Finals, Summer, Then What?

In a few days, Spring 2018 will be over. You’ll finish your finals, turn in any last papers, and go home. We hope you’ve had a good semester and wish you a relaxing summer. You deserve it!

We also hope you reflect a bit on the semester and think about the one ahead. Just as the New Year allows you to make a fresh start, a new academic year gives you a clean slate. No matter what happened this spring – a bad grade, poor decisions, a failed class, a list of failures – you can overcome it. Really!

First, consider this semester’s successes. Maybe you found that you were better at math or writing than you thought you were. Perhaps you discovered a love for film studies, Spanish, or botany. In any case, you learned something about your strengths and interests.

Second, identify what you did wrong. No, you don’t need to beat yourself up. Just acknowledge your mistakes calmly as though you were talking about someone else’s life. For example, say, “I left my papers to the last minute, so they weren’t as strong as they should have been” or “I let my social life distract me from my studies.”

Next, think about what you gained from the experience. Maybe you learned something about time management or study skills. You may have discovered something about yourself and your interests: perhaps teaching is not the career for you. Use this insight to move forward even if you’re not quite sure of your path.

Finally, realize you’re not alone. Many of your peers and professors have had low periods – and recovered from them. All of us have struggled – academically, personally, or professionally. Successful people aren’t the ones who’ve never stumbled; they’re the ones who’ve continued on anyway.

Have a wonderful summer! We’re already looking forward to seeing you in the autumn.  

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

Caring and Caregiving: Meet TRIO Star Chandra Luitel

Castleton University is a long way from the Nepalese refugee camp where Chandra Luitel was born and raised. At ten, Chandra was cooking for her family and taking care of her younger siblings. College and career seemed remote. “I had a passion to become a nurse,” she says. “But I knew my dream of going into a professional field was impossible because of my family’s financial situation.”

When Chandra was thirteen, her parents decided to move to the United States. They were taking a chance: they knew very little about the country and could not speak English. However, with robbery, violence, and poverty in the camp, the move seemed worth the risk.

But the family’s struggles did not end when they arrived in Winooski, Vermont. The Luitels knew no one in their new city. Chandra and her younger sister had learned a little English at school in Nepal, so they did their best to help their parents navigate this new world. “We were scared for a few months,” recalls Chandra. “But then we met other people from Nepal who encouraged us to stay – not that we could go back.”

At school, more culture shock awaited Chandra and her siblings. There was the pressure to buy clothes and fit in with peers. “In Nepal, we had only one uniform,” says Chandra. School lunches were also an adjustment as Chandra was accustomed to cooking food at home. And although Chandra had lots of questions about her new language, environment, and schoolwork, she did not ask many. “I was hesitant to ask for help,” she says.

In her junior year of high school, Chandra was introduced to the University of Vermont’s Upward Bound program, a federally funded program for high school students of modest means whose parents do not have a bachelor’s degree. Through workshops and college tours, Chandra learned that she could realize her dream of attending college and becoming a nurse. She applied and was accepted to Castleton’s nursing program.

In August 2015, Chandra came to campus a week before the start of her first semester. With about thirty other new students, she participated in the Summer Transition Program, a week-long program to help TRIO students acclimate to college life (STP).

Like many other first-year students, Chandra struggled with homesickness. “In my culture, we don’t move from home until we get married,” she says. “It was pretty challenging for my parents as well.”

Through STP, Chandra found ample support. She made friends with other homesick students. “We talked about it and realized it’s pretty normal,” she remembers. Academic Support Center staff were also reassuring, particularly Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services. “Kelley was good to me,” says Chandra. “She shared how she felt when she left home for college and later realized it was all for the best.”

STP helped Chandra find her way around campus – and help her peers. “I was able to help other new students from Nepal find the Academic Support Center and other places on campus,” she says. She now encourages high school friends to apply to Castleton and participate in STP.

As Chandra threw herself into challenging coursework, she continued visiting Academic Support Center. Academic Counselor Becky Eno helped her register for classes and gave her pep talks when she doubted her ability to succeed at Castleton. Faced with writing assignments, she took her papers to the Writing Clinic. “Every semester, I think, oh, I’m going to fail these nursing courses,” she says. “But then I come to the Writing Clinic for help with writing and research.”

