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Wise Words: Cher

“Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.” - Cher

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Service During School

By Grace Chow

January 11, 2016

It can be very easy to get caught up in your own bubble once college starts and school work and extracurriculars become seemingly too much to handle. Often, we focus so much on ourselves that we fail to realize that there is still a community around us. So, how about making a resolution to give back this New Year?

For the coming semester, take a look around your campus and see what kinds of opportunities are available for students. For me, I enjoy teaching and tutoring other students in my area. That is why I am a member of MoneyThink Tutoring where I go to a neighboring high school to teach financial literacy to students in grades ninth through twelfth.

Outside teaching to the curriculum given by the national organization, simply your presence is a help to kids around your age who are in the same position that you were a couple of years ago. Being there for other students about to enter the college search and application journey as you did is an enriching experience where you are able to be more than a tutor, but a mentor and friend.

Through peer support, you are making a difference that is perceivable when you are able to guide a student through their worries and questions, alleviating doubts and problems throughout the process. For me, I have gained valuable insight about the material that I teach and the people whom I interact with.

What’s more, volunteering is also a way to boost your resume and gain more on-the-job experience. When it comes time to interview with a potential employer, referencing your tutoring experience and the time commitment and dedication needed is a sure way to support your claims during an interview.

Volunteering my time during my school year has augmented my college experience. It has enabled me to see a different side of my community and the challenges that some students face. Not only is the time that I put in a good stress relief, but it is a way for me to uphold the ideals of social teaching by representing my University proudly in my community.

Grace Chow is majoring in finance and sociology at the University of Notre Dame. After she graduates in 2018, Grace plans to go into investment banking. She dreams of starting a non profit someday.

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10 Ideas to Start the Semester Strong

By Jordan Perras

January 8, 2016

Many college students don’t view the first week of class as anything more than an easy waste of time, but it can be a great time to set solid routines for the rest of the semester. A successful start will help carry you through your best semester yet.

1. Buy a planner

This should go without saying! This will be your lifeline for keeping up with all of your classes, appointments and meetings. As soon as an event gets scheduled, write it down. You’ll be less likely to forget about it.

2. Write out all of your assignments, quizzes, and tests

Use your planner for this! As soon as your professor hands you the syllabus, write down all of the important deadlines. Papers, assignments, homework, quizzes, tests, and the final should all be in there. Don’t forget to include the room too.

3. Write out your goals

Sit down and write down all of your goals for the semester. Think about what you hope to accomplish. Take a look at your classes, extracurricular activities, intramurals, friendships, internship opportunities or any other categories where you want to improve, learn or grow.

4. Go to all office hours before the first exam

This helps in a few different ways. It gives you a leg up in terms of starting to a form a relationship with your professors. It also helps you settle into helpful routines that you’ll benefit from later.

When the final rolls around, your professor will know your name, and you won’t get lost trying to find her office.

5. Set healthy routines

Think about what makes you feel happy and healthy. If that’s going for a run, think about writing that into your planner! If that’s taking an hour to yourself to recharge, write that into your planner too.

Set your schedule early so that you can maintain your health and sanity. 

6. Download Focus

The easiest way to avoid procrastinating is to download Focus. It is a program that blocks specific websites for a set amount of time.

When you sit down to study, make sure you block your social media sites and your favorite blogs or other sites. You won’t be able to procrastinate and you’ll be much more productive.

7. Do a big grocery shopping trip

Walk yourself over to the frozen food aisle and get your favorite fruits, vegetables, and type of protein. Think about getting cans of beans and bags of rice too. These non-perishables make it easier to eat healthily (and cheaply!) when midterms hit and you are too busy to go to the grocery store.

If you have your own bathroom, grab more toilet paper than you think you’ll ever need. It will be one less errand to run when you get busy.

8. Sign up for tutoring, community service and health center reminders

These help set you up for later in the semester. With tutoring reminders, you’ll be more likely to stop in if you’re struggling with a specific chapter or concept. With community service reminders, you’ll be more likely to grab a few friends and stop by the food bank. With health center reminders, you’ll be more likely to stop in for a flu shot or wellness check.

