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Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

August 15, 2011

Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

by Mariah Proctor

A good study abroad program is designed to seamlessly integrate the graded classes into the active, living experience so that the two aspects don’t find themselves in conflict. That is the hope but, as my roommate will tell you through frustrated tears, that is not always the way it goes down.

You’ve got to feel for the professors – they are often experts on the place you are visiting and they look into the blank, ignorant and often not properly appreciative eyes of their students and want to tell you everything there is to know to make you see what they see. Your average student, however, cannot synthesize all of that new information while simultaneously managing a new climate, new customs and money that, it turns out, is not Monopoly money and actually does deplete your savings as you spend it. All of this while trying to have a completely carefree, time-of-your-life, otherworldly good time? It can’t be done.

My advice is to forget the classes. Don’t misinterpret my meaning: Be the person who goes to class, is present in body and mind, takes in everything they can, inhales knowledge the way they inhale gelato and fancy pasta outside of class. It truly will add depth to the place. If you’re the person who is a perfect GPA, point-pinching, anxiety-ridden, stress cadet that thinks that excelling in the classroom will make you excellent as a person, studying abroad will break you.

Do as well as you can and keep up on your classwork but if you have to choose between an evening in studying or going to the opening event of the world’s largest international dance festival downtown, choose the dancing. If you can either finish some back reading for class or go to a procession celebrating Corpus Christi, don’t let a textbook literally rain on your parade. I know it will be hard but please when you prioritize, remember not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

November 4, 2011

Stepping Up and Standing Out

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

October 1, 2013

Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Majoring in a Foreign Language Yields Lifelong Benefits

September 24, 2013

Majoring in a Foreign Language Yields Lifelong Benefits

by Mike Sheffey

As my bio states, I am a Spanish major...and I love it! If you’re considering majoring in a foreign language, here are some helpful tips:

  • It’s time intensive. Foreign languages are about memorizing and practice, practice, practice. If you aren’t willing to put in time – and a lot of it – this may not be the path for you. Also, professors like to assign many small tasks with intermittent bigger ones so if you’re one to only focus on the big pictures, you’ll be challenged with what you might think is ‘busy work’. (It’s not, though...it’s crazy useful.)
  • You should study abroad. I highly recommend a language-intensive study abroad for anyone majoring in a foreign language. (Side note: Wofford’s Foreign Language Department is now called Modern Languages because “Foreign” was too alienating and encouraged a cultural divide. Just some food for thought...) I loved studying in Chile for a semester and knowing Spanish definitely helped. Also, studying abroad is essentially required to major in another language at many colleges and universities: I know Wofford’s program helped me tremendously and it also wound up being cheaper than a semester on campus!
  • It’s incredibly helpful in life. I know that because I’m bilingual, I’ll be more desired in the job market (some jobs more than others), but it also helps with learning other languages. Similar to computer languages, once you know one, the others become easier to learn.
  • It’s a one-stop shop. Language courses cover history, humanities, public speaking, writing, team-based work as well as the actual language you are learning. Hate talking in front of crowds? Work on that but also present in another language. Not the best in research? Now work on writing a huge thesis in Spanish (at least I did when in Chile). Overall, the language aspect is the bare minimum of what you learn or accomplish. Being a foreign language major makes you into a well-rounded, practiced individual with skills that many graduates won’t get from other majors.
  • It broadens your world view. As a foreign language major, you learn very quickly that the United States isn’t everything and that the world needs its diversity and cultural mix to work and function. Foreign language majors have wider scopes than most people and a leg up on the competition in all aspects of life because they can view problems with more open minds and approach challenges from different angles.

So I urge you to consider a major (or even a minor) in another language. You won’t regret it: They’re easy to double major with and you’ll emerge a better person!

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Putting Your Best Face Forward on LinkedIn

August 22, 2013

Putting Your Best Face Forward on LinkedIn

by Mike Sheffey

If you’ve been in any career development class or seminar, I’m sure you’ve heard of LinkedIn. It’s a fantastic networking tool and, if used properly, can lead to some pretty great opportunities...but you’ve got to know how to use it and keep it up to date.

What’s incredible about LinkedIn is that they know you already have a billion social media sites to keep up with so they give you a quick way to get started on their site by providing options to import contacts from email and social media. You can also import your resume: The site does a fairly good job of sectioning off your resume to fit its profile layout, which is a quick way to establish your presence on the site. (LinkedIn also judges the amount of info you have and advises you on how to have a more ‘complete’ profile.)

Of course, there’s still work that will need to be done and information to be added and changed but that’s all easy to do in your own time. If you have an update to your resume, just change your resume on file and LinkedIn will do the rest with another quick upload. (It’s not that hard to just add things directly to your profile, either.) The more information you add to your LinkedIn profile, the more marketable you are to future employers.

Also, keep your LinkedIn page classy! Do you have a goofy picture everybody just HAS to see? That’s fine...just don’t post it here. LinkedIn is a social media platform but approaching it like any other (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) would be a grave mistake. Nothing says “I don’t take this seriously” like an unprofessional profile photo.

My final bit of LinkedIn profile advice? Keep it current, keep it interesting, make sure the information is accurate and join groups of similar individuals in your fields of interest to make sure your name is out there in the best light. Get a new job? Update your profile just like you would your resume and your profile will reach new people – employers use LinkedIn for recruiting and you could be exactly what someone is looking for. Gotta love technology!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Taking Summer Courses at a School Other Than the One You Attend

July 30, 2013

Taking Summer Courses at a School Other Than the One You Attend

by Mike Sheffey

I took AP Statistics in high school and I attend Wofford College full-time during the traditional school year. This summer, however, I’ve been taking statistics at UNCG...so what gives? Well, Wofford would only accept AP scores of 4 or higher and I received a 3 and after my late declaration of comp-sci as a major, I figured out that I actually need it. So off to summer school I went – at a university I wasn’t familiar with and with professors I didn’t know and students who were strangers, no less – but I’m actually thrilled that I had the opportunity to study at another institution, albeit only for a summer course.