Today, it’s hard to believe Chandra ever wondered whether she could make it at Castleton. This semester, her mid-term GPA was a 4.00. Recently, she was awarded the Vermont Educational Opportunity Programs scholarship for overcoming significant obstacles to pursue her education. “Chandra has matured, become disciplined, and begun to see the world as a nurse, one who is responsible for the well-being of others,” says her advisor, Assistant Professor of Nursing Margaret Young. After graduation, Chandra plans a career in pediatric or geriatric nursing.

But despite Chandra’s accomplishments, some things haven’t changed. She still puts her family first, returning home almost every weekend to help her mother. “I read the mail my mom cannot read and pay the bills,” she says. Since her mother is often tired from working double shifts, Chandra gives her a break by cooking for the family and taking her teenage brother to sporting events.

Chandra hopes other students will learn from her story, particularly those who are reluctant to attend college because they fear homesickness or debt.   “Push yourself,” she says. “We all have doubts, but life will be better. Ask for help. And don’t be afraid of the financial stuff – there is aid available, including lots of scholarships at Castleton.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Finals Week: Survive, Thrive, and Celebrate!

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It hardly seems possible, but in just over two weeks, the semester will be over. Chances are, you’re excited about summer – and can’t wait until finals are behind you. After all, Exam Week means study sessions during which you cram for finals and churn out one capstone essay after another.

Being nervous about the semester’s end is normal. But staying up all night to review notes and finish assignments isn’t healthy or effective. When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain doesn’t work as well, so you don’t absorb as much information as you would if you were rested. You also make careless errors. (All of us at Academic Support teach, and we recognize the work you finish at 4 am. Trust us.)

But if you’re not staying up all night to get through Finals Week, how will you finish your work? Fortunately, you can sail through the end of the semester without losing your sleep or sanity. Here are some tips to keep you focused during exams:

1.) Start Early; Break It Up. Many people begin shopping for the holidays long before December 1st. You should start studying for exams well in advance of Finals Week. Review your notes and previous tests, if applicable, for 10-20 minutes each day. This way, the information will be fresh and firm in your mind. Also, divide writing assignments into manageable chunks. You might create an outline one day, write a rough draft the next day, and revise your essay the day after that.

2.) Prioritize. Yes, being a college student means juggling a lot of commitments: classes, activities, part-time work, a social life, and family. And the end of the semester, combined with the holidays, can amplify these obligations. That’s why now, more than ever, you need to remind yourself of why you’re here. Promise yourself you’ll enjoy an outing with friends – after you finish your sociology take-home exam.

3.) Take Care. Telling yourself you’ll be able to relax after Finals can propel you through a tough week. However, don’t save all of your treats for the holidays. Schedule short breaks during Exam Week to exercise, connect with friends or family, or simply curl up with a book or movie. Making room for fun keeps you healthy and motivated; it’s also a valuable time management skill.

4.) Be Grateful. Let’s face it: if you’re in a position to fret about finals, you’re a pretty lucky person. Lots of people, in the US and overseas, cannot access higher education. When the assignments multiply and stress piles up, take a deep breath. Remind yourself of how privileged you are to be able to study something you love and pursue the life you want.

Finals Week doesn’t have to mean sleepless nights, too much caffeine, and harried students. As the year draws to a close, use this time to reflect on how much you’ve learned and celebrate how far you’ve come.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Procrastination Station: How to Leave the Station and Get to Your Destination

We all procrastinate. With an endless mess of papers to write and exams to study for it can be especially difficult to get going. But it isn’t impossible. Here are a few tips to get your brain train back on track and out of the station.

1.) Make a done list of everything that you need to do. Write down everything you have to do whether you need to do laundry or write a paper for your english class. Write it all down. Now, you may be asking, “isn’t it supposed to be a to do list?” Let me explain. Anyone can write a to do list, but making a done list gives your list purpose and implies that, by the end of the day, some of the things on your list will be done.

