As you progress through college, you may start to think about the value of the degree you’ve chosen, the job you want to have after college, and all of the other experiences and skills you want to build for your future job. That’s where a minor comes in.

Depending upon your school and chosen major, a minor may be something that’s easy to tack on and will still allow you to graduate on time. For others, it may add on a semester of work. Some colleges even require students to choose a minor when declaring a major. There are many benefits to going the extra step, such as following your passion, enhancing your major, increasing your chances for employment, amplifying your expertise, and exploring something new.

Follow Your Passion

This is the reason many people get minors that have nothing to do with their majors. If your minor is about following your passion, you might try singing, dancing, theater, a foreign language, yoga, ceramics, or anything else that you want to learn more about. These are unlikely to lead to a job, but they’re enjoyable and they make you more well rounded.

Enhance Your Major

A minor can also act as an enhancer for your major. If you’re interested in becoming a journalist who focuses on environmental issues, consider pairing your journalism major with a minor in environmental studies. Doing so gives you an extra set of skills to add to your knowledge base.

Increase Your Chances

The job market is very competitive, so anything you can add to make yourself stand out will give you a leg up when applying for jobs. A minor can also help you to narrow your focus and find the exact jobs that you want after graduation.

Amplify Your Expertise

A minor can complement your major, making you more of an expert in your field. It helps you to focus in on landing a specific job, but it can also broaden your knowledge horizons.

Explore Something New

This falls in line with following your passions. Your minor doesn’t have to be something that will benefit your career; it can be just something that you find interesting or have always been intrigued to learn more about.

A minor can be a big asset for having the right set of skills and expertise to get hired for the right job, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Depending on your school and financial situation, a minor can add on a semester’s worth of classes and a large financial burden. That just might not be worth it for some students. If you want to pair it with your major, don’t forget to look for online courses or community college courses that might save you money. Even if you’re not getting a minor, you can still take a few classes or even just one in a new subject that you find interesting or would benefit your major.

For whatever reason you choose, make sure that you’ve thought about the burdens and rewards of adding a minor to your degree plan. As long as you know why you’re giving yourself extra work and financial requirements, it can be a wonderful asset.

New Year’s resolutions give everyone an opportunity for a fresh start — including college students. The thought of bettering yourself sounds exciting, but the hard truth is that only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them.

The key is to set realistic goals that will prevent you from falling into a vicious cycle of failed resolutions. Let’s take a look at four practical resolutions you can make in order to avoid feeling like a failure two weeks into the new year.

Stop Being a Perfectionist

You want to earn straight A’s across the board — we get it — but you shouldn’t miss out on your college experience in pursuit of perfection. Learn to find a balance between school responsibilities and making time for yourself. Don’t skip out on birthdays and important social events for a grade; your relationships matter, too. Of course, you should study, turn your work in on time, and strive to do your best, but you don’t need to do those at the expense of having a life. We’re not saying to slack but don’t let the pursuit of the perfect become the enemy of achieving the good.

Limit Social Media Use

Have you paid close attention to how much time you spend on social media? If not, you may be surprised at how much time you actually waste scrolling through your feeds. Seeing what your best friends are up to online is a great way to stay connected, but it’s not good if your academics start to suffer. Try setting an attainable goal of using social media a predetermined number of minutes per day. For instance, “I will use Facebook and Instagram only 30 minutes each day during my lunch break.”

A simple New Year’s resolution to limit social media use will free up more of your time and improve your overall productivity at school, not to mention easing your mental and emotional stress that comes from sifting through current events, fake news, and constant info overload.

Start a Study Group

Speaking of social media . . . can you imagine what it must have been like for students who were in Mark Zuckerberg’s study groups at Harvard? The point is, you never know who you can connect with and learn from if you try. Some of the greatest leaders today met their colleagues and current business partners in college. If leading a study group seems like too much responsibility, consider meeting once a week with a small group of two to three students.

Having accountability partners is an excellent way to stay motivated throughout the year, and you just might make a new friend or two or start the next big thing.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Prioritizing self-care is where most college students who make New Year’s resolutions fail, but you don’t have to follow the crowd. Instead of setting a hard-to-reach goal like losing the Freshman 15 in only one month, start with smaller attainable goals. For instance, getting an extra half-hour of sleep each night is a goal that could help improve your focus, energy levels, and health over time. If you stumble and fall off the wagon, it’s never too late to get back on and get back into the things that help you keep care.

