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College To-Do List: Find Your Academic Advisor

by Abby Egan

When I started college, I was intimidated by my peers that knew exactly what they wanted to do. I knew what I liked to do but not what I might want to do after college, realistically. So, I entered my freshman year with an undecided major...and an immeasurable pressure to figure out who I was going to be.

I rushed to declare my major as English/creative writing because I love to write. But then I decided I love kids and I’d rather be a teacher so I changed it to education/literature. But then I realized that I hate literature classes, so I went back to English/writing. And then I decided I love philosophy, so I added a philosophy minor. This past semester, I realized I love psychology classes, too, so I’m even thinking of adding a psychology minor now. What I learned along the way was 1. Find what you love, 2. Don’t be afraid when that changes, and 3. Connect with your academic advisor.

An academic advisor – the person who helps you choose your classes and makes sure you’re doing everything you need to graduate – is the most valuable asset you have on campus, as they are available to you for unbiased advice and guidance every step of the way. For me, this person was Mr. Elder. We met during orientation; he was this ancient old man that only spoke when the moment called for his wise input, which was usually dispensed in the form of a long-winded story with a moral ending. He has been my advisor since day one and I can honestly say I would be utterly lost without him.

But just because you’re assigned to one advisor doesn’t mean you can’t seek out another who better suits your needs. Find the best academic advisor you can so they can layout the opportunities available to you. A good academic advisor will lead you to where you want to go but allow you choose the direction in which to travel. They are your connection to the dreams you want to achieve beyond college, even when your dreams change as frequently as mine do.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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In College, It’s Out With the Old and In With the New...

Except for My Teddy Bear and My Blanky and My...

July 22, 2013

In College, It’s Out With the Old and In With the New...

by Abby Egan

"I need to take all of my stuffed animals with me!"

"Why?"

"'Cause I’ll need them!

This was an actual conversation I had with my friend when I was packing for my freshman year of college. I was absolutely convinced that I would decorate my bed with the stuffed animals I had collected since childhood; after my first few days at school, however, they were shoved in bins under my bed to make room for my new friends to hang out.

Dorm rooms are always smaller than you anticipate. Your storage space is tiny, especially when you’re sharing one room with two to three other students, and bringing unnecessary knickknacks along becomes a hassle. Entering college can be frightening because you’re leaving so much behind and starting a whole new chapter of your life but remember, you’re going to be making memories along the way.

When packing memorabilia, keep it simple and sweet: one or two things you absolutely can’t leave home without. Most students don’t move out of their family homes permanently when leaving for college so leave the family scrapbooks and little league trophies at home. Look forward to the stuff you’re likely to collect along your journey through college. Look forward to the change of lifestyle when you move away from home. But mainly look forward to the change you’ll grow into as you become a better version of yourself.

Nowadays, my bed at school is decorated with one stuffed animal: my school mascot. As for the rest of my cuddly companions? They’re at home whenever I need to visit them.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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The Three Things You Absolutely Need In Your Dorm Room

by Abby Egan

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?

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

by Abby Egan

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.

I jumped at every opportunity to get to know my top choice better and better: I visited on long weekends with my parents, signed up for multicultural nights and participated in overnight programs bussed from Boston. I took the drive to MCLA whenever I needed to talk to the Bursar about bills or the financial aid office about student loans. Though it was a long ride, I got on a first-name basis with the librarian and a handful of school officials, putting faces to names and breaking down that wall between being strangers and being acquaintances.

I took the time to really determine whether I wanted to spend the next four years at MCLA. Though my parents researched facts online and talked on the phone with MCLA officials, I made sure to do my own research as well. The bottom line was that I was attending MCLA, not my parents, so I made sure everyone I encountered at the school I spoke to knew me and not just the me my parents spoke about.

