college

Link Love Wednesday: #LoveAtFirstFlight

audrey-hepburn-style-9Some schools are back in session, which means it’s time to trade in those bathing suits for books and return to the classroom. Whether you’ve already begun opening your textbooks or still have a few weeks of summer left, allow yourself to relax with this week’s batch of Link Love!

What are some links you’ve come across in the last week? Share your great finds in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Finding Happiness in College

findinghappinessincollegeFor those who attend my alma mater (and many other universities throughout the world), today is the first day of school! Growing up, I always loved this time of the year, as I stocked up on fresh school supplies, spruced up my wardrobe and hoped that a cute new boy would move to town and be in all of my classes. Now in my second year out of school, it still feels crazy for me not to experience that “first day” excitement, as my inner nerd aches to read through a new syllabus and crack open a new textbook.

Many of you are starting college today (or next week, or early next month) for the first time ever. I congratulate you! College can be overwhelming, exhausting and, at times, heartbreaking. Completing your undergraduate degree is no laughing matter. But when I look back on the past 23 (almost 24) years of my life, I remember that many of the happiest moments took place during my university years.

Over the years, several of my readers have asked, “How can I find happiness in college?” Today, as you embark on this new and exciting adventure that is your undergraduate career, I’d like to share 15 of my own tips for truly living your college experience in a positive way.

The Freshman 15: Finding Happiness in College

1. Get involved on campus.
You will get out of your college experience what you put into it. What you do in the classroom is one key to your success, but keep in mind that it isn’t the only key. By joining a club or committee that interests you, you will not only gain valuable experience that you can’t obtain from a textbook, but you will also meet new people and challenge yourself in new ways. For tips on how to get involved on campus, check out my handy guide here.

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13589981289522. Smile.
Did you know that the first Friday of October is World Smile Day? :) Sometimes even a simple smile can brighten your day and turn your mood around. People respond better to you when you look happier, but people are less likely to approach you with a scowl on your face. It’s simple: Smile more, and happy things will follow.

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3. Eat a more nutritious diet, and cut out the chemicals.
Seriously. This was always something my dad preached in our house, and I never wanted to believe it, but it’s true. I find that when I eat a diet rich in whole foods (as opposed to raiding the vending machine at work and binging on fast food), I’m a lot more even-tempered and less likely to overreact to minor things. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Not only will this make you happier in the long run, but it will make your waistline happier, too.

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4. Talk to your friends…
We all need somebody to lean on. You’ll make friends as you adjust to your new environment, and as you grow closer, you will likely turn to each other for support. This is a good thing, because it will allow you to grow closer and form more meaningful relationships.

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thcaaxvjkd5. … But don’t lean on one person too much.
When you rely on one person too heavily, you may wind up putting too much pressure on him or her to solve your problems and be that shoulder to lean on. You don’t want to be that one negative friend that people dread talking to, so be sure to keep that in check when confiding in others.

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6. Utilize the university counseling center if necessary.
If you’re having trouble adjusting to college life or are having some emotional difficulties, a good resource to take advantage of is the school’s counseling center. Chances are, your tuition and student activity fees actually pay for counseling services anyway, so it is a free resource that you might as well use. This can help you find new ways to cope with your problems and talk to someone who isn’t as close to the situation as your friends are.

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7. Whenever you start to doubt yourself, listen to an emergency compliment.
I love this site, Emergency Compliment, because it’s exactly what it sounds like. The page generates a new “emergency compliment” every time you refresh, and the compliments will definitely make you smile. Similarly, you can write down all of the positive things people have said about you, and read them on the tougher days to remind yourself of how great you really are.

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free+time18. Get organized.
Make checklists and keep a calendar to stay on task with your school work, extracurriculars and social obligations. This will ensure that you don’t forget anything important and therefore cause yourself even more stress and anxiety than you were already facing from those two papers and three midterms. For tips on managing your time effectively in college, visit my guide here.

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9. Take each day one at a time.
Don’t try to solve all of the world’s problems at once. When you try to do too much, you stop doing any of it very well. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin!