2.) Now that you have your list, cross items off of it. Find an item or two on your list that isn’t urgent and cross it right out. I find that every time I make a done list, I write down every single thing that is on my mind. I even write down things that I don’t need to do right away that can be saved for later. When I cross those items off, my list becomes more manageable, and I have more time to work on the projects that actually matter.

3.) Start easy. Work on one of the less menacing tasks on your list first. By starting in on your work, even if it is only on the simpler assignments, you are making progress. Before you know it, you will be through a few items on your list and will be that much closer to relaxation.

4.) Take a break. Did you write your eight-page paper? Did you clean your room? Did you finish one of the bigger projects that you had on your list? If you have, reward yourself with a few minutes of break time. Get up and stretch, have a snack, or go for a short walk. Just be sure to set a timer for when you need to get back to work (and stick to it!).

Finally, keep in mind that not everything can be done in one day. Maybe you’ve tackled half of your list and need to save the rest for tomorrow. That’s okay. After all, the whole point of this process was only to get started, right? If you’re already on your way to completing your list, you’re on time (perhaps even ahead of schedule) and will be at your destination before you know it!

Good luck!

-Sarah Dunbar

Sarah Dunbar is a senior majoring in Multidisciplinary Studies at Castleton University

Stick to It: Time Management Tips from a Busy Single Mom and Full-time Student

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Ugh, I wish there were just one more hour in a day, or just one more day in a week?”

Being a single mom, working full time, AND going to school, I used to say this to myself at least once a day. One day, I woke up and thought, “It’s about time I make a change.”

I decided to head online and look up ways to better manage my time.

Three tips helped me manage my time and make sure I was able to get everything done that I needed to in a day. (And being a mom, I will admit this was not an easy task.)

First, Get a Planner! Yes, boys, I know you don’t particularly like using planners while many girls love to color coordinate and make their planners nice and pretty. But I will say this makes a world of a difference. Any time I have an assignment due, doctor’s appointment to attend, or play date to hold, it always goes in the planner.

Second, Make A Schedule. Make a schedule for the semester. In Excel, on paper, in your planner, whichever is easier. But make a schedule. Set aside designated time for homework, eating, working out, or napping.

Third, Stick to the Schedule. At first, I didn’t. I did all that work for nothing. But once the schedule becomes a habit, I can assure you that you will get the most out of your days and even have time left over to watch some Netflix.

With these simple, but effective tips, you should be on your way to better time management!

Allyson Bradley is a senior majoring in multidisciplinary studies at Castleton University. A self-employed nail technician, she has a two-year-old son, Hayden. 

Saving Money this Summer: Yes, It’s Possible!

 For many college students, summer means making money. They work long hours during their vacation to earn money for the academic year. However, summer brings temptations of its own, including the urge to spend! Fortunately, with a little planning, you can enjoy the summer without losing all your savings.

1.) Fun = Free or Almost Free. You don’t need to plan extravagant outings to create memories with your friends and family. Many towns offer free outdoor concerts, festivals, and theater performances during the summer; check out your local newspaper for information about upcoming events. In addition, you can hike or swim at local or state parks for little or nothing.

2.) There’s always a cheaper option. Lunch and breakfast are less pricey than dinner; picnics and potlucks are less expensive than eating out. Matinees are cheaper than evening movies, DVD rentals and Netflix are even less expensive, and your local library will allow you to borrow DVDs for free. There’s nothing wrong with the odd splurge, but make sure your “treats” are occasional and special – otherwise, they’re not splurges, but reckless spending.

3.) Think daytrips, not vacations. Check out destinations – amusement parks, nature trails, museums, and events – within a four-hour drive of your home. If you don’t have to stay overnight, you’ll save money on meals and hotel fare.

4.) Keep it separated. Most adults have a checking account, which they use to pay their bills, and a savings account, which constitutes their savings. If you haven’t opened a savings account, now is the time. Allocate a certain amount of money to your savings account every pay period. You’ll be less likely to spend the money if it’s separate from the rest of your income.