If you give yourself credit for achieving realistic resolutions, you’ll continue to smash your goals for years to come. Which New Year’s resolutions will you make and keep this year?

Returning home for the holidays after a semester at college can be a bittersweet experience. These feelings are intensified if it’s your first time returning home after months away at school. You might feel like everything and everyone in your home environment has changed. And you’re not wrong; but relax, it’s okay!

If you’re feeling less than excited about a pending return home or have found the transition harder than expected, know that this is completely normal and that a little perspective and patience can help you adjust back to family life, whether it’s for a quick weekend or winter break or for an entire summer.

Deferring Views on Independence

You have been away from home for weeks, maybe even months. You have developed your own routine, have had to manage your own money, have been cleaning your dorm and stocking it with essentials, and have made decisions on how to manage your time. Meanwhile, your parents may still see you as the teenager who needs guidance and supervision to make good choices.

If your parents are used to instituting a curfew, they may expect everything to revert back to usual when you return home. Don’t press them more than is necessary but do have an honest conversation and point out your accomplishments over the past semester to help them understand your perspective.

Showing Respect Goes Both Ways

During your time at school, you might have come to appreciate how much your parents do for you and how much you still depend on them, while they have become accustomed to limited demands from you and may not relish suddenly washing an extra batch of clothes and making a home-cooked meal every night.

Show your parents that you truly have matured by helping out around the house rather than expecting them to revert back to their previous roles. This goes for your bedroom too. If mom and dad converted your old bedroom into a study and now have you sleeping in the loft, try to see it as their way of coping with your absence rather than asking them to change things “back to normal.”

Navigating the Friendship Maze

The life-of-the-party bestie who enrolled at a different school may have turned into a serious student overnight, or perhaps he or she stayed in your hometown to pursue a technical career and still has the live-in-the-moment mentality you whittled down through competing deadlines and pressure to perform at college.

When you return home, it’s natural to expect you can step right back into the friendships you left behind or maintained through virtual communication, but both of you will have changed. Moreover, just as you have made new connections at college, your closest hometown friends may have forged new relationships as well.

You can still have a great time together, but it’s important to recognize that what you want and need out of your friendship may have shifted significantly.

Reaching Out for Support While Home

Whether support comes in the form of an impartial family friend, older sibling, former school counselor, or current college advisor, plan to return home armed with one or two potential contacts in case things get out of control or you find yourself growing depressed.

Keep in mind that the sudden transition from high school student to independent young adult can be hard on you, your family, and friends, but with patience and empathy for one another, you can enjoy the journey.

From deadlines to a busy social life to working a part-time (or even full-time) job, college has many built-in stressors that cause students anxiety. In addition to the stress of having many responsibilities and commitments, college students often experience tremendous change in unfamiliar environments. They may live in a new place each year with new people, have classes in new parts of campus, and study under different professors — all of which can feel frightening or destabilizing.

For you as a student, as the pressure builds, you may begin to experience some mental-health issues, such as anxiety. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can cope. And with finals right around the corner, now is the perfect time to educate yourself about managing anxiety at college.

How Anxiety Impacts People

Anxiety disorders create a number of symptoms that, when combined, can create feelings of overwhelm, worry, insecurity, and sadness. If you feel irritable much of the time, feel fearful, experience your muscles tense and ache, get tired easily, experience restlessness, have trouble concentrating, and dread certain activities, you may be dealing with anxiety. In addition, anxiety can cause you to worry excessively and prevent you from getting enough sleep. If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, consult a trained counselor or a medical professional; they can help.

Managing Anxiety

There are several ways you can reduce your anxiety. For starters, it’s important to have a strong, reliable support system. Enlist your parents, a sibling, a roommate, sorority sister or frat brother, or close friend to be on call when you need a dose of positivity or you need to vent your frustrations. You may also want to take advantage of on-campus counseling so that talk therapy and other treatment options can help you deal with your anxiousness.

