Take it from someone who did all of her dorm shopping the week before she moved in during her freshman year: dorm shopping, though it can be fun, can also be extremely stressful. It can be tempting to hit Home Goods like a hurricane and buy every cute strand of string lights and set of decorative pillows you can find, but taking a moment to plan out your shopping trip can be much easier on your psyche (and your wallet)! Below, I give you the dos and don'ts of shopping for school.
I firmly believe that being well-read is one of the greatest assets a person can possess. Reading widely allows us to connect with cultures that are not our own, create a sense of mutual understanding based on shared humanity, and learn things about ourselves in the process.
I personally abide by the code that all books are worth reading, but there are some books that are life changing. These are the books that stop you in your tracks and force you to pay attention. The books that leave you turning the final page over again and again because you cannot bear the thought of the story being over. The books that make you laugh out loud, or fall to your knees and weep. The fourteen books I have listed below changed my life, and I hope that one of them may do the same for you.
Your first college semester can set the tone for your entire year, and maybe even your college experience. During your first semester, you create first impressions of your campus, professors, and peers. These impressions can stick with you until you graduate, so you want to make sure that they are the best they can possibly be! Here are ten tips to make your first semester great:
1. Go to all of your classes. This is probably the first time in your life that you can skip class "without consequences." Resist the allure of rolling back over when your alarm goes off for that pesky 8:30am section because I promise, there will be consequences. You are in class significantly less in college than you were in high school which means that every hour matters. You never know when there will be a pop quiz that you'll have to take a zero on because you overslept. Be strong. Go to class (unless of course you are sick).
2. Sit with new people in the dining hall...eat in the dining hall. No matter how awful the food may be, your campus dining hall is a great place to meet new people, especially during your first few weeks of school. Whether you know no one at your new school or it feels like your entire high school class went to the same university, make an effort to sit with new people. You never know when you could bond with your future best friend over under cooked chicken.
3. Get involved with some clubs. Don't overwhelm yourself with extracurricular activities in your first semester of college, but make an effort to join at least one student organization. Student groups are a great way to meet new people, especially those who share your interests. They can provide a sense of community and belonging on an unfamiliar campus.
4. Attend social events. It can be easy to just hole up with a bag of Doritos and your favorite Netflix series to binge. Make an effort to go out every once in a while to feel a sense of community and connect with new people. Go to a party, attend a sporting event, or gather some people to go to a local concert.
5. Get to know your professors. My professors were the highlight of my first semester. Introduce yourself to your professors in your first week of classes. Attend office hours for classes in which you are interested. Building relationships with professors will help you to not only understand and enjoy the material, but also to get to know someone at the top of your desired field. These relationships are extremely rewarding, and extremely useful when you need a letter of recommendation for graduate school or internships.
6. Try new things. Your first semester of school is a great time to step outside your comfort zone. Do you have a secret love for ultimate Frisbee? Find an intramural team! Are you passionate about singing? Join an a capella group! College is the perfect time to explore your interests. Trying something new can lead you to something you will pursue for the rest of your life.
7. Focus on doing your best, not someone else's. Everyone becomes a small fish in a big pond in college. It can be so easy to compare yourself to others and begin to experience self-doubt, wondering if your accomplishments are good enough. This mentality will only paralyze you and prevent you from reaching your fullest potential. Focus on doing your best, and being the best version of yourself, instead of comparing yourself to other people.
8. Spend time outside. College dorms can be pretty dreary (no matter how Pinterest-worthy). Be sure to get some fresh air for at least half an hour every day. Being outdoors can help you feel less cooped up, and it can help you escape the stresses of your dorm room (i.e. that pile of unfinished problem sets due tomorrow).
9. Explore your area. Whether you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere or you're living in the heart of an urban area, use your first semester to explore your college town. Scope out the best local restaurants, find the best shopping in your area, and explore some historical landmarks. Better yet, do it all with a new college friend!
10. Make self-care a priority. One of my best freshman year memories was spending an afternoon at the spa, followed by a five course Italian meal with one of my good friends after one of the most stressful weeks of my life. I'm not saying you have to go all out on spa treatments and fancy food every time you feel stressed, but make self care a priority. Exercise every day. Take walks. Extend your shower by a few minutes once a week (the Earth will forgive you). Take care of your mind and body. As important as school may be, your personal health is much more permanent.
People enter college at all different phases of life. Some people walk in on their first day, ready to tell you their thirty year plan. Others have no idea what they want to do, and come in ready to explore all of their options. Neither of these approaches to school are incorrect, and one is not better than the other. No matter what your perspective is though, college is a time to explore new perspectives, develop your beliefs, and begin to solidify your values.
