The Freshman 15: Finding Happiness in College

findinghappinessincollegeFor those who attend my alma mater (and many other universities throughout the world), today is the first day of school! Growing up, I always loved this time of the year, as I stocked up on fresh school supplies, spruced up my wardrobe and hoped that a cute new boy would move to town and be in all of my classes. Now in my second year out of school, it still feels crazy for me not to experience that “first day” excitement, as my inner nerd aches to read through a new syllabus and crack open a new textbook.

Many of you are starting college today (or next week, or early next month) for the first time ever. I congratulate you! College can be overwhelming, exhausting and, at times, heartbreaking. Completing your undergraduate degree is no laughing matter. But when I look back on the past 23 (almost 24) years of my life, I remember that many of the happiest moments took place during my university years.

Over the years, several of my readers have asked, “How can I find happiness in college?” Today, as you embark on this new and exciting adventure that is your undergraduate career, I’d like to share 15 of my own tips for truly living your college experience in a positive way.

The Freshman 15: Finding Happiness in College

1. Get involved on campus.
You will get out of your college experience what you put into it. What you do in the classroom is one key to your success, but keep in mind that it isn’t the only key. By joining a club or committee that interests you, you will not only gain valuable experience that you can’t obtain from a textbook, but you will also meet new people and challenge yourself in new ways. For tips on how to get involved on campus, check out my handy guide here.

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13589981289522. Smile.
Did you know that the first Friday of October is World Smile Day? 🙂 Sometimes even a simple smile can brighten your day and turn your mood around. People respond better to you when you look happier, but people are less likely to approach you with a scowl on your face. It’s simple: Smile more, and happy things will follow.

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3. Eat a more nutritious diet, and cut out the chemicals.
Seriously. This was always something my dad preached in our house, and I never wanted to believe it, but it’s true. I find that when I eat a diet rich in whole foods (as opposed to raiding the vending machine at work and binging on fast food), I’m a lot more even-tempered and less likely to overreact to minor things. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Not only will this make you happier in the long run, but it will make your waistline happier, too.

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4. Talk to your friends…
We all need somebody to lean on. You’ll make friends as you adjust to your new environment, and as you grow closer, you will likely turn to each other for support. This is a good thing, because it will allow you to grow closer and form more meaningful relationships.

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thcaaxvjkd5. … But don’t lean on one person too much.
When you rely on one person too heavily, you may wind up putting too much pressure on him or her to solve your problems and be that shoulder to lean on. You don’t want to be that one negative friend that people dread talking to, so be sure to keep that in check when confiding in others.

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6. Utilize the university counseling center if necessary.
If you’re having trouble adjusting to college life or are having some emotional difficulties, a good resource to take advantage of is the school’s counseling center. Chances are, your tuition and student activity fees actually pay for counseling services anyway, so it is a free resource that you might as well use. This can help you find new ways to cope with your problems and talk to someone who isn’t as close to the situation as your friends are.

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7. Whenever you start to doubt yourself, listen to an emergency compliment.
I love this site, Emergency Compliment, because it’s exactly what it sounds like. The page generates a new “emergency compliment” every time you refresh, and the compliments will definitely make you smile. Similarly, you can write down all of the positive things people have said about you, and read them on the tougher days to remind yourself of how great you really are.

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free+time18. Get organized.
Make checklists and keep a calendar to stay on task with your school work, extracurriculars and social obligations. This will ensure that you don’t forget anything important and therefore cause yourself even more stress and anxiety than you were already facing from those two papers and three midterms. For tips on managing your time effectively in college, visit my guide here.

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9. Take each day one at a time.
Don’t try to solve all of the world’s problems at once. When you try to do too much, you stop doing any of it very well. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin!

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10. Go outside.
Enjoy the fresh air and beauty of nature, even if you are inundated with schoolwork and group projects. As a student, I often brought my books outside when the weather was nice, and I found that this had a major impact on my overall mood. If you can, try to study or meet for lunch with friends outside once in a while… the change in scenery will (quite literally) brighten your day.

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endorphins11. Move around.
Does your university have a free gym for students? Use it! The endorphins will boost your mood and help relieve some of the stress you’re facing. Plus, it’s a very healthy way to get your mind off of some of the things that may be bothering you!

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12. Find a major you really love, and stick to it.
If you enjoy what you’re doing and have an end goal in sight, it will make it that much easier for you to push past your challenges. You may hate that organic chemistry class you’re taking, but if you are passionate about your other pre-med classes and excited about the idea of becoming a doctor someday, you’ll have an easier time forcing yourself to study. Don’t pursue a major just to impress others or check it off your list — instead, find something you’re passionate about. For tips on how to choose the right major, click here.

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13. Volunteer.
Helping others, instead of focusing on the things that have gone wrong in your life, will cheer you up and allow you to give back to the community. Join a volunteer organization at your university, or look for a local non-profit whose mission speaks to you.

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-114. Develop some school spirit!
If you take pride in your school, you will be less homesick and have an easier time adjusting to the challenges you face on campus. Attend a few athletic events and wear your university’s colors proudly! This also helps you to connect with others on campus and you may even make friends at the games.

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15. If you expect wonderful things to happen, they will.
My friend Nicole always says this, and I completely agree! Good things will come when you have a positive attitude and expect them to. When you’re going through a rough adjustment, keep your chin up and hope for the best. Positive thoughts can attract positive outcomes.

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What are some of your tips for finding happiness in college? Freshmen, what topics would you like to see on The Freshman 15?

In Hindsight: Four Things I’d Tell My University Self

logotransparentGood afternoon, friends, and sorry for any lack of updates lately! To make it up to you, I’d like to share my latest guest blog for Career Camel, a London-based website dedicated to helping college students lock down the career of their dreams.

