high school

Link Love Wednesday: Ashton Kutcher and Rejection

ashton kutcherThe past few weeks at work have been completely packed, as we gear up for the fall semester. From a football kickoff luncheon to several all-day tabling events, I’m loving my job but completely ready to unwind with some Link Love. What are some of the fabulous articles and blog posts you’ve been reading lately?

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 4)

blair waldorf graduationIt’s hard to believe that when I first started blogging, I was only halfway through my freshman year of college. At the time, I thought that a blog would be a fun avenue for me to share the thoughts and ideas that I was too shy to say aloud, but in the years that followed, the blog became so much more.

In April 2010, we started with the very first Freshman 15, focusing on 15 of the things I had learned in my first year of college (some serious, some practical and some silly). Throughout the year, I created other Freshman 15 lists as well, focusing on specific topics like overcoming homesickness, making friends and navigating college relationships. Then, every following April, I listed 15 new things I had learned that year (see year 2 and year 3).

A lot has happened in the last four years. I’m shocked every time I receive an email about picking up my cap and gown, or filling out my college exit surveys, because I still feel like the awkward 18-year-old girl who navigated the university by map, the girl who couldn’t boil water to save her life and who hoped to meet her soulmate in the residence halls. Now, with just a few final exams left to go, I’ll share 15 lessons that I’ve learned since I first started college.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 4)

1. Stick around if you can afford it.
I meet a lot of underclassmen who enter college with junior standing and who hope to finish their four-year degree in two years. While I understand the financial reasons behind this, I would encourage you not to rush through your program if you can help it. So many of these students think that by taking on an overwhelming course load in the hope of graduating early, they will be able to begin graduate programs at a younger age. However, if you stretch your degree out to three and a half or four years, you will have the opportunity to participate in research, internships, extracurriculars and other activities that will make you more well-rounded and boost your chances of admission. It also allows you to pick up an extra major or minor if that interests you.

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2. Use university resources early on.
Know what resources the university offers, and don’t wait until the last minute to use them. Even though I attended a lot of workshops and events as a freshman, there was a lot that I didn’t know about until my senior year. Currently, in my position at the university’s career center, I have encountered so many students who are just weeks away from graduation and having someone on campus look at their resume for the first time. Find out what your school provides for its students, and use it! You are paying for it, after all. :)

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barney3. Know how to dress professionally.
In college, you may be invited to a “business casual” event on a moment’s notice, and you’ll need to know what that entails. Invest in a professional wardrobe so that you’ll always be ready for the next job fair, interview or networking event. Ladies (and gentlemen, too, I suppose), make sure you avoid anything too short or low-cut. If you would wear it downtown to a bar/it has sequins on it, it’s probably not okay to wear.

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4. Always keep your resume updated.
Don’t be the graduating senior who never made a resume before. Start a resume early in your college career, and add in the details over time. I’ve met some people who even kept a secondary list of organizations and jobs they have been a part of, and then they referred to that list every time they crafted a new resume for a different employer.

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5. Some industries are harder to break into than others.
I honestly didn’t know this until last semester. Whichever field you hope to work in, do a little research so you can decide if the job availability after graduation is worth it. (It might be. And your passion for a subject may surpass any worries you have about your future salary, but this is still something to keep in mind.)

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header6. Have some ideas about what you can potentially do with your major.
No, you don’t need to know what you’re going to be when you grow up – at least not right away – but it’s good to at least be aware of what types of career paths are possible with your major. A few months ago, I met a psychology student who was interested in graduate programs but disliked people and animals. As you can imagine, it was difficult to think of a career path he could follow in psychology that wouldn’t focus on either of these areas. Think about why you selected your particular major and research some of the careers that could potentially follow graduation. (Also, find out if they require further education or certification!)

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7. You won’t be loved by everyone at every moment.
Sometimes you have to say or do the unpopular thing, and it may make you feel like a villain. Nevertheless, it’s important to stand up for yourself and what you think is right, and at times, that means saying something that people won’t want to hear.

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8. DS4303evelop new skills whenever possible.
Find new ways to diversify your skill set. Learn a new film editing software, master a programming language, practice ballroom dance or try out a new recipe in the kitchen. Whether your aim is to boost the “skills” section on your resume or to become more well-rounded, learning new skills is an excellent way to exercise your brain. (Nunchuck skills are always a plus.)

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9. Do what makes you happy.
Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, all too often we worry about what others think about our actions, and let it define our happiness. Unless others are warning you against a potentially dangerous situation, you are perfectly entitled to make your own decisions, so long as they don’t negatively impact everyone around you.

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10. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Just as much as we need to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of everything we do, we need to stop having such strong opinions about what everybody else is doing. Let others live their lives without so much judgment. Again, unless you are warning someone against a potentially dangerous situation, you should probably stay out of any situation you haven’t been invited into.

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11. Burnout exists. Give yourself a break.
As a complete workaholic, I fall especially victim to this one. Make sure that even when life is at its most hectic, you are taking care of your health and getting some semblance of sleep here and there. Check out this great article by Leonie Dawson for more tips on dealing with burnout.

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HermioneRonHarry12. True friends are hard to come by, but you will find them.
You are bound to meet a lot of people when you start college, but not all of them will become your lifelong friends. Your true friends will be the ones who celebrate your successes and help you through the rough times without expecting anything in return. That’s the key – your friends won’t have to remind you of what they’ve done for you, because they know you do the same for them.

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13. Take advantage of student discounts.
With graduation looming closer and closer, I can practically see all of the wonderful discounts that come with being a student just vanishing before me. Know that local venues, attractions and conferences will give you student discounts, because those can really help you out.

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14. Time management is everything.
Do whatever you need to do to stay ahead of your school work and obligations, because as soon as you fall behind, things will begin to snowball. Managing your time effectively will help you to avoid the burnout that affects so many of us! Here are 15 time management tips, many of which I use to this day!

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15. Learn the balance of yes and no.
This is a lesson that I am learning every day. When you first start college, you will want to join every club and be in 10 places at once. Unfortunately, there is only one of you and only 24 hours in the day. Learn to prioritize and figure out, over time, what you can and can’t commit to. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – trust me, you will regret it!

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What are some of the things you’ve learned during your time in college?

What Senior Year of College Really Feels Like

I’m reaching the end of my second-to-last semester as an undergrad, and it seems that almost everyone I know (myself included) is going through a major quarter-life crisis. This year has brought with it a mix of emotions for many of us that are unlike anything we’ve experienced before, as we urgently question what we want to do when we graduate and struggle with the idea of what it means to grow up.

