Special Guest Writer-Avery Thompson: Tips for Students with Disabilities

Fellow readers,

I challenge you to the simple task of tying your shoes. Easy right? Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Tie your shoes with one hand behind your back and your left eye covered. I challenge you again. Attend a university, community college, or any form of post-high school education. Easy right? Now endure your schooling with a learning or physical disability. A disability is any mental or physical condition serving as a limitation or hindrance on movements, activities, or senses. I offer up this scenario to give you an idea of the life of a college student with disabilities which include added difficulties to everyday endeavors.

There is a social stigma regarding the word “disabled.” It is this 3 syllable word that society defines as something wrong or different. Let’s all remember one thing. A disability is nothing to be ashamed of or seen as less than. I equate a disabled individual as someone who is running a race uphill while everyone else is running a straight path. I can attest to these tips because I apply them to my life every day after I had a retinal detachment at age 17. After several surgeries, my vision was left extremely impaired. Although this has caused limitations and issues within my academic career, I won’t allow this to define me or be a setback to my future. Disabilities, including my retinal detachment, are not academic-ending impairments. My hope is to offer tips for college success to those who have disabilities or those with relationships with disabled individuals.

Let’s run this race together

1) Accept Help

As a disabled student, you have been given a challenging aspect in your life and academic career. Because of this challenge, most institutions provide accommodations to aid these obstacles; accept this help and take advantage of it. At first, I did not want to get any help; I just wanted to tough it out and do it on my own. I finally and realized that the Disability Resource Center is there to help me; I needed their help. If you have been given extra time on exams, use it. If you have been given alternative options like paper copies, use them. If you have been given copies of visual note presentations, use them. If you have been given assistive technologies like audio or braille books or audio note translators, use them. Exploit these resources. Also, exploit resources that are given campus wide; I urge you to go to office hours to form relationships with your professors and use tutoring resources. Make good use of the opportunities you have been given.

2. Plan, plan, and plan!

I believe the most vital task for academic success is applying effort into creating and executing a plan. This will set the tone for your intentions for optimal performance. Tools like Google Calendar, for example, are free and allow users to plan and track day-to-day duties. The tool that has helped me the most is keeping an academic calendar. Filling out academic calendars allows you to view your current and upcoming assignments from different viewpoints including daily, weekly, and monthly. It is beneficial to look ahead at upcoming assignments, but don’t look so far ahead that you create unwanted and unnecessary mental and emotional strains. The viewpoint that has been the most helpful to me is the weekly approach. I start at the very beginning of each week and make a list of what I will need to accomplish that week. Furthermore, it is helpful to add a task to your list immediately after gaining knowledge about that task; this is most useful for those who have memory troubles. Also, order tasks by urgency. Planning through academic calendars and lists equip you to stay on task and not take in too much information.

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3. Organize and Manipulate Studying Methods

Every individual, disabled or not, prefers and succeeds in certain study methods over others. No matter the method… have a method! It may take trial and error but acquire a study method that is specialized to your particular strengths and weaknesses regarding your disability. The most beneficial study method for my set of circumstances is flash cards. I transfer my consolidated notes to flashcards right after class; this is an automatic review session and forces you to acknowledge the material when it is fresh in your brain. While using flashcards, color coding the cards or using various colors of ink allows you to generate the information in a grouping fashion. Whether you use flashcards or not, studying works best during “prime mental time” which is the time you are most productive. While studying, find an adequate environment that will aid in keeping you focused. Decide if your study environment needs to be quiet vs. background noise, alone vs. study partners, or outside vs. inside of various locations. General study tips can include rewriting important definitions or formulas for memorization, doing practice problems or exams, taking breaks, and creating mnemonic devices for mental associations.