For my guest post, I was asked to discuss some of the things I would tell my freshman self if I could go back in time. The question was definitely a challenging one, but I have definitely grown in the past five years and learned a lot about myself in that time.

Pop over to Career Camel now and check out my article! You won’t regret it. 🙂 Share with friends and add your own lessons in the comments section!

The Seven Deadly Sins of College Life

sevendeadlysinscollegeNow that freshman orientation sessions are in full bloom, it’s time to start thinking about your first year in college. It can be tricky to navigate those first few semesters of your undergraduate career, but with the right tools and resources, you can still succeed both academically and personally.

As you prepare for a new life on campus, keep these “deadly sins” in mind, and be sure to avoid them at all costs!

The Seven Deadly Sins of College Life

1. Lust.
Whether you’re new to the dating world or you just ended things with your high school sweetheart, it is easy to fall prey to this first vice. Unless you attend a religious school, you’ll most likely have more dating freedom than ever before when you first set foot on campus. You should take advantage of that freedom… to an extent. Meet new people, but don’t date every guy who lives in your dorm building just for the convenience or excitement factor. Remember that college is also a time to form other important relationships, like lasting friendships and mentorships. (For tips on how to survive your college relationships, visit my Freshman 15 post here.)

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2. Gluttony.
Once you’ve moved into the dorms, you will be exposed to more free junk food than you’ve possibly ever seen in your life. If you’re not careful, pizza can and will become a staple in your diet, as it seems to be served at most campus events and nearly every day in the dining halls. With more access to unhealthy food than you know what to do with, you may experience weight gain or other unwanted health issues. Allow yourself to indulge every now and then, but make sure you still get your fruits and vegetables, too!

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3. Greed.
If you decide to live in the dorms, chances are you will have a roommate. Regardless of your floor plan, you will need to learn to share your spaces effectively. Don’t be greedy and allow your belongings to take up the entire dorm room! Instead, talk to your roommate about those shared spaces so that you can coexist peacefully. (For other ideas on topics to discuss with roommates before move-in, click here.)

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No, not THAT kind of sloth!

No, not THAT kind of sloth!

4. Sloth.
Don’t let yourself get lazy in college! This often happens because of the freedom college allows students to choose their own class times and be accountable for their own work. Your class might not take attendance, but you will still see repercussions if you decide not to show up. You may have the ability to take all of your classes after noon, but if you run the risk of sleeping in even later and losing productivity time, is it really worth it? Without your parents or guardians around to wake you up for school or urge you to finish your homework, you have to push yourself to do these things on your own. Set alarms. Make lists. Learn how to manage your time effectively. These things will not only help you succeed in college, but they will also benefit you long after graduation.

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5. Wrath.
Because of all the changes you will experience in college, you may be dealing with a lot of emotions. You also might have trouble coping with difficult situations because you are still getting used to a new support system and environment. However, it’s important not to take these things out on the people in your life. Learn how to control your emotions and find what makes you happy when you’re struggling the most. When in doubt, visit an advisor or your university’s counseling center for a shoulder to lean on. These resources can truly make all the difference when you need a nudge in the right direction.

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6. Envy.
While you’re in school, you’ll likely meet a few people who seem to Have It All. These people seem to be in perfect relationships, are super involved on campus, win every award known to man, have more friends than they know what to do with and seem to be Better Than You in Every Way. I certainly knew a few people like this when I was in college, and it’s easy to become jealous. Of course, you’ll realize in time that everyone you meet is fighting a battle of their own, and that no one is living the perfect life. The best way to stop envying others for the lives they are living is to create the life you want for yourself. Get involved in the activities that interest you. Volunteer. Make new friends. Immerse yourself in your major. Figure out what will make you happy, and do that instead of dwelling on how much happier everyone else is. Your happiness will soon follow.

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7. Pride.
Admit your shortcomings and accept help from others. Early on in college, I knew quite a few people who felt they could do everything on their own, even when they couldn’t.  Although they struggled in some of their classes, they felt they were too smart to attend tutoring sessions or visit the professor during office hours. Their grades suffered because of this. I don’t know why our society raises us to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but you have to let go of that notion from the moment you start taking college classes. Don’t be “too smart” for your own good.

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If you could add an eighth deadly sin for college life, what would it be? Add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

promise-not-laugh-anymore-college-ecard-someecardsFor many of my friends, this was the first week of school — and for me, it was the first August since the early 90s that I wasn’t starting school! Since I first began blogging in 2010, I started sharing the lessons I had learned from each year of college, but my wonderful friends and readers have also shared their own advice and wisdom on my blog as well (here and here). In honor of the brand new semester, I bring you 15 helpful tips from 15 college students and alumni with diverse backgrounds and degree programs. Best of luck this school year!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

1. Study what you love.
Picking a major can seem really daunting upon entering college, especially if you’re unsure of your post-undergraduate plans. However, the most important thing is to study something you are passionate about. Don’t let overbearing relatives and nosy strangers dissuade you when they sneer, “Oh, you’re a [blank] major? What are you going to do with that?” Doing homework and studying for tests will suck a little less if you actually enjoy what you’re learning. And at the end of your four years, you will find the perfect way to apply your passion to your “real world” pursuits.
– Jill Dutmers, University of Central Florida, English Literature (@straightupjill)

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2. Be open and accepting to all kinds of people.
In life, but college especially, you will meet a wide array of personalities! Students come from all walks of life and they WILL have different opinions, perspectives and values than you. Stay true to your beliefs but also make sure to keep an open mind. Understand that many students work multiple jobs to pay their way through college, may be going through personal issues or have social disorders. It’s so important to take all these factors in to consideration before jumping to conclusions about different types of people. Learn something new from different people your age…in the long-term you will grow more accepting and appreciative of others.
– Carlie Craig, Florida State University, Theatre and Media Production (@carliecraig, Website: Carlie Craig)

