Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Welcome to grad school ... a new life, a very exciting life

I took the summer after my college graduation off — no classes! — and started my master’s degree in August 2013. My first semester, I had a graduate assistantship position through the academic achievement office.

A graduate assistantship (GA) means you work on campus and get remunerated with a stipend and part of your tuition is paid for. In my role, I helped start a brand new program called the Sophomore Success Program at BU. This is a mentoring program designed to help undeclared sophomore status students raise their GPAs and declare a major.

I have been the GA for this program ever since and really enjoy working with this population of students. Through my experience as a GA for this program, I have strengthened many skills, such as:

  • counseling techniques
  • providing resources
  • mentoring
  • tutoring
  • leadership
  • building relationships
  • assessment

This semester I also am also serving as the Graduate Resident Director at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. For this position I oversee a first year residence hall with around 250 students. I work closely with another head resident and eight resident assistants.

Working in residence life is new to me, but I find it to be very exciting.

As for my life outside of academics, I enjoy working out and playing basketball, volleyball, and ping pong. I was an intramural volleyball referee for around six semesters at BU throughout my schooling and also played for fun.

— Kami Skoloda, a Lancaster native, is a second year student in the Counseling and College Student Affairs (CSA) program. She received her bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Communications from Bloomsburg University (BU) in 2013. Her senior year she interned in the ACT 101 office at working with academic probation students. As an intern, Kami worked alongside several CSA graduate students suggested she consider a career in college student affairs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

3 ways student life helps you survive the semester

It’s week four moving into week five of classes, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel the pressure. Classes are starting to move out of the review stage and into the new material stage, I started slacking on reading the chapter before every class, and started pushing off some homework for tomorrow…well, maybe I’ll do it Thursday.

In the beginning of the semester I would read ahead and maybe even get some assignments done early but not anymore. Every semester, I tell myself that I am going to read the chapter before every class and review my notes right after class…that lasted about two weeks. Now you are starting to realize that you have a test in three different classes which is coming up in a few days! You might have, like me, already had a test. How did the time go by so fast? This is starting to get stressful.

Now that you are shifting your focus on new or harder material in class, you are getting nervous about passing the first test, or even the course because your class has only two tests the entire semester. What are we going to do?! When I first walked into my Intro to Corporate Finance class, I thought I would have a leg up in this class since I took Personal Finance two semesters ago, I was wrong.

In this class I have to read the chapter before class in order to have a shot in answering bonus questions on it in the beginning of every class. So I opened the book with highlighter in hand and an open mind. As soon as I read the first paragraph, I dropped my highlighter and closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This was the most information packed, boring as can be, monotone writing style I have seen in a long time. I knew I was in for a challenge but I am determined. The first test was during the third week of classes and we have five tests during the semester. I wasn’t worried about having to drop the class because we have a free tutoring program on campus.

Network through tutoring

Tutors can be very helpful whether you are just trying to pass the class or you just want a little extra help to go from a B to an A. Tutors are students just like you but truly love and understand what they are going to be helping you with. Being a tutor is completely voluntary, no one is forcing them to help other students, so you can be sure that they will help you to the best of their abilities. If you don’t want to work one on one with someone, you can always get together with people that are in your class and make a study group.

You should always get to know people in your classes, you never know when you will see them again in another class. Working with other people in class is a mini preparation for the real world. You are always going to have to work with people, around people, or surrounded by people so you might as well get used to it now. You aren’t going to be comfortable with the material in every class that you take, so be prepared to seek extra help.

Utilizing the Writing Center

So maybe your math class doesn’t stress you out and your music class, well, you could pass that course with your eyes closed but your writing class is what’s really stressing you out. Well, you’re in luck, on campus we have what’s called the Writing Center. The coolest part of the Writing Center in my opinion, is that, it doesn’t matter what your major is or what you are writing about. If you have to type something up and hand it in class as a graded assignment, they can help you with it. Another cool thing, is that students just like you are the ones that work there, they completely understand what you are going through and are there to help with the process.

Now, they won’t write your paper for you so go in asking specific questions and bring all of the material you need to write the paper, so they can give you as much advise as possible. You’re probably wondering, “What is this going to cost me?” it’s free! Well, you already pay for it in your tuition, so why not utilize it as much as possible?

Most of my friends aren’t nearly as bombarded with work as much as I am, so they had a lot of free time. My roommate decided to join the Society of Human Resource Management which pertains to her major.

This will also boost her resume and increase her knowledge about her field of study. She looks forward to every meeting because she meets new people that can give her some insight or see different paths that she can take with her major that she never knew about.

Joining student organizations

If you know what direction you want to go into in life, I highly suggest that you join a club or organization that pertains to that. Other people in that club or organization are probably going to be in some or most of your classes, so therefore you have some people to sit with during that awkward first week of classes or people to form a group with for a group project. If you aren’t sure of a path to take, get to know students and your professors in your general education courses, go to as many general meetings for clubs as possible, and keep an open mind.

