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?

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 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!

Unhealthy Relationships: 5 Signs That the Nice Guy Isn’t So Nice

This article was originally published as a guest post on HUGStronger in September 2012, a college advice blog that has since been discontinued, and was later reposted on College Relationships here.

We’ve all been warned.  Before leaving for college, we receive a surplus of information from older friends, advising us both academically and socially.  These friends also share their dating wisdom, cautioning us against falling for the “wrong” kind of guy.

Pop culture portrays the “wrong guy” as the unmotivated slacker who skates by on an academic probation, or as the misogynist who only wants you for your looks.  However, during my freshman year, I learned that the wrong guy can be difficult to spot, because he often disguises himself as the nice guy you can’t help but trust.

That fall, I met a boy with whom I instantly connected.  We fell into an easy friendship that eventually developed into more.  With little dating experience behind me, I took his seemingly charming personality at face value.

In time, I learned that his “nice guy” routine was exactly that – a routine.  He simultaneously pursued multiple girls who had no knowledge of each other, while feeding them the same lines and spreading hurtful rumors. Ultimately, I realized our relationship was unhealthy and would only drag me down.

Nice guys do exist, and I’ve dated a few since then. However, when dealing with new guys, watch out for red flags:

ran-into-my-ex21. He says mostly negative things about his ex-girlfriends.
If he tells you extremely personal (or insulting) details about previous girlfriends, chances are he’ll say the same things about you when you break up.  Of course, you don’t want to date someone who still loves his ex-girlfriend, but if he seems particularly vindictive toward the girls he’s dated, you might want to break things off.

2. He likes to tell you about all of his admirers.
Even when he claimed to be interested in only me, my not-so-nice guy would constantly rant about the many girls who were “in love” with him.  I’m not a jealous person, but I often wondered why he needed to share this knowledge.  It’s one thing if other girls find him attractive; it’s another thing if he’s using that information to try and upset you.

3. He mixes up his stories.
First he tells you that he was spending time with his boys last night.  Then he casually slips in that another girl was there.  Then he gets annoyed when you ask him for details about his evening, and accuses you of not trusting him.  What starts out as simple curiosity can quickly morph into suspicion.

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that4. He plays hot and cold with your emotions.
If a guy is sending you mixed signals for any prolonged period of time, he’s not that into you.  If he’s truly worth your time, he will make it known that he’s interested, and he won’t keep you guessing whether or not he wants a relationship.

5. He disguises condescending remarks as compliments.
In trying to win me back, my not-so-nice guy once explained that I had grown since we last parted ways, and that he now felt more attracted to me because of how “assertive” I had become. (Translation: “Now that you’re unattainable, I consider you a challenge worth pursuing.”) The truth was, I hadn’t changed much in that time, and I didn’t need his affirmation that I had “grown” enough to be worth his attention. Remember, you deserve to be treated well no matter how much you still have left to learn or accomplish. (Tweet this!)

Not-so-nice guys come in all forms. Be aware of the warning signs, so that you won’t fall into the same traps as many others.  Don’t settle for anyone who treats you as anything less than you deserve.

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: What I’ve Learned (Year 4)

blair waldorf graduationIt’s hard to believe that when I first started blogging, I was only halfway through my freshman year of college. At the time, I thought that a blog would be a fun avenue for me to share the thoughts and ideas that I was too shy to say aloud, but in the years that followed, the blog became so much more.

In April 2010, we started with the very first Freshman 15, focusing on 15 of the things I had learned in my first year of college (some serious, some practical and some silly). Throughout the year, I created other Freshman 15 lists as well, focusing on specific topics like overcoming homesickness, making friends and navigating college relationships. Then, every following April, I listed 15 new things I had learned that year (see year 2 and year 3).

