How to Find Your Dream Major

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If you’re reaching the end of the year with continued anxiety over your chosen major, it might be time to reconsider. Changing your major can seem overwhelming, but you shouldn’t feel undue pressure over it. The truth is that you’re not out of time to change your mind, even if this is your last semester! You don’t want to live the rest of your life wondering, “What if….?”

However, there is a point to be made that everyone experiences some major doubt over the course of their college career. There might be a few rare people who never waiver, but for everyone else, picking a major isn’t an easy decision. If you’re really considering switching, ask yourself these questions before you do anything drastic (or neglect to do anything at all).

What Makes You Happy?

This might seem like the most obvious question out there, but there’s a reason it’s first. Don’t just consider what things you like — which TV shows, theme park rides, sports, bands, whatever. Those are great but think big picture.

Are you fulfilled by pushing yourself to complete the next puzzle? Consider careers in medicine, government, or even air traffic control.

Maybe you want to see new people and visit exciting places. The United States has 270 embassies that need Foreign Service staff. You could be a pilot or teach English abroad.

There are many things that might make you happy, but ultimately you can narrow it down to the next question.

How Can You Best Achieve That Happiness?

This is where reality kicks in. Maybe you like the idea of solving puzzles for a job, but you can’t imagine going to school for seven years to become a doctor. Maybe you do want to travel, but you can’t learn languages to save your life.

That’s okay; it doesn’t mean that you can’t do what makes you happy just because you lack a skill in one area. Instead, focus more on how you can work in a field that interests you. Take personality tests, visit your school’s career counselor, and research thoroughly. There are definitely dozens of jobs in the field that you’ve never heard of.

And if you really can’t find an existing way to do what you want to do, be an entrepreneur! They represent 10 percent of the workforce, and you’ll be in good company. Getting to set your own hours and be your own boss are pretty powerful perks. Not everyone has what it takes to be an entrepreneur, but if you’re driven enough to get to this point, chances are that you do.

What Will Get Me There?

The last piece of the puzzle is to consider what path you have to take to get your happiness. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward. Wanna be an engineer? Get an engineering degree. Wanna be a lawyer? Go pre-law, and get your J.D. afterward. In some cases, you might not love your new major, but remember that it’s getting you to a larger goal.

Sometimes, though, it’s less laid out for you. Most jobs have several related degrees. A lot will just care that you have the relevant experience or even just a minor in the field. Some jobs won’t care at all what your degree is in, just that you have one.

You can take some time to ask yourself all these questions, but don’t let them sit on the backburner for too long. Eventually, you’ll have to make a decision. When you do, look up what classes you need to take and get a plan in place. Years down the road, you’ll be glad that you took the time now.

How to Actually Fundraise in College

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You’re hopefully back in the swing of classes, although summer vacation could not come soon enough. But it’s far from time to check out. If you’re intent on building your resume, you’re working hard at your classes as well as some extracurricular activities. But one of the hardest parts of staying active in clubs and groups throughout college is the constant pressure to fundraise.

College students aren’t exactly known for their expendable income, since paying for school itself is often a struggle. So you and your group members might not have enough to donate yourselves. Instead, you’ll have to get other people to part with their money, so you can keep playing lacrosse, raising awareness about local policy, educating disadvantaged kids, or whatever else you think will help you later on. Question is, how can you best fundraise in a college town?

Know Your Target

Ask yourself: who is most likely to support your cause?

Students might have little cash to spare, but they also probably have more school spirit than anyone else nearby. If you want to target students, you’ll have to give them some sort of tangible return for their support. Some kids might be willing to part with a couple extra bucks for nothing but a fuzzy feeling, but most college kids will respond best to food. Popcorn, pizza, or anything that you can make it bulk cheap is a good way to go here.

However, if you’re looking to solicit community involvement as well, then you might need to up the stakes. Adults in the community might feel a certain sense of pride about the school, but they’re less impressed by dollar pizza slices than your average sophomore. Consider their political leanings; if you’ve got a lot of concerned environmentalists in your town, try a green fundraiser. If there is a strong arts presence, consider classing up your fundraising.

Quantity or Quality?

When considering your fundraising scheme, consider if you’re aiming for quantity or quality. Are you trying to get a lot of little donations or several larger ones? The latter will require more effort on your part, but the payout for your organization could be great.

