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How to Use Your College Agenda (The Right Way)

How to Use Your College Agenda (The Right Way) | Get organized and work smarter in college with your agenda!

In college, you’ll learn quickly that your success rides on your organization and time-management skills more than anything.

There’s so much more going on in college than there was in high school. Your assignments will be spread out, you’ll be involved in a lot of activities, and will generally have more to keep track of. Having something to organize your life is crucial to ensuring you’re making the most of your semester.

Using an agenda is a tried and true way to get your life together and keep it together. Everyone organizes differently, but if you’re someone who benefits from writing things down and loves taking the time to plan out their day, getting an agenda for college is the way to go!

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August 1, 2016
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5 Steps to Finding Your Dream College

The hunt for your dream college can be rough, I’ll give you that. But, it doesn’t have to be. I believe that everyone should be able to go to the college of their dreams or at least one very close to it. People say that the 4 years you spend in college are the pinnacle of your adolescence. They should never be wasted on a college you feel just so-so about!

Dartmouth College took me completely by surprise when I discovered it was my actual dream college. I had originally set my eyes on Stanford University (for about 4 years actually). But, after a visit on a west coast college tour, I realized I only had lukewarm feelings toward it.

However, Dartmouth swept me off my feet the moment I drove into the campus. Dartmouth met every vision that I had of my dream college. I’m sure I wouldn’t have landed on this treasure if not for these 5 steps.

If you’re knee-deep in the dream college search, or just starting, follow the tips below and you’ll narrow down your choices by far.

5 Steps to Finding Your Dream College

How to Find Your Dream College

1. START WITH A CLEAN SLATE

I had been enamored with the idea of Stanford University since I was 12 and my mom took me there while she was on a business trip. My expectations and imagination ran wild for 4 years, and when I returned at 16, I was disappointed by the reality.

If you’re hanging on to any college for whatever reason (parents are alumni, you saw it in a TV show once, etc) you’re going to have to get comfortable with the idea that it might end up not being the best fit. Make sure you haven’t fallen in love with the idea of a college.

Instead, you should keep a completely open mind. Don’t start your college search leaning one way or another just yet. You’ll need to ask yourself some questions first, which brings me to my next point.

2. SET YOUR STANDARDS

In order to weed out your dream college from the thousands you have to choose from, you should already have an idea of what you want by the time you start your heavy searching. Jot down what you see yourself doing in college, what it looks like, etc. Basically everything you imagine college being.

You need to set up the standards of your ideal college. You must do this in order to ensure that you’re finding the college that fits YOU, and not trying to fit yourself into a college that isn’t for you. 

 Can you answer these questions?

WHAT TYPE OF ACADEMIC PLAN?

It can be hard to pick an academic plan when you’ve never actually been to college before. You can divide up colleges and their academic curricula into two main categories: Liberal Arts colleges and Universities.

Liberal Arts colleges value the arts, humanities, and the sciences. They emphasize having a well-rounded education that requires a wider breadth of knowledge.

Universities are much larger schools that usually focus more on research. You are typically fixed in the major you choose and won’t need to branch out to other topics if you don’t want to.

DO THEY TREAT YOUR MAJOR WELL?

Some schools will teach your major differently or better than others. With my major, Cognitive Science, one college had a more technological approach to it and another took a scientific approach. I wanted the scientific approach. These nuances are important to take note of.

Some schools also teach certain majors better than others. I wouldn’t recommend going to a school that hardly pays attention to their Psychology department if you’re trying to major in that exact subject.

If you are undecided, narrow your major choices to at least 2-3 and research the top ranking colleges in those majors. You can even dig a little deeper into the colleges by looking at where graduates who studied your major are now.

WHAT TYPE OF CAMPUS SETTING?

There are three types of colleges: Rural, Suburban, and Urban. Each have their pros and cons and you want to choose carefully. Check out College Board’s page on the characteristics of each campus.

WHAT TYPE OF CAMPUS VIBE?

Do you love partying or are you a tad more reserved? Maybe you’re a monogram junky, and a preppy school would be good for you. Or maybe you’re a hipster and want to go to a school that really values social activism and staying #woke. Whatever the case, find the campus vibe that appeals most to your personality. College is for finding your people, your tribe, you know? You can’t do that if it’s difficult to relate to 90% of the student body!

You can include lots of other criteria in your college search, too. Maybe you plan on playing varsity sports and want a D1 level school. Proximity to home is another good one. I made sure I moved far away from the South!

How to Find the Colleges:

After you’ve set your standards, it’s time to find the colleges that meet them. Start with the broadest standard. This would be the academic plan or campus setting. The easiest thing to do is search rankings. If you’ve chosen the Liberal Arts curriculum, search “Liberal Arts college rankings” in Google.

Cut your coat according to your size and choose the colleges your high school performance best meets.

