Get Experience, Get Ahead: Why You Need an Internship

You’re probably in college because you want a career after graduation. But to find a position, you need relevant experience – and how do you get experience if you haven’t had a job in your field?

You get an internship, of course. Internships allow you to learn about a particular industry, develop new skills, gain real-world experience, and explore possible career paths. Often, college students can earn academic credit for internships. Recent graduates with at least one internship under their belt increase their chances of obtaining full-time employment: “Employers are much more likely to interview and hire those with work-related experience,” says Renée Beaupre-White, Director of Career Services at Castleton University.

So if internships are so valuable, how do you get one? Here are some tips to help you find the right opportunity for you:

1. ) Start Looking. To learn about opportunities, meet with Jessica Duncan, Director of Experiential Learning and Workplace Readiness. Once she learns about your major, interests, and career goals, she can suggest possible sites. You should also talk to your professors, family, and friends. Once they know you are looking for a job or internships, they may be able to connect you with people at various organizations. Finally, be sure to visit the Job and Graduate School Fair on March 24th in Glenbrook Gymnasium.

2. ) Aim High. Have your heart set on a particular company or organization? “Go for it!” Renée advises. She advises calling the organization to find out to whom you should send your résumé and cover letter.

Do know, however, that while most internships are unpaid, many come with a price tag. You may have to pay for housing, food, and transportation while you gain experience with that trendy advertising agency or cool not-for-profit. Still, Renée advises students to pursue these opportunities. “Sometimes, it means working a part-time job at night so you can afford to have that internship,” she says. “It it will be worth it in the end.” Renée also helps students make their dreams reality. She recalls a student who landed a coveted internship at Ms. Magazine, but feared she wouldn’t be able to afford living in Los Angeles. Renée found a graduate of the college who was happy to let the student sleep on her coach for duration of the internship. “Alumni generally want to help,” says Renée.

3.) Apply Early. Early birds really do get the worm! Renée recommends applying for summer internships between January and April – the earlier the better, especially for competitive organizations. Looking for an internship during the academic year? Apply six to eight weeks prior to the start of the semester.

4.) Be Professional. Work with Renée to perfect your résumé and cover letter and proofread them carefully: careless typos could stand between you and the opportunity of a lifetime! She can also help you prepare for interviews and format professional e-mails. After you’ve submitted your application, follow up with the organization to indicate your strong interest in the position. “Be persistent, but professional,” advises Renée. “If the company’s website says no phone calls, then don’t call. Be sure to follow the parameters.”

So you spend hours perfecting your résumé and cover letter, exploring possible internships, and practicing for interviews.  When you finally land an internship, you may feel like celebrating – and you should. But it’s important to remember that being an intern is like having an extended interview. Here’s how you can make a good impression on your internship supervisors:

1.) Stay Professional. “Speak properly to your supervisor and the team: do not use swear words, slang, or gossip,” says Dilan Clements. A December 2016 graduate of Castleton University, Dilan did her internship at Dartmouth’s Weight and Wellness Center. “And just as you dressed nicely for the interview, you should continue to dress appropriate for the position once the internship begins,” she adds. “It’s important to remain professional and businesslike for the duration of the internship.”

2.) Be Flexible – and Expect Challenges. Agree to help with projects and tasks even if they were not part of your initial job description. That includes making photocopies and coffee. “Say yes to everything as no will never move you,” stresses Rénee.  Also, anticipate that you may receive less structure and oversight than you have been accustomed to you in your college classes. Dilan recalls her supervisor asking her to create handouts, but providing little context aside from the topic. She had to research the subject, pull out relevant information, and determine the handout’s structure and layout herself. “In college, projects and assignments are broken down step by step,” says Dilan. “This was a great opportunity for me because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to plan and conduct research on my own.”

3.) Network and Learn. “Treat your internship like your first professional job,” says Renée.” Know that the people you meet through your internship can teach you a lot about the organization and the field.: “Ask as many questions as you need to you,” adds Dilan. “The professionals at your internship are there to help you and teach you.” Connections you make during your internship can also help you find employment after graduation. And in some cases, internships lead directly to offers of paid employment. At the end of January, Dilan will start work as a clinical scribe at Dartmouth’s Department of Plastic Surgery. She looks forward to working with “a friendly, knowledgeable, and prestigious group of professionals” and to increasing her knowledge of the health care field.

