Stick to Your Plan..

From an International Student's Perspective

College life can be so overwhelming. Having a strategy in place as you begin your journey will help you ease the strain. Below, I will provide some tips on how you can successfully map out your college experience.

1. Master your Finances
It is critical throughout your entire college experience to ensure you have all your educational needs taken care of. However, it is important to try and avoid spending on “wants or luxuries” while in college (e.g., taking on a high car loan, or running your credit card to pay for pizza, groceries etc.). The college experience is a long journey, which may have many unseen obstacles. You may even choose to further your studies by attending graduate school, so trying to maintain your finances early on is incredibly important for you to be able to manage student debt.

2.Early Registration & keeping a stick note course-map

It is important throughout your college experience to understand how every class fits together toward your degree. You can easily build a self-made integrated map of your entire program and class guide to see which classes you need to take in advance. Early registration also helps you cut down on stress levels, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do so, by getting your classes lined up. If you can’t register early, still have your registration lined up and ready. Academic advisors will have more time to help and guide you if you are already prepared.

3.Aim for a high GPA in your early classes as they are easier

When college starts, in general the easiest courses are lined up first (with exception of the notorious “weed-out” classes). Make the most of this time to ground a solid GPA standing. Later on, the classes become more challenging and will require more effort. A healthy GPA as you progress will be important in helping you attract scholarships that can cushion your college bills.

4.Free Tutor Services: Use them!!

Not all college classes will be easy A’s. A quality college education is designed to give you a well-rounded idea of most disciplines. The most important thing to know about college is that no one is out to make you fail; looking for free tutors who can help you understand difficult concepts you encounter in your classes can be beneficial towards your success. This is a complimentary service offered in most universities—especially in those difficult science and math classes—but is rarely used by students.FB SU Logo

Stick to Your Plan

From a Student's Perspective

While visiting your advisors, some of them may have suggested mapping out your college courses to ensure a timely and surprise-free journey to graduation. Some of them may have even given you the means to do so. Fantastic! If not, don’t fear. Here’s one way you can map it out and STICK to your plan:

Materials: sticky notes of various colors; large, sturdy paper; your academic bulletin.

Step 1: Choose your colors

Figure out what types of classes you need to graduate and choose a different color for each (ex/general education classes, major classes, minor classes, etc.). This gives a quick visual of your requirements.

Step 2: Make a sticky for each class

Write the course designator of the classes you wish to take on the corresponding color sticky notes. Write down how many credits its worth and the class name. Does a class fulfill two requirements? Good for you! Make two or more stickies (one of each color) for that class and stack them. Again, it’s all about organized visuals.

Step 3: Draw up semesters

Create rectangles on your paper to represent each semester you plan on being in school.

Step 4: Map it out

Place the sticky notes you filled out onto the board in the order you would like to take them. Keep in mind the number of credits you hope to take each semester and the order of classes you’ll have to take (some need prerequisites). Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; just get started! That’s the beauty of using sticky notes. If your plan changes, you can just pick up the sticky note and move it to a different box. When you think you’re all set, write down how many credits you plan to take each semester.

Step 5: Verify

More sets of eyes are always better than one. Take your plan to your advisors so they can make sure it checks out. It’s even a smart idea to take it to more than one type of advisor. Your general academic advisor can tell you if your general education class requirements are fulfilled by your plan. Your major advisor can tell you if you have all the classes you need in the correct order, and your minor advisor can do the same. If each color on your plan is approved by an advisor, you know your plan can STICK.

When planning things out, you may hit some bumps in the road; you may get contradicting information from different departments due to communication errors, but remain diligent! Explain to those helping you what contradicting information you have received; this will help the two departments work it out for you. Always double check your plan and get a second opinion to ensure no surprises happen due to miscommunication.

So now you can see your academic journey on paper; a glorious multi-colored paper. But seeing it on paper and experiencing it are two different things. Soon enough, those classes won’t just be sticky notes, they will become reality. How else have others mapped out their journey?FB SU Logo

College Advising Tips

From an International Student's Perspective

Upon college admission, it is important to understand every college in the United States has academic support structures to help you realize and achieve your dreams. The best part, of course, being that all this is free of charge. Academic advising is an important part of the learning process. It would be a waste to complete your college education without asking for advice on the hard academic decisions you need to make—decisions that will impact your professional career.

