Hey all, sorry for such a long hiatus from the blog. You should see an update weekly (maybe a bit more!) from now on. 

For all of you preparing for your first year at school, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for orientation. Keep in mind that every school’s orientation is different. 

For my university, orientation happens over summer. The whole event is two days long, and it’s filled with information and activities to get our freshmen (and transfer students, though their process is a little different) acclimated to the university. Some things to take into consideration are the following: 

1. Orientation Leaders. These people are AWESOME. I’m not just saying that because I was one, but legitimately, these people are great. Usually, orientation leaders are students at your university who want to help incoming students. Each university may have different roles for their orientation leaders, but typically the O.L. will lead you around campus, and help you out during orientation. Orientation Leaders are TRAINED to help you. If you have questions about the university and do not feel comfortable asking an administrator, ASK the O.L.s That’s what they are there for! This person could be a great friend when you start school in the fall, and might be able to show you around when the semester starts. Often times they can also help you get involved at your school, which is absolutely important. I’ll write more about involvement at a later point in time. Just keep in mind that your O.L.’s are there to help you. Without you, there wouldn’t be an orientation. 

(My university’s orientation group the year I was a leader. That’s me at the bottom.)

2. Homework. You might have to do some kind of “orientation homework” before your orientation. Be sure to complete this! Check your email regularly to make sure that you have been receiving all correspondences from orientation staff. If your only homework is to show up on time, then make sure you do that as well! 

3. Parents. Some colleges will let you bring your parents to orientation with you, and usually have a separate orientation for parents. I would recommend bringing mom and/or dad with you to orientation if you are given the option (and can afford it! Some schools will charge you for orientation, and may charge your parents as well. Keep this in mind when you attend). It will be a great chance for mom and dad to see the university that you will be attending. If you are a first generation college student (like I was!) your mom and dad will definitely benefit from learning about what the university has to offer, and learning about different laws (such as FERPA, which you will learn more about later!).  You may also have to sign some paperwork, and if you are 17 at the time of the orientation, you will probably need parental permission for certain things. After orientation, once the school year starts, your parents will start to let go and let grow. Let them enjoy orientation with you, just make sure you don’t cling to them the whole time! You need to enjoy orientation, too!

4. Class registration. Make sure that if you do register for classes at your orientation, that you keep mom and dad in the loop, but do not let them choose FOR you. You’re an adult now, and need to start making your own decisions. Take things they recommend into consideration, but ultimately, you’re the one that will be taking the classes. Do not just go for classes that others say are “easy.” Give yourself a challenge. That is the way to grow. Also keep in mind that everybody’s level of “easy” is different. What is easy for one may not be easy for you. Make sure you are full-time when you choose your classes, but do not take on a heavy load your first semester. You will need to get used to the university and university level courses, so make sure you are allowing time for fun and a LOT of studying your first semester!

5. New friends & Involvement opportunities. While orientation will teach you a lot about your university, it is also meant to be FUN. Make new friends while you are at orientation! If you are typically shy (like I was at my orientation), try to find just one other person to connect with. Just one! That one can really help in your first semester of college. If you can come to school already having friends, that is awesome! Now don’t get me wrong — college is a time for studying, for achieving your goal and getting your bachelor’s degree, and requires a lot of focus. Studies have shown, however, that students that feel socially excluded from their university do more poorly in school. Students with friends, a support system, study buddies, etc. have higher success and retention rates. So make sure you put yourself out there.

Get involved with your university. Join a club. Join a sports team. Do a leadership retreat. Do anything! Make a connection to your university. This will be one of the best things you can really do for yourself. When you feel connected to the university, you have a better chance of success. You will have a reason to continue to do well, and may just fall in love with your university. I can tell you that I most definitely did. 

