academics

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know For a Successful Freshman Year

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearIt’s hard to believe that just six years ago, I was packing up my childhood bedroom and moving to Orlando for college. At times, I still picture myself as that awkward 18-year-old girl who was so excited to take those first few steps toward adulthood. In many ways, mine was the traditional college experience: four years of changing majors, making friends, hosting theme parties, interning around town, cramming for finals, dating the wrong guys and joining more clubs than a sane person should. My undergraduate years still hold some of my favorite memories, and taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know.

For many of you, those first few days of freshman year are just around the corner, and you’re probably having a lot of mixed feelings. Whether you’re nervous, enthusiastic or somewhere in between, this blog will guide you through some of the most important aspects of your college experience, from A to Z.

A – Appearance
As superficial as it may sound, it’s important to put an effort into your appearance! Your university’s dress code may technically allow you to roll into your lecture hall in pajamas… but that doesn’t mean you should. The way you dress plays a big role in the first impression you give off in class, among new friends and in front of professors and potential employers.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearB – Books
Unless your professor requires some special edition that isn’t offered elsewhere, don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Rent them through third-party vendors, visit local used bookstores or buy your books online. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!

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C – Choosing a Major
Don’t worry if you don’t have it figured out right now. Take some time to enjoy your general education classes and to take an introductory course that interests you. For more tips on how to choose the right major for you, click here.

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D – Dorm Life
This may be your first time sharing a bedroom or bathroom with someone, so make sure you talk to your new roommate(s) about your expectations and responsibilities. A new dorm room is also the perfect excuse to decorate, so have fun personalizing your new home!

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E – Extra Credit
If your professor offers extra credit, always do it. You might not think you need it, but when your grade is dangling at an 89 at the end of the semester and you need that extra point, you’ll thank yourself.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearF – Friends
Open yourself up to the possibility, and you might meet your best friend in college. Get involved, talk to people in your classes and in the dorms, say yes to social outings and don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble.

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G – Greek Life
Rushing a fraternity or a sorority can be a great way to make an overwhelmingly big university a whole lot smaller. If the idea of Greek sounds interesting, talk to older friends who have gone through the process and decide if it’s right for you!

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H – Health
Above all, you must prioritize your health. Avoid the typical Freshman 15 weight gain with these helpful pointers, and remember to take care of yourself when illness strikes. Utilize the gym, health center, counseling facilities and other campus resources to maintain your physical and mental health. Because college can be a stressful time for many, staying healthy and happy is often at the bottom of our lists.

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I – Independence
If you are living in a dorm room or away from home, college is a great opportunity to test out your newfound independence. It will be fun to make more of your own decisions and to not have a curfew, but it will also teach you the importance of finding a balance.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearJ – Joining Clubs
Joining clubs on campus will allow you to meet likeminded people, have a good time and possibly even develop yourself professionally. It’s a great way to connect with your university and find leadership opportunities early on. Find organizations that interest you and attend the info sessions – you have nothing to lose!

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K – Kindness
This should go without saying, but remember to treat others with kindness. You’ll meet people whose lifestyles, beliefs and upbringings are radically different from yours, so it is important to be openminded and still respect others regardless of your differences.

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L – Learning For Learning’s Sake
You’ll get so wrapped up in prerequisites and major classes that you might forget that college is, among other things, a place to learn. Take a few elective classes in areas that interest you regardless of what requirements they fulfill. Enjoy the act of learning.

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M – Mentors
Find an older student, a community member or a professor who inspires you, and turn to that person as a mentor. This is a great way to start building your network, and you’ll also have someone to ask for advice on classes, internships and more. If you don’t know where to start, see if your school offers any organized mentorship programs to pair you with someone!

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearN – Networking
I cannot stress the importance of networking enough! It may sound terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Get to know people every chance you get. You never know who will be able to help you out in the future — or whom you’ll be able to help. Networking helped me land a job right out of college! Read more about my experience here.

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O – Office Hours
Your professors are required to hold office hours, so attend them. They can be a great resource when the class material just isn’t clicking, and it’s always an added bonus for the professor to put a face to your name.

