Author: Kayla Gowan

Political Activism for College Students

Despite making up more than half of the population, young adults (ages 18-30) often find themselves marginalized from mainstream politics and decision making. 

When given an opportunity to organize, voice our opinions and play a meaningful role in political decision making, young adults consistently demonstrate our willingness and ability to foster positive, lasting change. We also become more likely to demand and defend democracy, and gain a greater sense of belonging.

College campuses provide a multitude of opportunities for young adults to interact with diverse populations, exchange ideas, join organizations, and develop skills to think critically about the world we live in.

No matter your political viewpoint or worldview, it’s important to exercise your civic rights and stand for the messages you believe are worth it. Here are the 5 best tips for getting involved in politics as a college student: 

  1. Educate Yourself

Before you get into politics, you should know what you’re talking about and be able to hold an intelligent and thoughtful conversation about the issues. 

Read your local newspaper. Then read your state newspapers. Then read national publications: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and more. Whatever you can get access to, read it; with so many magazines and papers being published online now, accessibility has never been easier.

Start by picking a few topics that you care about or find interesting. They can be broad topics like foreign policy or immigration or more narrow topics like art education in public schools. One nice thing about democracy is that you choose what’s important to you. 

The next step is to learn about the structure of government. Which parts of the government are responsible for making and executing the decisions you care about?

It’s important to know who your local legislators and politicians are. First, find your House Representative, and enter your address to find a full list of your elected officials

Once you know who your elected officials are, talk to them! Tell them what’s on your mind: what concerns you, what you expect of them, what makes you proud to live in your state. Their job is to listen to you, so reach out frequently and respectfully to voice your opinions.

Here are some general guidelines on how to contact your elected officials

Once you start gathering information, share that knowledge! Have discussions with your friends and family. Engage in respectful debate when appropriate. Spread the word.

  1. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! 

Voting is the most fundamental form of civic engagement in a democracy. This is the easiest and most effective way for anybody to make a difference. 

First, and most importantly: check your voter registration status in your state. If you aren’t already registered, make sure you REGISTER TO VOTE!

Registering to vote is a relatively simple process, and can be done in a few different ways. In general, registrants will need to fill out a form and provide some type of approved ID, like a driver’s license. A social security card or number may also be required.

  • In person: Especially during election season, students will find plenty of opportunities to register to vote in person. Often, canvassers walk around campus with registration forms and can help you fill them out. Otherwise, you can register to vote at your state or local election office, the DMV, armed services recruitment centers or public assistance offices.
  • Online: Online registration is available in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Vote.gov can help you determine if online registration is available in your state and, if so, direct you to the right form.
  • By mail: Students can pick up a registration form in person or download one from your state’s voting website, fill it out and mail it in with any other necessary documents.

When registering to vote, you can select a political party affiliation. While you may choose not to affiliate with any of the major political parties, it may prevent you from being able to participate in caucuses and primary elections. Closed primaries are generally reserved for members of the Democratic and Republican parties to determine the candidate that will represent each group in the main election.

If you’re not sure whether to consider yourself a Democrat or Republican, that’s okay! The Pew Research Center offers a Political Party Quiz to help determine where you stand on important issues. 

The next step is to learn your state’s voting laws. College students living outside of their home state may register to vote in either the state of their school or in their official state of residence. 

If you choose to register in your state of residence, you must register to vote in that state and request an absentee ballot for your state to be sent to your University postal address.

The Fair Elections Center offers an annually updated guide to each state’s voting laws. A quick Google search should turn up the website for your state’s secretary of state, who often serves as the chief election official. These websites include information on election dates, absentee voting and other issues. 

Another great resource for educating yourself on the voting process is Rock the Vote, which is geared toward helping young people vote and provides all the information needed to vote in each state. 

If you want to vote on Election Day, come up with a plan to make sure you’re going to the right polling place, and going when it’s open. This might mean going early in the morning, between classes, or at the end of the day. Even better, share your plan to others, in person or on social media, to help you stay accountable.

Take it one step further by hosting a voter registration on campus to inspire your peers. Here is a comprehensive guide to hosting your very own Voter Registration event

  1. Join a Student Organization

Discovering an organization in which to align your political ideals is a great way to start getting involved quickly. They already have an established power structure, goals, a way to execute their plans and a pool of resources that an individual may not possess on their own. 

