Letter to Freshman Me

By: Kimberly

As a Junior now in college there are a handful of things I wish I would have known or been told earlier in my college career. Especially when I didn’t have anyone in my primary family who completed any form of college, I had very limited resources to go to for assistance. So yes, I will admit if there was such a thing as a time machine, this is something that would be on my list to do when I travel back. I would drop this letter off to myself in hopes that it will save me from a few breakdowns and long nights. Now, I’m not saying that I had the worst experience or that it wasn’t the best thing that I went through but I still could’ve used these reminders.

Dear Freshman Me,

It’s future you, now in your junior year almost finished with college. You probably will thank yourself after you finish reading this letter but don’t take all the credit, because you’ll know who to thank once you meet them in your journey. For starters let me just reassure you this,

  1. You don’t always have to have everything figure out months before you get there and that’s completely fine.
  2. You may struggle here and there with a few courses. Not because you aren’t smart, but because sometimes it’s inevitable. It’s just one of those courses that will try to bring you down, but it doesn’t define you.
  3. You’re also going to need to step out of that bubble more often. Try new things and make new connections. It’s not as scary as you think.
  4. Most importantly, this is your learning process where you are supposed to make mistakes, it is fine if you don’t always get things right because you are still growing, learning, and most of it all getting to know who you are. (But that doesn’t mean every mistake has an excuse!)

Now you probably wondering, what in those four points have anything to do with the other people who you will encounter? Let’s just say you’ll have to do a bit more than reading this letter. If you happen to go through the campus “wedge” make sure you pay extra attention to both sides of the hall, or if you just try emailing and reaching out to others they are more than willing to help. Also in the wedge, there’s this office that offers these “assessments” you’ll eventually find out about and take, which will give you some more reassurance. You’ll also be surprised to know that your professors would like it if you go to their office hours. It doesn’t even have to be for help but because you can build good relationships with them. A little birdy even told me they have connections with employers.

So, save the breakdowns. I can’t give away everything to you because, if I did, that wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as letting you learn for yourself too. With this, seek out your resources even if that means having to do a little extra work and know that there is no such thing as a “norm” in college. Everyone has their own path at their own pace.

Sincerely,
You

Of Possible Interest:
Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student Part 1 & Part 2

Read Kimberly’s other posts

Procrastination. Why do we do this to Ourselves?

By: Lexi

Finals are quickly approaching and you’re probably feeling extremely stressed about all of the work you have to get done in the next week. Then you think about it more and realize a good chunk of that homework could have been done much earlier, which would have eliminated a lot of your current stress, then you start to stress out more about how stressed out you are. Trust me, you are not alone! Do not fret, procrastination is going to happen when you are in college. Sometimes it is hard to balance your social life with your school life, and probably a job on top of all that! Procrastination is going to happen so here are some suggestions on how to handle it.

Plan ahead. It is kind of hard to do this now since it near the end of the semester, but make it a goal for next semester. Write down your assignments and their due dates right when you find out about them. If you need to, go out and buy yourself a planner. Physically writing down your deadlines may make you realize how soon the deadlines could actually be and then maybe you will start them earlier.

Start with the hardest task. If you start with your hardest task then it will just make it that much easier to keep going on assignments. Plus, if you get the worst task out of the way you will be able to feel relieved and hopefully focus better on the next tasks to come.

Change your study environment. Maybe the reason you are not getting enough done during your study time is because of your environment. Look at where you currently study area; Is it loud? Is it messy? Are your friends present? Is there a tv or other electronics? All of these factors can affect your procrastination. Possibly try hitting the library by yourself instead of your couch while watching tv.

Don’t blow a task out of proportion. Putting off easy tasks will make it seem harder, so first of all, do not do this. But you probably will so try to remember that it really won’t take as long as you are expecting it to. Stop thinking about it and just do it.

Lastly, just do it. This goes along with my last point, but stop thinking about all the work you have to do and just get it done. Instead of saying yes to getting ice cream with a friend to eat your stress away, invite them to get coffee and hit the library. This will help you and your friend. Chances are that once you are at the library and grinding away you won’t feel as stressed.

Even this blog post took me longer than necessary to write (which could be a cause of me procrastinating by scrolling Facebook and finding this hilarious video). Unfortunately, I procrastinate too. So get off of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, turn off Netflix and stop playing bike race and do your work! You do not have much time left before it is too late. But remember to breathe, exercise, laugh, take study breaks and remember these tips. You will make it and if you are graduating, congrats, good luck and remember to not procrastinate your job applications!

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How to Sound as Smart as You Are

By: Willow

Dear Blog Post Reader,

You are an incredibly smart and capable human being. You rock. You can do anything you set your mind to.

