From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know For a Successful Freshman Year

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearIt’s hard to believe that just six years ago, I was packing up my childhood bedroom and moving to Orlando for college. At times, I still picture myself as that awkward 18-year-old girl who was so excited to take those first few steps toward adulthood. In many ways, mine was the traditional college experience: four years of changing majors, making friends, hosting theme parties, interning around town, cramming for finals, dating the wrong guys and joining more clubs than a sane person should. My undergraduate years still hold some of my favorite memories, and taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know.

For many of you, those first few days of freshman year are just around the corner, and you’re probably having a lot of mixed feelings. Whether you’re nervous, enthusiastic or somewhere in between, this blog will guide you through some of the most important aspects of your college experience, from A to Z.

A – Appearance
As superficial as it may sound, it’s important to put an effort into your appearance! Your university’s dress code may technically allow you to roll into your lecture hall in pajamas… but that doesn’t mean you should. The way you dress plays a big role in the first impression you give off in class, among new friends and in front of professors and potential employers.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearB – Books
Unless your professor requires some special edition that isn’t offered elsewhere, don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Rent them through third-party vendors, visit local used bookstores or buy your books online. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!

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C – Choosing a Major
Don’t worry if you don’t have it figured out right now. Take some time to enjoy your general education classes and to take an introductory course that interests you. For more tips on how to choose the right major for you, click here.

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D – Dorm Life
This may be your first time sharing a bedroom or bathroom with someone, so make sure you talk to your new roommate(s) about your expectations and responsibilities. A new dorm room is also the perfect excuse to decorate, so have fun personalizing your new home!

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E – Extra Credit
If your professor offers extra credit, always do it. You might not think you need it, but when your grade is dangling at an 89 at the end of the semester and you need that extra point, you’ll thank yourself.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearF – Friends
Open yourself up to the possibility, and you might meet your best friend in college. Get involved, talk to people in your classes and in the dorms, say yes to social outings and don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble.

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G – Greek Life
Rushing a fraternity or a sorority can be a great way to make an overwhelmingly big university a whole lot smaller. If the idea of Greek sounds interesting, talk to older friends who have gone through the process and decide if it’s right for you!

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H – Health
Above all, you must prioritize your health. Avoid the typical Freshman 15 weight gain with these helpful pointers, and remember to take care of yourself when illness strikes. Utilize the gym, health center, counseling facilities and other campus resources to maintain your physical and mental health. Because college can be a stressful time for many, staying healthy and happy is often at the bottom of our lists.

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I – Independence
If you are living in a dorm room or away from home, college is a great opportunity to test out your newfound independence. It will be fun to make more of your own decisions and to not have a curfew, but it will also teach you the importance of finding a balance.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearJ – Joining Clubs
Joining clubs on campus will allow you to meet likeminded people, have a good time and possibly even develop yourself professionally. It’s a great way to connect with your university and find leadership opportunities early on. Find organizations that interest you and attend the info sessions – you have nothing to lose!

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K – Kindness
This should go without saying, but remember to treat others with kindness. You’ll meet people whose lifestyles, beliefs and upbringings are radically different from yours, so it is important to be openminded and still respect others regardless of your differences.

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L – Learning For Learning’s Sake
You’ll get so wrapped up in prerequisites and major classes that you might forget that college is, among other things, a place to learn. Take a few elective classes in areas that interest you regardless of what requirements they fulfill. Enjoy the act of learning.

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M – Mentors
Find an older student, a community member or a professor who inspires you, and turn to that person as a mentor. This is a great way to start building your network, and you’ll also have someone to ask for advice on classes, internships and more. If you don’t know where to start, see if your school offers any organized mentorship programs to pair you with someone!

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearN – Networking
I cannot stress the importance of networking enough! It may sound terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Get to know people every chance you get. You never know who will be able to help you out in the future — or whom you’ll be able to help. Networking helped me land a job right out of college! Read more about my experience here.

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O – Office Hours
Your professors are required to hold office hours, so attend them. They can be a great resource when the class material just isn’t clicking, and it’s always an added bonus for the professor to put a face to your name.

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P – Partying
Enjoy having a social life, but learn to do so responsibly. Remember why you came to college in the first place.

