10 Things To Do During a Gap Year

Not exactly sure what you’d like to do? Start thinking about it with this gap year cheat sheet…

1. Backpack through Europe

Taking a year off between high school and college doesn’t mean taking a break from learning. Those who choose to backpack it through Europe, or go traveling elsewhere, should use the experience to learn about other cultures, see the world’s great museums and architecture in person, immerse themselves in the history of the locale, etc.

2. Volunteer abroad

One of the more popular choices among gap year students is to take time to give back to society. Often, that involves traveling to an underprivileged part of the world to assist in some humanitarian effort. It can be teaching young children in a poor village, physically helping to rebuild a community ravaged by natural disaster, or assisting the sick.

3. Intern
Some students choose to pursue internships with their dream organizations to get an early look at potential careers, as well as learn the ins and outs of the industry. The key here is to find an opportunity that will truly allow you to gain valuable knowledge and hands-on experience that will dazzle your resume.

4. Language immersion
There’s no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in the place that it is used. Forget about taking language 101 in a classroom – these students go live in foreign countries to soak up the culture, and in turn, learn to communicate in the native tongue.

5. Political campaigns

Civic-minded students looking to do something unique during their gap year can take an active volunteer role in a political campaign or work on behalf of some legislative issue. The best way to start is by contacting your local government offices to see if any opportunities exist.

6. Writing or blogging

The cliche is that some students take time off to write the “Great American Novel,” however, a gap year writing project is much more complex than that. It often includes involvement in some sort of service project or travel so that the student can document his or her experiences through writing, art, multimedia, and/or photography.

7. A formal university-sponsored bridge year program

In the tradition of many British universities, Princeton University announced this year that it would offer incoming freshman the opportunity to opt for a “bridge year” in which they could travel and perform community services abroad. Check with your choice college or university to see if any such programs are available.

8. Help at home
For students who wish to perform community service right here in our nation, organizations like Americorps offers just that chance. From disaster relief and elder care, to environmental initiatives and help for the homeless, there are projects available in almost every state.

9. Be an educator
In another effort to do something life-changing, programs like City Year provide students the chance to tutor, teach, and act as role models and after-school advisors to young children in urban environments throughout the country.

10. A combo gap year
You don’t necessarily have to pick one focus for your time off. Many students choose to split their gap year projects in two or even three, not unlike the semester schedules they’d be following in school. So if you’d like to travel for half a year, and then intern the second half, go for it!


Bridging the Gap (Year)


The gap year is gaining momentum in the United States, although students in the UK and Australia have known about it for decades. So what’s taken us so long to figure it out? It’s probably because we’re programmed to think that if we don’t start college right after we graduate high school, our chances of earning a degree diminish. Not so. By taking a gap year before college to explore interests outside of the classroom, you can actually increase your chances of discovering what it is that you really want to do in life and then pursue your college education accordingly.

Of course, a gap year doesn’t mean spending twelve months contemplating your world view from a hammock. It means getting out there and doing something of value, like participating in community service, conducting research, or studying abroad. In fact, choosing how to spend your gap year can take on as much importance as figuring out where you’ll spend the following four years. Consider some of these tips as you decide whether a gap year is right for you:

  1. The gap year should not be an excuse to procrastinate from applying to college. You should still continue with the entire college admission process, then defer admission for a year.
  2. Many colleges and universities are really taken by the idea of a gap year. In fact, some are even encouraging it: Princeton University has established its own tuition-free “bridge year” program involving a public service project abroad that is completed before enrollment.
  3. By taking a gap year, you might find that declaring a major is an easier decision now that you’ve found a discipline or field that you’d really like to pursue. This could actually save you time and money in the long run-it’s not uncommon for students who switch majors to have to spend an extra semester or two in school to complete their degree.
  4. A gap year program will still cost you money for travel, lodging, and other incidental fees, but the price is still thousands of dollars less than a year’s tuition at a private college.
  5. Did you get rejected by your dream school? Spend your gap year taking classes abroad, then reapply and show off your academic enrichment. For some students, it has resulted in an acceptance letter the second time around.
  6. Although there hasn’t yet been any formal research to prove it, MSNBC has reported that colleges around the country find that their accepted students are indeed following through with their college plans after returning from gap year programs. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24260521/

Remember, the “gap” in gap year refers only to the gap in your formal education. If you choose wisely, your gap year program will provide you with an experience above and beyond anything you would learn in the classroom. A successful gap year should leave you refreshed, inspired, and better prepared for four years of college.


