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Get Booked and Busy This Summer (On a Budget)

Scheduling windows are now open for the Spring semester, and maybe you’re also thinking about what your moves are going to be after Spring 2020. If you’re anything like my first-year self, you might not be itching to go immediately back to your hometown just yet. You may have realized just how many summer opportunities have piqued your interest.

Perhaps you want to study abroad, get an internship, or get some resume-worthy work experience and make some money. Whatever you want to do, the process for many summer 2020 opportunities looks similar and can begin as early as November 2019. No matter whether you know exactly what you want to do, or you’re completely clueless like I was, let’s break down 4 tips to be booked and busy on a budget this summer.

Get informed about what’s out there

There are people at this university who are getting paid to help you chase your bag! The Office of International Affairs hosts info sessions for every study abroad offered at Ohio State, including Global May programs which depart and return in the month of May (great if you have commitments during June and July). Additionally, the Honors and Scholars Center has a whole department dedicated to to helping Ohio State students land competitive government-funded fellowships, like the Critical Language Scholarship, the Truman Scholarship, and others. (The website is on the Honors and Scholars page, but these programs are open to all students!) For internships and summer jobs in Columbus, try looking on the Student Financial Aid job board or asking upperclassmen who have pursued opportunities similar to what you want to do, especially on-campus summer roles like being a Peer Leader, University Ambassador, etc. Get informed. Explore and see what’s out there. Google is free! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Build, Don’t Force a Network:

Remember when your Peer Leader told you to go to office hours? This is part of the reason why. In one-on-one situations (including, but not only office hours), you can build relationships with people like TAs, professors, and work supervisors. Relationships with these people are important so that when you need letters of recommendation, they will have your back. My Acting class TA wrote for me my first letter of recommendation. While he only taught a GE course, we had a great relationship, so he knew me enough to write a unique and personal letter. Do your best to make a real connection instead of forcing one to happen. If you don’t have anyone who you would feel comfortable with asking for a recommendation letter yet, there’s no time like the present to start! My networking pro-tip if you don’t know what to say is to ask them about themselves. The best question: How did they get to this phase of their careers? If the two of you truly ~vibe~ then you’ll have someone who will want to help you when you need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask, and You Shall Receive

Almost every application will require some sort of essay, personal statement, or resume. Program coordinators and upperclassmen who have pursued the same opportunity that you’re interested in will be able to get you the best scoop on how to make yourself look appealing on paper. They’ve done it before, so they’re the experts! Ask them all the questions, have them read your essays, and get all the help that you can while working on your applications for jobs, scholarships, and fellowships. To become a Peer Leader, I had not just one, but two past Peer Leaders review my essays. Though it took some time and effort – guess who got the job? The Writing Center also offers online and in-person resume writing, personal statement editing, and essay support. Take advantage of  the resources you’re paying for already! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Get the Bag

Now, all you have to do is submit your application. However it wouldn’t hurt to get a little extra cash for your next adventure. This may mean applying for the Special Scholarships Application to save money during the school year, or to apply for scholarships offered for research, living costs during internships, and study abroad. The Office of International Affairs website is where you can find a master list to dozens of Ohio State-only scholarships to help fund your experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding gratifying summer experiences is daunting. My goal is to help you achieve your goals without breaking the bank. I hope you all have wonderful, fulfilling, and amazing summer experiences while going and chasing your dreams (while still on a budget). Happy travels!

Failure is a Necessity to be The BEST You

Failing, in my opinion, is a significant part of the college experience. For many, college is where you learn all about who you are as a person and you learn what you would like to do in your future. When you don’t take on new things, however, most times you never find your passion. We often don’t take on new things because we are scared that the other side of that chance is failure. What we often don’t know is failure allows you to grow, gain knowledge and become more in sync with who you are. 

I recently interviewed for a prestigious program on campus. In the interview, they asked me an interesting question: what would you do if you couldn’t fail? My immediate thought was to say “Tim, I would do everything that I’d like to do now, become a counseling psychologist, start directing films, and create my nonprofit mentoring program for under-served student populations.” I want you to think about this question for a second and decide what you would do if you couldn’t fail. Now, let me tell you what I would do now after I took some time to self reflect. My answer would be NOTHING, because without failure the best ideas you have would only be mediocre. They wouldn’t amount to anything or have much impact because you never struggled; your road to success was a straight line. Life brings many different struggles, failures, and obstacles, but with each of these three things comes wisdom, resilience, and passion. You grow when there are challenges within your life, and you must choose to learn from the situation at hand, so in your future you can surpass it with ease.  

I am pretty confident to say all of the greatest innovators have failed and faced heart-breaking obstacles, but eventually they chose to learn from their failures and make the most out of what they’d taken in. You cannot give up ever! Steven Spielberg, one of the greats of cinematography was rejected multiple times by a school he wanted to enroll in to make his dreams become a realityHe didn’t quit, he didn’t let the rejection hinder his dreams; instead, he chose to be more creative, stay driven and eventually that school named the cinematography building after him

Take on New Opportunities 

Don’t be afraid to fail! Take on new opportunities, take risks, and challenge yourself because we only have one life to liveLIVE YOUR BEST LIFE! Try new things, set goals and don’t let anything deter you from getting to those goals. We must have drive, passion and love for what we do and if we do not, there is no point in doing it. Our time is limited, so make the most of every second, every minute, every hour and day of your college experience.  