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P – Partying
Enjoy having a social life, but learn to do so responsibly. Remember why you came to college in the first place.

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Q – Quiet Space
Find your quiet space on campus for when you need to study or simply get away. Whether it’s the top floor of the library or a secluded corner of a campus garden, find that quiet space and use it when you need it.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearR – Romance
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who meets your soulmate on the quad that first week of school, you’ll probably have your share of good and bad relationships in college, and that’s okayFrom every “failed” relationship, you’ll learn something – or at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell. (My exes had better beware of my memoir! :) ) Enjoy the ride.

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S – School Spirit
Soak it up! Wear your university colors, attend sporting events and be proud of the institution you attend. Don’t pretend you’re “too cool” for it. The time will eventually pass and you’ll wish you’d enjoyed yourself more.

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T – Time Management
Find an organizational style that fits you, and use it. Having strong time management skills will allow you to balance classwork, extracurriculars, work and a social life. The more you hone these skills now, the better prepared you will be for the future!

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U – Unique Opportunities
In college, the world is your oyster. If an opportunity sounds too good to pass up, take it! Study abroad for a semester. Volunteer in another city for an alternative spring break. Run for student government. Take advantage of these opportunities while you’re still in school, as they might never come back around once you graduate.

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V – Values
Be true to yourself. Know what is important to you, and keep that close to your heart as you make decisions in college. Don’t let others push you into something that makes you uncomfortable or puts you in danger.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearW – Wallet
Learn how to budget and take care of your finances. Learn to live within your means. Your money habits now will shape the way you spend and save long after you graduate.

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X – eXams
The dreaded exams will pop up every semester at least once, so it’s important to prepare for them. For more on how to survive your final exams, check out my article on Career Camel.

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Y – You Time
Take time for yourself. College can be a very social environment, and I encourage you to take advantage of that, but it’s always good to spend some time alone without worrying about others. “Treat yo self” to a night in every now and then, or focus on putting together that DIY Pinterest project you’ve had your eye on. Making time for yourself will help you maintain your sanity when life gets stressful.

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Z – Zero Tolerance
Love yourself enough not to tolerate negative treatment. Have zero tolerance for the people or situations that make you feel lesser than. If a friendship or relationship is making you miserable, leave. If you dread being part of a certain organization, quit. Life is too short to waste on people who treat you like crap.

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Best of luck to all of those starting college this fall! Readers, what are your tips for incoming freshmen?

The Freshman 15: Tips for Studying Abroad

Tips for Studying Abroad | So It Must Be True

A much-needed gelato run on a hot summer day in Rome!

Exactly three years ago, I was having the time of my life in Europe. It was the summer before my senior year of college, and I had embarked on a short-term study abroad program focused on international events and festivals in London, Paris and Rome.

Rereading that paragraph, Post-Grad Val is incredibly jealous of College Val right now.

Studying abroad was an amazing experience, and my only regret was not doing it sooner and for a longer period of time. Once you graduate from college and begin working in the real world, finding time and funds for travel can be a lot more difficult, and you’ll find yourself wishing you followed your wanderlust when you still had the time and scholarships.

If you are currently in college and have a healthy thirst for adventure, you’ve probably already added studying abroad to your university bucket list. After all, it’s a great opportunity to travel the world and immerse yourself in a culture that may be different from your own!

For those considering studying abroad in college, check out my fifteen tips for choosing the right program and making the most of your experience.

The Freshman 15: Tips for Studying Abroad

15 Tips for Studying Abroad | So It Must Be True1. Talk to friends and classmates who have already been there.
One great thing about college is that you’ll likely cross paths with people who are either: a) well-traveled, b) from another country, or c) all of the above. Because of this, if you’re interested in participating in a language immersion program in Spain this summer, it’s likely that you already know someone who has been to Spain or participated in this type of program. Talk to those people and ask them questions about what to expect and how their experiences were. Chances are, they can give you a lot of information that you won’t read in the program description or travel guide book. If you can, try to get as much information as possible from a peer’s point of view.

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2. Evaluate your needs.
Before signing on to a particular program, think about what you’re looking for. Can you commit to a semester-long program, or would you rather do something shorter term? Do you want to receive class credit? Do you need a program that will fulfill an internship requirement? Ask yourself these questions ahead of time to help pinpoint the right program for you.