A Helping Hand Leads to the Future

High school graduation can be a daunting hurdle on the road of life, and once overcome it leads to even bigger questions: Where am I going? What do I want to do with my life? What career or education should I pursue? In recent years, society has placed an increased importance on jumping from high school to college without any hesitation, but is this the right decision for students who don’t yet know where their interests lie? Marty Guise, now the president of the non-profit Lay Renewal Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri, was once a good student seized with doubts about the prospect of higher education. His solution? A gap year.

“I wouldn’t say the freedom was the catalyst,” says Guise, recalling his decision to take a year off after high school graduation. “I just really didn’t want to mess up. I didn’t want to go into school and then decide a year later this was not what I wanted to do with my life.”

Spending a six-month gap year in war-torn El Salvador where he lent a much-needed hand in work projects centered around a children’s home, Guise gained a new perspective on life. “I realized I need enough to live on and that was it. I became much more compassionate and understanding; I became much more flexible.”

It was a lesson he shared with teens who flew in from the states to volunteer their help — letting them know that the simple luxuries they were used to, like hot water, weren’t as plentiful, but that they would be able to make it through. Explains Guise, “A lot of us are spoiled, so having someone from the U.S. there to bridge that gap — it helped ease the tension.”

When he finally returned to the states, Guise says he couldn’t help but wonder why everyone back home had changed so much — until he realized he was the one who had undergone the dramatic transformation. Deciding that the longer he waited to start college after his gap year, the harder it would be, Guise enrolled at University of Missouri – St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri) on a part-time basis and worked full time in the medical records department of an area hospital.

After completing his degree in education, an act inspired by his time spent in El Salvador, Guise realized that though he still wanted to work with children, he wanted to find another way of giving back to others. He spent a year-and-a-half studying at a seminary, and then worked in a Christian bookstore before finding himself at Lay Renewal Ministries. That was 12 years ago, and now Guise, as president of the non-profit group, is dedicated to its mission of helping churches understand how they can best reach out to others.

While Guise didn’t stick to his original plan to work as an educator, one thing’s for certain: had Guise not reached out his hand to children in El Salvador in 1989 during his very valuable gap year, he wouldn’t be able to help others do so today.


Learning to Bridge the Gap

Go to high school, graduate, go to college, graduate, get a job. It’s a pattern that most of the population is familiar with, but it’s not necessarily right for everyone. While some people, especially those who have a clear picture of where they want to go in life, may be able to jump right from high school, to college, and then into the career of their dreams, others may need time off to do some searching. The “gap year,” as it’s called, can help people define the rest of their lives.

“I’d like to say it was because I was super-motivated, but I was really drifting aimlessly,” recalls Dan Clements, author of Escape 101 (The Brain Ranch, 2007), about his first gap year spent working as a scuba instructor in Mexico. A recent university graduate with a degree in business, Clements shucked the post-grad career search and answered a newspaper ad that instead sent him to Mexico for six months. “It happened so fast. I think I didn’t have time to hesitate.”

Returning home from his sojourn to the south, Clements was surprised to find that things hadn’t changed much in his absence. “It was like the whole world had stood still,” he explains. “Everyone was exactly like I left them sitting on the couch with the remote in their hand.” Clements, meanwhile, had undergone a change for the better.

