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As we settle in for the start of another academic year, it is important to reflect on what went well and maybe not so well last year. We are all life long learners, inside and outside of the classroom. Learning from past experiences is the best way to improve yourself and continue to grow.

Here are three ways to get the school year started on the right foot:

1. Set goals

Setting goals is a great way to stay on track throughout the school year and achieve success. There are many goals you can set for yourself and they don’t necessarily have to be GPA related. Maybe you realize you were extremely sleep deprived last year. You can set a goal for how many hours of sleep you want to get each night and organize your days better so you can get plenty of rest. A goal like getting more sleep has a positive ripple effect on many aspects of your life, including improved memory and learning abilities. Maybe another goal could be exercising a few times a week. Often, when we are busy, we forget to prioritize our body’s health. A goal like exercising more enhances your mood and energy levels, which can help you in your academic year. These are common goals we all likely share, but I challenge you to think outside of the box when it comes to goals. What are objectives, specific to you and your studies that could help do better this year? Identify a weakness you have or something you would like to develop. Then, think about how you can work on bettering yourself while staying motivated. For example, maintaining friendships can be challenging, especially when you are on a demanding academic schedule. A goal could be to keep up with friends more often this school year or maybe make new friends in sites like Whatever your goal may be, be proud of yourself for aiming for bigger and better things!

2. Create a Schedule and WRITE IT DOWN!

Yeah…yeah… yeah… we all know schedules are good. But Hey! Do not ignore this tip. This is the best tip of all tips! No, really. Studies show that writing down to-do lists has remarkable positive effects on your brain. Staying organized is the key to academic success. You can be a brilliant person, but if you can’t keep track of all the due dates and responsibilities you have, then it means nothing. You are no longer in high school or middle school where teachers write the homework on the board each day. This is college. You likely have several courses with various endless due dates. Write it down. You can do this in a planner, a calendar or maybe daily to do lists. Whatever organizational style floats your boat – just as long as you are writing things down. Your brain isn’t superhuman. We all forget things; so don’t rely on your brain alone. Your philosophy professor is not going to accept “I forgot” as excuse for missing the paper deadline.

3. Get Involved

Become better connected with your school and campus by getting involved with student activities. You can meet new people while boosting your resume and doing something that you love! Campuses have various student organizations such as Greek life, service trips, volunteer groups and intramural sports. College may be the only time in your life when you are able to go on a weeklong service trip – so seize the opportunity and do it with your peers during spring break! Maybe you played sports your whole life and you are really missing it now that you are in college. Look into what your school has to offer because there are plenty of club and intramural teams available to you. If you are interested in a career in TV production, maybe your campus has a TV studio where you can help out. Getting involved helps make college feel like home. You truly do meet great people by getting involved outside of the classroom. The extra curricular activities I participate in have taught me what career path I want to go on, more so then my classes have taught me. Take advantage of opportunities sitting at your disposal on your campus.

Partying at college is often seen as a rite of passage, with many people assuming that you can’t have any fun at all if you aren’t into partying. While you can have lots of fun at college if partying isn’t your style, it’s also totally fine to admit that you like partying with your friends on weekends to celebrate surviving another week of classes. What’s important to note here is that you get to make your own decisions now: whether partying is or isn’t for you, whether you will drink alcohol or whether you’d rather steer clear, and how partying stacks up against your own values.

The most important key here is that you need to make these decisions before you’re pressured into going out. Knowing what you want to do ahead of time takes the stress off of you in the moment, and helps you make wise decisions instead of decisions based on alcohol or peer pressure. Sit down with yourself and take a good hard look at what you plan to do. The obvious question is whether you will or won’t drink alcohol. Try to decide ahead of time how many drinks you’ll have, because when you reach that level at the party you’ll be more likely to stop yourself. It’s very easy in the moment to say “Well, I’ll just have one more.”

Second, if you plan to go with friends, make sure you know what the plan is before people start drinking. Know who your designated driver is going to be, and make sure you know whether or not you are all planning to leave together. The last thing you want is to be running around at 3 AM looking for one of your friends. With that in mind, make sure you hold onto your phone, keys, and license. If you do happen to lose your license, do not panic! Wait until the next day and call the bar or the party host. Often people drop their licenses, and during clean-up they are piled up in a stack for the people who will call to collect them. If you’re at a bar and you paid with a credit card, make sure you close your tab before you leave. That way you will get your card back and know how much money you spent.

