Archive for the ‘College Life’ Category

The Ultimate Guide to Letters of Recommendation: Who to Ask and How to Do It

Letters of recommendation. The elusive cousin of resumes and cover letters. While they’re not always invited to the party, they are generally welcomed as a nice surprise when they show up. They convey—possibly more than anything else—your work ethic. It’s important that your recommendation letters evolve as you take each new step in your academic and professional career.

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Who to Ask

HIGH SCHOOL

Letters of recommendation are required for many college and scholarship applications and many volunteering opportunities. Think about the position or institution you are applying for and select letter writers that know your character and skillset the best. Some of those people may include:

  • Teacher: A teacher you’ve had at least a class or two with will be able to speak to your general work ethic, personality, determination, and willingness to go the extra mile. They are a good person to ask to write about your history of academic achievements.
  • Volunteering coordinator: Do you have previous experience volunteering? If you worked closely with a supervisor or volunteer coordinator during your experience, they would be a perfect candidate to write about your willingness to help and your dedication to a specific community.
  • Employer: Juggling a part-time job with school, extra-curricular activities, and volunteering says a lot about your ability to balance multiple things at once. Your employer will be able to talk about your punctuality, your enthusiasm to succeed, and how well you work with a team.

COLLEGE

Recommendation letters are going to be important for three main things: internships, graduate programs, and your first out-of-school job. Even if a letter of recommendation isn’t specifically asked for, it is not a bad idea to have a few written up on your behalf to bring them with you to interviews. Not only does it show that you are a person worth vouching for, but it shows that you are willing to go the extra mile.

  • Academic advisor: Most colleges require each student to have an academic advisor. This is someone that should know your academic history as well as your passion for your field. Encourage them to write about your thirst for knowledge and excitement learn new things.
  • Internship supervisor: A supervisor from a previous internship is the best person to recommend you for your next internship. If you implemented any changes or created a project during your internship, ask your supervisor to mention that process and how it helped their business.
  • Mentor: If you’ve found a mentor in college, you should absolutely ask them to write you a letter of recommendation. Depending on your relationship, this is someone who will know what kind of work and activities you’ve been involved in, what you want to do in the future, and who can speak to what you’re capable of—chances are it’s a lot!

How to Ask

Writing a good letter of recommendation is no easy task. Once you decide who you want to ask, you need to take into account their schedule, how well they know you, and what they are best suited to write about. Follow these tips for a smooth process.

  • Be courteous: Writing one of these letters takes time. Make sure you ask if they’d be willing to write the letter at least a month before you need it. This gives plenty of time for them to come back to you with questions and work through multiple drafts. It also gives you time to find someone new if for some reason they say no or have to back out. It is your responsibility to let them know upfront of any deadlines or special requirements for the letter.
  • Be helpful: In order to write a great letter, your references will need details. Make sure to supply letter writers with a copy of your resume and cover letter, as well as the position description if the letter is going to be for something specific. You should let your writer know if you want them to mention specific pieces of information. It’s important to let them feel free to write their true opinions, but it’s never a bad thing to tell them why you are asking them to write the letter and what you think they can best speak about. Think of this as an opportunity to have someone else talk about things you couldn’t fit in your resume.
  • Be thankful: The process isn’t over when they hand you their letter. Make sure to look it over (unless it’s required to be sealed) and verify that it’s relevant and what you need for your application. After you’ve sent it off, be sure to thank your writer. An old fashioned thank you note is the best way to go, and mention how much it meant to you that they were willing to vouch for you and help you achieve your goals.

Whether you’re applying for a scholarship, a new job, a graduate program, or you just want something to supplement your resume, a strong letter of recommendation can set you apart from other applicants. Not only does it show your ability to build and maintain working relationships, a well-written letter gives potential employers, colleges, and scholarship providers an idea of your past achievements and work-ethic. To ensure a useful and relevant letter, ask someone who has a history of working with or advising you to write a recommendation. Provide the writer with examples of your work, an updated resume, and a brief description of the position or organization you are applying to.


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Holly King is a recently graduated writer living in Salt Lake City, UT. When not scouring the internet for updates in business, lifestyles, and technology, she is tending to her garden and trying to perfect the world’s best egg sandwich.
 
 

image credit: colorado.edu

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5 Easy Mental Hacks that Instantly Boost Your Productivity

productivityIn the pursuit of being successful and making dreams come true, productivity is the lifeblood. In the age of social media and the 24-7 digital distraction machine, productivity is a big issue with even the most ambitious students. How do you get past the urge to procrastinate? Most of us love to laugh at videos on YouTube, chat it up on Facebook, or simply daydream about not having to do what’s necessary, but before you know it, 40 minutes have passed and you’re doing anything but the task you set out to do. With technology continuing to offer more and more interesting means of instant gratification, what can we possibly do to drop those distractions and maintain focus and productivity?

There are many great ways to boost your productivity, but we’ve put together a list of the five best ways to give you impenetrable momentum and powerful focus that will help you plow through even the stickiest and most mundane tasks.

1. Listen to Background Music

Some music simply sets the mood for getting things done. In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Miami, found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood. Listening to music during your times of serious work and focus can make a notable difference. You might be tempted to play your favorite tunes, but for this purpose, it’s best to choose music with no words or at least words that you cannot understand, such as classical, atmospheric, opera, jazz, new age, etc. If you’re stressed out, try listening to nature sounds or calm, meditative music to help reduce your stress so you can focus better and get more done.