Jessica, Renée, and Dilan encourage current Castleton students to do at least one internship during their undergraduate years. “Just do it!” advises Rnee. “You’ll gain valuable experience in your field, make connections, have greater career confidence, and just might land a job.”

Dilan urges students to take advantage of Rénee’s warmth and expertise. “I truly believe I would not have gotten the internship without Renée’s help,” she says. “She supported and encouraged me through every step.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

All the Right Notes: TRIO Star Ethan Camperon-Vaupel

When Ethan Cameron-Vaupel first arrived at Castleton, he found college a little daunting. Like most first-years, he had to balance his studies and social life. But unlike many of his peers, Ethan had a learning disability. “I have to read a passage two to four times to figure out what it’s telling me,” he explains. “It takes a while for things to marinate.”

Fortunately, Ethan quickly developed connections at Castleton. Through Summer Transition, a weeklong program for new students, Ethan met other first-years and Academic Support Center (ASC) staff before the fall semester began. The ASC quickly became Ethan’s home base. He met with Math and Writing Clinic tutors when necessary, and Becky Eno, the academic counselor, helped him explore financial aid options. Ethan is grateful for the support he received at the ASC. “Everyone there knows me and wants me to succeed,” Ethan says. “It’s the one part of campus that is with you all the way.”

All that encouragement, coupled with Ethan’s own determination, worked. As Ethan’s confidence grew, he threw himself into campus life. The music minor sang bass with the Castleton Chamber Singers, the University Chorale, and Vocal Unrest, Castleton’s acapella group. To gain leadership skills, he joined the university’s chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and served as Vocal Unrest’s president for two years. He played tennis, even ascending to team captain his junior year. Despite his initial qualms, he also succeeded in the classroom: Ethan has made the Dean’s list a few times during his academic career.

Loving college life, Ethan wanted other students to enjoy the same opportunities he did. For that reason, he became a Summer Transition and TRIO Texting mentor. Again, Ethan sought additional challenges, serving as Lead Summer Transition Mentor his junior and senior year. As a mentor, Ethan strives to be personal and inclusive. “I try to become friends with someone before I mentor them,” he says. “I want everyone to feel important and cared for.”

ASC staff praise Ethan’s warmth and enthusiasm. “Ethan is exceptionally energetic and positive,” says Gerry Volpe, Coordinator of Disability Services. “He is able to drive excitement and investment in students.” Because of his excellent record, Ethan was hired as a TRIO Program Assistant in Fall 2019. In this role, he met with students and collaborated with Volpe to develop student programming.

Today, Ethan is student teaching at Poultney Elementary School. After graduation in May, he plans to teach elementary school, ideally second grade. Although he eventually hopes to settle in his native Vermont, he would like to work in Massachusetts or Colorado first. He believes his mentoring experience will make him a more empathic teacher. “It’s given me a greater appreciation for diversity, including neurodiversity,” he says. “It makes me a heck of a lot more patient in the classroom.”

Recalling his own challenges, Ethan hopes other college students will persist through theirs. “Push!” he advises. “Do not give up no matter what happens. Once you’re shaking hands with the president of the university and receiving your diploma, it will all be worth it.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

Ball’s in Your Court: Tips from a Busy Student-Athlete

Student athlete. There is a lot of responsibility within those two simple words, and it can be hard to balance it all.

All student athletes have a full class load, spending a good portion of their day in the classroom. Then there is practice, games, or team workouts followed by homework and studying. That is a full day all by itself, and that does not include going to the dining hall or spending time with friends.

Incorporating all of these activities into each week can be hard, yet rewarding when you look back on your college years.

You may be thinking, how do you accomplish all of this?

Time management is the most important skill that any student can possess, but, for student athletes, it is the key to success.

Establish what you have going on during the week. Putting each activity on a calendar or in a planer is the best way to keep yourself organized.

Start with activities that are at a specific time such as classes, practices, games, or team workouts, etc. These are times that you are already committed to doing something; therefore, anything added after has to work around these events.

After your time-specific activities, add in homework due dates and any quizzes or tests for the week. By doing this, you will have a visual of what you have to accomplish throughout the week. From there, you can easily find the times that are available for either doing homework or studying.

