When I started my freshman year, I felt like I was just pretending I knew how to be a college student while everyone around me seemed to have it down. By the end of my senior year, I had a much better grasp on it, but there were a lot of things I learned as an upperclassman I wished I'd known before starting freshman year.

Here's 4 essential pieces of advice that I wish had been passed along to me at the beginning of my college journey.

  1. Apply for as many outside scholarships as you can.
    When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher made everyone in our class apply to at least one scholarship each week, and I, along with every other student, rolled my eyes and groaned. We applied to the easiest scholarships possible -- the ones that just required you to enter a name and email address -- to avoid the agony of writing essays and submitting transcripts.
    Once I started college, I realized that it would have been a lot smarter to look for smaller essay competitions or niche scholarships that I had a better chance of getting in order to cover some of the cost of my liberal arts school. Scholarship aggregators like Fastweb and College Greenlight are useful tools to search for those relevant awards.
  2. Join extracurriculars, but don't get carried away. When I went to my college's Activity Fair, I was convinced that I was going to join about 10 different clubs. After just a few weeks, I'd boiled down those activities to just a few that I really wanted to do. Extracurriculars look great on your resume, but take on too many and you'll get burnt out, have no free time, and struggle with your academic workload.
  3. Get to know your professors. This doesn't mean sucking up -- it means intelligently participating in class, asking questions when you need clarification, and attending your professor's office hours when you need more help. This way you'll get more out of the class, and you'll also be forming a relationship with a professor who can then write you a strong letter of recommendation when you're applying for grad school or your first post-college job.
  4. Don't jump headfirst into a major. Focus on getting your general requirement classes out of the way during your freshman year -- this will give you a sampling of your school's different departments and provide you with a better sense of what you're interested in. 55% to 60% of college students change their major at least once (I was one of them), so don't feel like you need to immediately commit to something.


Be flexible and willing to learn as you go along. Keep my previous four tips in mind, but know that the college experience is different for everyone, and you will figure it out once you throw yourself into campus life.

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Learning is something I love. I often feel most powerful while grasping a topic, wrestling with it, and then creating something new with that information . With the continuing democratization of information and education consistently evolving, there are more resources than ever before to increase our skills. Here are nine tools to help you learn more, starting now.

Sometimes I wonder what the professors at other schools are like--how they teach, what they focus on, and if I might have learned differently if I went to their university. EdX gives you that chance by having a selection of courses taught by real professors from all over the world. You have Harvard, Berkeley, MIT and a host of other global universities all at your fingertips. Great news.

What would you learn if you had unlimited options? Coursera puts that question to the test with a huge variety of courses that span almost every academic discipline. There are millions of people taking their courses, so you get to join a vibrant community of learners, thinkers, and doers. All you need is an internet connection and some curiosity.

How we measure education is changing at the speed of light. But one thing's for certain: learning is a lifetime endeavor, and a "transcript" should be built to reflect how we learn in the 21st century. Degreed compiles all the courses you have ever taken online or offline, into a fluid document you can share with the world.

Life is all about the moves you make. Udemy is built to make sure you get the best information when you start to make those moves. They have an incredible library of e-learnings and presentations on every subject from yoga to photography design.

Learning new skills can help make you irreplaceable. Skillshare lets you learn by doing. The teachers are professionals, so you are getting advice from people who are making and doing exactly what they teach.

I am not talented when it comes to art, but I love to learn how I can incorporate more creative concepts into my life and work. CreativeLive specializes in trainings and classes that give anyone with artistic talent a place to learn and grow.

Learning how to code is definitely a career upgrade. Companies are always looking for designers and developers with programming skills. CodeAcademy makes it simple and fun to learn the basics, and has all types of resources to take your skills to the next level. The site works if you are a pure novice, or if you want to brush up on your techniques to keep them current.

If you learn visually, then Udacity was made for you. It offers interactive courses from world class instructors and business leaders, in easy to navigate chunks that fit into your hectic schedule. After you satisfy your requirements, you get to a certificate that lets you show the world what you learned and accomplished.