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Q – Quiet Space
Find your quiet space on campus for when you need to study or simply get away. Whether it’s the top floor of the library or a secluded corner of a campus garden, find that quiet space and use it when you need it.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearR – Romance
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who meets your soulmate on the quad that first week of school, you’ll probably have your share of good and bad relationships in college, and that’s okayFrom every “failed” relationship, you’ll learn something – or at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell. (My exes had better beware of my memoir! 🙂 ) Enjoy the ride.

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S – School Spirit
Soak it up! Wear your university colors, attend sporting events and be proud of the institution you attend. Don’t pretend you’re “too cool” for it. The time will eventually pass and you’ll wish you’d enjoyed yourself more.

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T – Time Management
Find an organizational style that fits you, and use it. Having strong time management skills will allow you to balance classwork, extracurriculars, work and a social life. The more you hone these skills now, the better prepared you will be for the future!

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U – Unique Opportunities
In college, the world is your oyster. If an opportunity sounds too good to pass up, take it! Study abroad for a semester. Volunteer in another city for an alternative spring break. Run for student government. Take advantage of these opportunities while you’re still in school, as they might never come back around once you graduate.

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V – Values
Be true to yourself. Know what is important to you, and keep that close to your heart as you make decisions in college. Don’t let others push you into something that makes you uncomfortable or puts you in danger.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearW – Wallet
Learn how to budget and take care of your finances. Learn to live within your means. Your money habits now will shape the way you spend and save long after you graduate.

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X – eXams
The dreaded exams will pop up every semester at least once, so it’s important to prepare for them. For more on how to survive your final exams, check out my article on Career Camel.

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Y – You Time
Take time for yourself. College can be a very social environment, and I encourage you to take advantage of that, but it’s always good to spend some time alone without worrying about others. “Treat yo self” to a night in every now and then, or focus on putting together that DIY Pinterest project you’ve had your eye on. Making time for yourself will help you maintain your sanity when life gets stressful.

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Z – Zero Tolerance
Love yourself enough not to tolerate negative treatment. Have zero tolerance for the people or situations that make you feel lesser than. If a friendship or relationship is making you miserable, leave. If you dread being part of a certain organization, quit. Life is too short to waste on people who treat you like crap.

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Best of luck to all of those starting college this fall! Readers, what are your tips for incoming freshmen?

Discover Your #DormStyle: Designing the Perfect Ocean-Inspired Dorm Room

Source: Wayfair.com

Source: Wayfair.com

With the summer just flying by, many of my readers are already gearing up for the upcoming fall term. For some of you, it will be your first semester in college, and with that comes many adventures: choosing your major, meeting new people and getting involved on campus! When I was a student, one of my favorite experiences was living in the dorms and in student-affiliated housing. Not only was it a great opportunity for me to make friends and live away from home for the first time, but it also gave me the chance to decorate my brand new space!

Flash forward to two years after I graduated from college, and I still love to decorate. Earlier this month, I moved into a brand new apartment, with decorations partially inspired by Old Hollywood and partially inspired by my love for all things aquatic. (Hello, I am a Floridian!) As part of Wayfair.com‘s #DormStyle campaign, I’ll be sharing my tips for designing the perfect ocean-inspired dorm room. 🙂 Feel free to share your favorite findings or your own personal dorm style in the comments section below!

  • Bedding
    Your bedding will set the tone for your entire dorm room, so you’ll want to do it right! For a fabulously aquatic dorm, stick with blues, greens and white. I love this comforter set from Wayfair (pictured above), even though it isn’t explicitly nautical. The fun shapes and colors are still subtle enough to go with your other fixtures and decorations, but still exciting enough to draw the eye.
  • Wall Decorations
    Another great way to show off your dorm style is with fun wall art. Aquatic canvases are definitely in vogue, and you can find some unique pieces at your local off-price stores if you’re willing to dig through the home goods sections. Everyone who has been to one of my parties knows about my unapologetic love for seahorses (I literally hosted a “seahorse seashell party” for my 22nd birthday), so naturally I gravitate toward those art pieces that feature seahorses. These gorgeous Etsy pieces are handmade and add some texture to the mix.
  • Light Fixtures
    Depending on your dorm room setup, you might not get a whole lot of natural light in the room, so light fixtures are a must! A basic floor lamp like this one from Target can (quite literally) light up your whole room. Pick a blue that matches your bedspread or a white shade that is a little more neutral.
  • Organizers
    You’ll be limited on space when you move into the dorms, so you’ll definitely want to invest in some organizers. These bins from Kohl’s are adorable and will help you save some space. Look for bins with similar color palettes or patterns to your overall theme, while still neutral enough to keep around if you decide to switch to a new theme.
  • Miscellaneous
    When you’re shopping, consider pieces that feature anchors, ship wheels and sea creatures. Browse your favorite home goods stores, look for inspiration on Pinterest and check out Wayfair for more #DormStyle posts. Have fun when decorating your dorm room and be creative! The world is your oyster. (Get it?) 🙂