A lot has happened in the last four years. I’m shocked every time I receive an email about picking up my cap and gown, or filling out my college exit surveys, because I still feel like the awkward 18-year-old girl who navigated the university by map, the girl who couldn’t boil water to save her life and who hoped to meet her soulmate in the residence halls. Now, with just a few final exams left to go, I’ll share 15 lessons that I’ve learned since I first started college.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 4)

1. Stick around if you can afford it.
I meet a lot of underclassmen who enter college with junior standing and who hope to finish their four-year degree in two years. While I understand the financial reasons behind this, I would encourage you not to rush through your program if you can help it. So many of these students think that by taking on an overwhelming course load in the hope of graduating early, they will be able to begin graduate programs at a younger age. However, if you stretch your degree out to three and a half or four years, you will have the opportunity to participate in research, internships, extracurriculars and other activities that will make you more well-rounded and boost your chances of admission. It also allows you to pick up an extra major or minor if that interests you.

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2. Use university resources early on.
Know what resources the university offers, and don’t wait until the last minute to use them. Even though I attended a lot of workshops and events as a freshman, there was a lot that I didn’t know about until my senior year. Currently, in my position at the university’s career center, I have encountered so many students who are just weeks away from graduation and having someone on campus look at their resume for the first time. Find out what your school provides for its students, and use it! You are paying for it, after all. 🙂

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barney3. Know how to dress professionally.
In college, you may be invited to a “business casual” event on a moment’s notice, and you’ll need to know what that entails. Invest in a professional wardrobe so that you’ll always be ready for the next job fair, interview or networking event. Ladies (and gentlemen, too, I suppose), make sure you avoid anything too short or low-cut. If you would wear it downtown to a bar/it has sequins on it, it’s probably not okay to wear.

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4. Always keep your resume updated.
Don’t be the graduating senior who never made a resume before. Start a resume early in your college career, and add in the details over time. I’ve met some people who even kept a secondary list of organizations and jobs they have been a part of, and then they referred to that list every time they crafted a new resume for a different employer.

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5. Some industries are harder to break into than others.
I honestly didn’t know this until last semester. Whichever field you hope to work in, do a little research so you can decide if the job availability after graduation is worth it. (It might be. And your passion for a subject may surpass any worries you have about your future salary, but this is still something to keep in mind.)

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header6. Have some ideas about what you can potentially do with your major.
No, you don’t need to know what you’re going to be when you grow up – at least not right away – but it’s good to at least be aware of what types of career paths are possible with your major. A few months ago, I met a psychology student who was interested in graduate programs but disliked people and animals. As you can imagine, it was difficult to think of a career path he could follow in psychology that wouldn’t focus on either of these areas. Think about why you selected your particular major and research some of the careers that could potentially follow graduation. (Also, find out if they require further education or certification!)

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7. You won’t be loved by everyone at every moment.
Sometimes you have to say or do the unpopular thing, and it may make you feel like a villain. Nevertheless, it’s important to stand up for yourself and what you think is right, and at times, that means saying something that people won’t want to hear.

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8. DS4303evelop new skills whenever possible.
Find new ways to diversify your skill set. Learn a new film editing software, master a programming language, practice ballroom dance or try out a new recipe in the kitchen. Whether your aim is to boost the “skills” section on your resume or to become more well-rounded, learning new skills is an excellent way to exercise your brain. (Nunchuck skills are always a plus.)

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9. Do what makes you happy.
Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, all too often we worry about what others think about our actions, and let it define our happiness. Unless others are warning you against a potentially dangerous situation, you are perfectly entitled to make your own decisions, so long as they don’t negatively impact everyone around you.

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10. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Just as much as we need to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of everything we do, we need to stop having such strong opinions about what everybody else is doing. Let others live their lives without so much judgment. Again, unless you are warning someone against a potentially dangerous situation, you should probably stay out of any situation you haven’t been invited into.

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11. Burnout exists. Give yourself a break.
As a complete workaholic, I fall especially victim to this one. Make sure that even when life is at its most hectic, you are taking care of your health and getting some semblance of sleep here and there. Check out this great article by Leonie Dawson for more tips on dealing with burnout.

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HermioneRonHarry12. True friends are hard to come by, but you will find them.
You are bound to meet a lot of people when you start college, but not all of them will become your lifelong friends. Your true friends will be the ones who celebrate your successes and help you through the rough times without expecting anything in return. That’s the key – your friends won’t have to remind you of what they’ve done for you, because they know you do the same for them.

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13. Take advantage of student discounts.
With graduation looming closer and closer, I can practically see all of the wonderful discounts that come with being a student just vanishing before me. Know that local venues, attractions and conferences will give you student discounts, because those can really help you out.