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Zweinstein 23. Get familiar with your academic community.
Professors will be impressed if you stay informed about the current trends in your major field. Although some academic journals and monographs can be dry, make an effort to find a moderately accessible journal or a scholar that you like. Attend seminars and symposiums if you can, and submit papers to journals and local conferences (you’ve got nothing to lose!). Undergraduate publications and conference history will look great on a curriculum vitae.
– Brittan Wilkey, Wake Forest University, MA English (Blog: Discharmed)

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4. Pay it forward.
As soon as you figure out what you plan on doing (whether picking a major, joining a club, or finding an internship) start passing along what you’ve learned and your experiences to anyone who asks or who may need it. Be a resource to people around you — you never know what difference you’re making in their lives by helping them out. On the flip side, never forget about the people who helped you out along the way and always remember to thank them and maybe even let them know what you’re up to especially if it’s been a while.
– Kaitlin Border, University of Central Florida, Accounting

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5. You’ll meet your best friends in time.
Chances are, the first group of friends you get knit into won’t be the last. Don’t feel pressured to find all your best friends in the first semester. It takes a while to adjust to college and you actually transform into a new person as the months go on so don’t think any kind of group of friends needs to be there for the four years ahead. Be open to meeting new people and be mindful of when friendships naturally click. Those are the ones to tuck close to you. I didn’t find mine until my sophomore year but I still have them as best friends today.
– Hannah Brencher, Assumption College, English + Mass Communications/Sociology (Website: Hannah Brencher)

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EssDormSocialTime6. Get to know your RAs… for the RIGHT reasons.
Resident Assistants aren’t just there to get on your case if you are being too loud. RA’s are students, just like you, and they have been through it. They are there to talk to you and help you out. Their training is VERY extensive and know just about every resource available to you from free counseling services to listing off names of student organizations. You pay big bucks to live on campus, and a big part of that payment is living on the same floor as a walking/talking college life guru. If you have a problem, or even if you are doing well, tell your RA, they want you to succeed and do your best.
– Karina Garcia, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@karinacreative)

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7. Never stop making friends.
I am very much an introvert, so once I had a small circle of friends I was more than happy to stop putting myself out there. In result, for my first semester of school I had a very small group of people I knew well, while I was surrounded by dozens more who would have loved to get to know me better. Not every friend you make will last, and you might not think you’d like hanging out with a certain kind of person, but you never know until you try.
– Gabrielle Upshur, Austin Peay State University, English (Blog: Of A Writerly Sort)

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8. Go to class.
Don’t skip class, even if it’s early in the morning or boring. The great thing about college is you control your schedule, and there’s time for naps.
– Kayley Tool, University of Central Florida, Nursing

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How_i_met_everyone_else_-_ted_and_marshall9. You don’t have to be friends with your roommate.
Many people enter college with the expectation that they’ll click instantly with their roommate and become best friends. This isn’t always the case. Unless you pre-selected a roommate, you will be moving into a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger. You may enjoy baking and crafting while your roommate is interested in video games and cosplaying. It’s okay if you have nothing in common! Don’t try to force a friendship just because you live together. The most important thing is that the two of you cultivate an environment of mutual respect. Respect your roommate’s space and belongings and he/she should do the same for you. However, some people are just too different to get along. If you and your roommate can’t make things work, don’t hesitate to talk to your RA about the process of changing rooms. Classes and work are taxing enough and you shouldn’t have to come home to a stressful living environment every day. Moving in the middle of the semester can be inconvenient, but it’s better than being miserable for an entire school year.– Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema (@toritwine, Blog: I May Be Mildly Obsessed)

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10. Remember your passions.
I was miserable with my major for a while, until I remembered that I loved robotics. It basically reinvigorated me, and I’ve been doing a lot better since. Sometimes you lose sight of your passions, but it’s great when you remember them.
– Peter Cheng, University of Central Florida, Computer Engineering

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tumblr_mes5drMMc51rwr9v911. Be open to all types of Greek life.
During my first two years of college, a lot of my friends joined social sororities and fraternities. While this looked like a lot of fun, I just didn’t think that Greek Life was right for me. In my junior year, I heard about an honor fraternity on campus and decided to check out one of their Rush events. Two years later, I consider it to be one of the best decisions I made in my college career. I experienced many leadership, academic and social opportunities and made some of my best friends. The point is social Greek Life is not for everyone, but there are so many Greek organizations on every campus that there is bound to be a place you’ll fit in! Try looking for sororities or fraternities related to your major or other special interests and don’t be afraid to go and meet new people!
– Jessica Faith Meyer, University of Central Florida, Political Science (@jfaithmeyer)

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12. Get internships.
I know they pay less than waitressing or bartending – maybe they’re even unpaid!  But the skills you learn and the connections you make are worth so, so, SO much more than money.  If you’ve got a great resume filled with internships related to your field, it’s about a million times easier to land a job.  If you only work in restaurants during college, you’ll be a super well-educated and experienced server when you enter the workplace.
– Sarah Von Bargen, BA University of Minnesota – Morris (English), MA Victoria University of Wellington (Applied Linguistics) (Blog: Yes & Yes)

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13. The easiest way to their hearts is through their stomachs.
When it comes down to making friends in college, It’s important to cater to your strengths. In my case, I’m a third generation, nearly full blooded Italian girl. Cooking a hearty italian meal is embedded in my DNA. Thankfully, our college dorm had a well equipped kitchen at my disposal, so cooking, despite our sensitive fire alarms, was encouraged amongst us all. First night at the dorms, I gathered my utensils and went to work in the kitchen. My new roomies, now my best friends, caught a whiff, literally, of what I was up to and decided to lend a helping hand. Within an hour we had whipped up a huge bowl of pasta and meatballs and made sure to prop open our door so the sweet aroma or marinara sauce could flood through the hallways – and into the nostrils of several hungry college kids. What a success! In seconds, our floor mates were lingering in our doorway, mouths watering and stomachs growling. We invited them in, gave them a plate and conversed. As simple as that. It was history in the making. Many of our hungry floor mates from that first night became some of my lifelong friends, even now after college. If you cook it, they will come. That, I’ll assure you is a fact.
– Lauren Durando, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@dran34)