Here are a few “quantity” based ideas:

  • Have a bake sale. Consider some easy recipes like pancakes, cookies, or hot cocoa!
  • Create a GoFundMe account. This is a great way to get people from even outside your community to donate, like faraway relatives, but don’t rely too heavily on this one option.
  • Ask your school if you can sell concessions at upcoming games.

And a few “quality” ideas as well:

  • Ask a local business for support. Even if you can’t secure a one-time donation, you might be able to convince them to donate a percentage of their sales as long as it’s a worthy cause. Lots of business do just that to help fundraise for pets, world hunger, and literacy programs. Your club can do that too!
  • Hold a dance! Social events are always appreciated on campuses. You can go for casual or formal, but college kids rarely get the chance to dress up, so you might have an easier time with formal.
  • Offer your services to the community. As a group, all go rake someone’s leaves, mow their lawns, fix their plumbing, whatever it may be. With so many of you, the job can get done in a few hours max.

These ideas will vary depending on your fundraising goals and how many people you have involved, but they’re a good place to start.

Consider Teaming Up

On college campuses, there are a lot of involved young people. Many are trying to make a significant change in their community, and there is no reason you both can’t help each other out.

If you’re part of a gender-divided sports team, consider asking the other side if they want to team up. If you’re an environmental group, there’s probably another one on campus that could use some money as well. Greek houses are always trying to fundraise, so make sure to pick their brains! They’ve got to be experts by now. Sometimes, two minds are better than one.

Of course, the returns on this strategy diminish the bigger the other group is. If they help out a lot, the other group might want more of the money than you’re prepared to give up. But you shouldn’t dismiss this option right away; give it some serious thought.

Fundraising is always a surprise, especially in a place as unpredictable as a college campus. You never know who is going to feel school-spirited or giving that day. The best you can do is approach this problem as a unit and commit to putting your all in it. Because if you’re not going to fight for your club, who is?

Stop Being a Summer Zombie!

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We look forward to summer vacation all year, but about halfway through it can get stagnant. Yeah, you’re probably busy meeting all your goals, working a job, and padding that resume. Friends and family fit somewhere in there. But there are plenty of people who spend their summer vacation doing nothing, relishing the time when their biggest concern is determining what to watch on Netflix that day. Whichever camp you fall into, busy bee or couch potato, the fact remains that you’re probably not being as mentally stimulated as you are in the school year.

But during the summer? The brain drain is real. Zoning out every once in awhile is okay, but doing so for such an extended period of time makes you run the risk of becoming a zombie. Furthermore, engaging your mind frequently benefits your future career, as well as your grades, come fall.

So, how do you get the cogs in motion again without writing a term paper on your vacation? Well …

Keep Up on the News

Look, I know it’s complicated. Not only is it difficult to piece together everything happening around the world, but who’re you supposed to trust? That’s ultimately up to you, as everyone will have different political leanings, but try to assess every story’s validity. Read multiple different sources for every story, and you’ll eventually get a feel for which sources are reflecting a viewpoint and which ones are truly reporting the news.

Current events are a great way to keep your gears moving, and you’ll definitely impress your political science professors come fall.

Don’t Neglect Math!

Math is one of, if not the, most hated subjects out there, but it’s generally required at most universities for a good number of majors. If you’ve finished your mathematics requirements, maybe you can ignore this one, but math can be very useful for everyone, no matter your career field.

Understanding statistics helps you understand how the world actually works; knowing how to convert units helps with baking or building; realizing the true effect of percentages can help you understand how student loan interest affects your life after college. Math doesn’t come easy to everyone, but thinking about how math actually affects your life might help you care a little more. Consider any math problem, no matter how simple, like a puzzle to spur your brain on.  If it’s something very important, like your monthly budget or your savings, there’s no shame in using a calculator, but try to do it in your head first.

Have Good Discussions

Just because you don’t have to write a paper on the latest book you read doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t analyze it. Sometimes having a soundboard can reveal illogical assumptions you made — or even lead you to question your original position. Even if books aren’t your thing, you can have valuable discussions about anything: current events, a TV show, trends you notice in your own friend group, football, whatever. Just try to go a little bit below the surface, and it might spur interest in something you never thought about before.

Furthermore, keeping up-to-date on a variety of issues will help you have better conversations. If you’re well-informed on most topics, most people will probably want to talk to you. And who doesn’t want to be known as the smart one?

Organize!

