7 Tips for Avoiding, and Dealing with, Dorm Sickness

Sickness in CollegeDorm life is a lot of fun. Living in such small quarters with hundreds of other students brings everyone close together, not only in terms of space but also in terms of friendship. But this intimate living situation can unfortunately also bring an unhindered exchange of germs and sickness.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should lock yourself in your dorm room and cease to interact with anyone else. But it is important to be mindful of your health. Here are seven ways that you can mitigate the risk of falling ill while living in the dorms.

1. Wash your hands (with soap!). I know, that seems pretty obvious. But keeping your hands germ-free (or as germ-free as possible) will minimize the threat of sickness.

2. Get enough sleep. As the age-old college students’ saying goes, you have the option to choose two from this list of three: sleep, socialize, good grades. And while of those three potential activities, sleeping might seem like the most shortsighted, it is in fact the most vital to your overall health. By depriving yourself of sleep you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to all sorts of ilness, thereby making it extra hard to socialize and get good grades.

3. Keep your space clean. Don’t let dirty clothing, dishes or rotting food lay around your room. These items can function as breeding ground for harmful bacteria, so the best defense is to not create these environments at all.

4. Eat a balanced diet. During test season, it can be all too easy to find yourself eating a bag of chips for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure that no matter how busy you are, you’re still consuming all essential nutrients as part of a well-balanced diet.

5. Recognize when you are getting sick. Stay in tune with your body and pay attention to signs of sickness. That way, you’ll be able to deal with any issue before it gets out of hand.

6. If you do fall ill, go to your campus health center. The health center is proximate, cheap and easy. They will be happy to diagnose you and prescribe whatever medications will get you back on track.

7. Let others know that you’re sick. Even though you’re surrounded by people, college can be very “every man for himself.” Everyone is doing their own things and caught up in their own lives. So, if you find yourself under the weather, make sure that a friend or roommate knows to check in on you.

While I certainly don’t propose that anyone turn into a full-fledged hypochondriac, it is essential to be conscious of your health on campus. Do what you can to prevent illness, and if you do end up getting sick, make sure to put your health first. Because college is going to be a lot more fun when you’re healthy.

How to Stay Organized in College

College Organized You’re in college, and there’s a lot to do. Between homework, student groups, studying, sports, work, and whatever else you might be doing (or even just thinking of doing), it can be hard to keep your to-do list in order. It can be all too easy for you to lose track of your various engagements, even if they’re a regular part of your daily routine. When you’ve got so much going on, you’re extremely liable to have something slip your mind.

So, in order to prevent an embarrassing or even detrimental situation, it’s especially important that you stay organized, whatever that might mean to you—whether it’s using a Google Calendar, a daily planner, Post-It notes or a simple to-do list. Make sure that you have a functional system to track your due dates, meetings, office hours, social engagements, workouts and anything else that you don’t want to forget. Writing things down will not only serve as a reminder later on, but it’ll also help you to commit these arrangements to memory.

And if all the action items on your daily schedule seem like a lot to handle, the potential activities and achieving your long-term goals can feel especially overwhelming. And thus, it’s equally, if not more, important to keep your ultimate ambition in mind. That way, you’ll remain goal oriented and stay focused on your journey from Point A to Point Z by slowly plotting out the various points along the way. Keep in mind that making it from Point A to Point Z is no easy task—it’ll likely take years to accomplish. But by picking a path, you will be able to start moving toward a goal of some sort.

Even though it’s helpful to have some a final objective, it’s also important that you’re open-minded to other paths. Having a goal sets you in a direction that you think will be suitable to you, but realistically, you’re only aware of a small fraction of the careers, job titles and organizations that exist. Perhaps somewhere along your way to becoming the President of the United States, you’ll realize that you’ll be much happier and better suited as the head of an organization that works to fix America’s broken prison system.

But though you should bear in mind a highly flexible end goal, college shouldn’t simply be a means to an end. Make sure to take advantage of all the activities, information and people who might not necessarily lead you anywhere. Make sure to do things for yourself and spend time in activities that you enjoy. Not only will you experience more opportunities to learn about yourself and what makes you tick, you’ll also enjoy your college experience.

You Are Not Your Grades

College Grades Sometimes, it seems like grades are everything. You slave over every little assignment, you study for hours on end for every minor quiz and you go to all the office hours. Being a straight-A student is who you are–it’s an important piece of your personal identity.

So when you find yourself seriously struggling in a course for the first time, it’s that much more difficult. Because not only does it feel entirely unnatural for you, but it also wrecks havoc on your idea of yourself and diminishes your entire self-worth. Your perfect GPA is part of who you are, it’s an essential component of how you define yourself.

Or maybe you’re not quite perfect, but you’ve never seen a C on your report card. Or you’re an average student, but you’ve never failed a course. However high your personal bar rests, to you, it’s of the utmost importance to stay above it. Because it’s a huge part of who you are.