Regardless of what you choose, be aware of how the choices you make can affect your future. Remember the lesson about “The Internet is Forever,” and be very careful about posting pictures that show you being drunk or behaving in a way you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. While partying can certainly be a lot of fun, you do not want to regret it in the morning.

It is now almost a month into the Spring semester, for new roommates the honeymoon phase is nearing the end, and for continuing roommates you getting back into the swing of things.  By now, you should have a good understanding for each other’s preferred lifestyle. For some this may be working out perfectly, while for others it may be challenging to forge two different lives together.

You will need to be honest from the start.  Decide for yourself what is acceptable for your living environment, what is not acceptable for your living environment, and what are your nonnegotiable items.  Nonnegotiable are the deal breakers for you, these are things that you cannot live with.   After confirming how you feel about the issues you should schedule a time to talk with your roommate(s) and create house rules or a roommate agreement.  You should treat this meeting seriously and as you would any business deal.

Many universities have roommate agreement forms available through your RA to help walk you through the process. The roommate agreement allows you to talk about issues before they occur. The agreement should be taken seriously and done as soon as possible.  The agreement will help comfortably have tough conversations before an incident occurs. Even if your school does not have an official form, you can complete a roommate agreement on paper. Whatever method you use be sure to post it in the room to serve as a reminder to everyone.

Before you decide that things are just not working out and want to move, consider if you have done everything that you could do in the situation.  There are a few questions you may want to consider.  The first thing to consider- are my roommate rights being violated?  Each resident has rights in their room.  Each roommate has the right to be comfortable, respected, and to have privacy in your room.  If rights are not being violated, it is probably a rather simple situation where you will need to compromise and meet in the middle.  If rights are being violated, it is probably a more complex problem and you will need to discuss the issues with your RA during a roommate mediation.

Relationships are about compromise and realizing that someone does things differently than you may do things can be difficult to adjust to. Evaluate if your requests are reasonable. It is reasonable to ask your roommate(s) to discuss overnight guest prior to them staying, but it may not be reasonable to ask your roommate(s) to never have guests in the room.  It is reasonable to request that your roommate(s) not disturb you while are studying, but it may be unreasonable if you do not reciprocate.  You will need to compromise and meet in the middle and find a solution that will work for both of you.

The last thing to consider- did I do everything I could? After you have tried everything—an agreement, setting expectations, compromising, discussing differences, and an RA mediation, you may determine the living situation may not be the best and a move may be the best solution.  It is possible that things just will not work and nothing you do or say will help.  It is okay to move on after you have done all you can in the situation. Your RA can assist you in locating a new room. You want to make the moving out process and smooth as possible. You never want to burn bridges, it is a small world and you never know when you may come across that person or someone that knows that person in the future.

In the end, it may not work out and that is okay.  It is important to remember to give it a chance.  It may be awkward and require more attention at first, but as long as you develop and display a mutual respect for each other, you should be able to make it work for the short time you will be living together.  When your relationship hits a little turbulence, do not run away, stick it out and do everything on your end to make it work.

Congrats you made it through the first semester of college and it is time to go home.  If you went home during Thanksgiving, your transition at Winter Break may come easy.  If you did not go home for Thanksgiving, there will be a few things for you to consider.

For the last few months you have been encouraged to think for yourself, try new things, and challenge the way you think. Your family may not be ready for your new ideas, thoughts, and philosophies.  Be sensitive to the fact that change may not be easily or readily accepted by your family.  You may have to ease them into the newer version of you.  This notion does not only apply to your thoughts, but also your hair, body art, and style of dress.

When you arrive home, keep in mind your family remembers who you were when you left in August/September.  It may take some time or a little coaxing for them to adjust to the new you.  Here are some things that you should consider when going home.  Try to consider ways you can alleviate tension with your family during your stay at home.