That said, it can be easy to go into college thinking that you have it all figured out (I am Exhibit A). You may think that your beliefs are set in stone, planted by your upbringing and grown through your resolve. With this kind of a closed mindset, people are likely to seek out individuals and groups that reinforce their preexisting beliefs to provide a sense of security in those values. This kind of thinking, however, is unproductive.
When we engage only with people and groups with which we agree, we lose valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth. These situations create "echo chambers" where we, surrounded by beliefs that mirror our own, can gain a sense of false comfort and feel validated in our positions. These groups encourage us to dig our heels into the ground, state our case, and refuse to waver.
This is exactly what I did when I got to school. A proud GOP member, I immediately enlisted in all of the conservative groups I could find, shunning those that I felt did not agree with my values. As the year went on though, I found myself becoming more radical. I began to question what it was I truly believed in, to question my motives for putting myself in the spaces I had chosen to occupy. This questioning only began though when I was challenged for the first time by a fellow student in the dining hall, who introduced me to the concept of unaffiliated centrism and directed me to an organization that supported moderate, independent political candidates for state and federal offices. Though I still consider myself conservative leaning, I left the College Republicans shortly after that conversation. Today, I am part of a national movement of centrist voters aimed at encouraging nonpartisan cooperation in government. None of this would have been possible had that conversation never occurred.
To break out of your own echo chamber, it is crucial to adopt a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, who coined the term, writes that with a growth mindset "people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment." Adopting this attitude in college will allow you to deal with cognitive dissonance and ideological diversity in a way that is productive, rather than paralyzing.
You can begin to embrace this mindset by actively seeking out groups with which you disagree. Are you a staunch Republican? Try attending a meeting led by the College Democrats to better understand their viewpoints. Maybe you are vehemently pro-choice. Start a dialogue with pro-life students on campus, rather than condemning them.
At Harvard, I serve as the Treasurer of the Network of Enlightened Women, an organization for conservative women to come together on campus. Earlier this year, we hosted conservative commentators Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson for a meeting with our group. Several left-leaning women attended the event, and they posed some of the most insightful questions I had heard. After the panel discussion was over, we were able to sit and talk with one another, and several of them commented that their perceptions of our organization and of conservative women in general had been altered just by attending that meeting.
When you go out of your way to seek out constructive disagreement, you will be better prepared to deal with it in "real life." You may even find yourself beginning to change your mind. Hearing opposing viewpoints allows you to question your beliefs, change your mind, or build on your current values.
No matter how you approach constructive disagreement, you will be better off for it. What do you have to lose by hearing from those who are different from you?
America's strength is in its diversity. If we avoid that diversity rather than embracing it, we do a disservice to ourselves, as well as to society at large. Imagine the amount of relationships you might miss out on by limiting your connections to only those people with which you agree. Learning to see beyond ideological differences to recognize the value in another person is part of being a member of a democratic society. What better place to start than college?
Whether you are in your first year of school or getting ready to graduate, chances are you have some kind of adviser. Advisers can be invaluable points of contact for students, regardless of the level at which you are studying. Building strong relationships with your adviser can help you make the most of your college experience by introducing you to new opportunities and receiving academic guidance. Learning how to seek out help is one of college's most important lessons, but taking the first step to talk to your adviser can feel intimidating. Use these 15 tips to make the most our of your advising experience!
1. Introduce yourself as soon as you get to school. I know that during your first week back at school, the last thing you want to be doing is tracking down advisers to introduce yourself, but making a connection early sets a positive tone for your entire relationship. It shows a sense of initiative that your adviser will appreciate, especially if they are dealing with dozens of other students.
2. Go to your first meeting prepared with some questions. All advisers are different. My first-year academic adviser loved to talk and have deep, engaging conversations with me, but some of my friends had advisers that seemed like they preferred more professional conversations. Going into your first meeting with a few prepared questions will help you feel confident, while also mitigating the risk of awkward silences.
3. NO QUESTION IS A DUMB QUESTION. Yes, you've heard this saying a million times, but it really applies to dealing with advisers. Keep in mind that they exist professionally to answer your questions. No matter how "dumb" you feel like your question may be, ask it! It is probably more important than you realize, and trust me, advisers have heard it all.
