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The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

When I was a freshman in college, I launched The Freshman 15 series on my blog. Every month, I provided a list of 15 tips for college students geared toward a particular theme, such as getting involved on campus, navigating college relationships and overcoming homesickness. That first April in 2010, the series kicked off with a list of 15 lessons I had learned that year in college, and this quickly became a tradition – every April brought with it a list of what I had learned outside of the classroom that year (see Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).

Although these posts were some of my blog’s most popular, The Freshman 15 series fell to the wayside about a year ago. However, this month, I am excited to announce that The Freshman 15 is officially back and (hopefully) better than ever!

As many of my readers may know, I graduated from college back in May 2013, so this month’s article comes with a twist – a list of 15 lessons I learned in the year since I graduated college! The past year was particularly eye-opening for me, as I moved to a new apartment, began working full-time and experienced other substantial changes in my life. In that time, I faced plenty of ups and downs, and am excited to share what I discovered in the process!

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

 1. You can get through the seemingly impossible, but you have to take the first step. (Tweet this!)
In my first year out of school, I overcame a few challenges in my life that I thought would be impossible, simply by moving forward. Instead of sitting around, waiting for things to get better, I took action and made my life better. This year was proof that “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” I achieved positive results in my life by doing things I’d never done before, and learned that our biggest opportunities for growth often come from the challenges we didn’t think we could face.

2. Don’t put glass bottles on the top shelf, especially above a carpeted surface…
… And if you do, make sure you have plenty of carpet cleaner on hand! I learned this lesson the hard way when I knocked a bottle of Kahlua off a shelf and had to make a late-night trip to the store for cleanup. Several rounds of vacuuming later, my apartment was as good as new, but my leg and foot were a different story! (The worst part is that neither my roommate nor I drink Kahlua or had any use for it on our shelf!)

01595c42c30d4e84d087359d60e68d083. Tragedy does not care about timing.
I have written about this before, but I cannot stress this lesson enough. Only a month after graduation, I experienced two profound yet completely different losses within four days of each other. At the time, I was in new-hire training at work, and in the middle of packing up for my upcoming move across town. Dealing with two negative situations at the same time was difficult and often felt unfair, but I quickly learned that – cliché as it is – life isn’t always fair. At the end of the day, you still have to find healthy ways to cope and still function as a human being. Life will continue to happen around you, whether or not you pick up the pieces, and the world will spin madly on.

4. You can find alliances in unexpected places.
Accept them. You will need them, as you adjust to The Real World, and from time to time, they will need you. Be the type of friend you would want to have, and open your eyes to the wonderful people out there who want to be yours.

5. Get a roommate.
You will save money this way, and you will be a lot less lonely!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

6. Breathe in the fresh air.
I mean this literally. Make it a priority to go outside. Several months ago, my boyfriend and I discovered a nature trail near my apartment, and since then, I have enjoyed countless walks down that trail when I need to get away. (Recently, my roommate and I even encountered a bunny out there!) Find a peaceful place where you can go when the weather is nice and you need that change in scenery.

7. There will still be days that suck.
You know the ones I’m talking about… the long, cold, rainy ones when all you want to do is go home and sleep, but then you find yourself pulled into one fiasco after another, and when you finally think it’s all over, you drop your keys in the dark. Those days still exist, even now that you’re supposed to be a well-adjusted, sophisticated adult, and you will never escape them completely. But then there are the good days that make all the struggles and minor crises that much easier to take, because they remind us of the success we’re working toward.

8. You are never too old for a Disney movie night.
Sometimes it’s important to stop taking ourselves so seriously and to enjoy the simple things that remind us of our childhood. Whenever I’m sick, I curl up in bed and watch Beauty and the Beast, partly because Belle is my all-time favorite princess and partly because the film takes me back to a simpler time in my life. Find those comforts and take advantage of them when needed. (This same rule can be applied to the Spice Girls movie, which my roommate and I may or may not have watched at home a few months ago…)

9. Clothes make the man (or woman).
To be taken seriously in the workforce, you have to invest in a few key pieces. Make sure you have a nice suit and can put together a clean and polished outfit for an interview or for work. Some items can be found on sale or for much cheaper, but you will need to invest in quality clothes. (These are great graduation gifts to ask for!)

121212someecards110. Learn about finances before you graduate.
Know how to write a check, balance your checkbook and create a budget. You can find plenty of templates online to get started, but you will need to find ways to stay organized so that you can avoid paying late or spending more than your paycheck allows. Learn about how to build your credit score and develop positive habits now, so that your borrowing history doesn’t keep you from reaching your dreams later in life.