UNCG was beautiful and way different than Wofford. And the class was organized, taught and tested on completely differently. The textbook was all online – something I’d never experienced at my main college – but I loved it: All of the resources, tables and info were in one place and there was great statistical software built right in! But having it all online meant that the class was entirely learn-for-yourself, at your own pace, in your own time (which I had NONE of). It was different but I appreciated the class and continuing my coursework over the summer actually kept me grounded and on top of things I was involved with. Even a) planning a two-day music festival with friends b) working a full-time management position at my pool and c) applying for another internship (stay tuned for another post) didn’t keep me from passing!

It was rough with the mix of everything else I was involved with but my experience in the class itself was pretty positive. So if you’re considering taking classes at another institution during the summer or over break, remember that it won't be bad...it will just be different. It will cause you to form better and varying study habits that will most likely help you in the future and having that structured schedule in the summer will actually help in everything else you’re involved with as well. Embrace the opportunity!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Keeping Up with Interests and Studies Over the Summer

July 9, 2013

Keeping Up with Interests and Studies Over the Summer

by Mike Sheffey

The summer is a crazy time. For most, it means one thing – work – but it doesn’t have to: Aside from internships and summer classes, there are many ways to keep up with the things you are interested in over the summer.

  • Studies: You know you have those leftover flash cards or notes from your classes and some of you might even keep textbooks. USE THEM. I know a big issue with summer time is motivation but get motivated! Allocate an hour a day to review things from the previous semester – it will help you when you get back, I promise! For example, I know that Spanish (one of my majors) is something that needs to be practiced (and practiced and practiced). If you don’t keep up with it, you lose it and your future classes will only be more difficult. So find those books, notes, etc. and review; it never hurts and could help you ease back into the groove of classes when the new academic year begins.
  • Interests: This is a bit hazier of a topic. Because interests have such a vast range, there are thousands of ways to stay involved. Volunteer during the school year? Try help with a summer school. Work with music and the arts? Get more involved by interning, working or volunteering your time or just exploring art-related things in your area. But the list of benefits goes on: Keeping up with your interests helps you stay motivated in and out of the classroom, helps improve your focus and keeps you grounded in the free time-filled summer.

The point to take from all of this? Don’t waste your summer. There is always something you can be doing to better your resume, your passion, your focus, your knowledge or your wallet. Don’t let opportunities slip away and don’t let summer pass you by – it’s short enough as it is!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Explore Your Passions During Jan-Term

February 15, 2013

Explore Your Passions During Jan-Term

by Mike Sheffey

This week, I’d like to talk about something that your prospective college might have to offer. We at Wofford call it Interim but most schools refer to it as January Term (or “J-term” or “Jan-term”). Colleges, especially those focused on the liberal arts, like to give students the opportunity to explore whatever might pique their interest, regardless of their majors! Wofford’s lies between first and second semester and is a month-long class that lets students have fun, relax and dive into a hobby or passion that has yet to be discovered.

Colleges offer classes ranging from photography, hiking, trips within the U.S. and abroad, horseback riding or chess and can get as specific as a class entirely about The Beatles. I’d suggest looking into Interim options early on, especially if you have an idea and a class is not yet offered with that topic. Many colleges will allow you to propose an interim project all your own: Several of my friends developed an app for Android and iPhone this past January!

My favorite Interim class that I’ve taken in my three years here at WoCo has got to be American Punk, Hardcore and Emo. As I stated in my first post, music is a pretty big deal to me and this class allowed me to take my interest to a whole new level. We learned about the great bands and movements of the punk scene and for a month out of my stressful and hectic college career, I got to study the music I love. There’s always the option, however, of taking classes or internships related to your major. My roommates all took internships this past interim – one dentist shadowing and two relating to finance. They loved them and view the experience as invaluable.

So whether it’s traveling, music, writing, fishing, the intricacies of pro wrestling or a useful internship, I suggest looking into your school’s options and taking full advantage of every opportunity a Jan-term could bring!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Are Online Classes Right for You?

April 1, 2013

Are Online Classes Right for You?

by Mike Sheffey

Hey everyone! Thought I’d talk about online classes this week. People typically opt for online classes to free up some space in their schedules during the academic year. You can take them during the summer or simultaneously with your regular classes to knock out some credits. You can also seek out courses not typically offered at your college or university. The benefits of online courses, in my opinion, greatly outweigh the negatives...but I’ll let you readers sort it out.

Benefits

Negatives

  • Being independent, there is less of a chance of study groups and working with others.
  • Sometimes people do not take online classes with the same seriousness as regular classes when they should be treated as such.
  • There’s a lot of time spent on the computer – to those with Facebook addiction and problems focusing, it could be a challenge.
  • There is much more distance and more hoops people have to jump through to get help in these classes. That’s not an issue for more independent students but those who frequent help sessions or their professor’s office hours with questions might find it difficult.
  • Online courses are much more objective in nature. If you rely on the participation portion of grades and partial credit on tests, these courses might prove difficult.

I personally believe that if you have the chance to get ahead through online classes, you should take it. College can be tough and anything to ease your workload in the future is a plus.

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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