daze of your smart phone.  

Ways to avoid losing your summer to your smart phone:

1.       Go to a concert.  Take it up a notch and attend a concert in another city, state, or even country.

2.       Go on a trip.  Pick a place you’ve never been.  Try travelling by train, bus, or drive.

3.       Make a new friend.  Put yourself out there and introduce yourself to someone you do not know.

4.       Try a new work-out routine.  Pilates, Cross-Fit, or training for a race will help keep you active.

5.       Go for a walk around the neighborhood with your parents.

6.       Take your younger sibling to the local arcade.

7.       Volunteer to assist at a local organization for charity or to gain experience in your field.

8.       Jumpstart your required reading for next semester.

9.       Pick up ice cream and visit your grandparents.

10.   Host a slumber party. You can invite new and old friends. 

11.   Help your siblings navigate through their summer reading list.

12.   Assist your parents with a project around the house.

13.   Stay connected to classmates.  Invite them to spend time with you and accept their offers when presented.

14.   Join a challenge to help count the days and keep you engaged.  Think cooking, weight loss, or financial savings challenge.

15.   Take a class at the local community college. Taking a special interest class such as Pottery, Event Planning, or Computer Coding may spark new passions within you. 

16.   Clean and organize things around the house.  Talk to your parents about projects they have put off and would like to finish.  

17.   Work. Find a part time job to assist with saving for the next semester.

18.   Get involved on campus.  Orientation leaders and volunteers are needed to help assist with incoming freshmen.

19.    Write an article in your field.  Once written attempt to get it published within your professional organization.

20.   Try something new.  No matter how big or small, keep a positive outlook and try something you have never experienced.   

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There are approximately 15 weeks in a semester and right now you are in the final stretch of the year.  Now is the time to continue to push forward and finish strong. You will have a whirlwind last few weeks, filled with study groups, testing, papers, and presentations.  The final weeks of the semester require a lot of time, energy, and brain power.  You can successfully conquer the end of the semester if you follow these simple steps:

1.       Get some rest.  It may seem unachievable, but it is necessary for your brain and body to get a full 8 hours of sleep.  Getting enough rest will help to rejuvenate the mind and allow you to stay sharp.

2.       Eat.  Providing food to your body provides nourishment to the brain.  When studying, have snacks available to help your brain stay sharp and focused on the task.

3.       Align yourself with others.  Reach out to others in the class to study, ask questions, and gauge yourself against their knowledge and progress.  It is helpful to utilize others in the class to stay on track and to see if their understanding aligns with your understanding.  You may have notes or information that they need and you may need something as well.

4.       Start Early.  There is never too much studying and preparation: the more you do, the more you connect and retain the information. Cramming can work for short-term retention of information. You are not working to remember the information long-term, you are simply working to regurgitate the information in a short amount of time.

5.       Prepare for mistakes.  When something goes wrong, it will most definitely go wrong at the most inopportune time. For example, the Wi-Fi will go out, the printer will not work, someone in the group will get sick, you will have to work late, another paper or project will take more time to complete than what you projected.  Take time to plan in case of an interruption or emergency.  You will be grateful when things do not go according to plan and you have time to resolve, restructure, and execute another plan of action.

6.       Ask your professor.  Waiting until finals to talk to your professor is not the most ideal thing to do. Getting face-to-face with your professor as early as possible in the semester will help send a message to the professor that you are serious about your field and that you are an engaged student.  Waiting until the very end of the semester may send the message that you are a slacker.

7.       Check your syllabus.  Please sure to thoroughly review the syllabus.  This is extremely important, because the syllabus lists all requirements, due dates, and possible extra credit opportunities.  The syllabus is a good starting point for your assignment or to see possible topics on the exam.  You should become very familiar with the syllabus and what is being required of you each week.

8.       No cheating.  If you are thinking about cheating, do not it. Cheating can get you suspended from school and ruin your academic career.  Do not participate with friends who may plan to cheat. Do not utilize a previously written paper.  Do not plagiarize a paper. Take the time to truly research the information and present your own knowledge and ideas.  There are so many ways you can get caught cheating and most universities take a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cheating.

9.       Get another set of eyes.  Reach out to friends, classmates, professors, or teaching assistants and ask them to provide feedback on your paper or presentation.  Having another set of eyes will help determine if you missed something, if you are clear in your thoughts, and if you need to tweak anything.  This will require a little planning as you will need to factor in time for you to write the paper or create the presentation, have someone review your materials, and revise it before submitting.  

