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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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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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Congrats! Or Not…

With False Acceptance Emails on the Rise, Be Sure to Double Check Your Admissions Decision

March 26, 2014

by Mike Sheffey

Imagine receiving an email from your dream college or university congratulating you on your acceptance. It's a great feeling, right? Now imagine receiving a follow-up email from that same school stating that admissions decision you waited so long to hear was sent in error. Worst. Day. Ever.

This unfortunate scenario has been a reality for many students, as the number of colleges sending out acceptance emails by mistake has increased in recent years. Gone are the days where you could determine your post-secondary fate by the size of the envelope in your mailbox; now, admissions decisions are often released first electronically but the system is far from foolproof. Technology isn't all it’s cracked up to be sometimes and people aren't perfect...but when you're dealing with students' futures, these mistakes should never happen.

For the colleges that have been messing up: GET IT TOGETHER! These emails are nothing more than an added comfort so if you can't get it right, don't do it at all. This isn't a small error: It's a life-changing one. As a center for higher learning, you need to care about your future students a little more. If you can spellcheck an email, you can also check to see who it's going to.

So students, if you've received an electronic admissions decision, just double check before starting the celebration. Look elsewhere online, email somebody or call the school directly as soon as possible. The last thing you want is a false sense of relief. Once you're sure, however, go crazy – getting into college is a big deal and should be treated as such!

Mike Sheffey is a senior 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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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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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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Understanding Your Housing Options

by Mike Sheffey

The college experience is a great one but can be a little challenging with respect to housing and its wide range of options. For example, many students choose to live off campus at big universities following their freshman year, while others who attend smaller schools might be in student housing or dorms all four years. I know that at Wofford, we have it pretty good but there are some general things that all colleges seem to do the same.

The housing at your prospective college will get better each year. The dorms will get bigger, nicer and easier to live in. The difference between first-year student housing and senior housing, regardless of institution, is huge. At my small college, our senior housing is essentially apartments (though our laundry is in a separate building) and our junior housing is huge dorms. If you go back to my first year, the housing was livable but far from spacious. That’s par for the course for anywhere you look (generally, though, there are smaller rooms at big universities).

There is always the option (sometimes the preferred/recommended option) of living off campus after your first year. Many of my friends have taken this option to get better rooms, more independence and, in some cases, cheaper housing. Lots of apartment complexes are still qualified as “student” housing and have primarily students that live there. And it seems that they are constantly being built as enrollment grows each year.

So whether it’s on campus or off, student housing or apartments or simple dorms, the best way to determine what works for you is to visit, tour or maybe stay at a friend’s dorm or apartment to see how it is. Small spaces were never an issue for me in freshman and sophomore dorms because I did all my work in the study building but if you’re someone that might need space to work and can focus in a dorm, you might want to look for the option with more room space. Research before you move in. Just remember that living conditions improve in college over time, though small rooms and hall settings can make for great memories!

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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You’re Accepted...for Next Semester

New Admissions Addresses Retention Concerns, Confuses Students

June 3, 2013

You’re Accepted...for Next Semester

by Mike Sheffey

Congratulations! Well...sort of. Many incoming college freshmen feel this bittersweet sensation when they read they’ve been accepted to college but not until a semester or two after their intended start date.

Colleges are adopting this practice more and more and it’s no surprise why: Retention rates drop after the first year and this decrease combine with the junior year “I want to study abroad” rush leaves colleges with gaps and vacancies in classes, resulting in less money for schools. This admissions approach is economically better for colleges and universities but is it better for students? Not when they want to take classes somewhere else before that requires full-time student status and not when the students need to get jobs in the semester before they start. This could also potentially disconnect them with the incoming freshman class in the fall and put them in awkward social positions once they arrive.

I personally don’t know anyone that this has happened to – the most I’ve encountered with friends is wait lists – but I know a few that applied to transfer to other colleges and weren’t accepted for the following semester, but the next one. It’s great news that the student gained admission but there’s the question of “Why then and not now?” In an almost B-list manor, colleges are glad to have you but not now – only after the first wave of freshmen.