It’s also important to take care of your body. Though college life doesn’t lend itself to a regular sleep schedule, getting adequate rest is one way to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety. Don’t overlook the importance of eating three healthy meals each day. Because exercise helps reduce stress, you need to find time to walk, jog, or bike each week (preferably in the sun so you get some helpful Vitamin-D). Want to give yourself a boost of power and energy? Participate in an on-campus Zumba or aerobics class. When you take good care of your body, your mental health follows suit.

The physical elements of getting active can help relieve anxiety but there’s a social benefit as well. When you participate with people who share your interests, it’s easier to stay active, motivated, positive, and accountable. Check out clubs devoted to causes, hobbies, and the arts to find a group that’s right for you so you can meet your people and support one another. Sometimes just being around other people is enough to take the edge off when you feel anxious.

Don’t Self-Medicate

One of the best reasons to see a counselor is to get an understanding of your anxiety and its causes and some guidance on how to address the issues, whether through therapy or medication. What you don’t want to do is self-medicate. Alcohol may chase away your anxiety for a couple of hours at a party, but it’s actually a depressant. That means you can end up feeling more sad and anxious after consuming alcohol.

If you’re anxious about studying for a big test, avoid energy drinks, tons of coffee or other caffeine, and any performance-enhancing substances. Though they might give you a brief burst of energy, they’ll leave you feeling down when the buzz dissipates. In fact, caffeine contributes to irritability and restlessness, two symptoms of anxiety disorders.

To keep yourself on the right track, engage with your support system, get help from a counselor, and avoid substances that heighten anxiety symptoms. And breathe consciously to settle your heart rate and your blood pressure. You’ll be surprised how just the simple acts of taking time to stop, to look around at your surroundings, and to inhale and exhale fully can bring the chill.

Whether your university has an academic success center or a tutoring program, it’s a good idea to get plugged into this resource — and even though it’s the end of the semester, it’s never too late to get help with your studies. Meeting regularly with a tutor isn’t a sign of weakness, nor is it an admission that you’re struggling; it’s quite the opposite. Availing yourself of the services of a tutor proves you’re smart enough to seek additional input to refine your paper or confirm your understanding of the class material.

When to Choose a Tutor? Now.

Ideally, you’d want to establish a working relationship with a tutor early in the semester. However, if you didn’t make it happen then, it’s not too late to begin working with a tutor now. Schedule a time this week to visit your school’s academic success center so you can begin reaping the benefits that come from using this valuable resource.

How Tutors Help With Papers

Writing papers is one of the most-dreaded aspects of college. Many tutors have tools that can help you conquer your fears and write a dazzling essay. For example, they can help you organize your thoughts, create an outline, and fill in the supporting details.

When you think you’re finished with your paper, have your tutor review it before you turn it in (be sure to leave time for revisions). Having another set of eyes reviewing your work enables you to catch mistakes and to fix them. Through collaboration with a tutor, you can expect to achieve improved grades on essays and other writing assignments.

How Tutors Support Your Homework

Tutors understand that learning doesn’t occur overnight. Processing and storing information happens over time as you repeatedly encounter concepts and work with them. For this reason, it’s a great idea to routinely involve your tutor in your homework assignments. If you’re struggling to understand the instructions, your tutor can help you work through them. Having trouble getting started? The tutor can offer suggestions on how to dig into the most difficult tasks. Homework is a staple of the learning process because it helps you retain, analyze, and understand new content. Tutors can help you work smarter and maximize your learning.

How Tutors Assist With Test and Quiz Preparation

Use your time with a tutor to review your notes and prepare for quizzes or your final exams. Tutors often have suggestions for how to organize the content you need to study in order to maximize your time and energy. Using flashcards, highlighting key texts, and verbally answering questions are a few techniques tutors may recommend to help you prepare.

It’s mid-November and just before the Thanksgiving break. What does that mean? Time to seriously think about that term paper you’ve been blowing off until now. When the turkey is settled and you’re back to school, it’s full-on term-paper until you turn that sucker in. To give you a little leg up, we’ve put together a short list of the most common writing mistakes. Get to know them so you can recognize them and avoid them.