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10. Go outside.
Enjoy the fresh air and beauty of nature, even if you are inundated with schoolwork and group projects. As a student, I often brought my books outside when the weather was nice, and I found that this had a major impact on my overall mood. If you can, try to study or meet for lunch with friends outside once in a while… the change in scenery will (quite literally) brighten your day.

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endorphins11. Move around.
Does your university have a free gym for students? Use it! The endorphins will boost your mood and help relieve some of the stress you’re facing. Plus, it’s a very healthy way to get your mind off of some of the things that may be bothering you!

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12. Find a major you really love, and stick to it.
If you enjoy what you’re doing and have an end goal in sight, it will make it that much easier for you to push past your challenges. You may hate that organic chemistry class you’re taking, but if you are passionate about your other pre-med classes and excited about the idea of becoming a doctor someday, you’ll have an easier time forcing yourself to study. Don’t pursue a major just to impress others or check it off your list — instead, find something you’re passionate about. For tips on how to choose the right major, click here.

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13. Volunteer.
Helping others, instead of focusing on the things that have gone wrong in your life, will cheer you up and allow you to give back to the community. Join a volunteer organization at your university, or look for a local non-profit whose mission speaks to you.

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-114. Develop some school spirit!
If you take pride in your school, you will be less homesick and have an easier time adjusting to the challenges you face on campus. Attend a few athletic events and wear your university’s colors proudly! This also helps you to connect with others on campus and you may even make friends at the games.

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15. If you expect wonderful things to happen, they will.
My friend Nicole always says this, and I completely agree! Good things will come when you have a positive attitude and expect them to. When you’re going through a rough adjustment, keep your chin up and hope for the best. Positive thoughts can attract positive outcomes.

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What are some of your tips for finding happiness in college? Freshmen, what topics would you like to see on The Freshman 15?

In Hindsight: Four Things I’d Tell My University Self

logotransparentGood afternoon, friends, and sorry for any lack of updates lately! To make it up to you, I’d like to share my latest guest blog for Career Camel, a London-based website dedicated to helping college students lock down the career of their dreams.

For my guest post, I was asked to discuss some of the things I would tell my freshman self if I could go back in time. The question was definitely a challenging one, but I have definitely grown in the past five years and learned a lot about myself in that time.

Pop over to Career Camel now and check out my article! You won’t regret it. :) Share with friends and add your own lessons in the comments section!

Late Night Link Love: But First, Let Me NOT Take a Selfie

89c7ab46a1158ee92944f06ad3cb0fdcHappy Wednesday and end of July! The month was a bittersweet one for me, as two close friends from college packed up to move out of state, but I’m looking forward to the adventures that August brings. Beginning Friday, I will embark on my third Whole 30, and am excited for other opportunities in the coming month. I will also take advantage of the warm weather and continue to work on my pathetically miniscule tan!

What are you looking forward to in August? Share your own adventures in the comments section, and in the meantime, enjoy another fabulous round of Link Love.

What are some of your favorite articles and links this week? Sound off in the comments below!

Link Love Wednesday: Boy Bands, The Sorcerer’s Stone and Romantic Comedies

harrypotterI hope this week’s Link Love finds you well! Can you believe how quickly the summer is flying by? When I was in high school, I always felt a sense of dread around mid-July, when the new school year seemed to be looming all too closely. Nowadays, I work year-round, but I will never forget the way I felt as I watched the summer slip away. For those of you who have a break from school or work this summer, hopefully you are finding ways to make the most of your days off – away from the computer!

Of course, when you do stop to check Facebook and your favorite blogs (wink, wink), be sure to enjoy some of our latest Link Love!

How are you spending your summer? Any great links you’ve come across this week? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Managing Your Money in College

15 ways to manage your money in collegeWhen I look back at my college life, I’m proud of how much I accomplished in those four years. I made friends early on, joined organizations on campus, participated in internships and experienced a lot of personal growth along the way. However, one practical skill I wish I’d picked up earlier in my college career was personal finance. I was fortunate (and extremely grateful!) to have my family’s support as an undergraduate, as well as scholarships that paid a significant chunk of my tuition, but I wish I had asked the right questions and developed an interest sooner.