Having a clean space is not just to put your mom at ease. It has actual physical and mental benefits too. It’ll improve your productivity, letting you focus easier instead of slumping back into bed. Being messy might not seem like a big deal to you, but when you consider that this will help you live an all-around healthier life, it’s really a no-brainer.

So whether you need to find space for your clothes or just keep them off the floor, clean your room! Just because you’re a college student doesn’t mean you have to fulfill all the stereotypes.

Keeping mentally sharp is a task that you’ll have for the rest of your life. Eventually, you’ll finish school, and you’ll have to do it completely on your own. Right now, you can rely on classes to expose you to new ideas, but don’t slack off during summer vacation just because you can! As your classmates shake off summer stupidity after returning to class, you’ll wow your professors and feel better than ever.

Make this the Best Summer Ever

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There is no off-season for champions. Those that max out their success simply move from performance to preparation. Think athletes, musicians, but also you. Students who look at the summer as their off-season miss out on a valuable time to develop themselves. Without the time constraints of going to class and studying, you now have an incredible opportunity to truly invest in yourself.

If you aren’t investing in yourself, you aren’t growing. So you can spend the four-month break between semesters on cruise control, or aggressively make moves. I was a College Athlete and much of my success came from the development I gained in the summer. Hitting the weights and working on technique lead to leaps and bounds of improvement that set me apart from others. When I connected those principles of growth to my professional and leadership development, I saw immediate results. You can spend intentional time investing in yourself during the summer to make you a stronger leader and work on developing specific habits and skills that will help you catapult your career.

I know that students aren’t often taught to work on leadership development while a student. All your focus should only be on your classes alone, right? I am a huge advocate for education and have high goals for myself as well, but your time as a student can go extremely underutilized if you don’t work on your own development in addition to gaining your education. Call it the “other” education, the social and leadership skills you need to know to understand how to use the education you gain in the classroom in the real world. If you do both, you’ll see double the results! A diploma and the leadership capabilities to make an immediate impact in your career.

There are a few ways you can catapult your development during the summer. Start with these:

Recognize Your Values and Goals

If you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands during the summer (and even if you don’t) then you should spend some time identifying what is most important to you. Find your number one priorities. Identify your passions and what you truly want to accomplish in life. You know the questions, students get asked them all the time. What do you want to be when you grow up? What is your major? What are you going to do with that? I remember feeling the social pressure to give a specific job title as an answer to all of these questions, and turns out I didn’t pursue any of them. The first job I had in my career was not even one that I knew existed while in High School. Don’t feel tied down to a job title unless you know that is exactly what you want to do. Instead, make a list of what you want your life to look like 10 years from now. Where do you live? What do you do? Who are you with? Be sure to think big, and review the list often so you can be committed. Those who are interested in a successful life might think about it, but don’t take any action. Those who are committed take action.

Involve the Right People and Resources

I call the people you spend the most time around your Circle of Influence. This Circle is the most influential aspect of your life. The people you spend the most time around will either build you up or break you down. Your friends help you deem what the minimum standard is for everything, how much you study, the food you eat, your habits, and more, it is all impacted by the people you are around. Reflect on the people you spend the most time around and make the decisions that will bring you closer to accomplishing your 10 year plan. If you need to find that social support through social media, so be it. I have networked with many people to help boost up my Circle so that I have higher standards. This Nix Your Limits Leadership Academy was created for this exact reason, you can find out more information here about that opportunity.

It is also important to surround yourself with the resources you need to succeed. That comes in different forms. You can foll0w successful people on social media, but be sure to watch how they do things. Watching how they work and lead is often where the most impactful lessons can be learned. You can also find blogs and podcasts that will provide valuable training and tools. There is plenty out there, you just have to look for it. Start implementing what you learn into your summer job and watch for results.

Strategize to Develop Skills and Habits

Most leadership skills and habits are universally beneficial to everyone. It doesn’t matter what career field you end up in, things like communicating effectively, personal organization, conflict mediation, and personal accountability will always serve you well. Think about people you admire because of what they have accomplished. This doesn’t have to be someone you know personally. Now look at what makes these people successful. What habits do they have? How do they communicate? Use their success as a roadmap of how you can see positive results. Start developing these skills because the earlier you do, the sooner you’ll see results.

Whatever you do end up spending your time doing this summer, be the best that you can. Have the best customer service of any cashier. Be the most organized shift lead of the company. Communicate better than anyone with your boss. Today matters, and if you look for opportunities to grow, and follow through with the action, you’ll find yourself developing the skills that most are waiting until they graduate to start working on.

