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Advice for Incoming Freshman

by Carly Gerber

No matter who you were or what you were known for in high school, college is a fresh start for all students. With a new academic year upon us (already?!), here are some tips for incoming freshmen on how to make their first year a great one:

  • Be a self-advocate. Your university has all the resources you need to help find internships, jobs, organizations and clubs to get involved with. For example, there are writing centers and tutors that want to help students but it’s up to the students to find the resources they need.
  • Be a student first. It’s important to attend class as much as possible and to create healthy relationships with your professors. If you’re applying for jobs or internships that need letters of recommendation, your professors will be happy to vouch for you if they know you and your work ethic. For students going to universities with large lecture-style classes, it’s still possible to create a relationship with your professors by sitting in the front and asking questions or going to office hours.
  • Start interning as soon as possible. Many students take classes while they have an internship so talk to a career counselor on your campus to learn how you can find an internship. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed during the school year, apply for an internship for holiday break or over the summer. Internship experience on your resume will show employers that you’re a hard worker and have dedication, which are qualities they want in future employees.
  • Pick your posse carefully. During my college orientation, one faculty member uttered that exact sentence. Once I got over the fact he used the word “posse”, I realized his advice is true: Surround yourself with people that make you a better person – you never know how meeting one person can positively impact your entire life so always be friendly and welcoming.

Do you have any advice for incoming college freshmen?

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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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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Making the Most of Your Spare Time

by Mary Steffenhagen

It’s agonizing to suddenly relinquish a free and easy summer schedule to the clutches of the college schedule...but what happens when your weeks in school are just as free they are over break?

You may end up with a situation a lot of college students dream of: a surplus of free time. This happened to me during my freshman year, as I had a pretty open class schedule, a weekends-only job and didn’t join any clubs. I ended up bored to death nearly every day! But I didn’t realize that the extra time was an advantage that not only gave me a chance for homework but time to focus on personal goals. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few tips as to how to best spend your time:

However you choose to spend your extra time, make sure you enjoy yourself. Having time to yourself while in college is a rarity and you may not have such an opportunity in later semesters. College is about exploring and learning...not being bored because there’s nothing to do. So get out there and make use of your time – you won’t regret it!

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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Putting Your Best Face Forward on LinkedIn

by Mike Sheffey

If you’ve been in any career development class or seminar, I’m sure you’ve heard of LinkedIn. It’s a fantastic networking tool and, if used properly, can lead to some pretty great opportunities...but you’ve got to know how to use it and keep it up to date.

What’s incredible about LinkedIn is that they know you already have a billion social media sites to keep up with so they give you a quick way to get started on their site by providing options to import contacts from email and social media. You can also import your resume: The site does a fairly good job of sectioning off your resume to fit its profile layout, which is a quick way to establish your presence on the site. (LinkedIn also judges the amount of info you have and advises you on how to have a more ‘complete’ profile.)

Of course, there’s still work that will need to be done and information to be added and changed but that’s all easy to do in your own time. If you have an update to your resume, just change your resume on file and LinkedIn will do the rest with another quick upload. (It’s not that hard to just add things directly to your profile, either.) The more information you add to your LinkedIn profile, the more marketable you are to future employers.

Also, keep your LinkedIn page classy! Do you have a goofy picture everybody just HAS to see? That’s fine...just don’t post it here. LinkedIn is a social media platform but approaching it like any other (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) would be a grave mistake. Nothing says “I don’t take this seriously” like an unprofessional profile photo.

My final bit of LinkedIn profile advice? Keep it current, keep it interesting, make sure the information is accurate and join groups of similar individuals in your fields of interest to make sure your name is out there in the best light. Get a new job? Update your profile just like you would your resume and your profile will reach new people – employers use LinkedIn for recruiting and you could be exactly what someone is looking for. Gotta love technology!

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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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 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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Popping the Bubble: How to Keep Up on Current Events in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

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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Who Am I Really?