4. To that end, ask the right questions. Asking your academic adviser about the weekend scene at your university right off the bat may not be the best idea. Start with questions you have about classes at school. Which classes will help you fulfill general education requirements? What courses are good introductory classes for your chosen field? Are there any electives your adviser recommends? My first year adviser was the director of the Sociology Department. I had never taken sociology in my life, but I took a course on Media and Pop Culture at her recommendation, and it ended up being one of the most fun classes I had ever taken. Check out our full list of sample questions below!
5. Ask two questions: "What is your favorite aspect of (X university)?" and "What is your least favorite?" Their answers to these questions may surprise you, but I have always found them to be worth asking. Not only do they give you slightly more insight into your chosen school, but they also reveal something about your adviser's priorities, which could help you begin to build a relationship with them.
6. Talk over your schedule with your adviser. Even if they don't ask you to show them your schedule, you should make the initiative to talk it over. I can vividly remember my adviser talking me out of adding an additional class that would have given me a crippling workload second semester, and I have been grateful for that every day since.
7. Go back after your first meeting! If you only meet with your adviser during the first week of the school year, you will not make the most of what could be an influential relationship. Try to drop by at least once every six weeks to ask more questions, or even just to chat. Keeping your face fresh in your adviser's mind will be good for both you, and your adviser.
8. Keep in touch over email. Even if you don't have time to make an appointment to see your adviser, they are still available over email to answer any questions you have that may arise during the school year. Sending an email will not take you more than five minutes, and I am sure you will be glad you did!
9. Offer a handwritten thank you at the end of the year. Academic advisers are too often underappreciated. Build a solid relationship with yours, and offer a handwritten thank you note at the end of the year. Some advisers have advising as a career, and others do it on a volunteer basis. Regardless, your adviser works hard to ensure that you have a positive college experience. A thank you will mean more to them than you can imagine.
10. Know your worth. One of the biggest barriers to asking for advice is feeling as if you are wasting the other person's time by doing so. I promise you are not. They are there to guide you through the college process, and going to them with questions is not a waste of their time. They have chosen to serve as advisers because they love to help students. Know that your questions are valid, and you are worth it.
15 Questions to Ask your Adviser
1. What classes do you recommend for general education requirements?
2. What classes do you recommend for my major?
3. Where can I find information on campus events?
4. Are there any extracurricular fairs on campus? How else can I learn about organizations to join?
5. Where can I find tutoring resources or information on building better study skills?
6. Are there any events you highly recommend attending?
7. What are the most fun things to do around campus?
8. Does my schedule look okay this semester?
9. Where can I go to find information on applying to and attending graduate school?
10. Are there any professors whose classes I should try to get into?
11. What do you recommend on campus for someone interested in (insert your extracurricular or academic interest)?
12. Should I get a job on campus? Which positions have good reviews?
13. Where can I find research opportunities for undergraduates?
14. How is the (insert your major) department here?
15. What is the most important piece of advice you have to help me make the best of my experience?
How many times have you heard that your years in college will be the greatest years you will ever have? Even if you have the wisdom to see the falsehood of that statement, it's impossible to deny that there is a lot of pressure to make college exceptional. Your elementary and secondary school years are spent dreaming about it, working to get into that one school, and once you get in, everything complicated in your life will fall perfectly into place, right?
Wrong. Let me preface this by stating that college is fun. It's a time to meet new people, explore who you are, and build connections that will last a life time. And yes, you will probably look back on college and notice that a handful of your college memories really are some of the greatest you've ever made. College, though, is not all fun and games. You have to figure out who you want to be, and most of the time, there's pressure to figure that out right now. What do you want to study? What do you want to do? Will you go into the workforce, or should you try to go straight into graduate school? What do you value? Who are you really?
College is an amalgamation of extreme opposites. You are getting your first taste of adult freedom, while simultaneously feeling restrained by the pressures of school. You feel sure of yourself on campus, while also feeling uncertain of where you fit in the "real world." College is a time in your life rife with indecision, and how you deal with it shapes your experience, while teaching you how to deal with obstacles you will face later in life.
I'm sitting in the middle of the indecision right now as I enter my second year of college, but I've already handled my fair share. I walked on to Harvard's campus in August 2017 an ardent Republican and a yoga aficionado, just knowing that I was going to concentrate in Government with a secondary in English, join the competitive Mock Trial team and the college Republicans, and graduate in three years before going to Harvard Law School.
One year has passed. I am returning to Harvard a fierce political independent and weight lifter, concentrating in Philosophy, and definitely taking all four years to graduate. I never tried out for the Mock Trial team, and I didn't run for student government. I left the college Republicans to form a group on campus for political moderates, and who knows whether I'll be in law school three years from now.
