7 Ways to Get Ahead at Your First Job

Originally written for and published at Her Campus on Sept 21, 2015.

 

You’ve finally landed the job you spent months trying to find. Congratulations! Now that you’re settled in, finished with your training and starting to get a strong understanding of what the real world is all about, it’s time to find ways to stand out at the office.

Getting ahead doesn’t have to be a challenge, but it does require a little extra effort. Follow these tips and you’ll be moving up the career ladder in no time.

1. Volunteer to help out with projects outside of your responsibilities

Just because something isn’t in your job description doesn’t mean you can’t contribute ideas to different projects. Go out of your way to ask your supervisor or other coworkers if there is anything you can help out with. They will recognize your enthusiasm and appreciate the unique ideas and skill set you bring to the table. We aren’t suggesting you overload your plate with things you don’t have time for, but even the smallest contribution can go a long way. After all, helping others succeed will ultimately help your entire company succeed.

2. Review your work before submitting it

Though seemingly obvious, many people fall into the habit of thinking something is done when it isn’t. Remember in college (and high school) when your professors told you how important it was to proofread your papers? The same applies in the real world—it’s actually even more important than ever. Don’t hand in a project—or even send an email!—without reviewing it beforehand, as one small mistake can make you look foolish in the eyes of your supervisors.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of kindness

Some people view their job as a stressful place full of deadlines, endless to-do lists and grumpy coworkers. It doesn’t need to be this way! Having a positive outlook regarding your company and your position will not only benefit you, but others as well. Be sure to say hello, smile and be cheerful. Katie Hardesty, director of PR and special events at Cherry Hill Public Library, echoes the importance of this: “Work can be a stressful place, but it’s nice to be known as a person people like to be around. Who knows… that paired with your awesome skills and work ethic could be the key to your next promotion!”

4. Never turn down leadership opportunities

A leader is something you should always strive to be, especially in the workplace. When individuals recognize you as such, your career can grow exponentially. They’ll know you possess qualities of dedication, attention to detail and a natural ability to guide others. If someone asks you to take on a leadership role, even if it’s as simple as planning the holiday party, don’t pass it up.

5. Express passion and excitement for your work and your company

The old expression, ‘If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ is still true today. Being passionate about what you do helps make your job easier because you don’t see it as work or a chore. Even if you aren’t at your dream job (yet!), be sure to find a few aspects of your current role that you love and focus on them. If you demonstrate your passion for your job and company, your boss and coworkers will notice. Lisa Hoffmann, director of communications at Unite Here Health, believes that executives and bosses often find youth and excitement in the workplace to be invigorating and refreshing. “They will gravitate to you and spotlight you and your attitude because most leaders are looking for those who help create a positive work environment,” Hoffmann says.

6. Build relationships

Focus on building relationships with as many people in your office as possible, especially with your boss. If and when you end up leaving the company down the road, your coworkers, managers and executives can remain part of your network—and you never know when your paths may cross again or when you’ll need a recommendation. Shannon Smith, a marketing communications coordinator at Insulet Corporation, recommends having one-on-one meetings weekly or biweekly with your boss to not only check in on the status of your projects, but to have an opportunity to connect and learn more about him/her. Just remember to remain professional in all your inter-office relationships; you want to make an impression on your coworkers, but you want that impression to be a good one. Sure, you can be friendly and go out for happy hour with your coworkers, but save the drama and gossip for your girlfriends.

7. Listen and observe those around you

You’re new to your company and have a lot to learn, so take advantage by listening, observing, asking questions and learning from your coworkers, bosses and peers. “Even if you were a superstar student, you’re still brand new to your field,” says Cristin Farney, a public relations and advertising professor at Rowan University. “Think of your first job as the most important class you’ve ever taken and your first step towards the rest of you career.”

Your first job can be stressful, but if you follow these tips and strive to be your best, you’ll be an expert in your industry in no time.

Read the full article on Her Campus!

16 Books Every College Grad Should Read

Originally written for and published on Her Campus on July 6, 2015.

 

Adjusting to post-college life can be rough—you may be done with classes, homework and finals, but you’ve come to the realization that it’s no longer socially acceptable to wear sweatpants every day, make dinner in a microwave, and binge-watch Netflix every night—even if it was okay to do so just a few months ago. You’re not the only one! That’s why I’m directing you right to the pros. Here are 16 books every recent grad should read, by everyone from career experts to fellow post-collegiettes.

1. Welcome to the Real World by Lauren Berger

Welcome to the Real World, by Lauren Berger of InternQueen.com, is a must if you’re looking for or starting your first job. It’ll provide you with valuable information you’ll want to know before taking your first step into adulthood. Berger emphasizes the importance of taking risks and having a strong understanding of who you are and what you can bring to a company as a potential new employee. “It’s time to get comfortable getting uncomfortable,” she advises. This book will help you build a strong foundation—by the time you finish reading it, you’ll have a great understanding of what to expect from a full-time job.