4. Utilize All Resources

There are endless avenues of assistance that are intended to extend a helping hand. In other words, seek help beyond local resources. For those with learning disabilities, the National Center for Learning Disabilities empowers student, revolutionizes education, campaigns for equal rights, and provides scholarships and awards. Also, for those with speech disorders, the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association aims to provide educational resources, and the Center for Hearing and Communication includes up to date information on speech technology. There are a wide range of disabilities but an even wider range of outlets that administer support and services.

problem-2731501_960_720.jpgUltimately, you need to understand that disabilities DO NOT inhibit or eliminate academic success. Focusing on positive features of your disability will lead to a positive outlook in your academic career. College is a pivotal stepping stone in the path of life. Whether you will embark on this journey in the future or are enduring the journey right now, just know college is demanding when carrying a disability on your shoulders. Although it’s difficult, you can make it easier by accepting help, planning, manipulating study methods, and utilizing all resources.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

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Tips for Letters of Recommendation

It is the time when college seniors are applying to graduate/professional school. If this is you, be aware of an important part of your application—letters of recommendation (sometimes called a letters of reference). These letters involve a writer describing various aspects of you—skills, personality, work habits, achievements, etc. These letters are important for those wanting to attend graduate/professional school, but also for those applying for a job, scholarship, etc. Here are some important questions you need to ask yourself concerning letters of recommendations. A lot of what advice I will offer you is based on serving on graduate admission committees for 30 years, as well as talking to countless faculty members and career counselors over these years.

What kind of letter do you need?

Your letters need to say who you really are. Decision makers can always look at your transcript for your classes/specific grades, and they can scan your resume for a basic summary of your life experiences. However, a letter of recommendation should give the reader real insight into who you are. In this way, each letter needs to cover both your personal qualities (e.g., strengths, personality, leadership qualities, and interests) and your academic abilities.

I believe that each letter should be long/detailed, and very positive. A long/detailed letter shows that the letter writer really knew you. As for positive nature of each letter, you may wonder why a letter that communicates who you are should not include your “blemishes”. My answer to this is that any less than complimentary remark may lower your chances of selection. Remember, the competition is fierce! You must have letters that make you stand out among the crowd. I have seen remarks like “he is sometimes quiet” lead to a negative evaluation by a decision maker.

The only way a letter writer can write about you in a detailed and positive manner is if they know you really well. Thus, it is critical that you develop a meaningful professional relationship with each letter writer. The kind of letter you need is not going to be written by a faculty member who you had in class, but never talked to. But, if you worked in the lab of a faculty member or you talked to your Professor about class topics on multiple occasions, you are much more likely to secure a meaningful letter.

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Who should you ask?

Keep in mind that you usually need three letter writers, and three really means three. That is, it is very important that you are 100% sure that when someone agrees to write a letter that they actually write the letter. It is a real negative when your application is missing letters. Decision makers will wonder why someone you listed to write a letter would not send it in.

For those specifically applying to graduate or professional school, please note:

  • It is very odd (and will be frowned upon) if you do not have at least one letter from a faculty member in your major.
  • You should try to get at least a letter from at least one faculty member who is a regular-title series (tenured and does both teaching and research). These faculty are perceived as more representative of faculty in your major, and more highly regarded by decision makers. If you can secure a strong letter from a “big name” faculty members, that can be a real plus.
  • You can include letters from individuals who are not faculty (religious leader, employer, coach, etc.), but you should view these letters as secondary—that is how these letters will be viewed by decision makers.

How do you ask for a letter of recommendation?

Get your head together about this, because the way you ask for a letter often determines whether you get the letter or not. Here are some general rules I think you should follow:

  • I think it is better to ask for a letter in person, but I understand that an email may be more efficient. The latter is especially true if it is difficult to actually make personal contact with a busy potential letter writer. It is likely your initial contact will lead to the potential letter writer asking for your resume and to schedule a meeting to discuss specifics of your application(s) (e.g., what you are applying for). Always remember that the person is under no obligation to write you a letter. They may be too busy or feel they do not know you well enough to write a letter. Be prepared for a “No” answer, and understand that if he or she agrees, they are doing you a major favor!
  • I was taught that you should ask for a letter by saying “Are you able to write me a positive letter of recommendation?” The reason for the “positive” is to protect yourself. It makes clear that if the person agrees to write a letter, they also agree to write a letter that is going to work in your favor. In addition, by asking this way, you allow a potential letter writer who may have something negative to say about you to decline.

woman typingShould you waive your write to see a letter of recommendation?

I feel you should always waive your right to see your letter–it works to your advantage. Some potential letter writers will not write a letter if they know you can see the letter. In addition, if you do not waive your right some admissions committee members may feel that your letter was not truthful. That is, they may feel that because the letter writer knew you could see the letter, they left out something negative. 