Building Confidence and Finding Your Way
“The act of doing something different from the rest of your life; it gives you confidence,” says Clements, who believes that six-month sabbatical shaped life for both him and his future wife. “I think how different my life would be if I hadn’t taken that break and how much different for the worse.”

These days, Clements works as a speaker and writer about topics like business, health, and life design, and recently had his first foray into book publishing with Escape 101. Essentially, it’s a guide for everything you need to know about planning and following through on a gap year, career break, or sabbatical. “Between college and work is the easiest time to get away; your obligations are at an all-time low,” asserts Clements. “Don’t be too hasty to jump into work. That gap year is a year out that could turn out to be 50 to 60 years of work.”

If you’re considering taking your own gap year, Clements suggests taking small steps to set yourself up. “Sometimes it’s as simple as making a gap year fund,” he advises. “And start telling people. For [my wife and I] the social commitment has become sort of powerful. You start to make connections.” That could mean something as simple as a friend knowing the best places to go during your trip, or as helpful as a relative finding someone willing to hire you in another country. The point is to commit to what you plan to do — just remember to eventually return to your roots.

Says Clements, “Home is pretty fun too. It’s not about escaping forever.”


Admissions Anxiety: What to Do during the Waiting Period

Admissions Anxiety: What to Do during the Waiting Period
By Tiffany Sorensen, Varsity Tutors’ Contributor

So, you have submitted all your college applications! You know you should feel relieved, but the truth is that you are actually quite nervous.

Although feelings of uncertainty cloud your mind during the waiting period, try to take advantage of this vital period instead. This in-between time is optimal for accomplishing tasks you would have little time for otherwise.

1. Learn more about your schools

Many high school students admit to choosing colleges out of haste. They may select schools without knowing much about them or just to meet quickly approaching admissions deadlines.Regardless, now is a great time to learn more about the schools you have applied to. You can acquire information from your high school’s college center, the library, and websites. Most universities have Facebook pages you can use to check out their blogs, ask questions, and communicate with alumni.

Learning more about your schools may even involve a campus visit! This is one of the best ways to see whether or not a school is a good fit for you. After all, experiencing a place first-hand is always different from reading and hearing about it.

Some schools even offer you the option of staying overnight in a dorm so you can get a glimpse of life at the school. If an in-person college visit is not feasible for you at this time, find out if the school has virtual tours you can take from your computer.

2. Research potential majors

While at this point you cannot change the schools you applied to, it is always possible to change your intended major. And, although you may have selected a major on your applications, that does not mean you must commit to it forever. You may be surprised to learn that your dream school offers over 100 majors, and some of them you did not even know existed!Know that you are not alone if you are having difficulty deciding on a major. At such a young age and with limited job experience (if any), it is expected that you will have doubts about your career path. In fact, many college students end up changing their majors. To get a feel for your interests, start researching majors now.

3. Think about your finances

It’s no secret that college is expensive. To what extent is your family able to help finance your college degree? How much student loan debt are you willing to take on? Are you eligible for any scholarships? These are all questions you should ponder before you accept or reject an admissions decision.While you may be bent on attending a top-tier private institution, your wallet may be pushing you toward a more affordable yet prestigious state school. You could also save money by attending a community college for the first year or two and then transferring later on. No college decision should be made solely based on finances, but realistically, it is something to take into consideration as you weigh all the various factors.

The waiting period is also the perfect opportunity to apply for scholarships. Many scholarship applications require essays, so you can use your free time now to knock some of these out of the way. Given the volume of students who apply for scholarships, it is best to apply to as many as your schedule permits.

Instead of succumbing to anxiety as you wait to hear back from colleges, take this time to do something productive! Prepare for your college career by finding out the 411 on your schools, seeing which majors interest you, and getting your finances in order.

Remember, the more you accomplish now, the more you can relax your last summer before college.

Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

Need money to pay for college?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You’ll find scholarships like the $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.


Do Colleges Examine Your Online Presence?

Do Colleges Examine Your Online Presence?

Elizabeth Hoyt

You should undoubtedly clean up your social media presence, but how much do colleges really look at your posts?