For more dorm room essentials, check out my list of must-haves. You won’t regret it!

Link Love Wedneday: The Baby-Sitter’s Club Revival

1,_Kristy's_Great_IdeaGood evening, friends. I don’t know about you, but I am just loving the month of October so far! I have already begun decorating the apartment for Halloween, and this past weekend, I enjoyed our first cold front of the season at a beautiful green spring. It is shaping up to be another beautiful month!

What are you looking forward to this month?

Share your own October plans in the comments section below, and in the meantime, enjoy this week’s round of Link Love!

What are your favorite articles from the week? Sound off below!

The Freshman 15: Avoiding College Weight Gain

The Freshman 15: Avoiding College Weight GainAhhhh, college weight gain. It’s the reason the term “Freshman 15,” which I’ve borrowed for my blog’s college advice series, even exists at all! Although the Freshman 15 is a popular subject (and fear!) among college students, I have avoided writing about it in the past because of my personal struggles with weight and body image.

My weight fluctuated in college, and crept up on the scale in the months following my graduation. Much like college, my job is very event focused, and I found myself making some unhealthy food decisions based on convenience and stress. However, in February 2014, I decided to make a huge change, adopting a much cleaner diet and dropping nearly 20 pounds in the process. My journey to better health is ongoing (and I could probably write an entire book about it!), but I’ve learned a lot of important lessons along the way that will benefit any college student – or graduate – looking to avoid that dreaded weight gain.

The Freshman 15: Avoiding College Weight Gain

1. Even if it’s free, you don’t have to eat it.
Free food is abundant in a college environment, and it’s the perfect way to draw students in to events on campus. As a college student, I was a sucker for free pizza. Even worse, I consumed tons of free pizza as a college grad because I worked at a lot of university events and pizza was always available. Over time, I learned that free food was NOT always the best option for my waistline! Now, when I know I’m going to be surrounded by unhealthy free foods, I’ll try to eat something beforehand to curb temptations, or I’ll bring along a healthy snack. If you are going to indulge, stick to one slice.

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2. Don’t drink your calories.
Alcohol is filled with hidden calories! We often think about foods being high in calories, but it’s easy to forget that our beverages can be, too. (Personally, if I were allotted 500 calories and could choose between alcohol and chocolate cake, I would always choose the chocolate cake, but that’s just me.) It’s okay to order a drink once in a while, but be wary of how much you consume! Opt for water or make your drinks skinny to trim back some of the calories.

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calories3. Prepare meals at home.
Not only are you saving money by eating at home, but you are also more likely to cut your calories and avoid many of the unhealthy hidden ingredients found in restaurant food. While many menus do have some “lighter fare” options, you still don’t always know how much sodium or what quality ingredients are used in your meal. When you cook at home, you are the one in control!

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4. Walk to class.
Unless your college campus is spread widely throughout the city, walking to classes can be the perfect way to burn calories throughout the day and sneak in some exercise. My university has horrible parking problems, so walking instead of driving between classes was actually faster for me and a good way to save on gas. If you don’t like to walk, consider riding your bike or skateboard instead!

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5. Make it work in the dorms.
A full kitchen is ideal for meal preparation, but even if you live in the dorms, you can still live a healthy lifestyle. Look for easy, healthy recipes you can prepare in the microwave or store in your mini-fridge. You may not be able to create gourmet dinners you’re comfortable posting on Instagram, but you can still manage some simple meals using the bare minimum.