2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

A ton of schools host events where professors give talks they like to call their “Last Lecture.” For these lectures, professors discuss what matters most to them and share their wisdom as if it were truly their last lecture. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was asked to give his “last lecture.” However, Paush’s lecture wasn’t about dying—it was about living. It explores why it’s important to strive to overcome every challenge you face in life and how to seize every moment. Pausch’s The Last Lecture will help you see the world in a new light. His philosophies and life lessons emphasize the importance of striving to make the most out of your life, something that all college grads should aim to achieve.

3. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in May 2012. She was on the road to success. She wrote a play that was scheduled to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and had a job lined up at The New Yorker after graduation. Tragedy struck just five days after Keegan graduated when she died in a car crash. After her passing, her unforgettable essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral and received over 1.4 million hits. Regardless of her young age, Marina managed to leave behind a valuable piece of writing that captures the aspirations and abilities of our generation. This book is thought-provoking and will help you figure out what you aspire to be and how to harness your talent to make an impact on the world.

4. What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles

What Color Is Your Parachute? sold more than ten million copies—and we totally get why. This book provides you with up-to-date information, research and tips regarding the job market, how to write resumes and cover letters, effective networking tips, how to negotiate your salary and strategies you should follow to find those jobs people tell you don’t exist.

5. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

The back of the book states, “If you graduated from college but still feel like a student… if you wear a business suit to job interviews but pajamas to the grocery store… if you have your own apartment but no idea how to cook or clean… it’s OK. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t act like one.” We don’t know about you, but this certainly seems to apply to the majority of graduettes! This funny book makes the scary “real world” seem totally conquerable. Whether you’re looking for simple recipes, networking advice or tips on how to be taken seriously at work, this book has your answers. It’s pretty much the handbook to have by your side as an aspiring grown-up entering the real world.

6. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

We all know how hard life can be sometimes, but what we sometimes overlook is how truly great it can be, too. Sugar—a once-anonymous online advice columnist—was everyone’s go-to person for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things is an aggregation of the best of Dear Sugar. This book teaches you lessons through a tough-love tone of voice. You’ll be laughing and gaining valuable insight on all the the challenges life can throw your way.

7. The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces by Kyle Schuneman

What’s scarier than moving into your very first apartment? How about moving into your first apartment before you can actually afford an apartment big enough to live in comfortably? Your first apartment lets you have full control of what you want to do with your space, but it can be a little tricky to decorate. Luckily, Kyle Schuneman, a decorating prodigy, understands that a non-existent income and plain, white walls don’t have to stand in your way. He provides excellent examples of ways to take a small space and turn it into a cozy place you’re proud to call home.

8. Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She uses this book to share her knowledge on how to avoid common obstacles and advance your career. An excellent read for women who have recently graduated, Lean In teaches how to strive toward your aspirations and career goals. When the book first came out in 2013, it became a phenomenon for empowering women. This book’s combination of inspiration and advice is what makes it such a powerful tool for young women.

9. Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

These two women—best friends since the moment they met during their freshman year at Brown University—made a promise to keep in touch after graduation through emails full of all the juicy details of their post-college adventures. One moves to Beijing while the other heads to New York. Both girls spend the next few years battling their way through adulthood and composing emails to another regarding all their exciting tales. This book is an easy, fun read that you will not want to put down. The emails between the two authors are exciting to read and recent graduates will find themselves able to relate to the authors’ stories and experiences in ways that are happy, sad, funny and exhilarating.

10. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you should stop learning. And who better to help you learn than Stephen King himself? He is a true storyteller and uses this book to share his expertise and his story on how his writing got to be where it is now. Gia Gallone, a recent graduate from Rowan University with a love for writing, believes this book is a great tool to help anyone looking to strengthen his or her writing. “Stephen King is an amazing writer. If you’re looking for a book to read that will help you enhance your writing abilities, definitely check out this book,” she recommends.

12. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell believes success is a combination of opportunity and time spent on a task. He is a believer in the 10,000-hour rule: that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master anything. In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell takes you on a journey through the world of “outliers”—the best and the brightest, the famous and successful. He focuses on what makes these people different. He believes we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from. This book is a great eye-opener, filled with stories and lessons weaved together into one valuable, interesting book.

13. Put Your Dream to the Test by John C. Maxwell

“What’s the difference between a dreamer and someone who achieves a dream?” Dr. John Maxwell believes you will find the answer to this question after answering ten questions. This book provides you with a step-by-step plan to identify, follow, and eventually reach your dream. This is a perfect book to read after graduating when your dreams and possibilities are endless!

14. Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want by Jenny Blake

Life After College serves as a guide written specifically for recent grads and young professionals. Jenny Blake, popular blogger and life coach, uses a combination of anecdotes, insight and inspirational quotes to help readers focus on the big picture of many different aspects of life: work, money, home, friends & family, organization, dating & relationships, health, fun, relaxation and personal growth. This read will leave you feeling confident, inspired and ready to take action toward building the life you want. You’ll be embarking on your big post-college journey in no time with this manual by your side.

15. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Remember when we mentioned it’s no longer acceptable to make dinner in your microwave? Well, with that being said, now is a great time to invest in a handful of cookbooks. Pinterest is a great tool to use for finding recipes, but having cookbooks at home will help you improve your cooking abilities even further. Bittman has a whole series of How to Cook Everything books with over 4,000 recipes, ranging from holiday recipes, easy weekend recipes, vegetarian recipes and quick and simple recipes. Check them out!

16. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke by Suze Orman

Last, but certainly not least, every graduette needs to manage her finances… or lack thereof. You know all those money-related topics we all try our best to avoid thinking about: credit card debt, student loans, credit scores and insurance? Well, get ready to face it head-on. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke is a great guide to read when you don’t know where to begin when it comes to budgeting, personal finances and every other not-so-popular money topic.

 

Spend some time this summer reading these books and you’ll be a real-world pro in no time! We promise.

 

Read the full article on Her Campus!

Why It’s Okay to Not Have a Job After Graduation

Originally written for and published on Her Campus on May 6, 2015.

 

You know the feeling: That nerve-racking moment when you realize graduation is slowly creeping up and you can’t seem to get a call back from any of the companies you’ve applied to. All of your friends are constantly talking about interviews and offers they’ve received, your extended family keeps nagging you regarding what you’re doing after graduation, and no matter how many jobs you apply to, you can’t even land an interview.

While professors, friends and family may make you feel pressured to have a job lined up right after you graduate, there are many ways you can take something perceived as negative and turn it into something positive.

1. Take time to unwind

For starters, take a moment to stop and breathe. Even better, go look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a compliment. Next, make a list of all the things you’d rather do than sit at a desk in a stuffy office in the middle of July.

Having “me” time is essential to every woman, especially after an undoubtedly busy college career. If you don’t have a job after graduation, take this time to relax and focus on you. Yes, it might be a little disheartening knowing you aren’t employed, but it could also be your last summer to have fun with your friends and family before you have to work a 9-to-5 job, five days a week, for the rest of your life. Start checking things off of your bucket list, and be sure to take risks and enjoy yourself. Maybe treat yourself to a spa day; a mani/pedi or massage may help relieve the stress that built up during your job search. You could also go on vacation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive; take a drive with a few friends or family members to a beach nearby for a few days or visit a place you’ve always wanted to see. Also, appreciate the fact that you won’t be setting your alarm for 6 a.m. every morning… yet. That, alone, seems like a vacation to us!

2. Set goals

Just because you aren’t working a full-time job by June doesn’t mean you have to give up! Keep looking, but don’t feel bad if you don’t hear back right away.

Try setting a more realistic goal for yourself. Maybe you want to be employed by September, or even January. Strive to reach your goals, because let’s face it, nothing feels better than meeting a deadline!

Next, try following up with a few companies you truly have your eye on, or go on LinkedIn and see if any of your connections might know someone from the company. Finding a job through your existing network makes the search a lot easier. So reach out to your network, and then reach out to their network!

3. Take on new opportunities

While waiting for a good job opportunity to come your way, you could take an internship position to help expand your skill set, even if it’s unpaid. This will bring you one step closer to your dream job. Diana DiNapoli, a 2014 university graduate, decided to take on an internship when she didn’t immediately land a full-time job at the end of her time in college. “As frustrated as was I when I didn’t land a full-time job after graduation, I decided to work as an intern. This allowed me to add another experience to my resume and gave me an edge when I went on interviews,” she says. “In my interview for my current job, it showed how dedicated I was to the field by sacrificing my ‘last’ summer and using it to build my resume. I didn’t have to tell my current company how dedicated I was; my resume spoke for itself. Currently, I work full time at a company I love and I firmly believe my summer internship helped me get there.” Even if your dream job is in NYC and you live miles away, you can always apply for a remote internship. Such an opportunity will allow you to gain the skills you need, while also being extremely flexible.

Though not necessarily a part of your original plan, it’s nevertheless important to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you’re a PR major, for example, your first position doesn’t need to be as an account coordinator at a PR firm. You could get a job as an administrative assistant just to get your foot in the door. Then, once you’re there, do your best to go above and beyond what is expected of you. Your supervisor will notice, and you’ll start rising up that ladder.

Finally, be open to any job prospects that may come your way. Rowan University Professor Cristin Farney recommends saying yes to all opportunities and to keep your mind open in order to get your supervisor to notice you. “Don’t be afraid to try new things, professionally or personally,” she says. “It is the only way you’ll grow.”

