20 Minutes of Action

20 minutes of action (1)10 Things You Can Do In 20 Minutes:

Walk a mile (or a little more).

Make cupcakes from a box.

Call and talk to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Take a shower.

Write a blog post.

Boil and eat a hardboiled egg.

Watch a 30 minute recorded TV show, fast forwarding through the commercials.

Read.

Set a timer and see how much house cleaning you can do.

Rape a woman.

20 minutes is a short time, but also a long time. 20 minutes is a long time to be lying behind a dumpster blacked out. 20 minutes is an eternity for someone being raped (whether they are unconscious or not).

In 20 minutes you can change your course of action.

 

No excuses. NO EXCUSES.

 

Short skirts don’t cause rape.

Flirtatious behavior doesn’t cause rape.

Alcohol and drugs do not cause rape.

Overly sexy or attractive people don’t cause rape.

Being alone at night does not cause rape.

Rapists cause rape.

Rapists deserve punishment equal to the crime, regardless of gender, age, athletic ability, race, or religion.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, please seek help.  For information on a campus initiative to prevent violent crimes, please read about Green Dot.

Crisis Support for Rape and Sexual Assault

Green Dot

Tips for Summer Orientation

SUMMER ORIENTATION (1)For the past few months, the Director of New Student Orientation and his Assistant Director at our university have been (in his words), “Climbing the mountain” in preparation for summer orientation.  This is such a good analogy.  It is a massive undertaking to bring thousands of new students to a campus, teach them about the school, and make them feel comfortable in what will soon become their home away from home. Parents and students have been climbing the same mountain with the completion of classes, taking tests, checking off lists, and paying fees and deposits.

New Student Orientation is about to begin at WCU! Maybe you are about to participate in your college orientation too? If so, you will start from the proverbial base camp of the mountain to finally reach the top.  The thought of visiting campus might have you wondering what to expect. Mountain climbers usually have a few key pieces of knowledge before they start the ascent. Here are some helpful hints to help:

 

1.) Smile and be friendly.  Everyone is as nervous and self-conscious as you. Relax and have fun.

2.) Pack light. If it is an overnight orientation; keep it simple. You are not going on a safari.

3.) More for the girls – Dress comfortably. You will be going on a campus tour. Think about your feet. I know shoes are fun, however, think cute flat sandals, Sperry’s, or comfy sneakers – NOT heels!

4.) Dress in layers if you are inclined to be cold. Classrooms, computer labs, and auditoriums can be chilly. I will also add…this might be handy if you are going to a different climate zone than home. Check out the weather forecast.

5.) Bring a “carry all” bag. You don’t want to be known as the kid that kept dropping and fussing with papers. In that bag should be a pen or pencil!!

6.) Refer to the list.  If the Orientation office has a recommended list of things to bring, refer to it!! A list is probably on your orientation website.

7.) Figure out the parking situation in advance.

8.) Turn off your cell phone while you are in your orientation sessions, and in between.  Why in between? So, you can look up and meet someone.  Guess what? That text, Snap, or Instagram post will wait.

9.) Don’t walk around with an “attitude” while you are in the presence of your parents. This looks worse on you than anything “embarrassing” they may say or do. We love welcoming parents. You will not be the only one with parents.  Remember, many of you would not be stepping foot on campus if it were not for them.  Be gracious.

10.) Smile and be friendly! (Oh, did I already say that?)

University employees all around the nation look forward to incoming freshman coming on campus. New Student Orientation is an exciting time for everyone. Enjoy the experience.  Soak in the view.  You have made it!!

Successful Summers

Many college students around the nation are packing up and heading home for the summer months.  For high school students, summer isn’t that far off either.  Here is some of my best advice for both groups during the summer months.

Tips for Successful Summer

HIGH SCHOOL JUNIORS:

Are you finishing your junior year in high school and considering college for your future?  If so, you may want to use the summer to:

  1. Write your Personal Statement
  2. Visit a few colleges
  3. Work a summer job (save money)

HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS:

If you are a high school senior, and you have been accepted to a school PLEASE DO NOT BLOW IT by getting arrested this summer.