Once you have an idea of when you can get all your work done, it will be clear as to when you have free time to go and support other student athletes, participate in campus activities, or hang out with friends.

We have all heard someone say that as a student athlete you are a student before you are an athlete. This is true since you have to maintain certain grades in order to participate in sports at the colligate level. If this is something that you find yourself struggling with, there are several ways to get yourself on track.

Talk to your teammates. Chances are, one of your teammates has taken the class you need help in and would be more than willing to assist you. For some students, they feel more comfortable talking to a teammate that they know well as opposed to a tutor. If they are a good teammate, they will find a way to help you succeed.

The Academic Support Center is also a great place to get help or to study. Just about every course has a tutor who can be found through the Academic Support Center. The tutors are eager to help students. Going in with a positive attitude will increase your chances of gaining knowledge from the session, so make the most of it!

Get together with a group of classmates. Together, you will help clarify any missing information or get different explanations, which may increase your understanding of the material.

Meet with your teacher or coach. They can help you come up with a plan to improve your academic success.

Learn from your experiences. If you do poorly on a test, use that to gauge what you have not grasped fully and find a way to learn the material. The points made above will help you with this. Maybe you need to start studying sooner or find a new way of studying.

Balancing all of the activities that you have going on can be difficult, but there are ways to ensure that you accomplish it all. When you look back on your college experience, you will feel proud of your performance in the classroom and on the field. Just remember to keep yourself organized and use the resources available to you.

 -Makenna Thorne is a sophomore majoring in Business Marketing at Castleton University. An outfielder for Castleton’s Women’s Softball, she also finds time to work in the Academic Support Center’s Writing Clinic.

 

Really Free Money: Strategies for Scholarships

If you’re like most college students, your financial aid package is a mixture of loans, grants, work study, and scholarships. And if you’re like many of your peers, you may be pretty vague about the details of your package. No question about it, college financing is confusing; that’s why colleges and universities employ experienced professionals to staff their financial aid offices.

But even if you avoid financial details, here’s one principle you need to remember: you want to borrow as little money as possible. You’ll have to pay back loans, whereas you won’t have to pay back scholarships and grants. Therefore, you want to apply for as many scholarships and grants you can.

Unfortunately, many students don’t bother applying for scholarships. Often, they assume they won’t qualify; sometimes, they think the application process isn’t worth the award. Above all, they’re simply unaware of the breadth of scholarships available. The fact is, if you’re a college student in decent academic standing, you qualify for scholarships! Here are some tips to maximize your scholarship earnings:

Get Creative – and Confident. Devote time to researching possible scholarships. There are scholarships for academic excellence, of course, but also for students from certain backgrounds or geographic areas, cancer survivors or their family members, and individuals with specific career goals or interests. Start by applying for the Returning Student Scholarship at Castleton (due March 9th). Next, look at resources in your community: businesses and service clubs, such as the Rotary or Lions Club, often offer scholarships. VSAC maintains a database of scholarships for Vermont residents. Finally, check out Fastweb, College Board, and Finaid.org to search for scholarships. On Fastweb and other sites, you may have to spend some time filling out questionnaires to be matched with scholarships; however, your effort could be worth hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars.

Get Organized. Make checklist of all of the items you’ll need – essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc. – to apply for each scholarship. (You’re applying for than one, naturally.) Include the scholarship’s deadline at the top of the checklist. You may even want to maintain a folder for each application.

Get Deadlines. Remember: the deadline is the absolute latest date you can apply. Play it safe, and make sure your application materials are ready at least a week in advance.

Get Help. If you have any questions about any aspect of your scholarships applications, check in with a faculty member or any of the counselors at Academic Support. We can also assist you with scholarship essays. Whether you need help getting started or want someone to review your draft, you can visit the Writing Clinic or schedule an appointment with Bill Wiles, our Writing Specialist. Call 468-1347 or stop by to schedule an appointment.

Like college itself, applying for scholarships takes time, effort, and organization. Expect to devote several hours to each scholarship application. Although you may prefer to use your free time to relax or socialize, think of your scholarship search as a part-time job: one that will help you on your journey to your ultimate goal. Now, that’s exciting!