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SkinnyPop_4_4oz_JW06-copy6. Bring healthy alternatives to parties.
If you’re attending a party or social event and nervous about being tempted by all the unhealthy party foods, bring your own addition. Find nutritious snack recipes that people will enjoy, bring a fruit/veggie platter with hummus (I’m telling you, this can be a huge hit) or even pick up healthier versions of your favorite snack foods. I used to be addicted to super-buttery microwave popcorn (terrible for you AND filled with horrible additives that are linked to a lot of diseases), so I replaced it with Skinny Pop and Boom Chickapop popcorn instead… They have ingredients you can actually pronounce, they have far fewer calories, and they taste delicious! Another favorite of mine is spinach/kale chips from The Better Chip brand, which my friends enjoy as well. Everyone will be able to eat a little healthier, and no one will know the difference. 🙂

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7. Find coupons to buy healthy foods at a lower price.
Since I started eating more produce and keeping certain specialty items in the house for healthy cooking, I’ve noticed my grocery bills have gone up. (I’ve also noticed my restaurant bills have gone down… but I digress.) Look out for coupons at your local grocery store and buy in bulk when possible. Generic brands are usually fine as long as you check your ingredients, and organic doesn’t always make a difference when it comes to certain fruits and veggies. You don’t have to break the bank when shopping for healthier foods, but keep in mind that even when you do spend a little more, you are investing in a healthier future.

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photo_2010_11_10_nutrition_label8. Read your labels.
When I began my first Whole 30, I was amazed to see how many unhealthy (and unnecessary) ingredients were hidden away in many of the foods I commonly bought. In fact, I had to go to a specialty store to buy pickles that didn’t have food dye OR sugar/corn syrup in them! Did you know that many tomato sauces and chicken broths also have sugar in them? As someone who tries to avoid added sugar, I am still amazed at how hard it is to find foods without these sweeteners in them. Keep in mind that “low-calorie” doesn’t always mean “healthy,” and try to purchase foods with better ingredients in them as often as you can.

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9. Find convenient snack and meal options.
Let’s face it – for many of us, preparing clean and beautiful dishes for every meal can be a little unrealistic. When balancing coursework, a job, extra-curricular activities and a social life, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to always have the perfect dinner on-hand. However, this is not an excuse to eat TV dinners and run to the vending machines between classes! Figure out what you can eat when you’re in a major hurry or just too tired to cook. For me, this means stocking up on fruit, carrots and Lara Bars that are perfect for my grab-and-go lifestyle. I also like to hard boil a few eggs at a time and have them ready in my fridge when I need a quick protein-filled fix. Meal replacement shakes can also be a good way to go!

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10. Figure out your healthiest options on campus.
Does your college have a dining hall or food court? Do your research and figure out what meals you can enjoy without sabotaging yourself. The university where I often work has a well-stocked salad bar, which can be a great option when I don’t feel like packing a meal that day. Are you a sandwich enthusiast? Swap out your usual fried chicken for grilled, and consider doing away with the bread altogether! Craving a burrito? Make it a burrito bowl. You can make small changes to cut back while still enjoying the same tastes you love.

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richardsimmons11. Participate in more active social activities.
You don’t have to live at the gym in order to live an active lifestyle. Instead of letting all social activities revolve around food and drinks, consider going for a walk around a new area of town with your friends, or hike in a place you’ve never been before. Go to the beach. Spend the day mini-golfing. Go to a group exercise class together. Power walk around your mall before the stores open, and then go shopping. (Mall Walking: It’s not just for old ladies anymore!) You don’t have to sweat or do anything particularly strenuous, but find ways to get out and move around while still enjoying your friends’ company.

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12. Don’t eat late at night.
Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. Even after 9 p.m., I’ve noticed that food choices tend to become a lot less healthy the later it gets. Pick a cut-off time to stop eating, and stick to it! This will help you skip the late night snacking that plagues so many of us throughout the college years and beyond.

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20131226-23285013. Out of kitchen, out of mind.
Want to stop eating certain foods in excess? Don’t buy them! I found myself eating way more pasta than any normal person should (especially at 5’2” ½), so I stopped keeping it in the apartment. Since I made the decision to stop buying it, my cravings for the food have decreased significantly. I also no longer stock my kitchen with junk food. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a lot harder to mindlessly eat the bad stuff when it isn’t around. (It also helps that my roommate doesn’t keep it in the house, either!)

