More advice from a former college freshman

On Monday, our super summer intern Theresa shared what she wished she had known as a freshman. Today, she offers some advice.

I’m a fall orientation leader at my university, so I get a lot of opportunities to dole out advice to incoming freshmen. The trouble is, during those couple of days at orientation, most of the poor dears are so disoriented and overwhelmed that they hardly pay attention to the nuggets of wisdom we’re bombarding them with, and they’re too shell-shocked to ask us questions.

What sort of advice might be falling on temporarily deaf ears during those first few days? When you boil it down, the message is: Mommy’s not here, so get responsible, kid.

Learn how to do laundry 

Figure out how many clean shirts, socks, and pairs of underpants you have and how long they’ll last you, because when they run out, you’ll have to do laundry. You need to do laundry regularly. You won’t believe it until you run into that stinky kid, but not wearing clean clothes can get rancid fast, and in a cramped traditional dorm, your personal scent will waft down the halls the moment you open your door. (Trust me, I’ve smelled it, and then vomited a little in my mouth). Seriously, laundry practically does itself in our modern times: You just throw it in the machine with some detergent (which comes with a handy measuring cup) and push a button. In about an hour and a half you’ll be putting away clean clothes and will have gotten some homework done in the meantime.

Clean your room

            A clean room is a happy room. You’ll probably have a roommate with whom you’ll be sharing a rather small space. That space will only get smaller if you leave it cluttered and dirty, so spend some quality time with your roomie cleaning up every now and again. You’ll have to do it anyway to pass room inspections, so why not save yourself some really gross, hard work by picking up your pile of dirty laundry and finding the loaf of bread under it before it turns fuzzy and green and has demon alien babies all over your desk. No, seriously, the month-old milk that’s spoiling in your fridge will stink up your whole room and no amount of air fresheners will make that go away. (That fantastical claim that some room sprays “eliminate odor” is a lie; only eliminating the source of the odor eliminates the odor.)

Beware of parties

The one question incoming freshmen do ask involves partying and alcohol. My advice is don’t mess around if you’re underage, because getting caught will put a black spot on your responsibility and accountability for the rest of your life. You can indeed have a good time at college while staying sober. I should know: I do it on a regular basis. If you do drink, know their limits and don’t push them; always go out—and come back home—with a friend; don’t drink jungle juice or any other concoction you don’t know the contents of—that means don’t trust the person claiming to tell you the ingredients, no matter who they are—stick with pre-packaged beverages whose seals haven’t been broken or tampered with; never leave your drink unattended—if you’re not comfortable talking non-jokingly with a person about your constipation or diarrhea, you shouldn’t trust them with your drink; and finally, NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE.

            Honestly, college is a lot of fun, and as long as you’re responsible you’ll experience that fun. Just remember to bathe regularly, get plenty of sleep, and take care of yourself when you’re sick.

What I wish I knew as a freshman

Today’s post comes from our super summer intern, Theresa.

Try new things         

Probably the biggest regret about my freshman year is that I didn’t put myself out there enough. I had a really easy first semester as far as course load, but I didn’t really take advantage of that freedom. If I could do that semester all over again, I would join a few clubs and make a serious commitment to them. I did explore a few options, but I didn’t stick with them because I felt intimidated.

I went to the fencing club’s open house and really enjoyed myself, but I never went back to a meeting even though a bunch of my new friends joined. I was so overwhelmed by the new experience (I’d never fenced before) that I crawled right back into my shell after barely taking that first step out of it.

A similar thing happened when I went with a friend to the writing workshop hosted by our university’s literary magazine. I was one of the least experienced writers present, and I felt intimidated by the caliber of work of others. I immediately thought I wasn’t worthy to participate, had nothing to offer and would never get as good as them. So instead of jumping in with the goal of improving my writing, I never went back to another workshop that year. My sophomore year, however, I tried again, and now I’m a regular contributor and editor of the magazine. Working on the magazine has been one of the most rewarding experiences of college; my only wish is that I’d started participating sooner.

Be honest with yourself

My other big regret is not breaking up with my high school boyfriend before I left for college. Our relationship was already falling apart, and I knew we wouldn’t be able to handle a long-distance relationship. So why didn’t I end it before I left? Because there were a lot of big changes coming my way, and I wanted to cling to just one constant. We both clung to that, and it led to a tumultuous start to the semester for both of us. If we’d just been honest we’d have managed a much cleaner break.