  • Your Parents House Has Rules:  at school you have rules too, but for the most part you do what you want to do.  If you do not want to clean, you don’t clean.  If you do not want to come home, you don’t come home.  If you do not want to go to class, you don’t go to class. When you go home you have to change your new mindset and respect what your parent’s request. Consider these areas:
    • Curfew- Do you have a curfew? Does it matter what time you come home? Does it matter if you come home?
    • Chores- How will you be expected to contribute to the house?
    • Expectations- How will your parents view your time at home? As a vacation, as more help, as bonding time, etc.  Finding out what your parents expect will reduce conflict and feelings being hurt.
    • Sleep- You may be comfortable with sleepign to noon, but your parents may thing anything past 10a is too late. A small discussion can avoid tense moments and being awaken aburptly.
    • Your Friends Missed you too: you coming home is exciting for your friends too.  They want to catch up with you hear crazy stories from the semester.  Sometimes you will have new friends mingle with old friends.  Sometimes the new you will not be accepted by the old circle of friends. Be prepared for this and ready to accept that sometimes people grow apart. Make sure you do not let your friends monopolize all of your time at home.
    • Siblings need love too: Do not forget about your siblings (and pets).  You will want to send time with them as well.  They will want to know how life at college has been and discover what waits for them in the future.  Talk to them about coming to visit and the fun activities you will have planned.
    • Ditching Bad Habits:  Be sure to leave your bad habits at school.  As we mentioned, you going home a new person may not be received with open arms especially if you have picked up new habits.  Your family may not be excited if you started smoking, if you use [more] foul language, or if are more apathetic.  Prepare yourself and family by letting them know you have changed and the ways you have changed.  See if those changes will be accepted at home or if they should be left at school.

Going home after semester one can be quite stressful, but it can also be fun.  Using the above information as a guide can help your short time at home go smoothly.  Just think in a few weeks you will be back at school.  Enjoy your Winter Break:)

As you continue to grow professionally and personally, you will start to realize the importance of giving back to the community where you live and where you come from. Giving back does not have to
be a long labor intensive project, but every little bit helps and counts.  There are offices on campus dedicated to community service and leadership enrichment. In addition, clubs and organizations tend to do an annual community service event each year.  Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and do what you can to give back. Below are 75 Ways to get involved and give back to the campus and surrounding community.

  1. Set up a Help-O-Meter to keep track of the number of hours you volunteer and try to beat your previous number each year.
  2. Organize or volunteer to help at a recognition program for students on campus who participated in community service projects throughout the year.
  3. Volunteer in an office on campus.
  4. Write letters to soldiers.
  5. Make birthday cards for the elderly.
  6. Run or walk in a charity race with friends.
  7. Practice random acts of kindness.
  8. Train for a marathon to raise money for a cause.
  9. Volunteer your talents at a charity auction.
  10. Recognize veterans on campus.
  11. Do something  nice for someone anonymously.
  12. On Thanksgiving, adopt a family for dinner.
  13. Trim Christmas tree with gift ideas for local kids and have people on campus pull from the tree and purchase gifts.
  14. Organize a coat drive.
  15. Organize a shoe drive for Soles to Souls.
  16. Organize safe trick-or-treating on campus for local kids.