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14. Build your support system.
Find friends who will be a good influence on you! Ignore the naysayers – they will be out there. When I decided to change my diet for good, I did receive some negative comments from friends and acquaintances, and chances are, you will too. Don’t listen to them. You need to do what is best for you and your health, so spend time with people who also live a healthy lifestyle and are not looking to sabotage yours.

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15. Create lifestyle changes.
For me, diets just don’t work. I have severely cut back on calories and tested out fad diets, and ultimately I learned nothing from the experience and wound up gaining the weight back. This time around, I completed two rounds of the Whole 30, an elimination program designed to help you discover food sensitivities and improve your overall health. Once this was over, I learned that my body hates gluten, sugar gives me headaches and super-processed junk food makes me cranky! (Yes, food really can affect you in more ways than just your weight.) Through this program, I lost a lot of weight and kept it off because I created a lot of new habits and began a lifestyle of about 80/20 clean eating. You can’t just change your food choices temporarily – you have to develop healthy habits if you want to achieve lasting results!

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Readers, have you struggled with college weight gain? What are you doing to combat that? What other topics would you like to read about on The Freshman 15?

Link Love Wednesday: #LoveAtFirstFlight

audrey-hepburn-style-9Some schools are back in session, which means it’s time to trade in those bathing suits for books and return to the classroom. Whether you’ve already begun opening your textbooks or still have a few weeks of summer left, allow yourself to relax with this week’s batch of Link Love!

What are some links you’ve come across in the last week? Share your great finds in the comments section below!

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!

Late Night Link Love: But First, Let Me NOT Take a Selfie

89c7ab46a1158ee92944f06ad3cb0fdcHappy Wednesday and end of July! The month was a bittersweet one for me, as two close friends from college packed up to move out of state, but I’m looking forward to the adventures that August brings. Beginning Friday, I will embark on my third Whole 30, and am excited for other opportunities in the coming month. I will also take advantage of the warm weather and continue to work on my pathetically miniscule tan!

What are you looking forward to in August? Share your own adventures in the comments section, and in the meantime, enjoy another fabulous round of Link Love.

What are some of your favorite articles and links this week? Sound off in the comments below!

The Freshman 15: Managing Your Money in College

15 ways to manage your money in collegeWhen I look back at my college life, I’m proud of how much I accomplished in those four years. I made friends early on, joined organizations on campus, participated in internships and experienced a lot of personal growth along the way. However, one practical skill I wish I’d picked up earlier in my college career was personal finance. I was fortunate (and extremely grateful!) to have my family’s support as an undergraduate, as well as scholarships that paid a significant chunk of my tuition, but I wish I had asked the right questions and developed an interest sooner.

Personal finance is something that a lot of students struggle with, whether that involves saving appropriately for their wants and needs, building their credit scores or even understanding the basics of a checking account. After graduation, I quickly learned the importance of budgeting and using money responsibly, as I acquired new bills I had never dealt with in student housing. Now working in a financial institution, I learn something new every day, and am excited to share my tips for managing your money as a college student! Whether you receive support from your family or are completely financially independent, hopefully some of these tips will help you to save money and stay out of trouble.

The Freshman 15: Managing Your Money in College

1. Take advantage of student discounts and free resources on campus.
Any time you plan to spend money, bring your student ID along for the ride. Local retailers, restaurants and other vendors may offer student discounts that will cut down your expenses, and it never hurts to ask. Some nearby museums and attractions may even offer free admission for college students, and it’s easy to find out which ones simply by googling “free and cheap things to do in ____.” On campus, you can save money as well. Use the university’s gym instead of purchasing a membership elsewhere, or join an intramural team. Instead of hitting the mall on a beautiful summer day, spend some time by the university’s pool. You already pay for these resources through your student activity fees, so why not make the most of them?

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2. Attend workshops.
Chances are, at least one organization on campus offers free workshops on financial topics that are important to college students. Go to the ones that fit your schedule. Different institutions may offer slightly different advice, but the more you attend, the more you learn. Take good notes and ask questions. By familiarizing yourself with these concepts now, you’ll do a better job preparing for the future.