Often in high school, senior year ultimately boils down to a prom dress, a few questionable hairstyles, a last-minute SAT exam, the wait to hear back from college admissions, and the hope that your one guy “friend” will decide he’s crazy about you and, in a gesture as grand as any high schooler can imagine, send you carnations on Valentine’s Day. (Later on, of course, you forget the exact breakdown of your SAT scores, discover that your high school crush was interested in men the entire time, and recognize that prom was never a defining moment in your life as pop culture would claim it to be.) Although it feels incredibly important and all-consuming at the time, senior year of high school eventually fades into a distant memory that you’ll later claim to have hated all along.

College, meanwhile, becomes an exciting time of self-discovery and opportunity. You meet the friends who make you feel infinite, join organizations, and attempt to figure out what you’re good at and how to develop yourself professionally. You still fall for the types of guys your parents warned you about when you were in high school, only now they own suits and are a little harder to identify at first glance.

Senior year is a new ballpark, because while college itself is a glamorous night downtown with your best friends, senior year is a mess of emotions and scribbled-out schedules and lunch plans canceled in favor of finishing that last paper. Senior year is that moment when you realize that you might be too old to wear heart-shaped sunglasses or your Holly Golightly tiara in public, but you still store them in your closet with the quiet hope that maybe you can put them on one day when no one is looking. It’s the time when you stop accepting the advances of guys who only text you after 10 p.m. because – dammit – you’re an intelligent, complex individual who deserves to be taken to a nice restaurant or museum once in a while. Your most used topics of conversation with friends, family, acquaintances and the guy in the checkout counter at Publix? 1. Post-graduate plans (or lack thereof); 2. Where to buy business casual clothing; 3. “I AM SO STRESSED OUT RIGHT NOW.” In fact, your stress is both a source of pride and a source of grief for you.

I firmly believe that senior year of college comes with all of this craziness because it is a time of transition in our lives. We are uncertain of what the future holds, so we start to look backward with a mix of nostalgia and regret as we attempt to decipher the past four years of our lives. Perhaps four years from now we will look back at college in the same superficial snapshots with which we look back at our high school years today. Perhaps we’ll wake up one day and things will suddenly make sense, or maybe we’ll simply need to do a little more self discovery to figure out what it is we were meant to do.

From one college student to the next: I hope you are surviving your senior year and cherishing every memorable moment it has to offer.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 3)

As of today, I am officially done with my junior year of college. It feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman myself, writing the original Freshman 15 post that started it all. :) Since then, I have undergone many experiences I never could have possibly predicted, and learned a lot from every single one of them.

Every April, I share fifteen new lessons that I’ve learned throughout the year (see last year’s post here), and this month is no different. It has been an interesting year, to say the least! Feel free to share your own experiences in the comment section below, and if you would like to be a part of my next Freshman 15, please email vmoses90@gmail.com for details.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 3)

1. Running into faces from your past will show you how much you’ve changed.
Because I attend a state university, I’m bound to run into people from my hometown from time to time. I’ve only kept in touch consistently with a few people from high school, so I often forget about my life before college. However, when I do encounter old friends and classmates, I realize how much many of us have changed since then (and how much some have stayed the same!). The longer you go without seeing the people you used to see every day, the more you find that this is the case. Every so often, I feel like I’ve attended a one-on-one high school reunion, complete with “How have you been?” and an exchange of “Are you still dating _______ from high school/Are you still interested in becoming a ______/Have you talked to ______ lately/Did you know _____ and _____ stopped talking?” There’s nothing wrong with this – it might be a shock at first, but you’ll learn just how much you’ve grown since graduation.

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2. The little things do matter.
In the workplace, in relationships and in life, the little things will set you apart. Write thank-you notes to the people who interview you – even if they don’t give you the job, they will recognize the gesture and associate your name with something positive. Take a moment to compliment someone on something that they didn’t think you’d notice. Don’t show up at a social function empty-handed; a plate of brownies goes a long way. Be kind and gracious. Class never goes out of style.

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3. Birds of a feather don’t always flock together, but a lot of people are not aware of that.
Be careful with the connections you make — some could have a negative impact on your reputation. I am not telling you to be cruel or judgmental, but be aware of the situations you wind up in and the actions of the people around you. You may be hardworking and responsible, but if you spend too much time with people who are constantly in trouble, you could end up in trouble yourself. As we learn in public relations classes, it takes a lot to fix a damaged reputation, and if you’re seen with people who make a lot of inappropriate decisions, others will assume that you’re exactly the same.

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4. A healthy dose of rejection isn’t always a bad thing.
Let’s face it – rejection sucks, no matter where it’s coming from. Whether your dream job just told you they “decided to go in a different direction,” or your crush is just not that into you, being rejected can make you doubt yourself and your abilities. A few months ago, I applied for a prestigious position at the university and was denied before I even reached the interview process, for reasons I didn’t fully understand. The elimination stung, and my self-esteem took a temporary nosedive, until I recognized that a) There are other options out there for me, b) I can still accomplish a lot without filling this particular position, and c) The school was missing out. Talk to anyone older than 30 and you’ll find that everyone has endured a form of rejection at one point or another. When it happens to you, be strong – don’t belittle yourself, but consider the areas in which you could improve, and realize that another opportunity will come again if you are open to it. (In the unsourced words of Marilyn Monroe, “Good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”)

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5. Being negative and judgmental only hurts you.
When you accept others as they are, you find yourself surrounded by more friends and attract more positivity than ever. Don’t rule out a potential friendship for superficial reasons. When you’re constantly picking others apart, people don’t want to be around you — they begin to see you only as that grumpy classmate that brings others down.

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6. It’s never too late to try something new.
People assume that if they join a club after their freshman year, they won’t be able to make an impact or fulfill an officer position, and that isn’t always the case. You can still get a lot out of the opportunities you pursue throughout your sophomore, junior and even senior year, regardless of your seniority or longevity there. If a student organization, elective or part-time job sounds fulfilling to you, try it out, even if it’s way different from anything you’ve done before.  This is how I became a cheerleader in high school, and it’s also how I decided to study Hospitality Management as a minor. Trying something new could be the best decision you’ve ever made, or it could reaffirm your beliefs in what you already do.

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7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
(Wow, I’m full of animal metaphors today!) It’s always a good idea to start working on a basic five-year plan for your life, but realize that things don’t always go accordingly. What if the on-campus position you wanted is offered to someone else? What if you decide you don’t want to be pre-med anymore? What if you and your high school sweetheart break up mid-freshman year? Of course you should be positive and take each day in stride, but if something doesn’t work out, it isn’t the end of the world. There are always alternatives, and you should make sure to keep those at the back of your mind in case your life changes.

