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Planning Your College Summers

January 29, 2015

by Imani Nichols

Method to the madness

After I secured my job for the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I began planning for the next three summers. As someone who is both a short and long term planner, I don’t like surprises. Of course, surprises happen anyway, and I adjust my plans accordingly, but planning all of my college summers gives me a sense of direction.

Summer planning is critical because it gives me time to raise my GPA to meet GPA requirements, forge valuable relationships to serve as recommenders, bolster my resume, and do mock interviews.

For companies I’m targeting for full time, post-grad employment, I have time to network with current and past employees.

Considering that most of the summer jobs and internships I’m interested in are highly competitive, I have to have less competitive options in place as well, and I have to give myself planning time for those opportunities as well.

What if I’m a freshman?

As a freshman, your summer employment opportunities are limited, but don’t make the mistake of equating “limited” to “nonexistent.” As a freshman, limited means that you have to get creative with your employment prospects. I was a freshman once, too, and as I was looking for summer employment, I had to get creative.

The reality of summer employment for college students is that many companies, especially in the business field, formally recruit students during the summer between junior and senior year. These companies typically offer full-time, post grad offers to these summer interns once the summer is complete.

When I was a freshman, I applied to be a summer orientation leader, an office assistant in the summer orientation office, and to be an RA for a summer program in New Jersey. I ended up being employed by my school year, work study employer, and there was no application! If you already have employment at school, start there.

Be audacious. Don’t be afraid to ask upperclassmen and professors for help.

Time flies

You have four years in college, but they fly by, believe me. Planning your college summers ahead of time prevents you from wasting time, missing opportunities and being unproductive.

Make the most of the time you have!

Imani Nichols is a student at University of Virginia graduating in 2017. She is considering Media Studies or American Studies as her major. After college, Imani plans to consult for a management consulting firm in Chicago and earn an MBA. She enjoys Forté webinars and working out.

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To Broke College Students Everywhere

January 28, 2015

by Valeria Tirado

Money is something that’s a big problem for college students these days. With tuition rising higher and higher every year, it’s no wonder so many fall into the dreaded category of “broke college student.”

As a freshman, I dormed on campus and had a meal plan and wasted tons of money on books; all things I thought you had to do as a college student. Thankfully I learned that while there’s no way to avoid paying tuition, there are some ways in which you can save money, either from just a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Hey, every little bit helps! 

Save on Meals

First and foremost, you should plan ahead in regards to meals. Do the research on whether your school has a meal plan, and if so, if paying for it would be cheaper than buying meals all on your own.

When I was a freshman, I had the most expensive meal plan with the most swipes because I thought, “I don’t want to run out of food so just in case.” I ended up not using over half of them and when I finally did the math, it came out to about $20 per meal at the dining hall. $20 for sub-par food? No thanks.

These days, I either eat at home or buy a meal for $10 or less at the many places to eat on campus. Think carefully about what meal plan you choose because chances are that they aren’t worth it.

If you parents are offering to pay for your meal plan along with your tuition and you don’t have money for your own meals, then do them the favor of not wasting their money by getting a plan that doesn’t have more meal swipes than you’ll ever be able to use.

Rent Your Textbooks

Textbooks are probably the most expensive things you will ever buy only to use once that isn’t a wedding dress.

There are, however, ways to get around the overwhelming expensiveness of books. For one thing, there is the magic that is the internet. Anyone who has ever shopped for anything on the internet knows that a better deal is only a few clicks away. Sites that allow users to rent (FYI, a real money saver!) or buy used books, such as Amazon and Chegg, are extremely helpful.

Some books can even be found as PDF files on the internet; just be careful when searching for them.

Some of my professors have even been nice enough to put their textbook away on reserve in the library or they have let me buy an older, much cheaper edition of the book. Not many do these so make sure you ask your professor before making any assumptions!

In many cases, if your school has its own social media page then students can sometimes be found selling cheap, used textbooks there. Finally, for those whose options are limited to purchasing the old fashioned way, you can always sell or share your books using the above methods, raking in that sweet karma or even sweeter monetary compensation.

Getting About

As a commuter, I must also mention the topic of travel. I take the train to school, which is a pain both to my sanity and my wallet, but it is indeed loads cheaper than dorming.