Execute

If you don’t execute, you don’t get results. It is great to feel motivated, read blog posts, watch YouTube videos, and look up quotes, but unless you do anything about it, you will keep seeing the same old results. Stop wasting your time and take action! Stop only asking yourself what you learned and start asking yourself what you are going to do. Those who take action get what they want. Will you?

You have incredible potential within you. There is no shortage of success. You can set goals, you can audit your circle of influence, you can make lists of habits you need to develop, but until you do something about it, you will never see the results you want. Take action this summer, even though most won’t. Those who do will start living the life of their dreams while everyone else is still out there dreaming.

Dealing with Pre-Application Anxiety

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College Application Stress

There are two types of high school seniors right now.  There are the ones who have already applied to their colleges of choice and are waiting to hear back on an early decision, and then there are those that are putting the whole affair off until February.  I was the second kind.  My classmates were deciding over their top three early admissions, and I hadn’t even looked past the first couple pages of my state school’s website.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care.  Actually, quite the opposite.  The whole thing seemed so overwhelming, I didn’t even know where to begin.  K-12 had been pretty straight forward.  I had been told where to be, what to do, and what to learn for the past thirteen years, so college seemed like this insurmountable challenge.  If that last sentence hit a little too close to home, here’s some advice to get you through the next couple months.

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Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

One of my biggest problems was that I started to overthink everything.  What would I even major in?  Where were all my classmates going?  Would I like the town?  Could I handle the drive there and back during holiday breaks?  Would I live in the dorms, join a sorority, or was I allowed to live off-campus

These are all important questions, but you don’t have to know the answers to all of those right now.  You don’t need to worry about whether the school colors will clash with your skin tone until you’ve explored your options.

Prioritize!

So, you don’t want to overthink things, but you still need to identify what is important to you.  Before you even start seriously looking at schools, think:  Do you want to live close to home?  Do you just have to go to the same school as your best friend or boyfriend? Do you need to go to a top school, or do you want to save money by staying in state? These are important criteria to be aware of when you looking through your options.  Write them down as a list in order of most important to least important.

Of course, it can be difficult to pick a school if you don’t even know what you want to go to school for. With so many options, most freshmen are just as lost as you.  That’s okay!  You’re still a teenager.  Just think about some fields that you might be interested in, and keep those in mind while researching programs.  If you are one of the lucky few that knows that they’re destined for medical school or the world of marketing, then more power to you!

Start Doing Research

If you haven’t already, you need to get to this step ASAP.  The longer you wait, the fewer options you’ll have.  Start by just looking through the basics: costs, location, prestige, population, etc.  How does each school match up to your criteria?  You can successfully eliminate a lot of schools this way.  Recognize that some of your criteria might be at odds with each other.  You might have to give up living in a big city to go to school with your best friend or vise versa. Whenever you come to conflict like that, refer to that list you made, and ask yourself which one matters more.  Which priority is going to make you happier in a year?

You’ve also probably received more than your fair share of university pamphlets.  These can be great resources to see your options, especially which universities are interested in you, but make sure you look deeper.  Don’t decide based on the smiling students on the cover or the football team’s performance.  Instead, scour through their website.  Ask older siblings or friends what they discovered was really important in college.  Visit the campus if possible! Then reevaluate your own list.

Look at Your Finance Options

Paying for college is a big part of the experience.  A university’s affordability should be one of your top concerns.   There are several ways that you can accomplish that.  Scholarships and grants are the best, but they’re also very competitive.  You should apply for these as early as possible!  Next, see if you qualify for any sort of employee reimbursement.  Some schools have specific partnerships, like ASU and Starbucks, and some companies will only provide it under certain conditions.  Obviously, you don’t know where you’ll be working after graduation, but it’s never too early to start looking at future career paths.

Loans are an unfortunate reality for most college students.  If you find yourself among us, make sure that you know your stuff.  Finances are complicated- they have college courses about them!  There’s no shame in admitting you don’t understand the jargon.  Just do yourself a favor and learn what you can about loan lingo.  You’ll make more educated choices, and you won’t be surprised when you get your first bill in five years!

Decide.