  17. Conduct an Easter Egg Hunt for needy children.
  18. Make homemade cards for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparents Day.
  19. Volunteer at the local YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or Boys and Girls Club.
  20. Surprise your parent(s), neighbors, or friends and offer to babysit.
  21. Start a program for students on campus that may need help with food or clothes.
  22. Sponsor a concert in the park; proceeds go to local music charity or program for young children.
  23. Help organize a drive to help meet the basic needs of those oversees. Water, feminine hygiene products, etc.
  24. Organize a volunteer-a-thon against each residence hall; see which hall can volunteer the most hours in a month.
  25. Create a “Give Back” day on campus.
  26. Find a new nonprofit organization and volunteer to help them as they grow and expand.
  27. Adopt an elderly person. Visit them, go for walks, help them with chores around the house.
  28. Read a book during story time at a local daycare.
  29. Cheer up a sick friend with soup.
  30. Call an old friend.
  31. Instead of birthday gifts ask family and friends to make donations to a charity.
  32. Make get well cards for people in hospitals.
  33. Become pen pals with younger students and tell them dos and don’ts for college.
  34. Collect old magazines and donate them to schools or daycare.
  35. Plant a tree.
  36. Start a community garden.
  37. Clean a highway.
  38. Collect unused make-up, perfume and toiletries for battered women in a shelter.
  39. Collect prom dresses for girls in need.
  40. Donate old eyeglasses to an organization.
  41. Collect costumes and donate them for a dress-up at an after school program.
  42. Make emergency kits for departments and students on campus.
  43. Have offices compete against each other to collect money for a good cause.
  44. If you’re good at fixing bikes, volunteer to teach others how to fix their bikes.
  45. Conduct bike safety checks for your neighborhood.
  46. Sponsor an alcohol free homecoming event.
  47. Organize an alcohol free “weekend” pledge campaign on campus. I.e. Homecoming, welcome week, etc.
  48. Recruit people to help paint a mural.
  49. Set up a buddy system for freshmen and seniors in the same major.
  50. Start an anti-smoking campaign to make your campus smoke free.
  51. Make new freshman survival kits for orientation.
  52. At the end of the school year, collect school supplies and start a back to school drive for local kids.
  53. Volunteer for hall council or student government.
  54. Have a party or dance and make a canned good the price for admission.
  55. Recognize outstanding professors and professional staff on campus.
  56. Go door to door in the residence halls and encourage students to register to vote.
  57. Volunteer at a local candidate’s campaign office.
  58. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
  59. Donate art supplies to kids at a summer camp.
  60. Make a care package for soldiers.
  61. Clip coupons, become an Extreme Couponer and donate the food to a local homeless shelter.
  62. Sponsor a food drive on campus during Thanksgiving.
  63. Prepare a home-cooked meal for the international students on campus.
  64. Bake cookies for your RA, the custodial staff and maintenance.
  65. Join the local Habitat for Humanity.
  66. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Walk dogs, play with kittens, and feed the animals.
  67. Organize an adopt-a-pet program.
  68. Rake leaves, shovel snow, clean gutters or wash windows for a senior citizen.
  69. Visit a nursing home and teach seniors how to use the internet.
  70. Set up a recycling system for your residence hall.
  71. Clean a local park.
  72. Pick up litter across campus.
  73. Volunteer to clean up the stadium/gymnasium after a home game.
  74. Work to make the campus more ecofriendly.
  75. Challenge each graduating class to donate something to the college to make it better for the next class.