 Anecdote of the day: 

My freshman orientation was nerve wracking. I was absolutely shy, and was so afraid of going to school! None of my friends went to the school I chose to go to, and I was going to be 100+ miles away from home. I was SO NERVOUS. I was too shy to talk to most of the people in my orientation group, but I did end up talking a lot to one girl and we were friends for my first year of school. Drifting does happen while in college, but I’m grateful that I at least had a friend during orientation. I also talked to one of the orientation leaders, Brandon. Brandon became a mentor for me, and helped me get involved with different organizations on campus. We were even orientation leaders together! Brandon is now one of my closest and best friends that I have ever had. Putting yourself out there, even just a little, can bring you lasting friendships. So make sure you make the most out of your orientation. 

I will never forget on day one of my two day orientation, our Vice President of Student Affairs spoke to the freshman class. His words were this: 

Don’t go through college. Let college go through you. 


That’s my advice to you, as well. Don’t go through college. Let college go through you. Don’t miss all of the great experiences college has to offer. Yes, you are going to school to get an education and a degree. Much of your learning, though, is going to take place outside of the classroom. The experiences you have at your school are completely within your control. You decide whether or not you want to join a club, attend events, make friends, and overall make a connection to the school. Take away as much as you can from your university. You won’t regret it. 

That’s all for this week. I may post a few inspirational quotes for you all. 

Keep on keepin’ on, 

      Rach

So, finals are all done. If you live on campus, you’re moving out of housing. You might be graduating. What are your summer plans? While relaxing is so wonderful (especially right after finals), don’t spend your summer lazing around. Summer is a perfect time to gain experience that will help you in finding a job after you graduate, or possibly for the following school year. What better time to gain experience for graduate school than the summer? You can still have your weekends and nights for fun, but apply what you learned in school this semester to bettering your chances at succeeding post-grad life. I’ll give you an anecdote after. Take some of these ideas into consideration: 

1. Part-time summer job. You could even try a full-time job! Try to get a job that is related to what you’re interested in doing. It doesn’t have to be anything significant. Work in retail, sales, summer tutoring, a summer camp, parks & recreation, your parents, etc. It will be a great way to save some cash for the upcoming year. Even if it’s not your ideal job, it will give you some experience. If you end up liking it, keep it. You’ll have cash to use when you need it in school, especially in times of emergency. Or, you can start that special fund for graduate school. 

2. Internship. Internships are AWESOME. I remember reading a while back that something like 60% (maybe more in some fields) of people who do internships get jobs from those positions. Even if you don’t score a job from the place you intern, you get valuable experiences, and add to your network of people to contact once you graduate. Keep in touch with your bosses from your internships and never forget to mention when you’re looking for work. If they liked you, they might be able to hook you up elsewhere in the community. Keep your options open!

3. Summer school. Think about it. I know, I know. You’re like “I’m in college, and I just want to enjoy my summer.” Think about it, though. If you are a freshman and only took 12 units during your fall and spring semesters at a school that requires 120+ units to graduate, you’re not going to graduate in 4 years if you keep up the 12 units at a time. You can always take more units during a semester, but if you want to keep your class levels at the minimum, take summer school courses to catch up/get ahead. They will be super condensed, and the great thing is, you can look to see what courses are transferable from your local community college to your school. If you live in California, use ASSIST in order to find out what courses are transferable between public universities here in CA. Summer school is a great way to keep busy, stay productive, and even get ahead or catch up with yourself. 

4. Volunteer. Stay well-rounded. Your future employers and graduate school admissions department want you to be better citizens. Volunteer back home at a hospital, Boys and Girls club, elementary school, etc. Do some good for your community. Not only will you have great experience to put on your resumé or new contacts for your professional network, but you might just start to feel happy. People who volunteer tend to have higher levels of general happiness and contentment. Do something good for others, and you can still have your summer nights to yourself and your friends and family. 

Do something with your summer. ANYTHING. It will be worth the time and experience, and for those of you who can’t WAIT to go back to school, it will help the time fly by. 

Personal anecdote of the day:

My summers were busy. Summer 2009 - I was an orientation leader at my university. Those were busy, busy days. We planned for, and then executed, four freshman orientations. It was a blast. I got a stipend of $1500 for working in May and June. It was not a bad way to save some cash, get to know new students, and participate in fun leadership stuff. I also was an RA for fall 2009, so my entire August was spent in RA training. That kept me busy as well. 

