Monday, March 23, 2015

3 things I regret not packing for college

I was very unprepared first going into college, this list could be a lot longer than it is. Actually, unprepared is the wrong word. I was prepared....for all of the wrong things. Need any scrapbook sticker ever made? Got it. Want to read one of the 57 novels I bought in high school and never read then? I'm your girl. Do you need a scarf to go with your outfit? Here, pick one from my collection of 438. Need a stapler, laundry detergent, a hair tie, a flash drive or anything else practical and obvious? Sorry, keep looking, I am NOT your girl. 

However, I like to think I learned quickly and come well prepared most semesters. There are still moments though when I go to reach for something and think "HOW did I not think of that?!" Normally I add it to my list and it's always there when I need it next. BUT there are still a few things I regret not bringing until I need them and I ALWAYS forget. Below are the 3 things I suggest you add to your packing list. 

#1 Off season clothing.
This is most likely exclusive to places that have all four seasons, if you go to school in Florida then it's probably a different rule. (BUT I WOULDN'T KNOW BECAUSE FOR SOME REASON I CHOSE TO GO TO SCHOOL IN PA)  However, like I said, I go to school in PA. A land where March is a free for all when it comes to Mother Natures mood. Snow day on Monday and shorts on Tuesday- it's not unheard of. One year we had a freak warm week and I had left ALL of my shorts at home. Keep at least one off season outfit around for Mother Nature's moodier time periods!

#2 My important documents
There were SO many times I could used my birth certificate, social security card and passport. I needed my birth certificate and social security card to apply for my passport. Then the next year, I needed my passport to give a copy to the school for my trip to Europe. Guess where they were? Safely AT HOME in my moms little folder of tricks. Most of the time a copy would do but still a few times I needed the real thing. My mom even had to go through the hassle of mailing my birth certificate via priority mail. While you have to be organized enough to keep track of them- I recommend keeping them with you!

#3 A spare power cord and phone charger.
In most cases laptops seriously outlive their power cords. More than once I realized my power cord was going, right around the time I had big projects or papers due! Having a spare charger for your major electronics pays off in the long run and avoids last minute emergencies.

I'm sure there are a plethora of other items I constantly forget but these are the major ones I forget EVERY time. 

Are there anythings you always forget to add to your packing list but always end up needing? 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What they didn't tell me about attending a Christian College

This post is not intended to bash the institution I've called home the last four years. It is however intended to clear up common misconceptions parents and students have about schools like my own. These are wonderful schools with abundant opportunities and generally a well-received reputation. I know a number of graduating seniors this year who have their hearts set on colleges with strong Christian values and that's wonderful. However, a lot of them are disillusioned about what is ahead.
I've encountered a few myths and have received agreement from peers at my school and other Christian institutions on these beliefs. These are misconceptions that I want to shed some light on.

Myth #1: Christian Colleges safe-guard your faith.
You will be hard pressed to find an upperclassman at a Christian School that did not come into it thinking on some level that God would “just be there". There is this general assumption that your faith is strengthened by association. This could not be further from the truth. My faith slipped the most my first semester in college. If anything, lukewarm Christians are around every corner. There are a large number of students who have never been challenged in their faith or given the opportunity to grow. There are also a lot of students whose parents forced strongly encouraged they attend. You have to be just as intentional about your faith here as you would anywhere else- a school that makes you attend chapel twice a week is not an excuse to be apathetic in your relationship with Christ. You have to work for it, just like everyone else. If you are attending a Christian College partially because you think it will be easier to stick to your faith than a secular school- you are in for a rude awakening. 

Myth #2 Parties don't happen here.
This is far from the truth. Do they happen less? Well, of course. However, the drunken debauchery that occurs here are underground operations. I'm not at all implying I am a saint nor am I implying I've never broken the rules. However, the drinking and rule breaking that occurs here leaves a much more bitter taste in my mouth. I've partaken in these operations before and gotten caught. This opened my eyes to the fact that drinking/partying here isn't just a matter of dumb decisions, it's an integrity thing too. There's a level of deception that has to occur in order to get away with it. So yes, it happens less but when it does happen, it's hidden behind a good dose of lying and hiding. Which is better? Blatant partying or less but deceptive partying?  I'm not so sure.