There are lots of places to learn new things. I think Redhoop is quickly becoming the Google of online learning. It indexes thousands of courses (including most mentioned here) and organizes them by topic and cost. With over 7000 courses and 1600 of them being free, there is definitely something there for any type of interest. New courses are added everyday so go check it out!


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When I tell people I'll graduate with my bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University within three years, I tend to hear comments like, "You must be crazy" and, "Do you have a social life?"

A four-year degree now takes about six years for many college students to complete. But, let's face it: those extra years could be equivalent to thousands in student loans.

Graduating sooner is not as hard as it sounds. Here are my tips:

Start early. Begin planning in high school if you're serious about graduating early. By the time you attend freshman orientation, you should know the answers to these three questions:

  1. What program am I going to study?
  2. What are the program requirements to graduate?
  3. What is my backup plan if I decide to take my career a different route?

(Quick tip: try and find a backup plan that has similar required courses as your first plan. This way, no credits will be wasted if you decide to switch!)

Plan your academic career from start to finish. Take the time to plan out each semester through graduation. Determine what classes need to be completed by when. Pay attention to which courses are only offered during certain semesters and note the prerequisites. You'll have to juggle your program, degree, major and minor requirements, so find any courses that overlap or can double count.

You don't have to waste a semester taking "intro" courses to discover your passion. The reason it takes so many students extra time to graduate is because they waste time figuring out what they want to do with their lives. Some professors recommend taking an introductory course to find out if you like it, but it can be a waste of your money. Instead, consider networking or job shadowing with professionals in careers you're interested in, researching careers online and working with your academic adviser.

(Quick tip: If you feel the need to take an "intro" course, make sure it counts as a university course requirement. This way, if you end up choosing a different area of study, your money wasn't wasted!)

Take summer classes and do internships for credit to help reach graduation requirements. The hardest part about graduating from a four-year program in three years is figuring out how to reach the university's credit requirements for graduation. On one hand, you could burden yourself with a heavy course load of 20-some credits each semester. Or, you could utilize your time taking summer classes either at your university or local community college (just make sure those credits will transfer to your university). Doing an internship for credit also is a great way to gain professional experience while helping you reach your graduation requirements.

Work hard. If graduating in three years were easy, everyone would do it. But, as long as you plan things out, everything will pay off in the end.


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Buying books can be really expensive, especially if you only buy them from the campus bookstore. However, there are several option available to cut the cost of books.


This doesn't work for every class, but some schools have copies of course books in their library. That way you can read and study and not pay anything for your book. It's also where I got my books for literature classes, because Pride and Prejudice can be found in any library.

Rent books

This is fairly new concept and isn't available at all schools, but there are campus stores that let you rent a book for a term for a much lower price. If you can't rent books on your campus make sure to check out Chegg for textbook rentals.

Used books

Many books will be used over and over and over again by professors, so there's a pretty good chance you can find a used copy for little money. Check smaller bookstores around campus and online as well before you commit to buying.


This is a great resource, but it's really only helpful if you know in advance what books you need. They take a few days to get to your house, and the condition of the book is indicated when you buy it. I've bought a few books that were listed as "like new" and were still wrapped in plastic.


Electronic versions of books are usually cheaper than paper versions and can be found almost anywhere.

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As a resident assistant for two years, I've dealt firsthand with the heartache some freshmen experience upon arrival at college. The easiest way I know of to dull the pain: a care package. Some parents may need a few hints, though. Here's a simple list of items you can send to your family members to help them assemble the ideal care package.

