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10 Things I Wish I’d Known In College

10 Things I Wish I’d Known In College

As a recent college graduate, I can look back on my school years with some fond feelings and some memories that I’d rather just forget. So that you don’t have to make the same (many) mistakes that I did, here are the 10 things that I wish someone had told me before I’d set off for the chaos that is freshman year.

Your major will not define your entire life

This is one that I feel particularly passionate about because I seemed to spend most of my college years trying to explain—whether to students who actually had their lives figured out, or to my grandma—why I’d chosen to major in a “pointless” subject like English. This proved pretty difficult considering I wasn’t even sure why I’d chosen to go to college and “but I don’t want to be an engineer” didn’t seem to be a good enough answer. Obviously, the first thing to glean from this is that taking your time to make an educated decision about something that’s going to take up a lot of your time and resources, is probably a good idea.

Luckily, I discovered the concept of transferable skills. Sure, if you major in “Bowling Industry Management and Technology”, you’ve probably got a specific career path in mind. But if you decide somewhere down the line that bowling isn’t for you, you’ve learned management skills that can be applied in any workplace. More importantly, I loved English—and isn’t that the point?

Grades are actually important…

Unfortunately, despite the many transferable skills you might learn at college (like how to do laundry, or perhaps how to sleep and look like you’re concentrating at the same time), employers do evaluate you on your GPA (many companies actually filter applications by GPA). When it comes down to it, you’re at college to learn, so prioritize your studies, work hard and try your best to maintain a good GPA.

But a bad grade is not the end of the world

Throughout college, it was not unusual to find me shuddering over the memory of one particularly terrible grade. The dread and nausea had been made worse because I knew that I’d deserved it—I’d rushed the assignment to spend more time with my friends. With all my plans to graduate and stumble upon a career, it hadn’t really crossed my mind that I could, very possibly, fail college. This grade told my sleep-deprived and caffeinated self that my future was over.

After an extremely emotional and somewhat embarrassing visit to my professor’s office, and a math calculation by a friend who actually understood numbers, I was relieved to discover that this blip had barely affected my average. It turns out that we all have good and bad days, and if anything, this terrifying reality check shocked me into trying harder at everything else.

You don’t have to go to college straight away

One of my biggest regrets is not taking a gap year. With the relentless pressure to go to college, staying on at school can feel like the only option, but the reality is: it’s not. Your college education will still be there when you’ve had a bit more time to figure it all out.

Having a part time job is underrated 

Having something that is outside of school and being surrounding by a completely different type of friend is refreshing. Looking back, the excuse to leave the house for an environment where I had fun and physically was not allowed to study, definitely got me through my final semester. Also, the extra money and experience didn’t hurt.

Make the most of the experience

It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of college and adult life. Unfortunately, this stress does not stop after college, so you might as well make the most of it while you can. Say yes to classes that intrigue you, join in activities, learn a random skill and always take advantage of fresh air when you can.

Toxic people are to be eliminated from your life

It took me a good few years to get this mantra down. When you go to college, you’re thrown together with random people and forced to make friends or else have nobody to borrow milk from during times of need. This does not a good friendship make.

If somebody is negative, belittling or controlling, or simply brings way too much drama into your life, it’s okay to distance yourself. Toxic people will always drain your attempts to be positive and drag you down with them, which is not part of the college experience.

College can be lonely and that’s okay

Especially in freshman year, there’s an expectation that you should be having the best time of your life. Often on social media, this is reflected by constant partying, social engagements, and people spending money that they don’t have. Whilst I was happy to enjoy this unrealistic way of life for a while, it quickly became exhausting.

Surrounded by a crowd of semi-familiar faces, it is actually easy and normal to feel lonely at college. After moving away from everything you’re familiar with, it’s important to take time out to assess your state-of-mind and recharge.

Stop taking things personally

This is one that I’m still working towards. Being in a competitive situation that forces you to compare yourself to your peers can damage your self-esteem and solicit your defence mechanisms. By knowing your worth, not jumping to conclusions and letting things like a bad grade go, you’re automatically promoted to the master of your own emotions and energy levels.

Being addicted to coffee is totally fine…probably

My dependence on caffeine is definitely helping me now that I’ve graduated and actually have to get out of bed in the mornings. Take this advice at your own peril.

Further reading: 5 Reasons to Have Houseplants in Your Dorm Room

Time Management 101: Keeping Up with College Life

Time Management 101: Keeping Up with College Life

Now that fall is well and truly here, the novelty of college has probably worn off a little. If you’ve suddenly found yourself face-to-face with reality, completely exhausted and having lost every single piece of stationary that you started with, you’re not alone.