Below are the three Rs you need to keep in mind to make the most of your advising and college experience:

  1. Responsibility – Talk to your Advisor

You need to take full ownership of your life. No one will chase you down and make you visit an advisor; rather, it is your duty to seek advice on hard academic decisions. Schedule regular visits to see academic staff who can help you make good decisions in college. But before you march into an advisors office, always be prepared: compile a list of questions beforehand so you know exactly what to ask, and know the different areas of expertise of your various faculty and staff so you can decide whom to talk to and receive advice from the best resource possible. Follow up your session with the advisor by letting them know what you have done since your meeting; this is very important in helping build strong relationships with your advisors and not becoming just another face in the sea of students.

2. Relationships-Ask Questions

College is a good place to meet people from all over the world. As a result, college advisors have networks in all of these places with people in all sorts of business areas. Foster open communication with your advisors so that they can connect you with professionals in your area of interest. Academic advising is communication: it never goes one way and it’s in your best interests to always build long-lasting connections.

3. Resources-Find out all you need to know

Each and every college has various support structures—such as academic advisors—who are there to help you learn policies, procedures, and requirements. All this information is normally given to you on the first day of school. While this information is very essential, it can be overwhelming to comprehend when received all at once. Take advantage of the resources available to you. Make efficient and effective use of academic tools at your disposal; after all, you pay for it!

Visiting advisors can put you on the right path to success. Once they help you figure out where the journey will take you, you can map it out. The road to a destination always has more than one possible route. Planning the journey before you begin can help you avoid unexpected roadblocks on your trip to graduation.

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Essential Advising Steps

From a Student's Perspective

You’ve done a great job planning so far; you’ve decided which college to attend and know how you’re going to pay for it. The next step? Plan for your academic road ahead and talk to an advisor. Going to an advisor is important to a successful college career. They can point you in the right direction and keep you on track, even help you to graduate in a timely manner. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your meeting with an advisor:
The Right Kind of Advisor
There are many different types of advisors that can help you in college. There can be advisors specifically for a major or minor, general academic advisors assigned by the university, program advisors, financial advisors, trusted professors who are willing to assist, etc. The type of advisors at your disposal will depend on the resources provided by your university of choice. All of them can be beneficial and offer different opinions. Advisors can help you at any stage of your academic career: they can help you decide on a program, help you plan what classes to take, and even tell you your academic standing via an audit (have you taken the right classes and what classes do you still need?). Think about who would best be able to help you and contact them to set up a meeting. If you’re not sure who to talk to, just email one of them and ask. Personnel are often happy to point you in the right direction.
Ask the Right Questions
Having questions prepared ahead of time will help you make the most of your meeting with an advisor. It ensures you won’t forget anything you need or want to know. Potential questions could include: can I get this major/minor done in four years? What are the requirements? What classes should I take each semester? How many credits should I take a semester? Do I need an internship? Of course, these are just a few examples; the questions you ask will depend on your situation. Knowing what to ask will help you stay organized and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Your advisor can only help you so much without knowing what you need. Knowing the right questions will help you get the right answers.
Follow Up
Advisors are a great resource for guidance, but it’s up to you to do the work. Take good notes so that you can leave with the confidence that you know how to proceed and follow through with your plan. Always go back to advisors and auditors to learn of new rules, ensure no mistakes were made, procedures were done correctly, and you are on track; follow ups will help you stay informed. This will give you peace of mind and serves as a gentle reminder. Don’t forget to thank them for their time!
Requirements
It is very important to be aware of the requirements involved with any major or minor. There are general requirements from the college itself but there are also specific requirements for every major or minor. It is important to know both to be successful; advisors can provide you with this information.
Advisors are great, free resources. Take advantage of them! It is their job to help students (you pay for it after all). The information they can provide you is essential to your success. Using them will help you make the most of your time in college and will help you experience a smoother journey to graduation. With their guidance, you may feel confident as you pursue your degree. So tell us, what have advisors done for you?FB SU Logo

3 Ways to finance your College Tuition

From an International Student's Perspective

The biggest challenge after we select our major is which college to pick and, of course, how we are going to afford to attend. From an international students’ perspective, this may mean the end of the road as many local scholarships may not apply to them.

Our attention is drawn to the average cost of attendance, which normally is a lot higher than one may expect and results in prospective students being frustrated before they even apply. It is important to figure out as early as possible how to best position yourself to cover your financial needs.