  1. Cash: If you're like me, you won't be receiving any Franklins, but a Hamilton here or there is a day brightener.
  2. Books: Ask mom to slip a copy of the latest fiction bestseller into your next package. It's true, college requires a lot of reading—typically of the dry variety—but you shouldn't let that spoil your love of pop fiction.
  3. Movie tickets: The silver screen has long been a form of both escapism and realism. And, a pair of tickets makes for a fun night out with your new roommate.
  4. Baked goods: Who doesn't love grandpa's prized snicker doodles? Seriously. Anyone?
  5. A recent family photo: Amid jam-packed schedules, we may neglect to keep in contact with our family. Receiving a family picture that can be affixed via magnet to the mini fridge should serve as a reminder of who's living at home and missing the heck out of us! (And who we ought to call!)
  6. Gas card: Feel free to frame this as an ultimatum: no gas card, no visit home. Just kidding.
  7. Festive socks: Do you desire a grand way to show your friends how ghoulishly cool you can be at Halloween? With festive socks tricked out with pumpkins, others can't beat what you got on the feet.
  8. Bubble wrap: You can endow your bubble wrap with symbolic significance as you label each air pocket as an obstacle or stressor in your life. Then aggressively pop away. This also works with balloons.
  9. Snacks: Perhaps you're known to polish off three bags of potato chips nightly or have cravings for dark chocolate. Either way, a care package is a stellar resource for subsidizing your snacking.
  10. Spirit gear: A university is a home, culture, source of pride and much more. Periodically refuel your school spirit with a new addition to your collegiate wardrobe.
  11. New shoes: College is all about walking, and lots of it. While it's sure to sculpt your legs and keep money in your pocket, it also will wear out your shoes.
  12. iTunes card: You're bound to interact with others whose music tastes will inevitably rub off on you. An iTunes card helps you quickly, easily, and legally expand your music collection. And those anti-Apple rebels can always use an Amazon card.
  13. New pens and highlighters: You don't need to possess a Lisa Frank fetish to revel in the glory of a new pack of writing utensils. It will make taking notes in history class a little less painful.
  14. Chewing gum: As a friend of mine likes to profess, "You're the most popular kid at school when you bring out the sticks."
  15. Handwritten notes: A letter or postcard in a care package will mean a great deal more than any gift card, candy or clothing once you graduate. These are the keepsakes you will cherish for a lifetime.


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If you're gearing up for your first year at college, listen up… these tips might help you navigate your way around campus. Having just finished four solid weeks as a freshman academic orientation mentor, I've been asked a lot of questions. After hanging out with new students and introducing them to college life, I've created my list of the top four questions everyone must have answered before the first day of class.

  1. What's the best way to meet new people on campus?  
    When living in the residence halls, the rule is: live with your door open. That's how people get to know each other. I knew a guy on my floor freshman year that walked up and down each floor popping his head into every room to introduce himself. He made lots of friends and everybody knew who he was.
  2. Do I have to choose a major right away?  
    Being undecided is okay. I planned to study political science, but after meeting people with similar interests and taking some intro classes that sparked my passion, I found a major that better suited me. I'm glad I took the time to explore.
  3. How do I get involved on campus?
    Seek out activities that are unique and interest you. Be adventurous. There are hundreds of student organizations on campus. Join a few at the start of the year. Then pick your favorites and whittle down your commitments as time passes.
  4. What's the best-kept secret about college?
    You'll find the answer to this off campus. Go exploring -- on two wheels, on four wheels or by foot. Check out the community. See what's downtown. You'll find some of the best burgers, pizza and dogs in some of the most unexpected places.

If you've already done a campus tour and forgot to ask these questions--no worries--most admissions offices would be happy to provide answers. Shoot them an email or give them a quick call.


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Finding the means to pay for college without going further into debt can be tough. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities and grants that can make funding a bit easier, however, sometimes that is just not enough to cover everything. When you need extra cash to fulfill your college needs such as rent, electronics, books, and other things of that nature, there are other ways you can go about getting it. One very popular alternative to taking out another student loan is to consider work study opportunities.

How to Apply for Work Study
Applying for work study is very easy. When you fill out the FAFSA you can then select the field that asks if you're interested in work study opportunities for funding college. From there, it's up to the financial aid office to determine your eligibility for work study based upon your overall financial need.