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Alice14. Stop and smell the roses.
Stop and smell the roses. –Yes, you could do this literally, but more figuratively, you should definitely take the chance to stop every now and then and appreciate the amazing opportunity that is attending college in the 21st century. The world is literally at your fingertips at any given moment via the internet. Opportunities abound around every corner. You are currently living and experiencing history being made on a day-to-day basis. Take the time to sit back every now and then and appreciate the epicness. Then go out and make your contribution to it in whatever form makes you happiest!
– Melissa Smith, George Mason University, PhD Human Factors (@mabsmith)

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15. Find yourself in a new place.
It may sound lame but friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and coworkers will come and go but you will always have yourself with you. This took me a while to learn but I have been able to slowly build a better relationship with myself through studying abroad. In immersing myself in other places and cultures around the world, there are things I learned that can’t be learned from in a classroom. The main lessons in life that I will look back on when I graduate will be things that I learned from being abroad. In fact what you learn from museums, old ruins, or double decker bus tours doesn’t nearly compare to what you learn about yourself. About how you work with others, how you can navigate through a strange place, and the stress of being in the big open world. So study abroad and set forth on a journey to a new place to find your new self.
– Arielle Poliner, University of Central Florida, Event Management

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A great big thank you to everyone who contributed this year! Readers, what is the biggest piece of advice you have for incoming college students?

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

pexels-photo-1370296.jpegToday I bring you a very exciting blog. For this month’s Freshman 15, I asked 15 college students and alumni to share their advice for navigating university life, based on their own experiences (much like last year’s blog!). We have an amazing group of contributors: documentary filmmakers, contestants and cast members from America’s Next Top Model and Real World, the owner of an organic vegan blog/brand, website creators, you name it. Enjoy the wise words of some of the coolest college students and grads that I’ve met, and feel free to add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

1. Enjoy life outside of the classroom.
In college, you will do more learning out of the classroom than you will do in it. Don’t forget to grow as a person as you grow academically. This will eventually prove so much more important–in your personal and professional lives–than the specifics you learned in lectures.
— Alexandra Govere (Real World: San Diego), Stanford University, Civil Engineering Major (@alexgovere)
Blog: The High Fiver 

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2. Learn for learning’s sake.
While it’s important to take classes that will help you reach your chosen profession, be sure to take a few on some things you would enjoy learning. These fun classes will offer a break from the stress of your regular course load and provide the chance to learn about something you find interesting. And you never know, these fun classes could lead to new friendships and a world of new opportunities that you never considered before!
— Monica Monticello, University of Central Florida, English Major

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3. Communicate with faculty.
Talk to your professors! They can’t help you or work with you in the event of an absence if they don’t know who you are! You can do this by asking them about something you don’t understand, or telling them how much you liked a video they showed during their lecture. Talk to them face-to-face whenever possible.
— Rachel Milock, University of South Carolina, Information Science Major (@singyouhome)

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4. Stay organized!

My biggest tip to balancing school and other things would be to stay extremely organized. I keep a planner (not in my phone or computer) and color code classes and events so I never forget about anything. As soon as I get the class syllabus I split up the work evenly every week until test time/assignment due date. A few days before an assignment is due or an exam is going to take place, I’ll write down to study for it/make sure everything is finished. It helps to be redundant…if I only write an assignments due date on the actual date, the chances of me remembering it before the day it’s due is slim to none.
— Nicole Lucas (America’s Next Top Model), University of Central Florida, Psychology Major and Marketing Minor (@NicoleMLucas)

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5. Stay in the present.
Make sure you don’t spend all your time worrying about the future. It’s good to have the go-getter attitude and want to make sure you’re going to have a job/acceptance letter at the end of these four years, but it’s also important to make the most of your college experience. Play hooky for a day, join a bunch of clubs, start an organization – those are the stories you’re going to share someday.
— Mina Radman, University of Florida, Journalism Major

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6. You don’t have to party.
Although “college” is often synonymous with parties, it’s okay if that’s not your scene. Contrary to popular belief, people won’t think you’re a “loser” just because you decline an invitation to party with them. There are a community of people on every college campus who prefer to play board games on Friday nights rather than go to frat parties. Various organizations (such as religious groups, Student Union Board, etc.) often host fun (and free!) events on weekends, which are great for meeting people with similar interests who aren’t into the party scene. Also, don’t be afraid to go to those events alone. You may arrive alone, but you’ll likely leave with a few new acquaintances and a few more numbers in your phone’s contacts!
— Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema Major (@toritwine)

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7. Manage your time.
Learn time management and learn it fast!
— Logan Kriete, University of Central Florida, Radio/Television Major (@logankriete)