Writing Mistake #1: Not Giving Your Paper a (Good) Title

You might complete many of your college papers in the wee hours of the morning with tired eyes and a belly full of coffee, but that’s no excuse not to include a title (and no “Term Paper” doesn’t count). You wrote the paper, so you know what it’s about, and thinking of something catchy will take only a few minutes. Your professors want to be interested in what you’ve written; help them out a little by providing a title that grabs their interest.

Writing Mistake #2: Relying on Cliches & Tired Metaphors

Cliches and metaphors are double-edged swords (yes, we’re busted as that is a cliche and a metaphor). On the plus, they’ve stuck around this long and become so part of our language that there is usually some truth in them. On the negative, they are so tired that they lack any power or punch in terms of real description. If it sounds tired, cutesy, predictable, expected, or repetitive, you need to figure out a way to say it differently.

Writing Mistake #3: Not Following Instructions

This one really should be obvious, shouldn’t it? The directions for your paper will likely be clearly written out, explained by the teacher — perhaps even in your syllabus. This includes not only the directions for the specific assignment but also how to format your paper and how to cite sources. You might even be given a style guide supplying guidance for punctuation use or outlining your teacher’s grammar preferences. But if you don’t follow the rules, it’s all for nothing. Many professors we know will be the first to say that they have received brilliant papers that they had to fail. Why? Because as brilliant as the paper was, the student didn’t follow the assignment.

Writing Mistake #4: Plagiarizing

There’s never any excuse for using others’ work as your own, even if you do it without considering what you’re doing to be plagiarism. You’ll find dozens of great resources out there to help you cite sources properly and give credit where credit is due. While the Internet is your friend on this one, copy-paste is not your friend. Just changing a few words here and there does not mean that you aren’t plagiarizing material. Make sure that the ideas and the words you use are your own. And cite those sources properly!

Writing Mistake #5: Sloppy Grammar/Proofing

There are lots of small, common grammar mistakes that can annoy professors to no end. Take a moment to look up the difference between its and it’s, learn when to use possessive apostrophes, and don’t trust spell-check to do your work for you. Spell-check can’t distinguish between homophones such as their, there, and they’re, so you’ll have to know which is the correct one to use. Buddy up with a friend not in the same course and read his/her paper and have him/her read yours. Each reader will be able to see things that the original writer missed.

Writing Mistake #6: Using Confusing Sentences

Before submitting your paper, read it out loud. You might feel weird reading out loud to yourself, but it’s a great way to catch confusing sentences that are missing words or that have vague pronoun references, such as a sentence that refers to two male subjects and then says “he.” Which one? A great rule of thumb: When you read aloud, if you stumble, that sentence needs rethinking and rewriting.

No matter which college you attend and which field you intend to work in after graduation, writing, grammar, and communication skills are very important. These skills can be learned over time, so don’t feel that you have to learn everything about them now. When writing, just take a moment to look up each grammatical question you encounter. As you do, you’ll learn where the comma goes, when a word should be capitalized, and how to use a possessive apostrophe. Remember that writing is a craft, which means that it requires practice — some of the best practice for becoming a better writer is to become a reader of writers who are known as craftspeople. Reading good writing provides a good model.

Job-hunting after a lifetime of education and part-time jobs can be both intimidating and frightening. The traditional process of networking, applying, interning, gaining experience, interviewing, and hopefully getting a paying position is painstaking, nerve wracking, and more uncertain than ever. If this system seems less than reliable, consider some careers on the road less traveled.

Teaching English Abroad

Teaching in the U.S. has a multitude of regulations, including various certification and degrees. Teaching abroad, however, often has less red tape. South Korea has one of the best paid opportunities when done correctly and simply requires a native English speaker with a Bachelor’s degree. On top of a decent paycheck, the programs also cover plane tickets and housing, leaving you to pocket most of your pay. Almost every region of the world has an English teaching opportunity, though many are simply a good way to fund a year abroad.

teachFor South Korea, it’s best to locate a service that places you in a public school and negotiates your contract for you. While South Korea is one of the best places to teach English, scams and unsatisfactory contracts do exist. Avoid hagwons or private schools and be sure your contract covers the ticket and housing. You do not need any teaching experience nor do you need to know Korean. There are many other countries in which new graduates can secure jobs teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) as well, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Spain, and more.