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14. Time management is everything.
Do whatever you need to do to stay ahead of your school work and obligations, because as soon as you fall behind, things will begin to snowball. Managing your time effectively will help you to avoid the burnout that affects so many of us! Here are 15 time management tips, many of which I use to this day!

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15. Learn the balance of yes and no. (Tweet this!)
This is a lesson that I am learning every day. When you first start college, you will want to join every club and be in 10 places at once. Unfortunately, there is only one of you and only 24 hours in the day. Learn to prioritize and figure out, over time, what you can and can’t commit to. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – trust me, you will regret it!

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What are some of the things you’ve learned during your time in college?

The Freshman 15: Tips For Choosing College Classes

For many of us, it is time to begin a brand new school year! On Monday, August 20th, I officially began my senior year of college, and with it came four awesome new classes (Guest Services Management, Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism, Theme Park Management and Writing for Publications). Ever since high school, I have enjoyed setting up my class schedules and planning out several semesters at a time, but in college, I received formal training on schedule planning through several jobs and advising offices on campus. Therefore, it is my honor to share some of my knowledge with each of you, as you embark on your first year of college (or second, or third, or sixth…) and begin setting up your own schedules for future semesters.

Wishing each of you a wonderful new school year, and looking forward to hearing how it goes!

The Freshman 15: Tips For Choosing College Classes

1. Start your day early.
When students first enroll in college, many are tempted by the idea that they no longer have to start the day at 7:30 a.m. and follow the same schedule they did in high school. Because of this, many end up scheduling all of their classes late in the day, and use the morning and early afternoon to sleep and play video games. Although you certainly have the freedom to do this, I would advise against setting up your schedule this way… instead, try to set up some earlier classes (9 a.m., perhaps, or 10?) to ensure that you’re up early enough to be productive. If you schedule all of your classes in the afternoon and evening, you may be more likely to slack off during the day and miss out on some of your responsibilities, but if you’re already up for a morning class, you will likely have the energy to accomplish more on a daily basis. Do this for your first few semesters, at least, until you have developed a greater sense of discipline in a college setting.

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2. Start planning ahead of time.
When you first select your major, consider creating a four-year plan based on the required coursework and necessary internships. It’s a good practice, during your freshman year, to know that you will take your prerequisites during specific semesters and your capstone classes as a senior. Have a basic idea of what classes you will need and when you will want to take those, and keep this plan in your records for future registration periods.

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3. Meet with your adviser.
When you’re creating your four-year plan, don’t forget to make an appointment with an adviser – at least in the beginning! Advisers are often untapped resources, but they have a lot of expertise on various undergraduate programs and can lead you in the right direction when you’re trying to select the track that’s right for you. They can also help you choose elective classes that will complement your major.

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4. If the class requires an override and you’re still a freshman, chances are you shouldn’t take it yet.
Because of my experiences with accelerated Honors freshmen (pre-med students in particular!), I have definitely met my share of new college students who wanted overrides into classes they weren’t ready to take, such as Organic Chemistry. Now, I absolutely admire their work ethic, and I do not doubt their intelligence, but we almost always advise against enrolling freshmen in classes like these because transitioning to college is already a full-time job. Figuring out how to learn in a university setting instead of a high school classroom can be a challenge in itself, but combine that with other away-from-home responsibilities and the balance of extracurriculars and a social life. You don’t need to start out with your hardest classes right away. Allow yourself to ease into college life, and save Organic Chemistry for another semester or two.

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5. Be aware of extra components of a class before enrolling.
Does your class have a lab component? Many students don’t consider this before they set up their schedules, and wind up ruining their grades because they didn’t schedule enough time to attend their labs. In addition, some classes require service learning projects, so it is important to be aware of this prior to enrolling in the class to avoid any surprises or disappointments. Pay very close attention to those sometimes-hidden extras when signing up for your classes.