Then, narrow your search down further. Once you’ve chosen around 20 colleges, start checking out where each college is, where they rank in your particular area(s) of studies, and so on until you’ve whittled down your choice of colleges to the cream of the crop.

3. CREATE A HIERARCHY

After you’ve set your standards and found maybe 5 to 10 colleges that meet a majority, if not all of them, you need to create a hierarchy. Categorize the colleges by how close they meet your criteria. I also ended up ranking my colleges by difficulty to get into. I had 2 that I really wanted to go to, but were also the highest tier as far as acceptance rates. Then I picked 2 to 3 mid-level colleges that I had more than a 60% chance of getting into, and I was fine with them as well. Then I chose another 2 “fallback plan” colleges that met a majority of my criteria, my admittance was almost guaranteed, but wasn’t completely in love with.

The top 3 or 4 in your hierarchy should be the ones you focus on the most. These are colleges that you’d be totally okay with getting accepted to and are excited about.  

4. TAKE A COLLEGE TOUR

If you can budget for college tours, absolutely take them. I literally cannot stress this enough. I recommend visiting your top 3 colleges.

Every college sounds great on paper, but until you see it physically, you will never truly get an authentic feel for them.

Dartmouth was in the top 5 of my hierarchy, but it wasn’t my number 1 at first. It wasn’t until I actually visited the campus that it became my dream college. If you can’t visit, take the virtual tour online and do the most thorough research that you can. One of my favorite things to do was look up college vlogs on Youtube for each college on my list to get a closer look inside. (These searches will also help you get more of a feel for campus vibe and setting.)

5. RESEARCH, ADJUST, GET EXCITED

Depending on the dream college you’ve decided on, you may need to start kicking your ass into gear. Research more in-depth acceptance rates of your college.

If there’s a median ACT/SAT score or GPA of accepted students, you want to make sure you can get there or above that level by the time you start applying for colleges.

If the odds truly seem against you for that college, pick the next best thing and focus on that. But, still apply to the top one, you never know!

Now that you’ve found your college, it’s time to get excited and get passionate. I realize that it’s scary to get your hopes up about a college, especially if it has a really low acceptance rate.

However, your chances of getting in increase 100% (in my opinion, at least) when you show full-on passion for the college you’re applying to. Admissions boards can see right through an application and tell whether you’re actually excited about their college or are applying “just because”. 

A little advice: You know that saying “reach for the stars and you’ll end up among the clouds”? That’s the exact mindset you should have here. Shoot freaking high, you never know where you’ll land. Dartmouth was my first choice and also the one on my list that was hardest to get into. I did my best and succeeded. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t miss out on opportunities because of self-doubt or fear of failure. You can do this!


Hey, you! Want more college advice and resources? Check out my most helpful posts here:

What They Don’t Tell You to Bring to College

Top 5 Places to Buy Your Dorm Decor

What to Do the Summer Before Freshman Year

 

 

July 20, 2016
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How to Overcome Pre-College Anxiety

Nervousness and fear before your first year is common and a very normal occurrence. Unfortunately, there are about 3 months between high school graduation and stepping foot on campus in which all of the fears you never even knew existed get to fully sink in and keep you up at night. These months can be like those treacherous moments right before your first day of high school but stretched out over ~80 days. It’s quite annoying and sometimes a daily struggle to overcome these fears. While I still get a little nervous, the following reminders have helped me lessen the severity of pre-college anxiety.

How to Overcome Pre-College Anxiety

Common Sources of Pre-College Anxiety & Their Solutions

Making Friends

A lot of people worry about finding their “fit” in college. It might be the first time ever that your classmates aren’t the same people you went to kindergarten with. Making new friends out of complete strangers may be a skill you haven’t sharpened in some time. Or maybe you’re like me–switched schools quite a bit and didn’t quite master the skill of long-lasting friendships. Whatever the case, it’s nothing to worry about. While it’s true that college is a different environment than high school, great relationships are more easily established here for two reasons.

  1. Everyone is equal- The second you step on campus as freshmen, you’re all in the same boat. Everyone’s new, everyone’s nervous, and everyone wants friends. Once you understand that your classmates are just like you, reaching out to them should come easily. You also have the ability to start over. Don’t let whatever held you back from making the most of your relationships accompany you to college. Nobody knows your past or your fears, so don’t bring them!
  2. There are more opportunities– You might have had a few clubs or activities in which you could get to know people in high school. In college, there are tons of opportunities to meet new people. From classes to clubs to greek life and everything in between, there is no doubt you’ll find your tribe somewhere on campus. Push yourself to try new things. Explore places you might not have thought of before. The greatest experiences and friendships come from trying something new.

Overcome Your Fear: 

This fear usually comes as college draws closer and closer. Reminding yourself of some of your best traits is a great way to build up some confidence! Write down 5 things that you think makes you a good friend and 2 things you’d like to work on in college. Knowing your abilities and having a goal to accomplish gives you a future you can look forward to instead of fear.