When should you ask for letters?

Better to ask too early than too late. My general rule is that you should ask for a letter of recommendation about a month before a due date. This gives the letter writer plenty of time to talk to you and to actually write the letter. Just so you know, the letter writer does more than write a letter. Almost all letters are submitted online as part of a longer form. This form includes a variety of questions that the letter writer must answer about you, including questions about your personality, work habits, and experiences.

What do you do after the letter is written?

I strongly believe that you need to thank your letter writers. I am not talking about a quick thank you when you leave their office. I feel you should show your appreciation for your letter writer’s time and energy by sending them a real hand-written thank you note. I know it’s probably been a long time since you wrote anything other than an email message, but I feel the effort on the part of your letter writers requires more substantial recognition. Let me add that you should inform your letter writers of the outcome of your application(s). These letter writers helped you because they believe in you, and want to know how everything turned out.

Good luck!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

 

Life as a College Student Athlete: Keeping the Right Perspective

     It seems that a lot has been written about student-athletes in college, but often this writing skips past the challenges that these individuals face balancing their lives. No matter what the sport, big time men’s basketball or less publicized women’s tennis, student athletes have a difficult task negotiating the academics and athletics. Over my 30 years as a Professor, I have taught and supervised hundreds of student-athletes. I have talked to them a bit about dealing with college with dual-demands, but I never took the time to really understand how these individuals manage their lives. For this post, however, I talked at length with Jenny Schaper, a star catcher on the University of Kentucky women’s softball team (coached by Rachel Lawson) to try and uncover what it is like to be a college student athlete. Below is our conversation.

Dr. Golding: How do you manage your athletic and academic schedules?

Jenny: I have a lot of late nights and a lot of early mornings. I’m pretty much used to it now. It was a lot harder when I was a freshman to manage everything because freshman year you had to have mandatory 8 study hall hours a week on top of class and practice and adjusting to college life so I think freshman year was a lot tougher. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned my own time management techniques.

Dr. Golding Did anyone ever tell you about time management skills?

Jenny: We have an academic advisor and she’s really helpful. Freshmen go through orientation, where they’re talked to about grades, time management, getting your work done, all that kind of stuff, I think that’s really helpful. But it is a lot on yourself just figure it out and kind of learn as you go. There’s usually about five or six other girls in an incoming class who are doing the same thing as you. Our coach actually made us fill out time sheets our freshman year. The day was broken up into 30-minute segments every day, and you had to write what you were going to be doing every thirty minutes of the day. I know, it’s a little excessive, but it helped you think about what you had to get done. Stuff like that was really helpful.

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Dr. Golding: Have there been times where you had to make a decision between studying, for example, and going to practice, or working out on your own? Or do you find that you manage things so well that that doesn’t really come up?

Jenny: You never really have to pick one or the other. Our coach, personally, is really good about school coming first. She’s a very big believer in that. Just last week, one of our girls was struggling a little bit with her grades, so the coach didn’t take her on our away trip so she could stay and do schoolwork. I guess there was a choice where she picked academic over athletic, but personally, I’ve never had to not participate in something in order to get schoolwork done.

Dr. Golding Do you talk to your professors about being an athlete?

Jenny: Most don’t ask. You’re the one who asks about it. I’ve never had any professors have issues with it, but girls on my team have.

Dr. Golding: Professors who said that your teammates couldn’t miss class?

Jenny: Yes. My roommate this year—a professor told that she should quit softball to take the class more seriously. And she’s a 4.0 student, so it’s not like it’s causing problems. She stayed in the class. She was like, “I’m going to prove her wrong, I’m going to show her that I can do it.”

Dr. Golding Are you ever jealous of students who aren’t participating in sports?

Jenny: Sometimes, especially around the holidays I get very jealous. We have to come back January 2 every year, just to start practicing. We get about two weeks for Christmas, which is nice, but most students get about a month. We’ve never gotten a spring break. Plus, I stay here over the summer just to work out. Definitely, at times like that, yes I’m jealous. I’m not so much jealous of the party scene, but just of having free time.

Dr. Golding: When you’re here in the summer, you can’t have an actual job, right?

Jenny: You can, but you just have to register it. And you can’t get any special perks. That’s a really big violation.

studentAthlete-studying.jpgDr. Golding: You’re a junior now. What advice would you give to freshmen about how they have to think about being in college, because it’s so different from being in high school?