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8. Stay excited.
Most freshmen have a period of heightened sociality during their first year at college. They’re more willing to attend study groups, talk to strangers, and join campus organizations. However, as the excitement of college-life begins to fade, I’ve noticed those same freshmen (including myself) are inclined to draw back socially. So as freshmen, I urge you to hold on to that bit of excitement you’re feeling right now, and make it last! Continue to get involved on campus and with your peers throughout your college career. The rest of your college years will thank you for it!
— Marilyn Malara, Florida State University, Editing/Writing/Media Major (@wowmarilyn)
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9. Experience everything you can.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. So take a risk and try something new. Be someone who says “yes.” You never know when a leadership position, unfamiliar class, study abroad experience, challenging internship, new friend, or even a ridiculous past time like line dancing will change your life. If you leave college with just a degree, you truly missed out.
— Jamie Gregor, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations and Marketing Major (@jamiegregor)
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10. Stop comparing.
If I could do one thing over when I was in university it would be to stop comparing myself with other women. I used to always think that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough and I spent so much time unhappy with myself and struggling with an eating disorder. I missed out on so much. When I look back at pictures of this time in my life I feel sad for all the things I missed out on. Instead of seeing someone who needed to lose weight or who wasn’t beautiful enough, I see someone with so much possibility, love, and beauty. I just wish I could have seen it at the time. So my advice is to appreciate what you have NOW. Stop wishing to be someone else or to have someone else’s body. Stop telling yourself you are too fat to go out. Work with what you have and hold your head up high. Don’t let this time pass you by!
— Angela Liddon, University of Guelph, Psychology Major (Blog: Oh She Glows)
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11. Keep a calendar.
Keep a calendar either digital or old fashioned. I have yet to update to a fancy phone so I still have a paper and pencil calendar. You can not only use it to keep track of appointments, events and classes but also to remember when you should study and when you have tests coming up.
— Rebekah Callari, University of Central Florida, Molecular & Microbiology Major
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12. Get out of your comfort zone.
Do what terrifies you. My sophomore year of college, introverted and disconnected, I agreed, with some coaxing, to put my name on an email list for the student newspaper. A year later, I was one of the top staff writers for the news section, churning out several stories each issue. Figure out why you’re afraid of something and make sure you’re running for the right reasons. I wasn’t. But plunging headfirst into journalism taught me more than how to write. It brought me into a circle of equally passionate writers.
— Kaleigh Somers, James Madison University, Media Arts & Design Major (Blog: HUGstronger)
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13. Trust cautiously.
Be careful whom you trust: Just because they live with you, sit next to you in class, or are in a club with you, does not guarantee that they will keep your secrets. Think twice before spilling your soul to someone you’ve only known for a few weeks. They are still capable of judging you and betraying you. College is a scary place, but don’t rush into friendships right away. Good things take time, and you will thank yourself for waiting before opening up to people.
— Shannon Payne, University of Central Florida, Anthropology Major (@shannon_nicolle)

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14. Don’t date your neighbors.
Dear freshmen, my golden rule for college life — well actually, life in general — is to not date someone that lives in your dorm or a co worker. It might seem cool at first since you get to see each other all the time but that gets old as quick as Drawing with Friends! Unless you love drama and tears by all means live and learn!
— Zhe Liu, University of Hawaii, Psychology Major
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15. Know who to turn to.
In college, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Studying too hard, participating in too much, and sleeping too little can inevitably lead to a more stressed-out you. Never forget that college is an excellent opportunity to build a “safety net” of new friends and acquaintances who are there to keep you sane, calm you down and boost you up when you need them most. Also, don’t forget that mom and dad are just a phone call away.
— Robert Gottfried, University of Central Florida, Legal Studies Major (@thegottfried)

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Thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog — you are all amazing!

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 3)

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As of today, I am officially done with my junior year of college. It feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman myself, writing the original Freshman 15 post that started it all. 🙂 Since then, I have undergone many experiences I never could have possibly predicted, and learned a lot from every single one of them.

Every April, I share fifteen new lessons that I’ve learned throughout the year (see last year’s post here), and this month is no different. It has been an interesting year, to say the least! Feel free to share your own experiences in the comment section below, and if you would like to be a part of my next Freshman 15, please email vmoses90@gmail.com for details.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 3)

1. Running into faces from your past will show you how much you’ve changed. (Tweet this!)
Because I attend a state university, I’m bound to run into people from my hometown from time to time. I’ve only kept in touch consistently with a few people from high school, so I often forget about my life before college. However, when I do encounter old friends and classmates, I realize how much many of us have changed since then (and how much some have stayed the same!). The longer you go without seeing the people you used to see every day, the more you find that this is the case. Every so often, I feel like I’ve attended a one-on-one high school reunion, complete with “How have you been?” and an exchange of “Are you still dating _______ from high school/Are you still interested in becoming a ______/Have you talked to ______ lately/Did you know _____ and _____ stopped talking?” There’s nothing wrong with this – it might be a shock at first, but you’ll learn just how much you’ve grown since graduation.

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2. The little things do matter.
In the workplace, in relationships and in life, the little things will set you apart. Write thank-you notes to the people who interview you – even if they don’t give you the job, they will recognize the gesture and associate your name with something positive. Take a moment to compliment someone on something that they didn’t think you’d notice. Don’t show up at a social function empty-handed; a plate of brownies goes a long way. Be kind and gracious. Class never goes out of style.

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3. Birds of a feather don’t always flock together, but a lot of people are not aware of that.
Be careful with the connections you make — some could have a negative impact on your reputation. I am not telling you to be cruel or judgmental, but be aware of the situations you wind up in and the actions of the people around you. You may be hardworking and responsible, but if you spend too much time with people who are constantly in trouble, you could end up in trouble yourself. As we learn in public relations classes, it takes a lot to fix a damaged reputation, and if you’re seen with people who make a lot of inappropriate decisions, others will assume that you’re exactly the same.

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4. A healthy dose of rejection isn’t always a bad thing.
Let’s face it – rejection sucks, no matter where it’s coming from. Whether your dream job just told you they “decided to go in a different direction,” or your crush is just not that into you, being rejected can make you doubt yourself and your abilities. A few months ago, I applied for a prestigious position at the university and was denied before I even reached the interview process, for reasons I didn’t fully understand. The elimination stung, and my self-esteem took a temporary nosedive, until I recognized that a) There are other options out there for me, b) I can still accomplish a lot without filling this particular position, and c) The school was missing out. Talk to anyone older than 30 and you’ll find that everyone has endured a form of rejection at one point or another. When it happens to you, be strong – don’t belittle yourself, but consider the areas in which you could improve, and realize that another opportunity will come again if you are open to it. (In the unsourced words of Marilyn Monroe, “Good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”)

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5. Being negative and judgmental only hurts you.
When you accept others as they are, you find yourself surrounded by more friends and attract more positivity than ever. Don’t rule out a potential friendship for superficial reasons. When you’re constantly picking others apart, people don’t want to be around you — they begin to see you only as that grumpy classmate that brings others down.

