How to Set Manageable College Goals

banner728X90-2College is a huge concept in our society. People start planning for it before their children are born, kids grow up hearing myths about it starting almost in kindergarten, and every day of high school seems geared towards the SAT’s and job readiness. With such high stakes, how is it possible to get through day-to-day life in a way that helps you maximize what you’re getting out of your education?

The biggest goal, obviously, is your degree, and some people may attach other goals to that: Graduate with a 4.0. Make Phi Beta Kappa. Chug an entire keg. Whatever. But when the goal is that big, it’s difficult to come up with smaller goals. That is why I used to use the following framework:

Every term, I would sit down with my advisor. If you don’t have an advisor, sit down with someone you trust: a mentor, a parent, or even your roommate.

  1. List your biggest goals. Think on the timeline of 4-5 years out, when you will ideally be graduating. Subdivide this list into personal and professional / educational goals.
  2. List your academic and personal goals for the term. Think about what you want to have accomplished this term. A 4.0? Registering for the LSAT (oh, you poor fool!)? Earning a black belt? Running a half marathon?
  3. Create a mid-term checkup checklist. Decide on a date (preferably one with no midterm exams or papers due) and sit down with your mentor. They have to be your accountability partner.
  4. Every week, take 5-10 minutes on Friday afternoon. Write down what you have done that you are proud of and what you have done to achieve your goals. If it’s nothing, be honest. At least write it down.
  5. At the midterm checkup, ask yourself: Am I doing what I need to do to achieve my goals? Ask your accountability partner: Do you think I could be doing something else / something more? If so, what?
  6. At the midterm checkup, revise your goals, and add notes as to why. Be really honest, but not hard on yourself. “I realized that I need another term to train for a marathon” is fine, because now you have a new goal. “I bombed the midterm because I was hung-over, so I don’t think I’ll make an A in organic chemistry” is honest. The point of this is to be honest with yourself and develop useful goal-making habits.

Of course this process doesn’t even have to be formal. However, I do think it’s really important to share it with someone else. Sometimes you can be really hard on yourself if you don’t meet your goals. It’s really important to realize that sometimes, changing the goals you make is a more important reflection of your growth than actually achieving the goals. And the point of college, in some ways, should be to grow as a person and understand yourself more.

Keep your goals on the horizon. Work smarter, not harder, and see if any of our friendly professors can help you today.

More networking tips for shy students

banner150X160Last fall, I blogged about some networking tips for the shy student. Now it’s a new year, a new term, and I have a whole new set of tips for you today. If you followed my advice, hopefully last term you made some friends, networked online, got in good with your professors, and made some social goals. Here are some challenges for you.

Hang out in the laundry room. No, really. Here is my thinking: Everyone who’s worth knowing does laundry sooner or later, right? So they will come through. And the people who don’t go to the laundry room will become someone else’s smelly friends, not yours. Added bonus: The laundry room is also a quiet place to study, generally speaking, free of many other distractions. So striking up a conversation with a potential new friend should be pretty easy. “Aren’t you in my [insert topic here] class?” is a good place to start, even if you know they aren’t. Or “Cool [team] hoodie! Were you at the game last week?”

Get out of the house or dorm. If you are in an online class, or online only program, networking may feel abstract and alienating. Try working in a public place: there are many coffee shops and even meetups targeted at people who work or study online. Check out WorkFrom.co or Meetup.com

Volunteer. This will help your resume, help you network, and connect you with people who share your interests. Put up flyers or invite people in your class to go with you to a cleanup. There are websites to find volunteer opportunities especially tailored to your interests. Try to get groups of people together to volunteer. It’s totally okay to ask your professor before class if you can make an announcement: “There’s a big river cleanup Saturday; does anyone want to go with me? It’s a great volunteer opportunity and then we can all get pizza. I’m hoping to get 20 people to come with me!”

Try on a new identity. Hell, it’s college. You might as well do it now. Do or wear something that starts conversations. Wear a tail. Get a weird piercing. Carry around a hobbyhorse. Be a Brony. Have a few snappy answers ready when someone asks you about them.

“Say Yes”. This is simple, but consider: there are few other times in your life when you have as much to gain and as little to lose as you do in college. A friend of mine had a rule in college to never turn down social engagements and to always say yes the first three times someone asked her to do something. After that, if you hate them, say no! But what’s the worst that will happen if you sit and have lunch (or three lunches) with someone who turns out to be boring, or if you go on a “meh” date or three? Nothing! You’ll gain valuable social experience and maybe even build important relationships.