Good luck and don’t forget to stop by with questions!

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Future Selves: A New Approach to Time Management

When you hear the words “time management,” what leaps to mind? The most productive person you know? Everything you have to accomplish in a given day or week? Your weekly planner?

You already know time management is necessary for academic and professional success; you may even use a planner or planning app to keep track of your commitments and deadlines. But for a few minutes, I want you to stop thinking of what you want to do, what you have to do, and how you can fit all of them into a 168-hour week. Yes, you should download – and complete – a weekly schedule. However, instead of reviewing your current responsibilities, take some time to ponder the future. So take a deep breath, relax, and let your imagination wander.

First, ask yourself who you’d like to be a week from now. I know: it’s not very far in the future. But maybe you’d like to be a more confident, active, or upbeat version of yourself. Imagine that person going about his or her life. Then consider what that student’s schedule might look like.

Second, imagine yourself five years from now. Where are you living? Are you in your first post-college job? In graduate school? What do you do in your free time? Flesh out this character you’ve created: give yourself the social life, relationships, and hobbies you long to have. Don’t edit your dreams; let them evolve without judgement.

Next, envision the person you want to be in ten years. Where are you? What are you doing for a living? What do you like to do in your spare time, and with whom do you spend it?

Finally, make a list of things that are important to you: your highest ambitions, the most crucial relationships, your most deeply held beliefs. Don’t judge or rank them – just jot them down.

Now, come back to the present.

Think about the future selves you’ve imagined. Then consider your current schedule. Is your current time management plan likely to help you become that person? What might you do now to make that dream become reality? In some cases, this means actively doing something. For example, if you are interested in public relations, you should be applying for internships in that field. In others, you may need to reevaluate the time you spend in certain activities. There’s nothing wrong, for instance, with playing videos games to unwind or have fun with friends. But if you’re spending whole days enthrall to a game instead of immersing yourself in classes, clubs, or internships, you might have a harder time landing that position in management.

While you’re at it, look at your list of priorities. Then assess whether your current schedule reflects those values. If you’re like most people, you’ll say family is important to you. But how often do you take the time to get in touch with your grandma? Maybe you want to make a difference in your community, country, or world. What are you doing about that desire?

When you do this exercise, you may find a gap between your future selves and your current schedule, between your ideals and your daily grind. That’s normal for people of all ages. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, make small changes to ensure you’re spending your time on the aspirations, people, and principles that mean the most to you. Effective time management isn’t just doing a lot with your time; it’s making sure you’re living your most fulfilling life.

-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 graduated from Castleton University with a BA in Multidisciplinary Studies in 2019. 

 

The Post-Transfer Blues: Adjusting, Settling, and Thriving

Starting new things can be scary.

Even students who are excited to start college will likely report that some things scared them—and that’s when they start as a freshman in the Fall with everyone else.

Switching schools can offer a whole new set of frightening experiences. Starting new in the Spring means everything is new to you even when it isn’t to your classmates.

As someone who has made this transition, I know how overwhelming this can seem. But don’t fret! There’s no reason your transition has to go poorly.

Don’t Hide. If you’re anything like me, your first response to finding yourself in a strange new circumstance is to do as little as you can. It can be very tempting to move only from your lectures to the dining hall, and back to the inviting cave of your blankets, stuffed animals and laptop. This is a bad idea – and I speak from experience. Hiding in your room won’t help you feel more comfortable in your new school.

Try talking to people. Maybe sit in the library, or a public lounge, or the common room in your suite instead of your bed. Try leaving your door open. It’s okay if you don’t feel like going to supper every time your suitemates invite you, but you shouldn’t turn them down every time either. Chances are they’re really nice and want to help you settle in. Let them help you.

Get Involved. Okay, I get it, your Intro to Psych class may not be the best place to meet people with shared interests. But there are other ways to make friends. Castleton has many clubs; check out the list and see if any of them might be fun. If you’ve already found a couple of people who’d like to have a Quidditch team, but you want to find a whole bunch more, you can see about starting your own club. (If anyone wants to start a Quidditch team, let me know).

Getting active through community service can also be a great way to meet people and accomplish something good!