There are generally political organizations on campus that cover the entire political spectrum, from liberal to conservative and everything in between. Most schools will have a registry, as well as a description of the group, posted online for other students to get involved. Keeping your eye out for groups that host tabling events, post flyers and are active on campus is the best way to find one without actively looking. Below are two organizations that are available to college students: 

College Republican National Committee

Find a College Republican Chapter in your state. 

Young Democrats of America

Learn more about this youth-led political organization

  1. Participate in or Organize Political Rallies

Don’t be afraid to advocate for a political issue that’s important to you. As a college student, you may be unsure about your political affiliation, but likely, you feel strongly about a variety of topics. Join a rally or march to add your voice to the choir. Or, if you want to be an organizer, hold your own awareness-raising event. 

Once you determine a pressing issue, learn all you can about it. Look for other students or community members that feel the same way. Work together to plan an event that will spread the word about your issue. Chanting, sign-holding and marching at an event might feel uncomfortable, but they’re powerful ways to get attention for your cause. If you have something bigger in mind, contact state or national groups that might be willing to help you out.

However, before you start protesting – learn the basics and take note of any important details. The American Civil Liberties Union’s guide to protesting rights will let you look up your state’s permit requirements and other prerequisites.

  1. Volunteer on a Political Campaign

Every political campaign – whether it be for your local school board, a state legislature, or Congress – needs hard workers, people serving as the boots on the ground.

Volunteering on a campaign can mean making phone calls (known as phone banking), sending text messages, or canvassing door-to-door to advocate for a political candidate. Every election cycle, campaigns rely on “on the ground” volunteers to spread grassroots enthusiasm about their candidate and their cause.

In the United States, the most popular form of volunteering tends to be for presidential campaigns, but the presidency is hardly the only office in American politics. First-time volunteers might find their time is more effectively spent advocating for local representatives, whose policies more directly affect their day-to-day lives.

In conclusion, the best place to start getting politically active is within your own mind, forming opinions and values based upon your experience and the shared truth of others. 

5 First Steps to Political Involvement in College 

  1. Educate Yourself
  2. Vote!
  3. Join a Student Organization
  4. Participate in or Organize Political Rallies
  5. Volunteer on a Political Campaign

No matter what your motivation is to get active, it’s important that you do. Without exercising your right to assemble and petition the government, nothing will ever change. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum or whom you vote for, what matters is not being a passive citizen, but rather an active one that strives for better.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Be sure to connect with us, @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-participate-in-government
  2. https://advocatesforyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Youth-Activist-Toolkit.pdf 
  3. https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/student-activism-on-campus/
  4. https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/promoting-student-political-engagement-and-awareness-university
  5. https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/student-voting-guide/#test2

7 Tips for Conquering College Stress

College is an exciting time, full of new challenges that drive you to expand your horizons. While some of these experiences can be thrilling, others may leave you feeling stressed.

Just as everyone experiences stress in their own way, we all have our preferred methods of coping with it. However, not all stress management strategies are healthy, and some may leave you feeling even worse than you did before.

Being able to manage stress is crucial for your academic success and personal well-being in college. After all, you can’t control the stressors in your life, but you can choose how to respond to them.

What Is Stress?

Stress is a normal and necessary part of life. It is your fight-or-flight response to challenges you see in the world. This natural reaction has certain physical effects on the body to allow you to better handle these challenges, such as increased heart rate and blood circulation. 

According to the American Psychological Association, there are three types of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic.

Effects of Stress on College Students

Stress affects your entire body, mentally as well as physically. There are four primary types of symptoms of stress: physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. 

Some common signs of stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea 
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating

Managing Stress in College

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief. What works for one person might not work for another – so it’s important to have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal. 

How to Stop Stressing Out: Seven Tips for Conquering Stress in College

  1. Get Enough Sleep

Many college students find it difficult to get enough sleep because of busy schedules, late-night excitement, or stress. However, time and time again research supports the importance of sleep – for memory consolidation and recall, increasing learning abilities, energy conservation, muscle growth, and tissue repair, just to name a few.

Plus, insufficient sleep can put you at risk for serious illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity, and depression. Adults typically need seven to nine hours of sleep a night for best health.

  1. Eat Well

While fast food and junk food are cheap and convenient, they don’t set you up to do your best. How does eating healthy reduce stress?  When you eat healthy, you supply your body with the nutrition it needs to fight stress. Try to avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods, and limit (or eliminate) the use of stimulants like caffeine, which can elevate the stress response in your body.