Jenny: You have to know yourself, and you have to understand what kind of student and worker you are. The most important thing is your choices. You could choose to sit down and do your homework, or you could choose to hang out with your friends. It’s about where you want to succeed in life. One thing I remember my coach saying was that in college you can be good at athletics, academics, or partying, and she said you can be good at two out of the three, but you can’t be good at all three. So it’s your priorities, really.

Dr. Golding: What keeps you so motivated to do well? A lot of students who aren’t athletes could learn from the athletes.

Jenny: I think that being an athlete has taught me how to work hard for things, and that things aren’t just going to be given to you. You have to actually earn them. I think very highly of myself and of the people I like to associate myself with. I take a lot of pride in being able to be a successful athlete and a successful student, and I think that just being able to say that I do it and I do it well is important to me.

After talking to Jenny (and I hope you will agree), I have a much greater appreciation for what it is like to be a student athlete, and the demands you must deal with to succeed both academically and athletically. Of course, thanks to Jenny and best of luck to her as she moves on to her senior year!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

Dealing with the Cost of Textbooks

At this time of year, rising freshmen either are having summer orientation or are about to, and they will certainly hear about something all students have to think about each semester—the cost of textbooks. This is not a small matter, because textbooks can end up costing hundreds of dollars each semester, and it seems that each year the cost of textbooks is a bigger and bigger chunk of college expenses. When I was in college, amazingly 40 years ago, there really was no question—everyone bought the textbook for each class. Of course, things have changed a lot over the years, and you now have several options to consider when dealing with textbook costs.

Before making any decisions concerning textbooks, be clear whether each of your classes requires a textbook. This information is always in the syllabus for each class, but you can also check with your college bookstore to see what is required. Remember that classes may: (a) have no required textbook; (b) require you to buy a physical textbook (new or used), an ebook of the textbook, or either; (c) require you to buy a new physical textbook that includes a digital code for online access to certain information; or (d) may not require a textbook, but recommend a textbook. In this last case, you may have to wait a few weeks to determine whether you need to be reading the textbook.

If you do have a required textbook, there are several ways to deal with costs. I will list each way and give a few advantages and disadvantages of each.

1) Buy a new physical textbook

Advantages

  1. you can write in it, bend back tops of pages, etc.
  2. a textbook in your major may be worth keeping, as well as textbooks that help you with other course
  3. you have access to it all the time
  4. you might find it easier to read a physical textbook

Disadvantages

  1. most expensive of all the ways to deal with textbook costs, although you can reduce your costs by buying from Amazon or other online book dealers, and directly from the publisher—school bookstores are usually the highest priced for buying and renting textbook
  2. if you sell back your textbook, you will only receive a percentage of the original cost of the textbook—this percentage will decrease if the textbook is damaged (including writing/highlighting) or if a new edition is being published soon
  3. can be a pain to bring to class or the library–textbooks are usually quite heavy
  4. can be stolen

good grades-books2) Buy a used physical textbook

Advantages

  1. much cheaper than buying a new textbook
  2. used textbooks can be purchased from the same places as new textbooks
  3. you can write in it, bend back tops of pages, etc.
  4. a textbook in your major may be worth keeping, as well as textbooks that help you with other courses

Disadvantages

  1. although you can sell back a used textbook, but you will likely receive much less than selling back a new textbook—this amount will depend on the textbook’s condition (including writing/highlighting in the textbook) or if a new edition is being published soon
  2. can be a pain to bring to class or the library–textbooks are usually quite heavy
  3. can be stolen

3) Buy an ebook

Advantages

  1. it is much cheaper than buying the physical textbook
  2. you do not have to bring the textbook with you to class or the library—you can access the ebook as long as you can get to a computer
  3. cannot be stolen

Disadvantages

  1. you need a computer to read it, and some people do not like reading on a computer
  2. you cannot sell it back
  3. you cannot write directly in an ebook
  4. you cannot keep it—most ebooks are good for the semester you bought it for

4) Rent a physical book

Advantages

  1. it is significantly cheaper than buying a new physical textbook or ebook
  2. you are being environmentally conscious—renting typically leads to fewer textbooks, less paper, and more trees
  3. if you decide to buy your rental textbook at the end of the semester, you can typically do so