4. Learn something new

Most importantly, keep learning, no matter what. Even if you aren’t working, keep your brain busy by taking an online course in something that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, whether it’s directly related to your career path or not. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to build a website or improve your cooking skills. Well, now is the time!

Just remember, you have the rest of your life to work. This isn’t to say you should push off working until you’re 40 years old, but remember, being unemployed in your twenties is totally okay.

 

Read the full article on Her Campus!

Swiping Right for the Wrong Reasons

The concept is simple — if you like the person’s picture, you swipe right. If you don’t, you swipe left. If you and another swipe right on each other’s photo, it’s a match. You can now begin a conversation with this person.

Tinder is a free mobile application for iOS and Android devices that allows the user to communicate with mutually interested users based on location. By matching people who mutually like each other, it reduces the user’s chance of rejection. The application was released on Sept. 12, 2012 by Sean Rad, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen. Initially, the application was available only to the University of Southern California, but it quickly expanded to other college campuses and the general public.

Tinder uses your Facebook profile to collect your information and photos. It then tries to display candidates to you who it believes is compatible based on mutual Facebook friends, geographical location and common interests. Since its official release, Tinder is now available in 30 languages and as of April 2015, users swipe through 1.6 billion profiles and have more than 26 million matches every day.

In March 2015, Tinder released an update to the public that instilled an algorithm that limits the number of “right swipes” a user can make in a 12 hour time period. Many Tinder users were annoyed with this new algorithm limiting their number of swipes, but the implementation proved to be beneficial for the application’s users. Shortly after the update occurred, TechCrunch published a report examining the positive effects the new limitation had on Tinder users. “Ten days into launch [of the update], Tinder is seeing a 25 percent increase in the number of matches per right swipe, and a 25 percent increase in the number of messages per match. Plus, spam bots have decreased more than 50 percent since launch.”

Unfortunately, like most dating applications, Tinder has a lot of social stigma behind it.

The idea of matching up with someone solely based on looks makes people feel embarrassed to admit they use the application for anything more than just entertainment purposes. Because of this, Tinder is seen as a joke and isn’t viewed as a serious means of finding a potential partner for a new relationship. This has led to people creating parody accounts that mock Tinder, such as Tinder Nightmares on Instagram. It showcases conversations people have had through Tinder that ended up as, well, a nightmare.

In college towns, however, students view Tinder as a way people can find potential “hookups” for the night. Through an online survey distributed to college students across the United States, I found that 99.4 percent of respondents have used or know another student who has used Tinder. Out of the 155 survey respondents, 61 percent of people believe the purpose of using Tinder is to look for hookups at school. One respondent even believes that people use Tinder as “window shopping for girls or hookups.”

What do you think of tinder

However, the survey revealed that this hookup ideal is inaccurate. Out of the 155 respondents, only 20 percent reported to using Tinder for hookup purposes. This reinforces the idea that Tinder’s social stigma and negative reputation is simply incorrect.

Tinder Survey Results-2

In contrast, 12 percent of respondents answered that they have been in a relationship that started through the Tinder app. And of that 12 percent, almost half are still in that relationship.

One respondent addressed the issue behind Tinder’s stigma. “I think Tinder could be a really great way to meet people in this digital age, but most people don’t take it seriously because everyone jokes about it being for hookups.”

Another respondent doesn’t like to admit she uses the application for relationship purposes because people view her as shallow for judging men solely on appearance. “But isn’t it the same thing as approaching someone you find attractive at a bar? If it didn’t have the stereotype of being a hookup app, I think it would be a great way to meet new people and potentially start a relationship.”

Rosie Kelly, a senior advertising major at Rowan University, runs a blog called Hookup Culture. Hookup Culture exposes students at Rowan University talking about relationships and sex in college and encourages the idea that, despite our generation’s stereotype of not being able to communicate and form meaningful relationships, we are capable of these things and are actually very open about relationships. Kelly conducts interviews with students to get material for the blog and also writes feature articles that have to do with relationships, break-ups and dating for our generation.

Kelly spoke to Her Campus Rowan in regard to her blog’s purpose and said, “We all go through heart breaks and are constantly swiping through Tinder and I don’t think it’s something that has to be kept a secret. Hookup Culture and other blogs like it let people know that we’re all thinking the same thing.”

“My main message is really that we are so much more than a hookup culture. Older generations tend to believe all we do is have one night stands, we can’t communicate because of social media and texting and that we never form meaningful relationships.  I believe all of that is wrong. We are more focused on our careers and futures, so it’s true that fewer people decide to settle down in college. However, we are extremely capable of communicating and forming relationships, just in a different and more evolved way than our elders.”

Through a personal interview with Kelly, she told me she believes “Tinder is just another form of communication for our generation. We meet people by following them on Twitter, talking to them in class, friending them on Facebook, saying hi at the bar or even matching on Tinder. It has a stigma that it’s used for hookups but I don’t think that’s true. Most people use it out of boredom, to talk to someone or maybe to date.”