11. It is much more difficult to take time off to go see family.
Because of this, you have to value that time now more than ever. Don’t let those visits get lost amidst piles of work and obligations. Appreciate the family you have and make the time for them when you are able to do so.

12. When looking at jobs, think big picture.
Salary is important, but what about the job’s benefits? What about the company culture? Will you be happy there? I was lucky to accept a job where many employees have stayed on for years, one where I could see myself long-term, but some people will go against their gut and take the first job offer they can get their hands on. Keep an open mind, but don’t settle if the job isn’t for you.

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

13. Develop a sense of community, wherever you end up.
Find free events in your area, cheap museums to visit, local parks and other attractions that contribute to your community’s identity. This helps you to take pride in where you live, especially when you are in a new place, and in my case, it helps me feel less homesick! These types of events can also help you to save money while still having fun with friends.

14. Life doesn’t fit into a neatly shaped box.
Sometimes, things don’t go as you plan, no matter how hard you try. There may be times when your life feels less like a glamorous Audrey Hepburn movie and more like an extremely depressing episode of Girls. It’s okay to veer off path once in a while, so long as you develop that support system that can steer you back on course.

15. Be thankful for the good times.
I cannot stress this enough. While you experience highs and lows after graduation, you will want to remember the highs and never take them for granted. As one project I’m working on this year, I keep a jar of all the great things that have happened in 2014. Every time I experience something positive that I want to remember, I write it down on a small slip of paper and stick it in the jar. At the end of the year, I look forward to pouring everything out and reliving some of those happy memories. After all, amidst the lows, the year has also brought with it some pretty spectacular highs. :)

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Readers: Are you a college graduate who would like to share a lesson you’ve learned since graduation? Email me at vmoses90@gmail.com for details on how you can contribute to an upcoming article on So It Must Be True!

Fabulous Finds: Masik Collegiate Fragrance Review

masik collegiate fragrancesThis week, I had the opportunity to test out the new Masik Collegiate Fragrance line, and readers, I think I’m in love! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the brand, Masik Collegiate Fragrances are the signature perfumes and colognes for several universities throughout the United States. Each scent is inspired by the traditions, buildings and local plant-life of the university it represents, so as a fan of all things college, I couldn’t wait to try a few!

Because my university is young and does not yet have its own fragrance, I decided to sample the fragrances from two other Florida universities that many of my readers have attended: University of Florida and Florida State University. With a few Gators in the family, I was especially excited to try the UF women’s perfume. Infused with crisp pear, juicy mandarin and cedarwood (among others), the perfume has a fresh, citrusy scent that is definitely reminiscent of the Sunshine State. I was surprised to discover that the UF scent actually reminded me a lot of my own alma mater, the University of Central Florida, because of our own citrus ties! Whether you’re a Gator or simply looking for a fun new perfume, you will love the UF scent.

Inspiration for the FSU scent, courtesy of Masik.com

Inspiration for the FSU scents, courtesy of Masik.com

For my male readers, Masik also offers a men’s cologne for UF fans, complete with yuzu mandarin, green coriander, mint, clary sage, violet leaf, white sambaca, amber, white musk and sandalwood.

In addition, I sampled the men’s cologne from Florida State University, another wonderful scent that I would recommend to all the male Seminoles out there. The cologne, with oakmoss, Fuji apple, Meyer lemon and more, is meant to capture “the pride and determination of the Seminoles.” The scent is strong but not overpowering, and definitely one that I encourage Florida State students to try out.

Ladies, if you’re a Seminole or simply a fan of the university, the FSU perfume is infused with pomegranate, pink peony, juicy nectarine and other scents.

Aside from their UF and FSU fragrances, Masik also offers perfumes and colognes inspired by the following universities:

  • Inspiration for the UF scents, courtesy of masik.com

    Inspiration for the UF scents, courtesy of Masik.com

    University of Alabama

  • University of Arkansas
  • Auburn University
  • Clemson University
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Kentucky
  • Louisiana State University
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of North Carolina
  • North Carolina State
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Penn State University
  • University of South Carolina
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Tennessee
  • Texas A&M
  • University of Texas
  • Virginia Tech

As a recent college grad who is still especially nostalgic for my days on campus, I love the idea of a collegiate fragrance line and can only hope to see my own university represented someday (nudge, nudge). :) Go Knights!

Do I have you excited about these fragrances yet? Then pop on over to the Masik Collegiate Fragrances Facebook page for giveaways and other exciting information! :)

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

It’s crazy to believe that it has been a little more than half a year since I graduated from college! It feels like just yesterday I was ordering a cap and gown and finishing up my last few senior projects for the year. About a week before walking across the stage, I accepted a position in my dream job, and looked forward to beginning anew.