Disadvantages

  1. if you damage a rental textbook (e.g., writing/highlighting in it) you will be charged the full price of the textbook
  2. there are usually strict deadlines for turning the rental textbook back in
  3. sometimes rental companies do not have the edition you need
  4. can be a pain to bring to class or the library–textbooks are usually quite heavy

5) Rent an ebook

Advantages

  1. it is significantly cheaper than buying a new physical textbook or ebook
  2. you are being environmentally conscious—renting typically leads to fewer textbooks, less paper, and more trees
  3. you do not have to bring the textbook with you to class, but can access the ebook as long as you can get to a computer
  4. will not be stolen

Disadvantages

  1. sometimes rental companies do not have the edition you need
  2. you need a computer to read it, and some people do not like reading on a computer
  3. you cannot sell it back
  4. you cannot write directly in an ebook
  5. you cannot keep it—most ebooks are only good for the semester you bought it for

girlread-868786_6406) Share a textbook or ebook with one or more classmates—an option that I feel more students should at least consider

Advantages

  1. may be the cheapest way to deal with costs, depending on the number of students who share with you
  2. may promote working with others
  3. you are being environmentally conscious—sharing (at least for physicaltextbooks) will lead to fewer textbooks, less paper, and more trees
  4. you do not have to be in control of the textbook at all times

Disadvantages

  1. coordinating how the textbook will be shared can be difficult, and may lead to you not having the textbook when you need it
  2. the writing/highlighting in the textbook by others may negatively impact your reading and studying
  3. each member of your “sharing group” may be required to bring the textbook to class on certain days, but that will be impossible

7) Reading a textbook that your Instructor puts on reserve at the library or another site on campus—does not occur that often

Advantages

  1. no cost
  2. you are being environmentally conscious—reading a reserve copy will lead to fewer textbooks, less paper, more trees
  3. you do not have to bring the textbook with you to class or the library
  4. will not be stolen

Disadvantages

  1. you can only get access to the textbook when the textbook’s location is open
  2. you cannot write in the textbook
  3. others may be reading the textbook when you want to read it
  4. you cannot keep it

So there you go. It is a lot to think about, but important, because as I said earlier, textbook costs will be a constant during your years in college. Think about what will work best for you. Good Luck!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

Get Things Done…Now!

I recently had a meeting with a student where I was trying to help him think about all of the things he needed to do in order to keep moving ahead with his career plans. Most important in this regard, I reminded him how critical it was to contact the graduate program he was really interested in attending—it was actually on our campus. It was application time, and I told him that it would serve him well to talk to both the staff who dealt with applications and the faculty who were in the graduate program. I emphasized that it was one thing to read about the program, but quite another to talk to someone about what could be the next few years of your life. Moreover, having a one-on-one conversation would make you stand out (in a positive way) as the program decided whom to accept.

After spending some time talking about things, I calmly said, “So when do think you’ll contact the graduate program office?” I was not trying to be hard on him or make him feel guilty that he had not contacted anyone yet. I just wanted him to understand that I thought there were real advantages to contacting the program relatively soon. His answer to me was not what I expected, given his enthusiasm for continuing on to graduate school: “I am really busy, so I’m not sure when I’ll get around to contacting them.” Given his unexpected answer, I thought about whether I should press the issue, but instead I told him I hoped he could do it soon and wished him good luck with his future plans.

procras-town-sign-1865304_1920-2This kind of thinking by this student was not necessarily new to me, but it really got me thinking about the more general problem of college students not getting things done in a timely fashion. It includes the student described above, but also students waiting until the last minute to complete class assignments (written work and reading), and students failing to study in a timely fashion for exams. Finally, there are those students who procrastinate and impact their ability to obtain research assistantships, internships, jobs, etc.

As we all know, trying to solve the procrastination problem is extremely difficult. But, students need to have some way of overcoming the delays that can lead to low grades and missed opportunities, let alone the stress and pressure that result from waiting too long to get things completed. Here are some pieces of advice for students to help overcome procrastination:

1) Don’t think you need to get everything done at once. In my opinion your best bet is to work on things in a distributed fashion, getting a little done every day. The way to achieve this is to set up a schedule, a time management plan that you commit to and will follow throughout the semester. I have written about this in another post (https://beginnersguidetocollegesuccess.com/2016/01/20/dont-delay-set-up-a-study-schedule/)—check it out!