Personal finance is something that a lot of students struggle with, whether that involves saving appropriately for their wants and needs, building their credit scores or even understanding the basics of a checking account. After graduation, I quickly learned the importance of budgeting and using money responsibly, as I acquired new bills I had never dealt with in student housing. Now working in a financial institution, I learn something new every day, and am excited to share my tips for managing your money as a college student! Whether you receive support from your family or are completely financially independent, hopefully some of these tips will help you to save money and stay out of trouble.

The Freshman 15: Managing Your Money in College

1. Take advantage of student discounts and free resources on campus.
Any time you plan to spend money, bring your student ID along for the ride. Local retailers, restaurants and other vendors may offer student discounts that will cut down your expenses, and it never hurts to ask. Some nearby museums and attractions may even offer free admission for college students, and it’s easy to find out which ones simply by googling “free and cheap things to do in ____.” On campus, you can save money as well. Use the university’s gym instead of purchasing a membership elsewhere, or join an intramural team. Instead of hitting the mall on a beautiful summer day, spend some time by the university’s pool. You already pay for these resources through your student activity fees, so why not make the most of them?

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2. Attend workshops.
Chances are, at least one organization on campus offers free workshops on financial topics that are important to college students. Go to the ones that fit your schedule. Different institutions may offer slightly different advice, but the more you attend, the more you learn. Take good notes and ask questions. By familiarizing yourself with these concepts now, you’ll do a better job preparing for the future.

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college overpriced3. Don’t buy new textbooks from the university bookstore.
This is how you guarantee you’ll pay the most for your books. Instead, you have a few options. You can use sites like Amazon to get new books at a cheaper rate, especially if you do so through their private booksellers, or you can buy used through those sites. You can rent books, either through your university or through sites like Chegg. My honors college hosted book buyback as well, where students could advertise old textbooks of theirs at the prices they selected on their own, and others could purchase through that same program. If your university has a program like this, it’s a great way to save money on textbooks and get a little cash back. If not, consider starting one yourself!

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4. Join a credit union.
As a credit union member and employee, I may be a little biased, but credit unions generally pay higher interest on your savings accounts and charge lower interest on your loans. They offer everything a bank would offer, but because they are not-for-profit, there are usually fewer fees associated with your account. Many universities have their own credit unions that students can join and receive special perks or student products, like accounts with no monthly fees. Even if you don’t join a credit union, make sure you know what types of fees your institution will charge so that you can avoid them!

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5. Join something accessible.
Whether you are a credit union member or you prefer using a bank, make sure that you can access your money easily. Does your institution have branches nearby? Do you know where to find the nearest ATM? Do they offer mobile or online banking? Make sure you have the answers to these questions before you commit.

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6. Avoid foreign ATM fees whenever possible.
The solution to this is simple: Unless you’re in a real emergency, use the ATMs for your financial institution only!

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HIMYM7. If you decide to live off campus, get a roommate!
Having a roommate will cut your bills in half and make everything a lot more manageable. Plus, living with someone will improve your quality of life and make things much less lonely off campus!

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8. Become an extreme couponer.
Okay… maybe not an extreme couponer, but you get the idea. Check for discounts on items you use regularly, and use them to stock up on the things that won’t go bad – toothpaste, soap, paper towels and detergent, just to name a few. Meanwhile, avoid buying perishable foods in bulk; even if they are on sale, you may still spend more than you originally planned and wind up throwing some of it away by the expiration date.

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9. Apply for scholarships.
Scholarships are a great way to save money on your education. Check out your school’s financial aid website, listen for announcements around campus and look for scholarships out on the web as well. It doesn’t hurt to apply, and many these scholarships don’t get enough applicants! Hint: If a scholarship deadline is extended, it often means that fewer people have applied for it, which increases your chances of receiving it.