Six months later, I am finally adjusting to working full-time and living on a different end of town. As I settle into “adulthood,” I am still in love with my work and apartment, but I have also learned a lot since the day I turned my tassel and accepted my diploma.

This week, I will reflect on some of the lessons I have learned in the past six months. Feel free to add your own post-grad lessons in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

1. Not everyone will like you.
It’s harsh, but it’s true. No matter how sparkling your personality is, how hardworking you are or how well you match your accessories to your outfits, you won’t win the heart of every single person you encounter. As someone who cares admittedly too much about what others think, this was an especially difficult truth for me to accept. Sometimes this has to do with the other person — maybe he or she is jealous of you, or just bitter about something you can’t control. And sometimes this has to do with you — maybe you’re an acquired taste. Instead of trying to change those people, focus your energy on the things you can control.

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ElleWoods2. Take advantage of everything you can get your hands on.
“That’s not in my job description” isn’t necessarily a good reason to turn something down. Whether you have the opportunity to learn a new software program or head up a project in a different area than you’re used to, you can make yourself a much more valuable asset by saying “yes” and trying something new.

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3. Tragedy doesn’t care about timing.
In other words, life isn’t always fair. I learned this lesson the hard way when I experienced two great losses in my life within four days of one another. Although I knew that both were coming, they still hurt, and it was difficult to cope with one while coping with the other. Sometimes, you’ll experience several hardships in a short time, but you still have to pick up the pieces, show up at work the next day and function as a normal human being. Remind yourself that things will eventually turn up, and find healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

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graduation4. Timing is, however, important.
Never underestimate the significance of being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I would have begun networking earlier in college if I had known how helpful it would be in the time that followed. From job prospects to relationships, timing can make all the difference in how successful you are. Work hard, but be patient.

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5. Learn to laugh about the bad experiences and mistakes you have made. After all, you can write about them in your memoir someday!
Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Whether you just endured a difficult breakup or struggled through an important interview, the way you handle your hardships will define you. You won’t be able to find humor in everything, but try to learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them forever. When I look back on some of the things I worried about in college, I can’t help but laugh and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” Nowadays, I think a little reflection and a few laughs are just signs that you’re growing up.

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What are some of the things you learned when you first graduated?

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

promise-not-laugh-anymore-college-ecard-someecardsFor many of my friends, this was the first week of school — and for me, it was the first August since the early 90s that I wasn’t starting school! Since I first began blogging in 2010, I started sharing the lessons I had learned from each year of college, but my wonderful friends and readers have also shared their own advice and wisdom on my blog as well (here and here). In honor of the brand new semester, I bring you 15 helpful tips from 15 college students and alumni with diverse backgrounds and degree programs. Best of luck this school year!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

1. Study what you love.
Picking a major can seem really daunting upon entering college, especially if you’re unsure of your post-undergraduate plans. However, the most important thing is to study something you are passionate about. Don’t let overbearing relatives and nosy strangers dissuade you when they sneer, “Oh, you’re a [blank] major? What are you going to do with that?” Doing homework and studying for tests will suck a little less if you actually enjoy what you’re learning. And at the end of your four years, you will find the perfect way to apply your passion to your “real world” pursuits.
- Jill Dutmers, University of Central Florida, English Literature (@straightupjill)

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2. Be open and accepting to all kinds of people.
In life, but college especially, you will meet a wide array of personalities! Students come from all walks of life and they WILL have different opinions, perspectives and values than you. Stay true to your beliefs but also make sure to keep an open mind. Understand that many students work multiple jobs to pay their way through college, may be going through personal issues or have social disorders. It’s so important to take all these factors in to consideration before jumping to conclusions about different types of people. Learn something new from different people your age…in the long-term you will grow more accepting and appreciative of others.
- Carlie Craig, Florida State University, Theatre and Media Production (@carliecraig, Website: Carlie Craig)

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Zweinstein 23. Get familiar with your academic community.
Professors will be impressed if you stay informed about the current trends in your major field. Although some academic journals and monographs can be dry, make an effort to find a moderately accessible journal or a scholar that you like. Attend seminars and symposiums if you can, and submit papers to journals and local conferences (you’ve got nothing to lose!). Undergraduate publications and conference history will look great on a curriculum vitae.
- Brittan Wilkey, Wake Forest University, MA English (Blog: Discharmed)

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4. Pay it forward.
As soon as you figure out what you plan on doing (whether picking a major, joining a club, or finding an internship) start passing along what you’ve learned and your experiences to anyone who asks or who may need it. Be a resource to people around you — you never know what difference you’re making in their lives by helping them out. On the flip side, never forget about the people who helped you out along the way and always remember to thank them and maybe even let them know what you’re up to especially if it’s been a while.
- Kaitlin Border, University of Central Florida, Accounting