2. Get a Productivity Accountability Partner

HacktheSystem.com, a popular blog on entrepreneur lifestyles, recently started connecting their blog readers with each other as accountability partners to get their personal tasks done. They used actual money as a penalty if the task wasn’t completed. This is an extreme example, but simply having someone else who can hold you accountable for your tasks can really keep you on track to getting things done. Reach out to your classmates or use social media to find someone you can work with to keep each other accountable for anything from daily homework assignments and studying to research projects and papers. Establish times to check in with each other on the status of whatever you’re working on. Knowing that someone else will be checking in on your progress can provide great motivation to get started on — and ultimately finish — that project.

3. Positive Affirmations

Before it all comes out, it starts from within. We can change what is within by telling ourselves in advance what we can accomplish. Many people use the power of positive affirmation to start their day off right. Simply beginning your day by telling yourself that you’re going to have a great and productive day puts your brain in the right mode to do just that. Apps like Singulaa allow you to record your own voice over soothing music so you can play those positive messages back to yourself. Write down your best and most powerful ideas, speak them into existence using the app, and listen to them daily or whenever you find yourself in need of a productivity boostEventually, your mind will absorb the positive messages and you will find yourself working more efficiently and with greater purpose.

4. Identify and Destroy Bad Habits

Take some time to sit down alone in a room or somewhere else private to do a simple self-assessment and identify any bad habits that you’d like to change. Charles Durhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” says that with every habit is a cue, an action, and a reward. Put some thought into identifying what cues your bad habits and why you do each one. What is the reward? Why do you continue that action over and over? Through this exercise, you can identify patterns and learn how to change your bad habits while keeping the same rewards and cues, thereby creating a more productive lifestyle.

5. Accomplishment Journal

At the end of each day, write down everything that you accomplished that day. Take note of all the big things (finally finished that big paper, received a scholarship, got an internship, etc.) and all the small things (got your laundry done, tried a new food in the cafeteria, made it to the rec center to work out, etc.). Giving yourself recognition for and being excited about what you did each day can create a habit of looking forward to all that you can do the next day, giving you more purpose and reason to be productive.

This is an amazing time to live in. We have more access to powerful and positive resources that can give us the type of life we want to have. Using these five clever mental hacks will not only allow you to boost your productivity, but will also improve your general outlook on life.

Russel Cooke is a journalist and business consultant based in Canyon Country, CA. and Louisville, KY. He thoroughly enjoyed his time spent in college, and considers it his best series of learning experiences to date. You can follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.

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4 Tips for Getting the Perfect Class Schedule

Categories: College Life

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Registering for classes can be stressful and frustrating. The classes you want might be filled and the others may be uninteresting or their times clash with your other classes. To avoid such a conundrum, you need to plan ahead and adjust accordingly. Here are some useful tips to help you get the prefect class schedule!

1. Take care of all of your required courses.

Every major at every college has a list of course requirements that must be satisfied in order to graduate with a degree, so understanding those requirements is a good first step. Once you have researched the requirements and learned more about the available classes, you can then loosely plan out your remaining years at school. Some of your classes may overlap and/or satisfy general education courses, which will give you more freedom to choose other fun classes to take outside of your requirements. Pay attention to classes that have pre-requisites (a class that must be taken before you can take that class) and plan accordingly.

If you’re uncertain about your major at this point, try taking some introductory classes across multiple subjects to gain exposure and figure out your interests and strengths. Ensure they are general education requirements so they can be applied to your major requirements once you’ve decided. Many colleges even offer special programs for undecided students that allow them to explore multiple areas of study to help them decide what to ultimately major in, so see what’s available at your college.

2. Timing is everything.

Thoroughly research when your available classes will be offered. Some classes are offered only one semester a year, and some special topics classes might be offered once ever, so make sure you know when and if you’ll be able to take the ones on your wish list. Checking out courses offered in previous semesters will be beneficial as certain courses tend to have registration and time trends.

Whenever possible, try to schedule your classes during the time of day when you’re most alert and productive. Early birds, for example, will thrive in morning classes. However, if you’re more of a night owl and have a hard time functioning in the morning, consider filling your schedule with afternoon and/or night classes. If you end up having to setting with a class at a time that’s less than ideal, try your best to prepare adequately for it. You wouldn’t want to do poorly in an early class just because you decided to stay up way too late the night before and couldn’t concentrate.

3. Having fun isn’t hard.

If you decide to take a heavy course-load, you might be satisfying more requirements per semester, but it can certainly get stressful. The pressure to do well in all those classes can make you go crazy. To save your sanity, try taking one or two lower-pressure elective classes each semester to ease the stress and pressure. These electives can be fun and might even fulfill a few general education requirements for your degree program. Electives in subjects like physical fitness or art can help you learn new skills, improve your current abilities, gain more knowledge, get creative, and even socialize.

4. Take a breather.

Be reasonable and practical with your class schedule. If you’re just starting college, remember that college is different from high school, so take it slow and test out how much work you can handle. Don’t forget to leave a break in your schedule to eat lunch and/or dinner, because being hungry during class is horrible. If you’d rather not be alone during your breaks, try scheduling with a friend so you can have some company. A break is also great for catching up on homework, working out, or seeking tutoring or advising. You can also aim to have classes only on specific days of the week, leaving other days completely free. Free days can leave you with the opportunity to focus longer stretches of time on your studies or even work part-time to get some extra spending money.

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