10.   Relax.  Finals are a stressful time, but take time to relax and unwind throughout the process.  Find a healthy way to release stress;,like exercising, meditating, or listening to music.  Stress can lead to unhealthy anxiety and cause you to perform worse than you should.  Take time to encourage yourself and know that you’ve got things under control.  You went to class all semester, you took notes, you dedicated time to study and you know your stuff.  Tell yourself you got this and be confident in your abilities and knowledge.   

The Spring semester is drawing near and now is the time when final assignments, take home exams, and the dreaded group projects are now due.  Working alone can be great, because you can do things on your own at your own pace and on your own time.  There is no one to discuss thoughts and preferences on the way things should be completed. You are not putting your grade in the hands of someone else.  Working alone is possibly the best case scenario. Or is it?

Working in groups is designed to help you grow in a variety of ways. Group assignments force you to interact with others.  The selection process can be great when you are given the opportunity to select your own group.  Friends, the kid next to you that aced every quiz, or even the crush you have had your eye on all semester.  However, the selection process can also be daunting if you are randomly selected or placed in pre-assigned groups. Instead of dreading this experience, think of it as an opportunity to grow and learn.  Group assignments allow the best parts of each person to shine.  Someone will naturally migrate into the role of leader.  Someone will be creative and find ways to add their gift to the project.  Someone will be organized and create a timeline and ensure the group stays on track.  Inevitably there will be someone who waits for a role in the group, and if no role is given they will float along throughout the project. The issues arise when expectations are not set, a non-leader takes on the leadership role, or when personalities clash.  Working together can be an enjoyable experience, but you have to tackle concerns from the beginning and do not wait until the last minute to achieve the goals of the group.

Below are 10 things to keep in mind when working in a group.

  1. Identify the goal of the group. Is it to a PowerPoint, a skit,  a debate, a movie, etc.? Refer back to the actual assignment and make sure everyone understands what the professor wants. Ensure you identify this early on and that everyone knows what the overall objective of the group.  Making sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning will eliminate a lot of frustration, confusion, ad last minute scrambling.
  2. Develop and a game plan and identify roles.  Each person will have their own strengths.  Allow people to identify their areas of strength and competence. However, the assignment is an opportunity to grow, so do not allow everyone to shy away from the “hard” or “difficult portion of the assignment.  Everyone will have to step out of their comfort zone at some point in the project. Someone will emerge as the leader of the group.  This will come naturally to someone or  someone may have to be appointed. Do not allow this position to become a dictatorship, the process from beginning should be a democracy and a collaborative effort to ensure all voices in the group are heard.
  3. Set-up a timeline. Identify the due date and work backwards from that date to identify milestones for the project.  You      should have a minimum of 2 meetings before your final meeting to ensure everyone is on target and playing their role.  Having at least three meetings will allow you to identify weak links, gaps in the presentation, ensure each person is on target with their portion. When you discuss progress you will be able to see early on if someone is not completing their task.
  4. Be open to new ideas.  People will do things and interpret things differently, different does not mean wrong, just means different.  Allow yourself to try new things and be open to a different way of processing the project.  Everyone will see things in a different way.  The only way the project will be successful is if everyone has the opportunity to infuse a piece of  themselves into the final edition. No one should shut down ideas or not consider how an idea could positively impact the final project.
  5. Bring a positive attitude.  From the very beginning, have a positive attitude.  Do not show your disgust for group work.  Do not let previous experiences negatively impact how you approach this new experience.  Do not allow your personally feelings towards individuals affect how you work. Do not allow your distaste for the subject or topic overshadow your      contributions to the group.  When someone else greets you with negativity respond with positivity.
  6. Do your part. Nothing is more frustrating than working with a group and someone does not do their part of the project.  Ensure you are available to meet.  Make sure you are on time when there is      a meeting.  Bring something to discuss when the meeting takes place.  No one wants to hear your excuses about why you cannot meet, why you are late, or how you are struggling to complete your portion.  Come prepared and prove to be a strong link.
  7. Do not take things personal.  Group assignments can bring out the best and worst in others. There may come a time when tensions are high and unkind words may be      spoken.  In these moments, focus on the project and not the person. Focus on the needs of the group and not the person.  Do not feed into the tensions, stay focused on the goal.
  8. Do not involve the professor.  The professor does not want “babysit” your group and how you work together.  As young adults, you and your peers should be able to work together to achieve the goal at hand.  If problems arise you should try everything among the group to resolve your issues without involving the professor. Meeting a minimum of three times will allow you to catch issues early before they can impact the entire project. If you need to involve the professor, it should be related to the goal and expectations not personal conflicts. If there are personal conflicts that cannot be resolved then you should approach the professor with the issues, the strategies you have implemented, and how the group thinks the problem should be resolved.  This will show      the professor that you are not tattle telling and that there was an attempt to resolve the issues.
  9.  Do  a dry run.  At some point before the final presentation, the group should complete a run-through of the presentation from beginning to end.  Each person in the group should have a copy of the presentation and know the role that each plays and should have an understanding of ALL of the information in the presentation.  Focusing on just your area will not give you all of the information about the topic.  Emergencies happen, people oversleep, someone could get stage freight; you should be able to      present on the topic in the event you are the ONLY person available the day of the presentation.  The “show” must go on even if you are the only person there to present.
  10. Take it seriously. From the moment you receive the topic to the moment you begin the presentation, take it seriously.  The entire semester may boil down to this one moment. Your failure to plan and thoroughly think things out could result in a failing grade on the project.  A failing grade on the project could result in a failing grade in the class. Do whatever you can to show your professor that you are taking the assignment seriously and want to achieve. Little things like professional attire, a portfolio cover, or a well scripted presentation could go a long way.  Taking things to a creative level, involving the audience, or tying things into today’s popular culture can also win major bonus points with the professor.