Time management is a big concern for most college students. The flexibility of independence can also make it difficult to prioritise college work, social events, basic hygiene tasks and the hundreds of voicemails that your parents have left you.

Before you decide to give up and take a nap, follow these tips and you could be on your way to having it all.

Organization is the key to success

Whether you always carry the new (and, lets face it, completely blank) planner that you bought at the start of the year in your bag for peace of mind, or you often find yourself frowning at indecipherable reminders on your phone’s notes app, settling on a solid organization system is vital for time management.

Even if you pride yourself on having a fantastic memory, writing everything down will ensure that you know what’s on your to-do list. With millions of productivity apps at your dispense, logging events and setting reminders will lift the added pressure of remembering your homework and help you to generate a productive schedule. Just remember to bite the bullet and prioritize which tasks make it to the top of your list.

Practice makes perfect

Routine and schedule are two key concepts that are fundamental to time management at college, where there is no one to hold you accountable for your whereabouts. Typically, it is expected that you allocate around 35 hours per week for working and studying, including the time you spend in class. With other obligations and social activities in mind, creating a weekly timetable that leaves time for independent study will help you to stay focused and productive. Blocking out leisure time will also give you something to look forward to each day, and you’ll probably work faster knowing that the end is in sight.

It can be easy to fall into the habit of staying up late in order to squeeze in everything on your to-do list, but getting enough sleep each night is one of the most important steps in your routine. Luckily, the idea that everyone needs exactly eight hours sleep is unrealistic—some people may only need six, and some may need nine. Sleep is often considered in terms of 90-minute cycles and you should get at least five whole cycles per night (7.5 hours). Here, the key is to set a time to go to bed every night and stick to it. Every time you change your body’s wake time, it suffers something resembling jet lag, making you feel groggy and affecting your performance, even if you’ve had more sleep than usual. 

Limit procrastination

We’ve all been there. Making the executive decision to take a five minute break and cheer up with a cat video seems like a great idea, until you catch yourself poised to click “adopt” four hours later, only to realize that your accommodation doesn’t allow pets. Cue the panic, self-hatred, stress and eventually a nap to make it all go away, and you probably haven’t achieved a great deal. Breaking up your work into small steps can help you to focus and make the task at hand seem less overwhelming. Create a deadline for each of these steps so that you’re not waiting until the final deadline is near to begin work.

Nobody is perfect—instead of punishing yourself for wasted time, assign rewards for any work that you do complete. Lunch, an episode on Netflix, or a free hour to spend with your friends can all be incentives to be productive. Limiting distractions like your phone, social media and TV will make these rewards even more enjoyable, and seeking out a buddy to hold you accountable will ensure that you don’t break your own rules.

The key to time management can be as simple as understanding yourself. Self-awareness will help you to recognise the times of day when you’re most focused, and whether you’re more productive brainstorming with a group or on your own.

Healthy body, healthy mind

You’ve probably heard this one countless times, but making sure you allow time for self-care is essential for your mental and physical health, as well as your attention-span and energy levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week can literally boost your brain power.

Ask for help

Ever heard the idea that we learn from our mistakes? If you’re struggling to find a balance at college, that’s okay. Adjustment takes time, but you may need to accept that you’re trying to take on too much. Talking to a trusted friend, family member or mental health representative could help to ease some of the pressure and enable you to rationally think through your options and figure out a new plan.

Further reading: 5 Reasons to Have Houseplants in Your Dorm Room

The Most Haunted Universities in the World

The Most Haunted Universities in the World

Are you brave enough to study at one of the world’s most haunted universities? Settle down for some college ghost stories that are sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.

University of St Andrews, Scotland

 As well as being Scotland’s oldest University (dating back almost six centuries), the University of St Andrews is considered one of the country’s most haunted places. The weathered, gothic building is home to over a dozen ghosts, including a piper and a ghost ship.

A phantom monk also protects St Rule’s Tower in St Andrews Cathedral but it is the apparition of the White Lady who is most well-known at the university. Said to be one of the ladies-in-waiting of Mary, Queen of Scots, the grieving beauty resides inside the wall of a desecrated abbey and takes nocturnal strolls across the cathedral grounds. In 1868, stonemasons broke into a sealed chamber where they discovered an open coffin containing the preserved body of a young woman in a white dress…

Gettysburg College, USA

America’s most haunted college, Gettysburg College was the site of the brutal Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Unsurprisingly, ghosts are commonplace at this site, with frequent spectral activity occurring at Penn Hall—the oldest building on campus that served as a hospital and morgue during the battle.

Here, the most popular ghosts include armed sentinels, a little boy with a blue face known as the ‘blue boy’ and bloodstained Civil War doctors that haunt the basement.