No matter how stressed out you are, there are people going through exactly what you are going through. In the beginning of this blog, I’m sure I had a few people or even you nodding their heads in agreement because they completely understood what I was going though. If you weren’t one of those people, you may go through this at some point in the future. If and/or when it does happen, take a deep breath and remember that you have people on this campus that are supporting you and want you to succeed, even if you don’t know who they are yet.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A month into college, how are those sea legs?

Going from high school to college is one of the biggest life changes I have encountered. You go from having almost eight hours straight of classes Monday through Friday, from early in the morning until about 3 p.m., to classes scattered throughout the day with plenty of free time in between.

After four years, you have finally mastered the routine of going to bed at just the right time where you won’t be too miserable in the morning and getting up when you have just the right amount of time to eat, get dressed and do some last minute homework you’ve been putting off for the past week.
College throws you for a loop the first day of class and the semester following.

Like I said before, in high school you had a constant routine but in college, well, that’s a whole different story. My freshmen courses were from anywhere between an 8 a.m. class on Monday, a 1 p.m. class on Tuesday and a 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. class on Thursday, where does a routine come in?

You will also find that you have so much spare time on your hands! In high school, you were in class for eight hours straight, what do you do with yourself? This is where you start to make some friends and get to know your roommate. A few weeks before I left for college, I got into contact with my future roommate who I have never met before.

We discussed who was bringing what, what were her likes and dislikes, and how we would decorate our room. It seemed like everything was going to work out and we were going to be great friends! The day we moved in, we hugged and laughed like we have been friends for years.

After we got our room decorated the way we both liked, we started to compare schedules, they were the same except for one class! In my head, this was the ideal situation, I had someone to get lost walking to classes with and a convenient and fun study partner.

During the first couple of days before classes start is where you really start to get to know the people in your hallway. People will pile into rooms or gather on the floor of the hallways and talk until about 3 a.m. Who wants to get sleep when you have so many new faces to talk to and no parents to tell you it’s time to go to bed?

This is where you learn about other peoples’ life styles, where they come from and if you might become friends with this person. Early on I found out that becoming friends with your CA or older students in your hall is very important.

Every CA has to create a “program” for the students on campus to help people get to know each other or to inform students of what else you can do on campus. My CA had a program where we all had to go see a magician in the Kehr Union Ballroom, and it was the coolest thing I have ever seen. Before attending that program, I had no idea what was in the Kehr Union and that events like that even happened at Bloomsburg.

The person that was running the event lived in our hallway and made sure that we had front row seats! That was the beginning of my involvement in Program Board. It was a great start of college before classes and homework and it relieved some stress of not living at home.

I don’t know about you but for me, high school made me terrified for college courses. They would tell me that the books were extremely heavy, the professors didn’t care if you passed or failed their classes, and that you would have piles of homework and 20 page papers to do every week. I found this to be mostly a myth.

Yes, sometimes the books that you have to buy can get rather large but most of the time, the professor doesn’t care if you bring the book or not, sometimes, you never even use the book. Most likely, the classes that you were placed in are general education classes and if you already know what you want to major in, this can be super frustrating. Even if you haven’t declared a major, you don’t have a choice in the classes you want to take for your first semester and maybe chemistry, for example, isn’t your strong suit. I was put into a Chemistry 101 class my first semester and did horribly.

Don’t get me wrong! I did great in chemistry when I was in high school but of course we had to sew together little moles to look like the element we chose from the periodic table and do a report on it…big difference. In Chem 101 we had to balance equations and study all of the elements on the periodic table. That class was a struggle for me.

On the other hand, I had a Principles of Cultural Anthropology class that was amazing! The course content was very interesting but what really got me, was the anthropology professor. He had traveled all over the world visiting different cultures and studying them. He treated us as equals and obviously loved his job. Even though you were in a classroom of about 200 students, he made you feel like you were the only one in the room that he was telling his adventures to.

Now don’t panic! The school didn’t lie to you when they said they have a small ratio of faculty to students, because they do. Your general education courses will be much larger because the demand for the class is very large.

For example, almost every single major on campus needs to take a psychology class and therefore more people need to take that class which will equal a larger classroom size. Once you get into the classes that a geared toward your major, the class size will dwindle. I am currently taking a class that has eight people in it.

Even if you have a very large class, make it a habit to visit your professors during their office hours even if you don’t have any questions. Professors do care that you do well in their class and they truly want you to succeed during your years at Bloomsburg and beyond. You never know when you may need a reference letter or 0.10 of a point to make it to Dean’s list. If they see that you are trying your best and are putting your time and effort in, they are more than likely to help you either study for the final, or give you an extra credit assignment.

All in all, freshmen year will be terrifying for some and a breeze for others. Just know that you have people around you going through the same experience or have already been through it. Take the time to make friends and get to know your campus and professors.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you might think it’s stupid, chances are, there are many other people with the exact same question but are too afraid to ask. Enjoy the time that you have here and make the most of it because it will go by faster than you can imagine.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife