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We are now half way through the semester. Now is a good time to check in and see how things are going.  At the beginning of the semester we discussed short term and long term goals.  Now is a good time to assess your progress and how determine if any adjustments are needed. How are your short term goals shaping up?  Have you been successful in achieving those goals? Did you miss the mark? How about the long term goals, are you close to making the mark?  Did you under/overestimate your projected progress?

If you have achieved your short term goals and are on track to achieve your long term goals, you should reward yourself.  The reward doesn’t have to be big or anything major, it would be a simple treat to acknowledge your efforts and keep you on track to meet the next set of goals.  Think ice cream, favorite dinner, or a movie; a small token to reward your efforts.

If you have not achieved your short term goals and not on track to meet your long term goals, you should begin to evaluate what has happened (or not happened) to meet the marks you set.  Was there an event that prevented you from achieving the goal?  Did you underestimate the time, work, or commitment to achieve the goal? Assess the progress of the goals and determine if you have enough time to revamp the goals, reduce the goals, or increase attention to complete the job.

The same assessment of your goals, should be the same assessment of your studies.  Are you on track to pass your classes? Did you do well and feel confident during midterms?  Are you giving EACH subject the required attention?  Are you spending enough time in the library?  Are you going to your professor to ask for clarification?  Are you utilizing peers, campus resources, and time wisely?

With half of the semester under your belt you should consider how successful you will be in the course.  Asking yourself if you will pass the course, if you should drop the course, or if you have enough time to turn things around.  If you are passing, you want to continue utilizing the system you have in place and seek any ways you can improve in any area.  If you are considering dropping the class, you will need to examine the ramifications of withdrawing from the class. Will this affect your transcript, your grade point average, and length of your coursework completion? If you have enough time to turn things around, look at how you arrived to this point.  What are your study habits? Where can you pick things up?  What can you do differently? Are you utilizing your resources?

Midterms are a time to complete a self-check.  If things are going well, continue on the path and end the semester strong.  If things are not going well, change the course and dedicate more time effort and energy into ending the semester strongly.

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Parenting comes with a certain level of expected hovering. How do you determine how much is too much?  Legally at the age of 18 you are an adult, but in the eyes of your parents you are still their little child that needs them to help solve problems and care from them.  This notion will not just cease, because you go off to college. Parents will have a certain level of involvement in your college career.  They want to ensure you are on track, completing the things you need to do, and ultimately are successful.  Getting to their definition of success may involve more of them than you would like, but you will have to learn how to balance showing your responsibility and respect for all your parents do with gratitude for all they have (and will) done. Below are some do’s and don’t’s for monitoring your parents’ involvement in your college life.

1.      Do let them know how you are doing in class.  Share hardships and successes; don’t let grades be a surprise.  If you are keeping them in the loop along the way, they will understand and celebrate your achievements.

2.      Do share when you face adversity; share it with your parents.  Use them as a sounding board, but don’t let them handle the situation.

3.      Do let your parent know when you have done ALL that you can to resolve a situation.  Don’t let them believe you have done ALL you can do when you have not.

4.      Do tell them the whole truth. Don’t send them to resolve an issue with only half truths.

5.      Do let your parents know you appreciate their support.  Don’t assume they know you care.

6.      Do find new ways of thinking and viewpoints on life.  Don’t let their antiquated ways of thinking blur your path.

7.      Do communicate regularly with your parents. Don’t disappear by not returning calls, changing plans without giving them an update, or not coming home as scheduled.

Having an engaged parent can be very helpful as you navigate through college.  However, having an overly engaged parent hoovering over issues, calling the staff for every minor issue, escalating issues out of the hierarchy order, and showing up to the university frequently.  You want to take on a certain level of responsibility for your success in school, you do not want your parents to resolve issues or guide you through college.  Part of college is leaving not being the same person as when you started.  So take some of the responsibility off of your parents and show your ability to resolve issues and succeed.

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In January, students often feel that they need to make a resolution. After all, everyone else is doing it. The key to a successful resolution is viewing it as a lifestyle change instead of a goal you need to meet for an x-amount of time. This is why you often seen the university recreation centers packed for the entire month of January, but as soon as February 1st rolls around those people disappear. If you truly want to be successful, sit down and commit to yourself to make changes in your life, not a resolution.

With this in mind, think about the changes you’d like to make in your life. Do you need to set aside more time for homework or get to bed earlier? Do you want to start going to the gym every day or spend more time with your friends? Whatever your goal is, putting it down on paper makes you more likely to follow through since you’ll have a visual reminder. Set a number of days you want to keep doing an activity before you reward yourself. For example, “When I go to the gym 14 days in a row, I can treat myself to ice cream.” Small rewards will keep you excited about your new lifestyle and you can look back and see how successful you’ve been.

One of the most effective things I ever did in college was set a school-night bedtime of 12:00 AM. During my freshmen and sophomore years, I pulled a lot of all-nighters to get things done, and it really wore on me. Once I set a time that I had to be in bed by, I noticed an improvement in my organization, my academic work, and my overall mood. Small things can vastly improve your life. Take this month to make some changes in your life, and reap the benefits all semester long!

It is Christmas Eve and the holidays are among us.  You have finished your first semester and your family is excited to have you home and hear all about it. Don’t be surprised when the family plays 20 questions with you at the dinner table.  The family will be excited to hear about your classes, what you are learning, and of course who you are dating.  Save the frustration and the embarrassing line of questions.  Prepare for potential questions and have responses ready for the family.  They do not mean to pry they are excited to see how you and how you have grown in the last 4 months.

Going home can also create a certain level of expectations. Be sure to communicate your expectations with family. If you plan to divide your time between family, work and friends be sure to communicate that information, as they may have plans for you.  Friends will want to interact with you, family will want their time with you, your partner will want to spend time together, and then there are the things that YOU want to do.

Be sure to communicate your plans to avoid disappointment.  Let your family know your plans; when you plan to come home, if you plan to sleep at home each night, nights you plan on going out with friends, how much you need to rest or catch up on reading. Whatever your plans are be sure to communicate them and be flexible if there are last minute changes.

Going home is a great time, but can also cause stress and frustration.  The key to a happy and stress-free Winter Break is communication.  Everyone will want to see you and know about your first year, oblige them and share the details of your experience.  Make time for everyone and do not allow anyone (or thing, avoid overusing your phone, tablet, or laptop) to monopolize your time.  Utilize this time to catch up, but also enjoy the break and do things that will help you enjoy your break.

As you are nearing the midway point of your semester, take a minute and think about your relationship with your roommate. Do you love your roommate, you get along great and you have no issues? Or, like so many students, are you struggling with conflict with your roommate but aren’t sure what your options are? This is the time to truly think about how you feel, especially as you make decisions about roommates for next semester or next year, depending on your university. Don’t feel obligated to stay with someone if it isn’t working for you, and don’t feel like it’s too late for you to get a roommate if you’ve lived alone this semester.

If you lived alone this semester and you’d like a roommate for next year, talk to your RA or landlord. Sometimes just having a conversation can help them keep you in mind the next time someone is looking for an apartment, or your RA can pass on to the housing office that you would like a roommate. Many times throughout the year, residents move in and out of their rooms, and so it’s very likely that you would get a roommate if you remove the “live alone” option.

If you have a roommate now but it’s not working out for you, take stock of the situation. Why are you having these issues? If they are simple issues like they’re eating all your food, constantly having people over, or they aren’t sharing the responsibilities of cleaning equally, then first try talking to your roommate frankly. Explain to them how their behavior affects you, and you just might find that is enough to solve the problem. A lot of times, your roommate is not even aware that you are upset and they can be totally blindsided when you want to move on to another roommate. After you have talked to your roommate, if the situation does not improve that is the time to involve your RA. Don’t let this wait until the end of the year and during finals week start talking about how much you hate your roommate, go to your RA now and explain the situation. They can facilitate a meeting between you and your roommate that might help mediate the situation, and they can involve their supervisor if room changes need to happen.

The important thing to remember with roommates is that this is a learning experience, for you and for them. Depending on the set-up in your residential hall, you could be sharing a room and/or a bathroom with multiple people who all come from different backgrounds and have different viewpoints, and this can create conflict. The key to good roommate relations is communication. Don’t ignore problems as they arise, take the time to talk about them. Along with that, do not shut your roommate out if they come to you to complain about one of your behaviors. Take their complaint seriously and try to make sure your behavior is not creating a hostile environment. College roommates can either be cordial or friends for life, but there is no reason you should have to live in a battleground. Respect and communication will help make your roommate experience a positive one instead of a horror story.

At this point, you’ve probably been home for Winter Break for at least a little while. Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back-you made it halfway! Now you just have to weather moving into the new year, returning to school, and all those pesky questions about what you’re doing with your life, what you want to do, and the most dreaded question of all- “So, are you seeing anyone?”

If you’re like most college students, you find these questions at best irritating and at worst invasive. That’s completely normal. It’s also completely normal to tell your well-meaning friends and relatives that you simply don’t know what you’re going to do with your life right now. Freshmen year is the time to BEGIN thinking about what you want to do with your life, not to make concrete decisions and never change your mind ever again. Your relatives and friends understand that. They are most likely asking these questions as a touch-stone for hearing about your life and aren’t sure what else to ask you. If you find yourself in these conversations over and over again this holiday season, try to steer the conversation toward other interests of yours, such as a class you found interesting or a new friend you met in the dining hall. You are not required to talk about every little detail, but finding common ground keeps you from having the same conversation over and over again. Make sure to keep your family talking about themselves as well! Take the time to ask questions about events you may have missed while you were away at school.

Another thing to keep in mind while you’re home for winter break is to catch up with those high school classmates you might not have seen since you went your separate ways after graduation. Plan these meetings early; don’t wait until the last day before you have to go back to college to catch up with everyone. It may be a good idea to meet up with a few friends one-on-one instead of attempting to gather everyone together at one time, but do whatever works for you! This is your chance to catch up with old friends and find out what everyone has been doing. While it may seem like you’re up-to-date with everyone via Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, you may find you’ve missed out on a lot! We tend to only post the really good or really bad things on social media, but it’s those mundane in-between events that keep friendships alive!

One important thing to keep in mind this winter break as you’re catching up with all your old friends and family is that despite the seemingly short amount of time you’ve been away, people change, and that is a good thing! You certainly aren’t the same person you were when you began your freshmen year, and it’s likely that your friends and family aren’t either. Embrace these changes and take the time to get to know these new aspects of the people you love, and let them get to know the new you as well. Make the most of the time you have before you head back to a fantastic spring semester!

One of the “side effects” of college is being exposed to things that you may not have been exposed to previously.  It is also a chance for you to gain interest in things that you may not have previously had an interest. Your campus will offer a variety programs and activities.  You should challenge yourself to attend at least one program in each category per year or at least one each before you graduate. There will be plethora of things to choose from: plays, symposiums, concerts, parties, lectures, athletic events, novelties, comedians, musicals, dance recitals, art gallery showings, and the list goes on and on. Even if you are not extremely intellectual, not the artsy type, or do not understand the plays in football, still attend an event at least once. This the time when you be able to support your classmates, meet new people and gain exposure to unknown territory for free or relatively cheaply. Students gain admission into many university sponsored events for free, at a special rate, or they receive a discount.

Going out and trying new things, being exposed to the unknown is what helps make you well-rounded and “cultured”.  Enjoy the talented peers you have in your class, you never know what will become of them and how your paths may cross in the future.  In addition to making you a better-rounded person, these activities give you something to do.  Activities occur throughout the school year and are usually planned so there is not much overlap with programs being scheduled at the same time.  You can usually find a master calendar with most events on the school’s homepage and then there are departmental (Dance, Music, Athletics, etc.) calendars available with events as well. Most events are planned well in advance some as early as the beginning of the semester.

Not sure where to get started? Stop by the Student Activities office and ask what is happening on campus.  Enjoy the challenge and attend as many programs as possible.

Campus safety should be a concern of everyone; parents, administration, and most importantly you the students.  Safety is one thing that cannot be guaranteed.  The university and university housing department will take precautions and attempt to mitigate risks and hazards. It is also the responsibility of the student to make sure they are implementing safety practices into their daily routine.  Criminals prey on the innocence and naivety of students.  Being aware of your surrounds and familiarizing yourself with these safety tips below can help you avoid unsafe situations.

  1. Program the campus police phone number into your phone. Also, add the RA on-call phone number and the front desk phone number, so they are handy in the event of an emergency.
  2. Program 3-5 people in your phone as ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts.  In an emergency situation, someone can easily identify who to call if you need help.
  3. Report all suspicious persons, vehicles and activities to campus authorities. Many universities have emergency phones installed throughout campus, do not be afraid to use the phone in an emergency.
  4. Use the “buddy system” and watch out for your neighbors.
  5. Keep your doors locked, especially whenever you find yourself alone in a apartment/room.
  6. If you see someone being victimized, get involved and notify the police.
  7. Avoid traveling alone at night. Travel with a friend, walk with crowds, or request an escort from campus police.
  8. Walk on well-lit, regular traveled walks and pathways. Avoid shortcuts and keep away from shrubbery, bushes, alleyways, or any other areas where someone could be hiding.
  9. Avoid big open areas like the athletic fields and tennis courts after dark.
  10. Do not accept rides from casual acquaintances.
  11. When walking to your vehicle or residence, have your keys ready in hand.
  12. When being dropped off by taxi or private vehicle, ask the driver to wait until you get inside.
  13. When getting out of a car, take a look around to make sure that you are not being followed.
  14. If you think you are being followed, call for help, and run to safety.  Draw as much attention to yourself if possible, by enlisting the aid of a passerby, flag down a car, or pull a fire alarm.
  15. When walking at night, look up and look around, do not wear ear buds in both ears playing loud music, and walk as quickly as possible.