Be sure to keep your dorm room or apartment stocked with a few fresh fruits and veggies, and high-protein snacks, and be sure that your main meals are healthy and balanced.

  1. Exercise

One of the best coping skills for college students, which can also combat weight gain and frustration, is to get regular exercise. Exercise produces endorphins, the “feel good” chemical that acts as a natural painkiller.

Knowing how to properly work out and making time for it can be challenging. However, there are many ways to engage in physical activity – like going to the gym, attending fitness classes, swimming laps, jogging, playing basketball or another sport you enjoy, or doing yoga. 

You can also add in some simple modifications to your day to increase physical activity without having to go to the gym or play a sport. Try walking rather than taking the bus, getting off a bus early and walking the rest of the way, using stairs rather than elevators, biking, parking farther in a parking lot, etc. 

Even if you’re only able to work out in 10-minute increments, exercise can elevate your mood, release tension, and help keep your body (and mind) healthy.

  1. Build a Support System

Having supportive people in your life is the key to stress management. Surround yourself with family and friends who uplift you, encourage you, listen without judgement, and can provide sound perspective. 

Some friends or family members may be good at listening and sympathizing. Others might excel at practical help, like bringing over a home-cooked meal or helping with child care.

You may need to expand your network. Join an organization, attend a support group, or get professional help if you lack supportive people in your life.

  1. Have an Outlet

Do you enjoy gardening, reading, listening to music or some other creative pursuit? Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy; research shows that reduces stress by almost half and lowers your heart rate, too.

Your schedule may be filled with lectures and study groups, but try to find at least a couple of hours each week to pursue a hobby or other activity that you enjoy. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs!

Building time for leisure into your schedule could be key to helping you feel your best. And when you feel better, you’ll perform better, which means leisure time may make your work time more efficient.

  1. Practice Relaxation Techniques 

Pace yourself throughout the day, taking regular breaks from work or other structured activities. During breaks from class, studying, or work, spend time walking outdoors, listen to music or just sit quietly, to clear and calm your mind.

Meditation is a simple way to reduce stress that you can do any place at any time. Begin with simple techniques such as deep breathing, guided meditation, or repeating a mantra. 

Deep-breathing exercises can help melt away tension. Try this exercise: Inhale slowly through your nose, hold the breath for three seconds, then exhale through your mouth, and repeat as needed. This helps prevent the short, shallow breaths that often accompany feelings of tension.

  1. Get Professional Help

Everybody needs help from time to time. If you find it especially difficult to adjust to the changes or ongoing challenges of college life, your campus likely has resources to help. Reach out to:

  • Your college or university’s counseling services
  • Your student advisor or a resident assistant
  • A doctor or therapist

In college, stress is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to dominate your life. Do your best to understand what kind of stress you’re feeling, what’s causing it, and how you can respond to it productively. By addressing your stress in a healthy way, you are doing all that you can to make the most of your college education.
Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References:

  1. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/ 
  2. https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Individuals-with-Mental-Illness/Taking-Care-of-Your-Body/Managing-Stress
  3. https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/balancing-stress/
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-to-reduce-stress-3145195

How to “Go Green” in College

One of the biggest challenges that we’re facing today is the environmental danger to our planet. Global warming, climate change, and plastic pollution have become topics we hear about regularly in the news. 

By developing sustainable habits early, you can help to reduce greenhouse gases and your carbon footprint to make a less harmful impact on the environment.

What Does Go Green Mean? 

“Going green” means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles. Going green can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

Ways to Go Green 

Adopting a greener approach to life doesn’t have to be difficult. There are small changes you can implement into your daily life that take little to no time or effort and can help create a healthier society that both consumes less and produces less waste. 

Here are 7 easy ways you can live sustainably (greener) in college:

  1. Ditch Single-Use Plastic for Eco-Friendly Products

This is one small, but hugely impactful step that you can take to reduce the strain the environment caused by plastics. Single-use utensils, plates, boxes and containers are all around us, especially in college.

Make a point to replace single-use plastic products with their reusable equivalents. For example, purchase a reusable BPA-free water bottle.

According to The Water Project, it’s estimated that up to 80 percent of plastic water bottles in the United States never get recycled. In addition, it takes three times the amount of water that’s in a water bottle to create the bottle in the first place! The Water Project also notes that U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone. 