This is a PSA for all parents AND high school graduates:

Did you know that having TOO MUCH “fun” the summer before college (and through college) can ruin a career before it even starts? A DUI or underage citation can prevent you from entering a major at school (or get you kicked out of a major). For example: In the state of PA, Education majors caught drinking underage are not able to student teach for 5 YEARS past the offense. This is about teaching clearances, which can also be required for upper division courses; therefore the student won’t even be able to take certain classes! Education is not the only major! Criminal Justice is another. It’s not the 80’s anymore. A citation could ruin your academic opportunities and career before it even gets started! Make good choices, enjoy time with your high school friends, and work a summer job.

Here are some summer suggestions for ANY STUDENT ATTENDING COLLEGE IN THE FALL:

  1. Hang out with your friends from home in smart ways. Your time is limited together. Quality time, not jail time, is key.
  2. Find a summer job, and save your money. If you can find a job that is somewhat related to your major or career choice – even better. The sooner you start thinking about your resume, the better.
  3. Take a road trip. Find a couple of friends, and map out a road trip.  Decide on a budget and keep your cost down. Ultimately, you should be saving money this summer. (Check out shoestring road trip suggestions on Pinterest and in the bookstores.)
  4. Savor all home-cooked meals. Show your gratitude by helping to clean up after a meal. This is a great time to catch some quality time with the chef of the house.
  5. Read a non-textbook book. I remember my days in college as reading A LOT, but nothing for pure enjoyment. In the summer time, you can read for pleasure.
  6. Take a summer course. Ok, so this may interfere with #5, but here’s the time to re-take a course that you didn’t do well in or just get ahead by a class or two.  (WARNING: Check with academic policies on whether you can repeat courses at another institution!)
  7. Take some time to relax and slack off a little, but not too much.

Class of 2016

Four years ago I started working full-time at this university.  (The year prior I only worked part-time during the Fall 2011 semester.)  When I was asked to return in the Fall of 2012 as a full-time academic advisor, I felt a bit like a freshman myself.  I was assigned 300+ undeclared first-year students as advisees.  Just like the freshmen I was advising, I had a lot of adjustment to go through, becoming a full-time employee again.  During that year, many students switched their major from undeclared (we call it “Pre-Major”) to the major they wanted to study, but the majority stayed with me through all of their first and second years while they decided what it was they wanted to study.  During that first year as a full-time employee, I came to know some of my students very well or as much as I could in half hour appointments.

As an advisor, I quickly learned that some students will only come to see you once a semester as it is required of them, and they have no desire to make any connections with you.  However, making connections with people is one of my strengths. If I sense the window is open, I will take the opportunity to get to know a student.  I don’t even do this intentionally; it’s just what I do.  After making a connection, many of these kids would stop in more than once a semester, and some even became my affectionately termed “frequent fliers”.  It is from these relationships that I feel a particular bond to the class of 2016.  In 2012, I was just learning too.  In four years, I have grown, just as I hope and assume they have too.

By 2015, all of my original students should have left the Pre-Major Academic Advising Office.  They would have declared a major.  In a parallel fashion, by the fall of 2015, I changed departments too.  I accepted a position in the Career Development Center.

Career Development Centers are not exclusively for juniors and seniors, although it tends to work that way. In this past year, without my original students knowing my new location, they have stopped in the office in preparation for the real world.  What a treat it has been to see some of them one last time, find out their plans, and re-connect before they move on.  And, as they have left the office, I was left with the bitter sweetness (perhaps even more so) I feel every year in May.