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5. You’ll meet your best friends in time.
Chances are, the first group of friends you get knit into won’t be the last. Don’t feel pressured to find all your best friends in the first semester. It takes a while to adjust to college and you actually transform into a new person as the months go on so don’t think any kind of group of friends needs to be there for the four years ahead. Be open to meeting new people and be mindful of when friendships naturally click. Those are the ones to tuck close to you. I didn’t find mine until my sophomore year but I still have them as best friends today.
- Hannah Brencher, Assumption College, English + Mass Communications/Sociology (Website: Hannah Brencher)

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EssDormSocialTime6. Get to know your RAs… for the RIGHT reasons.
Resident Assistants aren’t just there to get on your case if you are being too loud. RA’s are students, just like you, and they have been through it. They are there to talk to you and help you out. Their training is VERY extensive and know just about every resource available to you from free counseling services to listing off names of student organizations. You pay big bucks to live on campus, and a big part of that payment is living on the same floor as a walking/talking college life guru. If you have a problem, or even if you are doing well, tell your RA, they want you to succeed and do your best.
- Karina Garcia, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@karinacreative)

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7. Never stop making friends.
I am very much an introvert, so once I had a small circle of friends I was more than happy to stop putting myself out there. In result, for my first semester of school I had a very small group of people I knew well, while I was surrounded by dozens more who would have loved to get to know me better. Not every friend you make will last, and you might not think you’d like hanging out with a certain kind of person, but you never know until you try.
- Gabrielle Upshur, Austin Peay State University, English (Blog: Of A Writerly Sort)

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8. Go to class.
Don’t skip class, even if it’s early in the morning or boring. The great thing about college is you control your schedule, and there’s time for naps.
- Kayley Tool, University of Central Florida, Nursing

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How_i_met_everyone_else_-_ted_and_marshall9. You don’t have to be friends with your roommate.
Many people enter college with the expectation that they’ll click instantly with their roommate and become best friends. This isn’t always the case. Unless you pre-selected a roommate, you will be moving into a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger. You may enjoy baking and crafting while your roommate is interested in video games and cosplaying. It’s okay if you have nothing in common! Don’t try to force a friendship just because you live together. The most important thing is that the two of you cultivate an environment of mutual respect. Respect your roommate’s space and belongings and he/she should do the same for you. However, some people are just too different to get along. If you and your roommate can’t make things work, don’t hesitate to talk to your RA about the process of changing rooms. Classes and work are taxing enough and you shouldn’t have to come home to a stressful living environment every day. Moving in the middle of the semester can be inconvenient, but it’s better than being miserable for an entire school year.- Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema (@toritwine, Blog: I May Be Mildly Obsessed)

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10. Remember your passions.
I was miserable with my major for a while, until I remembered that I loved robotics. It basically reinvigorated me, and I’ve been doing a lot better since. Sometimes you lose sight of your passions, but it’s great when you remember them.
- Peter Cheng, University of Central Florida, Computer Engineering

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tumblr_mes5drMMc51rwr9v911. Be open to all types of Greek life.
During my first two years of college, a lot of my friends joined social sororities and fraternities. While this looked like a lot of fun, I just didn’t think that Greek Life was right for me. In my junior year, I heard about an honor fraternity on campus and decided to check out one of their Rush events. Two years later, I consider it to be one of the best decisions I made in my college career. I experienced many leadership, academic and social opportunities and made some of my best friends. The point is social Greek Life is not for everyone, but there are so many Greek organizations on every campus that there is bound to be a place you’ll fit in! Try looking for sororities or fraternities related to your major or other special interests and don’t be afraid to go and meet new people!
- Jessica Faith Meyer, University of Central Florida, Political Science (@jfaithmeyer)

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12. Get internships.
I know they pay less than waitressing or bartending – maybe they’re even unpaid!  But the skills you learn and the connections you make are worth so, so, SO much more than money.  If you’ve got a great resume filled with internships related to your field, it’s about a million times easier to land a job.  If you only work in restaurants during college, you’ll be a super well-educated and experienced server when you enter the workplace.
- Sarah Von Bargen, BA University of Minnesota – Morris (English), MA Victoria University of Wellington (Applied Linguistics) (Blog: Yes & Yes)