You should undoubtedly clean up your social media presence, but how much do colleges really look at your posts?

You’ll be relieved to learn they don’t – at least not in the usual circumstances.

In fact, fewer than one in three admissions officers say they check applicant’s social media posts and/or Google them when evaluating their applications, according to a Kaplan survey conducted in 2014.

The survey found that “over a third (35%) of college admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2014 survey of college admissions officers.”

However, they’ve been tracking this college admissions factor since 2008 and back then it was one in ten admissions officers. Then, that number was one in five – so don’t count out the possibility entirely. This is the highest percentage since tracking this – so the number is likely even higher now.

A Moral Dilemma

For the most part, admissions officers felt it was an invasion of the student’s privacy. The majority of admissions officers were “appalled” at the practice of looking into a student’s private online presence.

“I just think it’s wrong to do,” said Richard Shaw, dean of admissions at Stanford University.

But, then again, you never know.

The Numbers

In addition to the morality of the issue, admissions officers also say there are far too many prospective students to Google or search on social media platforms for each individual.

Consider a small school – the admissions officers would have to evaluate thousands of profiles online, assuming they were looking into each student.

Also, because they want to remain consistent, most officers feel that it’s unfair to Google a portion of the applicants, so it’s all or nothing when it comes to looking at a student’s online presence.

Do You Want Them to Look?

This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your particular situation.

For example, if you’re constantly tweeting about issues that matter, trying to start-up social initiatives and have been featured in the local paper as a hero, you may want to be Googled.

Inversely, if your social media presence isn’t so family-friendly, you probably would breathe a sigh of relief at learning your social media posts are not likely to be examined – but you should probably clean up your act, just in case.

When Asked…

If you specifically ask a college to look at something you’re proud of on the internet, they are more likely to do so, assuming the admissions officer has time.

According to Christine Brown, executive director of K12 and college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep, “There’s no doubt social media has become increasingly a part of the admissions process, but students should recognize that it still plays only a peripheral role. The majority of admissions officers are not looking at Facebook for applicant information, and even those who are typically do so as an anomaly — because they were flagged, either positively or negatively, to particular applicants.”

“Admissions chances are still overwhelmingly decided by the traditional factors of high school GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, personal essays and extracurricular activities. Applicants’ online personas are really a wild card in the admissions process: the bottom line for students is that what you post online likely won’t get you into college, but it just might keep you out,” said Brown.

Safety First

Many students become more cautious of their web presence when submitting applications. Rightfully so: clean up your posts, just in case, because you never know who’s looking!

Increasing the Odds

Once you get into smaller numbers like, say, becoming a finalist for a scholarship or internship, the likelihood of your personal online presence will increase.

So, a basic rule to follow is: the more you put yourself out there, the less you should put yourself out there online. Unless of course you want to put yourself out there and be noticed for positive reasons.

To learn more about what you should or should not post online, check out these social media do’s and don’ts for students.

What’s your social media policy?

Need money to pay for college?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You’ll find scholarships like the $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.


Getting into College with Bad Grades

Getting into College with Bad Grades

Elizabeth Hoyt

The number one rule to follow in college admissions? Don’t give up!

Have bad grades? Believe it or not, it’s not always the end-all, be-all in terms of gaining entry into the college of your dreams. Don’t give up!

Attempt to combat your admissions struggle by considering these helpful tips:

Submit an explanation (in certain cases) –

First, consider why your grades were, um, less than stellar. College admissions officers don’t want to hear excuses unless the circumstances were absolutely out of your control. If that’s the case, submit a brief but thorough explanation of the circumstances. Again, only submit an explanation regarding your grades if the circumstances were completely, utterly, nothing-on-earth-you-could-have-done-to-avoid-it, one hundred percent out of your control.