Summer 2010 proved to be completely similar to summer 2010, minus the RA training. I did orientation again, and loved the students I met that summer. I’m still in touch with a few of them, and am glad to see them succeeding at our university.

Summer 2011 was the big one. I moved out to Camarillo, officially, and was able to work with our Admissions and Recruitment department full-time. Yes, 40 hours per week. I saved a bunch of money, as rent was cheap-ish, and enjoyed my long work days, and jacuzzi, reading, cooking nights. Summer was beautiful, and I learned a lot about the admissions process from my boss. She really took me under her wing, and gave me a lot of good advice. 

Where I am now - graduated, with a full-time job. I gained invaluable professional experiences from my summer jobs/training. I was working (unknowingly) on my interpersonal communication and public speaking skills, as well as my leadership style and ability. I learned about event programming and evaluation. I learned about how CSU admissions evaluators determine if a student should be admitted to the university or not. I learned so much, and had I just gone back to Riverside to laze around, I can tell you that I would not be where I am today. 

So here’s my advice to you:
Make the most out of your time in college, including summer time. You always have weekends and evenings for chillin’, but you only have so many days available to you to gain experience. Go abroad, intern, find work that is meaningful, but not stressful — do something to enrich your life. You’ve only got one. Why waste it doing nothing?


Keep on keepin’ on,
       Rache

For all of you current college students, it’s about that time again. Dead Week, also known as Hell Week, followed by Finals. It’s a stressful time, and for any of you students going through it for the first time (in spring semester at least), you might start to feel like your world is crashing down. If you live on campus, tensions might be super high with your roommates and you’re getting ready to move out of housing. If you commute, you just can’t find the time of day to finish all of the projects you need to finish. You want to stay on campus until all hours of the night, and maybe you do, but you also want your warm, comfy bed. It’s definitely a crazy time for all students in college. It took me two years to figure out how to manage all of my stress, but I finally found things that worked for me. Here are a few of my personal tips to help keep the stress down: 

1. Allow some time for relaxation. Finals are important, and getting those last minute papers done is absolutely vital to your grades. Your health is important, too. Stressing only lowers your immune system. You might notice that a lot of people are coming down with colds right about now. Take a deep breath, step away from that paper and do what you need to chill —  play video games for 30 minutes, go for a run, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, play a round of Go Fish with your roommate/friend. Chill out. It’s all going to be okay. When you take a step back, you allow your mind to rest for a bit, so that it’s refreshed to go again when you’re ready. (Note: taking one 2-hour break to check your Facebook after each sentence you write does NOT count.)

2. Create a to-do list. It took me forever to understand the importance and the beauty of the to-do list. Prioritize your stuff. What’s due first? What’s going to be the easiest? What’s going to be the hardest? What will take up most of your time? I highly, highly recommend using a planner or online calender (i.e. Google calendar) and scheduling your day exactly how you want to. Include meal times, nap times, relaxation times, etc. That way you can get a general idea of how to manage yourself. 

3. Watch your diet.  Watch what you eat! My spring semester freshman year diet consisted of the following: 4 - 8 energy drinks/day, cheetos, oreos, 1 bottle of water/day, crispy chicken wraps from our university cafe, and french fries. Two weeks and 9 pounds later, finals time was over, and my skinny jeans were much skinnier than I was. When I stress, I love my comfort food. DON’T DO IT. Go for the salad. Trust me. I learned later that plates full of veggies kept me energized, and I had no need for energy drinks (also, beware of the energy drinks — I will get into this later if anyone cares to know why I will never touch the stuff again). I also didn’t gain any weight during finals time ever again! YAY! Eat the healthy stuff, and drink lots of water. 

4. Go outside.  It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Get out for a walk, a jog, a picnic. Enjoy being a student. Do your work outside. It’ll keep the depression away if you get some sun. If you don’t life in a place with a lot of sun, or if it’s raining outside, keep your room well-lit. You might also like some tactile therapy. My university had an event where they brought puppies from the local pound to campus. We got to pet them, they got love, we de-stressed in the sun with playful little pups, and everyone was a winner. You can go to a pet store, the local pound, animal advocacy groups that are rehabilitating animals, etc. to try and do the same. It’s nice to just watch fish, pet dogs, and get your mind off of the paper waiting for you back in your room. 