First and foremost, as per our last topic “Major or College,” we emphasized the need to apply to as many colleges as possible. It’s a great idea to divide your college selections into 3 or more groups. For example, where you know you qualify (GPA and Cost of Tuition), where you hope to be admitted, and finally where you wish you can be admitted. This gives you more options and increases the likelihood of receiving a big financial-aid package.  Don’t forget to look at how much a college receives in endowments, rather than just the average cost of attendance. This figure is a good indicator of how much a college has in its coffers to award in scholarships.

Second, based on your financial background, there are different ways colleges can handle your financial needs. Colleges have different sets of scholarships such as need based scholarships, merit based scholarships, and first-come-first-served based scholarships. Students need to be proactive by consulting with a college’s financial aid department to see if they qualify for these options.  Need based scholarships are available for students who: (a) show they have achieved success despite hardship or (b) an unusual challenge and (c) may have not had the opportunity for enriching educational or personal circumstances or (d) the socio-economic climate of their community. International students are not exempt from also filing for a need-based out of campus work petition to the federal government. Part-time employment can help ease the financial burden of college costs such as books, room and board, cellphone bills, etc.

Merit based scholarships exist for those students who show exceptional academic talent; these are highly competitive and thus require you to have an excellent record of good grades. Some universities may also offer first-come-first-served scholarships; a lot of ground work and research has to be done to realize all of the opportunities open to you at college.

Finally, as an international student, it is important to ask for a guidance counselor who is able to assess your financial needs and advise accordingly. College resources such as guidance counselors are available in colleges to offer more detailed information on how you can lessen your financial burdens and complete your study at the college of your choice.FB SU Logo

3 Ways to Finance your Educated Future

From a Student's Perspective

So you’ve explored your options, and decided where you’re going to college; congrats! But, unfortunately, few things in life are free, and that may be doubly true for college. It is scary to have all the burden of college on yourself without any help or guidance. So, below is a review of three ways to pay for your college education, many of which don’t require you to have parent consent or a cosigner and range from merit based to needs based.

Scholarships
Scholarships are generally merit based; this is a beneficial place to start, because they don’t need to be paid back. People tend to think primarily of academic scholarships. And yes, academic scholarships can be very beneficial to your financial welfare and may give you a great sense of accomplishment for all of your hard work. Don’t qualify? Don’t worry. There are plenty of other merit-based scholarships for various extracurricular activities you may have participated in, such as sports. Some of these scholarships come from the high school level and don’t require you to play in college. Even better? In high school, it’s not all about performance; an essay on the life lessons learned through an activity can help you compete. There may also be scholarships specific for your intended major or area of study, nonacademic scholarships provided by the university, scholarships through your high school, and even scholarships through your community. Never limit yourself to the number of scholarships you apply for; if you meet the qualifications, go for it! Just be diligent in your search; if you’re having problems finding scholarships, ask counselors and advisors for help.

Student Financial Aid
Student Financial Aid is needs based. In order to receive financial aid, such as Pell grants, government loans, work-study, student-aid programs, state aid, or other institutional aid, you will need to fill out the FAFSA. This application will ask you numerous questions pertaining to your household, income, and expected costs. Based on the information you provide, the government will decide how much of what kind of aid you are eligible for. This information has to be updated and renewed annually. Be cautious though! Sometimes, the FAFSA will allow you to borrow more loan money than you really need (the key word being BORROW). All of this money will need to be paid back (plus interest), so only accept what is necessary.
Loans
Non-federal loans (such as private loans through banks or companies) are also considered needs based. Just like federal loans, don’t forget you have to pay back the money plus the interest it gains over the years. Be sure to make educated decisions about where to borrow your money from. Oftentimes, federal aid will have lower interest rates than private-bank loans, but this all depends on factors such as your credit history, or that of your parents. Know your options before you sign on and borrow. Again, only take what you need; this will eliminate unnecessary debt.
Figuring out how to fund your college career is an integral part of the adult college experience. Scholarships, student financial aid, and loans are three key ways to help you pay for your education. Figure out how much money you will need and plan accordingly. Once you plan for your financial future, you can begin to plan for your academic future. So, how will you pay your way?FB SU Logo

College Major or Major on Colleges

From an International Student's Perspective

Choosing a major or college can be a daunting process, one that has no clear-cut answers. However, it is imperative to always consider the basis of our previous article “Things we should know before studying Abroad” as a guide to this article: ask for direction and know your choices. In essence, explore.