Dear Class of 2016,

This is the time to explore yourself and figure out exactly who you are.  This is a time where you will be meeting all kinds of new people that look, act, and live a completely different life from you.  Do not shy away from these different people.  Open yourself up to new ideas and you may even make new friends.

College is going to be hard.  You will be pushed in ways you never thought possible.  Classes will be tough and people will be mean.  You may feel lonely, homesick, or that college is not the place for you.  This is normal.  You are not alone.  Talk to a friend, professor, your RA about what is bothering you.  Your life is in your hands now and ignoring your feelings will not make them to go away.  Seek help… absolutely nothing is wrong with that.

You are going to be tested these next four years.  Your faith, beliefs, and how you were raised may be questioned.  Stay strong. Stay safe.  Remember who you were, who you are, and who you want to be.  A phone call to a loved one can make all the difference.

My advice to you, as someone who has been in your shoes, is to use your head.  Think before you act.  Take a step outside yourself and look at what you are doing.  You are an adult now and what you do now could change your life forever.  Remember the reason why you came to college: to earn a degree and find a career. 

Now is the time to take your life and your future into your own hands.  Explore new ideas and meet new people.  Figure out what kind of person you want to be for the rest of your life. 

With much love


In about a month you, a college freshman, will be leaving home and moving to college and living in the dorm. Dorm life can be the best experience of you college career or it can be a nightmare. Whether you live 5 minutes or 5 hours from home there is one thing you will be sharing with every other freshman on campus…duh duh duuuh: A roommate.
Now some of you may share a room with your siblings but others, like me, have never had to share a space let alone a 9-by-5 cell…oh I mean room with a stranger. Most of you have heard roommate horror stories that have left you extremely nervous about August. But I have a few tips to hopefully create long-lasting roomie love.
Tip 1: Communication-Like a good relationship communication is key; the same with having a roommate. I highly recommend that you talk to your roommate now. Yes I mean right now. Before you are thrown into the same room together and start class. After class starts chaos occurs and you may never get the chance to talk to your roommate unless you are waking her/him when you get back from a late night at the library.
Here is a list of what items you should discuss before you move-in (can’t you see I like lists 🙂 )
1. What are you going to bring?-Who is bring the t.v., refrigerator, xbox, movies, etc. Talk about who is bringing the large stuff that will take up space.
2. How clean a person are you?-You are definitely going to want to discuss if your method of hanging up clothes is just laying them on the floor so you can see every piece of your wardrobe at one time. Talk about when and how often you are going to clean your room. Are you going to clean together or just your space?
3. Morning Bird vs. Night owl– This is an epic battle that only the strong will win. This is a discussion that will save you a major headache. Make room rules about when lights go out, when they can be turned on, when you can play music, when is nap time (trust me this will happen). Basically be courteous to your roommate. If he or she is sleeping be as quiet as possible.
4. Food/Clothes use-Money can be a very touchy subject with some people and food can be even more of a touchy subject. Discuss if you are going to be sharing or not sharing food. Talk about whether you are going to share clothes and this does include underwear (trust me this does happen). Are you going to have an “ask before use policy”? How are you going to ask permission? In person? Text? Before? After the fact?
5. Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Guest-Tell you roommate if you have a gf, bf, or if you are super social. Set times and days when guests can come over. Tell your roommate when you would like some alone time with your guest and please never ever be have “alone time” with your gf/bf when your roommate is in the room. Three is a crowd. Remember that your room is also your roommate’s room and they have a right to be there. So if your roommate has a problem with your guests. Meet your guests elsewhere to hang out.
6. Leaving notes-Leaving a note for your roommate can be a good or a very bad idea. If the note is about when you’re coming back to the room or when is dinner that’s okay. But if the note is about an issue you have with your roommate please talk to your roommate in person not through a piece of paper.



Since you have discussed all of these points before moving in you now have an expectation for your room and living together.



Tip 2: The honeymoon period will end- The first few weeks of class is a great time. You love your roommate and you love living together. Then the time the first exam rolls around and you are ready to tear each other’s hair out. The hair-tearing-out time is a good time to sit down a make a roommate contract. You can do this on your own or with your RA *wink* if you need a mediator. Put in the roommate contract all the answers to my communication tips.


Tip 3: Gossip- Never talk about your roommate behind his or her back. Do not complain to other people on your floor or your friends (you most likely share friends). Your roommate will hear about it because people love gossip. If you have to complain to someone talk to your very very close friends, parents, siblings, or even your RA *wink*. Your RA is living on the floor with you for a reason. Use them for advice on how to deal with or talk to your roommate.


Tip 4: CLEAN- Please please clean your room. Do your laundry, take your trash out, use a well placed air freshener is an excellent idea. Your roommate will thank you. Your floor-mates will thank you. Your RA will thank you. Your stank will travel though walls and closed doors. It is a mysterious phenomenon.


Living with someone, especially a stranger can be a very stressful time. Talk to each other and don’t let problems build up. You are adults now discuss your feelings. Living with someone can also be extremely fun and I have seen tons of freshman roommate go on to be best friends and even live together their sophomore year.


If any other RAs out there have any more tips on dealing with roommate please comment below. I am also asking anyone who has ever lived with someone to comment and share your story. Share how you dealt with the situation and if you could go back and change the situation what would you do different?

It is the start of a new year and if you live anywhere north
then it is pretty darn cold outside; this is also the time when people are
feeling a bit blue and may need some cheering up.  So here are a few pointers for battling the
Winter Blues:

  1. Exercise-
    Getting to the gym, popping a yoga video, or going for a run can lighten
    the mood. Also you could be working towards your New Year’s resolution…
    Exercising with a friend can also help you battle your blues.
  2. Soak
    up some Vitamin D- Spend some time outside. You lucky people who live in
    the South can do this without freezing your butt off but those Northerners
    like me have to resort to keeping my curtains open, sitting by a window
    during class, or at a restaurant.
  3. Avoid
    Binge Drinking- It may seem that since days are shorter and nights longer
    that you must get your drink on.
    Remember back to High School Health that Alcohol is a depressant
    and will lower your energy and cause your mood to worsen.
  4. Relax-
    Spend time with friends, take a break from school, deep breathing always
    helps me.  Read a book, watch a
    movie, or start a new TV series on Hulu. If you need any suggestions ask
    away! I am full of them J
  5. Embrace
    the Winter- Turn winter into something fun.  Build a snowman, go sledding, skiing,
    ice skating, etc!  Have fun!

If you have any more suggestions
for battling those winter blues please post. I would love to see your