Focus on networking, not studying. Work smarter, not harder, and see if any of our friendly professors can help you today.

Students – Make tomorrow suck less

banne300X200One of the most useful things I’ve ever come across is the “Unfuck your habitat” (UFYH) site. This site is full of small fixes and even an app. The fundamental idea underlying it is the Pareto principle, as well as the idea that small changes add up over time, because it’s important to change your habits.

However, one shortcoming I have found with it is that it is focused a bit more on housecleaning. It’s aimed at housewives. However, it is easy to change the recommendations for student life. One of the most important things in UFYH is to focus each day on making tomorrow suck less. That’s a great concept, right? “Make tomorrow suck less, today!” But for students, this doesn’t necessarily involve doing the dishes or laying out your clothes, and realistically, not all students are going to go to bed at a “reasonable hour.” What can you do, as a student who may have a shared bathroom that someone else cleans, no kitchen, and a raging Reddit addiction that takes up most of your night?

One of my favorite tips on the UFYH blog is to charge all your gadgets the night before. Next, you should pack up your bag. If you have an 8 AM class, make sure that before you go to bed (even if you go to bed at 6 AM), your bag is ready to go, so you can make sweet love to that snooze button as many times as possible while not risking forgetting anything. Is an assignment due? Will your professor only accept it in hard copy? You better print that shit out and have it in your bag. College is casual, so you might not need to worry as much about laying out clothes for tomorrow as the UFYH blog suggests, but you might want to lay out something clean to wear.

Double check your assignments and your email before you go to bed. You would not want to get up at the crack of 10 AM to the cruel sounds of your alarm clock if your professor canceled class the night before! Similarly, you don’t want to overlook any last-minute deadlines or homework assignments.

Finally, I think students should never be working on an assignment the day it’s due. Even if your class is late in the day, set yourself a deadline of the day before. Don’t go to bed and promise yourself you’ll get up at 4 AM to finish (trust me, I did this many times when I was in school, and it took years off my life). That kind of time management is only for experts, like me. And look how far it got me! Anyway, a buffer day to account for last-minute computer / health / zombie disasters is a great idea, so ideally, even if it means you stay up a little later, you can go to sleep relaxed. A looming deadline can interrupt even the most epic of sleep, so it just makes sense to get all your work done before you go to bed.

Make your own tomorrow suck less.  See if any of our tweed-wearing nerds can help you with your assignments.

 

 

How to talk to your college professor

banner3-300X250Believe it or not, professors are people too. Nerdy, boring people, yes, but people nonetheless. And most of them actually love to hear from students. Most of the time, I am happy to sit down with students and clarify expectations about an assignment, content for the course, or just shoot the shit and talk about their educational experiences and goals. Not only is this a great way to network and plant the seeds of later recommendations, it can be the difference. I know when I’m teaching, I’m a lot more forgiving of the students who made an effort to engage with me as a person than I am of the ones who huff in on the last day, claiming my final exam killed their grandmother and demanding an extension.

However, it’s possible to take this too far. Some professors like being called by their first names, others don’t. Follow their lead and call by the name they’ve introduced themselves in class. Emails should always be relatively professional, but on the other hand, why waste your time writing “Hi it’s [your name]” in an email, where the subject line clearly says the sender? You may feel a real rapport with a professor and that’s great – but keep in mind that office hours need to be prioritized. You may be having a great conversation, but it’s polite to leave if someone else comes in, especially if they seem to have a concern.

Professors do care about you (really), but you should keep conversations professional or neutral. Don’t ask questions about their personal life unless it’s something they have brought up first. Also, while it may be important to talk a bit about your personal life, keep in mind that these are the first professional relationships of your life, so try and be professional in what you tell your professor. “I am very sorry I missed class; I was very sick” is acceptable. “Sorry I missed class, I had diarrhea” (as one email I received said) is not.

Remember that if you are having very serious personal issues, it may be best to ask your professor about campus counseling options and services. Your professor is your professor, not your friend, your priest, or your psychologist. Your professor is your champion, because they want you to succeed, but they have a different role than counselors or social workers. They may feel a rapport with you – I do have my favorite students – but they have an obligation to all of their students, so don’t monopolize all their time.