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6. Your course catalog is your best friend.
Different schools treat their course catalogs differently, but it is important to be aware of what prerequisites and core classes your major requires before scheduling your semester. Simple enough, right? However, it’s important to make sure that even as a communications major, you take the correct math courses, and that as an an engineer, you take the speech class that is designated for your major. You should also be aware of other requirements, such as internships, co-ops, and applications to limited access programs. Keeping your course catalog on hand is an excellent way to stay up-to-date.

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7. Take your general education classes early.
Most colleges require their students to take a few general classes first, such as English, basic mathematics, foreign language and sciences. However, these classes can also serve as the building blocks for the classes you will have to take later in your major. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to take these in your freshman and sophomore year so that you can then access your more advanced courses. For example, pre-med students usually opt to take their introductory biology and chemistry courses as early as their first semester so that they can move on to anatomy and physiology and other major-specific classes. Taking gen-eds early is also a good idea because it allows you to get the classes you don’t want to take out of the way as early as possible. (I haven’t had to take a math class since the beginning of my freshman year, and I couldn’t be happier!)

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8. Use RateMyProfessors.com, but do so sparingly.
RateMyProfessors.com can be an excellent resource for learning about your professors ahead of time. You can gain a greater expectation of what your professor typically requires from the class you are going to take, how easy or difficult other students perceive him or her to be, and what the professor’s personality is like. However, be careful when you use this website, because one student’s opinion may completely differ from your own. I took one professor’s class upon reading his reviews on this site, but wounded up hating every minute of his class because I considered him to be bigoted and rude. Conversely, I have taken professors with negative reviews and actually enjoyed their classes. Take each review with a grain of salt.

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9. Talk to older students.
Yes, advisers can be extremely helpful, but often you can get some of the best advice from students who are just a few years ahead of you. Students are a fantastic resource because they have undergone the same experiences as you not that long ago, and so they are most likely to understand your situation and have the best ideas as far as classes to take, professors to avoid, minors and certificates to consider and organizations to join. Having a mentor can take away a lot of the stress, and will make you feel less alone when selecting classes and solving the problems that can go along with it.

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10. Be wary of online classes, but take them if you think you can.
I have mixed feelings about online classes. I won’t warn you against them completely, because I think they can be extremely rewarding and they allow you to work at your own pace. However, I don’t suggest taking them in your first semester or two of college, because you are still figuring out your learning style and trying to develop your time management skills, and online classes may provide too much freedom and too little structure for a college freshman. However, once you have adjusted to university life and think you can handle an online class, feel free to try it out!

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11. Learn the rules of your college and be aware of legislation that could affect your education.
In Florida, the public state schools face “excess hour laws” that limit the number of courses a student can take and still receive in-state benefits. Because of this, students nowadays have to be especially careful when choosing their classes so that they can keep their scholarships. In addition, most scholarships require you to take a certain number of credit hours, so it is important to know about this as well before you decide to “take it easy” one semester. Keep up-to-date on these rules and regulations, and your bank account will thank you later.

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12. Take at least one class that genuinely excites you.
Let’s face it — it’s difficult to drag yourself out of bed to go to classes that completely bore you. If your schedule consists only of classes that you’re taking to “get them out of the way,” then chances are (unless you have a fantastic professor and discover that you love the subject) you won’t really enjoy your semester. Therefore, it is important to take a class that you are willing to get out of your dorm room to attend. During my freshman year, that class was my Creative Writing class — even as I surrounded myself with math/science classes that I dreaded, I made sure I had a class that I could use as an outlet. This made my semester a whole lot smoother.

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13. Have backups ready.
During registration periods, classes can fill up quickly. As a freshman, you may not have first priority when selecting your classes, which means that you will have to be flexible and consider viable alternatives. Therefore, before registration periods begin, be sure to have at least three additional classes on the back burner so that if some of your first choices are unavailable, you will still have useful classes to take and won’t feel completely overwhelmed as you rearrange your schedule.

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14. Be honest with yourself and know what you’re capable of.
If you hate studying and aren’t accustomed to a heavy course load, then don’t sign up for 18 credit hours right off the bat. Ease yourself into a schedule that works for you, and add on additional classes in future semesters after you’ve gotten used to a smaller amount. Don’t bite off more than you can chew in your first semester, because if things don’t go well, you will feel more discouraged in future semesters. Challenge yourself, but don’t overdo it.

