Wednesday, July 27, 2016

College Application Tips

It's time to put things into perspective… it has been 4 years since I went through the college application process and that seems unreal. While I am glad that it all worked out how I really wanted it to, I wouldn't be dying to go back through and work on those applications again. On the flip side though, I would love to have a bit more time left to truly enjoy college life and all that comes along with it and that's where I become jealous of all of you currently entering your senior year of high school and beginning your college application process.  

To make this process a bit easier I thought it would be helpful for me to share some of the tips I was told and took to heart when I was in your shoes 4 years ago. I am sure there have been some changes since then so hopefully I am not your final source of information when it comes to this subject matter but I figured my tips and advice could help y'all in some way.

Before I get into the tips I want to start by sharing a few thoughts a friend and I were recently discussing. Nell and I were talking about how caught up people (ourselves included) can get when it comes to their next stage of life. It's the whole idea that the grass is always greener on the other side and in high school it can be hard not to think about college as this spectacular experience that will be everything you've always imagined it to be. I'm generalizing here but I want to remind y'all that in all honesty there is probably more than one college that would be able to provide you with an amazing education and experience simultaneously. I don't however, want to sugarcoat things and do want to remind you that with everything there are ups and downs. If your college is experience is identical to what is in your imagination and absolutely perfect then let me know how you're doing that because we could all take a little advice from you. My own experience has had its ups and downs and while I wouldn't necessarily go back and change those downs I am confident that those peaks and plateaus would be present regardless of where I went. I know Furman has been the right choice for me but a lot of that has been the opportunities and experiences I've set myself up for on my campus. The biggest piece of comfort I can provide you in this process would be that what you choose to do in college is more important than where you choose to go. So even if you end up at a school that may have been in the middle of your list a positive perspective when it comes to the things you'll be able to do on your campus will make a world of difference in your overall experience. 

So now that I've shared a bit of perspective with you now we can focus on my tips!

Since you may be scratching your head after reading some of these hopefully my explanations can help to break this down a bit better…

1. Get the common app done before you go back to school.
This was without a doubt some of the best advice I was given when it came to the college application process. I know you don't want to spend the end of your summer working on this but I can guarantee you that you will feel a lot less stressed when you for the most part have the common app done before the stress of school kicks in. Have your essays written out (including supplements for the schools you are considering applying to that require that) and all of that other information in the systems. You'll already start to feel productive and on top of things and that confidence is a welcome change when it comes to the unknowns and waiting game that applying to colleges can sometimes be.

2. Don't linger when it comes to finally submitting your application.
While I am in no way rushing you to get it done and send it in I would encourage you to do your research. Check to find out if the schools you are applying to accept on a rolling basis and if that is the case you won't want to linger when it comes to submitting those perfectly curated and corrected essays since the sooner you submit the more spots there will be that you could potentially fill! 

3. Don't write about what you think the school wants to hear.
Hear me out on this one! A lot of people feel obligated to write about some moment where their life was changed forever or maybe even share an experience that may seem cliche when it comes to writing their college essays. What can really set you apart is writing about something that makes you unique or will leave a lasting impression on those people reviewing your application. Whatever you write about needs to be something you are passionate about since your voice and enthusiasm will stand out more and you'll appear to be a more persuasive candidate to these schools. Whatever you do just really think through the prompt and how it applies to your life and attempt to connect it though stories that you are excited to tell. 

4. Triple check the word count or character limit on essays before you begin writing.
A little bit self explanatory but I am going to go ahead and try to save you the heartbreak of finishing an essay that is exactly 1000 words and your best work yet only for you to discover the max is 1000 characters. Write  this information down especially if you plan to jump from essay to essay!

5. Find someone to proofread your essays consistently.
The college application process involves a lot of drafts and while you may think that you are a pro proofreader it will be harder to catch your own mistakes when you already know what is trying to be said. Do yourself a favor and find someone who can consistently proofread your essays to make sure they are top notch. With that in mind I would also recommend that the person/people you choose have no problem being honest with you about the structure, organization, flow, and everything else that makes an essay complete i.e. don't choose mom and dad (unless they can guarantee to leave their bias at the door).