Content Writers

If you have any interest (or ability) in writing, check out a few content writing positions. As companies dig deeper into the world of blogging and social media, they find themselves in need of people who can write. Most of these positions are remote so you start work immediately and your office is your home. Rather than interviews and networking, just focus on is a collection of writing samples and consistent contact with the manager in charge.

To begin, find several positions that interest you. Craft a few writing samples specific to the content they will want as well as a tailored resume and cover letter. Identify the person in charge of hiring and send these materials to the person directly (if possible). Keep in touch but avoid becoming a nuisance.

Real Estate Agents

Becoming a real estate agent is a reasonably quick-and-easy process provided you are a self-starter with the ability to market yourself. First seek out a real estate course. The length of courses vary; some are a few intense days while others meet a few nights a week over the course of a month. Keep in mind that education and licensing requirements vary by state. Once you have passed the qualifying exam, you can focus your efforts on finding an agency to join and learning the tricks of the trade.

With the complicated ins and outs of the American job-seeking system, getting yourself on the road to traditional employment can be exhausting and discouraging. Rather than blindly flinging resumes into inboxes, take your career into your own hands. Travel abroad, craft the content that brings companies their business, or find people their dream homes. Just because you can’t see the opportunity on a job board doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.

Image via Pixabay by NgoHuuMoi

Guest Contributor James Mitchell is a freelance consultant who often volunteers with Intern Solutions, which provides resources for job training to students and helps guide young people to better career opportunities.

While lecturers and friends might be important, research suggests your academic advisor may be the most important person you meet on campus. According to a study from Missouri State University, students with a close relationship to their academic advisor are more likely to succeed in the classroom, feel satisfied with their college experience, and complete their degrees. Consider the following tips to develop a good working relationship with your academic advisor.

Meet With Your Advisor Regularly

Many colleges schedule a mandatory meeting between freshmen students and their first-year advisors. Many new students attend, then never see their advisors again. This approach will not get you the best results. To cultivate a good relationship with your academic advisor, make sure you meet up regularly. Use the compulsory meeting as a jumping-off point, then schedule a follow-up meeting at least every semester.

It’s a good idea to book an extra meeting when you’re faced with a big decision, like which classes you should take or switching your major. Advisors are busiest around exam time and before class schedules are due, so remember to book your meeting well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Chat Openly and Honestly

Getting to know someone is a two-way street. You’ll get the most from your relationship with your academic advisor if you share information about yourself. Talk about your passions, how you feel about your studies, and what you want to do once you graduate. The more an academic advisor knows about you, the better able they’ll be to recommend classes, programs, and career opportunities.

Listen With an Open Mind

As you get to know your academic advisor, you’ll realize that he or she has only your best interests at heart. Remember this and it’ll be easier to keep an open mind during your discussions. Your academic advisor isn’t just there to help you achieve the goals you’ve already established. A good advisor will also encourage you to consider additional or new goals that may better suit your interests or skill sets. Listen to this advice and keep an open mind about it. You can always choose not to follow through later, but considering something new could help you find a new passion or goal.

Take Notes During Meetings

Listening is important, but it’s not the only action you should take during meetings with your academic advisor. Come to your meetings armed with a pen and notebook or laptop, ready to take notes about pertinent topics discussed. The act of note taking itself can make you more alert during your meetings and help reinforce what you’re talking about. Your notes will also remind you of key details weeks or months after your meetings.

Some academic advisors offer to email notes and material to students, but you shouldn’t rely on this generous offer. Your own notes can be reviewed immediately and you can feel confident they’ll contain all the information you wanted to remember.

Follow our advice and you can get to know your academic advisor better and reap the rewards.

University life affords students a variety of new freedoms, including the opportunity to eat what they want. Many freshmen opt for on-campus meal plans that allow them to eat in dining halls where food is in abundance. Thrown into this environment, freshmen often struggle to make healthy choices. As a result, some new college students gain weight, a phenomenon known as the Freshman 15. The number 15 refers to the number of pounds a typical student gains during his or her freshmen year. Fortunately, there are strategies to help you avoid the Freshman 15.