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15. Learn from your experiences.
Evaluate yourself after each semester, and plan your subsequent schedules accordingly. If you find that you aren’t well suited for online classes, for example, then try sticking to face-to-face classes every chance you get. If you take a class with a professor that you love, see if you can take more with him or her. If you’re an engineering student who realizes she hates her math and science classes, consider changing your major. College is full of transitions, and during the next four years, you will learn a lot about yourself, your interests and your personal learning style. Analyze those discoveries and figure out how best to apply them to your life.

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College freshmen: What questions do you have about choosing college courses? What other questions do you have about the college experience? Is there a particular “Freshman 15” you’d like to see?

Other students and graduates: What advice do you have for students who are trying to plan their class schedules?

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

Today 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)

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 Freshman 15: High School Vs. College

Whenever I think back to my high school life, I am amazed at how much has changed since then. Gone are the days of cheerleading, yearbook editing and wishing the right guy would ask me to the prom. I no longer have to wait until the first week of school to know what classes I’m taking with whom, nor am I stuck in limbo between very defined clique structures.

Of course, life at a 4-year university has its benefits as well as its challenges, but it overall tends to differ from one’s high school experiences. This month, we’ll explore some of those differences and talk about what it really means to make the transition from high school to college!

The Freshman 15: High School Vs. College

1. Grades are much harder to bring up.
Not to scare you (well, maybe a little!), but a lot of college classes — especially the general education requirements you’ll take as a freshman or sophomore — base your grade on relatively fewer assignments than the classes you took in high school ever did. Remember all those busy-work projects you did in your 10th grade English class that didn’t require much thought but still managed to boost your grades? For the most part, you won’t see those again in college. In fact, many college classes rely on only three exam grades and don’t bother to assess you for attendance, homework assignments or additional work. That’s not to say that all classes are like that, but in classes like these, it is important that you do your very best because every grade counts.

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2. Being smart isn’t a bad thing!
Nerdiness may be in the eye of the beholder, but students who get good grades and care about the subject material aren’t going to be looked down upon. Being invested in the course content and maintaining your grades is vital in college, and everyone who wants to go anywhere in life is also going to put the same kind of effort in. Be proud of your work ethic — own it!

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3. There isn’t one set path to follow.
Whether you’re a communications dork like me or you aspire to become a Pixar animator, you have a variety of choices that you alone must make. You shape your education. When I was in high school, I felt a lot of pressure to take AP classes in subjects that didn’t interest me, and felt like I was being pushed toward a math/science education when it didn’t suit my interests or strengths. In college, you may still have to take a few of those classes that don’t interest you as much, but you will also have a greater opportunity to choose classes and major concentrations that will benefit you personally. No pressure.

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4. You take greater responsibility for your work.
Because your college classes will guide you through a major that you chose, you will find more enjoyment and fulfillment in the course material and assignments. Will you still have projects that you would rather not do? Of course… that is unavoidable! However, you will have a lot fewer of those assignments. A film major’s class project will likely relate to filmmaking, which in turn will add to his body of work and play to his interests. Similarly, a biology student will probably enjoy the dissections because they relate to her eventual career in the medical field. Because of this, students tend to be more invested in the classes within their majors and work harder to achieve the course objectives.

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5. Professors aren’t breathing down your neck.
I had a History teacher in 11th grade who berated students in front of the class for not completing their assignments, and lectured them privately afterward as well. (This same teacher also told my parents that I was “smart” but that there was “something missing,” so I can’t say I was a huge fan.) In college, your professors most likely aren’t going to talk to you in the same way. If you miss an assignment for no excusable reason, you will get a zero, plain and simple. Your professor isn’t going to insult you for it, nor will he or she necessarily remind you of future upcoming deadlines. There will still be consequences for not completing your work, but you will have to be proactive and remind yourself of those.

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6. The way you present yourself will have a huge impact on your success.
This does not mean that your image doesn’t matter in high school. However, it matters even more in college. What you put on the Internet, for example, can play a bigger role in whether or not you are accepted for certain jobs or on-campus positions. I have a professor who actually looks his students up on Facebook before the semester begins to determine whether or not any of them have questionable content on their pages. (He doesn’t do it to be judgmental of students — he actually does it because he wants to remind us of what we’re putting out there.) In addition, it’s important to present yourself as responsible and professional in various settings because you never know who might be watching!