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8. The longer you’ve been away from home, the more you begin to appreciate it.
Now that my third year of living at university is over, I find my trips home to be a lot more important than they used to be. As you take on more and more responsibilities, you find yourself increasingly looking back on your childhood and start to wonder why you ever wanted to grow up so fast. I only live three hours away from home now, but with the knowledge that I may move out of state after graduation, I treasure my trips home much more now than I did as a freshman.

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9. Most of what you worry about will work itself out.
The moments that felt like the end of the world last year have been reduced to distant memories of people and events that didn’t quite work out. You will go through all the normal emotions and doubt that you could ever possibly recover from that breakup/betrayal/job rejection/etc, but sure enough, in a year you will be able to laugh about it and you will probably even be thankful that it took place. So allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, but realize that this too shall pass. :)

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10. Comfort zones are overrated.
Some of my proudest college moments took place when I did something that completely terrified me. For example, in high school, I was the girl who used to shake from fear before giving presentations, and yet since I have enrolled in college, I have hosted two open mic nights and a 100-person Triwizard Tournament, spoken publicly on behalf of my organization, given tours of the university and more, all because I overcame that fear and took a leap out of my comfort zone. Do something that scares you and do it with all of your heart.

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11. Don’t postpone your life.
Oh, I’m a freshman — I have plenty of time to study abroad/find an internship/go on alternative spring break. Yes, as a freshman, you have the rest of college ahead of you, and several opportunities will present themselves throughout the next few years. However, you should keep a basic plan in mind so that you don’t wind up in the middle of your senior year, regretting that you never had time to [fill in the blanks]. Take advantage of new experiences as they arise, and have an idea of when you want to fulfill your goals.

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12. Learn to take criticism.
Admit it, we live in a critical world. You might be wonderfully talented in your field of study, but the sooner you accept constructive criticism from someone who knows what they’re talking about, the better. One day you might be receiving not-so-constructive criticism from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and being able to swallow your pride and learn from any mistakes you are making will allow you to improve upon your strengths and weaknesses. It will also prepare you for the harshness of the real world!

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13. You can learn something from everyone.
Every person you meet has his or her own story and something they can teach you. I look to each of my friends for different advice and their own unique perspectives, and I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful group of people in my life. Everybody thinks about life a little bit differently, so talking to new people and asking their opinions will make you a more well-rounded person and help you expand your own views.

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14. You deserve the best.
Don’t lower your standards in life just because you think you don’t deserve better. As Maureen Dowd says in one of my favorite quotes, “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than what you settled for.” Never surround yourself with negative people who treat you poorly — realize that you choose whom you let into your life, and that you don’t need those types of people around.

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15. Live in the moment.
Cliché as it may sound, I often lose sight of the proverbial “moment,” instead reflecting on past experiences or planning for the future. Because of this, I don’t always feel like a college student. At different times throughout the past three years in school, I have felt like a busy career woman, a tired mother of eight, a crazy recluse, and an awkward tween, but I find that I’m at my happiest when I’m able to act my age and experience life one day at a time. Does this mean you should get wasted every night in the shady part of town and make every decision without considering the consequences? No. But it does mean you should spend plenty of time with your friends, get a little boy- or girl-crazy once in a while, embark on new adventures and make the occasional non-life-threatening mistake. You may be in a weird transition period between adolescence and adulthood, but that doesn’t mean you have to grow up overnight.

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Readers, let me know if there is ever a college topic you’d like to learn more about in the future!

The Freshman 15: High School Vs. College

Whenever I think back to my high school life, I am amazed at how much has changed since then. Gone are the days of cheerleading, yearbook editing and wishing the right guy would ask me to the prom. I no longer have to wait until the first week of school to know what classes I’m taking with whom, nor am I stuck in limbo between very defined clique structures.

Of course, life at a 4-year university has its benefits as well as its challenges, but it overall tends to differ from one’s high school experiences. This month, we’ll explore some of those differences and talk about what it really means to make the transition from high school to college!

The Freshman 15: High School Vs. College

1. Grades are much harder to bring up.
Not to scare you (well, maybe a little!), but a lot of college classes — especially the general education requirements you’ll take as a freshman or sophomore — base your grade on relatively fewer assignments than the classes you took in high school ever did. Remember all those busy-work projects you did in your 10th grade English class that didn’t require much thought but still managed to boost your grades? For the most part, you won’t see those again in college. In fact, many college classes rely on only three exam grades and don’t bother to assess you for attendance, homework assignments or additional work. That’s not to say that all classes are like that, but in classes like these, it is important that you do your very best because every grade counts.

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2. Being smart isn’t a bad thing!
Nerdiness may be in the eye of the beholder, but students who get good grades and care about the subject material aren’t going to be looked down upon. Being invested in the course content and maintaining your grades is vital in college, and everyone who wants to go anywhere in life is also going to put the same kind of effort in. Be proud of your work ethic — own it!

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3. There isn’t one set path to follow.
Whether you’re a communications dork like me or you aspire to become a Pixar animator, you have a variety of choices that you alone must make. You shape your education. When I was in high school, I felt a lot of pressure to take AP classes in subjects that didn’t interest me, and felt like I was being pushed toward a math/science education when it didn’t suit my interests or strengths. In college, you may still have to take a few of those classes that don’t interest you as much, but you will also have a greater opportunity to choose classes and major concentrations that will benefit you personally. No pressure.

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4. You take greater responsibility for your work.
Because your college classes will guide you through a major that you chose, you will find more enjoyment and fulfillment in the course material and assignments. Will you still have projects that you would rather not do? Of course… that is unavoidable! However, you will have a lot fewer of those assignments. A film major’s class project will likely relate to filmmaking, which in turn will add to his body of work and play to his interests. Similarly, a biology student will probably enjoy the dissections because they relate to her eventual career in the medical field. Because of this, students tend to be more invested in the classes within their majors and work harder to achieve the course objectives.

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5. Professors aren’t breathing down your neck.
I had a History teacher in 11th grade who berated students in front of the class for not completing their assignments, and lectured them privately afterward as well. (This same teacher also told my parents that I was “smart” but that there was “something missing,” so I can’t say I was a huge fan.) In college, your professors most likely aren’t going to talk to you in the same way. If you miss an assignment for no excusable reason, you will get a zero, plain and simple. Your professor isn’t going to insult you for it, nor will he or she necessarily remind you of future upcoming deadlines. There will still be consequences for not completing your work, but you will have to be proactive and remind yourself of those.