So, to the Class of 2016, here are my last bits of advice before graduation:

  1. Get your documents in order. Ok, I will admit, this might be a little late coming.  By now – you should have filed your application for graduation and made sure all your requirements are complete.  If you haven’t – good luck with that.  
  2. Finalize your resume. Most Career Development Centers are open through the summer. Most provide services for alumni.  If you haven’t stopped in up to this point, you may want to see how you can seek assistance with your resume and see what other services are offered to alumni.
  3. Consider your living situation. Are you moving back in with Mom and Dad?  Is your lease up? What can you afford?  Remember, soon your school loans will need to be paid back.  Moving in with parents may give you an opportunity to save money while paying back loans. Moving to an apartment may offer continued freedom, but you will have to balance rent with a new and very regular loan repayment plan. Weigh your options.
  4. Summer job/internship. If you still don’t have experience in your given field, now is the time to start searching for that opportunity.  You might want to consider a paid internship.  Check job boards regularly, look directly at company websites, and network, network, network.  Securing a job takes work!
  5. Lastly – take pictures! Document it all!  I feel like I don’t have to tell students this with cell phones and selfies.  However, turn the camera on your friends, your campus, and the moment.  In a few years, you will be glad to look back.  You could even find your favorite advisor, and ask for a picture together….personally; I won’t mind.

I will miss you, Class of 2016.  Best wishes, Mrs. D.

Dark Chocolate Increases Alertness and Clarity

I recently read that dark chocolate increases alertness and clarity. I was looking for suggestions and tips for better study habits when the idea of eating dark chocolate appeared.  Well, I’m not sure that I can say that falls into the category of better study habits, but it might be worth a try. It’s certainly a study I would sign up for.

This morning I ran into one of my colleagues in the tutoring center.  I asked her if her office was busy with students gearing up for finals.  She laughed and said, “Oh yes, all the students with D+’s, showing up for the first time for tutoring.”  I responded, “Are they all coming in for the miracle tutoring session?” “Yes, they want the magic wand,” she added.

A few weeks before finals, students seem to realize that there isn’t much time left to turn things around.  Tutoring centers become busier; study lounges and libraries see increased usage before exams.  Sometimes there isn’t much you can do to save a grade at this late date.  However, you shouldn’t give up.  No matter what academic situation you are in, there are some proven recommendations for doing the best you can during your final exams.  Here are my recommendations:

  1. Study in a quiet area/distraction-free area. If your library is nothing more than a dry bar, you may want to look for study carols/carrels? or rooms or seek an entirely different building. Empty classrooms can be good spots.
  2. Get rid of distractions. If your phone is a constant drain on your time and steals much of your attention, turn it off, silence it, or put it away.  Ask a trusted friend to hold on to it for a while.
  3. Study for 50 minutes to an hour at a time, with a 10-minute break in between. Your brain needs a break, but make sure 10 minutes doesn’t turn into 10 hours. Treat yourself for good study behavior.
  4. Eat healthy foods that fuel the brain and body. Junk food and sugary, caffeinated power drinks should NOT be the “go-to food”.  Think nuts, whole grains, fruits, and protein.
  5. Contrary to popular college student opinion, all-nighters are not beneficial. You need a good night sleep to study well and to perform your best on a test.  Would you stay up all night before a race or any physical competition?  Your brain is a muscle too.
  6. Exercise. If you are physically active, don’t skip the gym now.  If you aren’t, just going for a walk can help.  Physical activity helps engage the brain.
  7. Study in groups – if this isn’t a distraction. Sign up for extra tutoring sessions if they are available, or take advantage of professors’ office hours. The purpose of these appointments is for clarity on certain problems or concepts.  It is not the time to say you didn’t understand the entire semester.
  8. Review old tests and exams. Re-do incorrect problems.
  9. Re-read and re-write your notes. You took notes in class for a reason, not just to look busy.  Use them.  The act of re-writing them reinforces what you have learned. Writing it out long-hand has been proven to help with memory more than using a keyboard.
  10. As a last resort – chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but dark chocolate. It increases alertness and clarity.  (Apparently peppermint does too).

Sorry, magic wands are not for sale.

The tutors just changed their bulletin board. Good timing!
The tutors just changed their bulletin board. Good timing!

I’m Going to Tell You what is Important

So many times people say to me, “It must be so much fun to work on a college campus.”  And without hesitation, I agree.  It truly is a wonderful place.  Youth, energy, and enthusiasm are everywhere.  Positive energy is not evident on just my campus. I have found this to be true at all the various schools I have worked throughout my career.  In previous posts, I have even mentioned the energy that is almost physical when students return in September.  The vibrancy is evident around every corner – except when something bad happens.