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13. The easiest way to their hearts is through their stomachs.
When it comes down to making friends in college, It’s important to cater to your strengths. In my case, I’m a third generation, nearly full blooded Italian girl. Cooking a hearty italian meal is embedded in my DNA. Thankfully, our college dorm had a well equipped kitchen at my disposal, so cooking, despite our sensitive fire alarms, was encouraged amongst us all. First night at the dorms, I gathered my utensils and went to work in the kitchen. My new roomies, now my best friends, caught a whiff, literally, of what I was up to and decided to lend a helping hand. Within an hour we had whipped up a huge bowl of pasta and meatballs and made sure to prop open our door so the sweet aroma or marinara sauce could flood through the hallways – and into the nostrils of several hungry college kids. What a success! In seconds, our floor mates were lingering in our doorway, mouths watering and stomachs growling. We invited them in, gave them a plate and conversed. As simple as that. It was history in the making. Many of our hungry floor mates from that first night became some of my lifelong friends, even now after college. If you cook it, they will come. That, I’ll assure you is a fact.
- Lauren Durando, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@dran34)

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Alice14. Stop and smell the roses.
Stop and smell the roses. –Yes, you could do this literally, but more figuratively, you should definitely take the chance to stop every now and then and appreciate the amazing opportunity that is attending college in the 21st century. The world is literally at your fingertips at any given moment via the internet. Opportunities abound around every corner. You are currently living and experiencing history being made on a day-to-day basis. Take the time to sit back every now and then and appreciate the epicness. Then go out and make your contribution to it in whatever form makes you happiest!
- Melissa Smith, George Mason University, PhD Human Factors (@mabsmith)

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15. Find yourself in a new place.
It may sound lame but friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and coworkers will come and go but you will always have yourself with you. This took me a while to learn but I have been able to slowly build a better relationship with myself through studying abroad. In immersing myself in other places and cultures around the world, there are things I learned that can’t be learned from in a classroom. The main lessons in life that I will look back on when I graduate will be things that I learned from being abroad. In fact what you learn from museums, old ruins, or double decker bus tours doesn’t nearly compare to what you learn about yourself. About how you work with others, how you can navigate through a strange place, and the stress of being in the big open world. So study abroad and set forth on a journey to a new place to find your new self.
- Arielle Poliner, University of Central Florida, Event Management

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A great big thank you to everyone who contributed this year! Readers, what is the biggest piece of advice you have for incoming college students?

The Weekend Five: Advice for Communication Students

130201587920As some of you may know, I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations. I started my real-life grown-up job just a few weeks later, and as much as I loved my college experience, I’ve since noticed some of the ways my degree program could have better prepared me for the job market. On a more positive note, I have also noticed the things that my major did right, and how important those aspects of college were.

For communication students, finding a job after graduation can be especially difficult. Unless you were snapped up by the company you interned for, it can be challenging to muscle through the job search, while your friends who studied engineering are choosing between multiple competitive offers. However, as students in public relations, advertising and other areas of communication, you can also find ways to stand out to employers and succeed in the workforce.

The Weekend Five: Advice for Communication Students

1. Take more business classes.
Sure, you may have aspirations of becoming an art director or copywriter for a big agency, but a background in business will round out your education and help you not only in your professional life, but in your personal life as well. I used to dread attending my economics and personal finance classes, but looking back, I wish I had put more time into those classes and even taken a few more. Because my major was not in the college of business, we only had to take a minimal number of business classes, and most of our coursework focused on the sometimes nebulous concept of branding. Now working in marketing at a financial institution, I wish I had learned more about the business side of my major. You never know where you’ll end up working, but having a better background in business will ultimately help you to create results in a more tangible way.

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1305521022158_78486322. Internships are your best friends.
Some degree programs require at least one internship – I was lucky to be part of one of those programs. However, at some universities, internships are recommended but not mandatory for graduation. Internships will give you real-life experience and teach you more than you can learn in a classroom, but they also give you portfolio materials to show at job interviews, introduce you to others in your industry and can even lead to full-time work. I interned at four separate companies during my college career, and at three of those internships, my supervisor had graduated from my school and interned at that company several years prior. Even if the company isn’t hiring, putting in the time for an internship is an important investment to make. (Tweet this!)

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3. Save your work.
Keep your press releases, published articles, media advisories and design work – you never know when it will be needed! I saved everything I put together for classes and internships so that when interviewers asked me to supply three writing samples, I was able to do so. Employers will want to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do. If you save all your work in one place, it makes it a lot easier to dig out on demand.

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Nutty-Professor4. Get to know faculty.
The faculty members in your program should have an extensive knowledge of the industry, and some may still be working in it. You’ll want to make sure you connect with them through extracurriculars and office hours so they can help guide you when needed. Trust me – where employers are concerned, a recommendation from a trusted faculty member goes a lot farther than a simple response on an online job posting, and it will help ensure that your resumé is actually seen.