Go Home, But Also Don’t Go Home. If being closer to home was one of the reasons why you chose to come to Castleton, then you should take advantage of it! If it’s 2pm on a Friday, you’re done with class, and home is within a couple hours, go for it. Leaving school, especially in your own car, can make a world of difference in reminding you that you’re not actually trapped.
The flip side is that going home too much won’t help you. It’ll make school seem even more foreign, cut down on your chances to make friends, and probably only make you feel more homesick. If you find some way to cheat and go home three nights in one week, you’ll only find it more depressing the next week when you can’t swing it.

Don’t Sweat it. At first it may feel like you’ve come to an alien planet where no one is interested in anything that you like, and no one likes you. When you start to feel this way, do something to remind yourself that your entire life isn’t based on this place. Decide to stop worrying about it. Relax.

Once you stop worrying, you will find that suddenly you don’t feel like such an outsider. You probably won’t notice it happening, but before you know it you’ll have places you like to sit, an inspiring professor, and a great group of friends to study, commiserate, and hang out with.

-Amber Clark

Amber Clark is a former transfer student and a recent graduate of Castleton University.

Exams, Holidays, Then What?

In a few days, it will all 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 break. 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 semester gives you a clean slate. No matter what happened this fall – 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 overcame what you thought was incurable shyness or conquered your fear of public speaking. Perhaps you discovered a love for ceramics, sociology, or chemistry. In any case, you learned something about your strengths and interests.

Second, you need to 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 procrastinated about my math homework, so it became more difficult that it should have been” or “I let breaking up with my boyfriend 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 accounting is not the right major or 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.

Happy Holidays and Happy Break! We’re already looking forward to seeing you next year.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

Finals Week: Survive, Thrive, and Celebrate!

It hardly seems possible, but in just eleven days, the semester will be over. Chances are, you’re excited about break – 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

Tis the Season to Be Saving: Financial Tips for Break and the Holidays

For many students, college life means being broke – and this is especially true around the holidays and winter break. With gift shopping, holiday parties, and outings with friends, the pressure to spend money can leave students feeling less than festive. What should be a time of joy and relaxation becomes a burden.

Fortunately, it is possible to save money and enjoy the holidays. Here are some tips to help you stay in good financial health over vacation.

1.) Think Modest. You’re a full-time college student. No one expects you to give extravagant gifts. Give small, thoughtful presents, go homemade (baked goods are always a hit), or consider limiting your gift list. Some families do a Yankee Swap; others pull names from hat and select a present for the person whose name they pulled. Be honest about your financial situation with your loved ones. You even might ask siblings, friends, and extended family to take a break from gift-giving this year. They may be glad you suggested this!

2.) Check Your List – Twice! If family members ask what you want for the holidays, think about your needs. Do you have enough clothing to last you through the next year? Socks? Do you need help buying books or school supplies for next semester? Could you use a gas card or points for your meal plan? Don’t be afraid to ask for necessities: most loved ones will be happy to help you pursue your goals. If you receive money, save it or earmark it for next semester’s expenses.

3.) Be Selective. During break, you may be tempted to spend money on entertainment, including movie tickets, restaurant meals, concerts, and nightclubs. Of course, you want to have fun with friends, but you don’t want to lose your savings. Limit your outings, or plan less expensive ones. Consider going to a matinee – or staying home and watching DVDs with popcorn. Check your local newspaper and see what free events are going on in your hometown. Clip coupons for your favorite chain restaurant. (Sunday newspapers usually include them.) Can’t afford that lift ticket? Try bundling up and taking a walk in the snow.

4.) Treat Yourself. Maybe you really want that concert ticket, dress, or season pass. It may even be worth it. But before you open your wallet, think about what that splurge might mean. Will seeing your favorite band live be worth a few months of being broke? Will you have opportunities to wear that dress? How often will you be able to get to the mountain this winter? It’s normal to want to reward yourself for hard work, but a smaller treat, whether it’s a book, garment, or a trip to your favorite café, might make you just as happy.

As the year and the semester draw to a close, think about your financial goals for the year ahead. How can you save money and reduce your debt? This sounds like a grim process, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, the more money you save in college, the less debt you’ll have after graduation. Think of being frugal as preparing for the future – just one more step on your journey to the life you want.

– Dorothy A. Dahm