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10. Pay your bills on time, every time.
Keep a schedule of when your payments are due to ensure that you pay them on time. This will help you to build your credit score, which will in turn help you later on as you apply for major loans and even for jobs. If you have a credit card, try to pay the full balance every month to avoid damaging your credit and paying interest on what you owe.

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truly-honored-wedding-ecard-someecards11. Create a budget to stay on track.
A great way to remember to pay your bills is to create a monthly budget that includes your income and expenses, including gas, car payment, rent, utilities and other payments you must make throughout the month. If you’re spending more than you’re saving, adjust accordingly. Go online to find some helpful tools for creating your budget!

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12. Save on gas money.
Carpool to campus, ride your bike or use the school’s shuttle service. If you already live on campus, walk to class! Gas money does add up, and by taking advantage of alternative modes of transportation, you can transfer some of that money into savings.

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13. Transfer 10% of your earnings into a savings account.
The more you save now, the more interest you will earn in the future! If you use direct deposit, you can automatically transfer 10% (or another amount, depending on what you can afford) into a savings account. When paying bills, use the checking account, and try not to dip into your savings.

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credit card14. Be smart about your credit card.
If you do get a credit card as a student, look for a card with no annual fees and low interest. Read the fine print! As mentioned earlier, pay the card on time EVERY time to avoid late payments, interest or other fees. Your card does play a key role in your credit score, so make sure you aren’t using it to pay for things you can’t afford. If you have trouble applying discipline to your spending habits, use a debit card instead – that way, you can’t spend money you don’t have.

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15. Get a job on campus.
Departments on campus often hire student workers and can be flexible with hours based on your class schedule. This helps you save money on gas (you’re already on campus, so you can stay in one place!) and allows you to build connections with people at your university. During my senior year, I worked in the Career Services center at my school, and not only did they allow me to work within a schedule that fit my needs, but I also met a lot of staff, students and faculty members that I still correspond with to this day.

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What are some of your tips for managing your money in college? What other topics would you like to read about on The Freshman 15?

Link Love Thursday: Harry Potter is Back!

CA.0802.harry.potter.hallows.2.Good afternoon, friends! We are (sort of) back to our regularly scheduled programming here at So It Must Be True, and once again, I’m excited to share the latest batch of Link Love. Hope everyone had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend filled with friends, family and ESPN’s hotdog eating contest!

Happy reading! What are some of the best links you’ve come across this week?

Job Hunt Series at Talent Cupboard

TalentCupboardHi there, readers!

In place of this week’s Link Love, I would like to share my latest guest post for Talent Cupboard, a London-based company for upcoming and recent grads that allows you to create your own digital CV. I was honored to contribute to their Job Hunt series and share my own experiences and advice for finding the right job after graduation. You can check it out here!

Have a wonderful day and a safe Independence Day weekend! :)

Link Love Thursday: Don’t Call Me “Bae”

Batman-Dick-GraysonHope everyone is having a fantastic week! Summer officially begins on Saturday, so I’m excited to log some more days by the pool on the rare occurrence that it’s not raining in Florida. How are you spending your summer? You can start with a peek at this week’s Link Love, and post your own favorite findings in the comments section below!

What are some of your favorite articles from the last few weeks?

The Freshman 15: How to Shine at Your Summer Internship

freshman15-internshipWith the June solstice just days away, many of us are already feeling the heat of summer. From beach days to lighter class schedules, summer can be the perfect time to soak in the sun and relax before life resumes its craziness in the fall. However, for many, summer can also be a great time for college students to gain real world experience (and earn extra cash!) through job shadowing and internships.

During the summer before my senior year, I interned part-time at a public relations agency, which allowed me to fulfill the role of an entry level employee while learning a lot about my craft and adding new writing samples to my portfolio. Throughout college, I participated in three other internships as well, each building on the skills I acquired during the previous one.

