Author: Steven Kennedy

Finding Your Perfect College

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When my high school career was coming to a close, the most difficult decision that I had to face was the decision of what college to attend. Only a very small portion of students really know where they want to go and what they want to do with their lives. For the rest of us, however, our desires are a little vaguer, which made the college decision process more difficult. Here’s a list of factors that I put into place in deciding where I would go to college.

CollegeCampusSecurity

Class Size: This all depends on what kind of student-teacher experience you want. One of the perks of being in a small college is that you get more time to talk to your professor and learn more about their field of study. You also get more chances to find help for any classes you might be struggling in. On the contrary, one advantage of a big class is that more grade curves will likely be given and you have the chance to miss class and learn straight from the textbook (not that I’d recommend this).

Available Fields: Obviously, your college of choice needs to have whatever major(s) and minor(s) you are potentially interested in. Unless you know exactly what you want to do, it’s usually a good idea to look for colleges with plenty of options.  It is not uncommon for undergraduate students to change their major one or more times during their college experience.

Community Involvement: Many colleges have opportunities that will allow you to work with businesses and organization in the community to give students a better perspective of their fields of study.  This is also a good opportunity to begin making connections for your career. This is a very important aspect of college decisions, so make sure your school has good alumni relations and internship availabilities!

Campus Life: One thing that I want to stress is that you should definitely visit each college that you apply to. You could be living there for four entire years or longer.  You do not want to get there on day one only to realize that the school is essentially a prison. How your campus looks and feels to you is very important! In addition, learn about your school’s reputation on campus. Whether it has a party reputation, or a community service one, make sure you pick a college that will fit your personality while allowing you to grow and experience new things.

There are many more things to consider while looking at colleges, but unfortunately, I can only list these few. Something you need to remember is that while this decision IS very important, it is not the end of the world. If indeed, you do get to your college to start your freshman year and you absolutely hate it, don’t forget that you can always transfer! But give yourself time to become fully acclimated to the university, and you might find yourself falling in love with it in time! Good luck!

Beating the Wintertime Blues

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winter bluesAs winter approaches and the sun slowly disappears, many students begin to struggle with a variety of problems. Whether it’s being away from home, a ridiculous workload of homework, general stress or just a combination of all these things, every student suffers from some form of wintertime blues. Here’s a few suggestions to help you relax and see the light again.

Relax. The absolute most important thing to remember is to just relax. Believe it or not, stress happens to everyone. Sometimes the best way to deal with problems is to take a step back and look at them from the outside. Go out with friends, do something you love or find a new hobby. Whatever you choose to do, just let yourself forget your problems for a bit and come back to them with a fresh mind.

Meditating. A lot of people assume that meditation consists of deep thinking. For the most part, this isn’t true. Most meditation practices actually help to free your mind from your thoughts and your obsessions. Find a flat surface, sit up and focus on your breathing. As you sit still, try to manually relax each muscle in your body. Strive towards the goal of absolute silence…meaning no thoughts or emotions. I promise you it’s absurdly relaxing!

Meet new people. Another great way to get a new perspective on your world is to meet some new people. Get to know them and see what their views are. It’s very refreshing, and you never know who you’ll meet!

Clean. Try tidying up your dorm or apartment. Many times, a clustered room or environment can cause clustered thoughts and emotions. If you couldn’t tell, it’s not a good thing.

Get off campus. Sometimes a change in surroundings can help more than you can imagine. It sounds weird, but it really does work. Go to the mall or to a hiking trail nearby. Exercise is also a great way to perk up, so get moving! Do whatever you can to explore and get out of your cramped dorm.

While trying any of these suggestions, just make sure you remember that you are not alone in this. College isn’t exactly the easiest time in a person’s life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relax and have fun. If you have any other ideas or methods of relaxing and staying cheery, let us know!

3 Ways College is Not Like High School

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Flickr/ Sterling Co

Flickr/ Sterling Co

Everyone knows that college is going to be better than high school. Unfortunately, every year some students realize that they can’t handle the difficulties that come with attending college. Here’s a list of what to expect, and how to adapt to the changes you’ll face.

College is Hard: Big surprise, right? Many incoming freshmen begin taking college courses but still treat them like high school classes. They go to class, listen to a lecture, go home and do homework. But what many students don’t realize is that in college, the cycle’s a little twisted. Many college professors rely on textbooks and assigned readings, rather than in class lectures, to teach their students a large portion of the curriculum. Personally, I hate these professors, and try to avoid them at all costs. However, they exist. So be prepared to do a lot of work outside of class in order to keep up.