5.) Do your financial aid homework. Even if you’re working a lot, you probably have extra time on your hands during the summer. Use some of it to research scholarship options for the next academic year. Check out Fastweb, College Board, and org to research scholarships. You may have to spend hours filling out applications and writing essays. Regard this the way you would any other job: something you have to do to earn money.

6.) Stay focused. Remind yourself of why you’re in college and what you hope to be one day. Saving money in the present will be much easier if you remember the future you want. While you’re at it, start taking steps toward your goal. You’ve probably heard about how crucial internships are for recent graduates. If you don’t have an internship lined up for this summer, use your downtime to research internship opportunities for the academic year or following summer. You might also request informational interviews with people who are working in your field.

Summer doesn’t have to mean having to choose between work and pleasure. With some mindfulness, you can a fun and frugal, relaxing and inspiring season that prepares you for the next academic year and the career you want.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

5 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues & Make the Spring Semester a Little Easier.

Winter in Vermont is so beautiful. The mountains are covered in snow, and the trees bend beautifully with its heavy weight. It’s a season we look forward to. We break out the cozy sweaters, sip hot chocolate, and listen to Christmas music. But once the holidays are over, we feel winter will never end.

In most states, winter will last an average of three months. Then spring arrives, and everything is fresh and new again. However, here in Vermont, we tend to skip spring altogether and get bombarded with six months of winter. During these long and dark months, we tend to fall into a rut. Our grades being to slip, we put minimal effort into our appearance, all we want to do is sleep, and we fear we won’t make it to spring. As someone who has lived in Vermont for over ten years, I fully understand winter’s gloomy affects. So I have compiled a few tips and tricks that have helped me beat the winter blues and stay on top of my homework during the spring semester.

Exercise

Your health is your wealth, so take care of your body by moving a little every day. Whether that’s going for a walk, hiking, doing a mini workout in your dorm, or having a full-on sweat session at the gym, make sure to move your body for at least thirty minutes each day. If you can, do some of your workouts outside. I know it’s cold, but try going for a run. Anything involving fresh air and movement will help tremendously, and getting the blood flowing will help you de-stress, focus, and sleep better.

Sleep!

This is probably one of the most important tips out there, but making sure you get enough sleep every night will do wonders for your overall well-being. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before, but getting enough sleep is so important for your physical and mental health. A study done by experts at Stanford University suggests that college students need at least 8 of sleep every night. I understand that this can be difficult when trying to balance school, sports, homework, work and a social life, but at least try to squeeze in an hour nap here and there. Your body, mind, and grades will thank you.

Take Your Vitamins

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is important to add to your daily routine. Vitamin D is produced by the body as a response to sun exposure; however, during these winter months, we don’t typically see much sun so adding in the vitamin D will definitely increase your mood. It is also known to help reduce the risk of the flu, which has been running rampant as of late. So to avoid getting sick and stressing your body, definitely throw this into your daily routine, and you will be ready to get that assignment done that has been staring at you for three weeks.

 Try Not to Procrastinate

I’m laughing as I type this because I am the Princess of Procrastination. I will put things off until the very last minute and then stress, get mad at myself, and then put it off some more. Moral of the story, don’t be like me. School can wear you out. I get wanting to come home, sit on the couch for 6 hours, and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy, but putting off your schoolwork is going to cut into that precious snooze time we all need. Set up a schedule for yourself, laying out everything you need to get done and the dates your assignments are due. This will help you stay on top of your work and also allow you time to sit around and watch Netflix in your PJs all day.

Do Something for Yourself and Make Time for Friends

Despite our busy schedules, it is so important to take the time to do something with your friends or even just by yourself. After a long week, I know all I want to do is sit on the couch and do nothing, which is totally okay! But make sure you make time for friends, too, because they will encourage you to have a little fun and forget about the stresses from the week before. Also, plan something fun for the week, whether it’s promising a lunch date to yourself, a trip to Target (because everyone loves Target), or a coffee with a friend. This will give you something to look forward to and will keep you going until that special day arrives.

The winter can be a drag, and unfortunately we can’t completely escape the winter blues. But adding any of these tips to your daily life should help. Let’s face it: there won’t be that “one thing” that solves all of our winter problems, but adding in some of these tips regularly should help make those cold, dark days a little better.