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6. It’s never too late to try something new.
People assume that if they join a club after their freshman year, they won’t be able to make an impact or fulfill an officer position, and that isn’t always the case. You can still get a lot out of the opportunities you pursue throughout your sophomore, junior and even senior year, regardless of your seniority or longevity there. If a student organization, elective or part-time job sounds fulfilling to you, try it out, even if it’s way different from anything you’ve done before.  This is how I became a cheerleader in high school, and it’s also how I decided to study Hospitality Management as a minor. Trying something new could be the best decision you’ve ever made, or it could reaffirm your beliefs in what you already do.

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7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
(Wow, I’m full of animal metaphors today!) It’s always a good idea to start working on a basic five-year plan for your life, but realize that things don’t always go accordingly. What if the on-campus position you wanted is offered to someone else? What if you decide you don’t want to be pre-med anymore? What if you and your high school sweetheart break up mid-freshman year? Of course you should be positive and take each day in stride, but if something doesn’t work out, it isn’t the end of the world. There are always alternatives, and you should make sure to keep those at the back of your mind in case your life changes.

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8. The longer you’ve been away from home, the more you begin to appreciate it.
Now that my third year of living at university is over, I find my trips home to be a lot more important than they used to be. As you take on more and more responsibilities, you find yourself increasingly looking back on your childhood and start to wonder why you ever wanted to grow up so fast. I only live three hours away from home now, but with the knowledge that I may move out of state after graduation, I treasure my trips home much more now than I did as a freshman.

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9. Most of what you worry about will work itself out.
The moments that felt like the end of the world last year have been reduced to distant memories of people and events that didn’t quite work out. You will go through all the normal emotions and doubt that you could ever possibly recover from that breakup/betrayal/job rejection/etc, but sure enough, in a year you will be able to laugh about it and you will probably even be thankful that it took place. So allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, but realize that this too shall pass. 🙂

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10. Comfort zones are overrated.
Some of my proudest college moments took place when I did something that completely terrified me. For example, in high school, I was the girl who used to shake from fear before giving presentations, and yet since I have enrolled in college, I have hosted two open mic nights and a 100-person Triwizard Tournament, spoken publicly on behalf of my organization, given tours of the university and more, all because I overcame that fear and took a leap out of my comfort zone. Do something that scares you and do it with all of your heart.

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11. Don’t postpone your life.
Oh, I’m a freshman — I have plenty of time to study abroad/find an internship/go on alternative spring break. Yes, as a freshman, you have the rest of college ahead of you, and several opportunities will present themselves throughout the next few years. However, you should keep a basic plan in mind so that you don’t wind up in the middle of your senior year, regretting that you never had time to [fill in the blanks]. Take advantage of new experiences as they arise, and have an idea of when you want to fulfill your goals.

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12. Learn to take criticism.
Admit it, we live in a critical world. You might be wonderfully talented in your field of study, but the sooner you accept constructive criticism from someone who knows what they’re talking about, the better. One day you might be receiving not-so-constructive criticism from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and being able to swallow your pride and learn from any mistakes you are making will allow you to improve upon your strengths and weaknesses. It will also prepare you for the harshness of the real world!

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13. You can learn something from everyone.
Every person you meet has his or her own story and something they can teach you. I look to each of my friends for different advice and their own unique perspectives, and I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful group of people in my life. Everybody thinks about life a little bit differently, so talking to new people and asking their opinions will make you a more well-rounded person and help you expand your own views.

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14. You deserve the best.
Don’t lower your standards in life just because you think you don’t deserve better. As Maureen Dowd says in one of my favorite quotes, “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than what you settled for.” Never surround yourself with negative people who treat you poorly — realize that you choose whom you let into your life, and that you don’t need those types of people around.

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15. Live in the moment.
Cliché as it may sound, I often lose sight of the proverbial “moment,” instead reflecting on past experiences or planning for the future. Because of this, I don’t always feel like a college student. At different times throughout the past three years in school, I have felt like a busy career woman, a tired mother of eight, a crazy recluse, and an awkward tween, but I find that I’m at my happiest when I’m able to act my age and experience life one day at a time. Does this mean you should get wasted every night in the shady part of town and make every decision without considering the consequences? No. But it does mean you should spend plenty of time with your friends, get a little boy- or girl-crazy once in a while, embark on new adventures and make the occasional non-life-threatening mistake. You may be in a weird transition period between adolescence and adulthood, but that doesn’t mean you have to grow up overnight.

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Readers, let me know if there is ever a college topic you’d like to learn more about in the future!

The Friday Five: Couples You Meet In College

As part of my Five People You Meet In College series (see boys, girls, friends and roommates), I would like to address a new topic — the couples you meet in college. Throughout your university years, you will meet many couples in the dorms and beyond. Some (usually the product of a drunken night out) will last about a week; others, much longer. This week, we will explore some of those relationships we witness across campus. Feel free to add your own observations in the comments section!

The Friday Five: Couples You Meet In College

1. Attached At The Hip.
You have rarely ever seen these two apart since they first began dating, and when you do get one of them alone, anything they say is usually prefaced with “My boyfriend and I,” or “My girlfriend says.” You often wonder if the two could ever really exist for more than a day apart, as they are constantly hand-in-hand, associating with the same groups of people and joining the same organizations. The word couple might be used ironically to describe them, because often they appear to be one person.

