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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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How to Make Your Dorm Room Feel More Like Home

by Carly Gerber

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!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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How Housing Placement Can Affect Study Habits

by Chelsea Slaughter

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.

You want everything in your favor during your first year so make sure to choose the best option for YOU. Your housing choice will have an impact and it’s up to you whether it will be for better or worse.

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, is the treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.


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Managing New Experiences in College

by Veronica Gonzalez

Attending college can be both fun and challenging. As a student, you’ll definitely have lot of new experiences but it’s best to know about the good and bad.

The good things about college experiences are that they constantly revolve around activities. In college, it wouldn’t hurt to get involved with a club or organization that interests you – this way, you can make new friends and give yourself a sense of school pride. Also, doing community service with your school can impact you socially because you’re reaching out to your own community and getting to know more people. Plus, joining an honor society or a club that associates with your favorite subject will sweeten your college experience by bringing out your smart and talented edge.

Even though new experiences can be exciting, it’s just as important to be very careful when having them. In college, there are many parties and socials and if one over-parties, their academic performance can easily suffer. Also, peer pressure is always present: People may try to lure you into dangerous addictions like smoking, drinking, etc. – this can also lead to academic failure so watch out.

Now knowing the pros and cons of college experiences, you can rest assured that there are ways to have a great time in school. First, academics always come first so make much of your time “study time” as to not lose sight of your academic goals. Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with going to socials but it’s best to do it in moderation. Finally, listen to yourself: Know what’s best for you and understand that what you do while attending college will stick with you...especially thanks to the Internet. Enjoy your time in college but remember not to lose sight of your goals!

Veronica Gonzalez is a rising junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.


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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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Pre-Semester Planning and Preparation

by Chelsea Slaughter

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!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications major (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, serves as treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.


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Getting to Know Your College Library

by Veronica Gonzalez

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.

You’ll never be a stranger to computers, copiers and printers in college but it’s important to know how to use the technology in public spaces like the library accordingly. For instance, if you have homework to print out, do so to your discretion because it’s likely other students will be waiting to complete the same task on the same equipment.

Next, there are the reference areas. They normally house dictionaries, encyclopedias and academic journals that require special consideration and care because of their age and value. Depending on your school’s library policies, it’s likely that reference books can NEVER leave the building so if you know you are going to need one for an essay or project, plan accordingly.

Knowing where different books are at can speed up the research process when completing homework and writing papers. Most libraries have maps that highlight certain sections but if yours doesn’t, there should be a chart containing call numbers for different subjects. Still unsure where something is? Ask a librarian – they’re there to help!

Finally, the most important thing to do at your school library is to pick up a book and read. Fiction, non-fiction or whatever interests you...just read, Read, READ! Though you may regularly read in your dorm room, doing so in a comfy chair in the library is a nice change of pace. Take the opportunity to visit your school library and check it out for yourself!

Veronica Gonzalez is a rising junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.


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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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Lunchtime in College: Why It Shouldn’t Be High School All Over Again

by Melissa Garrett

We’ve all experienced lunchtime drama in some way: Where do I sit in a brand new place? Where will I be welcomed or shunned? Which people actually take the time to get to know and talk to me?

If you are new to college and haven’t exactly found your posse yet, going into the dining hall can be really stressful. What many first-year students don’t realize is that college students tend to put the concept of cliques and exclusion behind them once they graduate high school. Chances are that if you simply ask “May I please sit here?” you won’t be shot down.

But what if this does happen? What if someone still has that high school mentality and does exclude you? Although it is unlikely to happen unless you have a grumpy disposition or haven’t showered for a week, people who reject you aren’t worth you time. Brush it off, put on a smile and find somewhere else to sit. Although sitting alone may be your first instinct in a situation like this, doing it too often may make you seem like a loner so don’t resort to it every day. In college, it’s important to be social every once in a while in order to maintain good relationships and improve your overall experience.

If thinking about your next trip to the dining hall is still making you lose your appetite, just remember that college is one of the best places to make lifelong friends. You will also find that expanding your horizons little by little can be just as rewarding, as many other students are in the same boat as you are. Don’t stress: Just choose a seat and enjoy the experience...and of course, the mac and cheese!

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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High School in Oregon May Make College Acceptance Graduation Requirement

by Suada Kolovic

For most high school students, senior year is chock-full with college to-dos. From finalizing where you'll go and what you'll study to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order, the list is quite long but what about those students who don't have their sights set on college after graduation? If you're a student at a high school in Oregon, gaining acceptance into a post-secondary institution will soon be a prerequisite for graduating regardless of your stance on obtaining a college education.

Corbett School District Superintendent Randy Trani's proposal would require each student to be admitted into an institution of higher education but they would not be obligated to attend. He went on to explain that the requirement would not stop a student from graduating since all Oregon high school graduates are eligible for spots at local community colleges as long as they apply. The district school board will vote on the proposal in December with many expecting it to pass. Interestingly enough, some are suggesting an ulterior motive for the modification: According to an editorial piece in The Oregonian, there is speculation that the proposal would help the prestigious high school maintain its current standing – fifth best high school in the nation – on Newsweek’s Best High Schools list. (Having a 100-percent college acceptance rate would undoubtedly increase their ranking, even if every student was “accepted” into non-selective community colleges.) Trani is quick to discredit that claim and told the editorial board that the plan was “just one step among many we’ve been taking for 10 years. We want to make this change so kids have more choice.” (For more on this story, click here.)

If the high school is requiring a student to be admitted into a college but not attend, what purpose do you think it might serve the student? Let us know in the comments section.


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