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6. The way you present yourself will have a huge impact on your success.
This does not mean that your image doesn’t matter in high school. However, it matters even more in college. What you put on the Internet, for example, can play a bigger role in whether or not you are accepted for certain jobs or on-campus positions. I have a professor who actually looks his students up on Facebook before the semester begins to determine whether or not any of them have questionable content on their pages. (He doesn’t do it to be judgmental of students — he actually does it because he wants to remind us of what we’re putting out there.) In addition, it’s important to present yourself as responsible and professional in various settings because you never know who might be watching!

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7. You can escape the cliques (to an extent).
Cliques arise in every major, organization and residence hall on campus, but not in the same way they do in high school. If you want to escape the people you’ve known since elementary school, you absolutely can. You’re also not limited to such defined groups… I have friends who are officers in my organization, friends I hang out with most on weekends, friends I can have my girly-talks with, friends in my major and many others. Some of them intermingle and overlap, so I don’t feel like I’m in a clique the same way many other people are. You don’t have to be part of one group, and even if you are, you don’t have to define yourself entirely by the people you spend your time with.

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8. You meet people with vastly different life experiences.
Chances are, you went to high school with people you grew up with, who lived in the same town you did and who belonged to similar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. In college, you are most likely to come in contact with people whose religious and political views differ from your own, who challenge your way of thinking and teach you something new. I have a lot of friends who grew up in different places than I did, and I love learning about the way they each grew up. Meeting people with diverse backgrounds is important because it teaches you to get along with people who aren’t exactly like you, and it helps you gain a stronger understanding of them.

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9. You have a greater sense of freedom.
You may still be linked to your parents’ bank accounts, but being away from home gives you freedom you probably didn’t have when you lived with Mom and Dad. Missed your curfew? No problem — you create your own curfew now. Want to grow unsightly facial hair? Go on ahead… your parents aren’t going to be there to tell you how scraggly your new beard looks. (Bonus points if you’re a girl.) However, this freedom requires a certain level of responsibility. Yes, you can stay out as late as you want, but you have to decide whether it’s worth the mere three hours of sleep you’ll be able to get before your class (or if it’s worth skipping the class entirely). No, you won’t have to answer to your parents, but you will have to answer to yourself.

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10. You can use awesome free and inexpensive resources that you may never have again.
Your student activity fees and tuition grant you access to a variety of unique resources that most people have to pay a lot of money for in the real world. From gym membership to career planning to on-site health care, your university provides many things that you should take advantage of while you have the chance, things that you likely didn’t receive for free before you entered college. Many colleges also provide counseling services that would be much more expensive in “the real world,” so if you need them, now is the perfect time!

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11. Your professors will assign work without concern for your other classes.
Let’s face it — we’re all going to have days when every assignment seems to be due at once, and exams have piled on top of each other. (For me, that day is going to be April 3.) In high school, some teachers are aware of what others are assigning, and will try to schedule their due dates around that because many of their students are in both classes. But in college, your speech professor won’t care that your statistics test and government paper are due on the same day that you have to deliver your speech; rather, he will continue to schedule assignment due dates at his own convenience.

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12. Your professors care about the material and have relevant work experience.
This is not meant to knock down any high school teachers — many of them are extremely well-qualified and have a love for the subject they teach! I merely mean to say that your college professors will definitely be interested in their course matter and often hold graduate degrees in that subject. Your professor may ultimately hook you up with an internship or give you important job advice down the line. Most likely, your art history professor didn’t decide to teach art history because it was an available teaching position, but rather because he or she conducts important research in that field and truly knows a lot about it.

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13. Your email address cannot be ridiculous.
I’ll admit, I still have my childish email address linked to my Facebook… but I do not give it out to anyone! To all of the LilHotties and SexyMamas of the Internet world, create a more straightforward jane.blart@website.org address that you can give to potential employers and professors. A professional email address (instead of something you picked out in fourth grade) can make or break your success in a way that it never did in high school.

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14. You will live with someone you don’t really know.
Most high schoolers live with their parents/guardians and siblings, not with people they barely know. However, many college students are assigned to live in dorm rooms with complete strangers, which requires them to develop more patience and respect for others’ space. Random roommates don’t always work out well, but many times they do.

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15. You develop more real world experience than ever.
You may have had a part-time job in high school, but as a college student, you will be able to experience major-related internships and on-campus opportunities that relate to your future career. College gives you the chance to pursue your dreams by exposing you to the right people that will help you make it happen!

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What differences have you noticed between high school and college? What other college topics would you like to read about?

The Freshman 15: Mid-Semester Motivation Tips

Can anyone believe it’s almost March? As so many of us find ourselves inundated with midterms, essays and appointments, we sometimes forget how to cope with our hectic workloads and instead allow the chaos to overcome us. While some of us may become complacent and decide we just don’t care how we score on that psych exam, others feel completely overwhelmed and buried by all of our stressors.

For February’s Freshman 15, I will discuss just a few ways to tackle that mid-semester slump and remain motivated throughout the year. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Mid-Semester Motivation Tips

1. Stop telling yourself (and everyone else!) how stressed you are.
First of all, stress isn’t always a bad thing – in fact, it gives us that “fight or flight” response that allows us to act in emergency situations! A little bit of stress is good because it helps us perform to the best of our abilities. Second of all, although too much stress can be harmful, chances are that when you complain about it, you’re only making it worse. The more that you tell your friends (who most likely have a lot on their plates as well!) that you’re “stressed out,” the more that you hear those words in your own mind and the more stressed out you become.

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2. Reassess what you want.
During the fall semester of my freshman year, life wasn’t easy. Not only was I constantly sick, but I was in the middle of muddling through my general education requirements, many of which were not of interest to me. In fact, although I had a soft spot for my speech class, I had trouble feeling enthusiastic about any of the classes I was taking, in part because I didn’t have an end goal (a major) in mind. Once I finally chose a major to stick with, I found myself much more excited to go to classes and learn about the subjects I wanted to learn. Moral of the story? Choose a major that you’re going to be happy with. If your gen ed requirements are completed and you still dread going to classes, perhaps it is time to choose a new major.

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3. Cut something out of your schedule.
Grades should come first. If you find yourself so over-extended on extracurricular activities that you’ve worn yourself thin, it’s time to cut back and prioritize what activity is the most important to you. So many of us don’t know when to say “no” because we’re so excited about the myriad of opportunities we have in college, but it is better to do a few things well than to do many things halfheartedly.

