Overcoming Winter Lethargy

Winter is in full force, and overcoming the bitter doldrums associated with this frigid season is proving to be a constant battle. Low energy, sickness, and stationary lifestyles are rampant in winter, and sometimes this combination can add stress to an already hectic life. If you find that winter sometimes sucks all the energy out of you, have no fear; there are steps you can take to not only make your winter more productive, but more enjoyable as well.banner728X90-2

  1. Get a hobby: Winter is the perfect time to explore activities that may have interested you in the past, but you’ve never had the time to learn. With the cold temperatures and short days, this season is a wonderful time to explore hobbies like knitting, painting, winter sports, or even just pick up a book by a new author you’ve been curious about. Boredom often creates a cycle of complacency, which can result in far too many unproductive hours in front of the TV or computer. Pick up a new hobby today, and your days exploring a creative new path will be all the more rewarding.
  2. Be active: Winter’s cold and short days lend themselves to excuses for inactivity; it’s either too cold, too dark, or any other variation of weather blaming, which results in a markedly lower activity rate for many people. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of fantastic winter sports and activities, both outdoor and indoor, that are not only fun, but improve your health. Getting adequate exercise improves all aspects of health, and can certainly offset the sedentary lifestyle that often emerges in winter. There are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your day during the winter, including: joining a gym, doing online workouts at home, and outdoor activities like hiking and cross-country skiing. Remember, it’s especially important in the winter to be prepared for any outdoor activity, so don’t forget to keep hydrated and wear appropriate clothing. Being physically active in the winter is an excellent way to start on that summer beach-body, and to overcome the winter stagnation with progress and improved health.
  3. Improve your surroundings: The characteristics of winter often lead to depleted energy levels, which can leave your motivation to do non-necessary activities waning. One thing that suffers is housework: often the last thing you want to do when coming in from the cold is deep clean the house and fold five loads of laundry. Since you’ll be spending more time indoors during the winter, it’s important to make your home a place you enjoy. Spend some extra time cleaning, or do some decorating, you’ll find that your organization and sense of peace will improve. This is especially true of students, who often have to juggle several classes and dozens of assignments, and improving their living area is ignored. Websites like Unemployed Professors can help with that by taking on some of those assignments and projects, freeing up some of your time to do the things in this list. A healthy and happy winter is an excellent start to the New Year, and it is never too early, or late, to make is an amazing season for you.

Powerball vs. a college degree: Which is more likely to make you a millionaire?

imagesK2RQ71JL            If a college degree costs a fortune and sometimes has a questionable ROI, you might be tempted to forego school and play the lottery instead. Last week, the American Powerball lottery hit $440 million, which is enough to pay for four years of full tuition and room and board at Harvard for approximately 6,981 people. With numbers like that, one might wonder whether playing the lottery is a safer bet, as it were, than going to college. This past August, Investopedia crunched the numbers, comparing long-term investing to playing the lottery. Investopedia reported that an average, non college-educated person would spend, on average $250 a year on the lottery. Yet if that same person were to just invest the same amount of money in an IRA, and if historical stock market trends continued, that same person would have more than $30,000 USD. Not bad, right?

While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional “idiot tax” (as my dad was fond of calling lottery tickets) and the ensuing daydreams that can happen when you’re holding a destined-to-lose lottery ticket, it’s clear that informed financial choices win out, time after time. And one of the best ways to ensure that you are in a position to make informed financial choices is to get a college education. Despite bad press and scorn for those who major in esoteric subjects like the consistently beleaguered Women’s Studies, college degrees almost always increase lifetime earnings (that is, how much money someone earns over the course of their lives), usually by about one million dollars compared to those without such degrees. Some counter that it is barely worth it given the cost of college, but until the overall cost of four years in college exceeds a million dollars, it is still a positive return on your investment.

College degrees, no matter what the subject, expose you to a network of people. Even those much-despised art or whatever degrees give you valuable skills in research and writing, which will help in virtually all careers. With a degree and the hard work it entails, you are showing potential employers you can stick with a tough commitment and see it through. Sure, nobody can predict the future: Maybe an enormous asteroid will wipe out the entire earth tomorrow (and perhaps we would have known about it if you had majored in astronomy. THANKS!), but one of the best things you can do for yourself is to earn a degree (And to do so ideally on time, with good grades, and with minimal debt). Keep your eye on the prize – and the prize is not a winning lotto ticket. Completing the degree is important, and you should make it your absolute highest priority. Sometimes that might mean making a tough choice between socializing and working – or outsourcing and socializing.