Okay, I know that it still seems overwhelming, but you’re ready!  You’ve got all the tools to make a great decision right in front of you. Imagine the weight off your shoulders when you can actually answer your grandma’s holiday questions with zero stress.  This is a big step, but college is a journey.  Picking where you go is important- it’s your first adult decision- but it’s what you do at college will be even more so.  One step at a time!

High School Students: What Does it Take to Get Into College?

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Getting into College

It may be summer, but as a high schooler, you probably have one thing on your mind: getting into your dream college. However, dreaming about your acceptance letter is just one part of the equation. Planning and working towards that stellar application requires a lot of work and foresight — and it begins today. These tips will help you prepare by showing you what it takes to get into college.

 

High School Students: What Does It Take to Get Into College?

Grades

If you want to get into a good school, you’re going to need to show them what you’re made of by bringing along an excellent report card. That doesn’t mean just passing; it means achieving. The more prestigious the school, the better grades in the tougher classes will be expected.

If you had a bad semester or you just can’t seem to ace your math courses, don’t sweat it too hard. College admissions counselors don’t solely weigh your GPA. They also want to see that if you failed, you managed to pick yourself up again.

Test grades matter as well, though not as much as you may think. While many colleges advertise an average ACT or SAT score, the numbers are usually just a guideline. Other activities and application materials will be weighted, too.

Activities

Most colleges want to bring on students that have school pride, are involved, and have ambitions outside of class. Activities can be a way of showing off your well-roundedness. Now is the time to sign up for Spanish Club or to try out for cheer leading.

If you’re an athlete, getting into college on a sports scholarship is a whole other monster. You’ll want to talk to your coaches as soon as possible about how to attract the right admissions counselors to see you play. If you’re planning on going into the arts, you’ll need to start building your portfolio, brushing up on your auditions pieces, or videotape performances. This will give you something to show when admissions season comes around.

Volunteerism and Work

Volunteering regularly in your community isn’t a requirement to get into college, but it can set you apart from the crowd. And it doesn’t take much at all! You can do little things like participating in a monthly park cleaning day or something much larger like organizing a coat drive at your school. Find a cause or issue that matters to you and get to work. Colleges like to see that you are driven to make the world a better place.

A second option/alternative to volunteering is to actually going out and get a job. Universities love to see future students take on adult-sized responsibilities like building a resume. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll start saving for school even earlier.

The Application

Finally, none of this would be evident to your college admissions advisor without that dreaded application. All colleges have a form of this with their own deadlines and admissions periods. Our advice is to focus in on a few key items: when early admissions applications are due, how many recommendation letters you need and how they must be sent in, and what (if any) essay(s) you need to complete.

Early admissions is a great way to show how serious you are about your school choice, but early admissions applications means getting everything ready way in advance of the normal application process. This means planning your recommendations (contacting, reminding, confirming) and completing your essay (writing, editing, re-reading). By planning out your application, as well as your qualifications, in advance, you can ensure you’re on target to get  accepted to your ideal college.

Meet Asher Carr, PSU ’16

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Asher Carr, 16'. RHA President at Penn State Altoona

Asher Carr, 16′. RHA President at Penn State Altoona

Asher Carr, a rising Junior at Penn State University-Altoona, is a great example of a student leader with a unique, ongoing story of success and perseverance. He is a former cadet in the University’s ROTC program as well as President of the Altoona Residence Hall Association. It was his role in the RHA that lead him to CAACURH in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania and the NACURH Conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he met up with OCM.

As delegates from different regions travel to these conferences, so travels word of their service to campus and community. Asher caught up with OCM rep Mike Barnes to discuss his perspective on the importance of student leadership.

“[At NACURH] the number of student leaders and their ambition to make a change on their respective campuses was amazing,” reflected Asher on his first national conference. “It is amazing to be around people who will not settle for less and take time to make on-campus life better for their peers.

NACURH highlighted programming that encouraged diversity, sustainability, community, and leadership for delegates to bring back to their campuses. Asher shared how he took notice of this leadership when he was an underclassman on the Penn State campus.

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Mike Barnes of OCM, Sydney Eason from Roger Williams University, Zach Chase from Syracuse University and Rachel Olson from Boston College connect at NACURH ’14

“As a first-year student, I looked for desire and ambition; people who wanted to succeed,” he said. “I wanted to learn from people who brought value to others and had the wisdom to influence them to lead. A person with a burning desire to make things happen was the type of person I viewed as a success story.”

