The Weekend Five: Advice for Communication Students

130201587920As some of you may know, I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations. I started my real-life grown-up job just a few weeks later, and as much as I loved my college experience, I’ve since noticed some of the ways my degree program could have better prepared me for the job market. On a more positive note, I have also noticed the things that my major did right, and how important those aspects of college were.

For communication students, finding a job after graduation can be especially difficult. Unless you were snapped up by the company you interned for, it can be challenging to muscle through the job search, while your friends who studied engineering are choosing between multiple competitive offers. However, as students in public relations, advertising and other areas of communication, you can also find ways to stand out to employers and succeed in the workforce.

The Weekend Five: Advice for Communication Students

1. Take more business classes.
Sure, you may have aspirations of becoming an art director or copywriter for a big agency, but a background in business will round out your education and help you not only in your professional life, but in your personal life as well. I used to dread attending my economics and personal finance classes, but looking back, I wish I had put more time into those classes and even taken a few more. Because my major was not in the college of business, we only had to take a minimal number of business classes, and most of our coursework focused on the sometimes nebulous concept of branding. Now working in marketing at a financial institution, I wish I had learned more about the business side of my major. You never know where you’ll end up working, but having a better background in business will ultimately help you to create results in a more tangible way.

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1305521022158_78486322. Internships are your best friends.
Some degree programs require at least one internship – I was lucky to be part of one of those programs. However, at some universities, internships are recommended but not mandatory for graduation. Internships will give you real-life experience and teach you more than you can learn in a classroom, but they also give you portfolio materials to show at job interviews, introduce you to others in your industry and can even lead to full-time work. I interned at four separate companies during my college career, and at three of those internships, my supervisor had graduated from my school and interned at that company several years prior. Even if the company isn’t hiring, putting in the time for an internship is an important investment to make. (Tweet this!)

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3. Save your work.
Keep your press releases, published articles, media advisories and design work – you never know when it will be needed! I saved everything I put together for classes and internships so that when interviewers asked me to supply three writing samples, I was able to do so. Employers will want to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do. If you save all your work in one place, it makes it a lot easier to dig out on demand.

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Nutty-Professor4. Get to know faculty.
The faculty members in your program should have an extensive knowledge of the industry, and some may still be working in it. You’ll want to make sure you connect with them through extracurriculars and office hours so they can help guide you when needed. Trust me – where employers are concerned, a recommendation from a trusted faculty member goes a lot farther than a simple response on an online job posting, and it will help ensure that your resumé is actually seen.

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5. Social media matters even more.
In 2013, social media definitely matters when it comes to the job/internship hunt, but it matters even more when you’re a communication student. Because the jobs you’re searching for may require social media management, employers will want to see that you can not only adequately use those platforms, but that you know how to positively represent yourself online. My advice: make your page as private as possible, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

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Communication students, what are your concerns? Graduates, what are your tips?

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

Each month, I write The Freshman 15, my list of fifteen tips for college freshmen based on various themes, such as homesickness, time management skills, dating and dorm room must-haves. About to begin my third year of college, I have definitely learned a lot from my experiences and feel that I have some pointers for incoming freshmen, but I still have plenty to learn from the people around me. This month, fifteen other college students and college graduates have contributed their own advice with us about navigating through university life, and I am excited to share the tips they sent me with you. 🙂 Enjoy!

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The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers

1. Get involved in Greek life.
Joining a sorority does three things, in stages: as a freshmen, it give you an instant social network outside of your dorm floor; as an undergrad, it gives you leadership opportunities for your resume and something extracurricular-related to talk about at internship interviews; and as a college graduate, it gives you friends for life. (It will also in general improve your choreographed dancing skills and guarantee you never eat lunch alone). I recommend Greek Life to almost every incoming freshman I know.
– Molly, Northeastern University, Smart Pretty & Awkward 

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2. Know your resources.
I think college students should take advantage of the resources they have on campus, especially the mental health/counseling department. As a student away from home, you’re very prone to feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, etc. It’s good to talk to someone about it, and it’s even better to recognize that you’re not alone. 🙂
– Kevina, University of Florida, Kevina-Lee.Net

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 3. Find your perfect balance.
My first semester I holed up in my room most the time and studied a ton, and I got great grades. My second semester, I went out and partied, worked on some extracurricular clubs and events, dated, and had a ton of fun. My grades, however, suffered. It takes a while to learn how to balance having fun and enjoying your year with making decent grades, however, it is much more rewarding to try. One of the things my dad told me he regretted about his college experience is that he stayed in his room all the time, worked 3 jobs, and didn’t go out and meet people. It’s taking me some time to learn the balance, but I’m definitely enjoying it more.
– Carson, University of Central Florida, the sky and trees all blur

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4. Follow the First Five Rule.
For every class especially giant lectures halls, sit within the first five rows. This enables you to pay attention and not text or go on facebook. You also may learn valuable information before class when other students are talking to the professor that may help clarify something or help you with the next test. Sitting in the first five rows also lets the professor see your face more which in return may help your grade since he/she realizes you make the effort to come to class all the time and pay attention! (If a classroom only has five rows… then sit in the first three rows.)
– Heather, Broward College

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5. Work on your group project etiquette.
Participate in your group projects. Do more than you have to. Go above and beyond. People always remember slackers, and one day, you may see these slackers again looking for a job where YOU work. You will gladly tell your boss that this person was a slacker. Just because you’re in the “real world now” doesn’t mean your work ethic has changed. Treat the classes in your major like your job and your classmates like future coworkers because one day, they might be.
– Karina, University of Central Florida, Karina Creative