And suddenly, when you unexpectedly and unintentionally find yourself falling short of your own expectations, it shatters your world. To you, it means that maybe you’re not all that you thought you were and maybe you’re not so awesome after all. It’s not about the grade, whether it’s an A- or a B or a C or an F. Sure, it drags your GPA down a bit, but in the grand scheme of things, you know that one grade won’t matter that much. But somehow, it feels like this one grade changes everything—it damages your self-image because these results don’t fit your expectations and they suggest that you too are you fallible.

Because you care about you, this new low feels like the end of the world. Because you don’t want to think of yourself as anything but an A student (or a B student or a C student) it feels like you’re a failure.

While this all feels like the end of life as you know it, it’s important not to get discouraged and to understand that everyone makes mistakes, every human has their blunders. Every student (nay, every person) feels this way when they don’t live up to their own expectations, and you are not a failure.

Most importantly, it’s essential to keep things in perspective. Not the “kids in Africa are starving” type of perspective, because though we should always be sympathetic to suffering around the world, it’s wholly unfair to diminish your own feelings with such statements. I mean the perspective on who you are, what makes you special and what makes you, you.

Though it can sometimes be tough, it’s vital that you remind yourself that you are more than a grade, you are more than your GPA, and you are more than your academic success. There are so many components that make you wonderful— don’t let some numbers and letters define you.

Managing High School Stress

High School StressHigh school is extremely stressful. There is no sugar coating the fact that students are forced to sit for hours and study their brains out yet still be expected to do numerous extra-curricular activities just so their college application could sparkle in the eyes of the admission counselor. As I look back at my three years in high school, I find it hard to recall a moment that was not filled with stress. Even if I was on vacation, there were SAT tests looming in the distance and volunteer hours that were waiting to be completed.

Although there come times where I regret loading myself up with hard courses and filling my free time with copious amounts of activities, I know that every little thing I did contributed to not only my college admission but my roundness as a person. So because I believe I can’t reduce my workload, I came up with a list of stress-relievers that I found helpful during my most difficult times.

1. Go for a ten minute walk
Don’t know how to fit studying for the SAT with the upcoming midterm? Is math homework, the english essay, and the lab all due on the same day? During our busy lives, we are often faced with challenges that we feel like we cannot accomplish. Our minds get clogged with all the information we need to store and all the tasks we need to remember to do. One of the best things to do in order to clear up the internal confusion is to simply go on a walk. Those ten minutes where you are forced to leave your room and step away from the computer screen will help you organize your thoughts without any distractions.

2. Do yoga
Yoga is a super fun way to relieve stress and get toned. It’s something you can do easily at home and at your own pace. Yoga has been clinically proven to reduce stress and coming from personal experience I can tell you that it has definitely helped. I started doing yoga during my junior year of high school and ever since then I have been obsessed. I was so impressed with the results I was getting, I created an entire spread on it in my high school newspaper. There are a number of ways to practice yoga: you can go to classes at a local community center, try a session at a yoga studio or simply look up poses online and try them out at home.

3. Listen to music
Music is incredible because it can give you so many feelings. You can get angry, sad, happy, loved, lonely, pumped and even (believe it or not) de-stressed! There is nothing better than lying in your bed and listening to a one-hour playlist of your favorite songs. You can create a playlist of all your favorite songs on iTunes and listen to it every time you feel like you need to relieve some tension.

High school is not ever lasting. If you ever feel overwhelmed and/or stressed, just remember that those ephemeral feelings will be replaced with relief as you make your way to the end of your 12-year education career. The sad truth is that there is no way to get rid of the amount of work that is required during high school and that amount will only grow as the competition becomes worse. There will be many moments of stress and anxiety during school but there are also many ways to help relieve those feelings. Walks, yoga and music are only three of many ways to help reduce the amount of stress, so it’s important to find something that you enjoy and that will help clear your mind and make you ready to face the challenges ahead.

This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Should You Work While in College?

college internThroughout high school, you were goal oriented. You enrolled in the toughest classes, earned the best grades and participated in five extracurricular activities. You knew exactly what you had to do to get into the best college possible. Although it wasn’t necessarily easy to be successful, at least you knew how to do it.

Now, you’re a freshman in college and the path isn’t quite so clear anymore. Do your grades really matter? Is your course selection important? Is it essential to do an internship during college?

According to a recent article in Business Insider, the top attributes that potential employers look for in recent college grads is involvement in internships and employment during college. College GPA and school reputation were near the bottom of considerations.

So, what does that mean for you, as an incoming college student? Obviously, you should by no means disregard your academic success. It’s always important to do your best academically, not just for the grade, but also for the sake of your education.

However, academics aren’t everything. Sure, a hardworking student is a good sign, but it’s not always indicative of a good employee. Employers want to see that you’re able to succeed in a work environment and perhaps even get an idea of how you function on the job.