Asher currently writes his own unique success story. At just two days old, Asher underwent open-heart surgery, which granted him another chance to begin his journey.  “I try to do a lot because I was really close to not making it. That’s my drive for taking leadership,” he said. The surgery continues to affect some of the goals he set; a desire to serve in the United States military had to be amended as the demands of military training are not conducive to his condition. Asher sees this not as a limitation, but a motivation. He aims to apply his energy to serve as a leader in any way he can.

“If you really want something, I think you have to follow the people who have it and surround yourself with people who are willing to help,” he said. “Don’t let society dictate who you are or what you should do. Success happens on purpose and with a strong desire to succeed, you can literally do anything you want.”

Every student has their own unique story; their own “why” that motivates them. The goal of a college campus, and those who work within it, is to provide opportunities for students to discover that “why”. The best way to take advantage of these opportunities? Get involved.

“I wanted to get involved in the right way [as a first year],” Asher continued. “I joined organizations that interested me the most and stayed committed to helping each organization grow on campus; these lead me to multiple executive board positions. I plan on extending these opportunities.”

With two years left as an undergrad, Asher looks forward to continuing his Business Major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and eventually starting his own business. Not surprisingly, he also hopes to inspire others through leadership. When asked what he would like to do after starting his own business, he shared he would like to take his mother to Disney World- how’s that for a storybook story?

Keep it up, Asher! For your dedication to R.O.T.C, RHA, your campus and your community, we thank you for your service and your story! Keep leading the way.

OCM’s “Engage U” is designed as a resource that shares positive examples of leadership and stories of success and the pursuit of it with students and professionals alike. In an educational community that spans across our country and abroad, there is an endless number of stories we can learn from. Everyone has a lesson to learn and a lesson to offer- we want to help share. Welcome to “Engage U”! What’s your story?

Connect with us at ocmsocial@ocm.com and let us know about a special leader or story from your campus!

NACURH and OCM: Strong Together

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nacurh 60 We returned to the office covered in glitter and clothespins, with goodie-bags under our eyes and our feet sore from wobbling. Just another day at the office? Not at all. This weekend, OCM got NACURH’d!!

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire hosted NACURH 2014, and provided thousands of dedicated students a safe, sustainable, spirited and beautiful venue to express their love for college life and community. OCM got to reunite with friends from across the country, and meet hundreds of new ones! We had a blast at this magnificent event! Relive it with us here!

once upon a time

See you in North Dakota! @NACURH2015

It was a weekend full of cheering, hugging, tears of joy and most importantly, learning. As students and advisors return to their regions and campuses with new ideas and new networks of friends, so does OCM. There is not leadership without friendship, and we hope you can find both @OCMonCampus.

To all our friends, new and old, we L-O-V-E you and we L-O-V-E NACURH!

A sincere thank you to those who made this conference all that it could be! NACURH ’14 was an inspiring display of what individuals can achieve when they commit to community and embrace individuality. Thank you for all you shared with us, NACURH.

Let our friendship remain strong, and may it always wobble.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: NACURH 2014

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Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday season (if you started singing that song you get my reference), but I love this time of year as well!  It all started in 1987 when I attended my first NACURH conference at Central Michigan University.   It was a blast!  At that time, believe it or not, I was a junior in college and active in my hall government.  I was recruited by the MACURH Director to serve as the regional secretary.  This was long before computers – we addressed paper newsletters by hand and phone calls were the norm vs. texting or e-mail.

I remember running down a hill at NACURH’89 with all of my regional besties lined up to do our roll call dance to Grease Lightning.  I also remember hours of van rides and airport delays anticipating the fun that we were going to have at the conferences.   Fast forward to 2014 and I’m working at OCM preparing for NACURH 2014.  I still anticipate the fun travels that will ensue and now being a NACURH veteran, I look forward to seeing many people that I have met during my time with OCM.

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Now before you think I’m ancient, I share my NACURH history with many friends who have chosen to serve students as a profession, so I’m not the only one with memories of past NACURHs. And, I want to you to know that the adage of “the more things change the more they stay the same” holds true.  There are some cool traditions in NACURH that still exist (some with a twist).  There is still the fun (and drama) that comes with traveling with your schoolmates, co-workers, and friends.  There are the happy travelers who revel in the fact that they are getting to go on a trip. Then, there is the “are we there yet?” traveler who wonders what the heck they signed up for when saying yes to a 14 hour bus ride followed by 3 days of non-stop cheering and extrovert overload.  NACURH continues to provide the excitement of meeting new people, presenting a program, wearing matching outfits 3 days in a row, cheering until you lose your voice, bidding and winning awards, opening ceremonies, roll call, board meetings and the closing banquet.   There have been some tweaks to all of these things – the cheers are more inclusive, the outfits are probably a little cooler, the presentations are much more high tech, and attendees have most likely already met via social media prior to the conference starting.  What hasn’t changed? That feeling you get arriving at the conference knowing that something great is going to happen! 30 years later, I still have that feeling.