University of Toronto, Canada 

The University of Toronto actually conducts haunted tours of the campus, so certain are they of the many specters that parade the halls. The Christie Mansion building was the site of a 19th century illicit love affair and death. The mansion’s owner kept his mistress hidden in a secret chamber behind the library (room 29), where she hung herself with her bed sheets.

Most famously, Russian stonemason, Ivan Reznikoff, attacked his colleague, Paul Diablos with an axe for his affairs with Reznikoff’s fiancé. Diablos stabbed the Russian with a knife and hid the body in a ventilation shaft. The university claims that an axe mark can still be seen and workers later discovered the skeleton of a man wearing a belt buckle with Reznikoff’s emblem in a ventilation shaft, after the building partly burned down.

Heidelberg University, Germany 

Many professors from Heidelberg University were sent to concentration camps during Nazi Germany, and two were also said to have been murdered. The most disturbing part of campus is the University’s clinic, where women who were forced to undergo sterilization under eugenic experiments can be heard weeping and screaming.

Chalkboards erase themselves and mysterious words appear on them over night, even though the halls are kept locked. It is also said that the smell of smoke and burning leather still lingers at the site where banned books were burned before WW2.

University of Northern Colorado, USA

The University of Northern Colorado warns prospective students about its phantom residents with a dedicated page on the university’s website. With a ghost story for every single building on campus, a less scary but memorable account of ‘Stoney Ghosty’, the spirit of a student who overdosed on drugs, claims that he is eternalized by the smell of marijuana.

On the other hand, the presence of another student haunts the attic where she was found hanging. Bullied by her peers, Edith would hide away and play with marbles. Students have reported hearing the noise of marbles rolling across the floor, and her ghost has often been sighted outside the Wiebking and Wilson dormitories.

Nagasaki University, Japan

The ghosts at Nagasaki’s medical school are said to be victims of the atomic bomb released by the US on 9 August 1945. The smell of burning flesh reeks the hallways, accompanied by ghostly figures and the screams of the 800 staff and students who were killed in the blast.

Chinese University of Hong Kong, China 

If you’re a male and you visit the Chinese University of Hong Kong, you could fall prey to the faceless ghost that haunts Single Braid Road, which runs beside campus.

The woman has long, braided hair and, legend has it, had her face ripped off after jumping from a moving train. With a train station at the end of the road, young men who tread the path alone risk being traumatized by the faceless specter. 

Smith College, USA

The largest women’s college in America is also one of the most haunted and has centuries of murders, accidents and epidemics peppered throughout its history. Smith’s website continually updates it’s list of reported ghosts, including a senior who died after forgetting to turn the gas oven off, a little boy who died after being locked in the attic, and a pining mother who cries for the baby she murdered in life.

Another infamous story describes the haunting of the Sessions House, where a British soldier and an American girl would meet on a hidden staircase during the Revolutionary War. The staircase is real, and new students are often set the task of finding it on Halloween. The ghost of General Burgoyne has been sighted wandering Sessions House looking for his love, and other students have seen the pair rendezvousing on the secret stair.

Further reading: Six of the Best Books to Read This Fall

Wear a Tie

Put down That Hoodie and Wear a Tie Instead!

T-shirts and hoodies are great, but sometimes college events require a tie. Fortunately, it’s possible to look sharp on a college budget. Here’s how to wear a tie and dress for those dapper college events.

Fraternity or group events

Classic two-color striped ties are perfect for fraternity or other organization events. These ties stand out, especially when an entire group wears the same tie. Standard ties, skinny ties, bow ties, socks, suspenders, pocket squares. Striped ties come in a wide variety of styles and color combos, so it’s easy to match group or college colors.

Class presentations

Giving a class presentation or thesis is about more than quality content. Impressions count. No fidgeting, make eye contact, avoid saying ‘like’ or ‘um’ and don’t wear distracting clothing. Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to skip the joggers and instead put on chinos or slacks, a button-down shirt and wear a tie. Plaid or geometric pattern ties are great neutral designs that won’t distract the audience. (A neon-colored tie or bold novelty print, on the other hand, would be a distraction.) Since it’s important to look at ease in front of an audience, choose a tie style that’s comfortable. This may be a slim 2.5-inch tie or a contemporary 3.25-inch tie.

Formals

Hopefully, it goes without saying that college formals and semi-formals require you to wear a tie. Whether this tie is worn with a tux, suit or simply a dress shirt and slacks varies from school to school. Definitely ask around to find out the level of formality expected.