2) Write it down! It is not enough to have a plan in your mind. You need to force yourself to write down everything you need to do. This can be on your phone, in a planner or agenda, or on a “To-Do List”, anything that forces you to take the time to actively think about your schedule.

3) Reward yourself! In my way of thinking, you can reward yourself in two ways when you complete various tasks. First, you can reap the psychological reward of completion, by crossing out everything on your schedule, agenda, or list that you finish. It feels great to get things done! Second, you might consider giving yourself a small monetary reward for every task you complete. Then, at the end of some period of time use that money to buy or do something you really like.

4) Think about what it will mean if you do not get things done. Will you be happy when you do not finish your 5-page paper written? Doubtful. How will feel pulling an all-nighter right before an exam? Tired! The key is that you want to get things accomplished and feel good about yourself.

procrasworkspace-2167299_19205) Blah! Blah! Blah! Toss the excuses and take control of your life. Excuses are simply not going to cut it, and are often BS. Be aware of all the excuses you can give for not getting something done (e.g., “I like when I’m feeling pressured,” “I’m too busy”, “I’ll get it done later”), and fight the urge to use these excuses. You may feel better giving these excuses, but they aren’t getting things accomplished.

6) Get motivated. Making sure you complete various tasks requires you to be motivated. One way you can do this is to always set goals, both short term and long term. Setting these goals ties in nicely with developing a schedule that guides you through the semester (#2 above). In addition, you need to set the kind of goals that will move you toward you career after college—what do you want to be after graduating and what do you need to do to achieve this career goal.

7) Avoid punishing yourself when you do not complete a task. There are bound to be times when you want to do something, but you don’t complete it. Accept that this will occur and don’t be too hard on yourself. You don’t want to have a negative impact on your motivation level, and (more important) you want to figure out the best way to avoid having this happen in the future.

8) Remember that overcoming procrastination is a battle. Your inability to get things done is not something that occurred up overnight. In fact, procrastination can be viewed as a habit that developed over time. Because of this, it will take some time to get rid of this habit and replace it with behaviors that work for you to get tasks completed. Start fighting against procrastination today!

I hope you will take my advice and get things done…now!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

 

Get Involved!!!

Now that you are in college, it is very important that you do not just sit around and keep to yourself. I understand that there are times you need to be alone (think studying!), and other times you want to be by yourself to read, workout, watch a movie, etc. However, it is VERY important that you get involved in various activities on campus. Even if you have a job, there are sill ways you can get involved to take full advantage of your college experience. As a former 2 and 3 job undergraduate, I can tell you that it was a critical aspect of my college experience to be a part of campus life.

With that said and before moving on to the reasons to get involved, here is one way I participated on campus. As you can see I was the school mascot for my college. Yes, that’s me as the Temple Owl in 1981—hard to believe!!!!

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The key to getting involved in various activities is that it really is the case that college is more than just going to class. College is a time to grow, both intellectually and personally. Getting involved in activities adds to that growth. So, here are 7 reasons for why you should get involved:

1) You will make friends. By joining a club, you automatically increase the chances you will make new friends. Sitting in your room playing video games isn’t going to give you the opportunity to meet others, nor is constant studying in a library study room. Remember, the friends you make in college can last a lifetime. The more people you meet, the more friends you make, and the more you can have fun doing things on and off campus.

2) It is good for your mental and physical health. The evidence is pretty convincing that being around others is good for various aspects of your health. For example, when you interact with others in a campus activity you’ll feel better about yourself, and give yourself potential sources of support.

3) You will actually learn new things. I know you may not want to hear it, but college involves learning both in and out of the classroom. So even when you are not sitting in a lecture with 500 other students, getting involved gives you the chance to learn something new. This may be how to play a new sport if you decide to join a rugby club or what are new methods of recycling if you join a student environmental group.

people-2557396_12804) You can boost your resume. I don’t want to get too crazy about this, but there is nothing wrong with listing various college activities on your resume. You should list those activities that really say something about who you are. Employers and graduate and professional school selection committees look at your college activities. I was in the National Psychology Honor Society (PSI Chi) when I was an undergraduate—listing this organization on my resume was important when I was applying for grad school in psychology.

