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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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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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Planning Your Ideal Study Abroad Experience

by Anthony Guzmán

Maybe you grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone and gossip spreads like wildfire. Or maybe you just want to experience something new. Whatever the case is, my advice to you is to see the world through studying abroad! Who am I to tell you what to do? My freshman year of college has been the best year of my life, partly because I studied abroad. For spring break, the Mays Business School sponsored 15 freshmen to travel to Paris; this trip gave me the travel bug so I started the process for my first study abroad trip.

Imagine the study abroad planning process like an upside-down pyramid: At the top you have, “I want to go somewhere!” but as you move down the pyramid, you narrow your search until you are left with the perfect trip for you. To get to that point, you need to answer these questions:

  • What kind of study abroad program (faculty lead, transfer credit, reciprocal exchange, internships, etc.) and where?
  • Can I receive academic credit for the courses?
  • What kind of courses will I take? (languages, major related, etc.)
  • For how long? (I recommend during the summer or when your degree plan allows it.)
  • What is your budget (ex. Latin America is cheaper than Europe) and is the financial aid you receive from your school applicable? (I was fortunate enough to have my study abroad experience paid for with scholarships, financial aid, donors and family; if you need additional aid, apply early.)

As you can see, study abroad encompasses many aspects but there are plenty of resources. The first place to begin your search is your school’s study abroad office: Set up an appointment, attend a seminar, review the study abroad website or just swing by and look for flyers for different programs. There is something out there for everyone whether you want to learn a language, teach English, dive deeper into your major or explore a different culture. For example, during May and June, I studied with Sol Education Abroad in Costa Rica, took classes at a local university, lived with a host family (my most cherished part) and went on excursions with a great group of students from different colleges.

Everyone’s study abroad is unique – I did it my freshman year and it helped me get ahead while I had the time of my life! – but it’s on you to make the experience a reality. Bon voyage!

Anthony Guzmán is currently a rising sophomore at Texas A&M University where he studies business management and Spanish. He hopes to use business to create positive change through non-profit organization. He devotes the majority of his time to Catholic ministry and he also enjoys dancing, being with friends and family, and traveling.


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What to Expect as a Resident Assistant

by Melissa Garrett

Resident assistants. So you’ve seen them around campus and you admire how much they help out their fellow students. You’ve seen how much everybody loves them and what a positive impact they have on your university. Are you thinking of becoming a resident assistant yourself? As a new RA, I honestly expected it to be a lot less challenging than it has already proven to be but rather than explaining every last detail, I can tell you that there are some major dos and don’ts for the job:

  • Do come up with some great ideas for your residents. Do you want to plan a fun event or activity? The power is in your hands!
  • Don’t dominate everything. It is important to work with your co-RAs when planning events or deciding on new residence hall policies.
  • Do get excited! Being an RA is not only a rewarding experience but it is also a great way to get to know a lot of people.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy. RAs have to go through a lot of training and come back to campus earlier than most students.
  • Do put your residents first. They will be coming to you with some pretty intense problems and you should be willing to help them out whenever they need it.
  • Don’t abuse your schoolwork. Although your job is a super important duty, learn to balance your time in such a way that your academic performance will not suffer.
  • Do be sure to alert your residents if things are getting out of hand. Nobody wants a messy kitchen or bathroom and chances are that your residents will blame you for not calling a hall meeting.
  • Don’t be bossy. Your residents won't feel comfortable coming to you for advice if they’re afraid that you will snap at them.

Most importantly, you should never get involved in something simply for the popularity aspect. If being an RA sounds like something you would be really dedicated to, go for it! It may be a lot of work but if you enjoy helping people, you will probably have a lot of fun being a resident assistant at your university!

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Why Single-Sex Colleges are Worth Considering

by Melissa Garrett

With the number of single-sex colleges in the nation dwindling, it can be rare to hear someone say that they attend a college for women but for me, it is something that I say with pride. Although some people have perceptions that single-sex institutions take away from one’s college experience, I personally believe that it has made mine unforgettable.

I had always visited my family in Pittsburgh during the summers as a teenager. As we would drive around the city looking at universities that I may want to attend, I always immediately dismissed Chatham University. However, I began to wonder how much a single-sex institution could really benefit me and over time, the idea actually became appealing. I looked into it and learned some interesting statistics, such as the fact that only 2 percent of female college graduates attend women’s institutions, yet they make up 20 percent of women in Congress.

I ultimately decided to apply to Chatham, which is most famous for alumni Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and conservationist who wrote Silent Spring. Making the choice to come here once accepted was definitely the best one I have ever made: Since we are all women, we can relate to each other well and are free to act as silly and comfortable as we would like. Close bonds are formed that I believe are found much less often at traditional universities. We don’t have sororities because essentially, we are one big sorority.