If a tuxedo is suggested, a black bow tie and black or white pocket square is traditional. If wearing a suit, either a necktie or bow tie is acceptable. Though optional, adding a pocket square is a nice touch, too. Paisley, tone-on-tone stripes or textured solid ties are great for formal events. For those with dates, the tie should coordinate with her dress. This isn’t prom, so it’s not necessary to perfectly match a solid tie to the dress color. However, a pattern tie in similar colors is a great choice.

A dress shirt and slacks allows the most flexibility. A necktie or bow tie will do, but it doesn’t have to coordinate with a date’s attire. Unstained, unwrinkled and proportionate for one’s body type is what counts.

Sometimes, the fraternity, club or organization hosting the formal will have custom ties made for its members. These ties are typically worn with a suit or dress shirt and slacks, not a tuxedo. However, if given a tie to wear, check to see if there is an additional dress code. (Suit color, shirt color, etc.)

Job interviews

As senior year winds down, the job search begins. Landing a job interview is a huge accomplishment, so it should go without saying that this is not the time or place to dress casual. In fact, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed at a job interview. A dark-colored suit paired with a conservative necktie (i.e. 3-inches to 3.5-inches wide) are the most appropriate choices. Tie colors shouldn’t vary much from navy blue or burgundy in solid or subtle designs.

Wear a tie for graduation

Graduation is a time to celebrate. And that means looking good, even if a cap and gown is covering an outfit for most of the day. Give one last hurrah to the alma mater with a solid or striped necktie or bow tie in college colors. Novelty ties relating to one’s major are perfect for graduation, too. (Yes, math, teacher, engineering, lawyer, doctor ties, etc. are a thing.) Or, shop smart and purchase a pattern tie that can be worn to a new job post-graduation.

Tiemart, Inc. is an online neckwear and accessory retailer located in northern Illinois. The company specializes in budget-friendly ties for any occasion, from fashionable everyday attire to group wear and formal events. Shop www.tiemart.com for affordable neckties, bow ties, socks, suspenders, pocket squares and more.

The 12 Best Netflix Movies to Watch This Halloween

The 12 Best Netflix Movies to Watch This Halloween

A recent survey by Redbox.com found that, after 45 years, The Exorcist (1973) is still the scariest movie that members have ever seen. Hocus Pocus (1993) is also celebrating a milestone anniversary this year, and it’s no surprise to hear that the iconic, 25-year-old classic out-performed all other family-friendly Halloween movies.

Whether you prefer fun or frightening, staying in with Netflix beats trick or treating—just ask the survey. We’re giving you 12 spooky movie options that you can stream for the best October ever.

The survey also showed that 72 percent of responders prefer popcorn to candy, so you should probably watch Children Of The Corn (1984) too. Happy Halloween!

  1. Scooby-Doo (2002)

Anyone who says this isn’t the best film ever made is lying—or just isn’t that nostalgic. The live-action re-imagining of the classic cartoon involves cults, spirits, brainwashing and meddling kids.

  1. It Follows (2014)

This horror film seems to be about an STD—except it takes the form of an evil spirit that sets out to murder its victim. Pass it on to survive.

  1. The Sixth Sense (1999)

This classic psychological thriller follows Bruce Willis as his character tries to help a young boy who is visited by ghosts. If you haven’t already been spoiled on the ending, your Halloween just got 100 times better.

  1. Coraline (2009)

Coraline is based on Neil Gaiman’s slightly disturbing children’s book. It follows a young girl who discovers an exciting parallel universe. Once you get over how creepy the character’s button-eyes are, this movie is awesome.

  1. The Babadook (2014)

On the surface, this monster movie seems like a terrifying horror film. Deep down, it is a terrifying horror film that cleverly explores the stresses of being a single parent and the manifestation of grief and depression.

  1. The Conjuring (2013) 

The Conjuring is inspired by a true story, and it’s petrifying. The movie follows paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, as they attempt to help a family who are being terrorized by a malevolent spirit.

  1. The Boy (2016)

Creepy doll movies are perfect for Halloween, and this one is no exception. When a young nanny breaks the list of rules for looking after a life-size doll, it becomes clear why the parents treat it like a real boy.

  1. Hotel Transylvania (2012)

If you need a break from the horrors, Hotel Transylvania’s monsters-meet-humans adventure is charming and fun. It was also voted as the fifth family-friendly favourite in the Redbox survey.

  1. Would You Rather (2013)

We dare you to tear your eyes away from this gruesome horror. The intense movie follows a group of unfortunate characters at a dinner party. In a merciless twist, the host forces them to play a sadistic game or pay the price.

  1. Curse of Chucky (2012) 

What screams Halloween more than Chucky? Another sequel. This installment is actually one of the most atmospheric and scary Chucky films, and follows a grieving daughter whose niece has a creepy doll.