The point is that this year threw every obstacle in my way. Going off to school forced me to question who I am, what I want, and how I am going to accomplish my goals. When I went to college, I made things difficult for myself because I did not want to accept that I did not have my life completely figured out. I could not acknowledge that my thirty year plan might not have been perfect, or even good for me. As a result, I dug my metaphorical heels into the ground, and I resisted change. I forced myself to go to Government events that I did not want to attend. I tried to make myself fit into spaces on campus that I knew in my heart were not where I belonged.
Why? Because I thought it would be easier. I thought that keeping myself in a state of contentedness rather than reaching for real happiness was good for me. I could not bear the thought of taking a risk to find fulfillment, and failing to do so. I was comfortable; why fix what isn't broken?
Clearly, I had a change of heart. It came when I was sitting on the floor of Widener Library at 10:30 pm, discussing Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy with a group of my classmates and my professor. It was the moment I fell in love with philosophy, and I decided to take the words of the Meditations to heart.
In Descartes's Second Meditation, the meditator is questioning whether she exists. Eventually, she comes to the conclusion of "cogito ergo sum," which translates to "I think, therefore, I am." The meditator uses this to prove her own existence; when I heard it, I decided to use it to affirm mine.
Cogito ergo sum. Those three Latin words sent me into an existential spiral. If thinking is the essence of existence, then didn't a constant denial of my innermost thoughts constitute a constant denial of my own existence? Why was I so intent on following a path I had fabricated for myself years ago, when my mind was begging me to move in another direction?
That night changed my life. In that moment, I decided to stop denying my reason, instead combining it with my passions to create a path that made me truly happy. When I was faced with cognitive dissonance, I asked myself why I was experiencing it, and I used my reason to carve a new path that avoided it. I questioned my preconceptions, challenged my beliefs, and constructed a new system of values. These values have led me to some incredible opportunities, experiences that have brought me true joy.
What does this have to do with you and dealing with indecision in college? Everything. College is so often described as a place designed to challenge you, but the challenge goes so far beyond the classroom. You need to challenge yourself. Examine your beliefs, dissect them, and decide which ones are worth keeping. Rebuild your character and your system of values to create a person who is confident, life-affirming, and happy.
When you are faced with indecision, ask yourself why you are feeling it. Trace it back to your values, and reason your way through it. I know, I know: easier said than done. You are right. Dealing with indecision in college is not by any means easy, especially when it feels as if the stakes are higher than ever. Indecision, though, helps us towards inner discovery. It forces us to adapt, to progress in order to address the obstacles ahead.
Face indecision head on, and do not fear failure. Failure allows us to grow. It shows us that somewhere along the line, there was an error in the mechanics of our decision making, and it teaches us to review our mistakes to become stronger. I am by no means the expert on dealing with self doubt, but I can tell you from personal experience that in our moments of indecision, there are no wrong answers. Every time you are faced with a challenging decision, you are faced with an opportunity for growth. Follow your reason combined with your passion, and do not be afraid to embrace change. After all, these are the best years of your life.
Packing for school can be overwhelming. Between reviewing the hundred item checklist you find on the internet, trying to figure out what will fit in your car, and making sure you don't overload your boxes, it can be easy for certain (very) important items to get lost in the shuffle. Here's a list of fifteen items you'll be sure to want at school:
In May of 2017, student at Evergreen State College demanded the firing of a professor who decided not to participate in a white "Day of Absence" in which white students and faculty were requested to remain off campus, even though he offered an open statement as to why he would not attend, citing that it would not be productive disagreement. When conservative commentator Ben Shapiro came to speak at UC Berkeley, nine people were arrested in protests related to his event. These two examples represent a larger trend of increasing tensions over campus expression. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but how far does that protection extend within the ivy covered walls of your college campus?
From a legal standpoint, the conversation around the First Amendment on college campuses has to be divided between public and private universities. At public universities, it is well established that students have all speech rights protected under Amendment I and the law that has followed from it. This is because public universities, in the eyes of the law, are considered to be government entities, meaning that it is unconstitutional to restrict free speech on public campuses.
Free expression at private universities, however, is another matter. Private schools are not required to guarantee First Amendment protections to their students. While this may appear problematic for free expression (and with good reason), most private universities consider themselves to be ardent proponents of free speech, going out of their way to ensure student speech rights through their student handbooks. This, however, is not guaranteed, and it is within a private university's legal limits to restrict student speech, so long as they make their policies public.