I know the bottom line is money but in my opinion, this approach devalues all of one’s efforts and projects a message of self-doubt and questioning. If colleges plan to keep doing this, they need to figure a way to build the students up during that semester before entry and provide program options and support so that these kids don’t feel that sense of bittersweet victory and defeat. Deals with other colleges for transfer credits, extracurricular activities, ways for these students to get ahead and job options on or off campus would be an awesome start. What else do you think schools could (and should) do to bridge this gap?

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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The Accidental Career

August 30, 2012

The Accidental Career

by Radha Jhatakia

Accidental careers occur so often now-a-days that they hardly seem accidental at all. Some people start jobs assuming that they’re only temporary or a springboard into other jobs and they become unintended careers. This could be anything from a high school after-school job to an internship gone right – we often don’t realize that we’ve developed the career until we’re already in it, hence the "accidental" moniker.

Finding or even choosing a career that you had never intended on going into isn’t wrong. When it comes to choosing a career, there is no right or wrong as long as you are doing something you enjoy. On average, a person changes their career seven times over their lifespan. This can happen because the major you chose isn’t something you enjoy, because you want to advance in or change your field, or because you are trying something new. With such a diverse variety of options for different careers, the opportunities are endless.

Who knows, one day you might stumble upon a career without noticing and enjoy it! Recently, I found my potential career this way. This summer, I had an internship with a company I hadn’t pictured myself working at before but positive experience and in-depth exposure I received changed my mind. Throughout the course of the internship, I began to see it as less of a temporary job and more as a future career. Now when I graduate in December, I will have my own accidental career – something different than what I pictured myself doing and different than what I majored in. It just goes to show you can find your career anywhere...even when you’re not looking!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Recognizing Alcohol Abuse

by Radha Jhatakia

It seems that social norms of college life revolve around alcohol. However responsible you think you are, know that this lifestyle comes with great danger not only to you but to those around you. There is no such thing as drinking responsibly so it is important to be able to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse before it’s too late.

As common as drinking may be on college campuses, there is a lot of risk associated with it. Drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, abuse, harassment and dependency are all related to alcohol. Driving should be completely avoided even if you’ve only had a few drinks and feel fine. It’s better to be safe than sorry, as you risk the lives of others if you drive intoxicated or knowingly let someone who has imbibed get behind the wheel.

Alcohol poisoning occurs more often than people realize and can be fatal. Symptoms can include vomiting, passing out, low breathing and blue skin pigmentation from lack of oxygen. If any of these signs are present, monitor them closely and be prepared to take the person to the hospital or call an ambulance: The symptoms of alcohol poisoning may not seem urgent at first but can quickly worsen.

Abuse and harassment are common with drinking as well, thus recognizing when someone has had enough alcohol is important. Slurred speech and inability to concentrate are results of high alcohol consumption; when someone can't control the situation around them, there could be dangerous consequences.

Alcohol dependency is also a big issue. The first step to helping a friend overcome this problem is by helping them to realize the problem and take steps to remedy it. If you can’t do it alone, Alcoholics Anonymous program information is generally available in school health offices.

It’s never easy admitting you or someone you know has a problem but doing so can possibly save a life...in college and beyond.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Handy Phone Apps for College Students

by Radha Jhatakia

The majority of college students today own smartphones and use these devices more for apps, browsing the web, checking email and texting than actually making phone calls. Here are a few that will benefit most students...and most are available for both Android devices and iPhones.

My top most recommended apps are Amazon Student and Kindle for iPhone or Android. Amazon Student has deals for students on books, electronics and much more and if you are a member of Amazon Student, you only have to pay half price ($39) for Prime membership, which gives you access to movies, TV shows and music online plus free two-day shipping anytime. The Kindle app allows you to access e-textbooks on your phone for those few minutes before class when you remember you had a reading assignment to do.

Students also have schedules filled with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, jobs and more. How do they keep it all straight? Some apps to make things convenient include The Weather Channel, Wells Fargo, Discover and Evernote. A weather app allows you to check the weather outside so you can dress accordingly, a bank or credit card app will make it convenient for you to pay your bills on the go (some even have ways for you to make check deposits without setting a foot in the bank) and note apps allow you make to-do lists and take notes which you can sync with your calendar.

Other convenient apps include translators, dictionaries and games for stress relieving. As long as you don’t mind some ads, these apps are available for free (but you can purchase ad-free versions for about $.99). What are your favorite apps?

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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