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2. The Extremely Awkward Couple.
Reminiscent of that bizarre, PDA-ridden goth couple you knew in high school, the Extremely Awkward Couple consists of two people you didn’t realize actually existed in the dating world. Because both of these people were late bloomers when it came to relationships, they try to make up for lost time by showing off just how smitten they are with one another. However, neither one knows how to navigate a relationship among others, and so they often scare off the innocent bystanders with their inappropriate affections and occasional graphic descriptions.

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3. The Oddly-Mismatched Couple.
For these two, the phrase “Opposites attract” has never been more true. Although both people might be equally likable (but not always!) and hold equal value, neither seems to be the other one’s type. When you first hear that they are dating, you wonder how they even met or what they possibly could have had in common. Sometimes, you might even think that one of these people is out of the other one’s league in some way, but usually the members of the Oddly-Mismatched Couple adhere to different interests, personalities and activities. They’re dating? Ha! Certainly they are just playing a prank on us.

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4. On Again/Off Again.
Every time you log onto Facebook, it seems that Jake and Lucy have either broken up or gotten back together. At this point, you’ve stopped counting. Lucy is convinced that Jake is The One and that they are secretly part of some greater overall love story, and there’s something about Lucy that Jake just can’t let go of, so they keep trying for a relationship amidst their constant fighting. A night out with Lucy and Jake can be extremely uncomfortable for their friends, who are never sure if the two are hot or cold. The On Again/Off Again couple might be headed for the altar (and then a speedy divorce), or they might eventually fizzle out when Jake meets a model on vacation that summer, but they are college’s version of Ron and Sammi from Jersey Shore.

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5. The Power Couple.
These two are really going places, and everybody knows it. Neither one needs the other, but together they are unstoppable. Whether this is because of their looks, intellect, talents or campus leadership, the Power Couple is the kind of couple you look at and wonder how two people could be so perfect. Then you ask yourself why you haven’t done more this year, because these two are putting you and your boyfriend to shame. Although they do participate in some organizations together and run in some of the same circles, they also have their separate spheres of influence and wide array of admirers. If the On Again/Off Again Couple can be compared to Ron and Sammi from Jersey Shore, then the Power Couple is the campus equivalent to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

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What are some of the couples you’ve witnessed on campus? Do you and your significant other fall into any of these categories?

The Friday Five: Roommates You Meet In College

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Throughout your time in college, you will come across students from all walks of life. In the past, we’ve talked about the boys you meet in college, the girls you meet in college and the friendships you cultivate in college, but in some cases, you won’t even have to travel past your own dorm room or residence hall to find an interesting mix of people. Living on campus will not only teach you about yourself and how you function away from home, but it will also provide you with a roommate you will always remember (for better or for worse!).

This week, we’ll talk about the five types of roommates you might end up living with. In the comments section, please feel free to include your own dorm life experiences and any additional roommate types you encountered in your time on campus!

The Friday Five: Roommates You Meet In College

1. The Stranger.
When you first received your housing assignment, you were told that one of your roommates would be a girl named Anna. After you move in, you see Anna’s stuff all around the dorm and her name on the door sign, but throughout the next several months, you and your other roommates hardly (if ever) actually see Anna in person. Anna is a prime example of The Stranger, a roommate who probably exists but whose rare presence suggests otherwise. The Stranger comes in two subsets: a. The Stranger Who Is Never Home, or b. The Stranger Who Holes Up In His/Her Room (ie. Total Loner). You often wonder if this person is either out on a secret agent mission, or creating a meth lab in his or her section of the dorm.

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2. The Overzealous Overachiever.
Unlike The Stranger, The Overzealous Overachiever makes his or her presence known in the dorm room and beyond. This person is usually excited about something, whether it’s an internship, the number of As he or she got on recent exams, or a big event he or she is organizing. The Overzealous Overachiever can be a little exhausting to hang out with in large doses, but is also a great resource when you want to know what is happening on campus or which professor to take for Speech. Avoid this person during midterms and finals week.

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3. The Bedroom Socialite.
The Bedroom Socialite embraces his or her single status by inviting over as many “romantic” partners as possible. This can be problematic if the two of you share a bedroom, but even if you live in an apartment-style dorm, you are still generally privy to the walk of shame and the endless string of visitors who walk in and out of your place. Don’t try to get to know these people by name; they will only be replaced in the days and weeks to come. The Bedroom Socialite is not ashamed of his or her number of conquests. In fact, if this roommate is a girl, she will most likely be proud of her progressive outlook on hooking up and relationships; if your roommate is a guy, then he will simply be proud because, well, he’s a guy.

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4. The Crazy Conservative.
Depending on your personal viewpoints, this person may not actually be a “crazy conservative,” but rather a “loony liberal,” or anyone else who veers away from your own personal beliefs. The Crazy Conservative has radically different viewpoints from you, and this can occasionally cause tension in your roommate dynamic, especially when both of you are politically minded. Instead of resorting to name-calling and heated debates, try subscribing to the “agree-to-disagree” mindset when interacting with this person, and embrace your differences in order to become friends.

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5. The Best Friend.
Whether you knew each other in high school or simply clicked in college, people often see the two of you as a package deal. Living together, you scarcely get anything done because you’re too busy getting into crazy antics or just having late night talks and gossip sessions. You get along well and don’t come across too much conflict by living together. See “Best Friend” in my post about the gradients of friendship for further details.

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Confession… I have had mainly awesome roommate experiences in the past two years, but many of my friends did come across several of the above roommates during their time in the dorms.

Readers: What types of roommates have you encountered?

The Freshman 15: Ways to Get Involved on Campus

Welcome, freshmen, to the month of September! If you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve already found your way around campus, learned a little bit in your classes and met some new people. Now you have an idea of How Things Work when it comes to student life, and you’re gaining a better understanding of what college is all about. So… what next? It’s time to make yourself a part of the college experience – after all, what you get out of college will only be as much as what you give, and it is never too early to get involved.