The same goes for disposable coffee cups. Though it may be more convenient, those waxed paper cups aren’t recyclable, and will just end up in the landfill after you’re done with them. So carry a second bottle or reusable mug with you for your hot beverages – some places even offer a discount on your order for opting out of the cup.

Similar to the plastic water bottles, plastic bags are non-biodegradable objects. Consider switching to a reusable bag, often made from organic materials such as cotton, wool and hemp. 

With some states charging for plastic bags, reusable tote bags have become an excellent substitute, as they are cheaper in the long run. These bags can also be more spacious and stronger than plastic bags! Don’t stop there – eco-friendly products for college students are readily available. 

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 

Recycling is the cornerstone of caring for the environment through a daily habit.

Most colleges have recycling bins scattered around the campus, so find the closest one to you and regularly visit the bin and recycle your stacks of paper. If you don’t have access to a recycling bin, contact your administration and find out where the nearest drop-off is – and encourage them to install more blue bins around campus while you’re at it.

You know the old saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Well, it is often true. Don’t throw away perfectly good things just because you’re sick of them, or no longer have use for them. You can host clothing swaps with friends, or give your unwanted, gently used clothing and furniture another life by donating or selling them instead of throwing them away.

Upcycling is a creative way to make old items into something more valuable. This could be reusing a jam jar as a candle holder, or using old tins as plant pots – the possibilities are endless! If you’re not sure how to start, there are numerous websites, blogs and forums where you can pick up interesting ideas for breathing new life into your old, used objects.

  1. Watch Your Water Usage 

Remember that old adage, “save some for the fish?” You can do this in your daily life by turning off water while brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving. 

In addition, cutting down your shower time can save more water and make a bigger impact than you’d think. It’s estimated that, using an average number of 2.5 gallons per minute from the typical shower head, reducing your shower length by 4 minutes per day would save 3,650 gallons per year. 

  1. Cut Down on Paper 

Think about how much paper you use during the semester – class notes, assignments, tests, and so on.

Cutting paper usage is one of the main areas where college students can save money and the environment. The less you need to restock your paper supplies, the better. A few simple tips to get started:

  • Always use the front and back of your paper when writing notes 
  • Avoid taking handfuls of paper napkins from the cafeteria
  • Clean up spills using a dish cloth instead of a paper towel
  • When printing, save misprints by always double checking the document you’re printing
  • If you do make a mistake, either recycle the paper or use the back for scrap paper for notes, writing down ideas, etc
  • For those who write notes on paper, make a point to buy recycled material notebooks 
  1. Mind Your Transportation 

Transportation is considered to be one of the main contributors to climate change and carbon emissions. That’s why you can choose to use environment-friendly transportation means as a college student – like walking or riding a bike. 

Bikeshare programs are becoming more common, both on campuses and off. Find out whether your school has such a program. If not, there may be another local option, or you may want to get involved in setting the wheels in motion for a bikeshare initiative at your campus. Walking or riding a bike helps reduce carbon emissions and keeps you in great shape, too! 

  1. Always Power Down

Our chargers and small appliances suck up standby power even when not in use. To cut down on wasted electricity, when you’re not using appliances or you leave the room – be sure to turn off lights and other electronics. An easy way to implement this is by connecting your electronics to a surge protector and flipping the switch when you leave the room. Also, your electric bill will thank you!

Bonus tip: try using energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs. They last longer, which will save you a bit of money too.

  1. Meatless Monday

Did you know that raising and preparing meat produces between 10 and 40 times more greenhouse gas emissions than growing and harvesting vegetables and grains? This doesn’t mean you have to go vegan – just cutting back on your consumption of meat and dairy can go a long way in supporting a healthy world.

Eating less meat – even omitting it from your meal one day each week – can positively influence change. When you do eat meat, look for labels that specify free range, organic and hormone and antibiotic free. There are resources to help you find sustainable food locally so you know exactly where your food is coming from – especially since it can not only affect the environment, but your health as well.

In Conclusion

By striving to make small but efficient changes in your routine, you can lower your environmental impact, lower your bills, and incorporate more eco-friendly practices in your life! Earth is our home, so it’s important to protect it, respect it, and celebrate it with our everyday actions and thoughts.  

