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When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often


Aug 26, 2013

I started looking for colleges in my junior year of high school because I was so unsure about what I wanted. Deciding on a college was a scary thought to me because I was under the impression that I was going to be stuck at whichever school I chose for four whole years. So to ease my ever-increasing stress levels, I visited my dream school (MCLA) almost seven times before accepting to attend for the fall of 2011. [...]

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College libraries are often misunderstood and get very little spotlight in the student world. Many students miss the fact that the college library isn't just a place to study – it's also a place to learn. Here’s how to get to know your school’s library. [...]

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No matter who you were or what you were known for in high school, college is a fresh start for all students. With a new academic year upon us (already?!), here are some tips for incoming freshmen on how to make their first year a great one: Be a self-advocate. Your university has all the resources you need to help find internships, jobs, organizations and clubs to get involved with. For example, there are writing centers and tutors that want to help students but it’s up to the students to find the resources they need. Be a student first. It’s important to attend class as much as possible and to create healthy relationships with your professors. If you’re applying for jobs or internships that need letters of recommendation, your professors will be happy to vouch for you if they know you and your work ethic. For students going to universities with large lecture-style classes, it’s still possible to create a relationship with your professors by sitting in the front and asking questions or going to office hours. Start interning as soon as possible. Many students take classes while they have an internship so talk to a career counselor on your campus to learn how you can find an internship. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed during the school year, apply for an internship for holiday break or over the summer. Internship experience on your resume will show employers that you’re a hard worker and have dedication, which are qualities they want in future employees. Pick your posse carefully. During my college orientation, one faculty member uttered that exact sentence. Once I got over the fact he used the word “posse”, I realized his advice is true: Surround yourself with people that make you a better person – you never know how meeting one person can positively impact your entire life so always be friendly and welcoming.

Do you have any advice for incoming college freshmen? [...]

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When I started living at school, it became very clear to me that there are certain things that you absolutely need in the residence halls. Every person is different but the three main items that I found were impossible to live without were a fan, a surge bar and a hidden stash of cash. Here's why: Fan: The September heat is killer in dorms without AC, plus cramped rooms can get stuffy from stale air after a while. A fan will get things moving so your room doesn’t begin to take on the smell of your overflowing laundry basket of dirty clothes. Surge Bar: If you're anything like me, you own tons of electronic technology that need to be charged/plugged in/juiced up on the daily. Many schools (mine included) don't allow the use of extension cords because of the fire/tripping hazards so surge bars are a great alternative. Grab some extra-long ones to keep your room hazard-free and avoid arguments with your roommate when it comes to sharing the outlets. Secret Cash Stash: Money is a foreign concept to most college students because they have such a hard time keeping any in their pockets between loans, bills and late night pizza orders. At the beginning of each year, take the time to find a safe hiding spot in your room to stash a little emergency cash. If your room comes with a safe or a lockable drawer, put the cash in there where it won’t be easily accessible...though rolled up in a pair of socks in the back of your dresser is just as safe. You may trust your friends but keep the location of your stash a secret just to be on the safe side. You never know when you may need it!

What are YOUR dorm must-haves? [...]

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It’s almost time to start a new semester and getting a good head start on planning will make for a great and successful one. The more you prepare yourself, the smoother the transition will be so here are a few tips on how to prep before the fall semester begins: Buying Your Books: Look up what books you will need for your classes and find out the most cost-effective way to acquire them. There's always the option to rent books or you can borrow them from someone who already took the class. (The books at your on-campus bookstore are most likely the most expensive so let that be your last option.) Also, books listed are sometimes not even used by your professor; in order to avoid wasting money, email your professors and ask if all books are necessary. Choosing the Right Professors: If you are having difficulty making your fall schedule, remember the importance of choosing the right professors. I always recommend that my freshman residents look up prospective instructors on RateMyProfessors.com to decide which ones are best for them. Students leave real ratings and comments and inform others how the professors teach and grade their classes. Taking this extra step in your research can help you chose the professor that's best for your learning style. Knowing the Needed Supplies: Most college supplies aren’t like the ones we needed in high school but you know the basics like paper, pens, binders and Scantron sheets will be on the list. Stock up just prior to the start of the academic year while the sales are hot – this way, you will be able to keep up with necessary tasks throughout the semester.

Always remember that failing to plan is planning to fail. If you start off on the right foot, a good semester will follow! [...]

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Getting a job in college can be a good opportunity for students in financial need, taking off tuition charges or putting more spending money directly into their pockets. Although choosing a job can be a stressful decision, one of the biggest issues comes from deciding between on- or off-campus options. There are upsides and downsides to both but fortunately, it is not too hard to find out which employment choice is better for you. [...]

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In today’s age, professors and students are communicating with each other more than ever thanks to student email. Now, you may think that it’s pointless to have a school email if you already have a personal email; however, there will be some points that you must use this account, no matter how boring or extra it may seem. [...]

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I had my freshman year of college perfectly planned and one aspect that was going to make college the ultimate experience for me was to join a sorority. During rush, I found the sorority I wanted to join as well as an equally awesome backup and when the second round came along, I was ecstatic to find out that I was asked back by my top two choices. Then, third round I was extremely disappointed that neither sorority chose me. A sorority I knew I didn't want to join requested to see me during the third round, but I was too upset about getting rejected by the houses I was most interested in so I dropped out of rush entirely. [...]

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Some days in college feel like a battle against the clock: We students are constantly at the beck and call of our class schedule, homework and the professors who assign it. Add a job on top of that or perhaps an internship, sprinkle a few friends in here and there, squeeze in a few meals and the day is already gone! Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that way no matter how busy you may find yourself: It all depends on the way you organize and prioritize, and you’ll often find that it’s the little things that count most. [...]