What falls under this? An illness or injury that impacted your cognitive abilities (head trauma, dyslexia diagnosed later in your high school career, etc.), a death within your immediate family (sorry, grandma and your third cousin don’t count, no matter how difficult it was) and, perhaps but not always included are moving and switching schools mid-year or a poor domestic situation that was out of the norm, like a messy parental divorce.

Remember, excuses like breaking up with you high school significant other, not getting along with or claiming a teacher was unfair and other stresses typical in high school won’t work. In fact, they will work against you because it comes across as placing blame on others (no matter how real or true they are). Anything that a typical high school student experiences is likely a poor excuse.

Also, make sure your grade or grades are really bad, if you’re submitting an explanation. Explaining the lone “B” amongst your straight A’s will likely just irritate the admissions counselor.

Apply regular admission rather than early –

Your odds of being accepted during regular admission are far better than the selective process of early admission. Early decision/early admission is meant for students that not only are sure of the school they want to go to, but also confident in their ability to get into that school.

Consider community college –

Why not consider attending a community college for a year (or two), getting your grades up and then applying to the four-year college you originally wanted to attend.

Look at schools with conditional acceptance programs –

If you’re on the cusp, there are plenty of schools out that that give students the opportunity to attend the school on conditional basis. This is ideal for those who have lower grades but are great applicants otherwise. Many schools will offer conditional admission and the student must keep their grade point average at a certain point to remain enrolled within the school. If you had a bad run in high school but feel you can improve in college, this may be a route to consider.

Plan your comeback –

It’s never too late to improve- the time is now to boost your academics and show that you’re making progress in a positive direction. Get extra help or a tutor if you’re still struggling and poor grades weren’t just in the past. Sure, you may not boost them enough to get into your top choice, but it will make a difference in whether or not you’re accepted to any school.

Play up your strengths –

Schools look at more than grades alone. They also want students who will enhance campus life and that participate in school and extracurricular activities. Think about your strengths: do you volunteer a lot? Play on several sports teams? All of these activities are important factors in addition to your grades, so make sure you detail all of your strengths, too!

Get recognized –

Perhaps your grades are poor in math but you’re the next Hemingway. Show off whatever talent you have by getting recognized outside of school. Get an article or poem published locally. Submit artwork in to a local show. Enter science competitions. No matter where your talent lies, there are ways to gain recognition academically to include on your application.

Make your essay epic –

If you have poor grades and a terrible essay, why even apply? There is absolutely no excuse to have a terrible essay, since you have time to work on it and have people around you that can help you edit, proofread and structure your wording!

Ace your college entrance exams –

To be fair, this is easier said than done. By “ace,” we mean prepare to the best of your ability through studying, utilizing practice questions, working with tutors (often times, you can get free help!) and taking preparation courses (either enroll, if you can afford it or find free preparation courses online).

Review your options with a counselor –

When in doubt, you can always go over strategies and options with a counselor, teacher or admissions officer. They’re there to help you throughout the process and want your application to reflect the “real” you.

Need money to pay for college?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You’ll find scholarships like the $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.


3 Ways to Set Your College Application Apart

3 Ways to Set Your College Application Apart

By Tiffany Sorensen, Varsity Tutors’ Contributor

Take on these three tasks to help set your college application apart from the crowd.

Statistics reveal that college admissions officers are receiving more and more applications each year. Because of this trend, it is more imperative than ever to make your application stick out from all the rest.

This is how to avoid being just another name: perfect your application essay, try a new after-school activity, and attend a college interview.

Get details on the best ways you can approach these tasks below:

1. Write a solid, unique essay

How can you make your essay different from all the other thousands of essays that admissions officers read? And how can you avoid making it sound like just a list of your academic accomplishments?Many would agree that the most captivating essays are those with a unified theme or an extended metaphor—for example, nature, colors, travel, etc. A well-chosen theme or metaphor can tie your essay together while giving it a whimsical literary feel. In a sense, your essay should read somewhat like a story—it should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

With your essay, you should aim to achieve two things: entertain college admissions officers and show them something special about yourself. The college application essay is not meant to solely showcase your many skills and endeavors; that is what your resume serves to do.