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4. Discover a new hobby.
When I think of people with a lot of stress in their lives, Harry Potter always comes to mind. After all, his only surviving relatives despise him, he is constantly in detention, his Potions professor is out to get him (or so he thinks) and every year he has to save the world from the wrath of Voldemort. Harry’s friends provide some solace in his life, but when he hits the Quidditch pitch on his Firebolt broomstick, Harry is at peace (except, of course, when someone tries to bewitch his broomstick or send Dementors after him during a game). The point is – we all need a break, whether we find it in a game of Quidditch or a DIY project. If you don’t already have something that calms you down, find something. Too many hobbies will make you a little eccentric, but one great one will help you ease your mind when you have time to take a break.

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5. Change your scenery.
Sometimes when you’re in one place for too long, you become a little stir crazy. That’s why it’s important to change it up every so often! I tend to study in my room, but if it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, I might bring my textbooks out to the garden at school just for something different. Whether you relocate to Starbucks, the library or a hilltop, you will surely feel invigorated by your new surroundings.

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6. Give thanks.
You may be thinking that this has nothing to do with motivation, but ever since I started this gratitude challenge back in mid-January, I have felt infinitely happier and more inspired than ever. By writing down five things you are thankful for each night before you go to bed, you are challenging yourself to find the good in a sometimes bad day, and you begin to put your own problems into perspective. Try it!

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7. Surround yourself with positive people.
It’s hard to be optimistic when everyone you encounter is constantly whining about how difficult everything is. Find friends who know how to look at the glass half full – you can always learn from those people, and their happiness is usually contagious. Life is too short to be grumpy.

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8. Ditch the social media.
Studies reveal that using Facebook while studying tends to result in lower grades. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that liking your friends’ statuses and browsing pictures from last weekend’s party will not help you get an A in English class. With exams around the corner, you’ll need to know that Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers, but you do not need to know that Robbie and Julia are now in an open relationship. Besides, your mind will be a lot clearer if you spend a little less time on Facebook.

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9. Find a role model.
Having a mentor is an amazing thing when it feels like the walls are closing in on you. If you’ve met an older student that you aspire to be like, ask yourself what that person has done to become so successful. Better yet, ask him or her about it in person! People love to talk about their successes, and if you meet someone that you look up to, then when you feel like you’re about to give up on something, you can always ask yourself, “Would ____ do that?” Role models give us that extra boost of inspiration when we need it.

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10. Practice relaxation methods.
For many people, yoga and pilates are two phenomenal ways to burn calories and calm down from the day-to-day hustle and bustle. For others, they aren’t enough. Find something that helps you slow down when things become too much to handle. Learn how to meditate and breathe properly. These are just a few healthy ways to keep yourself grounded.

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11. Set new goals.
Feeling complacent? Do something about it! Challenge yourself with a new goal to reach. Apply for a study abroad program, learn a new skill, or join an organization that sounds appealing to you. Find ways to keep your college experiences fresh and exciting.

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12. Remind yourself of your positive attributes.
If you feel completely stuck and unable to accomplish what you need to accomplish, this handy trick will help get you out of your rut. In this exercise, you’ll need to list 100 things that you love about yourself. Think you can do it? In early February, I tried this out and was proud of some of the attributes I came up with. You’ll have to think outside the box a bit on this one, but once completed, this exercise really does boost your self esteem/self efficacy and help you regain motivation.

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13. Up the ante on organizational skills.
Sometimes, you just need to be a little more disciplined than usual to get the job done. Perhaps you’ll need to keep a more detailed agenda than usual, or maintain a more organized study space. Click here for tips on managing your time and organizing your life!

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14. Seek help when you need it.
Go to office hours. Meet with tutors and academic advisers. Make an appointment with the counseling center. Do what you need to do to stay on your game; don’t worry about what others are going to think. You should be your biggest priority.

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15. Be sure to address any deeper issues.
Sometimes we aren’t held back by a lack of motivation; rather, we have been affected by something farther beyond our control. Know the difference, and take care of yourself and the issue at hand.

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What topics would you like to see in the future?!

The Freshman 15: Ways To Stand Out Professionally

During my freshman year of college, I dreaded the idea of having to present myself to the professional world. Having taken a lot of my major coursework with upperclassmen, I was always bashful about comparing my high school-oriented resume with the beautifully compiled lists of internships and accomplishments my older classmates had already experienced. After all, what could I, a high school graduate with only a few months of college under my belt, truly claim to have achieved?

Of course, as I became more immersed in campus life and began to connect with faculty members, I realized that no matter how old you are, there are always methods for marketing yourself and reflecting a professional image. Freshman year is a great time to begin cultivating that image and developing the tools you’ll need to properly maintain it. This month, we’ll explore some of the preparations you can take to land officer positions, internships and selection into other opportunities in the semesters to come.

The Freshman 15: Ways To Stand Out Professionally

1. Get involved on campus as early as possible.
Research shows that students who join organizations and activities on campus are more likely to graduate from college. This isn’t to say that you should sign up for every club that your school has to offer, but you should pick out a few that sound interesting and start going to their meetings. Chances are, the girl who was just elected president of the pre-med student society (you know, that girl who knows everything about the department and seems to be really put-together?) has been attending meetings and joining committees since her freshman or sophomore year. Look for organizations that interest you now. Remember, today’s members at large are tomorrow’s executive officers.

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2. Create a new resumé.
Because you’re in your first year of school, it’s obvious that you won’t have a lot of college-related items to add to your resumé. However, organizing a brand new document with your local contact information and a few new tidbits of information (ie: “Member of the Ultimate Frisbee Team” or “Volunteer at Junior Achievement”) can shape things up quite nicely for when you do have more information to add in. If you don’t already have a section to list your skills and proficiencies, you can always beef up your resumé by listing some of the things you’re good at — Microsoft Office suite, Adobe Creative suite, HTML, event planning, you name it. Once you’ve put something together, bring it to your school’s career services center or to an advisor who can give you tips on making it really shine.

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3. Don’t fret if your greatest accomplishments took place in high school.
In all likelihood, this won’t be true forever. In your first year of college (and even, to an extent, your second year), you are not expected to have made great waves at your university just yet. Because of this, it’s okay to list some of your high school accomplishments on your resumé for the time being. Professionals often disagree on how long this practice is acceptable, but most people will expect you to list some of your high school involvement and awards while you’re starting out. You can phase those out over time.