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On the way to college: "Okay, the car is packed. I can’t see out the back window but everything fit – barely. I wonder how I’ll fit it all in my dorm room..." Unpacking at college: "What do you MEAN I only get one closet?!" All unpacked: "I guess I’ll just send half of this stuff home with my parents because there’s no more room for it." [...]

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School clubs and organizations can be one of the best ways to meet people who share your interests. When you first begin college, the large amount of choices available can be both exciting and overwhelming: It may be tempting to join every group (believe me, I know) but it is best to commit to just one or two that you really enjoy. [...]

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Most can agree that high school was not too challenging. I know this because the standard procedure for me was to complete busy work, memorize stuff and regurgitate that information on test day, forgetting the material almost instantaneously. When I got to college, however, I abandoned that method...fast. [...]

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When I began attending college, I was convinced my family was going to fall apart without me. My little brother was going to cry himself to sleep every night, my mother was going to go crazy without our nightly chats over tea and my father was going to destroy the television because I wouldn’t be there to help him manage the remote. But then I left...and everything was fine. [...]

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For me, there’s nothing like the feeling of driving around my hometown and getting flashbacks of good memories with my friends and family. There is nothing that can replace the familiarity of your childhood home but it’s important to make your dorm/apartment and your campus your second home. Here are a few things I did with my college living space to feel more like home: Display photos. Whenever I’m having a not-so-great day, looking at photos of my loved ones or of a photo that has a good memory linked to it will put me in a better mood. I put photos all over my apartment to make it feel more like home. Play up your interests. I love candles so it was annoying freshman year when I couldn’t light any of them. (Thank you, Glade PlugIns!) Now that I live off campus, I always decorate with candles – they make my room feel more cozy and welcoming. I also recommend decorating with things that interest you: If you’re a music junkie, decorate your walls with posters of your favorite bands and if you love fashion, tear pictures from magazines and make a cool collage. Accept what you can’t change. I remember hearing my roommate complain that the dorm room was way too small and it made her miss her big room, big closet and big house. I know many of us don’t have the luxury of big beds and big closets but my point is that college living is going to be different than living at home. The rooms will be smaller, the beds will be narrower and you’ll be living in close quarters with someone you may barely know. If you can’t change it, embrace it – you’ll usually be better off for it! [...]

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Whether you dread clothes shopping or can’t wait to go back to school in style, there’s no denying that new clothes can put a serious dent in your budget. Although college students can spend small fortunes on their new fall wardrobes, they definitely don’t have to: Clothing happens to be one of the easiest categories to cut back your spending if you know where to go. [...]

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Choosing where you want to live for a full year can be a big decision! Whether you realize it or not, where you live can really impact you and how you study – so much so that it can make or break your academic success. Here are ways to amplify your opportunity with the best housing options during your first year at school: Know the Purpose of the Building You Choose: Many dorm buildings have different purposes or themes. On my campus, there are dorms where the majority of sorority girls live, dorms where most of the band lives and dorms where most athletes live. As I freshman, I chose a “Cocky Experience” dorm, which was just a dorm aimed at introducing freshmen into the college experience. We had study sessions and group meetings every month and my dorm upheld “quiet hours” more than the sorority dorm that my friend resided in. It was also within walking distance of the library so as you can imagine, it was way easier for me to get my studying done than it was for my friend to do the same. Stray Away from Off-Campus Options: Your first year of college is all about learning the ways of your new school and yourself. When living off campus, you are pretty much disconnected from the school both academically and socially. When my sister stayed at an off-campus apartment, she was always disturbed by the amount of noise from outside forces. Off-campus options have less rules and more tolerance for disturbance; you are also no longer close to a peaceful area like the library or academic center. [...]

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Whether you’ve known your soon-to-be roommate for years or have never met before, there will be ups and downs to living with another person. Here are my helpful tips on setting up a positive roommate relationship and what to do if you and your roommate aren’t hitting it off. Find the right match. Your university may set up a Facebook page dedicated to helping students find roommates or the college has a system in place that sets you up with someone. Both systems allow you to list your personality traits and your interests to match you with an ideal roommate...but this is NOT the time to write down characteristics you hope to have one day because you’ll be linked with someone who doesn’t fit your natural traits. Be true about the person you are and you’ll find someone who is a great match. Speak up. Your dorm room or apartment should feel just like home so if you feel uncomfortable about something your roommate is doing, speak up right away or refer to your roommate contract. I regret the times I didn’t speak up rather than the times I did: Nothing changed when I didn’t tell my roommate my feelings and the frustration stayed with me. From BFF to archenemy. This can happen to two randomly selected students or two people who were once best friends at summer camp. Trust me, I’ve seen it! If you and your roommate have certain issues that can’t be resolved, then you have to decide if you can live with the person or if it’s best you end your living situation. Many universities allow you to switch roommates and some students get lucky enough to live in a dorm room alone! [...]

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Campus life can get hectic, especially if it is your first time experiencing it. With new opportunities, new people, new rules and new atmosphere all coming together for one big whirlpool of “NEW,” it’s easy to lose your head and lose focus of the true reason you decided to attend college...and that is higher education! [...]

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At Chatham University, the inclusion of all students is a top priority. One way this is accomplished is through a student organization in which people of various spiritual beliefs can gather to discuss their views. The All Faith Gathering has gained momentum in the past year and continues to positively impact the lives of Chatham students by encouraging diversity, acceptance and tolerance. [...]

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