Practice Portion Control

In many dining halls, some or most of the food is self-serve. That means you can plop as many fries as you want on your plate, a habit that’s sure to lead to the Freshman 15. Instead of grabbing large quantities of food because it’s available to you, learn to use your hand as a guide to giving yourself proper portions. For example, your palm is about the same size as 3 ounces of meat, which is the ideal serving size for adults. If the meat on your plate is bigger than your palm, the portion is too large.

Eat Three Meals a Day

Even though classes, study groups, a job, and social events monopolize your time, get in the habit of eating three meals every day. If you skip a meal, you’re more likely to give yourself permission to overindulge when you finally do sit down to eat. If you absolutely have to skip a meal, at least eat a healthy snack such as fresh fruit or Greek yogurt to hold you until you can have a full meal.

Remember That Liquid Calories Add Up Quickly

For many college students, the soda fountain in the dining hall is very tempting, but an endless supply of sugary soft drinks quickly packs on the pounds. While you chat and laugh with your new friends, it’s easy to lose track of how much soda you’re drinking. If you want soda, limit yourself to one 8-ounce serving per day. Otherwise, grab water, sparkling water, coffee, or tea. Just don’t load up your tea or coffee with sugar.

Build Exercise Into Your Routine

You may notice that a week goes by and you haven’t gone for a jog or visited the gym. Put time in your schedule for exercise, just as you plan time for all your other activities. By being intentional, you can work in time to exercise three to four times a week.

Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand

Create a stash of healthy snacks to keep in your dorm room and backpack. When you have nutritious food on hand, you’re less likely to buy something impulsively and scarf it down. As you browse potential snacks, check for sugar content. You may be surprised by the amount of sugar in common “healthy” treats such as granola bars, freeze-dried fruit, and trail mix. Opt for low-sugar nut bars, cheese sticks, apples, bananas, and jerky.

Through careful planning, portion control, and regular exercise, you can fend off the Freshman 15 and maintain a healthy weight during your first year on campus.

Feeling a little down? Sometimes a health issue is as simple as a mild cold, allowing you to get by with using over-the-counter medicines and extra rest. At other times, though, you may need to see a medical professional. When is it time to make an appointment at your campus health center?

When You’re Ill

The pressures from your classes and your job can make you feel as if you don’t have the right to take a break from your routine so that you can care for your health. However, if a cold or influenza becomes serious enough, it can lead to other, more worrisome problems. You also don’t want to go to class if you’re contagious and then become the reason why half the people in your class get sick.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment at the campus clinic:

  • Inability to keep food down
  • Painful swallowing
  • Cold and flu symptoms that last longer than a week
  • Earache
  • Coughing that lasts longer than a couple weeks

When You’re Injured

Sports are a great way to blow off steam on the weekends, but what if you take a fall and find yourself limping afterward? You might be tempted to avoid the clinic and tough it out, but doing so can exacerbate an injury. The following are some signs that you should get a professional opinion on your injury:

  • The pain becomes progressively worse.
  • Your joints are swollen.
  • You have pain even when you are resting at night.
  • You have bruises that do not heal.
  • Your knees, elbows, or other joints lock up or are otherwise unstable.

Ask whether anyone who works at the campus health center is an expert in sports medicine. Sometimes regular physicians do not have the training necessary to address sports injuries in the best way.

When You’re Stressed or Depressed

Your mental health is just as important as, if not more important than, your physical health. Why, then, do so many college students ignore obvious signs of depression or severe stress? According to one survey, only about 10 percent of students take advantage of campus mental health services even though these services are often free or low-cost.

If any of the following is true of you, you may benefit from a trip to your campus counselor:

  • You don’t feel like yourself. You’re inexplicably sad or angry.
  • You’re abusing substances to cope with trauma or stress. You may be overindulging in food, alcohol, sex, or drugs.
  • You’ve experienced a loss. Everyone deals with grief in different ways, and counseling may be what you need to weather the death of a loved one.
  • You’ve lost interest in things you normally enjoy.

Too many college students avoid taking advantage of therapy because they feel ashamed. However, there is no shame in getting needed help. The sooner you can get your life back on track, the better.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” Indeed, your health is one of your most valuable possessions. Take care of it by heading to the campus health center when you experience a serious illness, injury, or mental health issue.