6. Apply to schools you can actually see yourself attending.
This will require you to do some research about each school and hopefully will involve you visiting a variety of schools. The more schools you visit the better idea you'll be able to get of what you like and dislike when it comes to college campuses. If you can't see yourself actually attending a school or are applying somewhere just to try to get in you could end up taking the spot of someone who has that school as their #1 choice and would probably be spending an unnecessary amount of time working on an application for it to be worthwhile anyway. 

7. Have a backup or safety school where you could see yourself being happy.
So as you get more into the college application process you'll start to hear things like "reach school" and "safety school." A reach school is a school you want to attend but aren't sure you have the credentials to do so. A safety school is still a school you'd be happy to attend but have no doubt you'll get into. With ll things it is nice to have a backup plan and by applying to a safety plan you can eliminate some of the overall stress of the application process. 

8. Ask people to write your letters of recommendation sooner rather than later. 
Letters of recommendation are a great thing to have however it takes a bit of time to get them completed. Ask your teacher(s) to write them sooner rather than later since it is likely that other students will be going to them asking them the same favor. The sooner they get started on your the less likely it will be that yours is super generic and a generalization of your accomplishments and tendencies in the classroom. Also, ask a teacher who has seen your improvement over time if at all possible that way they can show the colleges you're applying to your growth.

9. Send your resumes to a school even if they don't ask for it.
Resumes are important all throughout your adult life and for professionalism so hopefully you already have one that is ready to be sent (If not I have a post explaining how to make one here)! Because it highlights all of your accomplishments and skills it is a great thing to share with colleges you're applying to even if they don't specifically ask for it.

10. Keep track of deadlines.
Put all of the important deadline dates on your calendar at one time so that you can be sure that you haven't forgotten any. Keeping track of your deadlines will reduce your stress and help to make sure you're timely in your submissions! 

I created this post in video form as well where I go into more depth about the importance and my experience with these various tips and would love for y'all to watch it, especially if you're a senior in high school preparing to apply to schools! 

Definitely help me to keep this up to date by leaving any additional tips or advice you may have to assist others in the comments! Oh, and one last little nugget of wisdom… if you know what you'd like to major in make sure you're looking at schools that offer that major or something similar! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Complete College Packing List

The thought of only having one more time to pack everything up and head to college is so weird to me. I am without a doubt questioning where my time has gone and have officially felt like a parent telling other people "it goes by so fast." In some ways college makes you feel like a nomad since you are constantly packing up to move about. Over the years I've started to better understand the importance of not taking everything I own along with me each time I re-pack to head back to school. Less is most certainly more in this case since it doesn't take long for a small space to feel cluttered. 

With that in mind I am once again sharing my complete college packing list. If you've been following the blog for a while there is a good chance you may have seen this before but I like to think it is worth re-sharing. In fact, I use this list when I am packing up each year just to make sure I haven't forgotten anything to important. If you're traveling far from home this list will also help you to see what stuff you may need to pack and what stuff you can purchase upon arrival in your college town. 

While all of this stuff isn't absolutely crucial when it comes to your survival in college for the most part this is what I bring and enjoy having on hand at a moments notice. I have purposely excluded clothing & food from this list because you'll want to pack the clothes you like that will work for the season and when it comes to food it makes more sense to just get it when you get there. Another note about packing clothing is that it saves a lot of space to rotate your clothes out based on the season. What I mean by that is go ahead and bring any summer and early fall pieces you can wear now to have for a couple of months but come fall break (or parents weekend) pack that up and put it in your closet at home to trade it for your fall and early winter pieces. This saves so much room and will save you some time since you won't be looking through all the clothes you own to find the one summer top that is your favorite.

While I attempted to make this list as complete as possible if you see something I've missed definitely let me know! I highly suggest that if you have a roommate that you communicate with them in order to split up some of the higher price tag pieces that you may want in your room. By doing this hopefully y'all won't show up with a ton of overlapping things and you may even be able to coordinate some room decor if that is something that sounds like fun to you! One last tip would be to look on your schools website to see what is provided in the room. For instance, Furman provided us with a micro fridge so I didn't have that on my list because I knew there would be one waiting for me when I moved in. If your school doesn't provide a fridge and microwave of some sort I would consider purchasing one as they get more use than I would have ever imagined! 

