Delaying Graduation is Okay…I Promise

Delaying Graduation

The day I found out I would not graduate on time is forever ingrained in my memory. I sat there, listening to my academic adviser tell me I needed an extra semester or two for finishing my degree. My heart dropped. I was in such disbelief about delaying graduation, I began laughing in response. My mind raced with doubt. I worked so hard, why is this happening to me? Could she be wrong? After much denial, I grew to accept my new date. Like me, you too may hear these words at some point. If that moment comes, here’s why you should also accept your new date.

Going at Your Own Pace

Not every student can take five classes a semester and go to school all day, Monday through Friday. Some students are only able to take two night classes a semester, and that’s okay. Earning your degree at your own pace nothing to be ashamed about. It is important to know what works for you and to use that knowledge to your advantage. If you are the kind of person that can obtain a 4.0 taking three classes a semester, but will earn a 2.8 taking five classes, only take the three classes. Graduating with a 3.8+ GPA after six years looks better than rushing through in four years and graduating with a 2.8. You will eventually get there. For now, don’t stress about delaying graduation. Take your time and do what’s best for you!

Figuring Out Yourself

Like many other students who take more than four years to earn their degree, I changed my major which pushed back my graduation date. When I first graduated high school, I was pressured into chosing a major that would make me the most money. The pressure came from everyone- my parents, other relatives, and even my friends and their parents! I let their opinions influence me. I started college off as a veterinary science major because I knew it paid well. Well guess what? I hated it! I remember being more miserable than I have ever felt. When I thought about changing, all I could see were shrinking dollar signs. Even when I built up the courage to get out of the veterinary medicine field, I couldn’t let go of the pressure to shoot for a high paying field. In my mind, science fields made the most money, so I changed my major to something else science related. After two more miserable years as a science major, I realized my happiness is the most important factor. I decided to start over, as an English major no less. Even if it meant graduating late, at least I knew who I really was. College is full of trial and error, and one of those trials can certainly be choosing your major.

Adding a Minor

Graduation dates can often times get pushed back due to adding minors, especially if you add them later in your college career. Do not let this discourage you from adding on a minor. A minor is typically equivalent to an additional full semester and that’s okay. Minors tend to be a great thing to “fall back” on and add value to your degree. If it’s something that strongly interests you, add it. If it will enhance your professional career, add it. If it makes you happy, add it. There is no need to have absolute justification for broadening your studies and enhancing your degree with a minor. Don’t miss out on a more fulfilling collegiate experience simply because you’re worrying about delaying graduation.

Whether you graduate in 4 years or 5, after graduation you’ll have 20+ years to utilize your degree. The timing of when you graduate will have little affect in grand scheme of things, but your chance to learn is now. Forget about social pressures or stigmas. Do what’s best for you, always.

 

Transferring Schools: Should you, or Shouldn’t you?

Transferring Schools

Transferring schools. If these two words are causing an internal struggle, I’m here to help ease your decision fatigued brain. While transferring schools is a big step and should be carefully considered, I’ve laid out some of the largest reasons to consider and created a simple method for deciding.

The Pros and Cons to Transferring Schools

Let’s not kid ourselves, transferring schools could be awful. There are certainly downsides, including:

  1. Credits not transferring – There’s no guarantee your new school will accept your current credits. This may cause you to fall a full semester (or more) behind, delaying graduation.
  2. Increased debt – Between higher tuition rates, moving expenses, and higher living costs, your new college may leave you even more in debt.
  3. Leaving familiarity – There’s a sense of rightness found in friends and familiar landmarks. Having already left home once, leaving again could lead too feeling a sense of buyer’s remorse.
  4. Being the new kid – Incoming freshman experience the newness of college as a group, quickly establishing friendship circles that may last a lifetime. Even if you’re a social butterfly, it’s sometimes awkward to work your way into a friendship circle that’s already established.

But there are positive reasons people transfer, including:

  1. “Upgading” schools – You’re dedicated to your studies, but your college seems focused on weekend recreation. Upgrading to a more challenging school sounds appealing.
  2. Discovering your passion… is at another school – Finding out your preferred major isn’t available at your college is a crushing blow. It might be worth packing your bags.
  3. Personal growth – Your school is alright, but it’s feels like high school. You expected to blossom in college and lately it feels like you’re stagnate.

Deciding if Transferring is Best

We established the pros and cons of transferring, but when should you actually move forward with it? Well, I have a patented traffic light system to help you decide.

Green light – Transfer right now

  • Your school not only doesn’t offer your desired major, but it also doesn’t have the department which would house your dream major!
  • You chose your current school because of it’s prestige. However, it’s quickly racking up your student loan debt beyond what you might be able to repay. In many cases, employers aren’t concerned with how prestigious your college is. It’s time to make a change to a more affordable education.
  • You absolutely despise everything about your current school, from the academics to your so called “friends”. Cut your losses early and switch to a more suitable college.