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4. Behave on the Internet!
I don’t mean to scare you, but your Facebook/Twitter/tumblr is probably visible to a lot of people that you aren’t aware of. Because of this, you should try to keep your posts clean and not post statuses that you are going to regret. I’m friends with a few faculty members on Facebook who have gone on to hire me for positions or serve as references, but if I displayed an unprofessional side of myself on the Internet, those same people might not find me as personally reputable. Of course, the best way to avoid all of that is to change your behaviors in person, but the very least you can do is make sure that you are aware of the image you’re putting out through social media outlets.

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5. Never throw out anyone.
As my favorite actress and idol Audrey Hepburn once said, “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Never throw out anyone.” Not only is networking very important when looking for an internship or a job, but it is equally important not to burn any bridges. You may hate your supervisor for a particular project, but you must still treat that person with kindness and respect. Gossiping about them later to future employers or other authority figures will make you look like an immature, irresponsible worker and a bad sport. Nobody wants to associate with someone who will talk negatively about him or her behind his or her back!

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6. Fix your voicemail message.
Once you get to college, it’s time to kiss your cutesy trying-to-be-clever voicemail greeting goodbye. Once you start applying for internships, jobs and even positions on campus, you will receive plenty of phone calls (some that you will not be able to answer), and when the caller hears your voicemail greeting, he or she may form somewhat of an opinion. It is important to speak clearly and be succinct. Something along the lines of “Hi, you’ve reached Justin Bieber at 407-555-3933. I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can” usually does the trick. For tips on what not to do when crafting your voicemail greeting, click here.

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7.  Suit up.
Even if you don’t want a job for a few years, you never know when you will be called upon to attend an interview or an event that requires “business casual” or “business” attire. You don’t have to break the bank, but make sure you have a few pieces you can wear to look presentable at these types of events. A professional appearance goes a long way – and you don’t want to be the one person who showed up at the dean’s reception wearing jeans.

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8. Get to know your professors and faculty members.
Your professors may know everything there is to know about success in your industry. Connect with the right people, and you will find the perfect mentors. Talking to certain faculty members has also opened up countless opportunities for me, because those people wound up calling me when they heard about openings for jobs they thought would fit my talents and interests. They can easily be your best resources on campus and some may grow to be dear friends.

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9. Practice your public speaking skills.
This one tends to scare people — myself included! Most of us have degrees of communication apprehension, or a fear of speaking in front of groups, but by utilizing this skill often and accepting constructive criticism on it, you will be much better off in interview and presentation settings. Most general education programs in college require a speech course, so I recommend taking that as early into your college career as possible. My first speech class gave me insight into my own nonverbal quirks — I play with my hair when I’m anxious and I used to sway while standing in front of the room — and this allowed me to correct these nervous tics and other weaknesses I had. (In fact, during a media training session at my internship last spring, I was actually commended for my ability to stand still! Go figure.) From my senior year of high school to my junior year of college, I have transformed from the girl who started shaking before an in-class presentation to the girl who hosts Open Mic Nights in front of a hundred people. I’m taking another public speaking class this semester, and although I still find it a little nerve-wracking, I think it’s great to be able to develop these skills even further!

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10. Create a professional portfolio.
This applies to students of every major, but especially those whose ideal professions require them to create things. As an Advertising/Public Relations major, I save everything I write or publish at my internships and freelance experiences so that I can show potential employers in the future, “This is a news release I wrote. This is an article I wrote for a medical journal. This is a PSA I wrote for the radio.” This allows me to showcase my accomplishments in a way that my resumé never will, and it gives employers a sense of what I can do. If you’ve gotten articles published in your high school paper or yearbook, keep them in your portfolio. If you’re an art major, compile photos of your best work onto a CD you can burn and give to employers. Look online for ideas on how to create an effective portfolio, or ask me more about it in the comments section below!

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11. Know your strengths.
Give yourself credit where credit is due. Obviously you will improve your skills in college and learn a lot about the industry of your choice, but in the meantime, recognize the areas you are good at and try to hone those talents. As I mentioned in the resumé section of this post, you can look to your past experiences to determine where you really shine. If you led a major fundraiser in your high school honor society, you might conclude that you’re a creative problem-solver with skills in event planning and delegation. If you were an editor for your high school yearbook, you can claim a proficiency in Adobe Creative Suites and a strong attention to detail. If you were the captain of your cheerleading squad or soccer team, you may be able to attribute your leadership and time management skills to your athletic involvement. Knowing your strengths will ultimately help you to create your own personal brand.

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12. Arrive 15 minutes early for everything.
This is a good rule of thumb for any appointment you have, whether that’s an interview  or a class. Unless you are headed to a party where you have been instructed to arrive “fashionably late,” being early usually won’t have any negative effects. Employers will see that you’re responsible and that you take the job seriously, while professors will see that their class isn’t just an after-thought to you. Arriving early will ease a lot of the stress as well; life is a lot easier when you aren’t rushing from one appointment to the next.

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13. Before an interview or presentation, prepare yourself with possible questions.
I do this before every interview I attend. You should anticipate, more or less, what the employer or selection committee is likely to ask (ie: “What makes you qualified for this position? Why are you interested in working for us? What are some of your weaknesses? What is your availability?” — We could make an entire blog post dedicated to interviewing!) so that you have some answers already prepared. That way, you know what you need a better answer for and what sounds appropriate. If you can find a friend who will practice with you, all the better! If you seem articulate and well-prepared, you will project a much more professional demeanor.

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14. Respond promptly to emails and phone calls.
When you leave emails sitting in your inbox for days, the senders of those emails assume that you don’t care enough about what they have to say, or that you are too irresponsible to check them. Similarly, when people leave messages on your voicemail, it is important to check them and return those calls as soon as possible. It may sound simple, but so many people don’t bother to glance at their phones or reply to important messages until long after it was necessary to do so. Responsiveness is an important trait in the professional world and will demonstrate your communication skills.

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15. Demonstrate an interest in the companies or programs you apply for.
Nobody will want to hire you if you don’t really care. If you decide to apply for an internship, you should be familiar the company’s background and body of work, as well as some of the familiar faces with the company itself. When interviewers ask you why you were interested in that position specifically, they aren’t asking you “Why do you want an internship?” They are asking you “What aspect of my company appeals to you and why?” If your only answer is that it seemed like a good opportunity and you don’t know much about the company, employers won’t be impressed. Always remember to do your homework!

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Editor’s Note: I apologize for two months of no Freshman 15 articles! It was a very busy time for me, but I promise to be more proactive in the new year and continue to publish new content every month. Be sure to send me your own requests for Freshman 15 topics by commenting below or emailing vmoses90@gmail.com. Thank you!