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References:

  1. https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-
  2. https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/going-green-at-school/
  3. https://gosunbolt.com/green-campus-sustainability-ideas/ 
  4. https://www.sustainabilitydegrees.com/the-ultimate-how-to-guide-for-students/
  5. https://www.50waystohelp.com/

The Incoming College Freshman Checklist (What to Bring to College)

Congratulations, you’re officially a college freshman! This is both an exciting and frightening transition for most students. There are many things to do in the summer before college, and it can be difficult to know how to get ready. There are things to pack, people to say goodbye to, and forms to fill out. 

For those already stressing over this new life chapter, there are plenty of ways to prepare before even stepping foot in a classroom or dorm. We’ve compiled a list of all of the important must-do items, so if you work through it a little at a time – you’ll be done before you know it!

Before you arrive on campus, use the following checklist to make sure you stay on track:

1. Make a Commitment

Once you’ve made your decision about which college to attend, you’ll need to commit to that college. You may be able to do this online or you may have to do it in writing.

You’ll need to send in your deposit, complete and accept the financial aid application, and fill out any health forms that are required the summer before college. Be sure to read the information closely and promptly respond to all of the forms you receive from your college so as to not miss any deadlines. 

Read through your acceptance letter completely and take note of important dates. Dates to keep in mind may include:

  • Deadline to accept admission (and pay the acceptance fee, if applicable) 
  • Deadline to submit final high school transcript 
  • Deadline to take placement tests 
  • Deadline to apply for housing 
  • Deadline to file your financial aid documents 
  • Deadline to sign up for orientation 

2. Establish Housing

Since many colleges require incoming freshmen to live in dorms, chances are high you’re going to have a roommate. Whether you are living on campus in a dorm or off campus in an apartment or house, make sure you have your housing lined up as early as possible. If you’re staying on campus, see if you can request housing that is close to your classes so you can save time each day. 

If your college has assigned a roommate, reach out by phone, connect through social media, get to know each other, and coordinate on furnishing and decorating your dorm. 

If you are looking for off-campus housing, make sure you check out several locations that meet your budget and your needs. Also, be sure to read your lease in its entirety, so you know what your landlord expects.

3. Schedule a Campus Tour

You can walk around the campus on your own, but scheduling a guided tour will give you more insight into the different areas of campus and what you can expect on your first day. While you’re exploring campus, make sure you note where the emergency points and security office are located. Both parents and students should take time before the semester begins to become familiar with the campus’ safety resources and procedures.

If you’re attending a college out of state, use this time to explore your new location. Now’s the time to research the popular restaurants, the nearest theaters and music venues, the parks in your proximity; to research the history, culture, and local population; and to identify some of the neighborhoods, landmarks, attractions, and adjacent towns worth seeing.

4. Register for Orientation

Orientation for incoming students may be mandatory at your college, but if it isn’t – try your best to attend anyway. This is especially important if you haven’t been able to visit the college beforehand. Register for an early orientation to (hopefully) get the classes you want, as well as to familiarize yourself with the campus and to see your official dorm and cafeteria options firsthand.

Orientation is a crucial time to start making friends, research clubs and organizations, and get to know your campus environment. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to ask questions and get involved. It’s important to note that everyone is going through the same thing, so don’t be shy – try to make as many connections as you can. 

5. Practice Life Skills

Your parents are most likely not heading off to college with you. This means you are responsible for your cooking, cleaning, and laundry – maybe for the first time in your life. Now is a great time to practice. Take the opportunity to learn how to cook some quick and simple meals, wash and dry your clothing properly, and clean up after yourself. 

Make sure you have established a checking and savings account that you can access to pay bills or withdraw cash as needed. These essential skills will keep your life outside the classroom on track.

6. Visit Your Doctor

Get up to date on all your vaccinations; most colleges require that you submit updated vaccination information before or during your first year.

If you have a regular or essential prescription, work with your doctor to have it transferred before you leave to a pharmacy near your campus, or get a second prescription written. In general, this is a chance to get a clean bill of health, update prescriptions, and ask your doctor any pressing questions before you leave home.

7. Start Networking

If you haven’t done this already, now would be a good time to engage with your college online. It’s a great way to participate in ongoing discussions and also familiarize yourself with the culture and lingo of the college.

One of the best ways to connect with other prospective or accepted freshmen at your university is through social media. Try searching your university with your prospective class year and see if any groups exist. Add your future school onto your profile on Facebook and LinkedIn to help encourage the connections even further.

Use this time to clean up your social media and make sure everything you post online represents your best self.