5. Rest up.  While college students are infamous for pulling all-nighters right up through test time, it’s a bad, bad idea. Dead week is great for those long nights — finishing papers, writing study guides, etc. Don’t stay up the same way during finals. Try to get everything done the week before finals. Your brain needs time to rest to absorb information and retain it. Study, study, study, then sleep on it. Make sure you eat a great breakfast, too. If you go into a final tired, your brain won’t be functioning at full capacity. I had an administrator tell me once, “A brain without sleep functions similarly to a brain that is intoxicated. You wouldn’t go into a test drunken or intoxicated in any way. Why would you go in tired?” GET. SOME. SLEEP. 

Above all else, please remember one thing: You are never as alone as you think. Finals time is hard enough to handle, so don’t go it alone. Turn to your support system(s) to get that solid emotional (and maybe even intellectual) support. You might just want to break down and cry, or give up half way through that 10 page paper. Don’t. Don’t do it. Go have a cry, call your parents up and vent it out, have a study session with your best friends, even if they aren’t in the same class. Everyone stresses about finals. It’s okay. It’s a stressful time. Just breathe, and ask for help when you need it. 

Personal anecdote of the day: 

My first finals week in spring semester was horrible. I was taking an upper-division class, the hardest math class on campus, and was overloaded on units all while volunteering on a regular basis and maintaining my on-campus job. I tried as hard as I could to keep it all in and stay positive. I thought I was going to fail two classes that semester, and thought for sure that I would never graduate. I finally just broke down over the phone to my parents. Because they had never been to college, they didn’t quite understand the stresses I had been dealing with all semester. Me venting to them helped me get it out and helped them understand that college isn’t what they thought it to be — drinking, staying out late all day every day, never studying. College is what you make it. I made it about graduating and making my family, and myself, proud. You can do the same. Share with your parents the stresses that you are facing in order to help them better understand where you are coming from. My parents couldn’t help me very much when I was in school, but the one thing they did help me with was supporting me emotionally. The best advice I ever got from my parents is this: 

You’re never as alone as you think. We might not have the answers you’re looking for, but we will always love you. Stay strong. You know yourself better than anyone, and you know you can achieve anything you put your mind to. 

That’s my advice to you. Stay strong. Finals time is difficult, but you can do anything you put your mind to. Believing is achieving, and I believe that you can all achieve the goals you set for yourself. 

Keep on keepin’ on, 
       Rache

Hello Tumblr world,

You don’t know me, but you can call me Rache. I’m a recent graduate from a university in California (which shall remain nameless for now), and the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. As a first generation college student, I’m a huge proponent of higher education, and want to give back to the world in any way that I can. 

I’ve started this blog to help you, a first generation college student (or any college student), get into (and survive) the unfamiliar world of college. I’m by no means an expert, nor will I be able to get you admitted into a university — that all comes from you. I’m simply here to answer any questions you might have about college life.

Why am I qualified to do this? Simple. I survived. Not only did I survive, but I excelled. I was an active student leader on my campus, held various student assistant positions, and got to know a lot about a lot. I’m also well-versed in the college admissions process (I worked for the admissions department for about 2 years), and lived the experience - the freshman 15, scheduling stressing, dead week and finals, roommate conflicts - I did it all!

The experiences I talk about may very well be very different from yours, but there will always be some crossover or applicability. Just keep in mind that I’m here to offer the one thing nobody should ever offer anybody else -  advice. Take it with a grain of sand and do what’s right for you. If my advice comes in handy when you’re making a decision, that’s awesome! If it’s not applicable, then do whatever you feel is the right thing to do! 

This was a long first post. Most of my posts won’t be this long, and if they are, I promise to at least make them more entertaining.

Ask away if you have any questions, or stay tuned for my future posts.

Keep on keepin’ on,
       Rache