2. Step outside your comfort zone

If a stranger looked at your academic credentials, he or she might notice a pattern. A high grade in Calculus and involvement in the Math Honors Society indicate an affinity for mathematics. Volunteer work at a hospital and tutoring in biology suggest a student may want to study medicine.There is nothing wrong with demonstrating development or interest in one particular area. However, admissions counselors look for evidence of a well-rounded personality. You should participate in a range of activities that will stimulate and cultivate various aspects of life.

If you are only involved in activities related to science, why not join a theater group or an intramural sports team to mix things up? Instead of focusing merely on English, consider learning a foreign language or joining the debate team. Universities want students who have comprehensive knowledge and a broad outlook. One of the ways to achieve this is by stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Do what you excel in, but also branch out by trying something new and interesting. You will thank yourself later!

3. Impress at the college interview

One of the sure-fire ways to leave a great impression on admissions officers is by nailing the college interview. Given the abundance of paperwork that admissions officers must sort through, a dynamic in-person encounter can help make you a more memorable applicant. Admissions officers look for students who are enthusiastic, respectful, and knowledgeable about the university.Although a great interview cannot guarantee your acceptance to a school, it can have a positive effect on your application. A stellar interview can sometimes be enough to “tip the scale” in your favor if admissions officers are unsure about you.

On the other hand, coming across as impolite or apathetic during the interview can certainly work against you. Failing to attend or refusing a request for an interview can also diminish your odds of acceptance.

The college interview is a precious chance to be more than just another application. If possible, schedule a college interview and use it to your advantage. A remarkable personality can only give you bonus points. Just be sure to research the college beforehand!

By now, you should have noticed a motif: for an extraordinary application, you need to show off some personality. You can let your personality shine through with an imaginative essay, a distinctive extracurricular activity, and a private interview. To get noticed, you have to be bold and different!

Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

Need money to pay for college?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You’ll find scholarships like the $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.


6 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

6 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

Let’s face it, most New Years resolutions don’t stick. Why? Because they’re hard.

Finding the motivation to keep a year-end goal is no easy task, and when you factor in class, homework, and exams it seems impossible to find the time for anything else. How’re you supposed to dedicate yourself to a year-long change AND get a passing grade in bio-chem?

What I’d like to propose is a different take on the standard New Year’s resolution. Instead of setting some kind of grand, life-altering ambition for the year, why not focus that energy into a few small, everyday changes? Pretty soon these small changes can become part of your lifestyle and second nature.

Here are six practical, realistic New Year’s resolutions that any college student can make. Most of them only take a few minutes to do, and over the course of a year can really add up.


Yes, we could all be a bit more financially frugal, that’s a no-brainer. If it was that easy though we’d all have a nice little cushion hanging out in our savings account.

Rather than stressing over creating a yearly savings plan or calling up your local Charles Schwab branch, find an empty jar and start putting your loose change in it (personally I use a pasta sauce jar). Every time you come home and change your clothes throw whatever coins that are in your pockets into that jar. Once the jar fills up count how much was in there and go treat yo self.


Another tried and true New Year’s resolution, the annual pledge to eat healthier. Eating right is tough enough on its own but balancing school, a social life, or a job can make it that much harder.

Trying to meal prep every week requires access to a kitchen, which isn’t a luxury all college students have. In lieu of being able to cook every single one of your meals, start small by focusing on snacking. It’s so easy to grab a bag of chips and soda while on the go, but this year try packing your own healthy snacks and a water bottle. I’m not saying you need to pack celery and kale, but some fruit, nuts, or granola are a lot better for you than Cheetos.


Have you ever scrolled through your newsfeed, saw a picture of a friend from back home, and smiled? What did you do in that moment? Sure, you may have given their latest post a thumbs up, but why not go a step beyond that?