Where Can You Find Work Study Opportunities?
You find work study jobs by inquiring with your college admissions or employment offices, local banks, and other job postings in your area. Once you've found a job you're interested in you will have to interview with the employer to ensure that you're a good fit. It is important to keep in mind that the final decision is in the hands of the employer so making a good impression is a must.

How Much Could You Earn?
The question of how much you can earn essentially will depend upon a few factors. One of the most important determining factors is how much your school has been awarded for work study. The federal government provides schools with a set amount of funds to allocate to work study based upon the amount of students in need for that school year. Other factors for determining how much you receive will be determined based on the federal work study amount you were awarded on your financial aid application as you cannot exceed that amount. However, you will always receive the federal minimum wage per hour. The other thing to remember is that you're only able to work as many hours as your financial need and school's work study funding availability.

What types of Jobs will You Find in Work Study?
There are two types of work study jobs you might find. One type is called on campus work study in which you will be working for the college. When working off campus, students are usually matched with jobs in their field of study.

Work study is truly a benefit for college students. You can get real world experience in a field you're interested in, students are able to give back to your school/community (in instances where you work a community service job or on campus), and lastly, you're able to pay for your continued education without the stress of going further into debt with student loans. To learn more about work study programs, you should speak with your financial aid office to find out what opportunities are available for you.

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Starting a business can be exciting, and what better way to do it than sharing that experience with a friend. Before you start putting together contracts, a business plan and investment proposals, here are some things to know before starting a business with a friend. 

Everyone has their own personality quirks, and as a friend these quirks might not bother you. If you plan to go into business with your friend, consider if these things will become a major issue.

Quirks to watch out for include:

• Tardiness: Is your friend often late to meet when you have plans? Has your friend ever mentioned arriving late to work? Tardiness could affect you negatively when meeting with clients or investors.

• Procrastination: Letting things go till the last minute could be a major issue. You want someone who gets things done quickly and without deadlines.

• Passiveness: Nothing is worse than running a business with a partner that waits to be told what to do. This can be tolerated at times from an employee, but not someone who is helping steer the ship.

Whether You and Your Friend Can Resolve Differences in a Healthy Way

As with any close relationship, there are bound to be conflicts. Most likely, both you and your friend will be passionate about being successful, and you won't always see eye-to-eye when it comes to how you will reach that goal. Since that conflict is inevitable, will you and your friend be able to resolve conflict in a healthy way? 

Whether Your Friend's Strengths Complement Your Own
When choosing a business partner, it's not only about having someone to share the experience with. A partner can bring strengths to the partnership that you don't possess. If you're good at building rapport with new clients, maybe your partner is good at creating a budget. If you're good at programming the software, maybe your partner is good at marketing the product. By having a partner that fills in the gaps, you'll be able to build a strong business that is successful.
Whether All Legal Documents Are in Order


It might seem premature to create and sign legal documents needed for a business that hasn't really begun. However, it's one of the first things you should do when starting a business.

There are three things that these legal documents should cover:

• Control of the company: These include a voting agreement, a vesting schedule for equity, and a right of first refusal.

• Ownership of intellectual property: This will ensure that all intellectual property brought to the table is owned legally by the partners.

• Protection of business idea: Before you start telling the world about your great business idea, be sure that it's protected through NDAs and that you only discuss the idea with those who need to know.

In addition to legal documents, you should secure business insurance, which protects your company's assets.

Business partnerships are a lot like marriages. They take a lot of work and they shouldn't be gone into lightly.

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I avoided "Wish Lists" for a long time. Something about them seemed, well, wishy-washy. Many of my favorite online retailers placed an "Add To Wish List" button near every item I wanted, making me feel annoyed that anyone could possibly think I'd wait any longer to purchase my $44 turquoise teapot. I'd always click the "Purchase Now" button instead.