Find time to exercise

Finally, with all that extra time I had, I wish I would have scheduled a regular workout routine. I’m not a fan of going to the gym even though I know exercise would do me a lot of good— physically, mentally and emotionally. Access to the campus gym is included in the student activities fee I pay each semester, and it’s a really big, nice gym. My sole obstacle was me: I was just too lazy and chicken to start going. The second semester of my freshman year, I got too busy with classes to add exercising to my schedule, and I have yet to make it a part of my lifestyle.

Moral of my freshman year

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things, and be honest about your wants and needs and get out there and satisfy them. You have to immediately seize opportunities with both hands and hold on tight because you never know if they’ll ever come around again.

Tips on how to choose a major

You’re looking ahead to college, but you’re not sure what to major in. The choices are vast and include business, economics, biology, education,  broadcast communications,  nursing,  criminal justice, and psychology.

How do you choose one?

The Academic Advising Center on our campus has many resources for you to help you pick one: 

There are several other resources out there to help you choose. MyMajors.com has a quiz you can take that will help you pick a major that meets your interests. U.S. News & World Report also offers a college personality quiz to help you find a good match.

One important factor in choosing a major is in figuring out what you can do with it when you graduate. Keep in mind that once you’ve picked a major, don’t be discouraged by others who may not agree with your choice. USA Today College offers five reasons why you should not change your major, not matter what anyone says.

Good luck.

Who made The Princeton Review’s list?

The Princeton Review yesterday announced its college rankings, naming the “best” schools in many categories. We’re happy, of course, that our university was named as one of the one of the Best in the Northeast.

The rankings, which Princeton Review has been doing for 21 years, is part of the 2013 edition of “The Best 377 Colleges,” which contains 62 lists covering all aspects of college life, including academics and the social scene on campus. The rankings are based on surveys given to students.   

In addition to choosing the best colleges and universities in the country by region, The Princeton Review also recognizes other schools for other criteria, including the best party school. This year, West Virginia University received that dubious honor, with the University of Iowa and Ohio University following after. And while the media tend to focus on that “distinction,” including this article in the Los Angeles Times, The Princeton Review also recognized many other schools:

  • Hunter College — most racially diverse
  • American University — most politically active
  • University of Notre Dame – students pack the stadium
  • Brigham Young University — most stone-cold sober school   
  • Emerson College – most LGBT friendly 

There are varying opinions about college rankings, what they mean and what significance they hold. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to visit the campus of the colleges or universities that you’re considering, if you can. Ask questions. Sit in on a class. Talk to current students. Meet with financial aid counselors and professors.  Only then will you get a clear picture of whether that college or university is a good fit for you.

Good luck.

Tips from the experts — how to fix up your dorm room

The other day, our intern Theresa offered some tips on how to create a nice dorm room. Well, there are many other “experts” out there who have other suggestions as well. After all, your residence hall is going to be your home away from home. You really don’t want it to look like this, do you?

You probably want your room to look more like this.

For example, if you’re on a budget – and really, who isn’t? – you might find this video helpful, which originally appeared on the Early Show.

Food Network chef Rachael Ray, who also has her own show, recently featured a “Dorm Room Decorating 101” segment on her show. One of the suggestions included hanging fabric by using homemade and easy-to-clean-up paste with cornstarch and water.

HGTV style expert Sabrina Soto also offers tips, including purchasing bed risers so that you can store stuff underneath your bed.             

Do you have any suggestions or photos to share? Please send them along.

Use these tips to make your dorm nice.

Theresa, our summer intern, offers some tips today on how to make your college pad a comfortble home away from home.

One of the most important and most easily overlooked parts of enjoying college is feeling at home there. The obvious place to start is decorating your dorm room, and you can—and should—start the process the summer before moving to campus.

The very first step to a happy campus home is getting in touch with your roommate(s). Start building a relationship via social networking as soon as you know who you’ll be living with. Remember to present yourself honestly, as you truly are in real life. You can only hope they’re doing you the same kindness.

Next, get on your school’s website and track down the following information:

  • Approximately how big is the living space and what’s the layout like?
  • What’s already there? (Some rooms come equipped with microwaves and fridges already, some don’t.)
  • How big are the beds? If you’re tall, make sure to request an extra-long twin if the rooms don’t alreadycome with them.
  • What  aren’t you allowed to bring? (Don’t try sneaking in your internal combustion engine)

As soon as you start talking to your future cohabitant(s), start planning out who’s bringing what and whether they’re willing to share. Space is limited, so it makes no sense to bring two microwaves. But some people are protective of their stuff and may not want to share printers (just keep in mind that sharing a printer means one less clunky box to find a place for), and you should be respectful of each other’s things and personal spaces.

Make a list of all the things you already have and things you still need. Organize that list by priority level: Things you can’t live without go on top, things you’re not sure you’ll need go on bottom. If your roommate agrees to bring something and share it with you, cross it off your list. Highlight things on your list if you’ve agreed to bring them and share them with your roommate.

Know how much stuff you can fit in your car—no one likes the kid who shows up with a U-Haul. Also, remember that things of lower priority can probably be bought in your college town or brought/mailed from home later. Look up what stores are close to campus and what your commuting options are.

When it comes to décor, form and function are key. Don’t bring your collection of ceramic poodles in tutus—you don’t have the space and they’re in danger of getting knocked over and broken. An inexpensive set of curtains that you and your roommate picked together block out sunlight so you can sleep in, make the room cozier and offer you and your roommate a bonding experience.

Don’t hang just anything on your walls. You might love horror movies, but your roommate might not be able to sleep at night under that Hostel poster. Hanging up photos of family, pets and friends from back home is much safer and homier.

Command products are your friend when mounting anything and everything on your walls. So buy lots of poster strips, Velcro strips for your memo board and hooks for your curtains and curtain ties. Extra hooks can be a great place to hang your hat in your new home.

There. That should give you a start. If you have any suggestions to add just let us know.

Four-year plan to the rescue! How to schedule life like a pro.

Today, our very own intern Theresa Hoffmann, who is an honors student in college, offers you some advice.

I’m not so great at time management or looking to the future. I make a lot of plans in my head that never go anywhere. If you’re anything like me—if you’re a prospective or current college student—writing a four-year plan can help you stay organized an on track to graduate on time. We had to write our own four-year plans in my freshman seminar class, but even as a senior, I still refer back to mine (and I was one of those kids that thought writing it in the first place was stupid).

What is a four-year plan? It’s a skeleton list (or a really detailed list if that’s your thing) of everything you plan on doing: classes you need/want to take, study-abroad trips you want to go on, internships you want to have, scholarships you want to get—throughout your college career, broken down by semester and summer.

Why write a one? If you keep it updated as you go and refer to it when scheduling classes, you’ll know exactly where you stand when it comes to graduating on time, building your resume and fitting in fun. When you know from the very start what classes you have to take and what order you have to take them in, you can organize them so you’re not stuck with a really heavy course load while studying for the GRE and applying for graduate school. Plus, you’ll know what fun classes and activities you’ll have time for.

How do you write a four-year plan?

  1. Format it in a way that makes sense to you but is also readable to someone else, like your academic advisor.
  2. Look up your graduation requirements and the credit load allowed per semester.
  3. Write your required classes into your plan, organizing them by the semester you plan on taking them. Keep in mind that some courses have prerequisites that you’ll have to take first. Be sure to write them down in the proper order.
  4. Add what you’re planning on doing each summer—study abroad, internship, summer job.
  5. If you have plans for any other breaks, like an online class over winter break or an alternative spring break trip, add those.
  6. If you’re planning on continuing your education, put the required tests on your plan. The summer before your senior year is a great time to study for and take the GRE, MCAT. or LSAT.
  7. Some other good things to add: clubs and organizations you’re in, community service you do, conferences you present at, etc.

How do you use a four-year plan? When it comes time to schedule classes for next semester, pull it out and make sure you’re still on track. At the end of each semester, update it with the courses you and your grade in each one. If you’re changing your major, adding a minor or making any other changes, the long-term impact will be clear at a glance. Setting goals, especially putting them down on paper, is key in achieving goals. Also, notice that your four-year plan is an excellent reference when writing your resume and preparing for an interview.

Good luck.