In my experience, the students who made the most effort to communicate professionally and appropriately were the most successful. It may be really difficult to navigate the professor-student relationship, especially if you’re the first in your family to go to college. However, this is no reason to be intimidated. Even the most famous and renowned professors are still complete dorks in the real world. Well, maybe Indiana Jones wasn’t…but he was the only one. And he’s probably not your professor….I hear he’s on sabbatical anyway.

Talk to your own professor today. See if any of our tweed-wearing nerds can help you with your assignments.

Networking Tips For the Shy student

PostProjectIf the most important thing about college is networking, and talking to strangers is something you would maybe want to do if the only alternative was a root canal, then you may feel defeated and upset. But don’t despair! There are plenty of ways to network, even if you consider yourself awkward and shy (and, protip: most people think they are awkward and shy).

  1. Network online. LinkedIn is the most obvious choice, but student message boards, Facebook groups, subreddits, and other online communities can allow you to think about what you say. You may think online networking isn’t as useful, but connecting with people in your major on an online community, or answering incoming freshmen’s questions on Facebook is really valuable and can help you connect to people who share your interests. Just because you start talking to people online doesn’t mean it has to stay online, and if you already have something in common, it’s easier to get started in real life.
  2. Talk to your professors during office hours, especially if you are hesitant about asking a question in front of an entire lecture hall. This doesn’t mean you should bug them with inane questions whose answers are on the syllabus (cough), but go and introduce yourself to professors you respect or who are in fields you want to work in. Read their work (articles, books) first if possible, and be ready to have a professional conversation about the field. Professors love this, so you will make a positive impression. This is obviously easier to do if you are actually excited about the topic and field. If you find yourself zoning out when it’s about your own major, maybe you should consider switching.
  3. Make small social goals. On Monday, you might make it a goal to make eye contact and smile at three new people. On Tuesday, decide you will strike up a conversation with someone in the cafeteria or student union. You might never become best friends with these people, but the practice in getting to know people and start conversations will be invaluable. It gets easier every time.
  4. Consider it your conversational goal to find things in common with people. Ask questions about others, and think about ways they are like you. Good questions to start conversations with peers include where they’re from, what they do for fun, etc. As a project, think about how many questions you have to ask in order to be able to say “Wow, me too!” to someone.
  5. Throw a party. This is a great way to play social experimenter and get a bunch of people together for casual interaction, and if there are a ton of people, the pressure’s off you to carry all the conversations.
  6. Work hard on being an empathetic listener. If you’re shy, don’t tell yourself that. Work on telling others – with your actions – that you’re a great listener. People love that, and it is a very positive quality in this day and age.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you with your next term paper.

How to nail your first Job Interview after graduating college

header.jpgNobody likes job interviews. They are a weird combination of everything that sucks about a first date, without even the distant possibility of hooking up at the end (if you are the type of person who hooks up at the end of job interviews, you probably don’t need this article). Adding to the stress are the facts that you need to do well at an interview to get a job and you need a job to pay for food. Here are some tips to reduce the stress:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Oh, yeah, everyone has told you to have a practice job interview. It’s boring as hell, but actually pretty good advice. Try it at your school’s career center, try it with your friends, or ask a professor (or all of the above).
  2. Just like you Google-stalk your dates before going out (come on, you totally do), you should find out a little about the person who will be interviewing you; if you don’t know the exact name of your interviewer, you should look up the company. Don’t just look at their website, look up what other people are saying about them. Have a few comments and suggestions for them. For example, if you’re interviewing for a restaurant, consider the negative Yelp reviews they inevitably have and be ready to propose a few concrete action steps for them to remedy the issue.
  3. If you have anxiety, manage it. I don’t mean to drug yourself into a stupor, but I mean think carefully about what makes you anxious and how you can soothe yourself. If you take medications that do not impair your judgment, take them well ahead of time.
  4. Do the usual things. Dress professionally for the context, and if you happen to know the office is extra casual or extra conservative, dress accordingly. Be polite and follow cues from the interviewer and others in the office (if they say it’s okay, use first names).
  5. Think before you speak, and try not to psych yourself out. At the end of the day, the job interview is just a conversation in a professional setting. You don’t have to ace your first job interview, and you only have to ace one to get a job. Sometimes you botch an interview, and that’s okay. Sometimes you botch an interview and still get the job. As long as you came out of the interview with some insight as to what you did and how to do better next time, then you’ve already aced it.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you with your next term paper.