Your Classmates: For most of us, we attended high schools with a limited variety of people: all students from the same town with the same background. In this aspect, college is VERY different. You will meet people from every end of the spectrum. For the most part, this is a great thing! You get to learn new things about people completely different from yourself. However, you WILL meet the stereotypical kids who are only there to party. You WILL meet the kids bursting with school spirit. And you WILL meet the kids who will stand in a cage for an entire day to prove that slavery still exists. The world is full of different people, so stay open minded.

Advisers/Counselors: These faculty members have a much different purpose in college than they did in high school. High school counselors are confidants who are there to fix a student’s problem before the student even realizes they have one. In college, however, your advisers are not mind readers. Whether you need career advice or are struggling in a class, college advisers cannot help you unless YOU go to THEM. They stress this in a lot of college tours, and I want to stress it too. Having an adviser is a HUGE help. However, if you don’t go to them, they can’t help. Remember that!

College is NOT high school. Thinking it is can be fatal to your undergrad success. The good news is, college is WAY more fun! If you’re a college Freshman this year be sure to check out my last blog post so you don’t miss out!

Freshmen Year ‘Don’t Miss’ Campus Events

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Every year at every university there are various campus events that no freshman should miss out on. For any incoming freshmen wondering what to do with their time, here’s a list of some great events that you need to see for yourself:
waterballoon fight
Homecoming Football Game: I’m using the term homecoming lightly here. Some schools have special high turnouts for the very first football game of the school year, while others focus more on their homecoming game later in the semester. At my University, a huge blue and yellow parade of freshmen traditionally marches across the campus all the way to the stadium for the first game of the year. The phenomenon is not one to miss, and especially not one to miss being a part of!
Fall Semester Concert: For some students, this might be their first concert all together, but whether it’s your first, or hundredth, I highly recommend going to your school’s fall show, no matter who the performer is. Go with a group of friends, relax and have fun!
Club Fair: For many schools, there will only be one of these a year, so don’t miss out! Even if you don’t think you have any interest in campus organizations at all, you might find one, or a dozen, that you’ve never heard of before and want to try. One thing to keep in mind is that even if you sign up for a club at the fair, you are not committed. If you’re even remotely interested in the concept of an organization or its cause, just go to its first meeting, and find out for yourself.
Syllabus Week: Unfortunately, this isn’t a fun occasion, but don’t let any upperclassmen convince you this first week doesn’t matter for classes. Many professors will begin work the first week of class, and you may even start learning new material. Don’t skip this!
Any events specifically for freshmen: There’s a very wide variety of these little get-togethers, and yes, some of them may be boring. However, most are not. They offer a great chance for you to start getting to know your classmates early, so don’t miss out!

College schedules vary greatly, so check out your university’s website to see what is happening on campus! Nothing fun ever happened to the guy who stayed home every day, and you’ll always remember your freshman year, so start making some good memories! For other freshman year must haves don’t forget to check out our Quick List here. Know of any unique or interesting events hosted by your school? Tell us about them below in our comments section.

The Hardest Part About Studying Abroad

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Our planet is beautiful. Everywhere you look you can find awe-inspiring natural wonders, amazing cultural icons, or huge testaments to the brilliance of mankind. I firmly believe that all college students should spend some amount of time studying abroad (if they can afford it). Being immersed in an entirely different culture can be terrifying, but at the same time, it can teach you so much about the world around you. But that’s not even the best part of traveling the world. Learning about others, helping others, and being forced to adapt to new areas can teach you things about yourself that you never would have learned otherwise. For most students the hardest question is actually quite a difficult one: Where should I go? As much as I’d like to answer that by saying you should go everywhere, that advice wouldn’t really be feasible. That being said, here’s my attempt to help any students along with their destination decision.

study-abroad2

Europe: I, myself, would LOVE to study abroad in Europe at some point. I’ve already been to Italy, Greece, and England, myself. An AMAZING advantage to traveling to Europe, is that every country is so close, and every cultural area you could possibly want to see is literally a two hour drive away at most. You can easily just decide that you want to go to the Edinburgh castle in Ireland, even if you’re staying in Italy! One drawback to this, however, is that a short summer or winter session might not be enough for you. I highly recommend staying for a full fall or spring semester to truly experience all that you can. 

Asia: I will start off with a warning. Many cultures and traditions in Asian countries WILL be quite….hard to understand at first. If you’re ever to experience culture shock, it’ll occur when you make the transition between America, and, for example, Japan. I’m not saying this is a bad transition at all! However, for a little while, you probably will feel out of place. The time I spent in Japan was possibly one of the coolest and most interesting, but at the same time, I had NO CLUE what I was doing. If you ever want to experience a culture that is completely different from our own, DEFINITELY go to Asia. I guarantee you will come back with a different perspective on life, in addition to some fun stories!