Keep calm and remember you are doing a great job.

Even though I know you’re super duper, sometimes it can be hard to make sure other people see that too, especially when they see you though a resume or application, so here are a few tips to help show everyone how wonderful you are.

Never say the word stuff.
Stuff doesn’t sound intelligent. There are so many other far better words that sound better; things, items, inventory, material, etc.

Don’t overuse the word like.
Leave the overuse of like in the, like, 90’s where it, like, belongs, like. Got it?

Use your resources.
There are a lot of good places you can go on campus to help you. Come to Career & Internship Services to make sure your resume highlights how smart you are, and to have a practice interview so you can articulate to employers how qualified you are. Go to the Writer’s Workshop at the Academic Writing & Learning Center and get help with your writing. Strong writing skills are essential to sounding your best. Have your friends or family read though things you write or look at projects you do, it always helps to get a second or third set of eyes on something to help catch mistakes you may have missed. You’re smart but you’re not perfect, you will make mistakes sometimes. Grammarly is a great resource to have installed on your computer and in your internet browser. It helps catch mistakes in email and other places you write.

If you’re going to use cliches or sayings, use them correctly.
People have differing opinions on cliches but personally, I love them if you use them correctly. I was recently having a conversation with a few people, during the approximately three minutes of conversation, one of the people used about five cliches, all incorrectly. It drove me crazy. She could have been telling me about the groundbreaking research she has been doing for years on cancer cells and all I would be able to think about is how she used old cliches incorrectly.

Sometimes it’s ok to not talk.
I struggle with this, I like to talk. But, sometimes it is better to listen, you might learn more and become even smarter.

You don’t have to use big words to sound intelligent.
Although it’s always fun to sprinkle in the occasional ubiquitously stupendous verb into the lexicon, there is no need to overdo it. Keep it simple. If you’re really set on using a big word, I recommend pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, the longest word in the English language, go big or go home my friends. (Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is “a pneumoconiosis caused by inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, so if you are going to use it, use it correctly!) But really, only using massive words doesn’t automatically make you sound awesome, and often can make you sound pretentious.

Remember these tips, and be your best self! Good luck out there folks!

Read Willow’s other posts

Navigating Through College as a First-Generation Student, Part II

By: David

From the previous post I had written, I took up on the concept of the experiences of first-generation students (FGS) and decided that I would elaborate on my own experiences as a first-generation student. From the previous post, I mentioned the two ways that helped me through college were: (1) capitalizing on campus resources & opportunities and (2) connecting with staff and faculty. Today, I’ll be exploring on two more ways that really helped me in navigating through college. With that being said, let’s dive in!

Navigating as First Gen 2

Finding a Social Network
For any student entering college, it is crucial to connect with a community or group of individuals who they can socialize and find support within. As an FGS, it becomes especially difficult since there is no prior knowledge of the college environment and thus creates a barrier in finding a social network to connect with. Fortunately, most college campuses give students the opportunity to find social networks to get involved in, whether it’s Greek Life, student organizations, academic opportunities, employment, etc.

For me personally, the most difficult part about finding social networks was actually connecting with other students. Granted, I came to college and roomed with 3 of my friends from high school, but I still had the desire to branch out and network with other students. Finding a social network was not easy and required a lot of trial and error. After my first Student Activities Fair, I was so excited to join the various organizations I had interacted with, but was quite disappointed when attending many of their meetings and events because I simply didn’t feel like I belong. My turning point came when I made the effort to get involved with the Multicultural Center. As a student of color myself, there were a lot of similarities I could identify with and reasons to get involved. It truly helped me find a social network with Asian Pacific American Association (which I have mentioned about numerous times in previous blog posts!). To segway into my next point, what worked best for me in terms of expanding my social networks was to get involved on campus!

Getting Involved!
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know by now that I am a HUGE advocate for getting involved on campus. Ultimately, my college experience has tremendously shaped my ability to navigate through college. Join a student organization, find on-campus employment, participate in events and activities hosted by the university, and conduct or assist with research in your academic department. These are SOME (many more out there) examples of getting involved on campus. So why get involved you ask? From the previous 3 points (capitalizing on opportunities, connecting with staff & faculty, finding social networks) I made in this blog series, getting involved is the best way to tie all of these together. I say this because through getting involved you pretty much cover all three areas and it is something tangible, or an action that anyone can make in terms of navigating through college.