Gentle Reminder: You don’t need to rush friendships because you fear being alone. Friends will absolutely come, but you should get used to the idea that you can have fun by yourself too. Check out my post on embracing alone time and how it can actually improve your relationships!

Deciding a Major

I totally get it! People around you have been making decisions for you your whole life and, suddenly, you’re the one who has to take the wheel and choose the direction of your future. It can be a lot of pressure trying to figure out a major, especially if you’re someone who has a lot of interests. The truth is, you don’t have to have it all figured out the minute you get to campus. To throw some statistics out, around 80% of college students change their major at least once. Colleges design their curriculums to handle these kinds of changes.

Overcome Your Fear:

Start thinking more about what your passions and interests are during the summer. Following these will lead you to the right subjects. Research the majors that are offered in your school and get a feel for what you might be interested in. The most important thing is to keep an open mind and try new things. You never know what class or professor will spark a new fire in you, and what direction it might take you!

Making Good Grades

You’ve probably heard the lecture from everyone and their mother that high school classes are nowhere near the level of difficulty that college is. Even AP or IB classes pale in comparison to the “vigor” that will be employed in your Math 1 class. While there is some truth to this, it’s nothing you should fear. College is supposed to be challenging. It’s the next level of your education. You aren’t paying an unspeakable amount of money to take 4 more years of high school! Your college also won’t just toss you to the lions. They understand the difficult transition and provide so many resources to ensure success.

Overcome Your Fear:

Remind yourself that it’s nearly impossible to fail if you just take advantage of the resources on campus. Your professors, teaching assistants, tutors, libraries, and 24 hour cafés (for those all-nighters) all want to see you do well. Don’t be afraid to get help, thats what these places and people are here for. Before you step foot on campus, make it a goal for academics to be a priority. You may need to go beyond what’s right in front of you and change up your studying habits if necessary.

Getting Along With Roommates

It’s certainly difficult adjusting to a life with a roommate. It can be nerve-wracking during the summer not knowing how things will turn out with your roomie. You’ve probably read all of the roommate horror stories and are sure your roommate will kill your goldfish while you’re out or something. While there’s no guarantee you’ll get the perfect roommate, there are a few ways to encourage a functional and good relationship. 

Overcome Your Fear:

The best way to squash this fear is to face it! If you know who your roommate is, contact them before school starts and get to know them. You may find out they’re completely normal and that you guys could even become friends. If contacting isn’t an option, start thinking of ways you can become comfortable with your roommate once you get to campus. Planning does a lot to cure a fear of the unknown.


I hope these reminders provide some relief this summer! You’re not alone in this and you should never have to deal with pre-college anxiety alone. If you have any other worries, comment below and talk to me about them. I’ll be sure to help.

 

July 2, 2016
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Friends Can Be Your Biggest Assets

It’s easy to underestimate the influence that your friends can have on you. We sometimes forget that our friendships can serve as another rung in the ladder towards achieving our dreams. In a generation of entrepreneurs, hustlers, and professional risk-takers, we should start considering the people we keep close to us as assets to our business and life goals. How Friends Can Be Your Biggest Assets

If you take a good look at who you keep in your circle, what is their general makeup? I recommend having some friends who are as ambitious and inspired as you. Having friends that you can be constantly discussing, dreaming, and bouncing off ideas with will carry you much farther towards self-improvement than you know.
For example, I have a group of friends who all bring some level of excellence to the table. We’re big on academia, some of us are great creative thinkers, others are political buffs, and all of us are social justice participants. Together, we have deeply profound discussions about topics like current events and politics, philosophical and psychological questions, and our next big ideas and goals. Despite the occasional debates that turn into arguments, I always leave feeling more inspired, more educated, and a more enlightened person. I don’t think I would’ve gotten the idea to restart my blog without seeing a new creative spark in my friend at the discovery of writing poetry.
Having people around you who perform on the same wavelength as you, who want to reach the same level of success as you and who will encourage you to do the same are powerful.

A relationship like this takes a good amount of intellectual confidence on your part to get the most out of it. Your friends might excel in areas where you have room for improvement.  If you want to benefit from a friendship like How Friends Can Be Your Biggest Assetthat there is no space to be insecure about yourself. Their expertise and ambition in their skill set should inspire you to reach that same level in your own endeavors. And you will motivate them as well! That is how these friendships will push you towards greatness.

Similarly, I wouldn’t rely too much on friends who lack your same spirit and ambition. It’s easy to be dragged down by these types, and it will be a little bit harder to work for your goals if nobody else around you is doing the same. They might be great for emotional support, comic relief, and all of the great things that come with friendships, but it’s important to keep in mind that they are not on the same path as you.

When meeting new friends or evaluating the ones you currently have, always consider who will help you become a person you can fall in love with. It comes down to having a healthy balance of friends who just make you feel better and friends who actually make you better.

-Lots of Love, Lola

 

June 28, 2016
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