  1. Van Helsing (2004)

This monster hunter saga is mainly here because it has Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale in, but it’s also a thrilling roller-coaster ride of entertainment.

  1. Raw (2016) 

This one is best viewed on an empty stomach, so put the popcorn down. At school, a vegetarian girl is convinced to eat raw meat for the first time and develops a craving for flesh. This movie is famous for causing audience members to faint at the Toronto International Film Festival. Go on, we dare you.

Further reading: Why Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is A Loser Is Problematic

Dr. Sherry Benton on Mental Health Support at College

Dr. Sherry Benton on Mental Health Support at College

If you’re a college student and you’re struggling with mental health, you’re definitely not alone. College News got advice from an expert.

With a recent research study showing that one in five university students are affected by anxiety or depression, the pressure on campus facilities is high. College News discussed the problem with Dr. Sherry Benton.

Dr. Benton is a psychologist and mental health care administrator with over 22 years of experience. She is also the founder of TAO Connect—a digital platform that functions to make mental health recovery treatments easily accessible.

College News: How can college students reach out about mental health struggles?

Dr. Benton: Most campuses have a counseling center, counseling service or psychological services. Find your campuses service and learn about their programs and services. Typically, they offer a range of options.

CN: What kinds of mental health support facilities should students be looking out for when applying for colleges?

DB: Ideally, campuses should take a campus wide, comprehensive approach—including prevention, resilience training, counseling, groups, bystander education programs and other services. The Jed foundation, “Jed Campus” program works with a campus over a four-year period to insure the campus approach to mental health, substance abuse and suicide, are comprehensive and well-coordinated. Jed Campus designation is an excellent way to insure a campus has taken these issues seriously and thought out the best approaches for them.

CN: What are the most common and the most effective ways to deliver mental health therapy?

DB: Different people have different needs and respond to different approaches. Traditional face-to-face individual psychotherapy is the most common and best known. However, research has shown it is not more effective than group therapy or internet based cognitive behavioral therapy for many common problems. Many people also find self-help or apps effective for them.

CN: Do you think that students do not receive enough mental health help at college?

DB: I think most universities work very hard to meet the need, yet providing psychotherapy is really expensive and often difficult to access everywhere not just in universities. Using effective models such as stepped-care can help campuses to stretch limited resources to provide more help to more students. In stepped-care, students are quickly assessed and then begin with a level of help likely to be helpful. Progress is monitored regularly and students can be moved to more intensive or less intensive levels of help depending on their responses.

CN: How can campuses raise awareness and take a proactive approach to mental health?

DB: Campuses can raise awareness through the following: educational campaigns, resilience training in freshman orientation classes, bystander education programs like Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) or Kognito, education programs through Greek houses, residence halls, athletic departments, clubs and organizations.

CN: Are there exercises that students can practice on their own to help improve their mental state?

DB: Mindfulness meditation is something everyone should do. The many health benefits and mental health benefits would suggest that daily meditation should be as consistent as brushing your teeth. Another option is TAO Connect, which provides students access to its self-help courses whenever they want, without having to make an appointment to see a therapist.

CN: What is TAO Connect?

DB: We are a suite of online tools for mental health screening, assessment, patient education, skill development and progress monitoring. TAO can be used as self-help or with a therapist or case manager. TAO’s materials are interesting and engaging with actors in scenes, animations, interactive exercises and journaling.

CN: How can students take advantage of TAO Connect?

DB: There are 120 colleges in the US and Canada offering TAO’s programs to students either as self-help or through their counseling center. Contact your counseling center to find out if your school subscribes to TAO.

Further reading: You’re Not Alone: Facing Loneliness In College

5 Reasons to Have Houseplants in Your Dorm Room

5 Reasons to Have Houseplants in Your Dorm Room

These low-maintenance houseplants have numerous benefits that every college student should get behind.

Whether you’re green-thumbed or not, gardening is probably the last priority on any college student’s agenda. Actually, it’s probably not on the agenda at all. With such a huge increase in responsibility, starting college can cause our actual priorities to become overtaken by stress, anxiety and loneliness.

Surprisingly, having a houseplant in your living space is scientifically proven to boost productivity, whilst also improving your mood. Plants can even help you to sleep, making them perfect companions for the stretched student. College News tracked down some of the easiest plants to care for, so there’s no excuse for killing your new roomie. Here are five reasons that your new best friends are plants.

  1. They clean the air

Indoor air pollutants are ranked one of the top five environmental risks to public health. Luckily, the evidence that plants clean the air actually comes from NASA. According to NASA, plants are “nature’s life support system” because they absorb some of the particulates from the air and also take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen. Beyond this, microorganisms present in the plant’s soil also have a cleaning effect, which boosts your mood.