My first year coming into college, I recall seeing a poster (you know, those inspirational quotes with the pretty pictures?) in a staff member’s office that greatly shaped my college philosophy. The poster quoted, “build bridges, not walls” and it had the most mesmerizing picture of a bridge I’ve ever seen. My point is, after reading that quote along with the captivating bridge, my philosophy was (and still is) to connect with as many students, staff, and faculty as I could before graduating. In doing so, I took up as many positions and opportunities as I could to branch out and expand my horizon of knowledge. In truth, this required me having to step outside my comfort zones and it was difficult at first I’ll admit; but as I reflect on my experiences, those moments of insecurity and vulnerability only allowed me to grow at a rapid rate professionally and personally. Being first-generation, it didn’t help that I didn’t have the knowledge or capabilities to interact and connect with others as I had wished, and often times I didn’t know what I needed or wanted to know. Life was rough, I tell ya. Fortunately, direct experience in leadership positions and active involvement really gave me a deep sense of knowledge and skills.

Conclusion
To wrap things up, I want to say that I am aware and sensitive to the fact that these four ways of navigating through college as an FGS might not be for everyone and that there are a lot of other ways to do so. By keeping things broad, I hope it helps push you to find your own way in succeeding throughout college. On a side note, I have come to observe the relationship between first-gen students and the university (campus life programs, academic programs, etc.). My conclusion is that the two have to meet in the middle. Students need to take an active role in securing (or at least attempt) these opportunities and services offered and be willing to step outside their comfort zones. On the flipside, the university needs to actively promote their services so students know what’s available to them and in addition, explicitly state their sensitivity and awareness of first-generation students.

My final tip for other first-generation students in navigating through college is this: be humble and open-minded. As an FGS, I understand that there is, to some degree, a sense of pride in NOT seeking help or assistance when struggling. The source of pride may vary from student to student, but it definitely exists. Furthermore, it is important to be vulnerable and allow room for constructive criticism and learning moments for your growth. This is more of a life tip, but keep your thoughts open to different perspectives to further expand your own and reserve judgement until proven. Stay warm Bulldogs!

Read David’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Richard Tilney-Bassett

Social Media Squad at the UMN Job Fair

By: Tori

UMN Job Fair Logo_2017

We’re back from running social media at the U of M Job Fair! And what a successful event it was!

My co-peer educator, David, and I headed down to the Minneapolis Convention Center on Friday, February 24th to assist with showing students what the largest job fair in all of Minnesota was truly like. Check out the videos we posted on Facebook.

David & Tori UMJF

Lounge Tweet

Even though job fair season may be over, we have some great tidbits of advice from students and employers at the UMN Job Fair to share with students back on our home campus of UMD (Go Bulldogs!)

In Preparation: 

Tori & UMD Student UMJF

A UMD Mechanical Engineering student (above) shared advice on how to professionally prepare for the fair by: “Reviewing your resume and purchasing a portfolio. You’ll always win points with those two things!”

“Research the employers going to the fair by using the job fair app. That way you will know who employers are AND where they are located at the fair. You won’t have to look around and be distracted trying to find employers.”- Kimberly, Peer Educator at UMD Career and Internship Services (2nd from left in photo below).

Kimberly & Friends UMJF

At the Fair: 

“Take a look at how long the lines are, talk to other employers first to practice, then go to your top choices and dream jobs.”- PJay, Front Desk Student Assistant at the UMD Career and Internship Services.

Sadie Instagram

Sadie (above), a Front Desk Student Assistant in our office gave us her favorite tip while at the fair: “Collect business cards from every employer you talk to & follow-up.”

“Do a lap, know where things are. Be yourself! Dive in! Just go for it!”- UMN Student

Employers also offered advice to students at the Job Fair:

UMJF Employer Collage

“Research companies and apply for open positions before the fair, and then come say hello!”

Employer Resume Advice: “Keep it looking clean and easy to read by utilizing bullet points, bolded letters, customized headers, and formatting that flows.”

When approaching employers, “Confidence is key to standing out.”

“Don’t be shy, ask critical questions, be curious!” and remember, “It’s your time to interview us (employers) too!”

I hope this advice is helpful to you as you begin preparing for your next job fair, interview, or interaction with an employer! It’s okay to be nervous and not know what to expect, but use the resource you have to take the next steps.

