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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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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Abby Egan

by Abby Egan

Hi all! My name is Abby and I’ll be a junior this fall at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). Nice to meet you!

I chose MCLA mainly because it was as far away from the city as possible: I’m from Quincy, MA, right outside Boston, so I’m well acquainted with the city lifestyle but when choosing a college, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I major in English Communications with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy but when I’m not busy with schoolwork, I love to read, drink tea and walk around town with my camera. Most of the time, however, I run a very busy lifestyle including working three jobs, participating in two volunteer groups and testing out more clubs than I could possibly count.

I applied to be a virtual intern with Scholarships.com this summer because I saw this as my chance to use my own experiences to help incoming college students get a taste of what college is really all about. When it comes down to it, I’m just a regular girl finding her footing in the college atmosphere...just like you. Hopefully I’ll be able to shine some light on what it’s like to live away from home and start the next chapter of your life but the best advice I can give you would be 1. sleep is the most important thing in the world, and 2. your college experience will be what you make of it. Looking forward to sharing more with you soon!


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College Classes: A Matter of Endurance, Not Skill

by Anthony Guzmán

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.

As you move through college, the memorization method fades away into REAL learning because college courses introduce you to the material and demand that you get familiar with the information through study and homework. You are then encouraged to make sense the material your own through personalized notes, diagrams, dialogues, etc. Higher-level courses will require application and synthesis, using what you know and applying it to a new situation or idea.

You will always get a million voices of advice but there isn’t always a set answer for it all. My response to your concerns about the academic part of college is simple: It all depends. There are plenty of factors that play into the difficulty of a college class including where you attend school, what your major is, who the professor is, what the grading is like and what the pre-requisites are. Here are my personal tips for a success in the classroom:

Before College

  • Take anything that can help you attain skills, work ethic and critical thinking (AP, honors, dual credit, etc.).
  • Experiment with new study methods to help you not only learn but retain information.

When You Get There

College is not just for smart people: It’s for people that want and try to learn. I’ve seen high school valedictorians fall and barely-admitted students rise, the latter of which proves that if you can get admitted, you have what it takes to undergo the academic rigor. Don’t let the saying “College is hard, impossible or not for you” prevent you from giving higher education the old college try!

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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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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Deciding Between On- and Off-Campus Employment

by Melissa Garrett

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.

On-campus jobs are definitely convenient, as they require little traveling time and transportation. Students without cars can greatly benefit from being able to walk to their job within a matter of minutes. If a student decides to do a work-study, then they may get to pay less in college costs; however, campus jobs for one’s own profit are often in short supply after work-study students have gotten their jobs. If it’s money in your pocket that you are looking for, then on-campus jobs might not be as practical.

Earning money that can be put in the bank is always a good idea and the money earned at an off-campus job can be put towards college costs just as funds from a campus job or work-study can. Bosses at jobs off-campus are sometimes less understanding of a student’s college schedule but this can often be worked out with one’s employer since businesses surrounding college campuses get many student applicants. There is also the matter of transportation, which can be an issue for students without their own cars.

Whether you decide to work on or off of your college campus, finding one isn’t really that difficult. For jobs at school, consult an on-campus career counselor who can guide you in the right direction; you can also check with your department head for a major-related position. Otherwise, search around campus for nearby shops and restaurants – if you take the time to walk in and ask for an application, the result could prove quite beneficial to your college experience!

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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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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All Faith Gathering Encourages Open-Minded Thinking

by Melissa Garrett

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.

Each Thursday afternoon, students gather in a small room below the campus chapel. Meetings begin with a drum circle, with each guest listening to the sounds around them in order to sync up and create harmony. This is often followed by a discussion question that gets students’ minds flowing with spiritual thoughts and theories, making for interesting conversations throughout the gathering. The rest of the hour usually consists of either a spiritual discussion or a guest speaker who teaches the group about their religion or special belief system.

Although the average attendance to Chatham’s All Faith Gathering may be considered small, it is a tight-knit group that has formed close bonds of trust between its members. Most choose to live in the All Faith Living Learning Community in Woodland Hall, helping us to grow even closer together. As a living learning community, first-year students residing there with an interest in faith are encouraged to attend the gatherings.

Holding a gathering for students of various beliefs would be a good addition to any university campus: All it really takes is a few committed students, creativity and a sponsor. There are no set rules for how to hold a gathering and anything goes as long as respect is kept between members. By providing students with a place to be completely open, they can feel more comfortable being themselves regardless of their spirituality...or even their lack thereof.

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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Reducing Chatham's Carbon Footprint with Green Transportation

by Melissa Garrett

With the environmental crisis being an important issue to many college students, an environmentally-efficient campus is definitely a plus for potential enrollments. Chatham University boasts environmental sustainability as one of its most important missions and the school has definitely tackled one issue: transportation.

Chatham has a number of common methods but some that are a bit more unique and uncommon. Like many universities, Chatham has embraced a shuttle system. These shuttles are referred to as “Green Machines” and run on biodiesel, a renewable and clean-burning alternative to diesel fuel. The shuttles run until 3 a.m. and not only take students to the nearby Eastside campus but also to the hotspot of Oakland. Students needing a break from studying and the everyday hustle and bustle of college life have an efficient way of getting to the restaurants, stores and museums that can be found in this popular area of town.

A student with a driver’s license who does not have a car on campus has the option of renting a Zipcar. Having a Zipcar available discourages individual car ownership, therefore resulting in less pollution. Of course, not all students have licenses to drive but fortunately, public transportation has been made extremely easy to access at Chatham: Students are permitted to use any Port Authority bus for free simply by displaying their Chatham ID. The university encourages public transportation as a way to conserve energy and offering free fares for college students is definitely a great convenience for students looking to get to different areas of Pittsburgh.

Chatham University has definitely lived up to its promise of encouraging environmental sustainability. With transportation being one of the leading causes of pollution, providing alternatives to students that are easy to access greatly helps to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. What is your school doing to lessen its environmental impact?

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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