If you didn't see my dorm room essentials post and like this post then go find it here to read up on my top 10 essentials and why I think they are so great! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

How To Stay Organized In The Summer

I have just under two weeks left of summer although I have a solid month left before school starts back and I just can't believe how fast it has flown by. While in some regards I feel like I haven't done a lot in reality I've stayed pretty productive this summer with plenty of opportunities to relax as well. With an ever changing nannying schedule, the determination to get lots of new content uploaded here on the blog and on youtube, and also spending time exploring different places and relaxing with family I wouldn't have been able to do that if it weren't for taking the time to keep things organized.

 If you've been around PIYS for a while then you'll know that I am a tiny bit organization obsessed. For whatever reason I have this constant desire to be productive and a friend put it best that I would be bored if I didn't have some way to keep myself busy as long as that business was productive. In the summer it can be especially difficult to stay organized as you feel like you're always on the go but also may have no schedule at all.

*background image via

Organization is essential when it comes to both scenarios and I completely understand how it can feel difficult to stay organized in the summer so I've come up with some tips to help y'all out. Now is the perfect time to start easing yourself back into an organized mindset so that come the first week of school it doesn't seem like a total shock. By implementing these organization tactics now getting back into a routine come school will be a breeze.

1. Get a planner
Nothing can keep you quite as organized as a calendar of some sort and I am obsessive about mine! Go ahead and write down important dates for the summer as soon as you find them out so you won't miss out on anything. Planners are also great for day to day planning even if you feel like you don't have a lot to do I am always more likely to get everything done if I write out what I need to accomplish in my planner. 

2. Keep a notebook with you at all times & Write things down
I love writing things down and hate it when I have an idea and have to ape it in the notes section of my phone instead of on paper because I've forgotten my notebook. There are all sorts of notebooks on the market that I am sure you'll be able to find some type that you like that is small enough to bring along with you. Keeping a notebook with me to write down ideas, thoughts, or things to do helps me stay on top of those things in an organized fashion. 

3. Don't be afraid of a to-do list even if there are only a couple of things on it
To-do lists are a wonderful thing if you ask me. Writing down the things you need to accomplish will help to ensure that you don't forget to accomplish them and crossing something off of a to-do list sure is satisfying! Even if you only have two or three things to remember to do go ahead and write them on a to-do list to help hold yourself accountable. 

4. Create a schedule for tasks that need to get accomplished weekly
I get it laundry and running the dishwasher are a bore but they are things that need to get done at least once a week if not more frequently. Creating a set schedule for when you plan to do these tasks will help to make sure that they actually get done on a weekly basis. And the best part about doing most of these things is that you can multitask as they are happening.

5. Create your own routine

If your summer schedule is pretty unstructured it can be helpful to create a routine for yourself. While you don't need to plan out each hour of every day having a general time frame of when you wake up and go to sleep it will be a lot easier to adjust back to a set routine when school comes around! 

I hope these tips prove to be useful for you and if you have any additional ones I would love to hear them! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dorm Room Essentials

For those of you heading off to school in the coming month I am secretly a bit jealous that you may be moving into a dorm room. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure I would trade the single bedroom in my apartment for a shared shoebox size room but I sure did love the proximity to friends it provided and the memories made in those small spaces. It seems like yesterday that I was moving into my dorm room and having experienced dorm life for two years I feel like I was able to make the most out of the space I had.

Because of my "expertise" (HA!) when it comes to dorm living I thought I would share some of my dorm room essentials with y'all in hopes of helping any of you preparing to move into a dorm utilize the space you do have in the best way possible. I talked about dorm closet organization in this post so if you haven't seen it yet it is definitely a good place to start! I have 10 essentials for you that will hopefully help moving into your dorm room a breeze and make it feel more like home from the get go! 

If you're anything like me and prefer to hoard school supplies and any sort of pretty paper good then you''ll definitely want to purchase this space saving desk hutch! Fortunately the one I purchased my sophomore year was under $50 and is still kicking as I enter my senior year of college. This was without a doubt one of the best purchases I made for my dorm room and ensures that I always have plenty of room to spread out when I choose to do homework in my room at my desk instead of the library! 