Tinder is a powerful tool students use versus the typical online dating websites, such as Match.com. Just because something is seen as a tool for hooking up, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously as a way to meet new people and form meaningful relationships.

Why use tinder

 

 

New Village Housing Aims to Solve Housing Dilemma at Rowan University

It has been almost a year since chaos broke out on Rowan University’s campus. More than 600 students were placed on an extensive waiting list to enter the lottery for on-campus housing, forcing them to look elsewhere to live, with little time available, for the upcoming academic year.

“I cannot even find the words to describe how I felt when I found out I was placed near the bottom of the waitlist for housing,” said Mark DaSilva, a junior communication studies major at Rowan University. “It was already late March and the majority of off-campus houses were already rented out for next year. Luckily, I found somewhere eventually. But where I live now is far from campus and is not my ideal living situation.”

DaSilva was not the only student aggravated by the waitlist. Hundreds of angry students drafted and signed multiple petitions in attempt to fight it.

According to a fact sheet provided on Rowan University’s website, the current enrollment is 14,778 students. Only 4,319 currently live on campus.

Rowan University recently announced its goal to double the number of students to 25,000 by 2023, which helps toward its overall plan to expand the campus and school itself. Out of those 25,000 students, the university aims to have 60 percent of students living on campus, according to Joe Cardona, vice president of university relations. When you double the number of students, however, you need somewhere for them to live. The university soon realized that if they want to double the number of students, they need to take the next step and expand the housing available to students.

The newest housing complex, currently called the Housing Village, was approved at the Board of Trustees meeting in January. It will have 1,400 beds for students to fill and will cater mainly toward upperclassmen. The Housing Village will be located where Lot X currently is, on the corner of the Rowan Boulevard apartments and Landmark Americana, and is on track to be completed by fall 2016.

“Imagine nice green, sidewalks and beautiful apartments all in that area,” said Cardona.

This new complex is part of a public-private partnership. This is the first time Rowan is housing students in privately-owned property. The way the partnership works is the contractor receives ownership and rent, but Rowan is the one who decides who gets to live there based on the lottery system.

There will not be stores located on the ground floor of the Housing Village. However, it will contain a dining hall and a medium-sized gym to help make the complex more self-sustained. Gourmet Dining will be in charge of the dining hall’s food due to its exclusive contract with the university. However, the university will subcontract with different vendors, all falling under Gourmet Dining’s umbrella.

Another aspect to look at is how the construction will affect the campus. “Just eight years ago, the core of the students were all here and revolved around the student center. This shifts everything heavily toward the downtown area and Rowan Boulevard,” said Cardona. “Doing this helps make the relationship between the community and the college stronger.” The move also opens up doors for vendors and members of the community.

Cardona explained how the Village Housing complex with be somewhat a la carte. “When you look at campus communities, there needs to be a distribution of housing — housing that’s more affordable and housing people are willing to pay extra for and get the special accommodations.” The room types will vary and the prices will be flexible. “If you want to pay extra, you can. If you want to live in a cinderblock building, you can.”

This plan is estimated to cost $120 million. Once numbers get involved, students tend to have a strong opinion of the idea.

Katie Bussman, a senior public relations major, believes building more housing complexes is a bad idea. “I understand they want to expand, but they can’t just suddenly take in a huge number of students. It’s forcing everyone’s tuition to go up and now everyone else has to suffer.”

Amanda Hauske, a senior civil engineering major, agrees. “Students chose to go to this school due to its small size and low cost of tuition. When students came in as freshman, they were under the impression they’d have access to on-campus housing for all four years. Now Rowan’s availability for housing is limited and the current students don’t see it as a fair mechanism to expand the school.”

On the opposing side, junior finance major Jeffrey Stein believes this is a step in the right direction for the university, but the approach is all wrong. “I think building more housing for upperclassmen is a waste of valuable space for Rowan. Starting junior year, students are allowed to move off-campus, expanding their housing opportunities to truly endless options, whereas sophomores and freshmen are required to live on campus. As Rowan’s student body grows, there needs to be more housing available for the upcoming freshmen and sophomore classes. What this all boils down to is that lot X should be used for freshmen and sophomore housing. This will resolve the relatively uncomfortable living conditions for these grade levels and eliminate a huge portion of the massive wait lists Rowan currently has to deal with every year.”

Now for the final question every Rowan student wants to know: where will these students be parking? The students living in the Housing Village will park in the parking garage located on Rowan Boulevard.

Paving the Road to Success

In order to maintain the United States’ leadership position in our global economy, President Barack Obama proposed reforming our community colleges in hope of providing Americans the chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for jobs. His proposal, the American Graduation Initiative, would allow an additional five million people who meet the requirements to graduate from a community college by 2020.