Creating Your Own Identity on Campus

August 29, 2013

Who Am I Really?

by Chelsea Slaughter

Starting off in a new place with new people can be scary. As young people, we tend to flock together in “cliques” or groups we feel most comfortable with and the majority of the time, the members of our groups share many of the same qualities. It's perfectly fine to have friends but it’s important not to lose your own identity.

When I was a freshman, I had a circle of friends that were “one for all and all for one.” When schedules got hectic later in the year, we had less and less time to do things together but it seemed like every time I went somewhere alone, someone asked “Where are the others?” At the moment, it did not occur to me that I was not known as my own person but instead as a member of “that group.”

As an RA in a freshman residence hall, I was able to witness the same cycle constantly repeating. I am not saying to not have friends or a circle to can call upon but I AM saying that you must remember who you are and what’s important to you. If you want to join a club and your friends are uninterested, you should still go for it! This gives you a chance to meet others who share interests the friends you already have may not.

As the years progress, you will see the importance of having a personal identity on your campus. You will see the difference between “Oh look, it’s that group” and “Oh look, it’s Chelsea and her friends.” This is your chance to transition from fitting in to standing out – it's time to find who you are, not lose who you are!

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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Understanding College Syllabi

by Veronica Gonzalez

It’s the first day of school. Your instructor walks in and he or she hands out or displays a syllabus on the board. Syllabi will be your best academic friends in college: They will be dispensed to students in each class and will serve as roadmaps for the duration of the semester. If you’re wondering what they’re all about, here’s a crash course:

Syllabi often start out with introductions, followed by explanations and outlines, and end with ground rules. The introduction part of the syllabus is basically the instructor introducing themselves to the class and explaining what the course is about. They then acknowledge the disability and academic integrity statements of the syllabus to ensure that there’s equality in the class environment.

Next comes the explanation. This is where you’ll to get to know what books and materials you will need (if you don’t have them yet) or clarify what you won’t need. Also, every instructor grades differently so your professor will give you a heads up on what to expect from them when they evaluate your papers, quizzes, tests and even class participation. Afterward is the course outline, which lists the activities that will occur in and out of class throughout the semester (homework, assigned readings, group projects, etc.).

After the explanation, the professor will set ground rules. It’s best that you be aware of the policy statements listed on the syllabus such as the statement on plagiarism, the rule on cell phones, the nature of deadlines, etc. Finally, the syllabus will provide the office hours and contact information of the instructor and teaching assistants in case you have any questions or concerns.

Syllabi may change at any given time over the course of the semester; this really depends on the instructor so be sure yours remains up to date by attending lectures, discussions and office hours. Do you have any tips on understanding college syllabi?

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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The Quarter-Life Crisis Epidemic

by Carly Gerber

“When I graduate, where will I work?”
“What if I can’t find a job?”
“What if no one will hire me because I lack experience?”
“Did I pick the wrong major?”
“Should I attend graduate school?”
“Is graduate school a waste of time and money?”

I apologize if I gave you a minor panic attack but these are questions that weigh on most students as they contemplate their lives after college. If you find these concerns are on your mind on a daily basis, you could be having a quarter-life crisis, which, according to a recent USA Today article, is when 20-somethings have anxiety because they question the direction and quality of their lives. Frankly, however, this anxiety is a waste of valuable time and energy so let’s do some crisis management, shall we?

Firstly, recognize that you have only lived one quarter of your life – you still (hopefully) have three quarters to go, which means that some decisions you make now will not affect your future as much as you think they will. We are ever changing and the interests we have now may not hold true in a few years.

Secondly, let go of how others measure success and measure success on your own terms. Joining new clubs and organizations or becoming involved in an alternative spring break are ways you can find contentment and purpose.

Lastly, talk to someone! If the anxiety is constantly weighing on you, you may want to consult a parent or teacher who has more life experience than you. Remembering that you’re not alone and finding someone who has been in your shoes and has moved past the anxiety you’re feeling will help you get through your rough patch.

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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