Our favourite plant to clean the air: Peace Lily

Care level: Easy

  1. They boost productivity

According to a study from Michigan University, being around plants can increase memory retention by up to 20 percent. Studies also showed improvements in both concentration and productivity. Large plants can also apparently absorb, diffract and reflect background noise. By also boosting alertness and reducing mental fatigue, having houseplants can literally make you smarter.

Our favourite plant for productivity: Spider Plant

Care level: Effortless

  1. They make you healthy 

At the Agricultural University of Norway, a study proved that the humidity generated by houseplants decreases dry skin, colds, sore throats, coughs, and the spread of flu viruses. Another study showed that being around plants post-surgery, led to significant improvement in physiologic recovery and lower systolic blood pressure. These benefits also extended to cognitive healing—patients with plants in their rooms experienced lower levels of pain, anxiety and fatigue.

Plants such as Aloe Vera are also medicinal by nature. Aloe can cure burns, ease constipation, aid cavities and ulcers, and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Keeping one in your kitchen is probably a good idea if your unique gourmet cooking is considered a hazard.

Our favourite medicinal plant: Aloe Vera

Care level: Very easy

  1. They help you sleep

Most plants stop taking in carbon dioxide at night and instead respire like humans. However, some loveable specimens actually do the opposite. These plants are able to improve the air that you breathe during the night, increasing your sleep quality. Fragranced plants such as Lavender are also widely recognised as sleep aids. Lavender has been proven to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels—making it the perfect relaxant for your dorm room.

Our favourite plant for sleep: Snake Plant

Care level: Indestructible

  1. They reduce stress, loneliness and depression

Whilst it has been proven that houseplants reduce stress and anxiety levels, the act of caring for a plant can also better your mental health. Cultivating something has been shown to be calming and can boost self-esteem and feelings of control. It might sound cliché, but having something to water can get you out of bed in the mornings, boost your optimism, and improve your overall wellbeing.

Our favourite plant for mental health: Anthurium

Care level: Pretty easy

Further Reading: You’re Not Alone: Facing Loneliness In College

You’re Not Alone: Facing Loneliness in College

There is often an expectation that going to college will result in the commencement of the best years of a person’s entire life. For some people, this is true. Becoming independent, moving away from home and making new friends can provide the freedom that they need in order to flourish. Yet, for others, this isn’t the case at all.

Whilst college can be fun and exciting, it is natural that such huge amounts of change can cause anybody to feel anxious, vulnerable and insecure, prompting feelings of loneliness in college. According to a 2017 survey of 48,000 college students, 64 percent said that they had felt “very lonely” in the previous 12 months.

So why doesn’t anybody talk about loneliness in college?

Thanks to pop-culture, the pressure to enjoy college is paramount, generating shame and silence in those who can’t keep up with their classmates’ levels of constant excitement.

College is pretty much a wildcard. Disappointment with reality compared to expectation is a huge struggle for students, along with being in a strange environment, lacking money, being unprepared for independent living, missing family and friends and lacking a routine. Not clicking with the people that you’re forced to live with and comparing your experiences to those on social media can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy.

With no one to check up on you, retreating into these suffocating feelings of loneliness can be easier than conforming to the pressure to fake it along with everyone else. This can cause mental health struggles such as anxiety and depression, and make it impossible to concentrate on your increased workload.

Sound familiar? Here’s how to face loneliness in college.

“Not clicking with the people that you’re forced to live with and comparing your experiences to those on social media can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy”

Talk to someone 

Telling someone that you’re feeling lonely and overwhelmed won’t fix the situation, but will relieve a huge weight from your shoulders and allow your brain to process these feelings objectively.

This person could be a family member, friend, neighbor or even a complete stranger or doctor. Colleges often have wellbeing and support groups that will help you to realize that other people are experiencing the same feelings as you.

Admitting that you’re lonely can be hard and feel embarrassing, but speaking out and realizing that it is normal to struggle will ease your mind. You might even make a new friend.

Put yourself out there

It can be hard, but making an effort to meet new people will increase your chances of finding someone who you connect with and combating loneliness in college. Don’t feel pressured to like everyone that you live with, choosing who we forge friendships with is one of life’s privileges.

It sounds cliché, but joining clubs and societies and being part of a team or learning a new skill can introduce you to new people, give you a sense of routine and distract your mind for a while. Sitting next to someone new in lectures and mustering the courage to ask them if they’ve finished the assignment could lead to conversation, and hanging out in community areas will also help you to feel included.

Posting on a social media group for your area of residence and asking if anyone wants to hang out can also introduce you to new friends. If you’re thinking about quitting anyway, what have you got to lose?