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3. Consider the costs.
Your program description might include a set cost, but does that cost include airfare, lodging, travel within the country, or food? Is the program part of a university course? Will you be paying tuition as well? Factor in all of these possible expenses when deciding if the program fits your budget.

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15 Tips for Studying Abroad | So It Must Be True4. Look at other colleges and universities in your state for options.
If your university doesn’t offer a program that interests you, another one might. Check the study abroad websites for other colleges in your state to see what programs they have and if the credits can be easily transferred to your school.

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5. Seek out scholarships.
Many universities offer study abroad scholarships for those who seek them. The trouble is, many students don’t realize that these scholarships are out there! Through a little research on my own, I was able to secure a small study abroad scholarship through one of the departments on campus. All you have to do is apply… worst case, you’re no worse off than when you started!

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6. Consider a program that relates to your major or career goals.
Studying abroad is an awesome travel experience, but don’t forget that a key part of studying abroad is “studying.” This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stuck in a classroom all day, but keep in mind that the study abroad experience should be educational. For the amount of money you’ll be shelling out, you probably want to look into programs that will either be applicable to your degree program (or grad school goals) in some way or that will make you more marketable in the workforce.

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Tips for Studying Abroad7. Research the country and its culture ahead of time.
It’s important to have some knowledge of the history and culture of the place where you will be living for the next few weeks or months. Not only will this help you to determine whether or not this program is the right choice for you, but it will also be helpful information for you once you arrive. Have a basic awareness of the country’s current events, its famous dishes and its customs.

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8. Learn the language.
Do I expect you to become fluent in French by the time you arrive at the De Gaulle airport? No. However, it’s important to learn some of the basics — hello, goodbye, please and thank you are a great place to start. My French is atrocious (I’m much more fluent in Spanish, but my French accent is only passable if I mumble), but every day, I made sure to say a cheerful “Bon jour” and “Au revoir!” to the kind staff members at the hotel where we stayed in Paris. Attempting to use the country’s native language is a sign of respect, and it makes you more of a gracious guest. Of course, some programs do require proficiency in the country’s language, so be aware of that when you compare programs.

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9. Get to know your program administrator.
Contact the faculty person in charge of the program before signing up with any questions you may have. This person has likely been through the program before, and he or she will be able to help guide you through the process or help you determine if the program is right for you.

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Tips For Studying Abroad | So it Must Be True10. Figure out your mode of communication.
This was something I neglected to do prior to my study abroad program, and it was a major source of stress for me. (It was also before I had an iPhone, so I couldn’t rely on WiFi and iMessage like the rest of my friends.) Talk to your family and figure out how you’ll communicate overseas throughout the program. Through email? International SIM Card? Skype? Determine the best mode of communication for you and your family, and figure out how you’ll get in touch in case of an emergency.

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11. City dwellers: don’t forget about transportation!
During my study abroad trip, I had metro passes for each of the three major cities I visited, and this was a huge weight off my shoulders! This allowed me unlimited travel throughout those cities during a set period of time, and it was definitely worthwhile for me. If you’re staying in one city for long, consider investing in metro passes as well. It will make life a lot easier.

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12. Call your credit card company beforehand.
As a financial services professional, I’d be crazy not to mention this one. Make sure your credit card companies are aware of when you will be out of the country so that they don’t freeze your accounts while you’re away! I made the mistake of booking Versailles tickets online while I was still in the states, and found that my account was frozen almost immediately after for suspected credit card theft. Make sure your financial institutions are aware of your whereabouts to avoid any mishaps once you leave the country – it will be a lot harder to solve these problems away from home!

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15 Tips for Studying Abroad | So It Must Be True13. Have an open mind.
Study abroad is the perfect time to experience things for the first time. Order a meal you wouldn’t normally try, explore the city’s cultural centers and historical sites, and get out of your comfort zone! Immerse yourself in the culture. After all, when will you get another chance to do so?