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7. You can escape the cliques (to an extent).
Cliques arise in every major, organization and residence hall on campus, but not in the same way they do in high school. If you want to escape the people you’ve known since elementary school, you absolutely can. You’re also not limited to such defined groups… I have friends who are officers in my organization, friends I hang out with most on weekends, friends I can have my girly-talks with, friends in my major and many others. Some of them intermingle and overlap, so I don’t feel like I’m in a clique the same way many other people are. You don’t have to be part of one group, and even if you are, you don’t have to define yourself entirely by the people you spend your time with.

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8. You meet people with vastly different life experiences.
Chances are, you went to high school with people you grew up with, who lived in the same town you did and who belonged to similar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. In college, you are most likely to come in contact with people whose religious and political views differ from your own, who challenge your way of thinking and teach you something new. I have a lot of friends who grew up in different places than I did, and I love learning about the way they each grew up. Meeting people with diverse backgrounds is important because it teaches you to get along with people who aren’t exactly like you, and it helps you gain a stronger understanding of them.

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9. You have a greater sense of freedom.
You may still be linked to your parents’ bank accounts, but being away from home gives you freedom you probably didn’t have when you lived with Mom and Dad. Missed your curfew? No problem — you create your own curfew now. Want to grow unsightly facial hair? Go on ahead… your parents aren’t going to be there to tell you how scraggly your new beard looks. (Bonus points if you’re a girl.) However, this freedom requires a certain level of responsibility. Yes, you can stay out as late as you want, but you have to decide whether it’s worth the mere three hours of sleep you’ll be able to get before your class (or if it’s worth skipping the class entirely). No, you won’t have to answer to your parents, but you will have to answer to yourself.

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10. You can use awesome free and inexpensive resources that you may never have again.
Your student activity fees and tuition grant you access to a variety of unique resources that most people have to pay a lot of money for in the real world. From gym membership to career planning to on-site health care, your university provides many things that you should take advantage of while you have the chance, things that you likely didn’t receive for free before you entered college. Many colleges also provide counseling services that would be much more expensive in “the real world,” so if you need them, now is the perfect time!

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11. Your professors will assign work without concern for your other classes.
Let’s face it — we’re all going to have days when every assignment seems to be due at once, and exams have piled on top of each other. (For me, that day is going to be April 3.) In high school, some teachers are aware of what others are assigning, and will try to schedule their due dates around that because many of their students are in both classes. But in college, your speech professor won’t care that your statistics test and government paper are due on the same day that you have to deliver your speech; rather, he will continue to schedule assignment due dates at his own convenience.

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12. Your professors care about the material and have relevant work experience.
This is not meant to knock down any high school teachers — many of them are extremely well-qualified and have a love for the subject they teach! I merely mean to say that your college professors will definitely be interested in their course matter and often hold graduate degrees in that subject. Your professor may ultimately hook you up with an internship or give you important job advice down the line. Most likely, your art history professor didn’t decide to teach art history because it was an available teaching position, but rather because he or she conducts important research in that field and truly knows a lot about it.

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13. Your email address cannot be ridiculous.
I’ll admit, I still have my childish email address linked to my Facebook… but I do not give it out to anyone! To all of the LilHotties and SexyMamas of the Internet world, create a more straightforward jane.blart@website.org address that you can give to potential employers and professors. A professional email address (instead of something you picked out in fourth grade) can make or break your success in a way that it never did in high school.

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14. You will live with someone you don’t really know.
Most high schoolers live with their parents/guardians and siblings, not with people they barely know. However, many college students are assigned to live in dorm rooms with complete strangers, which requires them to develop more patience and respect for others’ space. Random roommates don’t always work out well, but many times they do.

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15. You develop more real world experience than ever.
You may have had a part-time job in high school, but as a college student, you will be able to experience major-related internships and on-campus opportunities that relate to your future career. College gives you the chance to pursue your dreams by exposing you to the right people that will help you make it happen!

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What differences have you noticed between high school and college? What other college topics would you like to read about?