This is a big deal for college-aged Americans hoping to earn a degree, but others are affected as well. The American Graduation Initiative is projected to cost $12 billion. Funding needs to go toward expanding the size of campuses, the number of classrooms, the number of professors who need to be paid and the supplies and resources the colleges provide to students, such as computer labs suitable for a large number of students. To obtain this $12 billion, Obama plans to increase the maximum Pell grant and education tax credits to ease financial pressure on students.

According to whitehouse.gov, The Recovery Act is Obama’s plan to cushion the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and lay a new foundation for economic growth. The American Association of Community Colleges published a fact sheet on the initiative which states, “The Recovery Act increased Pell Grants by $500 to $5,350 and created the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit for four years of college tuition. Now, the Administration is working to make these policies permanent and ensure the Pell Grant continues to grow faster than inflation. Together, the Recovery Act and president’s budget call for nearly $200 billion in college scholarships and tax credits over the next decade.”

Emily Bussman, a freshman at Rowan College at Gloucester County, believes that although community college will be free, it won’t change whether people are motivated to earn a degree. “If they aren’t motivated, money won’t change their own personal mindset,” she says.

According to The Hechinger Report, a publication covering innovation and inequality in education, only one in five students who enroll in community college graduates in three years. Lack of motivation from students pushed the United States from first to 10th in the world in proportion of the population that has graduated from college.

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“I think it’s great Obama wants to offer potential students the opportunity to go to community college for free, but that doesn’t change the fact that there aren’t jobs available for them to fill after they graduate,” says Sarah Hoffman, a sophomore at Raritan Valley Community College in Somerset County, NJ. “I’m stressed over the idea that even though I put in the time and effort to earn a degree, that doesn’t guarantee me a job. Allowing anyone to earn his or her degree will just mean the value of a degree is basically worthless.”

U.S. Rep Virginia Foxx, who chairs the White House higher-education subcommittee, questioned Obama’s graduation goals. “A college degree doesn’t do any good if there aren’t any jobs. I think it’s important that people finish college, but the major reason people go to college is to get a job. I think the president should be focusing a whole lot more on creating an environment that allows for job creation,” says Foxx.

Another aspect to look at is how this affects those who are already in college and paid to get there. Greg Demkowicz, owner of Correct Electric, LLC. in Washington, NJ, believes this will harm the classroom environment for current students.

“The GPA requirements of students to maintain free education are low. Instead of focusing on the students who truly want to study hard and succeed, we will be providing a subsidy for those with less motivation and initiative. Having a bunch of people with degrees by 2020 does nothing for the students or the country. Obama needs to focus on making students smarter. That’s what our country should be striving for by 2020,” says Demkowicz. “This is a slap in the face of all the students who paid for their education. These students, with the desire to learn and succeed, will be placed in the same class as those receiving the subsidy, who may only be there because it’s free. Are the professors going to have to dumb down lectures just so the unmotivated students pass the course? Great. Now the students who truly want to learn will not be able to reach their potential because the lecture didn’t challenge them.”

President Obama is paving the road for future college students with good intentions, but, according to critics of the plan, further research should be done on the adverse effects before laying the pavement.

 

 

 

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Erin Condren Life Planner 2015 Review

This review is long past due. I’ve referred hundreds of people to Erin Condren, but never wrote a review on my Life Planner (I did write one about my old planner, a Plum Paper, if you wanted to check that out). Well, it’s time to change that!

 

Cover

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State of the Union Reaction and Afterthoughts

I cannot even imagine what State of the Unions were like before social media. Last night, I spent the duration of the SOTU on Twitter, following along with the hashtag, of course, to keep up with the public’s reaction throughout the live broadcast.

 

Although I’m definitely not Obama’s biggest fan, I will admit that he’s a top-notch public speaker. However, despite the level of confidence he displays while speaking, I always struggle to believe the promises he makes. This is because of his lack of support and rationality behind his promises.

 

It was suggested by the Twitter community that the theme of the 2015 SOTU was supposed to be helping rebuild the stability of the middle class. I quickly realized that rumor was false. I say this because President Obama delivered a lot of promises to make things “free” for Americans, such as two years of community college, childcare and more.

Now let’s take a step back and think. When was the last time anything was ever truly free? Probably never. Basic necessities we need to survive, such as water, aren’t even free — hell, at movie theaters, they charge about $4.50 for a bottle of water — so how can our president promise to provide a two-year community college education for free? Here’s the answer, he can’t.

Let’s rationalize this by looking at one of the biggest issues here: who is going to pay the professors if tuition is free? Hmm… maybe tax-paying citizens? Ding, ding, ding! How is giving people even more free handouts helping the middle class? It isn’t. Raising our taxes is building even more debt and putting more stress on our economy.

I wasn’t the only person who thought this way and tried to rationalize.