I knew I wanted to attend MCLA after my first visit but I’m glad I took the time to get to know the institution a little bit better. It made me feel more prepared for my first semester of freshman year but even if you visit 100 times, you might not know if your school is the one for you until you immerse yourself in the community. If for whatever reason you don’t feel it’s right, don’t panic: You can always transfer. Deciding on a college isn’t the end all be all – there’s always room for change – but you just have to find what’s right for you.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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What Do You MEAN You Didn't Miss Me?!

Dealing with Homesickness in College

July 31, 2013

What Do You MEAN You Didn't Miss Me?!

by Abby Egan

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.

My family members went about their daily lives as usual. They didn’t weep when they walked past my room. They didn’t even call me that often – heck, I had trouble getting them to pick up their phones when I called! I rushed home after one month living away at school, acting as if I’d been stranded on an island for years. I walked in the door expecting my mother to fall over in shock and my brother to rush at me as if all his dreams had just come true. Imagine my surprise when my brother merely glanced at me from the couch and said, “What? You weren’t gone that long.”

At first, I was hurt but then I realized that I didn’t get emotional when I saw family pictures on Facebook, nor did I think about them that often because my classes, friends and clubs were keeping me pretty busy. Leaving home for college can be hard on everyone involved but it’s not the end of the world: You have a new life to lead away at college – don’t miss it because you’re wallowing in what you left behind.

If you ARE feeling homesick, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give your dad/sister/friend/cat a call. Everyone likes to feel as if they’re needed and I can guarantee there will be tears when your mom hears you miss her. Plus, vacations and long weekends are never that far around the corner.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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How to Make a Miniscule Dorm Room Feel Less Like a Broom Cupboard

by Abby Egan

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."

Dorm rooms are notorious for being the size of a closet – think Harry-Potter-Cupboard-Under-the-Stairs small – but you can do some magic of your own when it comes to organization. Most dorm rooms come with a closet/dresser, a few extra drawers and a desk for storage. The best trick to making space is by utilizing the space under your bed: Though it can be disconcerting to have your bed so high – I’d suggest getting a stepstool if the height is a problem for you – it’s the easiest way to free up space. Plastic drawers, bins or boxes can be used as under bed storage, plus most colleges have beds that can be adjusted high enough to slide at least one piece of furniture under. The more you fit under your bed, the more floor space you’re going to have.

Thank goodness we live in the 21st century where stores are stocked with aisles of nifty little storage contraptions for dorm rooms. There are amazing storage products out there for students like us – shoe holders that hang on the back of your door, accordion shelves that hang from your closet pole and bed risers to give you even more height than the school bed can reach – so take advantage of these opportunities to create more space. Freeing up even a few square feet can really make the difference between feeling claustrophobic and feeling comfortable in your own space.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Your Guide to On-Campus Living

September 4, 2013

Your Guide to On-Campus Living

by Abby Egan

As an incoming college student, you’ve probably heard the term “freshman experience” a million times by now. Well, think of residence halls as feeding grounds for memories and experiences you can gain outside of the college classrooms: The social atmosphere of residence halls is the most basic way to build college connections and relationships and staying on campus during freshman year is essential to receiving that crash course to how life really is on a college campus.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Making the Most of Your College’s Resources

by Abby Egan

Navigating college can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. Every school runs a little differently but most have many common resources available to all students, new and seasoned.

  • In the Residence Halls: Ever wonder who puts those pretty name tags on your door? That’s your residence advisor (RA)! They’re your immediate resource in the residence halls if you lock yourself out of your room or want to get involved in your building’s community. A step up from the RAs are the residence directors (RDs), who are the head honchos of each residence building. If your RA doesn’t know the answers to your questions, it’s likely that the RD will. Make sure you know these people and how to get in contact with them because they are always available to help.
  • In the Classrooms: In your classes, your resources are a little more obvious. Your teachers are there to guide you through the courses you’re taking with them but since many professors believe in student independence, sometimes you’ve got to figure it out on your own. Connect with your peers to help each other out with homework, group projects and other assignments – it will give you a chance to make new friends and find a study partner for finals as well. Some professors have teaching assistants (TAs) who can help you in class or out of class for tutoring if you make appointments with them. It’s important to remember that you have connections in every college situation you’re in, even the hardest of classes.
  • Outside of the Classrooms: There is an abundance of resources available to students outside of the classroom that are just waiting to be utilized, such as academic advisors, librarians, info booth attendees, peer advisors, tutors, admissions tour guides and even the registrar workers. Colleges are full of helpful people who are there to make sure you have the best experience and achieve your goals while you’re enrolled. The best part about these resources is that if they can’t help you or answer your questions, then 9 times out of 10 they know who to connect you with so that you can get the help and answers you need.
  • Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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College Fun Extends Far Beyond the Bottle