5) You can get involved with community service. There are many activities on campus that will offer you the opportunity to work in the community. This could include being involved with philanthropic activities tied in to a sorority, campus political organizations that promote citizenship (e.g., voter registration), or various other clubs who work with community organizations (e.g., Habitat for Humanity,). It’s great to know that for many of you who have been involved in community service before college, the chance to continue your involvement in the community can continue.

6) You can gain insight about your ultimate career goal. College is a time to explore possibilities, and to figure out what you want to do after graduation. If you have an interest in something, join a club or activity that matches your interest and see where it leads. It’s possible that your involvement in a particular club or activity will be the catalyst for your future career.

7) You get a chance to experience diversity. In most cases, whatever club or activity you get involved with will involve students of various national origins, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, political views, and more. For some of you, this may be your first opportunity to interact with people who are really different than you. Take advantage of this opportunity!

I hope you will take my advice and get involved on campus—you won’t regret it!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

Special Guest Writer–Amber Sexton: Preparing for Medical School–What Should Be Your Major?

From a young age, I was entirely certain of the career path I wanted to pursue- medicine. While I totally understand that everyone reading this might not say the same, I know some of you have the same career aspirations as myself. So, for those of you with every intention of going to medical school, this is for you!

Let’s rewind almost four years to the summer before my matriculation here at the University of Kentucky. Though on the edge of huge change in my life, there were a few things I was very sure would remain constant as I began college, one of those being my passion for medicine. So I knew what my end goal was, but I still had one important decision to make.

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What should I major in?

You all faced the same question with lots of inward reflection and thought, I’m sure. For me, and I imagine for you as well, the decision was multi-faceted. Of course, my biggest concern was “what major/degree would help me most in applying to medical school?” I considered which major would be impressive to medical school admissions committees, which major would “diversify” me in an applicant pool, which major would best prep me for the MCAT (the standardized test required of all medical school applicants), and which major would be best to juggle alongside the prerequisite courses I planned to take.

With these questions I couldn’t answer, I sought advice from my older brother who, at the time, was a fourth year medical student preparing to begin residency. I applied his advice to my own journey. Now, as I prepare to graduate from UK and begin medical school in the fall, I will pass the same advice given to me to you:

Truthfully, with respect to admission to and preparation for medical school, it does not matter what major you choose.

Now, with a surplus of options, here are a few helpful things to consider when narrowing your choice:

  1. First and foremost, choose something you have genuine interest in studying. This subject will be something you immerse yourself in for four years. Don’t choose to major in electrical engineering if you hate math but you think it will impress a medical school admissions committee. Not only will you make it much harder to succeed in your coursework, but also you’ll make yourself absolutely miserable. The two things that will impress admissions committees are a great GPA and a great MCAT score. To bust the myth of biology and/or chemistry degrees: while some of you choosing to pursue medicine may have a genuine interest in studying biology and/or chemistry in depth, these two majors are not one-way tickets to medical school. So, don’t feel pressured to choose one of them as your major.
  2. Understand that there are specific prerequisite courses that medical schools require you take prior to beginning medical school. Though these are mostly consistent from school to school, you should check with each specific medical school you’re interested in to ensure you take what is necessary. If you choose a major other than biology, chemistry, etc., also remember that it is your responsibility to work those prereqs into your schedule. You’ll want to have the bulk of these prerequisites completed prior to sitting for the MCAT.
  3. Be prepared to explain why you chose your major. If you choose to major in theater and vocal performance, for example, yet you want to attend medical school, you should have strong reasons for why you chose this major and, of course, why you want to be a doctor. If you major in something rather atypical for pre-med students, interviewers at medical schools will almost always ask you about it. Don’t worry- they aren’t necessarily trying to grill you, they genuinely want to know you and your interests.

operation-afamerc-medschoolAs for me, I chose to pursue a degree in psychology. After taking one psychology class in high school, I became incredibly interested in studying psychology in depth. I believe that as a professional expected to treat humans, it’s absolutely imperative to somewhat understand their behaviors and motivations. I wholeheartedly believe that my degree in psychology will help me to become the best physician I can be.

Best of luck with all of your endeavors!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.