I have been debating whether to write this post. I think of myself as a positive, “the cup is half full” kind of gal. But lately, I have had something sad on my mind. Perhaps writing it down will help me put some closure on a few things.

WARNING: This post is on the heavy side. Feel free to bail now.

In the past three years, I had been aware of the passing of four students, two of whom I knew – one of whom was in my office the day before he died. Just two weeks ago, our campus lost a young student at the age of 18.  I didn’t know her, but her passing brought up all these feelings, particularly regarding the young men I knew.

You see, I sit with students day in and day out.  I talk to them about their dreams for the future.  When you are between the age of 18 and 21, life is full of promise. That’s not to say that students don’t struggle – believe me they do, but the expectation is that they will make it.  The expectation is that life will be long and today’s struggle will only be a blip on their lifeline.

The two men I knew had struggles. The one student told me that he and his older sister, and only family (whom he lived with), had a fight, and he didn’t know where he was going to live over summer break.  Naively, I figured it would work itself out.  It didn’t, and he was gone the next day – not just for the summer – but gone for good.  I was devastated.  The second student was a ray of sunshine. His smile would light any room. He struggled a bit with a math course or two, but not so much that it would cause greater concern.  His academic record showed some semester breaks.  I assumed he was just trying to re-focus for a stronger semester.  Later, I learned he had bigger demons. This past December, purely by happenstance, I saw a posting of his passing through friends of friends on Facebook.  Again, I was crushed.  How do two seemingly healthy 20 year-olds die?  I can take an educated guess to answer that question regarding both boys, and I think I would be right.  However, that is no longer important.

The other two students I didn’t know, but their passing is nonetheless heartbreaking.  When you work with people entering the prime of their life, mortality isn’t something you think about.  To hear of an unexpected death of a college student, to me, seems all the more tragic and contradictory.  When you look at the national statistics for death, unrelated to physical illness, of people in this age range, it’s pretty high.  I often say to some of my friends, “We can relax (a bit) when our kids reach 26/27.”  Some of the leading causes of death seem to drop around that age.  My non-expert opinion is that the pre-frontal cortex or the “executive suite” of the brain is not fully formed until the mid-20’s. This area of the brain controls problem-solving, prioritizing, risk vs. reward, thinking ahead, long-term planning, and regulation of emotions.  Could these things be tied together? I don’t know. I am just me trying to make sense of some very crazy stuff.  However, regarding these four students, and others like them, the reason is no longer important.

For those of you still young and able to read this, I will tell you what is important.  The answer is YOU!!!  YOU ARE WONDERFUL (even if imperfect), and YOU ARE (what is) IMPORTANT!  Not for one second, not even for the little blip, should you ever think otherwise.  YOU MATTER!!!

 

To S and J, I hope you know that you are still important. Love, Mrs. D.

051

 

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 800-273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

www.NA.org

DrugAbuse.com 1-877-759-5122

Have You Heard About the New SAT?

It’s getting good reviews.  On March 5, 2016, the College Board released a new version of the SAT. Here are some of the changes that are getting an A+:

  • Obscure vocabulary words are being traded in for more real-world analysis of more widely known words.  Students must demonstrate meaning through content.
  • Students are no longer penalized for guessing.
  • Students have reported it to be more straightforward and less tricky.
  • Math is more algebra and problem solving, but the use of a calculator is limited to certain questions.
  • There is less memorizing of math formulas.  A student needs to understand basic algebra and have the ability to work through a problem to be successful.
  • There are fewer questions: 154 with an essay vs. 171.
  • Students have a choice to write the essay.
  • A perfect score is 1600 with a separate score for the essay.

 

The College Board restricted the new SAT initial use.  Only those applying for college, scholarships, financial aid and other programs requiring the test score could take it in March.  People who didn’t fall into these groups can reschedule to take the test in May.