Safety on Campus is a reoccurring topic.  In the days of school shootings, sexual assaults, and viral fighting videos school safety has never been more of a concern.  When things go wrong and incidents occur, fingers are pointed and everyone wants to know who is responsible.  The truth is campus safety begins with each student.  Each student should be aware of their own safety and well as the safety of others.  One of the first things you should take note of is safety practices on campus.  Campuses across the country have emergency alert systems.  The system allows you to be contacted via text message and email in the event of an emergency.  You should also add campus security/police as a contact in your phone. Having this information readily available allows quick access in the time of emergency.  Another helpful resource campus’ are implementing is the anonymous texting system.  The system allows you to anonymously send message to campus safety officials about possible incidents.  This allows you to report issues, possible threats, or bring things to their attention to further investigate.

As you are navigating around campus, you should always travel with caution.  While on campus you become comfortable and assume everyone is your friend. Campuses are targeted every day, lurkers standing by observing, someone trying to find their next target.  That is why it is extremely important to pay close attention to your surroundings, only share personal information with those you trust, and report suspicious activity. After hours, when travelling on campus, be sure to travel in groups and never walk alone. Campuses offer escort services; providing an officer to assist you in getting from one place to another.

While out you should be very careful when mingling and partying with others.  You should never accept a drink from someone that you do not know. You should also not leave your drink unattended. Any time away from your drink or accepting a drink from someone you do not know could place you in danger. The same rule applies to taking any other food, candy, or medicine from someone you do not know. You may not be aware but drugs come in all shapes, sizes and flavors.  Drugs can be placed in food, look like candy, or appear to be medicine.  Consuming such items can cause you harm and ultimately death.  Additionally, if physical safety becomes a concern be sure to find the closest exit to safety.  Grabbing your phone to take video should not be your first concern.  You should grab your phone to contact campus safety or to report the incident.  Your actions could help determine how the situation ends.  Be sure to create a buddy system and always know where your buddy is located and what they are doing at all times.  When it is time to leave be sure you leave together and that you both arrive home safely.  Leaving a friend could result in tragedy; arriving together, staying together, and departing together should be your primary goals throughout the evening.

Campuses are relatively safe places to be.  However, there are people the target college students for their lack of caution, maturity, and street knowledge.  Be sure you are aware of your surroundings and know which resources are available to you. Having the knowledge before a situation occurs will help you when a situation actually unfolds. Throughout your college experience you want to be open, have fun, and have new experiences, but you also want to be safe and you are ultimately responsible for your safety.

College is not all about the books and learning in the classroom.  College is really about learning from various life experiences and taking in all that college has to offer.  Last month we challenged you in our January 11th blog, to make short and long term goals to explore what your campus has to offer.  This month we echo those sentiments to get out and explore what your classmates are doing.  You have talented colleagues that will go on to do some amazing things.  Now is the time you can see them display their truly raw talent, before the limelight, the professional contracts, and the record deals.

Take pride in the awesome skills and talented abilities offered by your classmates.  Go to the Big Game and cheer on the full back from your psychology class.  Give a standing ovation to your chemistry lab partner.  Buy tickets to support your Resident Assistant at the music recital.  Showing your support to your classmates helps to boost school spirit, helps develop relationships, and connects you to the university.

A major focus is placed on academics and doing well in classes, but success outside the classroom is just as important. Participating in activities outside the classroom, allows you to develop your interpersonal skills, provide networking opportunities, and allows you to reduce the stress from the class room.  Accepting our challenge to be more engaged on campus, coupling your classroom room experiences with your out of classroom experiences, and supporting your fellow colleagues will increase your chances of having a well-rounded college experience.