ira service

Summertime is the best time to complete service in the community.  There are a number of things that you can do to gain volunteer hours and help your community at the same time.  Below are 10 possible ides for ways you can give back this summer.

  1. Assist with a community garden. Gardening is a big trend and a lot of people and organizations are making the choice to grow their own and provide more organic options.
  2. Help at a local homeless shelter. There are a variety of options for families, just children, just women, and just men. Find a shelter that speaks to your desire to assist.
  3. Support a good cause.  Many organizations will host summer events such a races, carnivals, awards banquets, and more outreach events. Find a cause that is near to you and see what they have on the calendar.
  4. Donate time and supplies to a local camp.  Summer camps run throughout the entire summer and can be found everywhere from local churches to YMCAs.
  5. Clean a park/playground.  Find a park or playground that needs some attention.  Now find the organization responsible for the upkeep and find out how you can help. Even picking up trash could make the difference for the animals and children.
  6. Go abroad. Find a mission trip to be a part of and assist those in other countries.
  7. Build a house.  Habitat for Humanity and similar organizations will work to build or repair existing houses for those in need.
  8. Play with puppies.  Animal shelters need your special skills to play with animals awaiting adoption.
  9. Support a Food Bank. Lend a hand at a local bank to help organize and package items accordingly.
  10. Create your own project. Examine your passions, community, and issues affecting you or your family.

This list will hopefully jumpstart ideas within you that will stir some excitement in giving back. Once you have identified how you would like to give back, now you have to determine how to get involved.

There are a number of ways to research ways to get involved.  You can scour the internet using a variety of search terms based on your topic of choice. Get creative and don’t just search for volunteer opportunities in my city.  You may have to do some cold calling to organizations in your area of interest and let them know who you are, what you want to do, and how you could be of service to them.

You may have to step away from the computer and conduct your search in person. Smaller and start-up nonprofit organizations may not have big robust websites.  However, they usually have an office and you showing up in person could provide you with a better opportunity to landing the volunteer opportunity.

Lastly, get out into your community.  Look at local newspapers, go to local community centers, visit town hall meetings, reach out to local fraternity and sororities to find out how to get involved.  You can often see posters or ask local librarians or community center directors about upcoming opportunities, projects that organizations are working on, and ways you can get involved.

If you cannot find the project you are looking for, consider starting your own.  Develop a name, come up with a mission, and fundraise to help achieve your goals. Start off simple and small and allow the project to grow organically.

Be prepared that you may have to go through an interview process or you may just get thrown into the project.  Expect and be prepared for both. You should ace the interview by knowing a little bit about the organization, their mission, and how your skills, passion, and education can benefit the mission.  You should treat this experience like a real job; interview seriously, work hard, and be professional.  At the end of the experience, be sure to ask for a letter of recommendation or a document indicating how many hours you completed and your responsibilities.  Keep this information handy as it could be useful when you want to apply for scholarships, jobs, and future volunteer experiences.  It is important to get the information on paper right after the experience versus two years later, when people that were around when you volunteered are no longer able to assist.

Find some time this summer to give back in at least one way.  Use your social media to track the event and to hopefully inspire others to get involved.

list clip art           With the close of the school year, it’s time to start thinking about your plans for next year. What classes would you like to take or are there any clubs you’re interested in joining? Thinking about these kinds of things ahead of time gives you plenty of time to make a decision instead of feeling like you are under pressure to make all your decisions right away. Sit down this summer and make a bucket list for next year!

In regards to class schedules, try to schedule classes as early as possible. Popular classes get chosen very quickly and you’ll want to make sure you get a spot. If you have certain classes you’re required to take by a specific semester try to take them as early possible. Class deadlines are the same as any regular deadlines-the earlier you meet the requirements the easier you will breathe.