Keep in mind, the test continues to assess reading, writing and mathematics.  However, with fewer overall questions, there is more time for students to focus on an individual question in one of these areas.

The next administration of the new SAT will be on May 7th.  The registration deadline is April 8th.  If this date doesn’t work for you, you can find out other SAT dates through the College Board website.

Do you need practice?  There’s an app for that!  Get a question a day to keep on top of your skills.  And it’s free!  The College Board also has other tools and resources for doing the best you can.  Visit their website to “Meet the New SAT!”

For the class of 2017 or younger, who would like a more in-depth, but brief, review of the newest version of the SAT, visit The Princeton Review.

If you took the March debut version, and would like to give your feedback, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear about your experience.

What Season Is It?

You may think the answer is obvious, especially if you live in the Northeast or anywhere there has been some recent snow.  I look out my window and see the results of two snowstorms. One that was fairly significant and one that just made everything look pretty for 24 hours. But the real answer to that question is….it’s FAFSA Season!

Any student wishing to be reviewed for Financial Aid (both state and federal) for the 2016-2017 school year, can file now. For many schools, this deadline is March 1st.

High School Students:  Don’t wait to be accepted to college.  You can and should fill out the form now, whether or not you have heard from any of your selected schools.

Current College Students:  You should fill out the form for next year if you need financial aid or if you are considering a work-study position on-campus.  Many college positions will require this form be submitted regardless of financial aid eligibility.

Parents: FAFSA is making things easier on you.  Parents of high school juniors, the FAFSA form will be available three months sooner next year. You will be able to fill out the form as early as October 1, 2016.  AND, you will no longer have to rush to finish your current taxes for the FAFSA form.  You will be able to complete the form using two-year-old tax returns.  That is good news!

I know many of you may be thinking, “Great, Diane, snow and FAFSA: what a great combination.” Well, I apologize for that.   So, I will encourage you to look more closely. If you do, you will see signs of new life and spring.  Even under the snow, I have seen the aconites popping up.  I have heard a few song birds making their presence known.  New beginnings are soon upon us, and not just outdoors, but with our students too.  Many of my family and friends have made exciting announcements of incoming acceptance letters from colleges around the country.  High school students everywhere are beginning to receive notice of the new life in store for them.  Congratulations to those of you who have been accepted to college for next year.  Please feel free to comment on the school you will be attending in the fall.  I would love to hear from you.

Look closely for signs of Spring.
Look closely for signs of a new season.

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off

This morning, driving to work, as I entered the quaint little town of my employment, I noticed an older lady was getting up off the ground.  No doubt she had tripped on one of the notoriously uneven sidewalks.  I slowed down, but she seemed fine, and thankfully had a walking partner to help her.

Only a few hours before, at 5:00 am in the morning, while out for a run with a friend, we were carefully navigating the uneven sidewalks of our town.  I relayed a story to her of my mother.  On my mom’s 80th birthday, my family and I decided to go for a long weekend in Cape May.  We rented a home and had all driven to the shore to celebrate my mom for the entire weekend.  Being retired, my parents had arrived much earlier than the rest of us on this gorgeous Friday afternoon.  My mom, an incredibly young 80-year-old, decided she would go for a walk.  Cape May is known for their colorful Victorian homes.  However, they too have treacherous sidewalks.  While looking at one of the gingerbread homes, my mom took a pretty bad fall.  Yes, it could have been a lot worse, but it was bad enough that she started the evening with a trip to the emergency clinic.  She received stitches on her chin and eyebrow and later developed a lovely looking black eye.  Was she a little embarrassed? Yes. She even felt like she had ruined the night.  Nope, not even close.  As I recall, we had a wonderful night of laughter around the kitchen table.  Her fall was just a minor setback.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with me?”  Well, you know how the song goes. Or maybe you are a little young – actually the song pre-dates me. But it goes something like this: “Pick yourself up….Take a deep breath…Dust yourself off, and start all over again.”  I mention these stories (and song) because the same should hold true for you if find that your grades at the end of this semester are not as stellar as you had hoped.