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5. Social media matters even more.
In 2013, social media definitely matters when it comes to the job/internship hunt, but it matters even more when you’re a communication student. Because the jobs you’re searching for may require social media management, employers will want to see that you can not only adequately use those platforms, but that you know how to positively represent yourself online. My advice: make your page as private as possible, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

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Communication students, what are your concerns? Graduates, what are your tips?

True Life: I’m a College Graduate!

Graduation28

This is me, rebellious as ever.

Haven’t you heard? I’m a college graduate!

For those of you who didn’t know, I received my B.A. last week and have officially begun the newest chapter of my life as a full-time marketing professional. It feels like just yesterday I was moving into the dorms and trying to figure out who to sit next to at club meetings! These last four years have been the most challenging and rewarding years of my life so far, and I can’t believe how quickly they flew by.

Graduating from college is simultaneously exciting and scary. It’s a time of transition that leaves no room for black and white, only gray areas that cause us to question how we should act and what we should be doing in comparison to our peers. We’re technically adults, but we aren’t completely sure if we should feel that way just yet.

Change can be terrifying. It can also be incredibly rewarding. For the first time since I was five (or younger, if you count preschool), I am not enrolled in school, which means that, in a sense, a huge chunk of my identity is missing. In other words, I am about to embark on a life that won’t be measured in semesters. And yet, the changes I’m about to experience – a new job, a new apartment, a (slightly) new city – mean that I have even more room to explore my identity outside of the classroom.

I learned a lot from my college experience early on, and my goal was to share those tips with readers as often as I could over the past few years. Although college advice will continue to pop up here, you’ll notice a bit of a shift in content as I transition into the professional world and record my journey.

For those of you who have recently graduated, I wish you the best of luck in your post-collegiate plans!

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. (Tweet this!)
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?

The Weekend Five: Group Project Members You Meet In College

When you first read the title of this blog post, your initial thought may have been, They do group projects in college? I thought those were just high school busywork. Unfortunately, group projects are very much a reality in the university setting, assigned under the guise that we are learning to manage others and succeed in the working world.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, I’m an enthusiastic team player who loves to delegate and can work well with most people. However, whenever I am assigned a group to work with for one of my classes, I usually end up with some of the least productive workers (and admittedly some of the best stories).

We’ve talked a lot about the boys, girls, friends, people to avoid, roommates, couples, and professors who will cross your path in college. This week, in honor of my most recent group project endeavors, I present to you the five group project members you meet in college.

The Weekend Five: Group Project Members You Meet In College

1. The Perfectionist Know-It-All.
She will not let your inadequacies stand in the way of her 4.0 GPA. The Perfectionist Know-It-All will assign different parts of the project to each group member, only to decide that nothing measures up to her standards and that she will simply have to do everything herself. Remember that time you promised to send her your research by Thursday at 3 p.m. and she called you at 2:58 to make sure you were on task? The Perfectionist Know-It-All misses the point of “working as a team,” but still manages to earn As for everyone in the group. (I’ll admit that I am a watered down version of this person!)

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2. The Clueless One.
This person will try (somewhat) to help with the project, but often contributes the wrong information or forgets the project’s subject matter entirely. Expect a call from The Clueless One a day or two before the deadline with a list of questions about the project that the professor has gone over fifteen times in class. This is the person who asks, “Is Dorian Gray the author?” the week before your group paper about Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is due. (Note: true story.) My tip is to give this person the less important responsibilities of the project and to write things down for him or her.

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3. The Quiet Peacemaker.
While group members argue over the project’s many facets, the Quiet Peacemaker merely smiles and agrees with the majority. This person does not contribute his or her opinions to the group, but will quietly finish his or her assignments on time and avoid all conflict. (When I’m not being an obnoxious Perfectionist Know-it-All, my coping mechanism is to sometimes slip into this role so that I don’t have to deal with all of the huge personalities!)

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4. The Stranger.
You know he’s in your group because he’s included in all of the group emails and your team members have occasionally mentioned him, but you haven’t seen him since the day the project was assigned and now you can’t match a face to the name. Maybe he’s started showing up to class again, but at this point, you’re unable to identify him to flag him down and find out where his contribution to the project is. Maybe he’ll show up on the day your project is due, or maybe he won’t. He’ll still manage to skate by with an A somehow.