by Abby Egan

Many college students have the misconception that college is focused on drinking and partying. But if you pull your eyes away from the quintessential TV examples, you’ll find that there are many other ways to have fun while staying safe.

A few weeks ago, I was working as a staff member for a freshman leadership camp called LEAD that took place before new students officially moved in for the fall semester. The freshmen had so many questions throughout their time at LEAD but a major one was: “Does every one party?” It’s hard to believe but so many students buy into the college mentality that “everyone’s doing it”...no matter what “it” is. So, I told the students the truth: Yes, some college students indulge in social activities such as partying but no, not everyone joins in.

Think of that bill you receive at the beginning of every semester. Why are you paying that bill? Is it to go to class and get an education? Is it to get involved and make connections? Or is it to visit the bottom of a bottle every weekend? If you chose the latter, you’re missing out on the benefits of higher education.

There are so many other options to choose from on campus such as clubs and organizations that put on weekend events or on-campus jobs/positions that allow you to sink your teeth into the behind-the-scenes work that helps a college function. Check out the events your RAs are putting on – many times, they include free food or fun games. Why not take advantage of the area in which your school is located? If it’s in the mountains, learn to snowboard and if it’s in the city, go coffee shop hopping to find your favorite brew!

You’re opportunities are endless in college – you just have to put your imagination to work. Don’t fall into the peer pressure of the “college experience” if it’s not for you. Find your own niche and enjoy each day the way you want to enjoy it. Think of that bill you pay and why you pay it and at the end of each day, make sure every penny was well spent. It’s important to remember that college is about taking control of your future, wherever you may be going. College is where you create your own memories and blaze your own path...not follow the status quo.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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What Do You Mean I Can’t Live Off Ramen Noodles and Netflix?

Maintaining Your Physical and Mental Health in College

October 3, 2013

What Do You Mean I Can’t Live Off Ramen Noodles and Netflix?

by Abby Egan

College is a time of stimulating classes, new friendships and terrible eating habits. Many students gain weight when they enter college but what no one tells you is that if you don’t change your eating and exercising habits, that weight gain doesn’t end freshman year – it’s up to you to make sure you’re remaining healthy, physically and mentally. Here are some tips on how:

  • In the cafeteria: You may be sick of the cafeteria food but I promise there are ways to mix it up and remain healthy. As a rule of thumb, make sure your plate has an array of colors and try something new at every meal if you can. Fill up one plate with everything you want instead of using multiple plates – your eyes will see more food in one place and your stomach will feel full on less – and drink plenty of water with your meals because cafeteria food contains lots of sodium.
  • In the gym: Access to campus fitness facilities is often included in your fees so take advantage of the gym. Start out slow by doing some simple walking on the treadmill or track and work yourself up to more difficult workouts. Sweating can help you avoid germs, relieve stress and boost your energy. Most schools have clubs that involve exercising as well such as yoga, Zumba or swimming. Sometimes they even offered exercise classes for credits!
  • In your head: Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, your attention span and the quality of your work so listen to your body and always take time for yourself. Hang out with friends, create long lasting memories and make sure you’re having fun but don’t be afraid to close your door, put in your headphones and enjoy some alone time every once in a while. Make to-do lists and feel accomplished when you cross everything off...or just take a nap. Go somewhere new. Challenge yourself. And always, remember to ask for help when you need it.

What are your tips for maintaining physical and mental health in college?

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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