If you are exploring your college options, I encourage you to add single-sex institutions to your list. The experience is enriching and anybody who gets to attend college in this form should consider himself or herself to be lucky. Traditional colleges definitely have their great qualities but I personally wouldn’t trade my time at Chatham for anything in the world.

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Your College Dorm: Keeping It a Pleasant (and Clean!) Place

by Melissa Garrett

When many students begin college, they will be living away from home for the first time. If you are one of these students, it’s likely you have a lot of thoughts about living in a college residence hall. You’re probably wondering what your roommate will be like, how you will decorate your room and how you will adjust to a new environment but there is an area of residence hall living that is often overlooked: sharing kitchens, bathrooms and other common areas.

During my freshman year of college, I lived in Chatham’s Woodland Hall. Though it was a great place to live for the most part – all residents friendly and it is the only residence hall on campus with an elevator – there were some not-so-great qualities as well...the worst being the kitchen. Despite the number of posters that resident assistants hung up asking people to “Please stop dumping food in the sink” and “Please clean up after yourself”, no one seemed to listen. (I’m not even going into detail on the condition of the bathrooms.)

It might be easy to say that cleaning up after students is the job of university staff but they can’t possibly handle everything, especially when people are being careless and lazy. College students are young adults and learning responsibility is very important. This sort of problem in cleanliness really isn’t that difficult to fix and all it takes is a little pitching in from all of the residents. If you pick up after yourself and do your part to make sure things stay clean, chances are that others will follow.

Is there a problem with cleanliness at your school? If so, be sure to report it to your resident assistants so that they can hold a hall meeting. Also, be sure to take charge yourself by expressing your feelings about the place that you live. Tell your friends politely to be sure to clean up after themselves when they are done using a shared space. We are all neighbors in the residence halls and a clean environment is definitely much more pleasant to study in.

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Melissa Garrett

by Melissa Garrett

I am a creative writing major at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. I was raised in Dallas but often visited family in Pennsylvania growing up; I was very drawn to the aesthetic of Pittsburgh, as well as the nice people. Although Chatham’s campus is in the middle of the city, its beautiful surroundings and foliage make it a wonderful environment in which to learn. In addition, all of the women of Chatham are extremely kind and supportive of each other. Not very many people experience single-sex education and I have really enjoyed my experience despite my doubts.

I was drawn to a creative writing major because I just love writing and being creative. I am always coming up with new ideas and putting them down on paper; this is also what made me want to be a virtual intern for Scholarhips.com because I love to write about significant events. I am in the process of self-publishing my books of various genres and have a Facebook page dedicated to my projects.

I have little spare time with all that I do around campus but I love to just spend time with friends and go into the city. I love to go out shopping for new items for my eccentric wardrobe and I also enjoy listening to metal music at local shows. Going out for a cup of tea is fun, too.


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Becoming a Commuter Student

September 5, 2013

Becoming a Commuter Student

by Mary Steffenhagen

Living on campus is almost a necessary rite of passage for the college freshman. “Don’t miss out on the full college experience!” you’re warned, enticed with stories of spacious dorms, fantastic parties and few rules. Sure, living in the dorms can be fun, exciting and new but it also has it downsides: expensive room and board fees, a mandatory meal plan with food usually not worth the cost, lack of privacy or the risk of a bad roommate. Being a commuter student, on the other hand, isn’t as difficult as it seems: Your school probably has commuter lockers if you have a lot of books, packing a lunch is cheap and quick and carpooling is an efficient way to travel with friends.

I lived on campus for my first two years of school and experienced all the downsides listed above to varying degrees so this year, I am living at home and commuting. In some cases, the pros and cons were obvious. Did I want to pay thousands for a meal plan rather than eat with my family for free? No. Would I rather share a small space with three girls instead of having my own familiar bedroom? No. But would I like to be closer to campus than have the 40-minute commute I now have each day? Yes. I was reluctant to commute at first but I found that the time spent would be made up for and then some by the money I would save. If living at home for a year or two is an option for you, consider it! You’ll save money that you can put toward paying off any student loan debt or – who are we kidding – buying stuff you actually want when you want it.

If a long commute doesn’t interest you but you’re still looking to live off campus, it’s not too late to begin the apartment search. It is possible to find a nice place with affordable rent: College towns often have complexes with student budgets in mind. Splitting rent is an easy way to keep costs down and this time you get to choose your own housemate!

When you live off campus and commute, your time feels more like your own and it doesn’t have to revolve around what’s going on at school. If you’re feeling the itch to leave campus, check out your options and see what’s best for you!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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