  • Double check that comments made by you and your friends are positive and professional
  • Make sure all photos (not just your profile image and cover images) are appropriate
  • Set your privacy settings accordingly 

Look for ways to get involved on campus, whether you want to join a club or team (or both). Spend some time researching the clubs and organizations related to your major, or check out some of the varsity, intramural or club sports your school hosts. Get an idea of what’s available before you get to campus so you don’t waste any time once you’re there.

8. Pack, Pack, Pack! 

The best way to feel prepared for your new adventure is knowing you’re fully prepared. Explore our college packing list for dorm room and apartment essentials. 

Before you buy or pack anything, be sure to check with your school about what items are and are not allowed. Most schools have to be very careful about health and safety regulations, and rules differ from place to place. Check out our Official College Packing List (College Must-Haves), which includes dorm room essentials (or apartment essentials), school supplies for college, and other key items for move-in day.

College move-in day can be extremely thrilling and a little scary. Even though moving into the dorms, finding your classes, and adjusting to your new surroundings can be overwhelming, remember to enjoy the experience. You’ll be making friends, discovering new hobbies, and learning more about yourself than ever before in no time!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References: 

  1. https://blog.collegeboard.org/summer-before-college-checklist
  2. https://studentaid.gov/resources/prepare-for-college/checklists/12th-grade
  3. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/making-a-decision/off-to-college-checklist
  4. https://thebestschools.org/magazine/summer-before-college/
  5. https://www.nitrocollege.com/blog/4-checklists-for-college 

Tips for Creating an Online Portfolio in College

What is a (Digital) Portfolio?

You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years developing skills, studying, and working—now you get to put your results on display.

So, what is a portfolio? An online portfolio (also known as a digital portfolio, electronic portfolio, e-portfolio, or e-folio) is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the web. Such electronic evidence may include images, text, electronic files, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks.

Having a positive online presence is a huge advantage when it comes to applying for internships and jobs. Creating a portfolio website allows you to share and showcase your work easily for the employers you want to impress.

An online portfolio will increase your visibility and presence. It’s your chance to tell the world who you are as a creative, and delve into your projects, passions, and experiences. Using the flexibility of an online portfolio, you’re able to show your personality by choosing the design, layout, and the copy you write.

It also makes it easier for clients and potential employers to reach out to you. Especially in the digital age, you want to be able to network and link yourself to others in the most convenient way possible. Since we rely on technology, it’s good to show that you have this online presence.

How to Create a Portfolio

1. Pick the Right Online Platform (Best Free Portfolio Websites)

Wix, WordPress, and Weebly, oh my! There are many websites that allow users to create a free online portfolio straight from their free portfolio website templates. 

Here are a few of the best portfolio websites out there right now: 

  • Wix: An all-in-one website builder that’s perfect for beginners and non-coders. Wix lets you build a professional looking website quickly and easily, providing pre-designed templates, built-in security, and in-house features.
  • WordPress: A powerful content management system (CMS), which offers plenty of responsive themes to showcase your work. If you want complete creative control over your portfolio, this is a good option for you.
  • Weebly: A drag-and-drop web builder with around 40 modern, fully-customizable website themes and elements.

It is helpful to take a look at online portfolio examples by other people in your specific creative area or industry. For example, if you’re an aspiring artist – try Googling “Art Portfolio Website.” You might find something similar to what you envision, in which case you’ll be able to customize it and make it your own. If you’d rather start from a blank canvas, you can always build your website from scratch and enjoy complete freedom to express yourself online.

2. Keep the Design Simple

When designing a portfolio, you want a website that is straightforward. You want your content to be the focal point, rather than a distracting design. Your actual work is the core of your online portfolio, so make sure to showcase it in the best way possible. It should stand out and be easily reachable through the homepage.

Your homepage is also your chance to stir the curiosity of potential clients and employers with a powerful introductory sentence. Make it short and sweet, clearly expressing who you are and what you do. There’s no need to go into your biographical details here (that’s what your “About” page is for), but your name and main area of expertise are a must.

It’s helpful to add a short written description for each project, so that visitors can get a sense for the context of your work. Mention your role, as well as any of your collaborators. 

Run your website by a trusted peer and mentor for some insight and fresh ideas. Get some honest feedback about your content, visuals, and ease of navigation. 

3. Choose Quality Over Quantity

Cramming everything you’ve ever done into your personal portfolio may be tempting, but most employers would advise against it. Consider what to put on a personal website, picking only your absolute best pieces to show, trusting them to showcase your strongest work and highlight your talents. Showcasing a limited amount of projects allows you to present each one thoroughly.