How to Throw a Killer Spring Break Party

partypaperEveryone dreams of throwing a killer spring break party. But there is so much work that goes into party planning. Here are some tips to help make sure your party is a success:

  1. Plan early and plan strategically. Plan your party for a night when everyone will be in town, but not when they are cramming for midterms. Spring break parties can be tough because you want to get people after midterms, but before they go away for the break or before dorms close.
  2. Get decorations for cheap without getting gouged on seasonal things. Oriental Trading, Goodwill (or any used goods store), Michael’s / JoAnn’s and the Dollar Store are all great options for cheap party decorations, and you could even re-use them for future parties.
  3. Come up with a theme and go all out. Themed parties are more fun and give people more to anticipate, which is half the fun of a party. Consider deciding on the theme AFTER you go shopping for decorations, since you don’t want to be locked into anything if another theme is cheaper! A North Pole Spring Break could mean cheap clearance decorations and an interesting twist for decorations and activities– think Sexy Santa and Mrs. Claus or Naughty Elves in a Hot Tub. Be creative!
  4. Organize the space you will have the party. You will want to have water stations, multiple bathrooms, and places for people to crash if they get too drunk to drive. For real, if you aren’t prepared to let guests sleep it off on your couch, don’t throw a party. You can even appointment someone the “key guardian” and have people check in their car keys when they get there. Be sure you have “puke points” aplenty, and trash / recycling stations for empties. Bonus points if you live in an area where you can get the bottle deposits back: it’s like a small party refund!
  5. Consider the weather and be flexible. Spring break, in some areas, is Spring Break in Name Only, and pool parties in March may not actually be fun. Similarly, unseasonably warm weather might make people wishing they were outside, instead of at an indoor dance party. Be ready to move the party inside or outside, or put up a tent, if the weather might change.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you with your next writing project.

Extracurricular College Activities That Will Get You a Job

ReferalSmallOf course, the best extracurricular activity to improve your chances at a job is an actual job, but when you can’t, or when you want to stay on campus, it’s important to pick extracurricular activities that will pay off in terms of fun, resume building, or network building. But when you’re walking the cafeteria tables at the activity fair, and everyone is earnestly making eye contact for you for clubs ranging from African Dance to Zoophilia (it’s for volunteering at the zoo, you sicko), how can you decide?

Nothing is guaranteed to get you a job, and ultimately, the activities you choose aren’t as important as the roles you take on within them and the ways that you can demonstrate leadership and skill building. Passively attending the Vagina Monologues for Feminist Club is great, but becoming treasurer of the acapella singing group or writing a successful travel grant to help your group compete is even better.

Ultimately, you should sit down and think about what story you want to tell about your skills on your resume or C.V.. Then you should pursue activities that, first and foremost, you value and find fun. Next, infiltrate those organizations and become leader (I mean, join them and become proactive). The important thing is not which activities you choose, but the roles you take on within them, and the . Quirky activities may get you eyeballs, but being able to demonstrate or quantify your achievements will get you further than being able to say you were a warm body in a room: “I started a tutoring program for inner-city youths. By the end of the first year, we matched 10 middle schoolers to tutors and on average, the students’ GPAs improved by half a letter grade.” “After I became treasurer of horseback riding club, I implemented a service program to provide grants to autistic children, and we got a state-level grant for $500 that let us provide 20 hours of lessons to autistic children. I also improved my teaching and speaking abilities while doing this.” See? Even “fun” activities can help you on the job market or at an interview – if you can prove that you developed or honed important skills while doing them. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but demonstrated success and leadership in a few extracurricular activities is far better than simply checking off a list – and in many cases, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond (i.e., leader of a more obscure club) than just another face in the crowd of a bigger one.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the essay writing monster.

Are you a student with writers block? Five Tips to Boost Your Creativity

Unemployed Professors Student Writing ServicesIf you have writer’s block, you might feel like you have nothing to say. You might barely be able to get your fingers to move on the keyboard. All you can think about is the deadline and the clock ticking ever forward. What should you do in such situations?