Yellow light – Whoa there cowboy, let’s think about this first

  • You haven’t found a peer group or anyone you connect to- Yes, that is bad, but it’s possible you haven’t put yourself out there enough. Try joining a new club, who knows!
  • Your school doesn’t have the major you want, but it does have a vaguely similar one – Yes, I know chem and organic-chem aren’t the same thing. However, you may want to contact potential future employers to find out if this really makes a difference in your field. If it doesn’t, this be a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Red light – Hold off for now

  • It’s the first few weeks of school and you hate it – Everyone can feel awkward or even awful the first few weeks. Allow some time for adjusting to your new lifestyle.
  • You feel graduation from a more prestigious school will increase your earning potential –
  • You really hate a specific class – All students face a challenging class in college. Whether it’s the professor or the content, learning how to overcome obstacles is an essential life lesson.

Transferring schools is a personal choice you should think carefully about before making a decision. It’s a semi-permanent choice that causes drastic changes in your life. Many people will have reasons to sway your decision, but remember it’s always up to the person transferring to chose.

Don’t Regret Missed Opportunities

opportunities

“Don’t regret missed opportunities!”

The number of times I’ve heard some version of this phrase throughout my four years as an undergraduate is immeasurable. For a while, this phrase seemed about as cliche as any. I understood what it meant, but I didn’t quite understand the gravity of the saying until this past semester.

Four years seems like a long time, but as a college student, rarely is this free time. When you’re not in class, you’re studying for class. When you’re not busting your butt for school, you’re likely partitioning any remaining time for either sleep, social life, or extracurriculars. The opportunities to take a step back and reflect on what’s happening in the moment are sparse. College flies by and it’s often hard to see it passing by.

Nearing graduation, I felt upset with myself for not doing as much as I could. I felt I missed out on a lot of events! I never saw a Pittsburgh basketball game. There were interesting classes I wanted to take and groups I wanted to participate in. In the weeks leading up to my graduation, these small “regrets” ate at me. I’d never have the opportunity to do most of these things again. The pressing question I continually asked myself was “am I going to regret this when I’m older?”

After sorting through these nagging thoughts, I finally came up with a few answers. First, there’s no way I’ll be able to definitively answer this question for another 10 years. Second, as I was worrying about things I didn’t do, I forgot about all of the things I did do, and I did so much! I met so many friends who I’ll work to stay in touch with forever, I turned the city of Pittsburgh into a place I can call home, and I learned how to become the person I am today.

All of the things I did molded me. Does it matter if I didn’t make it to a Pitt basketball game? Maybe to some of my family members who love basketball and “don’t know why I went to a D1 school if I won’t even go to a game!” But to me, maybe not.

Now, as a graduate, I look back on my entire four years and think, Wow, it goes by so fast. Reflecting on what I did helps me not worry so much about missed opportunities. Yes, I probably could have taken better advantage of what Pitt had to offer, but kicking myself isn’t going to bring them back.

For all college students who feel similarly, I recommend you take some time and reminisce on all of the amazing, heartbreaking, stressful, inspiring, and enlightening moments you had the opportunity to experience. These years are going to fly by and they’re almost certainly going to shape you.

Don’t regret the missed opportunities. Rather, cherish the ones you had.

Internship Scams: Protecting Yourself from Thieves

As you get further into your college career, you may find yourself looking for more practical experience outside of the classroom setting. One of the best ways to obtain this experience is through an internship. Working as an intern in a professional environment is a wonderful way to learn while earning experience future employers will appreciate.

However, there is a dark side to internships. There are people who will take advantage of college students eagerly looking for experience. If you’re on the hunt for an internship then you need to know about this common internship scam. I’ve also added some helpful tips at the end about how to spot and avoid internship scams.

Internship Scam

The Internship Scam

The  internship scam presented here follows a very common pattern. Here’s how it works:

  1. A scammer will create a posting on a communal job board. The posting is usually part-time, paid, and features the name of a reputable company.
  2. When you apply, you will receive a quick response asking for an interview. The scammer then schedules the interview to take place via a video message program (even if the company has an office near where you live).
  3. Typically, on the day of the interview your contact will say something unexpected came up and ask to complete the interview via chat software. However, some scammers conduct face-to-face video interviews.
  4. After the interview (usually short), you will receive a job offer and instructions to start training immediately. Training will involve purchasing specialized computer programs (ex. accounting software). They will offer to send you money to purchase the necessary software.
  5. They will send you check via email with instructions to print and deposit it in your bank account using your bank’s mobile application. This prevents the check from ever being in the hands of a teller who would recognize the check as fraudulent. Also, the delay time caused by mobile uploads will allow you access to the money before many banks withdraw it out of the check issuer’s account.
  6. After the mobile upload, they will ask you to go to your bank to withdraw the money in cash and deposit it into a provided bank account (typically at a different bank than yours). They will probably stress several times to complete the transaction in cash. Their reasoning is the other bank account belongs to their computer software vendor and the money is to pay for the specialized programs.