Africa/Middle East: At this time, unless you’re planning on going to help other people, traveling to this area might not be the best idea. Unfortunately, it’s become dangerous to travel in the Middle East, and being American isn’t exactly the best label you could have. However, nothing helps you grow as a person better than helping others in need. There are many college organizations, such as Engineers Without Borders, that help villages and towns that are suffering. This might be a great way for you to really expand your horizons and do some good for the world!

Just remember, be prepared when traveling abroad! There are lots of resources for inexpensive travel plans for students and tips on traveling safe, so read up! Also, try to learn as much of the language as you can. It will definitely help you, and locals always seem to like it when you actually try to speak their language. Hopefully this will help with any decisions you might be making in the near future!

I would say “Bon Voyage!” but I would never forgive myself for being so cliché.

The Art of Gift Giving for College Students

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I love giving gifts, but as a college student with very little free time during the year, I come across many issues related to gift giving. Having no free time keeps me unemployed, and so I end up with little or no money at all. Almost every time a birthday or anniversary comes around, I spend very large amounts of time planning out a gift, only to find that it is too expensive for my budget!

handmade gifts

It seems that many other students are experiencing the same problems that I am, so here are several ideas to keep your presents (somewhat) cheap, but memorable:

  • If you have the ability, or the interest, take the time to sit down and write the gift receiver a poem, letter, or maybe even paint them a picture.
  • Take them out for a nice, romantic picnic. All you really need are a few sandwiches, a blanket, and a warm, sunny day.
  • Buy tickets to their favorite artist’s concert, or their favorite comedian’s show. I mean, who doesn’t love Louis C. K?
  • Try simulating your first date. The old memories will definitely make it a great gift. Or, to make it even better, at the end of your date, add something new, such as ice skating. On top of your first date, this will create even more cherished memories.
  • The ideal present is one that does not fade, but grows and changes as time goes on. However, not many examples of this exist. Luckily, a great gift that WILL last is a charm bracelet. Each holiday, or special occasion, try adding a new charm that really means something to you. Soon, there will not only be a bracelet, but also a collection of memories that is one of a kind.

I will warn you that some of these suggestions can become quite expensive, so keep that in mind as you make an attempt to give a truly special present. For more unique gift ideas at every price point, I recommend online shopping at etsy.com (they’ve got it all)! If you have some gift-giving ideas that I didn’t mention don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below!

Life Beyond Social Media

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In today’s constant stream of internet interactions, many students find themselves becoming too addicted to everyday usage of social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Twitter, Youtube, Reddit… the list goes on!  “Cleansing yourself” of the social medias has become a popular occurrence recently, in which individuals avoid the use of the internet, televisions, and smart phones entirely. The main problem with doing this, however, is finding ways to keep yourself occupied. There is no denying that it is challenging, but once you realize how much fun you can have offline you will forget about newsfeeds and hashtags althogether.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

Read. Find a great book and immerse yourself in it. Once you get your hands on a good book, you’ll find it hard to put down for even a second. There are genres out there for people of all shapes and sizes. I highly recommend Lightning written by Dean Koontz.

Hike. Go with a group of friends, and make your own little corner of the world for a few days. It’s easy to find hundreds of small hiking trails throughout the world, and if you really want to shoot for the stars, try hiking one of the more famous trails, like the Appalachian trail. If you don’t think you’re ready for the full challenge, hike a trail in separate sections. Nothing helps to forget about the internet better than sleeping under the stars.

Drive. Pick a place really far away and drive there. Road trips are a great way to bond with new friends or old ones, and you’ll get to see and experience the world from an entirely different perspective. Don’t just drive from point A to B, either. Stop in small towns, take scenic detours, and just have fun with it! If you see a sign for the world’s best pie, go try it! Instead of reading someone’s Tumblr post, drive on the open road.

Scream! Take the free time you’ll find yourself with to push your own limits. If you’ve never been on a roller coaster before, go to an amusement park. Do something to really get your adrenaline pumping. If you really have the desire for excitement, try working your way up to skydiving! Instead of reading someone’s status, YOU’LL be the one with the story to tell.

It may seem like there isn’t much to do without technology, but people have been getting along fine without it for a very long time (See “Technology: Causing Us To Age Early“). Who knows, giving up social media just might change your life. Eventually social networking sites will just be places to store all the beautiful pictures you’ll be taking, and all the great stories you’ll want to share. Give it a try and let us know how it goes (once you get back online, of course).