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14. Document everything!
Whenever I travel, I cannot be found without my trusty digital camera. During my study abroad trip, as well as during a separate trip to Israel a few months prior, I took pictures of everything! At night, I used a notebook to keep track of what I had photographed, as well as to journal my experiences and feelings thus far. I also blogged a bit during my study abroad trip (see here, here and here). Remember to take tons of pictures, and feel free to blog about your experiences as well! Years later, I still enjoy looking back at those photos, journals and blog entries to relive those amazing trips.

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15. Believe in yourself.
I know this sounds cheesy, but bear with me! While I loved my study abroad experience, one of my biggest regrets in college was not taking a summer-long internship opportunity in London. The main reason I didn’t fully pursue that program was because I feared I wouldn’t be able to get around the city myself and I doubted my ability to navigate. When I finally did visit London for the first time, I learned how to use the metro very quickly, and immediately regretted my decision not to participate in an internship there. Whatever doubts are holding you back from a program, cast them aside and just go!

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What questions do you have about studying abroad? Any tips or resources? Share yours in the comments section below!

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: 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?

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

Today I bring you a very exciting blog. For this month’s Freshman 15, I asked 15 college students and alumni to share their advice for navigating university life, based on their own experiences (much like last year’s blog!). We have an amazing group of contributors: documentary filmmakers, contestants and cast members from America’s Next Top Model and Real World, the owner of an organic vegan blog/brand, website creators, you name it. Enjoy the wise words of some of the coolest college students and grads that I’ve met, and feel free to add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

1. Enjoy life outside of the classroom.
In college, you will do more learning out of the classroom than you will do in it. Don’t forget to grow as a person as you grow academically. This will eventually prove so much more important–in your personal and professional lives–than the specifics you learned in lectures.
— Alexandra Govere (Real World: San Diego), Stanford University, Civil Engineering Major (@alexgovere)
Blog: The High Fiver 

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2. Learn for learning’s sake.
While it’s important to take classes that will help you reach your chosen profession, be sure to take a few on some things you would enjoy learning. These fun classes will offer a break from the stress of your regular course load and provide the chance to learn about something you find interesting. And you never know, these fun classes could lead to new friendships and a world of new opportunities that you never considered before!
— Monica Monticello, University of Central Florida, English Major

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3. Communicate with faculty.
Talk to your professors! They can’t help you or work with you in the event of an absence if they don’t know who you are! You can do this by asking them about something you don’t understand, or telling them how much you liked a video they showed during their lecture. Talk to them face-to-face whenever possible.
— Rachel Milock, University of South Carolina, Information Science Major (@singyouhome)

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4. Stay organized!
My biggest tip to balancing school and other things would be to stay extremely organized. I keep a planner (not in my phone or computer) and color code classes and events so I never forget about anything. As soon as I get the class syllabus I split up the work evenly every week until test time/assignment due date. A few days before an assignment is due or an exam is going to take place, I’ll write down to study for it/make sure everything is finished. It helps to be redundant…if I only write an assignments due date on the actual date, the chances of me remembering it before the day it’s due is slim to none.
— Nicole Lucas (America’s Next Top Model), University of Central Florida, Psychology Major and Marketing Minor (@NicoleMLucas)

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5. Stay in the present.
Make sure you don’t spend all your time worrying about the future. It’s good to have the go-getter attitude and want to make sure you’re going to have a job/acceptance letter at the end of these four years, but it’s also important to make the most of your college experience. Play hooky for a day, join a bunch of clubs, start an organization – those are the stories you’re going to share someday.
— Mina Radman, University of Florida, Journalism Major

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6. You don’t have to party.
Although “college” is often synonymous with parties, it’s okay if that’s not your scene. Contrary to popular belief, people won’t think you’re a “loser” just because you decline an invitation to party with them. There are a community of people on every college campus who prefer to play board games on Friday nights rather than go to frat parties. Various organizations (such as religious groups, Student Union Board, etc.) often host fun (and free!) events on weekends, which are great for meeting people with similar interests who aren’t into the party scene. Also, don’t be afraid to go to those events alone. You may arrive alone, but you’ll likely leave with a few new acquaintances and a few more numbers in your phone’s contacts!
— Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema Major (@toritwine)