If commuting is an option for you and money is really tight, I recommend it. Make sure you check with your state/school transportation system and see if they have student discounts because I take advantage of them and they do help.

If you drive to school, make sure to either get a parking permit or, even better, find spots where you won’t get ticketed. To lessen the amount of travelling you do, maybe some friends who dorm could let you crash on their couch a couple nights a week. I have great friends who have let me do that in the past and it really helped.

One last thing: having a part-time job can be really useful to you as a college student. School should always be number one, but if you think you can do it then I recommend getting a job.

A lot of schools offer work-study if you qualify, and those jobs are usually easy and accommodating to your school schedule. There are also many employment opportunities on campus if you seek them out. The trick is just to find an employer who will understand you’re a student and so you’re only available at certain times/days. My job doesn’t pay much but it really helps with food, travel, and textbooks!

These are simple yet effective ways to make your bank account less depressing to look at come next semester. These methods won’t make college any less expensive, but it should at least give you enough to catch a movie once a month or enjoy a night out with some friends (college is stressful, so I know you need it).

Valeria Tirado is a junior at Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a major in Environmental and Business Economics and an Anthropology minor. She plans to get a Master’s from Rutgers in Food and Business Economics and attend NYU Stern for Economics after graduation. Valeria is the captain of her intramural volleyball team and can be found on Twitter at @valeriat94.

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Preparing for the GMAT as an Undergrad

January 27, 2015

by Kaitlyn Lannan

Most people who are interested in going to business school don’t take the GMAT test until 2 or 3 months before they apply to business school after getting several years of work experience, but it’s never too early to start preparing!

The GMAT, which stands for Graduate Management Admission Test, is a standardized test required for most business schools, so the earlier you start preparing, the better. Just like the SAT and the ACT, the more practice you get, the better the end result will be. Use these tips to get your best score possible!

1. Talk to your friends.

Ask around to see if any of your acquaintances are planning to take the GMAT soon, or if they have taken it already. Friends can be great study partners and good first-hand sources of information about the test.

2. Buy a study book.

There are tons of GMAT prep books on the market, and your college’s bookstore probably has some in stock. Setting a small amount of time aside each day to work on a few pages adds up quickly, and will help you to be better prepared on the day of the test.

3. Consider enrolling in a preparation class.

Preparing for the exam in a formal setting cam help you to get familiar with the test material in a more personalized way. If you can’t fit weekly classes into your schedule, consider trying to find a tutor that is a current business school student at your college’s business school.

4. Schedule a date to take the test while you are still in school.

GMAT scores are valid for 5 years, so you can actually take the test while still an undergraduate. Your test-taking skills are sharper now than they will be a few years after graduation, so take the test now and you can always take it again if you don’t like your score.

Taking and preparing for the GMAT as early as possible is the best way to guarantee yourself a great score. Good luck on the test!

Kaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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Personal Branding on a Budget

January 22, 2015

by Stephanie Watkins

Personal branding can be an amazing tool to use when searching for a job or internship. It can help you stand out from the crowd, demonstrate your skills, and get across what really makes you unique.

Fortunately, social media and the Internet have made branding yourself both relatively simple and affordable. For college students who can often be short on both time and money, this is wonderful news! 


LinkedIn is a social media site that allows users to highlight professional and academic achievements, skills, and interests. You’ll be able to put yourself out there and connect with professionals, coworkers, and classmates.

On your profile, you may add your experience, what your career interests are, and things you are passionate about. The skills section of your profile is a great way to let everyone know programs can use, languages you can speak, and professional traits you possess. Join groups of like-minded professionals, and you’ll be able to brand yourself within your industry.


Creating a personal website can be a free way to take your technology skills and creative talents and show your stuff! Sites like Wix and Weebly offer users a free account with several design styles to choose from.

If you have samples of writing, digital media, or graphic design, be sure to feature them on your site and create an online portfolio you can share with others. Use your site to really show off what makes you, you!


You don’t have to spend a fortune to have professional business cards. Business cards are an easy and convenient way to carry your contact information with you. You never know whom you might run into in the most random of places! Sites like Vistaprint offer sets of cards you can design yourself for under $20.