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5. The Presentation Day Miracle.
Much like The Stranger, The Presentation Day Miracle rarely shows up for class, but when he does, he’s hardly concerned about the quality of the project. He doesn’t turn in anything on time, he rarely answers his phone and he sleeps through most of class. You worry that this person will ruin your overall grade, and yet come Presentation Day, this person can talk about the subject matter with ease and is likely the most confident and engaging speaker in your group. Granted, he may have BSed his way through some of the presentation, but how will your professor even notice that when they see how charming he can be in front of the class?

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Have you worked with any of these people in group projects before? Do you fit any of the above descriptions?

Unhealthy Relationships: 5 Signs That The Nice Guy Isn’t So Nice

Good evening, readers!

I am pleased to kick off the September series at HUGstronger with a guest post entitled Unhealthy Relationships: 5 Signs That The Nice Guy Isn’t So Nice. We’ve all heard about the bad boy we’re supposed to avoid, but what happens when he’s harder to spot than we expect? Check out my post and be sure to take a look at the rest of the site — HUGstronger is an amazing blog for anyone in college who is facing a challenge and needs encouragement.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think! :)

xoxo Val

The Freshman 15: Tips For Choosing College Classes

For many of us, it is time to begin a brand new school year! On Monday, August 20th, I officially began my senior year of college, and with it came four awesome new classes (Guest Services Management, Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism, Theme Park Management and Writing for Publications). Ever since high school, I have enjoyed setting up my class schedules and planning out several semesters at a time, but in college, I received formal training on schedule planning through several jobs and advising offices on campus. Therefore, it is my honor to share some of my knowledge with each of you, as you embark on your first year of college (or second, or third, or sixth…) and begin setting up your own schedules for future semesters.

Wishing each of you a wonderful new school year, and looking forward to hearing how it goes!

The Freshman 15: Tips For Choosing College Classes

1. Start your day early.
When students first enroll in college, many are tempted by the idea that they no longer have to start the day at 7:30 a.m. and follow the same schedule they did in high school. Because of this, many end up scheduling all of their classes late in the day, and use the morning and early afternoon to sleep and play video games. Although you certainly have the freedom to do this, I would advise against setting up your schedule this way… instead, try to set up some earlier classes (9 a.m., perhaps, or 10?) to ensure that you’re up early enough to be productive. If you schedule all of your classes in the afternoon and evening, you may be more likely to slack off during the day and miss out on some of your responsibilities, but if you’re already up for a morning class, you will likely have the energy to accomplish more on a daily basis. Do this for your first few semesters, at least, until you have developed a greater sense of discipline in a college setting.

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2. Start planning ahead of time.
When you first select your major, consider creating a four-year plan based on the required coursework and necessary internships. It’s a good practice, during your freshman year, to know that you will take your prerequisites during specific semesters and your capstone classes as a senior. Have a basic idea of what classes you will need and when you will want to take those, and keep this plan in your records for future registration periods.

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3. Meet with your adviser.
When you’re creating your four-year plan, don’t forget to make an appointment with an adviser – at least in the beginning! Advisers are often untapped resources, but they have a lot of expertise on various undergraduate programs and can lead you in the right direction when you’re trying to select the track that’s right for you. They can also help you choose elective classes that will complement your major.

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4. If the class requires an override and you’re still a freshman, chances are you shouldn’t take it yet.
Because of my experiences with accelerated Honors freshmen (pre-med students in particular!), I have definitely met my share of new college students who wanted overrides into classes they weren’t ready to take, such as Organic Chemistry. Now, I absolutely admire their work ethic, and I do not doubt their intelligence, but we almost always advise against enrolling freshmen in classes like these because transitioning to college is already a full-time job. Figuring out how to learn in a university setting instead of a high school classroom can be a challenge in itself, but combine that with other away-from-home responsibilities and the balance of extracurriculars and a social life. You don’t need to start out with your hardest classes right away. Allow yourself to ease into college life, and save Organic Chemistry for another semester or two.

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5. Be aware of extra components of a class before enrolling.
Does your class have a lab component? Many students don’t consider this before they set up their schedules, and wind up ruining their grades because they didn’t schedule enough time to attend their labs. In addition, some classes require service learning projects, so it is important to be aware of this prior to enrolling in the class to avoid any surprises or disappointments. Pay very close attention to those sometimes-hidden extras when signing up for your classes.

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6. Your course catalog is your best friend.
Different schools treat their course catalogs differently, but it is important to be aware of what prerequisites and core classes your major requires before scheduling your semester. Simple enough, right? However, it’s important to make sure that even as a communications major, you take the correct math courses, and that as an an engineer, you take the speech class that is designated for your major. You should also be aware of other requirements, such as internships, co-ops, and applications to limited access programs. Keeping your course catalog on hand is an excellent way to stay up-to-date.