9. Outline your budget

Think about making an excel spreadsheet or downloading a money tracking app to set your budget. The last thing you want is to get to midterms and have no money for that absolutely necessary Starbucks trip!

Take into account any income from part-time jobs or work-study, and then think about what a reasonable amount of money is to spend on groceries, eating out, shopping, etc. Once you’ve created your budget, stick to it!

10. Set your alarm to wake up

Figure out when you’ll need to get up each day of the week and set your alarm to repeat weekly. If your Wednesdays start an hour earlier than every other weekday, you won’t have to remember to change your alarm each time. No excuses for missing that lab!

Whether you can do all of these things or only some of them, you’ll be well on your way to your best semester yet!

Jordan Perras is a third-year student at Northeastern University majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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From Zero to Pitch: Understanding Stock Returns and Risks

By Siyu Wu

January 6, 2016

In the first installment of this series, you were given a broad overview of stocks and the market. Here, we’ll go into more details about some concepts that are foundational for forming one’s own investment philosophy and recommendations.

Changes in Stock Prices

Stocks make returns as a result of fluctuating stock prices, which change in both the short term and the long term.  If you’ve ever looked at a real-time stock chart (such as this chart for Nike), you’ll notice that there are many rises and dips, even in the span of one day!

In the short term, the many intraday fluctuations in a stock price are influenced by a variety of factors as investors are trying to quickly determine which factors will impact the value of a company. These factors include:

  • News specific to the company (i.e. when Jack Dorsey was reinstated as the CEO of Twitter)
  • News relevant to the industry (i.e. the Affordable Care Act’s impact on healthcare companies)
  • Earnings announcements (i.e. in April, Amazon delivered a solid earnings report and consequently its stock’s value grew quickly)
  • News about competitors (i.e. if Southwest Airlines announces a new initiative, United Airlines’ stock may go down)
  • General investor confidence (i.e. during the 2008 financial crisis, many investors sold their stocks related to the financial industry)

By the nature of it, short term changes happen incredibly quickly and are difficult to predict. So, only investors who dedicate constant attention to the markets can fully capitalize on these small changes in a stock price. For the purposes of creating an investment recommendation, it’s often beneficial to start by studying long term price changes. These changes in the long term often happen because:

  • A company has become more valuable, which may happen when the firm has increased earnings, as a result of higher revenue, lower costs, or both.
  • Investors believe the company has a bright future, and therefore the firm’s valuation for the future is higher.

Calculating Stock Returns

There are two types of stock returns: realized and unrealized. Realized, or “booked,” returns are what you earn when a trade has been closed out. Unrealized, or “paper,” returns are the gains or losses you have on a stock that hasn’t been sold. Aside from the returns resulting from changes in the stock price, some stocks also pay out dividends to the stockholders.

To calculate the annual pre-tax rate of return on your investment, the following formula is used:
[(current value + dividends - commission fees)/purchase value]^(1/number of years) - 1

The rate of return on the investment will vary greatly depending on the type of investment, among other factors. One important factor to consider are capital gains taxes, which may make your rate of return much smaller than originally calculated. Short-term capital gains are taxed similarly to your income, but long-term capital gains receive a reduced tax rate, which may be an incentive to hold your stocks for longer.

Considering Stock Risks

Though investing in stocks may seem like a profitable strategy, there are many risks to take into consideration. These risks may be separated into several main categories.

Market risk, also known as systematic risk, refers to the risk than the value of an investment may drop because of changes in the overall financial market. Examples of market risk include major natural disasters, political turmoil, changes in interest rate, economic downturns, or terrorist attacks.

Inflation risk is the uncertainty surrounding your investment’s future real value after taking into consideration inflation. If the rate of return on the investment does not outpace the inflation rate, the investor’s purchasing power will decrease. Stocks typically can be a hedge against inflation, but there are some investments, such as bonds, that may underperform during periods of high inflation.

Unsystematic risk can be company-related or industry-related risk that may negatively affect the value of a firm’s stock. Examples of company-related risk include poor internal management or financials. Industry-related risk may include union strikes or changes in oil supply. These risks can be reduced through diversification. If you diversify your portfolio by buying stocks in different companies and industries, and also in different types of securities, your overall capital gains will be less impacted by one company or industry’s changes.