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college overpriced3. Don’t buy new textbooks from the university bookstore.
This is how you guarantee you’ll pay the most for your books. Instead, you have a few options. You can use sites like Amazon to get new books at a cheaper rate, especially if you do so through their private booksellers, or you can buy used through those sites. You can rent books, either through your university or through sites like Chegg. My honors college hosted book buyback as well, where students could advertise old textbooks of theirs at the prices they selected on their own, and others could purchase through that same program. If your university has a program like this, it’s a great way to save money on textbooks and get a little cash back. If not, consider starting one yourself!

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4. Join a credit union.
As a credit union member and employee, I may be a little biased, but credit unions generally pay higher interest on your savings accounts and charge lower interest on your loans. They offer everything a bank would offer, but because they are not-for-profit, there are usually fewer fees associated with your account. Many universities have their own credit unions that students can join and receive special perks or student products, like accounts with no monthly fees. Even if you don’t join a credit union, make sure you know what types of fees your institution will charge so that you can avoid them!

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5. Join something accessible.
Whether you are a credit union member or you prefer using a bank, make sure that you can access your money easily. Does your institution have branches nearby? Do you know where to find the nearest ATM? Do they offer mobile or online banking? Make sure you have the answers to these questions before you commit.

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6. Avoid foreign ATM fees whenever possible.
The solution to this is simple: Unless you’re in a real emergency, use the ATMs for your financial institution only!

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HIMYM7. If you decide to live off campus, get a roommate!
Having a roommate will cut your bills in half and make everything a lot more manageable. Plus, living with someone will improve your quality of life and make things much less lonely off campus!

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8. Become an extreme couponer.
Okay… maybe not an extreme couponer, but you get the idea. Check for discounts on items you use regularly, and use them to stock up on the things that won’t go bad – toothpaste, soap, paper towels and detergent, just to name a few. Meanwhile, avoid buying perishable foods in bulk; even if they are on sale, you may still spend more than you originally planned and wind up throwing some of it away by the expiration date.

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9. Apply for scholarships.
Scholarships are a great way to save money on your education. Check out your school’s financial aid website, listen for announcements around campus and look for scholarships out on the web as well. It doesn’t hurt to apply, and many these scholarships don’t get enough applicants! Hint: If a scholarship deadline is extended, it often means that fewer people have applied for it, which increases your chances of receiving it.

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10. Pay your bills on time, every time.
Keep a schedule of when your payments are due to ensure that you pay them on time. This will help you to build your credit score, which will in turn help you later on as you apply for major loans and even for jobs. If you have a credit card, try to pay the full balance every month to avoid damaging your credit and paying interest on what you owe.

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truly-honored-wedding-ecard-someecards11. Create a budget to stay on track.
A great way to remember to pay your bills is to create a monthly budget that includes your income and expenses, including gas, car payment, rent, utilities and other payments you must make throughout the month. If you’re spending more than you’re saving, adjust accordingly. Go online to find some helpful tools for creating your budget!

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12. Save on gas money.
Carpool to campus, ride your bike or use the school’s shuttle service. If you already live on campus, walk to class! Gas money does add up, and by taking advantage of alternative modes of transportation, you can transfer some of that money into savings.

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13. Transfer 10% of your earnings into a savings account.
The more you save now, the more interest you will earn in the future! If you use direct deposit, you can automatically transfer 10% (or another amount, depending on what you can afford) into a savings account. When paying bills, use the checking account, and try not to dip into your savings.

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credit card14. Be smart about your credit card.
If you do get a credit card as a student, look for a card with no annual fees and low interest. Read the fine print! As mentioned earlier, pay the card on time EVERY time to avoid late payments, interest or other fees. Your card does play a key role in your credit score, so make sure you aren’t using it to pay for things you can’t afford. If you have trouble applying discipline to your spending habits, use a debit card instead – that way, you can’t spend money you don’t have.

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15. Get a job on campus.
Departments on campus often hire student workers and can be flexible with hours based on your class schedule. This helps you save money on gas (you’re already on campus, so you can stay in one place!) and allows you to build connections with people at your university. During my senior year, I worked in the Career Services center at my school, and not only did they allow me to work within a schedule that fit my needs, but I also met a lot of staff, students and faculty members that I still correspond with to this day.

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What are some of your tips for managing your money in college? What other topics would you like to read about on The Freshman 15?

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!