But then something changed. No longer did I have money to spend on tea supplies, CDs, books, and DVDs without putting a sizeable dent in my wallet. I was on a budget, meaning my wallet was no longer dent-proof, but rather fragile indeed. This became more and more noticeable as my mailbox continued to be the bearer of "bad news" in the form of a cell phone bill, car payments and insurance, and student loans —one after the other, and on a consistent monthly basis. Like my lovely turquoise teapot, all the other cool stuff I had intended to purchase had to be placed on the backburner.

One day, I broke down and scribbled my first Wish List on a piece of notebook paper. I separated my Wish List into two sections: "Wishes Wanted" and "Wishes Granted," and then I proceeded to list—unashamedly—every single item that I wanted to buy. After each item description, I listed the price, and also put a star next to the items I felt should be purchased sooner rather than later. When I did purchase an item, it was promptly transferred to my "Wishes Granted" list, which reminded me that I was making progress in a responsible, you-should-pat-yourself-on-the-back kind of way.

My Wish List put into perspective not only what I intended to buy over the next few months, but also made me see exactly where my "extra" money was going and how I was successfully finding that balance between the things I needed and the things I wanted. I might not have known it at the time, but I was doing myself a huge favor: my Wish List, which I still use to this day (now in electronic format!), has helped me stay within my budget. Sure, I may have to wait a little bit longer to purchase all the items I'd like to own, but it makes me appreciate them that much more when I do purchase them. I suppose this means that Wish Lists aren't that wishy-washy after all.


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The Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal published a study in 2012 that found 70 percent of college students gain weight, averaging almost 12 pounds in four years. While many factors can contribute to the weight gain, eating a balanced diet while living in the dorm rooms can help you maintain a healthy weight. Consider your health when buying food to keep in your dorm room.


Snack on nuts and seeds when cramming for tests or reading your textbooks. Nuts and seeds boost brain power and memory. Dr. Oz says peanuts have choline, a B vitamin that supports overall mental functioning. Walnuts have omega-3, vitamin E and other antioxidants that also help brain function.

Quality carbs help with concentration. Whole grains improve circulation, which makes it easier to focus. Try whole-grain cereal or an English muffin or bagel with peanut butter as a quick breakfast or snack before an exam.

Keep broccoli in the fridge to dip in hummus while studying or reading. Broccoli has vitamin K, which enhances cognitive function and improves brain power. Sip green tea to improve alertness. WebMD.com suggests eating dark fruits like blueberries that help with cognition thanks to their antioxidants.

Sweet Snack

Craving sugar? Try dark chocolate; it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus and concentration. Dark chocolate also has lots of antioxidants.

When You Need Sleep

Physicians on sharecare.com, a health and wellness website, suggest you try high-carb foods that boosts serotonin, like half a cup of pretzels, chia seeds, or half a cup of pasta with marinara sauce. Wash it down with a warm cup of decaffeinated herbal tea or milk.

Don’t forget the proteinKeep deli meats in your mini fridge to make sandwiches with low-fat cheese and whole-wheat bread. Skip the regular mayo in favor of mustard or low-fat mayo. Pair the sandwich with fruit. For quick protein boost, try protein bars or shakes.


Tired of the same old turkey or PB&J sandwich? Try these healthy variations, all on whole-wheat bread: almond and cranberries with peanut butter; light, whipped cream cheese and blueberries; and tuna salad and tomato.

More Foods To Stock


  • When you're in a hurry and don't want to miss breakfast, grab a banana and a protein bar; a bowl of healthy cereal with fruit; oatmeal; peanut butter and honey toast with banana slices on top; or Greek yogurt with fruit.


  • Drink plenty of water.


  • Keep premade salad bags and low-fat dressing, instant rice, or steamed frozen-veggie packets for easy side dishes. Purchase canned soups with low sodium as well as beans, which boost energy.


  • Other healthy snacks include low-fat cottage cheese, sugar-free Jello, kale chips, granola bars, whole-grain chips and salsa, pita chips/bread with hummus, popcorn without butter or with very little margarine, and Saltine crackers and part-skim Mozzarella cheese.



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