So, what do you do? You are going to need to pick yourself up and maybe even take a course over again. If this is your first semester in college, don’t panic too much. Most likely, you can repair the damage.  Retaking any course with a D or an F is the fastest way to raise your GPA.   Consult the area of your academic catalog that pertains to retaking courses at your university. Consult with your academic advisor.  Be aware that there may be a limit to the amount of classes you can retake during your college career.  If this is the case, be judicious about which courses you retake.  If retaking a course is not an option, consider the second best way for raising your GPA.  Put a “GPA booster” on your schedule for next semester.  A GPA booster is a course in which you will do well.  This class may be different for each student.  Play to your strengths and interests.  Most likely a GPA booster course will fill in a free elective requirement or be an extra class.  Your academic advisor can give you guidance in this area.  If you’re saying to yourself, “That seems like a waste. Why would I take a course that doesn’t fill a requirement?”   The answer is simple:  This class is NOT a waste; it serves the purpose of bringing up your GPA.  Your top priority while in school is to earn and preserve a good GPA before graduation.  If an extra course does that for you, then it is NOT a waste.

Now that you have a plan, the hardest part is still ahead of you.  First, you should probably have a discussion with your parents. Honestly, for many students, that will be the toughest part. Secondly, you will need to work harder next semester, but you can do it! If you need assistance, all universities provide it.  Academic support can be found at your campus tutoring center and during your professor’s office hours.

If two elderly woman can pick themselves up after a fall, I have no doubt you can too.  As for my mother, that same weekend she decided to learn how to re-ride a bike after a 60-year hiatus – banged up face and all.  If she can have the confidence to do that, you can get back up again too.

A note to parents: If your student comes to you with a bad grade from this past semester, do your duty as a parent. By all means, give them a talking to! They need to hear that college isn’t a joke. On the flip side, once you are done playing it tough, be supportive.  College isn’t a joke, and with that comes some pretty difficult classes. The first semester (sometimes even year) can be a difficult transition. Maybe you remember. Remind them of the various support services, and ask your child for their improvement plan. Feel free to share my advice. Perhaps, set some expectations, if you haven’t already. Then, the hard part for you: giving your child the room and support needed to, hopefully, pick themselves up and succeed on their own.

A Thanksgiving Warning

Leaving campus last night and driving to work this morning there is a marked difference in parking spots. I work on a campus where there is a strategy to getting a place to park. So, on mornings like today, a quick look around, and you know it must be time for a break or holiday.

Many students across the country are headed home or have already made it to their destination for Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving break is a nice time for parents to reconnect with their students. For many, you may not have seen your child for a significant amount of time since move-in day. As much as you are looking forward to it, I am sending you this warning: You may get sick of each other sooner than you anticipated.

Students have been on their own for the last few months. They may come home, drop their things, only to take off to catch up with high school friends. Remember FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a real thing for our media and socially savvy children. Thanksgiving Eve is the busiest party night for bars and pubs across the US. Don’t be surprised if a newly turned 21-year-old wants to go out. Don’t be surprised if an under 21-year-old wants to go out too.

Back in my residence life days, I used to encourage parents to adjust their expectations for their new adult children. Consider setting new rules for children who have been, for the most part, independent over the last few months. I would also remind students that they will be back under their parents’ roof.  Remember to be respectful of your parents’ rules. Don’t forget to spend time with the people who helped you get to college. Help your parents around the house. My favorite suggestion: help the cook clean up after the big meal. If the cook is one of your parents, time in the kitchen can be time spent on catching up. How about asking your parents what has been going on in their life while you have been away. Recognition of their life without you (yes, life exists without you), may just astound them – in a good way. If the cook is not your parent, help anyway. Your mom and dad will notice, and it will fill them with pride.

Enjoy this time together. Be aware and sensitive to the changes that have likely occurred in the parent/child relationship. Be thankful for each other rather than sick of each other. Most importantly give your parents a hug (maybe even more than one).

***Here is another blog on the same topic. It’s very good!! Thanksgiving, with College Students: Fantasy, Reality and Getting it Right.

Thanksgiving