Jessica Penwarden is a junior majoring in multidisciplinary studies at Castleton University.

 

No Time for Worries: Why You Shouldn’t Waste Time Building Confidence

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What would you do if you had more confidence? Change your major? Apply for that internship at the company where you’ve always wanted to work? Let yourself pursue the dream you won’t admit even to yourself?

Now you’re shaking your head. For one thing, you just don’t have what it takes – the aptitude, background, or money – to reach that mythical place. Second, you lack the confidence to take that leap. You’d have to work on building your confidence before you could go beyond googling “wildlife conservation volunteer in Patagonia” or “internship at Disney studios” – if you ventured that far. After all, there’s no point in hoping for what’s out of reach.

There’s no question about it: building confidence is hard: far more challenging than increasing your muscle mass or improving your calculus grade. That’s why I want you to stop worrying about your confidence levels. Forget about them. Yes, surround yourself with inspiring quotes and murmur heartening mantras if they make you feel good. But don’t try to fix your insecurities. Don’t indulge them: just ignore them.

Instead, I want you to do what you would do if you had more confidence.

That means applying for that internship at the magazine in New York. That means pursuing medical school if you dream of a career in medicine. That means approaching someone at a graduate school or company for an informational interview. That means contacting the art gallery about showing your work.

What it doesn’t mean is ignoring your shortcomings. You may need to take more classes, gain more experience, or improve your craft before you start law school, land that coveted position in advertising, or publish your work. Effective people aren’t delusional about their background or talents. What differentiates them from less successful people is their approach to their goals. They assess their abilities honestly, consider how they could increase their chance of success, and then act accordingly.

For example, an old friend earned a bachelor’s degree in photography. For several years, she supported herself as a newspaper and freelance photographer. Later, she became interested in health care. At that point, she wasn’t qualified to get a job in the field. Nor was she ready to apply to graduate programs in health care. However, she researched graduate programs, took prerequisite courses, earned excellent grades, and volunteered at her local hospital. She gained admission to physician’s assistant program. She graduated and is doing splendidly. My friend recognized switching careers would be tough, but she identified what she had to do and took steps toward her dream.

And these lessons don’t just pertain to the classroom and career. Try applying them to your personal life as well. Would you hang around with your current group of friends if you had more confidence? If you were happier with yourself, would you stay with your significant other? Plenty of people remain in relationships they find stifling, dissatisfying, or even abusive because they’re convinced they couldn’t do better for themselves. Don’t wait until you’re more secure to make new friends or break up with that person: take care of yourself now.

At first, faking confidence will be difficult. Any hint of rejection may set you back. But ignore those discouraging voices in your head and keep going with your job hunt, graduate school search, or other efforts. Soon, you’ll find yourself more oblivious to your insecurities: at times, they may even disappear completely. From time to time, they’ll resurface, and that’s okay. Doubt is part of the human condition. But this time you’ll know how to handle your doubts – and you’ll be able to live your best life in spite of them.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

Grad School: Should You Go?

students-reading-in-libraryMaybe you’ve been thinking about it since you started college. Maybe you’ll need an advanced degree to enter your field. Maybe you’re a senior, and you’re wondering what comes next.

At some point during your time at Castleton, you’ve probably considered graduate school.

A graduate degree can help you advance in a particular career or even enter a new field. In a master’s or doctoral program, you will learn from experts in your field and conduct research in your area of interest. Armed with your new credential, you will enter the job market ready to command a higher salary.

So graduate school is a great idea. Except when it isn’t.

There are two good reasons to pursue graduate school:

1.) You have a passionate desire to conduct research in a very specific area of your discipline: for example, you may want to explore a particular author’s work or the lifecycle of a species of grasshopper.

2.) You are committed to entering a profession or advancing in it.

However, students often pursue graduate school for the wrong reasons. Here are some:

1.) “I don’t know what to do next.”

2.) “My dad wants me to become a doctor, lawyer, physical therapist, or MBA.”

3.) “I’ve always done well in school, I love learning, and I really don’t know what to do next.”

4.) “The economy isn’t good. If I’m in school, I won’t have to get a job for a couple more years.”