Planning your activities out in conjunction with your class schedules can give you a better idea of how much free time you’ll have after all you want to do. Trying to overstretch yourself can end in you being exhausted and overwhelmed as opposed to feeling engaged in everything you want to do. Keep your schedule as full as you want it, but make sure to pencil in time for yourself as well. Take that rock climbing course you’ve always wanted to, check out that indie theater you keep saying you’ll attend, or go hang out in that coffee shop. Doing something for yourself can help make you feel at peace with the rest of the schedule that you can’t always control.

Whether you make your bucket list on a computer, write it down in a book, or just keep it in your head, having an idea of what you want to do can make your life much less stressful. Planning ahead can help you decide what is or isn’t the most important use of your time. A more thought out plan for the next year can give you more free time and leave you feeling in control. The idea of a bucket list for college might seem silly, but trust me. Checking off your wish list will give you a feeling of accomplishment unsurpassed by anything else.

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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!

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Happy New Year!!!!

It is a new year, which means a new semester and a new set of goals.  Before you begin to form your list of new goals, you must reflect on the goals from last semester. Take a look at the short and long term goals you created last semester. How did you do?  Did you accomplish everything on your list?  Did you surpass what you set out to do? Let’s take stock of what you have accomplished (and did not accomplish).  Look at what you were able to do! Congratulate and reward yourself for a job well done.  Look at the factors that affected why you were able to accomplish the goals.  What formula did you have in place that allowed you to succeed? How can you apply that formula to the new set of goals for yourself? 

 

At the same time, reflect on the goals you were unable to achieve, hold yourself accountable for the goals that you did not obtain.  Now is not the time to beat yourself for not achieving your goals. This is where you evaluate the goal(s) you did not accomplish and discover why they were not achieved.  Were there factors within your control? Were there uncontrollable factors? Did you almost meet the goal?  Look at all of the factors associated with each missed goal.  A missed goal does not mean the goal is lost forever.  It could just be bad timing or the lack of balance.  Pinpointing the reason why the goal was not accomplished will help to decipher if the goal is lost or should be revisited.  If it is salvageable, add the goal to the list of goals for the new semester. If the goal is not salvageable, evaluate all of the reasons why you were unable to accomplish the goal and try to prevent those factors from reoccurring.

After evaluating your goals, reflect on how you would do things differently.  Did your goals challenge you, did they push you to the next level of your (personal, professional, academic, financial) life, did you accomplish your goals to fast? Ask yourself these things and gear up for the new semester.  Make a list of the things you would like to accomplish this semester. Divide the list into short term and long term goals; indicating items you would like to accomplish at the beginning of the semester, items by the midpoint, and items to complete by the end of the semester. Ensure there is variety within your goals and you take a holistic approach to your goal setting.  Becoming stronger and more competent in one area of your life will not help you most in the long run.  You want to ensure you are developing and balancing all aspects of your life. Focus on your personal growth (spiritual, social, physical, financial), as well as, your professional growth (academics, experience, and skillsets).

Goal setting can be challenging especially if you are coming off a semester where you did not accomplish all you hoped.  Try to look at goals as small pictures that will come together to achieve one big picture. Accomplishing the small goals, step-by-step will help you to tackle the bigger goals piece-by-piece.  Instead of saying you want to lose 50lbs; try saying you want to lose 4lbs a month.  Instead of saying you want to earn an “A” in Molecular Biology, try focusing on earning an “A” one assignment at a time. Instead of saying you want to make new friends, try one new activity a month. Each of the smaller goals are a part of the bigger picture and as you accomplish the smaller goals they will propel you towards the bigger goal.

Have you gotten involved with campus activities/organizations? Why not? What are you waiting for? College is about growth inside and outside of the classroom. What are you passionate about outside the classroom? What do you like? What do you want to learn more about? The only way you will get involved outside of the classroom is if you venture off and take a chance.  Find out which campus organizations are active on your campus.  You can find this information on the website, in the student activities office, or by asking other student like student governments, classmates, and your roommate.  You will find organizations from intramural sports, to drama groups, to political groups, to special interest groups such as anime, ballroom dancing, and much much more.