Tell the story with less on your portfolio. For example, include links to your top 10 articles, not top 100. Wait for a prospective employer to request the rest. Once someone is interested in your work, you will have plenty of time to give them more information.

Consider listing any distinctive elements that give you an edge, such as press or awards. Having good recommendations is always a big plus so if you can include any of the testimonials from the clients you’ve worked with in the past, it can add a lot of credibility to your online portfolio.

Don’t forget to put emphasis on the types of projects you’d be interested in working on in the future. 

4. Update the Mobile Version 

People often forget about the huge amount of users who are likely to be viewing their site from a smartphone. In fact, mobile devices account for 52% of web page views worldwide. So it’s important to make sure you’ve devoted time to perfecting their user experience, too.

One of the major challenges designers face when it comes to their online presence is ensuring it will be mobile compatible. And since a mobile website is more than just “web design made smaller,” there are a few rules to keep in mind when designing for mobile. 

Best practices for designing your mobile website include:

  • Declutter the website version of your site, keeping only the most crucial elements visible on mobile
  • Pay attention to the fonts and colors you use and make sure they’re legible 
  • Reduce the amount of typing required by adding a search bar to ease navigation

5. Make Your Portfolio Searchable 

Your beautiful work deserves to be seen online – and the best way to go about it is by upping your SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”). By following a set of simple rules, you can work towards improving your design portfolio’s ranking on Google search results.

Some of the best practices for improving your portfolio’s SEO are:

  • Choose a good domain name. Your domain name is how visitors will find, remember and share your page on the internet. Using something simple like your first and last name, or your creative niche will prove helpful with branding and marketing. 
  • Do keyword research to find the right keywords for your site. Keywords are the most commonly searched phrases on Google when people are looking for creatives such as yourself. Once you’ve done some keyword research, use these phrases in strategic places throughout your website.
  • Write alt text for your images. Short for alternative text, alt text is a brief description of your site’s images and photos. Writing SEO-friendly alt text can also help improve your website’s accessibility. You’re likely to have visual elements on your online portfolio, so use this opportunity to integrate your keywords into your alt text.
  • Write titles and descriptions (known as metadata) for each of your design portfolio’s pages. 

6. Share Your Contact Information 

After you’ve captured a visitor’s attention with your site, make sure they can easily contact you. Add any of the following elements to ensure you’re reachable: a contact form, your email, phone numbers and links to your social media.

These can be featured as part of your menu, in a dedicated contact page or as a pinned element on the side of the screen. It’s also highly recommended to repeat your contact details in your website footer, offering visitors a final invitation to get in touch.

7. Utilize Social Media

Social media is a two-way channel where you have an opportunity to build a rapport with your prospective clients. Social networking is all about interactions, creating open dialogue, and building genuine relationships with your community.

If you want to grow your network, consider including social media buttons in your portfolio as they will be a huge help in building stronger connections and keeping your clients and followers updated at all times. 

Including buttons to share your work on social media can help bring more exposure and an audience to your site. Promote your work on social media whenever you add new projects to draw attention to fresh work as well as your overall portfolio. 

If you are including your personal social media on your professional online portfolio, remember to keep it professional and appropriate.

8. Keep it Updated

Keep in mind that your work doesn’t end with just creating a great portfolio – make sure to regularly update it. As you create new and better work, make additions to showcase your latest projects, but with the same focus on careful curation.

This will also show visitors that you’re active and working. When first creating an online portfolio, consider how you can build a design portfolio that is easy to update, letting you comfortably add new projects as you go.

A successful portfolio finds that perfect blend of your personality, prominence of work, simplicity, and ease of use that makes your portfolio stand out from the crowd and achieve your goals. A well-made, creative portfolio makes all the difference between making a fine first impression and a truly great one! 

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References:

  1. https://www.wix.com/blog/creative/2018/04/how-to-make-online-design-portfolio-guide
  2. https://99u.adobe.com/articles/7127/6-steps-to-creating-a-knockout-online-portfolio 
  3. https://www.pagecloud.com/blog/how-to-build-your-online-portfolio 
  4. https://collegeinfogeek.com/online-portfolio/ 
  5. https://websitesetup.org/make-online-portfolio/
  6. https://www.statista.com/statistics/306528/share-of-mobile-internet-traffic-in-global-regions/