Each investor has a different risk appetite - some investors are willing to take very risky investments for the possibility of gaining high returns, while other investors seek safer investments with lower returns but with a smaller risk of loss. As you develop your investment recommendations, you’ll come to realize your personal risk appetite, which will then shape your personal investment strategies.

With this understanding of stock prices, returns, and risks, we can now delve into finding and researching companies to develop into a strong, well-developed investment idea.

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and is currently a sophomore at Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

 

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Why You Should Join a Service Fraternity

By Alina Tang

January 4, 2016

Coming into college, I was quite certain I would never join Greek Life. No one in my family had ever belonged to a fraternity or a sorority, and I didn’t know a thing about all the traditions and rules that came with being a part of one.

During rush week, I vividly remember some of my hall mates fussing over their outfits, and a few of them even came back in tears because of all the pressure to impress active members. Of course, this doesn’t illustrate every girl’s experience – but a house full of other women simply did not appeal to me at the time.

It wasn’t until sophomore year that I realized Greek Life includes much more than the National Panhellenic and Inter-Fraternity Conference. Besides social fraternities and sororities that you might see in movies and TV shows, there are “professional” fraternities which specialize in different areas, ranging from Law and Pre-Med, to Business and Leadership. During Welcome Week, I stumbled upon Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity with strong foundations in volunteerism and philanthropy.

After only a few days of attending Alpha Phi Omega’s events and meeting some of the Chapter’s members, I quickly fell in love. The organization was not only well run, but it brought me a sense of purpose that I hadn’t felt for awhile.

Every time I participated in a food drive or tutored at a local elementary school, I wasn’t just volunteering – I was making meaningful, personal connections with other people. The best part was during each session, I’d see the same faces and get to reinforce my connections.

Over time, I realized that to do service is one thing, but to do it alongside people you love and care about is another.

My whole life, I’ve always enjoyed volunteering for different causes, but in the past, I would just go home after an event and forget about it after awhile. With APO, however, the feelings of brotherhood, friendship, and camaraderie don’t end after an event.

Sometimes, we reflect and talk about our takeaways. Other times, it’s very lighthearted, and we go to the beach or grab lunch together once we’ve finished a tiring day of work. Either way, it’s always a good time.

Now, three years later, I am a senior and I’m still very close to the people I met when I rushed Alpha Phi Omega. They are the kind of best friends that you dream of. The kind that will listen to you talk for hours on end and drop whatever they’re doing to help you (like when your flight gets delayed and you don’t have a way home anymore. This, by the way, has happened to me multiple times, and my APO brothers are always a phone call away!).

Ultimately, if the traditional Greek Life route isn’t for you, don’t feel discouraged that you can’t find your own family. Panhellenic sororities and IFC fraternities are great for some people, but they don’t apply to everyone. I found my home away from home in an organization that shared the same values and passion for service that I have.

I encourage you to keep an open mind and explore the different clubs and student organizations your school has to offer. You never know what you might find!

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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Senior Resolutions

By Valeria Tirado

January 1, 2016

For many of us, including me, this upcoming semester will be our last one as undergrads. Graduation is only a few months away! How exciting, right? But before you get too excited, there are some things that every senior should try to do before they graduate.

I’m going to give you some New Year resolutions you should have before leaving college undergrad life behind.

Plan what you’re doing after graduation

Ideally, upon graduation you will have employers lining up to bring you aboard, but unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where if you want the ideal you have to go out there and make it happen yourself. So the first order of business for a college senior is to plan what you want to do after graduation!

For many, it’s simply finding a job in their field (and one they enjoy), while other people may want to go to grad school right away. Both take time to prepare for so you should start now.

Go talk to your advisor and see if they can help you apply for jobs/grad school. Do your own research online to figure out what your options are. Trust me, you’ll be glad you planned ahead and know what’s ahead for you instead of worrying about the unknown future.

End the year strong

Just because it’s your last semester doesn’t mean you should slack off! We’ve all heard of senioritis, and many of us are probably experiencing it, but don’t let that discourage you from getting the best grades you can get.