I personally pondered deeply “where would I go to college?” and “what would I do in college?” It ate me up inside, I spent hours upon hours on the net searching for ideas, and I threw my applications out there without knowing exactly what I wanted to study or where to study it. My mind was clouded by other people’s perception of how a top-class private college can turn a “normal folk” into a millionaire (see Marissa Meyer, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.). I started to research the topic more and more: what is more important? The college or the major? I kept asking myself whether an employer would look more at the college I attended or the major I selected (thus, my skillsets) when I graduate. Ultimately I decided, and firmly believe, that the major you select should determine the college you attend and not the other way around.

So many people will advise you to follow your heart’s passion, and I really second that; your passion is important to consider when deciding what major to pursue and, ultimately, what college to attend. However, there is more to passion than just chasing a dream. It should ultimately help you sustain your life and that of your family in the long run. It should amount to something more than just a feeling: perhaps a tangible skill that can be used to gain employment or put you in a position to employ others.

Four years in college is a very high opportunity cost in terms of both time and money. Should you not enjoy the major you selected, or, worse off, if you survive college and realize you have no interest in the job it prepared you for, it becomes a life sentence! But it’s important to remember that this is your decision to make; take ownership!

While this shouldn’t entirely influence your decision, a little thought about the job market forecast sometimes helps determine your major of interest.  Consider the past and current job market trends in the selected field: are they growing or shrinking? Either way, one has to understand that the job market is highly volatile. What used to be the best job 10 years ago may not even be important today.

In conclusion, I have come to the understanding that while having a prestigious college on your resume can be really enticing, a more rewarding experience is finishing college knowing full well that you are confident, passionate, and excited about your major and future prospects. Focusing on the college major should come first.  Then you can focus on which college to attend and the financials of the college experience. So what comes first to you? College, or major?   FB SU Logo

The Right College vs. The Right Major: Which one is more right for you?

From a Student's Perspective

Since we’ve briefly discussed the 5 things we wish we would have known in high school, we want to expand on one of the five: exploration. Specifically, we want to look at that age-old debate that requires some exploration—what’s more important to consider? The college to attend, or the major to pursue? Like many things in life, the answer may be, “it depends.” It depends on if you know what you want to do. It depends on your financial situation. It depends on your family history. It just depends. One could even argue that both are important: it’s important to choose the major that is the best fit for you, but it’s also essential to attend the university that best suits your needs. But for the sake of a good debate, we argue that the right major is more essential than the right college.

We’ve heard it over and over again: a degree is a degree. Getting your degree at a smaller college, rather than a large public university, will likely not negatively impact your future career prospects. What is important is that you chose the right major and you gained the proper experience and skillsets needed to excel in your desired field.

We are firm believers that your choice of major should drive your college choice. Though knowing what college is right for you may be critical, not all colleges offer the same programs. Every school is known for different academic programs and has different reputations. Knowing what you’re interested in can help you select a school with a top-notch program in that area.

Think of it this way: the major you choose can affect the rest of your life, but you’ll only attend a college for (ideally) four years for a bachelor’s. It’s making the decision to pursue something that you’re passionate about that will be the bigger decision. Though you may not know exactly what you want to pursue, at least find areas you are interested in. Once you know what those interests are, you can use them to guide your college choice by targeting schools that at least offer the various programs that suit your interests. When you have that list, you can afford to be a bit pickier. Go ahead and choose a university from a host of other reasons with the confidence it will offer you what you truly need: that degree. The same one that will open the door to your dream job. But completing this process the opposite way—college then major—might not be as successful.

If you choose a college based on reputation before considering your major, you may be unpleasantly surprised to learn it doesn’t offer what you ultimately want, or that its program isn’t as competitive as the school you never gave serious consideration to. In this instance, a transfer might be in order. But in the end, you’ll still be pursuing what you’re passionate about, and that’s what’s most important in this debate, isn’t it? But keep in mind, the longer you stay, the more you’ll pay (but more on finances later). So what’s right for you? Major or College?FB SU Logo

5 Things You Should Know Before Studying Abroad

From an International Student's Perspective

The transition to college can be daunting, especially when that college is in a different country; as prepared as I thought I was, here are five things hindsight has told me I wish I knew:

  1. Ask for direction 

The college journey is filled with so many experiences; but remember, all that happens under the sun is not new. Have the courage to step out and connect with advisors to inquire about your future, consult your grades and opportunities, and even discuss the major you are considering. Asking professionals around the industry can help you discover ways to uniquely adapt your plan for the future.