Look after your body 

Loneliness and mental health problems are often linked with decreases in physical health. Getting enough sleep, exercising and eating a healthy, balanced diet will not only give you energy, but also improve your mood and cognitive function, helping you to think a little more clearly.

Get a part-time job

If you had a part-time job before college, consider applying for a similar role or volunteering in your free time. Unlike the vast, new changes in your life, knowing what to expect in a job role will give you routine, distract you from your worries and help you to feel more settled. Not to mention, working will introduce you to an entirely new set of people and give you a break from your fellow students.

Remember: You are normal

It is so important to normalize the situation and realize that being lonely is not only okay, but also expected.

Every person is different and being thrown together with a group of strong personalities when you are more reserved, or vice versa, can make you feel different, in a bad way. People also naturally have different stress levels, coping abilities and family relationships.

Similarly, remember that social media is not a true representation of reality. People post staged highlights of their life, and in most cases do not live to that level of excitement on a day-to-day basis.

Give yourself time

Like with any big change, adjusting can take time. People take varying amounts of time to adjust to a situation and the academic year will also take a while to quieten down.

If you need to take time for yourself, then do. Equally, it’s okay to go home for the weekend, or take a break from college all together and apply again when you’re more prepared.

For some people, college just isn’t for them. There are so many other paths forward in life and nobody is going to judge you for wanting out of a bad one.

Monitor your mental health 

Whilst loneliness is not a mental health problem, lonely feelings can turn into anxious thoughts. If you’re feeling worried, depressed or having panic attacks, talk to someone. If your feelings of loneliness in college are interfering with your ability to function and taking over your daily life, then ask someone to step in.

Further reading: Mental Health Awareness in School

Staying Safe on Vacation

Bon Voyage! Staying Safe on Vacation

With nature beginning to bloom and the sun bright in the sky, summer is quickly approaching. Summer fills our minds with dreams of vacation on the crystal-clear, white beaches of Cancun, in the snow-peaked mountains of Switzerland or in the mind-blowing skyscrapers of New York. Many people have already planned vacations or are beginning to do so, but in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, many forget the most crucial ways to stay safe on vacation and traveling. For those of you lucky enough to turn those vacation dreams into reality, here are our top tips for staying safe on vacation:

Before arriving at your destination

Before heading out on that trip you’ve been planning for months, don’t forget to pack all of your important documents like passports or IDs in a waterproof container (especially if you’re headed to those crystal-clear beaches in Cancun!) or somewhere they won’t get lost or left behind.

Do some research before you book that cheaper hotel. Read the reviews online and ask around about the area where the hotel is located before making a decision.

Before leaving home for your trip, notify your bank that you will be vacationing in another state or country. Save yourself the anguish of trying to make a purchase while abroad before realizing the bank froze your debit card due to “fraud”.

Arriving at your destination

When you travel somewhere unknown, stay together with the people you are traveling with to ensure you are staying safe on vacation. Getting lost is way easier than it sounds, even with our modern GPS in hand. The number of times a phone dies exactly when you most need it is astounding.

While you may be itching to explore your holiday spot’s nightlife, remember: You’re in a strange, unfamiliar place, so think twice before hopping into whatever taxi appears first. Tourists tend to stick out to natives, making you an easy target for theft. Only use well-known transportation methods like Uber or Lyft. These companies perform background checks on their drivers, making them a safer option.

If you are traveling in your own vehicle, make sure to complete a full inspection on the car before heading to your vacation destination. There’s nothing worse than getting a flat tire 200 miles from home and realizing you don’t have a spare.

While out & about

Nothing goes better together than drinks and fun while on vacation. Remember to watch those drinks like you would with any other outing with friends. Don’t accept drinks from strangers if they’re open or if you didn’t watch them pour it.

If you’re in a sunny climate, don’t pass on the sunscreen. Those UV rays are hitting you hard even though you’re having too much fun to feel it. If, on the other hand, you traveled to those beautiful mountains in Switzerland, remember to keep Chapstick and lotion handy so your skin doesn’t dry up from the cold.

Watch out for pickpockets in big cities by keeping your phone and wallet in your front pockets. With the old habit of putting your phone in your back pocket, you may think someone is squeezing past you, but they might be taking your phone or cash.

Wherever life takes you this summer, make sure to enjoy yourself by staying safe on vacation. You want to make safe, happy memories—not an experience you’ll regret!

Further reading: 6 Surprising Travel Destinations for 2018

 

College Degree to be Successful

Do You Need a College Degree to be Successful?