Besides the obvious benefits of improving your GPA and possibly graduating with honors, good grades can be a major morale booster for yourself as you head away from college and into the real world. Use your final semester as a way to say “this is what I’m capable of doing and this is the person I’m going to be every day after the graduation cap comes off.”

Your final semester isn’t a victory lap, so no slacking now!

Keep making memories

College is a wonderful time in your life, a time of memories good and bad. A time where you have explored yourself and the world around you to decide who you are as an adult entering into the great unknown. You’ve spent the last few years of your life with your school, changing and growing with some of the same people. Doesn’t it all deserve a proper sendoff?

Take some time in your final semester to visit the places that hold your fondest memories, or to make new memories that you’ll treasure the rest of your life. Do the things you kept telling yourself there wasn’t enough time to do, finish the projects left unfinished. Seriously, say thanks to a favorite professor if that’s a memory you think you’ll treasure.

College has been your home away from home, whether you commuted or lived on campus, so make the time you have left meaningful. You’ll always be welcome back, but you’ll never be a college undergrad again.

These will be my resolutions and I hope they can be some of yours too. For the graduating class of 2016: congrats, we are almost there, and good luck with this last semester! For the rest of you whose graduation is still a few semesters away: treasure every moment of it because graduation is going to be bittersweet!

Happy New Year to everyone!


Valeria Tirado is a senior at Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a major in Environmental and Business Economics. After graduation, she is interested in working with a non-profit organization like the World Wildlife Fund and eventually wants to go to grad school for Economics. Among the schools she is considering are NYU and Vanderbilt. Valeria can be found on Twitter at @valeriat94.

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From Zero to Pitch: Creating an Investment Recommendation

By Siyu Wu

December 9, 2015

Up to now, Girl Talk has given you a glimpse into the world of finance and also offered a range of resources for learning more. But perhaps the best way to truly understand finance, is to do finance.

This series will take you through the different phases of creating an investment recommendation so that you may pitch your own stock, either for personal investing or for an interview.

The first step? An introduction to the stock market! (Note: All key financial terms are italicized.)

What are Stocks?

Stocks (which may also be referred to as equities), essentially, are shares of the company that you may buy to become a shareholder of the company. Companies being traded in the stock market are assigned a ticker, which is a one to four letter symbol (e.g. Nike is NKE). Stocks may be classified and categorized in several ways.

First, is the distinction between common, preferred, and treasury, which are three different types of stocks.

  • Common stocks, as the name suggests, are the most commonly issued publicly traded stocks by companies. Common shareholders are on the bottom of the ownership structure; in the case that a company liquidates, they have right to assets after bondholders and preferred shareholders.
  • Preferred stocks are one step above common stock in that their dividends pay out before dividends for common stock are paid out.
  • Treasury stocks are the shares held by the own company that were bought back or never issued to the public.

Stocks may also be divided into the three categories of growth, value, and income stocks.

  • Growth stocks are companies who have great growth potential, perhaps because of its unique product or position in the market. These stocks are difficult to identify, don’t pay dividends, and generally are riskier. Many technology stocks are growth stocks.
  • Value stocks are stocks that tend to trade at a price lower than its fundamentals, hence being undervalued. These stocks often have high dividend payouts and low price-to-earnings ratio.
  • Income stocks are stocks that are known for regularly paying out dividends and typically have lower volatility. Many mom and pop investors looking for return over a long period of time will invest in income stocks.

Another way to classify stocks is as cyclical, defensive, or blue-chip stocks.

  • Cyclical stocks are stocks whose prices follow the business cycle and overall economy. These companies often relate to discretionary goods, because consumers buy more of these goods when the economy is improving.
  • Defensive stocks are also known as non-cyclical stocks. These companies’ performance are not correlated with economic conditions, so they have less losses during economic downturns. Utilities companies are one type of defensive stock, as they are a necessity for consumers regardless of the economy.
  • Blue-chip stocks are typically companies that are well-established and financially sound. These stocks typically do well despite economic downturns, because they are known for selling high-quality goods and have long histories of profits. Blue chip stocks are typically considered a less volatile investment option.

What is the Stock Market?