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7. Manage your time.
Learn time management and learn it fast!
— Logan Kriete, University of Central Florida, Radio/Television Major (@logankriete)

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8. Stay excited.
Most freshmen have a period of heightened sociality during their first year at college. They’re more willing to attend study groups, talk to strangers, and join campus organizations. However, as the excitement of college-life begins to fade, I’ve noticed those same freshmen (including myself) are inclined to draw back socially. So as freshmen, I urge you to hold on to that bit of excitement you’re feeling right now, and make it last! Continue to get involved on campus and with your peers throughout your college career. The rest of your college years will thank you for it!
— Marilyn Malara, Florida State University, Editing/Writing/Media Major (@wowmarilyn)
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9. Experience everything you can.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. So take a risk and try something new. Be someone who says “yes.” You never know when a leadership position, unfamiliar class, study abroad experience, challenging internship, new friend, or even a ridiculous past time like line dancing will change your life. If you leave college with just a degree, you truly missed out.
— Jamie Gregor, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations and Marketing Major (@jamiegregor)
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10. Stop comparing.
If I could do one thing over when I was in university it would be to stop comparing myself with other women. I used to always think that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough and I spent so much time unhappy with myself and struggling with an eating disorder. I missed out on so much. When I look back at pictures of this time in my life I feel sad for all the things I missed out on. Instead of seeing someone who needed to lose weight or who wasn’t beautiful enough, I see someone with so much possibility, love, and beauty. I just wish I could have seen it at the time. So my advice is to appreciate what you have NOW. Stop wishing to be someone else or to have someone else’s body. Stop telling yourself you are too fat to go out. Work with what you have and hold your head up high. Don’t let this time pass you by!
— Angela Liddon, University of Guelph, Psychology Major (Blog: Oh She Glows)
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11. Keep a calendar.
Keep a calendar either digital or old fashioned. I have yet to update to a fancy phone so I still have a paper and pencil calendar. You can not only use it to keep track of appointments, events and classes but also to remember when you should study and when you have tests coming up.
— Rebekah Callari, University of Central Florida, Molecular & Microbiology Major
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12. Get out of your comfort zone.
Do what terrifies you. My sophomore year of college, introverted and disconnected, I agreed, with some coaxing, to put my name on an email list for the student newspaper. A year later, I was one of the top staff writers for the news section, churning out several stories each issue. Figure out why you’re afraid of something and make sure you’re running for the right reasons. I wasn’t. But plunging headfirst into journalism taught me more than how to write. It brought me into a circle of equally passionate writers.
— Kaleigh Somers, James Madison University, Media Arts & Design Major (Blog: HUGstronger)
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13. Trust cautiously.
Be careful whom you trust: Just because they live with you, sit next to you in class, or are in a club with you, does not guarantee that they will keep your secrets. Think twice before spilling your soul to someone you’ve only known for a few weeks. They are still capable of judging you and betraying you. College is a scary place, but don’t rush into friendships right away. Good things take time, and you will thank yourself for waiting before opening up to people.
— Shannon Payne, University of Central Florida, Anthropology Major (@shannon_nicolle)

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14. Don’t date your neighbors.
Dear freshmen, my golden rule for college life — well actually, life in general — is to not date someone that lives in your dorm or a co worker. It might seem cool at first since you get to see each other all the time but that gets old as quick as Drawing with Friends! Unless you love drama and tears by all means live and learn!
— Zhe Liu, University of Hawaii, Psychology Major
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15. Know who to turn to.
In college, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Studying too hard, participating in too much, and sleeping too little can inevitably lead to a more stressed-out you. Never forget that college is an excellent opportunity to build a “safety net” of new friends and acquaintances who are there to keep you sane, calm you down and boost you up when you need them most. Also, don’t forget that mom and dad are just a phone call away.
— Robert Gottfried, University of Central Florida, Legal Studies Major (@thegottfried)

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Thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog — you are all amazing!

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. (Tweet this!)
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 Friday Five: Professors You Meet in College

When it comes to your college career, the professors whose classes you take will play a significant role in your path through higher level education. Not only might some encourage you to choose a particular major or give you insight into your post-college life, but others might turn you away from your original major.