2. Headboard or Headboard Pillow
I love the look that a fabric headboard gives a room! Ever since my freshman year I've had one in my room and I think that it helps to make my room feel a bit more like home. Both my freshman and junior years I made my headboards (click on the year to see how I made each) and both are still in use. They are pretty inexpensive to make and honestly don't take much time or skill (not to sell myself short) either so if you're looking for a way to hide some of the white cinder blocks that your dorm room likely has this is a great option. Even if you're not interested in making a headboard there are plenty of places that sell them specifically for dorm rooms with Room 422 being my favorite! 

While not exciting enough to have a photo of it in use both in my dorm room and at home a sound machine is a wonderful thing to have in noisy dorm rooms! Sound seems to carry through the halls in dorm rooms and the white noise a sound machine provides is the perfect way to drown that out and ensure that you're able to sleep well whenever you want! I completely blame my freshman roommate Nell for getting me hooked on these and I even use one at home where it's unnecessary but a comforting and familiar noise. 

Command Strips will more than likely be the only thing you're allowed to use on the walls of your dorm room as they are able to be removed without causing damage. I would recommend stocking up on a variety of different size and style command strips so that you don't have to run out and buy more on the day you're moving in and so that your parents can help you hang things up and make sure your pictures are straight. My favorite ones to use are the ones that are velcro on both side since my wall art already has those on them I only have to use one each time to re-attach the pictures to a new dorm or apartment wall! 

Fluorescent lights can be a bit harsh but that is what you will probably have in your dorm room so a bit of other lighting is always welcome. Having a desk and/or bedside table lamp will allow you to stay up later than your roommate without distracting them and provide a homier feel to your space. 

6. Personal Mirror
Confession time… I do not love getting ready with other people. Call me crazy but I like having my own space to get ready for my day in the morning and a personal makeup mirror sitting on my desk allows that to happen each morning. The thought of carting all of my stuff down the hall to a community style bathroom freshman year to get ready with other people was not appealing to me and I've kept a makeup mirror on my desk ever since. If you feel the same way I highly recommend purchasing one of these mirrors before heading off to school. I got mine from TJ Maxx for under $20 and have continued to use the same one all the way through college. You can see mine on the left side of the photo below for reference of what mine looks like!

Another item I've used all the way through college is these storage ottomans I purchased from Target for under $20. They serve as perfect storage, seating, and even as a step stool in small dorm spaces. They are currently being used in our apartment living room as well to provide additional storage and act as a foot rest when we are looking to get extra comfy for a movie night and I can't recommend them enough. We have re-covered the tops of them twice and you can see how my mom and I did that in this post

Do not go to college without some way of making your bed a bit comfier. When mattresses are being mass produced for colleges comfort isn't the first thing in mind. A mattress topper that is similar to how your bed may be at home will make your room feel more like home and they aren't too expensive either! Mine freshman year was from TJ Maxx but you'll be able to find them at Target, Walmart, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and basically any other place that is selling supplies for heading back to school!

 I was surprised to discover just how much storage my dorm room and apartment had but a couple of sets of plastic drawers is the perfect additional storage to help keep things organized and ensure that everything has its place. I like to keep one set under my bed and one in my closet and have continued to bring them back year after year! The ones I've linked are only $11 and you can get them shipped straight to school!

For whatever reason my school doesn't enjoy putting doors on our closets and I don't exactly want all of my clothes exposed all the time since I think that would make a small room feel cluttered. As a solution to this problem I like to have a curtain to hang that covers up my clothes when that is the option! You can easily find something that matches your dorm room to make it more decorative and I can guarantee having your clothes unexposed will make your room look a bit cleaner as well! 

So there you have it my top ten dorm essentials and how those pieces have worked in my rooms over the years! I created a video version of this post in case you'd like to hear a bit more about why I think each of these products is essential that you can see here:

I'd love to know what products you find to be dorm room essentials in the comments below! I hope y'all have had a great weekend and are looking forward to more fun content to come this week on Prep In Your Step! 

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