You’re so focused on your day-to-day that it can be hard to catch up with old friends and family members. Next time that random thought about someone crosses your mind send them a quick text. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy letter, and could be as simple as, “You were on my mind, hope you’re doing well.”


Spinning out of the above tip, when was the last time you talked to mom or dad?

It’s true that every relationship is different, and for some students going to college is actually a chance to get away from family. If you are in a position though where you can reach out to your family every so often, then you should.

Consider setting 15 minutes aside each week to talk to your parents on the phone. Sure you could text or email or Facebook message, but trust us, a phone call would make them happiest.


If you’re like most college students your room is short on space and full of stuff. You don’t know how it happened, but seemingly overnight your closet is now brimming with clothes and there’s a chair in the corner with who-knows-what stacked on top of it.

Now is the best time to take a look through your room and see which things are taking up too much space or that you could simply live without. That random energy drink t-shirt you got as a promotional item? Donate it. That half-used notebook that’s been lying around since last spring? Recycle it. That empty yogurt container that’s now starting to change color on the inside? Toss it.


As a college student you’re technically already learning new skills, but this piece of advice is geared more towards learning a practical skill. A practical skill is predominately a skill you perform by hand, like woodworking or blacksmithing, but it’s not just limited to the kind of stuff you see on Game of Thrones.

There are tons of practical skills you can pick up as hobbies like cooking, baking, or gardening. If your living space makes it difficult there are still some fun options like crocheting or painting. One of the greatest senses of self-satisfaction comes from creating something with your hands, so search for creative ways to indulge in that kind of activity.

The old saying “new year, new you” seems like such a cliché, but in reality, it’s about as practical a perspective as you can have. The New Year is the perfect starting point to make a change and track your progress. So before you write off New Year’s resolutions as a set of cheesy promises, give some real thought to small tweaks you can make in your daily routine that could have a big affect on your quality of life.


How To Make A Great Elevator Pitch at the Career Fair

How To Make A Great Elevator Pitch at the Career Fair


Everyone needs a great elevator pitch at a career fair because that is really the key step to nabbing an interview with a company. You are selling yourself as a way to make their company better. The elevator pitch is a brief summary, short and to the point, about you and the company or product you represent. Aptly named because it should last no longer than a typical elevator ride, an elevator pitch needs to be convincing, concise, and memorable. Plus, once you have this elevator pitch down, you can use it anywhere an opportunity may arise.This is what you need your EP for the career fair to cover:

  1. Who you are: Introduce yourself, offer a firm hand shake and a resume.
  2. Objective: Tell the employer why you are there and what sort of employment you seek.
  3. Summary: Summarize your education and experience.
  4. Closing: Reiterate your interest and thank the employer.

And here are some tips for making it great.

Keep it short

The optimal EP is 60 seconds. That is why you want to get to the point as fast as possible. Brevity is of the utmost importance. You want it to be short and concise so you can give the person time to respond and ask follow ups.  That is why you want to get to the call to action as fast as possible.

Know it by heart

Though you want to sound genuine, it doesn’t hurt to practice it…A LOT. But you want to know it so well so that you don’t sound like a robot reciting it. And if you practice with family and friends ask for feedback!

Avoid annoying buzzwords

Cut all the annoying junk out. Just stick to the point.

Show them you care (and then they will care) 

You have to show them the passion or they really won’t give you the time of the day. According to Career Services at UCSB, some of these topics will help:

  • Who am I? What do I offer? What field or industry am I interested in?
  • What does the employer need and what problem can I solve?
  • What are the main contributions I can make? What benefits can employers derive from my skills, based on my proven accomplishments?

Inject a little humor

A little joke or funny anecdote can make a cold pitch all that much better. And a personal anecdote they can relate to is always super helpful in getting them to really care.

Follow up

If you do it right, then the elevator pitch is really just the beginning. You need to be prepared for follow-up questions and be sure to make a plan to reconnect. To get that next conversation going try asking: How can I get a spot on your interview schedule? Can we set a phone appointment to discuss the issue of…? Can I send you my resume?