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NACURH 2014 is going to be a great experience for everyone involved.  Forming friendships during regional travels and expanding that circle to the national level is one of the highlights.  There’s nothing better than that surge of school pride you have when seeing your logo or mascot on a screen. Not to mention that moment where you hear your school name being announced along with one of your friends who won an award. These unique and special moments continue to be the wonderful moments that NACURH brings year after year.   NACURH provides a time for celebration to honor a successful year while also creating a venue for new leadership opportunities. Students and advisers from across the country get the opportunity to collaborate ways they can continue meeting the needs of the next group of students coming to campus in the short following months.  To me, this is about as close to the holidays as you can get!

Mental Health Awareness – What College Has Taught Me

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Growing up I knew something was different about how I coped with stress and dealt with my emotions. I have very vivid memories of waiting outside by the mailbox almost an hour before the school bus was expected to arrive because I was so afraid to miss it. On bad weather days I would stare out the front window instead, nerves building and building, just waiting for the bus to show up. Who even does that?

Fast forward to today, a year out of college and I feel that I have just now figured it out… and I’ll be the first to tell you that college was not at all easy living with these illnesses. Starting in 2009 when I had my first visit to any kind of therapist, I have been diagnosed with both anxiety and depression. I feel that during my four years in school I have learned SO MUCH, both about myself and about the illnesses so many people misunderstand and oftentimes fear.

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 1.  “Seriously, It’s NOT That Serious!”

This is a big one for me – anxiety makes mountains out of mole hills (what are mole hills anyways?) The problem here is that ‘sweating the small stuff’ adds up and can affect our overall mental health. Daily negative feelings of stress coupled with the inability to cope with minor events can have a long-term impact on mental health. The worst part? You’re stressing away the best days of your life… take a few breaths, find humor in things and try to enjoy it! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later!

2.  Take Time Out For Yourself

Don’t forget about YOU! Whether you’re working three jobs on campus, president of your senior class council or just a little overwhelmed by your workload; take time out to just relax and do what YOU want. Being busy is a nice way to keep your mind off reality but let’s be honest – you need time to kick back and relax. Your body needs it and will thank you for it.

3.  Don’t Feel Ashamed – Challenge the Stigma

Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma can be defined as a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart in a negative way and can bring feelings of shame, hopelessness and distress. Hanging your head because you feel ashamed can be a normal reaction, but it doesn’t have to be. Everyone is different, everyone has their own story… and this is yours. Whether it’s with your boss, your professor, your significant other, your roommate or your parents… we all know honesty is the best policy! If something is bothering you about anything in your life, speak up and let your voice be heard. Be open and honest about your feelings and don’t bottle it up – because we all know that only causes more problems.

4.  Know When to Seek Help and From Where

Signs that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety are not always recognizable at first glance. For depression it could be loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, tiredness and lack of energy, slowed or trouble thinking, and sudden disturbances in sleep. For anxiety it could be feeling restless or on edge, tiring easily, experiencing muscle tension and prolonged irritability. If you feel as though you may be depressed or suffering from anxiety, but are reluctant to seek treatment… talk to a friend, a loved one, or someone else you trust. This is the first step to getting help! Seek professional help (like your school’s counseling services, public safety, or even 911) if you feel as though you are in crisis, or have thoughts of suicide or self harm.

I remember the first time I sought professional help for my mental illness and can recall almost every detail about that appointment, because of how traumatic it was for me. I was SO reluctant and toyed around with the idea for months – I felt like I was being judged and that seeking professional help wasn’t “normal”. It’s not like anyone actually wants to go see a therapist or psychiatrist. It’s not the type of thing someone wakes up in the morning and says “Wow, I’ve been missing something in my life. I’d love to chat with a stranger about my innermost personal fears, thoughts, and feelings and see exactly how screwed up I really am!” Instead of fighting these feelings, it is best to just accept them as part of the process of getting better.