Senator of the United States Rand Paul, in his video response to the State of the Union, stated, “As a physician, I was taught to, first, do no harm. To think before you act. To analyze the unintended consequences of your actions. I think America would be better off if all politicians took the same approach.” Rand also Tweeted throughout the SOTU:

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Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, put out a news release three hours prior to the president’s address. In the release, Huckabee stated, “There are two things certain about the Obama administration—debt and taxes. I’m not surprised that in this State of the Union address, President Obama will introduce another plan for more taxes. After growing our national debt by $7.5 trillion dollars since taking office, it’s ridiculous for the president to propose $320 billion dollars in new taxes.”

Mr. Huckabee, your predictions were true.

 

Now, I’m no politician. I’m simply a college-aged American citizen hoping to share some of my thoughts. However, I believe we, as a nation, need to take a step back and rationalize before believing these promises our president made will be beneficial to our country as a whole.

 

I also want to leave you with a few Tweets I found particularly enjoyable:

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A Year of Reading – 2014 Edition Book Reviews

L ast year, I did a review of all the books I read in 2013. I got a lot of good feedback, so I figured I would do a review of all the books I read in 2014. I was seriously slacking this past year when it came to reading because I can only remember 12 books I read. So either I only read 12 books, which is depressing, or I have an awful memory.

Anyway, if you’re like me and you love to read, check out my list below of all the books I read this year and what I thought of them. I hope you’ll discover a new favorite book after you check these ones out. These are all fiction novels, ranging from romance to mystery (I was on a mystery kick this year), and are great books for a young adult or college-aged reader.

Click on the book title for more information and reviews via GoodReads.

The Best:

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Dark Places – Gillian Flynn – Mystery, Thriller (10/10)

Libby Day was seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, behind bars. Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. 

I read both Gone Girl and Sharp Objects in 2013 and decided I needed to read the third and final book by Gillian Flynn. I’m so glad I did because I enjoyed this one the most! In case you can’t guess based on its name, the book is a little dark so be aware there are some parts that are difficult to read. However, the storyline is brilliant and keeps you hooked all the way through to the last page. Seriously, add this to your to-read list right now!

The Quickie – James Patterson – Mystery, Suspense (9/10)

Lauren Stillwell is not your average damsel in distress. When the NYPD cop discovers her husband leaving a hotel with another woman, she decides to beat him at his own game. But her revenge goes dangerously awry, and she finds her world spiraling into a hell that becomes more terrifying by the hour. In a further twist of fate, Lauren must take on a job that threatens everything she stands for. Now, she’s paralyzed by a deadly secret that could tear her life apart. With her job and marriage on the line, Lauren’s desire for retribution becomes a lethal inferno as she fights to save her livelihood–and her life. 

Don’t judge the book by the title, this is definitely not a romance novel. James Patterson’s books are so enjoyable to read. The chapters are super short and you fly through the book. I read this entire book in just a few hours, then raved about it to my mom until she decided to read it. My roommate was the one who recommended this book to me. She doesn’t read books often but said she loved this one, so I figured it couldn’t be too bad.

 

Honeymoon – James Patterson – Mystery, Suspense (8/10)

How does it feel to be desired by every man and envied by every woman? Wonderful. This is the life Nora Sinclair has dreamed about, the life she’s worked hard for, the life she will never give up. She doesn’t just attract men, she enthralls them. So why is FBI agent John O’Hara interested in Nora Sinclair? Mysterious things happen to people around her, especially the men. And there is something dangerous about Nora, something that lures O’Hara at the same time that it fills him with fear. Is something dark hidden in the gaps of her past? As O’Hara spends more and more time getting to know her, is he pursuing justice? Or his own fatal obsession? 

Another James Patterson book I flew through. This one was a fun read and I’d recommend it as a spring break or summer read. And once again, not a romance (despite the title).

 

Dangerous Girls – Abigail Haas -Mystery, Crime (9/10)

It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love. As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…  

“Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?” This book was incredible. It is very similar to the Amanda Knox trial. A group of friends go on vacation together, one friend is murdered and her best friend is accused of the crime. Mind-blowing book. Even more mind-blowing ending. I was literally sitting in my room speechless and in shock after I finished. Read this one.

 

Ugly Love – Colleen Hoover – Drama, Romance (8.5/10)

 When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her. Never ask about the past. Don’t expect a future. They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all. Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered. Love gets ugly. 

Another great book by Colleen Hoover, author of Hopeless (my favorite book). Like always, Hoover throws in a bunch of twists you don’t see coming. This book shows that love isn’t always pretty. It can be complicated, confusing, difficult. I cried a few times while reading this book, but when a book makes you cry then you know it’s good!