Unemployed Professors understands, and is here to help you increase the odds that your investment will pay off! Post your college project today and see how we can get you closer to that credential.

Student Financial Aid

banner9As students finalize their decision on the college that they will attend, begin the arduous process of making living arrangements, in conjunction to deciding on the materials that they will bring with them, they will be presented with an experience that some have yet to encounter –the financial aid process. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), deciding on how much money to take out in loans, determining if a co-signer would be the most advantageous to reduce their long-term debt and finalizing their decision by signing the elusive promissory note; all of these hoops that a novel university student must jump through may seem daunting; yet, it is a necessary aspect of the university experience that the majority of students will encounter.

Let’s face it, only a minority of university students come from affluent backgrounds and the rest of us are pursuing a college education as a means of undergoing intra-generational mobility. We want to have a better life than our parents could provide and the only means to accomplish this is by increasing one’s understanding of the world. Whether one desires to improve themselves through the humanities, social or physical sciences, the decision to pursue a college education is a significant step that should not be decided on a whim. There are severe consequences for individuals who do not sufficiently analyze their current life situation to determine if a college education is the most appropriate. I am a tenured professor at a mid-tier University and have unfortunately seen a large portion of the student population pursue higher education to party 24/7 for 4+ years. That is not saying that one should not enjoy the college experience while they are bettering themselves, but deciding to accumulate more than $100,000 in debt to fulfill a need to party should not be the main determinant for such a serious endeavor. The university system in the United States is more or less a ‘legal Mafia’, whereby they are allowed to charge absorbent fees for a service that has been deemed a human right in other first world nations. These expenses cannot be paid out of pocket by most and thus, student loans are the only option.

If the decision to attend a university is the most appropriate, then one must fully understand the different types of financial aid. The below is a brief summary of the different types of loans provided by lenders.

  • A subsidized loan is awarded to a student based upon their financial need. Filling out the FAFSA requires a student to answer general questions about their income, their family’s contribution, and other factors that may affect their financial viability. This information is used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the amount of financial aid awarded is not subjected to interest while attending school at least half-time. Furthermore, a student is provided with a six-month grace period after they leave school and are provided with the opportunity to defer their loans if they are experiencing financial hardship. Alas, a student is responsible for paying any interest that accrues during the grace period and is only provided a certain number of deferments depending upon their career option, i.e. working in a non-profit provides one with greater flexibility for repaying their loans.
  • An unsubsidized loan is NOT based on financial need and any individual who submits a FAFSA can obtain financial aid through this loan program. Unfortunately, interest begins accruing immediately after the loans have been disbursed and the interest is capitalized onto the principal. This means that any grace period, deferment or forbearance that a student wishes to utilize will be subjected to accruing interest and this can significantly increase the amount of money that they will be required to repay.
  • A private loan is provided by a third party that is not directly associated with the federal government. As such, the rules and regulations associated with the loan agreement are vastly different from subsidized and unsubsidized loans. This (typically) results in higher interest rates, less flexibility with repayment options and fewer resources that are provided by the federal government. Although the amount of money that a student is required to pay for a higher education is absurd in the United States, increasing the educational status of its citizens is advantageous to the federal government and they are willing to work with a student to reduce the financial constraints of their student loans. A private loan lender is only concerned about profit maximization and therefore, they are less willing to work with an individual to reduce their student loan debt.

The type of loan that one chooses will largely depend upon their family’s socio-economic status, their ability to balance work with school and the amount of debt that they are willing to accumulate while pursuing their academic dreams. The decision to obtain student loans must not be taken lightly and each entity who will be involved with the loan, i.e. the student, parent or any other cosigner, must be fully aware of the loans terms and conditions, as well as the long-term consequences of the loans.

Consider my previous situation as an excellent example of the consequences of the student loan process. My total educational debt was $80,000 at a loan interest rate of 6.8%. My loan term was 10-years and my minimum payments were $920.64 a month. This means that my average debt per year was $20,000 and this is relatively minimal when considering that some educational programs result in debts greater than $35,000 per year. After my 10-year loan term ended, I ended up paying back more than $110,000, which equated to about $30,000 in interest paid. $30,000 is a significant amount of money and as you can see, the decision to pursue higher education should not be taken lightly. Before beginning the financial aid process, set aside some time to reflect on the personal and professional goals that you wish to accomplish with higher education. If a college education is the only way that you can pursue your dream, then DO IT! If there are other alternatives that you would rather pursue that do not involve accumulating unfathomable amounts of debt; consider saving the $30,000 in interest paid (in my situation) and embark on a career that truly makes you happy…Good luck to all the aspiring academics out there and we wish you only the best!

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.