With an understanding of stocks, we can better understand the stock market, which is the market where stocks are available publicly for selling and trading. The stock market is interconnected globally, with the global market capitalization currently at around $294 trillion! To make a distinction, the stock market consists of every stock exchange, which is where stocks are actually traded.

There are many stock exchanges, both in the US and around the world. In the US, two major stock exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ). Stocks on the NYSE have one to three letter ticker symbols and stocks on NASDAQ have four letter tickers. Internationally, some major exchanges include Hang Seng in Hong Kong, Nikkei in Japan, and the London Stock Exchange. Do note that some stocks don’t trade on the stock exchange, but rather traded “over-the-counter”. These stocks are typically too small to meet requirements for being listed on an exchange.

Within the stock market, stock indices serve as grouping of stocks that measure past performance and trends; these help show market trends. There are several notable indices used for this purpose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) consists of thirty major companies, including Disney and General Electric, traded on either the NYSE or NASDAQ. This is a narrow representation of the overall market, but is widely quoted by in the press. The Standard and Poors (S&P 500) index chooses 500 firms selected by a committee. This index intends to reflect the risk and return characteristics of large cap companies. Two other indices are Russell 2000 and Wilshire 5000.

With this basic understanding of stocks and the stock market, you can move forward to learning about valuing stocks and investing in them, which will be covered in the next parts of this series.

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and is currently a sophomore at Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

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5 Job Recruitment Tips for College Seniors

By Alina Tang

December 8, 2015

Once you are a senior in college, school actually takes a backseat. Recruitment becomes the new priority as soon-to-be grads scramble to apply for as many positions as they can and cross their fingers for some offers. I went through my own cycle of applications, interviews, and networking events for the past few months and looking back now, I can say it was both exhausting and rewarding.

Though there were definitely disappointments along the way, each setback pushed me to work even harder and prove myself as a stronger candidate.

Based on these experiences, I have compiled below my top five tips for surviving the recruitment process:

Reach out to people who’ve held the position.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to know someone who works at the company you’re applying to, but more often than not, you won’t know a single soul. I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great platform for cold emails – not only because you can find the contact information of different alumni, but you can also look at their profiles and formulate potential questions based on their bios and descriptions.

Prepare scenario answers.

The best interview advice I ever received was a tip from my mentor. She suggested preparing a set of strong anecdotes to tackle different kinds of behavioral questions. Every example was intended to address the question directly and illustrate my personality in a unique way.

I also recommend choosing experiences that would either resonate very strongly with other people (ex. talk about your soccer coaching experience with a recruiter who you know is a Real Madrid fan) or leave lasting impressions (ex. use descriptive imagery, incorporate humor, put on a pleasant smile, etc.)

Ask interesting questions.

Recruiters get tired of hearing the same questions over and over again. “Describe to me your typical day.” “What is the corporate culture like here?” “What opportunities are there for professional development?”  These are all good, but try to go beyond the basics by catching people off guard with a more specific or unique question.

For example, I once asked an interviewer to explain why the company’s leadership program structure was altered. This observation made him very impressed because no one else had noticed the change, and after that, he repeatedly complimented me on my perceptiveness.

Send thank you notes and follow-up emails.

While it isn’t a deal breaker if you don’t send a follow-up message to a recruiter after an interview, that extra effort can make a difference. I’ve had teachers and mentors, particularly older ones, admit that a thank you note will leave a greater impression on them.

When you have to decide between two equally qualified candidates, it can sometimes come down to this simple act of graciousness.

RELAX AND BE YOURSELF.

Finally, people can sense when you’re not being genuine. If you’re making up stories, if you’re giving vague answers, if you don’t speak with energy and enthusiasm about your so-called “passions,” they can tell. On the other hand, if you act natural and stay true to yourself, interviewers are more likely to make a personal connection and be able to gauge if you’re a good potential fit with the company.

At the end of the day, however, you are evaluating a company as much as they are evaluating you. There is no need to panic because there will always be positions out there and infinite possibilities if you seek them. What’s important is to take the time to carefully think about how you and an organization can mutually benefit and grow together. Once you establish a genuine interest like this, it will be so much easier to express it in your interviews.

I hope these tips help you with recruitment and your post-graduation job hunt. Best of luck and fight on!

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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