  1. Just keep writing. Tape the delete key down if you have to (hey, that’s why God or Bill Gates or whoever invented spell check, right?). Just like time only goes forward, make yourself write. Write even if all you are writing is “Shit. Fuck. My deadline is in 4 hours and I haven’t got anything to say.” Brainstorm and brain dump anything and everything – you’ll be surprised at what you come up with, and once ideas are in text, they are much harder to throw away. Don’t let yourself delete anything, and don’t let yourself take your hands off the keyboard (or page).
  2. Another strategy is to write with two documents open. One is the one that will become your final product: your term paper, grant proposal, fan fiction, whatever. The other is your “text pasture.” Here is where you will put everything and anything you can think of, even if it makes no sense, even if it’s profanity or a grocery list or a profanity-laden grocery list.
  3. You can nip writer’s block in the bud by getting in the habit of writing every day. 750words.com is a great way to start this. If you make writing a part of your daily life, you can train yourself to write more easily, even when you’re “not feeling it.”
  4. Take a walk. Some of the greatest writers took walks. Some of the greatest scientists have found there is a connection between physical activity and creativity. Let yourself take a 10 or 15-minute break for a quick walk, then revisit your blank page. If you’re not into walking, try some yoga or even just stretching.
  5. If you are using a word processor, try the ‘Focus’ view or even try a new word processor that eliminates distractions (such as Ommwriter) and makes the page the full screen with no other visible windows. If you can’t Facebook or Google or whatever, you will get more done.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you with your next writing project.

The Top 5 Money Moves to Make After Graduating from University

imagesK2RQ71JLSo, you’ve graduated. Congratulations! You have a diploma, at least three copies of Oh the Places You’ll Go, and a wrenching hangover. How do you become a financial grown-up when you couldn’t even keep enough money in your meal plan to get a pizza at the end of the semester? These five money moves are a good start.

  1. The first thing you should do is look at your credit report (not just the score). Make sure you know anything that’s on there, and begin the process to dispute anything that you did not initiate. This is just good financial housekeeping and you should get in the habit of doing it quarterly. You should be 100% certain of exactly where you stand with student loans, credit cards, and so on. Get started with your free credit report.
  2. Next, make a budget or spending plan. Consider what your priorities are and if possible, use numbers from your first salary – then plan for living off of less than you earn. Be realistic and know yourself a little bit. If you love going out to restaurants, budget for it. If you would rather drive a nice car, then accept that – and consider living in a cheaper apartment or getting a roommate. If you absolutely cannot function without a morning latte, accept that and get store brand groceries or drink soda when you go out with friends. It’s perfectly OK to leave yourself a few luxuries, with the key words being a few. It is way better to accept you love clothes and plan for it than to deprive yourself, get frustrated, give up and spend too much. Include in your budget a plan to pay off debt. If you don’t want to use a spreadsheet or com, you can try You Need a Budget.
  3. If you are in the USA, start an IRA and begin to contribute to it. Even if it’s just $25 a month, you will begin to set up your financial future – and possibly get a tax break. Quick guide: A traditional IRA will reduce your tax bill in the year you contribute, while a Roth IRA is not taxed on gains. If you’re not making a lot right now, contribute to a Roth since it could mean tax-free growth later; if you’re trying to reduce your tax bill, contribute to a traditional. YMMV, consult a tax pro, etc.
  4. Set goals and save no matter what. Think about what you really want. Do you want to go on a vacation next year with your bros? Do you want to buy a car or a house? Do you want to go to grad school? Have a destination wedding? Don’t let your post-graduation let down get in the way. Make a plan and start to make it happen. Even if you don’t have any specific spending goals, set savings and investment benchmarks for yourself. It may feel boring and abstract now, but you WILL thank yourself when you get an unexpected medical bill or have to buy a new set of tires. Try using an online savings account, such as SmartyPig, which is designed to help you save to reach goals.
  5. Develop a plan for money and get in the habit of doing it. About once a week, look over your spending from the past week and making sure there are no fraudulent purchases. Every month, look for patterns, trends, and things you can do better. Every quarter, check your credit report and score. Every year (or more often if you are thinking of buying a house or car in the near future), check your credit score.

That’s it! These aren’t magical money moves to get you rich, but rather, they are habits you should get into for a less stressful post-graduate life.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the essay writing monster.