Of course, this may sound a little easier said than done. As a freshman, you might feel somewhat intimidated and maybe even overwhelmed at the thought of joining an organization or trying a new activity. When I first enrolled at my university, there were so many opportunities available to me that I had no idea where to begin. (At that point in time, I didn’t know where I even belonged on campus, or what I wanted to major in, or what truly interested me!) One year later, I am still discovering what I like and don’t like, but I have a much better handle on how involved I want to be, and how I’ll go about doing that.

If you are still looking to make your mark on campus, this article is for you!Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Ways to Get Involved on Campus

1. Figure out what you’re passionate about.
Before I go into any further detail, I just want to clarify that this does not mean you need to figure out your entire life’s purpose in a matter of weeks. All you really need to do here is narrow your search… are you looking for a way to participate in community service, or are you looking for something to build on your skills? Are you looking for something educational, or are you looking for a way to make social connections and just have fun? Having an idea of what you want will make it easier to find an organization or project that interests you.

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2. Keep your eyes and ears open.
There are announcements for various clubs and events everywhere you go — from your professors, your email newsletters, the signs on the bulletin board outside your dorm room, etc. Be receptive to those announcements and if something catches your attention, jot down the date and time and go to an informational meeting. As I’ve mentioned before, the worst thing that can happen is that you decide the club isn’t for you, and you wind up with some free food.

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3. Look for organizations within your major.
If you already have an idea of where you want to be after college, then find a club that focuses on that career path. As a member of both the Ad Club and QUOTES (my school’s Public Relations Club), I learn all sorts of inside information about the integrated marketing industry and how to get ahead when I pursue internships and jobs in the future. Both clubs expose students to the aspects of those careers that they wouldn’t be able to learn in a classroom, and I’d imagine that the societies for engineering, pre-medical, political science and accounting students would provide similar opportunities for growth.

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4. Go Greek!
Although I personally am not involved in a sorority, I can definitely see why the Greek system is so popular. Pledging a fraternity or a sorority ensures that you’ll meet a lot of new people — hopefully ones that you’re compatible with! — and immerses you right away in social and philanthropic activities on campus. Fraternities and sororities are always in the know about what events are going on, and their members are often extremely involved in other school organizations and activities (especially Student Government and Homecoming). By no means am I the expert on Greek life, but if you’ve ever briefly contemplated rushing, I’d say go for it.

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5. Check the listings online.
Most colleges and universities keep an online database of their registered student organizations, so why not take a look? The list will give you access to those clubs that aren’t very well advertised, and help you to figure out what is available to you on campus. If your club of choice is not available, then start a chapter of your own.

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6. Pursue a mentorship.
Assuming you don’t have an older sibling or friend who can help guide you, you should look for someone who can serve as a mentor. Seek out older students in your major, or the student who showed you around the school during freshman orientation, or someone that you admire. Talk to that person about your interests and goals, and see if he or she can give any advice on how to pursue those at the university.

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7. Go to a Student Government meeting.
Find out when your school’s Student Government opens its meetings to the public, and then attend a few. Not only will you learn about the major issues affecting your school (which, in turn, helps you become a more involved student), but you will also hear about upcoming events and opportunities when SGA members and people in the audience make their announcements.

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8. Seek out all the hot spots on campus.
Figure out where people congregate. Is it outside the Student Union? Next to the gym? Outside of the dorms? Usually where the crowds are, the action is too. Street Teams will generally be handing out fliers for their clubs’ events, and other organizations will have tables set up where they can answer any of your questions. If you have no idea where to start in your campus involvement, this may work best for you.

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9. Do your part.
Find a local charity or cause, either through the school or on your own, and figure out a way to give back. If your school does not have a support system set up for a cause that means something to you, then create your own fundraisers or organization to help out.

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10. Go to the “cheesy” events.
True, you might not want to go to that all-freshman event that your school is putting on, or you might think that the activities that your RAs have set up are kind of lame… but if you have nothing else to do, then go anyway! You’ll probably meet new people and even have a good time while you’re there! Going to an event you might not normally be interested can actually open the door to other opportunities if you keep your mind open.

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11. Talk to everyone.
As you’re forging new connections on campus, you can always tag along to the clubs that your friends are already involved with. Find out what interests others if you aren’t sure what interests you, and see if you have something in common or if there is something new that you will want to try.

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12. Join an intramural sports team.
So you’ve always enjoyed flag football, but never had the chance to pursue it on a team? Join one in college! I have friends at all different schools who have joined soccer, ultimate frisbee and other intramural teams that have helped them to maintain healthy lifestyles and build a deeper sense of community. Go to your school’s gym or athletics center and talk to them about intramural opportunities.

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13. Network with faculty.
Even though I’m only a sophomore now, I wish I had done this earlier in my college career. (More on that in December’s post!) Talk to your professors, advisers and program coordinators now — meet them during office hours, ask questions and let them know who you are and what you’re all about! I only started talking to my available faculty resources recently, and already it has opened up some doors for growth and opportunity and further advisement. Often they have some great ideas on how you can get started on the right path.

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14. Stay plugged in with social media.
As technology becomes an even greater staple of our lives, it also becomes the main communication tool for many clubs and organizations on campus. Be sure to check your email often, but also look for updates on Facebook, Twitter, blog pages and other forms of new media. Find out what your clubs of interest are using, and don’t miss out on an event just because you didn’t know where to look for it!

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15. Be strong and take charge.
You don’t need to be excessively aggressive, but look out for yourself. If you see an opportunity that looks amazing to you, pursue it. Know when to say no, but know when to say yes as well… and welcome anything new and exciting that comes your way! You won’t accomplish much just sitting in your room by yourself. You have to be a go-getter and take advantage of what you want!

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For those of you who are/were involved on campus, how did you get started? What helped you to develop your presence in college?