 

Where I Belong (Alabama Summer, #1) – J. Daniels – Romance, definitely (8/10)

When Mia Corelli returns to Alabama for a summer of fun with her childhood best friend, Tessa, there’s only one thing keeping her on edge. One person that she’d do anything to avoid. Benjamin Kelly. World’s biggest dickhead. Mia hates him with a fury and has no desire to ever see him again. When she decides to start her summer off with a bang and finally give away her v-card, she unknowingly hands it over to the one guy that excelled at making her life miserable, learning a valuable lesson in the process. Always get the name of the guy you’re going home with. Ben can’t get the girl he spent one night with out of his head. When she leaves him the next morning, he thinks he’ll never see her again. Until he sees her lounging by the pool with his sister. Mia is determined to hate Ben, even though she can’t forget him. Ben is determined to prove he’s not the same guy he used to be. What happens when the one person you wish never existed becomes the one person you can’t imagine being without? 

Over the summer, my friend Alzira was reading this one and told me about it. Usually I don’t read too many romance books, but I’m glad I did because immediately after beginning the book, I fell in love. She and I read it at the same time and discussed it as we went along. The characters are very dynamic and easy to relate to, which is what distinguishes a good book from a great book. This is definitely a good beach/poolside read.

 

 

Enjoyable to Read

———

Sleep Tight – Rachel Abbott – Mystery, Thriller (7.5/10)

When Olivia Brookes calls the police to report that her husband and children are missing, she believes she will never see them again. She has reason to fear the worst; this isn’t the first tragedy that Olivia has experienced. Now, two years later, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas is called in to investigate this family again, but this time it’s Olivia who has disappeared. All the evidence suggests that she was here, in the family home, that morning. But her car is in the garage, and her purse is in her handbag – on the kitchen table. The police want to issue a national appeal, but for some reason every single picture of this family has been removed from albums, from phones, from computers. And then they find the blood… Has the past caught up with Olivia? Sleep Tight – if you can. You never know who’s watching. 

When my sister moved into school, we had to drive all her stuff down. It was an eight hour car ride so, naturally, I read. I chose this one for the ride back. So imagine me, in the back seat of a truck with my eyes glued to this book for eight hours. Actually, you don’t need to imagine it because my mom took a picture:

SleepTight

Considering I read it all in one sitting and never got bored of the story, I would say that’s a good sign I enjoyed it!

 

All Around The Town – Mary Higgins Clark – Mystery, Crime (7.5/10)

When Laurie Kenyon, a twenty-one-year-old student, is accused of murdering her English professor, she has no memory of the crime. Her fingerprints, however, are everywhere. When she asks her sister, attorney Sarah, to mount her defense, Sarah brings in psychiatrist Justin Donnelly. Kidnapped at the age of four and victimized for two years, Laurie has developed astounding coping skills. Only when the unbearable memories of those lost years are released can the truth of the crime come out—and only then can the final sadistic plan of her abductor, whose obsession is stronger than ever, be revealed. 

I’ve read this book many times in the past and have seen the movie as well. However, I decided I wanted to read it again. This is my ultimate favorite mystery novel. There’s a reason Mary Higgins Clark is the “queen of suspense.”

 

The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty – Mystery, (6.5/10)

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. 

My mom read this first and loved it. However, I had a hard time getting through it. The storyline was very slow and I kept starting another book and coming back to this one. Once I finally got into it (about half way through the book), I enjoyed it. So if you’re one of the few people who have the motivation to get through a few boring chapters, try this book out because in the end, I’m glad I read it.

 

Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver – YA, Drama (6/10)

 

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night. However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined. 

This is a young-adult book, but had a gripping plot. My sister read it a few years ago and suggested it to me and I finally got around to reading it in 2014 while away for a few days in North Carolina. It was an enjoyable read, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. If the plot sounds interesting, then I suggest reading it. Otherwise, you’re not really missing out on anything.

 

Not The Greatest

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Ashes to Ashes – Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian – YA, Fantasy, Drama (4/10)

 

New Year’s Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come. After Rennie’s death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn’t left with Reeve… If Kat had only stayed with Rennie… Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same. Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes? 

This was the final book in the Burn for Burn trilogy. I loved the first book and liked the second book, but the third one didn’t do the series justice. It was a little corny.

 

Maybe Someday – Colleen Hoover – Romance, Drama (3/10)

At twenty-two years old, Sydney has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter’s cheating on her–and she is left trying to decide what to do next. Sydney becomes captivated by Ridge, her mysterious neighbor. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one. 

This is the first Colleen Hoover book I disliked. The plot was kind of dull. I kept waiting for something big to happen, which motivated me to keep reading, but then the book ended without anything interesting happening. I know a few people who enjoyed this one, so maybe it was just me. But since this is my review, I’m only giving it a three out of ten.

 

 

Now it’s your turn to recommend a book to me. Let me know if you have any books in mind that you think I’d enjoy. I’m always open to new book recommendations!

Thanks everyone, and have another year of happy reading 🙂

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