I’ve personally gotten several compliments on my business cards, especially at career fairs. In situations like that, something that sets you apart from your peers can make a big difference.

Branding is an effective way to make you stand out from the crowd. If you use the resources available, branding can be very low cost and often free.

Stephanie Watkins is a senior at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduating in 2015. Her major is in Management and Society and her dream job is to be a marketing and social media consultant which allows her to travel all over the world. Stephanie’s spirit animal is Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and you can find her on Twitter at @StephanieWatki5.

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How I Found My First Job After College

January 20, 2015

by Stephanie Watkins

As a current senior in college, one of my biggest challenges has been balancing my job search as a full time student. I never fully understood exactly how much time and energy would go into looking for a full time job after graduation.

It takes a lot of work to find, apply, prepare, and interview for jobs. Some interviews may even require several days of travel. It can be tough at times to balance your quest for employment alongside your obligations as a full time student.

Make Time

What worked for me was to set aside specific times to complete aspects of the job search. Treating it like homework prompted me to use the most of the allotted time to achieve a certain goal. Some days, my goal was to simply search for jobs I was interested in, while other days were spent filling out the extensive applications for each.

If you make goals and give your self a time limit, you are most likely to make progress in your job search.

Use Your Resources

Without a plan or strategy, a job search can feel extremely overwhelming. I took a class at UNC through the Career Center, and had access to career counselors who possess amazing resources.

You don’t have to search for a job and go through the process alone- career counselors are there to help you and provide you with knowledge you wouldn’t have on your own.

Use Your Friends

Having an “accountability buddy” helps to make sure you don’t miss out on deadlines or certain applications. As students, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of papers and exams, thus putting your job search on the backburner. Find a friend who’s going through a similar job search process, and check in with them.

Having someone to talk through your applications and prep for interviews with can be a great tool. Additionally, they will help you stay on top of your deadlines and job search goals.

Keep a Master Schedule

Being cognizant of your school deadlines in relation to your job search is vitally important. If you get a call to interview on a certain day, make sure you’re aware of all of your exam dates and assignment deadlines. When I would get calls from recruiters, I’d have my big school calendar on the desk with all important school dates filled in.

If you should advance in the process and have to travel for an interview, make sure you have all of your assignments completed in advance, and keep your teachers in the loop.

In all honesty, searching for a job is pretty much like having a job in itself. Dedicating time and energy into your job search can sometimes be difficult to manage given other school-related obligations. If you treat your job search as a serious matter and give yourself deadlines and goals, it will be much easier to manage (and stay sane!).

You’ll be so happy you did when you can graduate with a diploma AND a full time job in your hands!

Stephanie Watkins is a senior at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduating in 2015. Her major is in Management and Society and her dream job is to be a marketing and social media consultant which allows her to travel all over the world. Stephanie’s spirit animal is Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and you can find her on Twitter at @StephanieWatki5.

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7 Steps to Securing a Study Abroad Semester

January 19, 2015

by Alina Tang

At the end of this month, I will be in Madrid, Spain for USC Marshall’s Spring 2015 International Exchange Program. The university I’ll be attending is Universidad Carlos III de Madrid—otherwise known as UC3M. While I only heard about UC3M last year, Spain has been my dream study abroad location ever since I took my first Spanish class back in 6th grade. Now that my dream is actually coming true very soon, I would love to share some advice about how to get your top study abroad choice.

While every school has a different application process for studying abroad, USC evaluates applicants on a variety of criteria beyond just academics. Essays, resumes, letters of recommendation, and a mandatory interview were all just as important if not more important than GPA when it came to selecting the most qualified candidates.

With that said, here are my tips for the application process:

1) Expand your global perspective beforehand.

Make sure you approach studying abroad with an open mind. You will certainly be evaluated on your ability to adapt and willingness to venture outside of your comfort zone. I remember clearly that my interviewer asked me to describe a time when I was immersed in a completely unfamiliar environment and what I did to embrace it.

Although I was able to borrow my experience working in Shanghai as an example, you can talk about any situation in which you grew to become more flexible or understanding of different people and different cultures.

2) Talk to professors, mentors, friends, older students—anyone who has study abroad experience.