The people you meet at your internships will serve as important contacts throughout your career, and the experiences you have (both positive and negative) will guide you in your professional life later on. Because of this, it is important to give each internship your all, and learn how to stand out in the best way possible! This month, we’ll discuss 15 tips you can bring along to any internship you pursue.

The Freshman 15: How to Shine at Your Summer Internship

1. Dress the part!
I’ve talked about this time and time again, but the way you present yourself plays a huge role in how you are perceived. When I worked part-time in Career Services, I was amazed at what some of the students wore to job fairs – skirts that were too short, clothes that were too see-through (hint: anything see-through is too see-through!), outfits that were about three levels too casual. If it’s something you would wear to a club, it’s probably not something you should wear in an office environment. If your office allows casual clothes from time to time, follow the lead of the other employees, and if you are allowed to wear jeans to work, at least make sure they don’t have holes or tons of embellishments. As an intern, you are likely younger than most (if not all) of the people in the office, but if you dress that way, you probably won’t be taken as seriously regardless of the quality of your work.

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Alice-White-Rabbit_l2. Arrive early.
When I was a cheerleader in high school and our coaches scheduled practices, they always stressed that early was “on time,” and “on time” was late. In other words, arriving at least a few minutes early was the expectation, not the exception. This can apply to your professional life as well. Showing up a little early demonstrates that you care about the job at hand and that you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort.

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3. Do your research.
You may receive a formal introduction to the company when you arrive on Day One, or your internship coordinator may throw you an assignment right away. I’ve experienced a mix of both throughout my internships, and the best way to handle it is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with the company by visiting its website and social media pages, as well as any relevant news articles about them. This will make things less overwhelming as you adapt to a new environment, and will allow you to ask more specific questions and have better conversations with the full-time staff. It also shows that you have dedicated time outside of the office to learn about the company and that you care about what you are doing.

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4. Keep copies of everything.
Because my internships involved a lot of writing opportunities, I was able to keep physical and electronic copies of my press releases, pitch letters and published articles for my own records. As long as your work is not confidential, make sure you collect copies of everything you do so that you can refer back to them later on. Future internships and employers may want to see samples of previous work, so you will be able to present those much more easily if you already have them (instead of scrambling to ask former internship employers to email them your way). When I interviewed for my full-time job after college, I was able to provide a portfolio of past work that I can now refer back to if I need inspiration for current writing assignments. I can also look back at those pieces and see how much my writing has improved over time!

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5. Ask others what you can expect.
If you have a friend or classmate who has interned with this company in the past, ask them about their experiences! Your peers can be your best resources, and chances are, they will be happy to share. You can learn a lot about a company’s culture this way, which plays a huge role in how comfortable you feel in the workplace and whether or not you see a future there. Conversely, I have returned the favor and  answered questions for friends pursuing internships and full-time employment at some of the places I have worked, and it has been rewarding to do so. If you don’t know anyone who has interned there, see if your friends know anyone who has, and request introductions through LinkedIn or in some other way. You’ll be amazed at how willing people are to help one another. If the company is big enough, you may also be able to read reviews by employees on sites like Glassdoor.

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tumblr_inline_n6cjumawXi1qlr65v6. Take notes.
Take notes on everything – what you did each day, what feedback you received from your employer, what assignments you have received for the next week. These notes will help you perform your job better, but they will also help you remember some of the seemingly minor day-to-day tasks you fulfilled as well. You may wonder why those could be important, but in future semesters, you may come across another internship or job that requires that experience, and you’ll be able to include it on a more targeted resume. For more of my tips for a winning resume, click here.

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7. Do not badmouth the employer.
Even if your experience is less than ideal, you don’t want to burn bridges with potential contacts. Don’t post that your internship “sucks” on Facebook or say negative things about specific people through social media. In person, be careful what you say as well – you never know who knows somebody who knows somebody else, and regardless of all that, you don’t want to be regarded as the difficult person to work with. I don’t care how “private” your social media is; once you publish something on the Internet, it is never really gone.