With potential loan debts and tuition costs rising every year, it’s no wonder half the millennial population is asking: do you need a college degree to be successful? The answer isn’t simple. There is no definitive proof that a degree can secure you the job of your dreams or lead to the ultimate “success” (especially because success is in the eye of the beholder). One person’s idea of being successful may be different to another’s. But, for now, lets assume that it means you have effectively climbed to the top of your field and earn a reasonably high salary.

A career prerequisite

Before considering whether you wish to attend college, you may want to reflect on what you have a real passion for. This is almost always the thing you will excel at. From there, you should surmise whether a degree is necessary in order to enter this vocation. For many industries, a degree isn’t a prerequisite for an entry-level position. In such circumstances, some students may feel a degree would simply postpone any possible opportunities. However, a degree may be an absolute must for certain fields—the obvious ones being medicine, the sciences, engineering and architecture.

Having realistic expectations is important at this stage of your decision-making. This is not to say don’t aim high, but be honest with yourself about what you can achieve. If your objectives are ambitious, devise a plausible plan that will make your dreams a reality. You may aspire to be a professional swimmer, but you should appreciate that this profession may be slightly out of reach. Instead, becoming the best swimming instructor in the region may be more achievable. Identifying a suitable location with a gap in the market may facilitate you founding a swimming school, which could even lead to a franchise.

What’s it worth?

There are various elements that can determine the value of your college degree: the amount you will ultimately pay to attend, your desired career path and your post-graduation living situation—each can contribute to its worth. One way to determine whether your college costs will stack up against your potential income is to use the Major ROI tool on the Discover Student Loans’ website. The website covers the potential average salary for different subject majors. For industries with six figure salaries, you can afford to pay for a more expensive institution. If the rewards are low, you may wish to consider a more economic method for achieving your goals.

Let’s not forget that financial aid is still available in the form of scholarships for those who need help with offsetting the cost of a college degree. Community colleges and state universities are also options that shouldn’t be cast aside. Both can provide quality educational courses for people with a subject or occupation in mind.

Pro college degree

  • Shows passion and dedication to the field you are applying for.
  • Prepares individuals for the workplace by developing independence, introducing important connections and improving social skills.
  • Provides resources that students can tap into for in-depth insight into various topics—experienced lecturers stand as a fountain of knowledge and expertise.
  • A college degree has become the standard for which many candidates are measured—mostly due to the imbalance of the job-to-candidate ratio.
  • According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2016, earning potential and educational attainment are directly related; lower earners had completed fewer levels of academia in every category.

Pro no college degree

  • Free from debt and tuition fees.
  • Internship and apprenticeship programs can introduce young people into the workplace—securing such a position doesn’t necessarily require a college degree to be successful.
  • Fostering ambition and making valuable business connections is possible via websites such as LinkedIn and Quora.
  • Online courses and certifications provide useful self-educational tools, providing knowledge needed for the workplace or specific industry.
  • The CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey 2017 reported that business owners without a four-year degree far outnumber those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

What the experts say

Several famous personalities have managed to prosper without the help of a college degree; Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel and Steve Jobs, to name a few. This adheres with the data produced by the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey from 2017. It found that entrepreneurs who didn’t finish or attend college outnumbered those with higher-level degrees across both genders and every age group apart from the over 65s. However, all business owners who had skipped higher level education all shared common personality traits: each had a distinct attitude of independence, determination, a great idea and the willingness to take risks.

Jacqueline Gold, founder of the Ann Summers adult retail empire is another example of a self-made businesswoman, who climbed her way to the top without a degree. “I was acutely aware when I started Ann Summers Party Plan that I had no formal business training, but what started out as a disadvantage actually turned into one of my biggest advantages. I had to rely entirely on listening to customer feedback, which led to the rapid growth of Party Plan turning over £86,000 in its first year.” While Gold believes that college is undeniably beneficial, she also champions those that follow alternative paths. “I’m excited that there are individuals that want to do something different and create their own career and get straight in to the work place.”

On the topic, Chuck Runyon—co-founder of the 24-hour gym chain Anytime Fitness—commented: “If you want to get out of college and try to hustle, it still requires a great deal of capacity.” Runyon decided to leave college after he identified a gap in the market for a gym that was always open, one whose equipment focused solely on what was most frequently used by members. “I want to make it clear: you have to work every bit as hard, if not harder.”

The brain behind Microsoft, Bill Gates, agreed with Runyon’s sentiments. In a blog post in 2015, Gates said, “Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success.” While the majority of successful entrepreneurs show that college degrees aren’t the only way to succeed in life, none seem to show a dislike for higher education, either.

Whether you decide to get a college degree or jump straight into work, it is clear that the key to succeed in life is to aim high, work your hardest, take risks, stretch your creativity, and—no matter what—follow your dreams.

Further reading: Free Courses to Boost Your Resume