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7. Take your general education classes early.
Most colleges require their students to take a few general classes first, such as English, basic mathematics, foreign language and sciences. However, these classes can also serve as the building blocks for the classes you will have to take later in your major. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to take these in your freshman and sophomore year so that you can then access your more advanced courses. For example, pre-med students usually opt to take their introductory biology and chemistry courses as early as their first semester so that they can move on to anatomy and physiology and other major-specific classes. Taking gen-eds early is also a good idea because it allows you to get the classes you don’t want to take out of the way as early as possible. (I haven’t had to take a math class since the beginning of my freshman year, and I couldn’t be happier!)

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8. Use RateMyProfessors.com, but do so sparingly.
RateMyProfessors.com can be an excellent resource for learning about your professors ahead of time. You can gain a greater expectation of what your professor typically requires from the class you are going to take, how easy or difficult other students perceive him or her to be, and what the professor’s personality is like. However, be careful when you use this website, because one student’s opinion may completely differ from your own. I took one professor’s class upon reading his reviews on this site, but wounded up hating every minute of his class because I considered him to be bigoted and rude. Conversely, I have taken professors with negative reviews and actually enjoyed their classes. Take each review with a grain of salt.

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9. Talk to older students.
Yes, advisers can be extremely helpful, but often you can get some of the best advice from students who are just a few years ahead of you. Students are a fantastic resource because they have undergone the same experiences as you not that long ago, and so they are most likely to understand your situation and have the best ideas as far as classes to take, professors to avoid, minors and certificates to consider and organizations to join. Having a mentor can take away a lot of the stress, and will make you feel less alone when selecting classes and solving the problems that can go along with it.

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10. Be wary of online classes, but take them if you think you can.
I have mixed feelings about online classes. I won’t warn you against them completely, because I think they can be extremely rewarding and they allow you to work at your own pace. However, I don’t suggest taking them in your first semester or two of college, because you are still figuring out your learning style and trying to develop your time management skills, and online classes may provide too much freedom and too little structure for a college freshman. However, once you have adjusted to university life and think you can handle an online class, feel free to try it out!

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11. Learn the rules of your college and be aware of legislation that could affect your education.
In Florida, the public state schools face “excess hour laws” that limit the number of courses a student can take and still receive in-state benefits. Because of this, students nowadays have to be especially careful when choosing their classes so that they can keep their scholarships. In addition, most scholarships require you to take a certain number of credit hours, so it is important to know about this as well before you decide to “take it easy” one semester. Keep up-to-date on these rules and regulations, and your bank account will thank you later.

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12. Take at least one class that genuinely excites you.
Let’s face it — it’s difficult to drag yourself out of bed to go to classes that completely bore you. If your schedule consists only of classes that you’re taking to “get them out of the way,” then chances are (unless you have a fantastic professor and discover that you love the subject) you won’t really enjoy your semester. Therefore, it is important to take a class that you are willing to get out of your dorm room to attend. During my freshman year, that class was my Creative Writing class — even as I surrounded myself with math/science classes that I dreaded, I made sure I had a class that I could use as an outlet. This made my semester a whole lot smoother.

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13. Have backups ready.
During registration periods, classes can fill up quickly. As a freshman, you may not have first priority when selecting your classes, which means that you will have to be flexible and consider viable alternatives. Therefore, before registration periods begin, be sure to have at least three additional classes on the back burner so that if some of your first choices are unavailable, you will still have useful classes to take and won’t feel completely overwhelmed as you rearrange your schedule.

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14. Be honest with yourself and know what you’re capable of.
If you hate studying and aren’t accustomed to a heavy course load, then don’t sign up for 18 credit hours right off the bat. Ease yourself into a schedule that works for you, and add on additional classes in future semesters after you’ve gotten used to a smaller amount. Don’t bite off more than you can chew in your first semester, because if things don’t go well, you will feel more discouraged in future semesters. Challenge yourself, but don’t overdo it.

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15. Learn from your experiences.
Evaluate yourself after each semester, and plan your subsequent schedules accordingly. If you find that you aren’t well suited for online classes, for example, then try sticking to face-to-face classes every chance you get. If you take a class with a professor that you love, see if you can take more with him or her. If you’re an engineering student who realizes she hates her math and science classes, consider changing your major. College is full of transitions, and during the next four years, you will learn a lot about yourself, your interests and your personal learning style. Analyze those discoveries and figure out how best to apply them to your life.

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College freshmen: What questions do you have about choosing college courses? What other questions do you have about the college experience? Is there a particular “Freshman 15″ you’d like to see?

Other students and graduates: What advice do you have for students who are trying to plan their class schedules?