Check out these social media sites for more information and tips from the UMN Job Fair:

Read Tori’s other posts

Navigating through College as a First-Generation Student

By: David

As a first-generation student, the struggles and barriers of navigating through college can often be difficult and strenuous. Scholarships, finances, campus resources, college courses, communication with faculty & staff, you name it. So what defines a first-generation college student? Well, according to a research article published by Maietta back in November, she states, “The two most widely used definitions of FG college students are 1) those students whose parents matriculated, but never graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 2) those students whose parents never persisted past a high school diploma.” (Maietta, 2016). My parents came to the U.S. as immigrants after the Vietnam War never achieved a college degree, therefore I, myself, am a first-generation college student. In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my experience as a first-generation student (FGS) and how I have navigated through college. With that being said, let’s get started!

david-first-gen

Capitalizing on Campus Resources & Opportunities  

The most significant method for me in navigating through college as an FGS was to capitalize on opportunities and resources provided by departments, student organizations, and offices around campus. More than often, I find that students take these opportunities and resources for granted and make zero effort in leveraging these amazing resources to benefit their college career. From my experience in working in various departments and offices around campus, I have come to realize one thing and that is that the folks who work and operate in a campus setting are all dedicated to helping students. In other words, USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES! Check out the amazing opportunities and resources through academic and campus life departments.

Though this is a case where it is easier said than done to actually capitalize on these opportunities and resources, I would like to chime in on my thoughts and feelings as an FGS. Coming into college, I was very hesitant in using and seeking out campus resources and opportunities. One reason was that I simply felt bad for just using the resources available. Personally, I hate the feeling and concept of using someone to benefit myself and that’s exactly how it felt like at first when using these campus resources. To me, it didn’t feel right setting up meetings and appointments to talk over the things that benefitted me only. My turning point with this mentality was when I first got involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) in my second semester of my first year. Through a series of activities and meetings with the ODI staff and student organizations, I was able to gain this trust and understanding that staff and faculty alike are here to serve students because they love doing that exactly. Once I understood that, my experiences as an FGS totally flipped 180 degrees for the better.

Connecting with Staff & Faculty

In addition to leveraging campus resources and opportunities, another asset that truly helped me was connecting with the staff and faculty on campus. Setting up to meet with career counselors, attending office hours, asking career related questions, self-disclosing about troubles as an under-representative minority, the list goes on. I cannot recall how many times where I’ve sought out support and guidance from staff and faculty in situations of dilemma. As the first one to attend college, I don’t have many personal connections to rely on in terms of understanding the college life. Thankfully, I’m extremely fortunate to have found a support system that was able to help me navigate through college when I felt stuck and alone in regards to college life. An important thing to keep in mind as an FGS though is that my positive results required me to take action and make the first step in asking staff and faculty members for support. I realize that it was often hard for my faculty members or staff to realize that I was struggling, and therefore required me to put my pride down and ask for help. I think this is common as well in FGS as this sense of pride is something that is often hard to overcome in a college setting. In closing, staff and faculty members are the pillars of support & generators of knowledge and serve as role models & mentors for ALL students and are folks who students seek for motivation and inspiration. From personal to professional development, the staff and faculty members of campus are the keepers of wisdom that guide students to success through moral and academic support.

Conclusion

With that being said, my experiences as an FGS are not limited and exclusive to just campus resources/opportunities and connecting to staff and faculty. Stick around for next time as I’ll continue forth in sharing more personal experiences as a first-generation student. In the next post, one key concept will focus on the importance of social groups and how important it is to have them. Until next time, I urge you to start thinking about your social groups, how you came to establish them, and what role you and your peers serve within the group. As always, stay gold friends!

Of Possible Interest:
Maietta, H. (2016). Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of
First-Generation College Students. National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal.

Read David’s other posts

So It’s Finals Week Again

By: Cassie

That’s right folks, you know that feeling of impending doom, yeah that means finals week is here again. This point of the semester is all about getting things done. It’s about reaching that goal of finishing your research project, boosting your GPA, trying to get that important internship or job, or maybe just making it through the rest of the semester with your sanity. Meeting these goals may seem like the toughest thing in the world right now, but I’m here to tell you that we are all in the same boat and there are so many people around you who are experiencing the same thing as you.

bulldog-staying-warm

I’ll start with me as an example, I started this blog post five times before I found something I wanted to talk about. That’s right, FIVE times. I was also trying to write this blog post on top of the four group projects I’m working on. I also am thinking about the four final exams that are coming up and how I need to start studying for those. My mind was just in a million places at once and I just couldn’t seem to collect my thoughts. I know that many of you may be having a similar experience right now and that’s why I’m just here to remind you we all are struggling. It is okay to not have it together during these last hectic weeks of the semester. We all have papers piling up. We all have that member of our group project who doesn’t seem to be helping. We all are thinking about all the due dates that are approaching at a rapid pace. It’s okay to be stressed, it’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to be overwhelmed. I’m just here to remind you that you have so many resources (like us!) and people around you who are here to support you and tell you that YOU CAN MAKE IT! You are awesome and you can do this!

Also included in today’s post…a cute bulldog. Because who doesn’t love a little virtual pet therapy? (Source)

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