Myth #3: The institution will run flawlessly according to your morals, values and convictions. This misconception seems to be more on the end of parents but I have heard the same complaints from opinionated students as well. There are many, many decisions my school and the leaders have made that are not necessarily what I would have chosen. However, I am confident that the students’ best interests and God’s will are always the center of each decision. There is a belief that because the school claims the Christian title it is not allowed room for error. We are flawed people and flawed people make up flawed institutions. Just as we are a body of believers, we are a body of sinners. Christian institutions are not perfect. If you know that at the heart of your institution are leaders with a heart for Christ, then that is the best you've got.

All of this being said there are a few things I was never told but am sure to tell everyone who asks;

My professors are top notch. Comparing stories with friends from state schools and friends from other Christian schools I have come up with one resounding consensus; professors from Christian Schools are one of a kind. There are exceptions to every rule, yes. But the environment encouraged by Christian Universities sets the stage for a unique student/professor relationship. The class sizes are small and there is not one professor I have had that does not know me by name. I am friends with almost all of my past (and some current) professors on facebook, I babysit for a few of them and have an all-around great relationship. These connections create a great learning environment, build professional connections for networking and future references and open the door for academic opportunities while still a student.

You do not pay the sticker price. I almost missed out on four of the best years of my life because the sticker price of these schools scared me off. The 45,000 dollar price tag is very intimidating but I am going to let you in on a secret of private schools (Christian and secular): grants and scholarships! Almost every student will get a grant, which is kind of like a scholarship without having to be a ‘scholar’ AKA there are no requirements. It’s basically free money. In addition to grants, most students get pretty big academic scholarships. Unlike grants, there are some GPA requirements to receive/keep these. The price you pay is normally about half of the estimate they give you. Which is still a lot, I know but that leads me to my next point…

You get what you pay for. These schools are expensive, yes. I KNOW. I work 4 jobs and full time all summer to afford it. Why? Because it’s worth it. These are phenomenal schools, with amazing staff/faculty and an extraordinary education. So I will leave you with this; 

I would make the same choice every time. If I was 17 year old Emily picking a college again, knowing what I know now,  I would do it again. Every time.

What myths or stereotypes have you heard about Christian Colleges?  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What to do when everything is due

It is the week before Spring break here; which is the code for ALL OF THE PAPERS ARE DUE RIGHT NOW. There are a million and 4 things to wrap up before I hop on a plane to the sunshine state for a week. In any busy week it can be hard to find the the motivation to jump in a get done what needs to get done. In the busy week before breaks it is near impossible to stay on task, most notably a break where flip flops and tank tops are dancing in my near future.

However, "I was day dreaming about Disneyworld" is not an accepted excuse, so I have to strap in and hang on for another week. Here I will indulge you with my busy week game plan- which is every week for me.

Crack open the calendar. I open up my planner and write down every single thing that needs done this week. This includes tasks such as "E-mail Professor 'I assign too much homework'" or "Pack for trip". Anything that has to be taken care of, having it written down ensures it does not fall through the cracks. I make two lists (shown below) one for school assignments and one for miscellaneous tasks.

Break big tasks up. I have a research paper that has many components and a paper that involves watching two movies. Instead of simply putting "Movie paper" and "Content analysis" I broke the tasks down because I am more likely to look at my to-do list, see "Content analysis Introduction" and sit down and tackle it than if I were to write "Giant, scary, APA formatted research paper." I am also more likely to have a 2 hour time period to watch one movie, than I am to sit down, watch both movies and write the paper all at once. 

Make a plan. I take every single task that needs done and assign it to a day. This ensures that nothing little will fall to the wayside while I am working on the bigger tasks. Everything that needs done from answering e-mails to writing a paper will get a deadline. **Tip- cram as much as you can into the first few days of the week, you will thank yourself when on Thursday all you have is "Print paper" and "Pack for Florida" on your list! 

I go through this routine every week but I am more thorough in my execution of my plan on weeks like this one. How do you handle the crazy seasons of the semester?