In this installment of The Five People You Meet In College (see couples, friends, roommates, boys and girls), we will discuss some of the professors you are likely to encounter throughout your university years. Feel free to talk about your own experiences in the comments section below!

The Friday Five: Professors You Meet in College

1. The Free Spirit.
This professor is liberally minded and not afraid to express his or her (usually her) opinions. He or she will often wear an eclectic mix of colors and patterns, and talk about his or her discipline from either a feminist or multicultural point of view. This person usually teaches interesting classes for those who aren’t offended easily and enjoy learning, as he or she tends to insert his or her anti-authority (and occasionally a little outrageous) opinions into the lesson plans. Overall, The Free Spirit will gain a lot of repeat-students through engaging course material, but always has a few nay-sayers in the back of the room.

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2. The Conservative.
Often clad in more traditional attire, this professor is The Free Spirit’s foil. The Conservative tends to lecture about the left-wing bias he or she perceives in the educational system, and declares his or her teachings to be on the more moderate side as opposed to the conservative side. In fact, The Conservative rants about the decay of the education system and liberal media just as much as he or she actually lectures about the class topic.

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3. The Professor Who Takes Everything Too Seriously.
You took this professor for a freshman introductory class, but somehow you have already managed to turn in four papers and take three exams by mid-semester. Every night, you read the day’s assigned 80 pages, but somehow you feel like you’ve fallen incredibly far behind. Although you took the class for an easy A, you somehow ended up with the one professor who actually grades you for attendance and considers an A- to be a 95. This professor teaches in a very inaccessible way, using jargon you’ve never heard of and putting students on the spot whenever possible. To avoid professors like this one, check out RateMyProfessors and read as much as you can before you register for your classes.

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4. The Professor You Just Can’t Understand.
Although you attend class every day and listen attentively to every lecture, you manage to get lost within five minutes of the lecture. Tutoring sessions with teaching assistants and academic resource centers are helpful, but as soon as you return to the classroom and your professor opens his/her mouth, you’re lost all over again. Many students blame their lack of comprehension on a language barrier or thick accent, but in my personal experience, I have had the most difficult understanding a professor who, like me, was from the Midwest, and who, also like me, had a major rambling problem.

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5. The Helping Hand.
This is the professor you should be looking for — the one who wants to make a difference. This person, usually either a working professional/expert or a seasoned veteran of the field, will have the best career advice for you and will be the most available during office hours to speak with students. The Helping Hand genuinely cares about his or her students’ success, and will take the extra effort to help students with assignments, resumes, job searches, etc. His or her advice is practical and no-nonsense.

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(Editor’s Note: Of course, most people don’t fit into such narrow descriptions, and this blog is not meant to offend anyone!)

The Friday Five: Best College Classes I’ve Taken (So Far)

Yesterday, when I wrote about choosing your undergraduate major, I emphasized the role that the courses you take can have on your eventual career path. In the past two years, I have taken more classes that I enjoyed than classes that I suffered through, but some had a greater effect on me than others did.

Not all of these classes related to public relations (my actual concentration), but each helped shape me into the person I have become so far. This week, I would like to discuss why those classes had such a positive effect on me. Hopefully my experiences will help inspire positive experiences for others!

The Friday Five: Best College Classes I’ve Taken (So Far)

1. Principles of Advertising.
In the spring of my freshman year, this class was one of the first Advertising/Public Relations classes I ever took, and it solidified my decision to declare my major. My professor, a seasoned creative director and co-owner of his own agency, often related his personal experiences in the industry to the lessons he taught, and used real-world examples to teach us various concepts. Students who weren’t Ad/PR majors even got a kick out of the class because it taught us a lot about what we see on TV or in magazines, but for me, the class made me realize, Yes. There is a field that I could see myself working in someday.

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2. Sexual Behaviors.
Yes, the name of this class gave us a lot of laughs (“What are you doing?” “Studying Sexual Behaviors…” “TMI!”), but it was essentially a human sexuality class. While there were plenty of awkward moments to go around, the class taught me to understand people that I hardly knew existed before. That knowledge helped me to teach others who were less tolerant and ultimately gave me a greater insight into other people. I would recommend a class like this to anyone — it will expose you to different types of people and hopefully enable you to understand their perspectives a little better.