When you applied for college, you probably sought the advice of dozens of other people. Choosing a study abroad location is a lot like choosing a university – you want to find out as much as possible about the place beyond facts and figures that can be researched online.

You want to find out what it’s like commuting to school or living in dorms, or how difficult it is finding nearby restaurants and living on a budget. These are things only someone who went through the same experience can tell you.

3) Do your research on not just the location, but the UNIVERSITY.

So many people forget that studying abroad is just as much about the school you’ll be attending as it is about the city you’ll be living in.

My interviewer told me that she heard a lot of students say they wanted to study abroad in [insert location] to learn about the culture or visit the tourist attractions there, but very few could name a single course when they were asked to discuss their interest in the university.

Remember that this is STUDY abroad, not play abroad, so knowing about the school’s campus, curriculum, and community is very important!

4) Be prepared with an updated resume, elevator pitch, and personal examples anytime.

As I mentioned before, chances are you will be evaluated on categories other than academics. Make sure you present yourself as a well-rounded individual who can be trusted to represent your school in a foreign country.

Besides preparing a solid resume, elevator pitch, and communication skills for your interview, I also recommend nurturing and maintaining close relationships with professors who can vouch for you when the time comes.

My GPA might not be the highest, but it isn’t the only indication of my drive to learn. I definitely think that my global leadership professor’s recommendation letter played a big role in helping me get Spain as my study abroad location.

5) Recognize challenges and acknowledge that studying abroad isn’t just a fairytale adventure.

It’s easy to get giddy and excited about studying abroad because you’ll be living in an exotic foreign place for several months and experiencing new things every day. But you also have to realize that it’s not always going to be rainbows and cupcakes because moving to an unfamiliar place is difficult.

You’ll get lonely. You’ll get frustrated. At times, you’ll probably even get overwhelmingly homesick. But seize this opportunity to grow and remind yourself how lucky you are to see the world in a new perspective.

6) Set yourself apart and sell your story.

Really take the time to answer why YOU want to study abroad. Obviously, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but what can you, personally, gain from it?

For me, the prospect of improving my Spanish was the deal breaker because I think the best way to learn and master a foreign language is to surround yourself with it. Add on the fact that Madrid is the cultural and historic center of Spain, and I was all in.

7) Don’t rule out locations without a valid reason.

Finally, even if you don’t get your top choice, still give other places a chance. I know a friend who was set on Europe for studying abroad, but ended up getting the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Although he was hesitant to go there, he came back 6 months later telling me that it was the best decision he ever made, and if he could do it all over again, he would’ve picked Melbourne first with a heartbeat. 

I hope these tips help you with your study abroad application process. Best of luck and bon voyage!

Alina Tang will graduate from USC in 2016. She is majoring in business administration and plans to work in the Management Development Program at Mondelez International and gain more experience in global marketing.

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Interning During the School Year

January 15, 2015

by Kaitlyn Lannan

Most people think of internships as experiences to have only during the summer months, but internships during the school year offer many of the same benefits as summer internships. Here are some tips on finding and working at internships during the school year.

1. Research any internship programs that your college offers during the school year, particularly if your school is located close to a bigger city.

For example, Northwestern University has a program called Chicago Field Studies, where students apply for either full-time internships or part-time internships during the school year and receive class credit for their participation. These types of programs often include a seminar-style class, which helps you to build on what you learn in your internship and study it in an academic way.

2. Make use of your usual methods of finding summer internships.

Ask your school’s career center for their recommendations on internships in your field to apply for, and search for jobs posted on your school’s online career portal. Network with family friends and acquaintances, and make your interest in your chosen career field known.

In addition, sometimes schools hold winter job and internship fairs held specifically for students looking for spring internships, so be sure to attend these types of events.

3. Once you have accepted an internship offer, if you are taking classes while interning, make sure they are still a high priority.

It can be easy to forget about your homework and upcoming tests when you are in the working world, but remember that you are still a student. Stay on top of your work by making to-do lists and keeping a planner.

Keep internships during the school year in mind as a way of beefing up your resume and giving you valuable work experiences. While summer internships are definitely important, the more meaningful internship experience you gain, the better!

Kaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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