The Friday Five: Lessons For My 16-Year-Old Self

ImageAuthor Note: I apologize for my lack of posts in the last month or so! Between studying for finals, trekking all across town on interviews and traveling overseas for the best 10 days of my life, there hasn’t been a lot of time for writing. I hope to change that in the new year to come!

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Once upon a time, we were all sixteen and crazy. As high school sophomores and juniors, we worried about all the wrong things and made the wrong decisions, all in the hopes that our lives would turn out to be just another glamorous episode of some teen soap opera on the CW. Of course, our lives were not nearly as dramatic and romantic as we hoped, but we didn’t learn that until well after we graduated.

If I could go back and talk to my 16-year-old self, I would definitely have a few suggestions for how to be less of an angst-ridden cliche and how to be more awesome.

The Friday Five: Lessons For My 16-Year-Old Self

1. You will forget “the one that got away.”
You know that guy you’ve been crushing on since last summer, the one who didn’t end up asking you to junior prom despite the fact that you’re clearly perfect for each other? Well, in five years, he’ll be no more than a story you tell your college friends about the days when you liked guys with skinny jeans and awkward haircuts. Sure, the two of you might still keep in touch on Facebook, but only so you can laugh at the ridiculous statuses he posts and remind yourself of how you really dodged a bullet all those years ago. You’ll forget the sadness you felt when things didn’t work out, and the void he left will be filled by plenty of new relationships in the years to come.

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2. Don’t let relationships become your only focus.
Once you really enter the dating world, you will find that at times you’ll want to be in a relationship, but at other times you’ll want to be single, and that’s okay. You’re young, and you still have plenty of time before people in your family will start guilting you into “settling down,” so when you *are* single, take that time to focus on yourself. In fact, by the time you turn twenty, you will probably have sworn off dating at least once in favor of “focusing on your career” or undergoing some form of makeover. Being with someone can be great when the timing is right, but there is much more to life and growing up than checking off “In a Relationship” on Facebook.

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Image3. In five years, you will laugh at whatever you wore in those photos.
No matter how cool you thought you looked, any fashions or trendy hairstyles you try to replicate will look ridiculous when you flip through old pictures in the years to come. So smile big, have a sense of humor and remind yourself that one day your kids will think you’re just as lame as you think your parents are now.

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4. Few of your friends will stick by you past graduation, and that’s okay.
Enjoy the moments you have together, but realize that in a few years you will probably hang out with an entirely new crowd, save for your best friend from high school and a few people who went to your university. The high school drama will end with high school, and you’ll have another four years to form new relationships with people you have much more in common with.

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5. You don’t need to know what you want to be when you grow up.
It doesn’t matter that at sixteen, you have no idea what you want to study in college or whether or not you’ll go to grad school. In five years, after a lot of soul searching, college coursework and trips to your adviser, you might still not know what you want to do with your life, but chances are you will be a lot closer to realizing what you want to do and what will make you happy. In the meantime, learn how to learn, and open your mind to new experiences and interests. Take up some hobbies, read books in your spare time and recognize that what you might want now could easily change when you’re older.

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What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

The Freshman 15: Choosing a Major

Two years ago, my future seemed completely nebulous. An eager but somewhat lost college freshman, I had no idea what path I wanted to follow. Although I applied to the university as a Journalism major, I knew right away from several years of prior journalism experience that I did not want to pursue it as a career.

Several alternatives stood in front of me — I could become an elementary school teacher, a psychologist or a cultural anthropologist. Or I could major in English, Creative Writing or Humanities (although who knew what I would do with that?).

Fortunately, I entered college with a lot of credits, so I had the option of waiting it out for a while and still graduating on time. Nevertheless, by October of my freshman year, I changed my major to Advertising/Public Relations, where it has firmly remained ever since. Throughout the past two years, I have switched out some of my minors, but for the most part I have been extremely satisfied with my undergraduate major.

For those students who are struggling to find a niche, there are ways to narrow it down. Hopefully this month’s suggestions will help you to find the area of study that interests you most!

The Freshman 15: Choosing a Major

1. Utilize on-campus resources.
If your school has a Career Services or Experiential Learning Center, make an appointment to speak with one of their counselors! These services are completely free and always worth a shot. The people who work in these places meet countless students in your situation every day, and because of this, they are usually pretty good at helping you along the way. If your school does not have its own equivalent of this office, make an appointment with your undergraduate adviser, who should have some advice or know which direction to point you in.

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2. Take your General Education Program classes.
Not only will this help you weed out those required classes and keep you on schedule, but it will also give you an idea of what you do and don’t like. For example, as soon as I took my Human Species class at the beginning of freshman year, I lost interest in an Anthropology major. In addition, you might absolutely fall in love with your Macroeconomics class and decide that you want to try out a business-related track.

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3. Study the course catalogs and required classes for prospective majors.
You don’t need to memorize these, of course, but it’s always wise to get ahold of a course catalog and bookmark the majors that interest you with post-its. You can then take a deeper look later on and ask yourself, “Does this major require more chemistry classes than I am willing to take?” or “Will I be able to fulfill the required 3-hour internship credit by graduation?” It will also make it easier for you to pick out majors that do feature classes that interest you.

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4. Think about what you wanted to do when you were five.
Although this was never particularly appropriate advice for me personally (when I was five, I wanted to be a princess), I know plenty of people who have wanted to care for others since the beginning of time and have been able to channel that into nursing or education. Did you spend a lot of time with your Easy Bake Oven growing up? Pursue a degree in Restaurant Management! Think about your passions that have remained since you were young and see if they can be cultivated in the professional world.

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5. Take a career aptitude test.
If your Career Services Center can’t refer you to one of these, then the Internet is full of free tests you can take! This step played the most significant role in helping me land on a major that stuck. When I took this test, the three careers that best suited my interests and natural abilities were public relations specialist, public relations manager and advertising copywriter. It just so happened that my school offered an Advertising/Public Relations major (yes, it combines the two disciplines), and when I took my first two intro classes, I immediately fell in love. Don’t let the test results limit you, but see if they shed any light.

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6. Do what you want, not what others expect.
Don’t choose your major based on what you think others will consider an “easy major” or a “hard major.” At the college level, no major is an easy major. You will have to work hard to maintain a competitive GPA, participate in additional activities and network with faculty and professionals your field, regardless of what area you end up in. Similarly, you should not choose a major because you think that others expect you to choose it — otherwise, I would have become an English major! Over the years, I have met so many students who started out in engineering and pre-medical majors because of the pressure placed on them by their parents, instead of because of a love for physics or biology. Those students ultimately switched majors after their GPAs completely tanked. Do what makes you happy… after all, it’s your life!