Besides, beyond being a desirable job candidate, your internships and college employment will imbue you with valuable skills that you can use on the job and for the rest of your life. You’ll form useful organizational habits, use specialized computer programs and learn to work as part of a professional team. In short, working or interning during college will give you a head start in adjusting to and understanding the details of the workplace environment.

And most importantly, working and interning during college will give you a more solid sense of your own interests, and a better idea of your desired career path.

But of course, it can be tough to juggle everything. Between school, sports, extra-curricular activities and your social life, it might seem like there’s no time left to fit a job. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to do it all at once. Even a summer internship will help you form those highly valued connections and put some work experience on your resume.

Bottom line: It’s great to give it your all in the classroom—but that’s not the only thing that counts. Kickstart your career by working or interning during college, and you’ll find it much easier to navigate the job market once you graduate.

Good Habits to Start at the Beginning of your Freshman Year

college workoutThe beginning of your college career is always an exciting time. You’ll meet people from all over the country, get to explore your academic horizons and discover new passions. However, the dawn of this era in your life is also the time to form some fresh habits. Make sure to start your university life off on the right foot, and establish good habits from the get-go. Here are six aspects to pay careful attention to in order to get your best start possible.

1. Keep your grades up. It’s easier to graduate with a high GPA if you make your grades a priority at the beginning of your college career. Not to mention, it’s very difficult to recover your GPA if you start off on the wrong foot.

2. Start studying right away. Often, students won’t open their books for the first few weeks of class. But the semester moves quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be in the midst of midterms. Make it a priority to study (and keep up with the required reading) for a few hours every day even if you don’t have any upcoming tests. Because once you do reach test season, you’ll not only find studying a lot less stressful, but since cramming material decreases overall retention of information, you’ll probably earn a higher grade by learning in low doses.

3. Keep a planner. Get a handle on your schedule by writing down your obligations. Plan out your engagements, homework and to-do lists. Your college life may not be so busy at the start, but by getting in the habit of tracking your schedule, you’ll be sure not to forget any of your obligations when life does get hectic.

4. Hit the gym. Everyone worries about the dreaded ‘Freshman 15.’ Instead of waiting to gain weight then work hard to lose it, prevent this unfortunate side-effect of freshman year. Work out at your university’s fitness center starting from day one and you’ll never find yourself suddenly out of shape. Plus, you’ll be forming lifelong healthy habits.

5. Eat healthfully. Another way to prevent the Freshman 15, while simultaneously forming healthy habits for the rest of college (and, for the rest of your life).

6. Limit the partying. Sure, the movies make college look like one giant party. But in reality, you go to college to study. So party in moderation, and make sure that your social life doesn’t get in between you and your books.

Heading off to college is a fun and memorable experience. Make sure to improve your long-term college life by starting freshman year forming helpful, healthy, and smart habits.

9 Ways to Finish College Debt-Free

Avoid Student DebtAs the cost of college tuition continues to rise, it sometimes seems nearly impossible to keep your head above the water. However, though it may be difficult, it is not entirely impossible; there are many things you can do to mitigate the cost of college. Here are nine ways to stay on top of your expenses so you can graduate debt-free.

1. Choose your school with your finances in mind. According to the College Board, the average annual tuition at a private school is over $30,000, while the average price for in-state schools stands at just below $9,000. That means you could save over $21,000 per year by electing to study at a state university instead of choosing a pricier private college, which will add up to a total of more than $84,000 over your four years in school.

2. Do your best in high school. Most colleges give out significant academic scholarships. By giving your all in high school, you’ll increase your chances of getting a little (or a lot) of extra help from the university of your choice.

3. Work during high school. Sure, summers and weekends are for fun, but it’s wise to divide up your off time between fun and productivity. By working part-time in high school, you can save up thousands of dollars to put towards your college tuition, which will help you to save even more by avoiding insurmountable debt in the form of loans with interest.

4. Work during college. Pay your tuition and pad your resume at the same time. Get a part-time job to help you stay on top of your expenses and help you stay debt-free come graduation.

5. Start at a two-year college, then transfer to a four-year university. Tuition at your local community college is going to be significantly lower than that of a four-year university. And in the end, you’ll wind up with the exact same degree as the kids who paid the extra two years worth of tuition.

6. Be frugal. Instead of spending your money on a night out, put what you earn toward tuition. In the end, all your little savings will add up to a helpful sum.

7. Find alternative housing options. Instead of following the crowd and settling in a dorm, look for a cheaper way. If you’re going to school close to home, you can live with your parents. If you’re studying in a new city, you can live a bit further from campus and save a lot.

8. Search for grants and scholarships. There are all kinds of organizations that will give out scholarships and grants, both large and small. However, it may take some effort to find a scholarship or grant suited to you. Put the work into seeking out these philanthropic organizations and using them to your advantage.

9. Spend less time in school. It’s quite possible to earn your degree in less than four years, especially if you plan ahead. Make your four-year plan at the beginning of freshman year, and you could save at least a semester’s tuition.