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Studio Portrait of the Village People8. Take on new roles that are slightly outside of your comfort zone.
An internship is a learning experience, so you have to make the most of it! If the employer believes in you enough to entrust you with a task that you’ve never done before, then you need to believe in yourself enough to do it! Ask questions and do some research along the way, but allow yourself to try new things and learn from them. There is a first time for everything, and even in my current role, I find myself doing things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. On my first day at one of my internships, I was asked to work the teleprompter for a local talk show, even though I wasn’t interning in television. I was apprehensive about being allowed anywhere near all of that expensive equipment, but now I can say I’ve mastered the art of the teleprompter! Learn as much as you can every day, and you will get so much more out of your internship. (Tweet this!) It will also show the employer your versatility, and you may be asked to return for another semester.

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9. Be willing to take criticism.
We love to be showered with praise, but realistically, this isn’t how we grow in our professions. When you receive constructive criticism, take it. It can be hard to hear, especially in the beginning when you are still adjusting to a new work climate, but it is the only way you’ll get better at what you do. Don’t be overly defensive or sensitive – it’s (probably) not personal.

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messy-desk110. Maintain a neat workspace.
This may sound silly, but when your desk is reasonably organized, people automatically assume you’re a reasonably organized person and worker as well. You could be the best intern the company has ever had, but if your cubicle looks like a tornado has gone through it, other employees may make negative judgments. Keep your space neat and take pride in it, especially if you share that space with someone else.

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11. Accept tasks with a smile.
Be positive and don’t let yourself be “too big” for a task. While your internship should not consist solely of brewing coffee and taking down phone messages, realize that sometimes you may be expected to do those things. Be a team player. If you find that you aren’t doing a lot of what you signed up for, talk to your internship coordinator politely. Don’t complain – instead, tell him or her about your interest in a specific project or work function, and ask if you would be able to assist with that. Communicating with your boss instead of rolling your eyes or complaining to your mom via text will be much more productive and will allow you to actually change things.

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12. Get to know others on staff.
You may be a marketing major who is interning in the company’s marketing department, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know people in human resources, information technology or other departments. Meet as many people as you can, and have real conversations with them about what they do in their role and how they got to where they are today. Show the initiative. You may learn that you enjoy another aspect of the company or simply that you’ve found a new mentor.

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love-exclamations13. Learn proper email etiquette.
Even in a professional setting, I still receive the occasional email written in all caps! Proofread before sending an email, especially company-wide. “Reply all” if multiple people are included on an email. Make sure you’ve attached whatever you need to attach before hitting “send.” Sometimes I like to write the email in its entirety before adding the recipients so that I can avoid sending the email too early. And of course, spell out full words – no “netspeak” that the older generations are always complaining about! It makes our generation look lazy. :)

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14. Make the experience your own.
Keep the lines of communication open. If there is something you would like to be doing at this internship and haven’t been able to do so far, just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that your internship coordinator says no, but then that leaves you right where you started. By asking the right questions, I ended up with so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise: I received on-air media training, I helped coordinate a press conference at a missile museum, I sat in on a radio interview and even transcribed a speech for Bill Clinton (and wrote an article about it). The people at your internship know that you are there to learn, so chances are, they will be open to personalizing the experience for you if you put forth the effort.

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15. Keep in touch.
With the invention of email and social media, there is no excuse not to stay in touch with employers after the internship experience is over. One of my biggest regrets from college was not doing a better job of keeping up with some employers once the new semester began, and it is the greatest wisdom I can pass on to you. Chances are, you are not going to find a job through a job listing when you graduate – you will probably instead find that job through the contacts you make along the way. Even if the company you interned for isn’t hiring when you graduate, they may be able to pass your information over to someone else in the industry who is. They can serve as references and role models as you pursue your career further, so send them an email every now and then to see what they are up to.

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For those pursuing internships this summer and in upcoming semesters, best of luck! Internships can be some of the most rewarding experiences you have in college, and you will be able to apply the lessons you’ve learned in the classroom. For more of my tips on how to stand out professionally while you’re in college, click here.