A legal discussion of campus speech rights only begins to cover the issue of expression on college campuses. Free expression has been framed as a force opposed to inclusion, leading to tensions. A Gallup poll found that 53 percent of students hold diversity to be more important than free speech. Campus culture has become dominated by the idea of microaggressions and safe spaces (for more on this topic, we highly recommend "The Coddling of the American Mind"). Colleges have become more concerned with maintaining sensitivity than with protecting free expression, with students being the driving force behind this shift.
At the FRFF, we believe that this sets students up for failure. Portraying inclusion and free expression as opposites only serves to damage students by preventing them from being exposed to opinions with which they disagree. Moreover, without free expression, it becomes impossible to confront perspectives that we find unfair or offensive, leaving this viewpoints to fester and cause animosity through a lack of understanding. Rather than posing the question of whether diversity is more important than free speech, we think that it is impossible to promote and protect diversity without it.
Putting together an event on your college campus can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. Someone who has never booked or promoted an event may think that you just announce an event, put up some posters, and people will come to the event if they see the flyers and think it sounds interesting, but it almost always requires much more effort then that. Putting up a banner for the event in your student union may catch a few eyes, but for many first time promoters, that is where the event promotion begins and ends, so the event will almost certainly get lost in a sea of posters and banners. Based on my eight years of event booking and promotion, these are four tips to get your event more exposure and help you get butts in seats. These are not the only things you can do, but it's a great start!
2. Targeted Online Promotion
On the note of knowing your audience, it isn’t just enough to have physical promotion. Targeted online promotion is just as important. Once you know what people you are trying to reach, cruise around instagram and twitter for hashtags on your campus that are relevant to your event and see how you can incorporate them into your promotional posts. Paying for online advertising on social media can be helpful, but it is not the be-all end-all of online promotion. Boosting posts on Facebook can help, but don’t over-do it by doing it with too many different posts. Also look for Facebook groups for students on campus for events and networking that you can post about your event on.
3. Interactive promotion
When talking about online promotion, you also want to have an element of interaction. Instagram raffles/contests are often a great way to get the word out about your event to a much wider swath of people. If your event has an admission fee, have an IG raffle where users post the flyer for the event and tag a friend in order to be submitted for free entry for two. If the event is free, think of another sort of raffle or contest that can get people promoting your event on their own social media profiles.
4. Campus Coordination
Involving your school in the promotion process can also be a vital tool. Many colleges have an official event list on their website, which can be an invaluable tool for helping bring in freshman who are looking for ways to meet new people. For events that tie into the curriculum of any classes, it also a great idea to talk to the professors of those classes to see if you can work together to have the teachers assign extra credit for attending your event. Getting the extra boost of students needing a small grade bump is a fantastic way to get more eyes and ears for your organization. Making a signup sheet that you put on the welcome table at the end of the event is a great way to make sure people stick around.
Following these steps will help build your event turnout in a big way. Just like anything else, the success of your event is directly correlated to how much work you put into its preparation.
Small talk echoes about you as newly minted business cards pass from person to person, as if by way of slight of hand tricks. You look for a familiar face, but find yourself lost in a sea of well-tailored suits and little black dresses. Forced laughter bounces from wall to wall. Your heart beats faster, hands holding on more tightly to that brand new briefcase. You anxiously walk to the bar for some water, avoiding eye contact while secretly hoping someone notices that one statement necklace you so carefully selected with the hope that someone would notice you and start the conversation so that you would not have to approach them first: welcome to your first networking event.
Okay, that may have been a bit over-dramatic. Today, I love networking events, especially as a student. I was not always so fond of waltzing up to strangers and introducing myself though, and the situation I described above is pretty much a play-by-play of how my first networking event went. It was awkward. I stuck to the corners, had a few meaningless conversations, and left feeling defeated.
How did I go from discouraged by networking to energized by the very thought of it? I changed my mindset. When I went to my first networking event, I saw it as a chance to get ahead, to make my impression on someone important and leave feeling good about myself. It wasn't until after I had left that event that I realized how such a perspective was preventing me from doing just that.
Networking is a term that tends to dehumanize your interactions with other people at events. I only started to enjoy networking when I thought about what "networking" really means: building meaningful connections with other people. By meaningful, I don't mean important to succeeding in your career aspirations or to building resume. I am talking about building meaningful human connections to other people, beginning to build a relationship with them because you are generally interested in who they are and what they do rather than how they can benefit you. Start with that mindset, follow these eleven tips, and I promise that your first networking experience will be more enjoyable than mine.