Yes, job-hunting is scary. Yes, parental pressure can be overwhelming. Yes, having the opportunity to learn is among the greatest privileges we enjoy. But graduate school demands even more focus and commitment than an undergraduate program. It’s not enough to love history: you must have intense interest in a certain period, enough to write 20,000 or even 100,000 words about that topic.
And do you really want to spend two, four, or six years of your life and maybe go into debt to pursue something that doesn’t excite you?

If you’ve decided graduate school is right for you, support is available on campus. Your professors can offer insight about programs in your field. All of us at Academic Support and Career Services are also happy to help you with the application process. We’ll even explain how you can further your education without accumulating more debt.

If you’re worried about what comes next, schedule an appointment with Career Services. Renée Beaupre-White, Director of Career Services, will be happy to discuss your options and help you fine-tune your resume. And your choices aren’t limited to work or further education: you can explore internships or volunteer opportunities. These experiences can increase your chances of obtaining a paid position. They also provide something even more valuable: clarity about what you do want to do with your life. Who knows? After a year or two or ten, you may be ready to apply to graduate school.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Testing: One, Two, Three, Breathe

Ever since you can remember, you knew you wanted to be a teacher. You simply can’t envision yourself in any other career. But before you can start teaching, you have to pass PRAXIS I and II, and you hate standardized tests. Although you were a strong student in high school, your SAT scores were on the lower end of mediocre. You just don’t test well: you freeze and forget everything you know about grammar and geometry. People keep telling you not to worry, but so much depends on this test: your career, your livelihood, and your happiness.

Like it or not, standardized tests are a fact of American life. To enter graduate school or certain professions, you may have to take one: the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, PRAXIS, or a licensing exam. Many students find these timed exams intimidating. They dislike working under pressure, and they believe their entire future hangs upon their performance on the test.

Fortunately, you can improve your performance on standardized tests – even if you suffer from test anxiety. Follow this formula for success and peace of mind:

1.) Start Early. By early, we mean weeks, even months, in advance. The sooner you begin studying, the more prepared and more confident you’ll be on test day. This might mean scheduling your test months in advance. (Usually, you can do this online.)

2.) Practice, Practice, Practice. No, practice doesn’t always make a perfect score, but it can help you achieve a higher one. Take an up-to-date practice test long before your testing date. (You should be able to find one at Academic Support, Career Services, the library, your academic department, or on the test’s website.) Find a quiet place to work, and give yourself the same amount of time you would have on test day. Afterward, when you score your practice test, you’ll have a better idea of the concepts and skills you’ll need to review before the real exam.

3.) Focus Your Study Sessions. Concentrate on the content that’s most challenging to you. For example, if writing is your strong suit, you may not need to review grammar and vocabulary before you take the GRE or PRAXIS. However, if you’ve forgotten all the algebra you’ve ever learned, you may want to spend some time brushing up on it before the test.

4.) Get Help. Don’t suffer in silence. If you are having trouble preparing for a test, stop by Academic Support in Babcock. Whether you need help with math, want to practice writing timed essays, or simply get some study tips, we can help. Your professors may also be able to give you test-specific advice.

5.) Take Care of Yourself. That means pacing yourself in study sessions, getting enough sleep the night before the exam, and eating balanced meals on test day. If you’re sleep deprived or your blood sugar is low, you won’t do your best work.

6.) Take a Deep Breath. Yes, the test looms large, and yes, you want to do as well as possible. But the worst case scenario isn’t the end of your dreams: if you don’t do as well as you’d like on the test, you can take it again. Graduate schools only pay attention to your highest score.

7.) Reward Yourself. Give yourself something to look forward to after the test: a nice lunch, a favorite movie, an outing with a friend or family member. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve a treat. This strategy can also help reduce anxiety about the test as it reminds you that life goes on – even after the dreaded exam!

Although you may not enjoy standardized tests, following these steps can make them much less daunting. The same skills that help you succeed in the classroom – time management, planning, self-care – can also boost your scores. The test looming in your future is just one step on the path to the life you want.

-Dorothy A. Dahm