Identify a couple of organizations that might be of interest to you.  Find out when they meet.  How? Look for flyers on campus, use the email listed on the student activities website, or follow them on social media.  When they host events; go! When they have a meeting; attend! When they need officers on the executive board; run! This may sound easier than actually doing it, but going is the hardest part.  Once you arrive others will welcome you with open arms, because they want some who is there to support the mission, do the work, and share the same interest.

Are you afraid you won’t fit in? It’s okay and it is normal. Go to the meeting and be yourself.  You will find people that will appreciate you for who you are.  You will not have to pretend, people will navigate towards the natural you. If you attend the event and things are not what you thought they would be stay (know that you do have the option to leave at any time) and give it a chance.  Come back again, you will be a little more comfortable and you will recognize some familiar faces. After giving the experience a fair chance, if you still feel like this is not the organization for you. Go back to the drawing board; choose another organization and try again.  Continue to try and put yourself out there.  You will learn more about yourself, expose yourself to new social situations, and benefit in the long run from the experiences.

Now is the time in the semester, where you should be asking yourself “why did I sign up for this class?”  This is NORMAL.  Every student has this moment at least once a year if not once a semester. Sometimes courses are required, sometimes it is a matter of which professor is teaching the course, sometimes the course description did not do any justice in accurately describing the class, sometimes other courses influence your ability to do well (perhaps taking 7 biology classes at one time is too much for you to handle, but if you took 3 this semester and 3 next semester you would be more successful), and sometimes the workload seems unbearable and you feel like you are in way over your head.  Whatever the reason, this is NORMAL.

Take time to evaluate your feelings and determine if you may need to drop the class.  Is it really because you are in over your head, you are not grasping the concepts; you cannot keep up, and failing assignments or is it because you are not giving the course the adequate attention and preparation it deserves? Is it because your friends are in a different section of the course and they complete a fourth of the work or because your professor challenges you in new ways?  Is it because you thought the course was going to be geared towards certain topics and you are now discovering a newer level of understanding on a topic you did not care to know more about? Before considering dropping a class, ask yourself these questions and really get to the root of why you want to drop the class.

Have you done everything in your power? Met with the professor, gone to study group sessions, sought out a tutor, dedicated more time to studying and understanding the information, or created new ways to study and absorb the information (flash cards instead of an outline or recording the lecture and reviewing them, etc.).  Each semester and each course may require you to change your habits and thought process.  You cannot approach your college level classes the way you approached your high school classes or approach 300 level courses the way you would approach 100 level classes.  You have to review the syllabus, listen to the professor and work with others to see what the course is requiring of you.

After you have thoroughly assessed the course and determined it is not just you wanting the easy way out or having a dislike of the professor and you truly think you are in over your head and your continued participation in the course will result in a failing grade, now is the time to research your options for dropping a class. There are certain cut-off dates that you need to be aware of and be sure to meet.  There are opportunities to drop the class without penalty as if you were never there and there are opportunities to drop the class with it being indicated on your transcript.  Obviously dropping the class without it reflecting on your transcript would be preferred, but withdrawing from a class is a better reflection on your transcript than a failing grade.

Take time to meet with your advisor, let them know what you are planning and what plan you have in place to replace or retake the course. Be sure to know the deadline and work to get everything needed submitted before the deadline.  Depending on the time of the semester you are dropping a class you may be required to get the signature of the professor or even the dean. As you can imagine, they may not be readily available to sign your form, so give yourself time in case they are not immediately available.

On a personal note, this topic reminds me of the time I signed up for a philosophy course entitled Love and Relationships.  Of course I thought we would explore our ideas of love and discuss relationships for 15 weeks. Instead we discussed Socrates, Plato, Shakespeare and other enlightened philosopher’s definition of love written in a very difficult way for me to understand.  Immediately I wanted to drop the class, because it was not the “love” story I thought it would be.  However, I needed a philosophy course to fulfill my graduation requirements.  I had to determine why I wanted to drop the course, what would be the alternative, and why I wanted to run from the course.  In the end, I stayed in the class.  It was not the most fun I have ever had in the classroom, but I stayed with it, gave it my best, communicated with the professor when I struggled, and passed the class in the end allowing me to be eligible for graduation.