2.Know your Choices

Before you start college, have options. Don’t just jump on the first acceptance letter you receive. It is crucial to follow your plan of study and know what you or your financier can afford. As a college student, there are many institutions that will offer you credit facilities. The high cost of college may make you justify using credit services as a means to an end. It’s important to understand the implications of using these services; what does it really mean?

3.Go for the scholarships / Get a college Job!

Good grades do pay off. Having good grades in college is a rewarding experience; with the right grades, you position yourself for various opportunities that can significantly reduce your tuition fees. A college job can surely bring those pizza slices to your table. Get busy and get experience! Landing a job can boost your resume and impress recruiters.

4.Get yourself connected / Join the network craze!

College diversity is the perfect platform to meet new people from all over the world. It is amazing how many students have a great deal in common, but are not within each other’s immediate social circles. New networks through college friendships lay the foundation for innovative ideas, creative inventions, and lifelong partnerships.

5.Invest in Professors    

It is important to establish a relationship with your professors; try and not be just another student face to them. Professors have the ability to help you develop and enhance your skills. Learn how to take constructive criticism from them before receiving it in the corporate world. College professors have been in the industry. Learning from their experiences in a classroom environment is like looking into the window of your business world; soak up their advice.

No matter how prepared you are, you will still be surprised when you start your journey. Sometimes you have to learn by living, but hopefully my five gave you some insight. Why not share some of yours?FB SU Logo

5 College Issues We Wish We Knew In High School

From a Student's Perspective

Hindsight is a powerful thing; looking back on our teenage years, we wish we would have known more about going to college. Seeing those who came before us make the transition made us feel (overly) confident and prepared. We went through the motions—applying to universities and competing for scholarships—thinking we had it under control; but we were missing some important details. Here’s five things we wish our 17 year-old-selves knew about the high school to college transition:

  1. Explore your options

We were told to go to college (shocker), but that was about it. The information we got from sources such as counselors was only very basic: what we already knew via example. If you didn’t know about the system, you were left to your own devices. There was no encouragement to explore our options such as the various colleges we should consider (one of the three everyone goes to? Sounds good to me). While perhaps a class geared towards college advice would have been beneficial, even the option to go on college visits with our classmates would have helped. At the very least, planting the seed for collegiate curiosity could have gotten us more involved in the exploration process.

  1. Scholarships

We were also advised to apply for scholarships (hello free money!); but, again, that was about it for financial advice. Where can I find these scholarships? Do I qualify? Is it possible to apply for too many? (No.) We wish we would have had a better understanding of where to find scholarships that applied to us and that it’s OKAY to apply to as many as you can (don’t let your competitive peers make you feel greedy). If you qualify, or even think you might qualify, go for it. Don’t forget to continue to look for scholarships when you’re in college. Many departments will offer program-specific scholarships into your junior or even senior year.

  1. Planning

We were always told, “it’s okay to go in undecided.” And it is; you’ll survive and eventually figure it out. But planning your college career can make your time there more efficient. Take classes you like and find out what you want to do as early as you can. Always ask for help from advisors and peers. Staying on track can help you graduate on time (the coveted four year in-and-out).

  1. Class Level

Prepare yourself for the class levels. Start at the basics (ENG 101) and work your way up (COM 561? No problem). Make sure to take a reasonable amount of credits; an overload can be overwhelming, but too few may make your stay in college extended. Not sure what’s right for you? Talk with an advisor. Set up an appointment. They’re here to listen and help you personalize your experience. Understanding how college classes work will prepare you and give you confidence for that first day.

  1. Establish Relationships

Unlike high school, you don’t see your teachers every day. Professors have larger classes, making it easy to become just a face and a grade. Try to establish a relationship. Go to their office hours and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Having a relationship with your professor may be beneficial for you in the long run. You never know what that network can afford you in the future.

So there’s the five things we wish we knew about college before experiencing it for ourselves. Do we regret our choices and where we ended up? Absolutely not. Could we have been more prepared and gotten more out of the experience? Yes, definitely. High school should prepare you for college, but looking back, we were not as prepared as we should have been. But that’s just us. What about you?

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