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6. Find a unique way to get involved.
Get involved in interests/hobbies outside your major. It helps you stay sane when you get stressed/burnt out and continue to meet new people, because you end up seeing the exact same people in class when you hit junior/senior year.
– Courtney, Boston area, Coffee and Debussy

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7. Look for a university job.
If you plan on applying for a job, look for one on campus. They will be more flexible with your schedule.
– Jessie, University of Central Florida 

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8. Know your strengths and trust in them.
Don’t let anyone discourage you from taking a class. Just because someone else thinks it’s hard doesn’t mean you can’t step up to the challenge. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t be the best (such as advisors, friends or anyone who might just be jealous of you).
– Alexandra, University of South Florida

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9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Professors are more than willing and eager to help students who are either struggling or looking for reassurance. If you feel like you could use some extra guidance battling homesickness, exploring majors, picking classes, or healing a sore throat, all schools offer help through counseling enters, career services, advisors, and health centers! Take advantage of the resources your school has to offer and don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance! These offices are there for a reason!
– Beth, University of Central Florida, The Utterings and Mutterings of a B.A.G. Lady

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10. Keep your place clean.
Clean the place at least once a week. If you don’t, before you know it, it will look like a hellhole. It’s harder to clean a hellhole than just cleaning once or twice a week. Besides, hellholes are hell to live in. 🙂
– Emily, Palm Beach State College 

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11. Confidence is everything.
Before you go to any smaller class for the first week or so, be prepared to say something about yourself. And when you get called on, act like the most confident person in the room at that moment. People are attracted to it and you make instant friends– or get a relationship out of it! 😉
– Kate, University of Central Florida, Concrete Canyons

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12.  To get the meal plan or not get the meal plan?
I say don’t get the meal plan. Understanding that some people can’t afford anything other than the meal plan (you are the only exceptions), for those of you doing it because you think it’s the real “college experience” and you’ll meet tons of people, you’re wrong. The food is horrible, even if a slice of pizza looks good, it will never taste good. The amazing looking pasta will also taste disgusting as will anything else you eat there. The appeal of the “bottomless” food is also your worst enemy. The only thing worth eating in a dining hall is the desserts and eating too many of those will lead to the very thing that gives this blog its namesake. Instead, locate some convenient inexpensive food joints off campus or in the student union, or make monthly trips to the grocery store to stock up your dorm room. It works and it’s actually pretty convenient. (Hint: Always grocery shop after eating a big meal. If you’re hungry, those Cheez Its and Oreos look really good. If you’re full, you’ll be happier settling for granola bars and 100 calorie pack pretzels.)
– Melissa, Florida State University, Melissa Thinks You Should Read This

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13. Stay on top of things!
Make yourself a schedule of all your activites and classes, as well as when you have to study. Organization helps a lot.
– Shantel, Arizona State University, Girl Meets World

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14. Listen to your mother.
You can never have too many washcloths or pairs of underwear.
– Susan, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (my mom!)

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15. Don’t put yourself in a box.
Make sure to not limit yourself. This is college. You can be yourself without labels and preset stereotypes.  You are supposed to try new things and explore your interests.  Join clubs that are different. Try activities and events that stand out from the norm, because these are the experiences that will make the best memories and possibly uncover talents you didn’t know you had. Your new best friend, style, major, hobby, or career could be just around the campus corner.
– Jessica, University of Central Florida

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Bonus Tips:

From Melissa, Florida State University, Melissa Thinks You Should Read This

16. Some friends are semesterly.
It happens. You meet someone you have a class with or that lives in your dorm and you get along really well. You have a lot to talk about whether it’s the number of times your teacher snorted in a single class, the lack of usable washing machines in the laundry room, or the creepy old janitor who plays practical jokes on you in the hall. You text occasionally and instantly accept their Facebook friend request. Then after a semester or two, you have different classes and maybe you’re living in a different dorm or apartment. You’ll make new friends and the cycle will start all over again. Don’t fight it and don’t be angry. This isn’t to say that all friends are semesterly. Some are for years and some are for life. However, some of them will always tag team it.
17. Don’t make long-term plans with high school friends.
This isn’t to say that you and your besties from high school will never speak again. However, before you leave for college, you might feel nostalgic and scared and plan a specific weekend in the far future to visit a friend at another school. This is a no no. As hard as it is to believe, you will make new friends in college. You’ll have parties to go to, football games to tailgate for, study groups to attend, and just about a billion other things that you and your new friends will do. Don’t risk already having a perfectly good weekend blocked out because you were scared a few months ago. You could miss out on something really great and even more opportunities to meet people. Once you’ve started college, wait a while to make plans to visit people. Even then, you might be so happy and comfortable at school that you’ll tell your friends from home, “Sorry, buddy. See you at Thanksgiving.” You can tell them all about your awesome college life as you pass the yams.

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From Emily, Palm Beach State College

18. Stay in shape!
Don’t abandon the gym. Although it takes time away from partying and schoolwork, all that partying adds fat, and without the gym, you’ll gain weight.

19. Be mindful of your health.
Although you’re too lazy to make a gourmet meal like Mom used to make, don’t live off of fast food. Make a rule to only eat it three times per week max. A lot of stores have college student easy cookbooks you can use, and you should always have bread around to make sandwiches.

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From Karina, University of Central Florida, Karina Creative

20. Only buy the books you need.
Never buy your books in the bookstore; order from Chegg. If your professor says you don’t need the book, you don’t need the book.

21. Maintain some social media discretion!
NEVER post anything on your facebook/twitter/flickr/tumblr you wouldn’t want your boss/grandma to see.

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Thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog! 🙂 You guys are amazing!

To my readers who have gone through college: what was the most important thing you learned your freshman year?