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3. Creative Writing.
I took this introductory-level class as a freshman in college, and not only did it keep the creative juices flowing, but it was the first time a college professor ever noticed and encouraged my writing. Before that, I had written merely an anthropology paper or two, neither of which warranted much applause because of my lack of interest. Having a professor who appreciated my writing and persuaded me to submit it to journals and competitions was an amazing experience. It was such a blessing to email her, a year later, for advice on a poem I had written — only to find out that she remembered the original that I had written in her class. It was the first time I connected with a professor that I would continue to communicate with after the semester had long since passed.

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4. Writing for Public Relations.
This class was by far the most useful class I ever took for my major. As soon as I was admitted to the limited access program, I immediately enrolled in Writing for Public Relations so that when I eventually pursued internships, I would know what a press release was and have writing samples to provide in an interview setting. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was the youngest student in the class, and at times I felt like I was light-years behind everyone else. However, I visited my professor often during her office hours, took dutiful notes and asked a lot of questions. A year later, I am already at my second internship, broadening my portfolio and skill-set with the lessons from this class always in mind. While I do not suggest that everyone take this particular class, I do think that once you have chosen a major, it is important to take classes that will make you more marketable for a future career.

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5. Speech.
When I was in high school, I used to shake before I gave a presentation. My teeth would chatter, my heart would pound and my mind would race. Taking a speech class in college didn’t exactly thrill me, but my professor (a sweet old guy with radically different beliefs from my own) gave us a lot of creative liberties and the best constructive criticism I had ever received. The classroom setting was extremely nonjudgmental and welcoming, and I eased into public speaking throughout the semester, steadily improving. The class taught me a lot that I didn’t know about my own personal habits and speech patterns (for example, my affinity for playing with my hair while talking), and helped me improve on any pre-speech jitters I had. Although public speaking is not my favorite thing in the world, I have certainly conquered my fears, speaking in front of hundreds of students at freshman orientation and as an Open Mic Night host for a large audience.

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Runner-Up Classes: Principles of Public Relations, Women in Literature, Introduction to Hospitality.

What are some of the best classes you have ever taken? What classes do you look forward to taking?

Choosing A Major: Why Expectations Aren’t Everything

When you meet someone new in college, one of the first questions you’ll ask or be asked is, What is your major?” It’s a good getting-to-know-you question because it gives us an insight into the other person’s personality, interests, talents and future goals, among other things. It also helps us find common ground (“Oh, you’re a psych major? I’m minoring in psych! What are you taking this semester?” or “Cool, my roommate’s an art major too, do you know him?”) and mentally categorize for further recall.

More and more, however, I’m finding that undergraduate majors have become a new status symbol. I see so many students who take pride in their pre-professional or engineering tracks and not enough who consider their liberal arts majors in a positive light. In fact, we tend to compare our chosen majors to the majors of our peers, in the same (often immature) way that high school students tend to compare the number of AP credits they are taking.

I am proud to be majoring in advertising and public relations — in fact, I will shout it from the mountaintops (if I can find any in Florida)! But I am sad to see that so many students are not quite so comfortable in their chosen career paths because they are worried about what others may think. They believe that because their majors aren’t traditionally “difficult” majors like Molecular & Microbiology or Mechanical Engineering, they might be looked down on, or seen as the lesser achiever of the group.

In all actuality, no major is worth less than any other if it is what you want to do with your life. Although I highly doubt I could survive an Organic Chemistry or Differential Equations class, there are plenty of students in those classes who could not achieve as well in my writing classes or event-planning endeavors. What makes us unique is that we have so many opportunities to cultivate our passions and talents, and that no one path is right for everyone.

In other words, don’t downplay yourself. When someone asks you what you’re majoring in, stand tall and tell them you’re an Animation major, an Event Industry major, a Theatre major or a Computer Engineering major. Conversely, when someone tells you what they are studying, don’t pre-judge it as the easy major or the difficult major. Remind yourself that each of us has his or her strengths and weaknesses; it is what you do with those that makes all the difference. :)