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7. Take a fun class.
Even if it doesn’t become the basis for your new major, taking a non-required class will broaden your horizons and teach you something you wouldn’t have otherwise learned about! Extra knowledge is never a bad thing, regardless of the discipline it relates to. If the class does spark your interest further, you may have a major in your midst. (Tomorrow I will talk about some of the classes that I found useful!)

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8. Connect with alumni.
My honors college is great at connecting students with alumni, but if you talk to the right people at your university (advisers, professors, counselors, etc.), you can become linked with a former student who can answer your questions about his or her post-college career. Not only is this the perfect networking opportunity, but it also allows you to talk with a professional in the community who has been through the same situations as you have. I have had the same alumni mentor since my freshman year, a public relations professional who has been there to tell me about the right classes to take, the professors to connect with and the pros and cons of the industry. Speaking with someone who was in your shoes once can give you great perspective.

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9. Rule out the majors you don’t want.
When I was floundering around my freshman year, there were a few things I knew for sure. I did not want to be a doctor. I did not want to be an engineer. I did not want to pursue a math/science field. That still left a lot of possibilities open, but it still helped me narrow things down somewhat. Knowing what you don’t want is important when you’re trying to decide what you do want.

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10. Talk to your friends.
If you have a friend whose major sounds interesting to you, ask him or her about it! Find out why your friend chose this major, what he or she wants to do with it after college, what the classes are like and how the professors are. Because my admission to the Advertising/Public Relations program took place just before my sophomore year (it’s a limited access major that you usually enter as a junior), I was able to answer a lot of questions for my friends who were thinking about trying it out. Meanwhile, I declared a Hospitality Management minor during the summer (I will admit that I try on minors the way some girls try on shoes), but before I did so, I was able to ask some of my friends about the program and that helped solidify my decision.

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11. Pursue job shadowing.
If you think you want to work for an ad agency but you aren’t sure if the pace is right for you, talk to your adviser or a Career Services representative and see if you can shadow an account executive for the day or tour a local agency. Seeing the work setting of a prospective career can help you decide, “Can I see myself doing this in the future?” and “Would I want to spend a good chunk of my life in this field?” If so, you’ve just found yourself some new connections and have new goals to set. If not, you’ve continued to narrow down your interests and are that much closer to finding the major of your dreams.

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12. Consider your personal values.
If you think that with a certain major, you will end up in a career that makes you question your moral character, then you should rethink your choices. Don’t choose something for the prestige if it will cause you to sacrifice your sense of self — instead, find something that best fits into your desired lifestyle.

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13. Make a list of interests.
When in doubt, write it out. Seeing your passions on paper might aid in that “a-ha!” moment. You can look at that list and ask yourself, “What careers do these interests fall under?” This will help you find a major that you’re excited about.

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14. Ask the practical questions.
Once you have figured out a potential major or two, you’ll want to find out how marketable those majors are and what types of careers will be available to you upon graduation. Will you have to attend school for an extra two or four years in order to get a job someday? Will you be able to afford graduate school? Will you be able to commit to the amount of time necessary for a required internship in this field? Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into before you dive in headfirst.

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15. Find a happy medium.
Once you’ve chosen a major, give it some time. It’s possible that you won’t love every minute of it, so be patient. At the same time, don’t stick with a major that makes you miserable when you know that there is something better out there for you. In other words, don’t change your major at the drop of a hat, but keep your mind open and make sure you don’t resent what you’re doing.

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My questions for readers:
- Was it easy for you to choose a major? Why or why not?
- What do you struggle most with when considering a future career?
- What other college-related topics would you like to read about in the future? 

The Friday Five: School Supply Must-Haves

With the first day of school fast approaching, we find ourselves preparing in every way possible to start the new year off on the right foot. We check and re-check our schedules to make sure we’ve picked out the classes we need. We sort through our closets, pairing together the perfect outfits and heading to the mall to find our missing pieces (yes, even in college we still do this). However, sometimes — especially in high school and college — we don’t know what school supplies to stock up on, because our instructors don’t usually tell us what to bring on the first day. As you hit the stores for your tax-free shopping weekend, keep your eyes peeled for some of these fool-proof school supplies that will be useful no matter what classes you take.

The Friday Five: School Supply Must-Haves

1. Daily planner.
A daily planner is a key ingredient to developing better time management skills, which ultimately benefits students both in and out of the classroom. Using an agenda to record assignments and important dates is a good way to avoid missing assignments, forgetting to study for an exam or overbooking yourself one night next week. I just received my Plan-It daily fashion planner from Student Media Group (pictured above… sorry that the photo is flipped!) and I love that it allows me to see each month at a glance and look at individual days of the week. It is also made from completely recycled materials! Click here to check out some of their gorgeous cover designs.

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2. Writing utensils.
Even if you plan on using your laptop to take notes in class, you never know when a pen or a pencil may come in handy. I know you might just be tempted to ask the cute guy sitting next to you if he has an extra, but don’t rely on his hospitality for too long or else you’ll become one of those dreaded school supply leeches. Besides, you can always find other conversation openers that don’t include, “Can I borrow a pen?”

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3. Three-prong folders.
Yes, I am aware that we are no longer in third grade and that we don’t have to hole-punch every handout we receive in class, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Keeping our papers in prongs instead of letting them hang around loose in the folders allows us to remain organized and to find our papers with greater ease. You can never go wrong with buying at least one of these folders for each class you take; in fact, for a dollar you can usually purchase several of them.

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4. Notebooks.
Like folders, I suggest at least one notebook per class. While folders can get messy if you don’t keep up with them, your notebook pages will never be separated unless you tear them out, which means that everything will be in the right order. Personally, I like to write in spiral notebooks (especially when I can get the cool ones with Batman or pretty designs on the cover), but composition books and even moleskine notebooks work well, too, depending on your preferences.

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5. Index cards.
Studying patterns vary by student, and there is no one technique that works for everyone. However, I have always found that having a generous selection of index cards can be extremely helpful when studying for an upcoming test or practicing a speech. Index cards are great for recording pieces of information and quizzing yourself. My grades have usually been higher in the classes where I made flash cards prior to the exams, and I have often had classmates beg to study with me because of the cards I made. Always have at least two packets of index cards in your desk so that you can be prepared for any upcoming quiz or test.

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What school supplies do you always stock up on?