The Result

At this point, I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Your bank will try to collect money for the check you deposited and will discover the check is a fraud. The money is then removed from your account for insufficient funds. Because the money you withdrew to pay the other account was in cash, there is no way for you to rescind the payment. The representative who interviewed you will no longer answer your messages or e-mails. It all becomes clear; there was no internship and the money you paid was lost for good. I know of scams that ask for up to $2,000 under the pretense of purchasing training supplies. There are several different variations of this same scam, though this format is the most common.

Internship Scam

Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Scams

Getting caught in an internship scam is scary, but you can avoid it. Here a few good rules to follow in order to help you avoid internship scams.

  • Check the Company Website – Most scammers use the name of a big company on a job board to entice people to “apply” for the internship. Most large companies have a job board on their own website. Check the company website to see if the internship is listed. If so, apply directly on that website rather than through the job board.
  • Check the E-Mail Address – Large companies will have a dedicated e-mail address. If the person you are in contact with is using a general address it may be a scam. Example:
    • Good – johndoe@largecompany.com
    • Bad – johndoelargecompany@gmail.com
  • Never Pay Money – You should never have to pay money upfront for any internship or job.
  • Never Give Out Personal Information Online – Your never give out your social security number, bank account, or other sensitive information online. You should only give these numbers to an employer in person while you are at the place of employment.
  • To Good to Be True – If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. A part-time, work-from-home internship that pays $35 per hour should signal a red flag.
  • Get Out – If at any point during the interview process you become concerned about being scammed, get out. Politely tell the interviewer that you feel this internship is not for you. You don’t need to be rude. Simply say you don’t feel like it is a good fit and end the conversation. Protecting yourself is your number one priority.

Have any other tips for avoiding internship scam? Leave them in the comment section below!

How to Stay Sane During Finals

Finals week is coming faster than we could say “OMG, I need to get on top of things.” Even the most seasoned finals veteran struggles with managing time and energy while trying to get things done as effectively as possible. Unfortunately, finals are difficult and very stressful. There really isn’t an easy way out. However, there are some great tactics for relieving stress and staying sane during finals week. After almost 8 finals weeks, here’s what I’ve learned:

stay sane during finals

Be Healthy

It’s so easy to neglect our health while we’re cramming for exams and putting together assignments. Unfortunately, if our health is bad, it’s likely our performance is also going to be bad. Make sure to eat healthy meals with foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in processed ingredients. Not only will it keep your body running smoothly, but it’ll also help you feel more awake and focused. Some foods thought to boost energy include beans, citrus, and leafy greens. Additionally, make sure to fit in some cardio a few days each week. Exercise helps to increase endorphins, making you feel more positive and focused. On top of everything, hydration is key. Drinking adequate amounts of water not only helps the body function, but it also helps to regulate attention and energy.

stay sane during finals

Have Fun

College students often have the tendency to feel if they are doing something enjoyable, then they’re doing something wrong. This mindset is not only detrimental to mental health, but it can also negatively affect your work. Overworking yourself causes fatigue and lack of concentration, which can actually lead to lower grades. Therefore, one of the most important ways to stay sane during finals is to have fun. This doesn’t mean a wild night out with the pals, but taking an hour to get dinner with friends or to see a show can make a huge difference!

stay sane during finals

Change up the Space

Another great way to stay sane during finals is to make sure that you’re not in the same space for too long. Even if you have the best seat at the library, staying in the same spot for too long can make things even more boring than they already are. By changing up your environment ever so often, you’re also shifting the way your mind absorbs information because of changes in light, posture, etc.

stay sane during finals

Meditate

Mindful meditation is an excellent way to help deal with stress, increase attention, and boost cognition. If you’re beginning to feel stressed out, take some time alone to sit, or even walk, and relax your mind. Concentrate on your situation and sort out everything you need to do. Identify why you need to do it, and then how you’re going to do it. Remind yourself although finals are challenging, you’re capable of performing at your best and that studying will ultimately be rewarding. Finals aren’t fun, but attending college is a privilege.

stay sane during finals

Stay Organized

If you’re anything like me, you find it extremely difficult to stay organized. During stressful times, my lack of organization causes me even more stress in addition to what I’m already enduring. Before finals begin, it’s a great idea to get your life together. If you’re inclined to use your computer, start a spreadsheet with all of the assignments you need to finish and all of the exams you need to study for. Make columns for dates,  study intensity, and goals. If you prefer being able to physically write things down, use a planner. Winging finals is always a bad idea.

Finals are going to be stressful. However, it’s always important to put your mental and physical health first. Keep a good head on your shoulders. Take care of yourself. Make efforts to stay organized and confident, then the rest will come along smoothly. Good luck getting ready for finals, everyone!