Trust me when I say you are not alone when considering if you want to drop a class. Wanting to drop a class is a normal feeling. You want to make sure you are dropping the class for the right reasons and before the deadline.  If you can, meet with your advisor and allow them to assist.  College is all about challenging you and pushing you to become a different version of you. So do not shy away from a challenging class it could turn out to be the ONE class that forces you to see life differently.

Accountability…it sounds so serious right? Well it doesn’t have to be.  You can make setting and achieving goals fun.  Keeping yourself on track does not have to be as boring as checklist and assessments.  Well this is a challenge to try something new and achieve your goals for the semester.  Try something outside the box to highlight the short term goals you have for yourself throughout the semester.  Allow your goals to go beyond just achieving an “A” in your classes.  Allow your goals to push you beyond just the grade book.  Focus on ways to improve your social, physical, mental, emotional, and financial health.  Create a goal in each area and really try to find ways you can set expectations, conquer fears, and learn something new about yourself.  Here are a few out of the box ideas on ways you can set goals and hold yourself accountable.

  1. Give yourself a reward.  A little bigger than a piece of cake, but smaller than a new car.  Think of something that you want that will be a motivating factor to help you focus and achieve your goal. Providing one large reward at the end or smaller milestone rewards will help keep you motivated to push toward the goal.
  2. Journal it.  Keep a daily/weekly reminder of your goals and what you are doing to achieve them. Constant reminders and progress assessments will keep you pushing.
  3. Find a partner.  There is nothing like having someone to encourage you along the way.  Find someone      that will positively support your goals.  You want someone that will not be a pushover and allow you to blow off your goals. You also want do not want someone that will push you so hard that the goal seems unattainable.  Lastly, you want someone that believes in what you are trying to achieve.  Sadly, your accountability partner may not be your best friend, or even a family member.  It could be a classmate, your roommate, or a coworker.
  4. Write a letter to your future self.  Describe your goals and the obstacles you had to overcome in order to make it to the end of the semester.  Tell yourself how proud you are and how you are so much better and stronger for sticking it out.  At the end of the semester, open the sealed letter and read what you “accomplished”.
  5. Vblog or keep a photo timeline of your progress.  Express yourself on YouTube or create a picture story of your journey.  Those two minutes could be the inspiration to help someone achieve their goals.  Knowing that you have an “audience” to report to will help keep you focused.

Goal setting is an important start to each semester.  Take time to find fun ways to keep you engaged to reach the end result.  An old-fashioned checklist works just as well, but finding new ways to hold yourself accountable allows you some flexibility on the journey.

The summer can be a great time for you to learn life skills that seem to fall by the wayside in the midst of classes, hectic exam schedules, and student jobs. Now is the perfect opportunity for you to ask your parents for advice on all the tasks you might not already know how to do: change a tire, change your oil, wash the laundry (without bleaching, shrinking, or otherwise ruining anything), and how to make a meal (without a microwave or the word “instant” involved). Tackling these skills while you’re on break can help to fill your summer with meaningful learning, without opening a book or taking an exam. When you get back to college, you will be able to impress all your friends with your new knowledge!

Time these requests right! Ask your parents if you can tag along on errands such as grocery shopping so you can learn how to stretch your budget to feed multiple people. Ask to be taught how to do something that is already being done so as to make the most of the lesson! For instance, don’t ask to be taught how to make lasagna for dinner and expect to learn at 10 AM. Such a lesson would be much better timed closer to dinner. Your parents will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and you will still get to learn what you want.

The summer is also a great time to learn random skills that may or may not be at all useful. You can learn essentially anything you can dream of on YouTube. One summer I learned how to make paracord bracelets just because. Do you have an interest in some random skill? Try looking it up and see what you can learn with just the internet and your copious amounts of free time.