Fail Spectacularly 

When you fail, fail spectacularly, as Leslie Odom Jr. says. Embrace your failure and learn from your mistakes. If you failed to get into something that you wanteddon’t let it hurt you; rather, let it drive you to bring more creative ideas to the table, to grow, and to prove wrong the people who don’t believe in you. Michael Jordan said that he failed over and over again in his life, but that’s why he succeeded. His failures motivated him to work harder, to play smarter, and to be more creative on the court.  

I choose to FAIL, to learn and to let my failures become my driving force to be successful, and I hope that you will, too! 

Oh No, I Picked the Wrong Friends :(

The fall of my freshman year I worried most about the change in academic rigor from high school to college. I realized I would have to adjust how much time I spent on my schoolwork and my methods of studying. I didn’t realize I would also have to reevaluate my previous friendships as well as my methods for forming new bonds. That first semester made me realize I no longer had any close friends and that I’d have to use more energy than in the past to form quality friendships. As the semester got more challenging and more things in my life were changing, I began to long for a support system on campus. I wanted REAL friends.

I tried some of the traditional ways to make friends like keeping my door open in my residence hall, talking to people in my classes and trying to join clubs. Although I met many people, none of the relationships stuck. Unlike high school, where I saw the same people daily, college life was more fluid and unpredictable. People where entering and exiting my life more quickly than I was able to remember their names! The few people who were consistently in my life were my roommates and a group of guys who lived on my floor. But the more I got to know them the more I wish I didn’t know them at all. I didn’t share any values with them. In fact, many of their views were in opposition to the identities I hold (i.e., they were kinda racist/sexist).

These issues became very apparent after an incident in a store toward the end of my first semester. I was followed throughout the store and stopped by security. In that moment I felt scared, humiliated and alone. I rushed back to my building, wanting someone, anyone, to confide in. I tried talking with one of the people I regularly hung out with, but he just questioned me and tried to figure out what I “did wrong” that “made” them think I was stealing. I was hurt and I was angry. Soon after this I decided to tell one of my professors what happened and about the reaction of the person from my floor. She introduced me to some students she knew who shared similar identities and values. I didn’t become best friends with these new people overnight, but I suddenly had people to eat with in the dining hall and I could talk about my life experiences with them without worrying about being shut down. I am still friends with one of these people now, two years later!

Starting my second year didn’t make finding friends any easier but I learned many things about making quality friends. I understood that a fulfilling friendship is like a plant; it needs nourishment and time in order to grow. I no longer thought of myself as a failure for not having a bunch of best friends. First year students are always told how to make new friends but aren’t taught the value in nurturing brand new friendships and I think that is a major oversight. Making friends for the sake of not being alone isn’t enough. You should never tolerate people who make you feel bad about yourself. It is OKAY to struggle with making friends because quality friendships take discretion.

How to Survive College: Commuter Edition

I know from personal experience that being a commuter in college can be really hard. The lack of motivation to get up and drive to school, the stress of finding a parking spot, making genuine friends, and eating on campus (especially without a meal plan) are all things that you constantly think about. It’s not easy to make a campus as big as Ohio State feel like home, but thankfully resources like Off Campus and Commuter Student Services (OCCSS) exist to help commuters feel more comfortable.

What is OCCSS? 

The Off Campus and Commuter Student Services office exists to improve the quality of life for off-campus and commuter students. The office is located on the third floor of the Ohio Union, which is without a doubt the best place on campus for commuters. OCCSS provides a commuter kitchen, which is directly next to the Sigma Phi Epsilon Commuter Lounge on the third floor (you’ll have to visit the OCCSS office first to get access to it), and lockers at the Ohio Union and the Younkin Success Center. They can also help students find housing, roommates, and provide services like Rideshare and Carpool that allow students to share transportation to and from campus.

How can OCCSS make commuting easier? 

Eating on campus

Eating on campus as a commuter is difficult especially without a meal plan because it’s harder to manage how much you spend on food during the academic year. Like I said, the Ohio Union is a great spot for commuters because it has options like the Union Market, Sloopy’s and Woody’s. Plus, it’s located along High Street, which means even more tempting food options. If you have classes every day and spend long hours on campus, it’s really easy to eat out frequently and form unhealthy eating habits, which does not feel great. Packing and heating up food from home in the commuter kitchen saves a lot of money, doesn’t take much time to do and is much better for your health. Campus Dining also offers a commuter meal plan, which is good for eating on campus 3-5 times a week using funding that’s added your BuckID account. 

Staying on campus

Although you might not have a room on campus, you can still feel at home. In my first semester, I often went home as soon as my classes ended, and I didn’t spend my time effectively when I went home; because I also wasn’t involved with campus activities, it made me dread being here. If you can, try to avoid scheduling/driving to classes during rush hour traffic hours–trust me: you will waste a lot of time sitting in traffic and it’s really not worth it. Instead of going home at 5 p.m., just find something to do on campus, whether its eating dinner, going to an event or getting work done. My favorite thing about the Ohio Union are the lockers because you can store extra clothes, books you don’t want to carry around, snacks, a blanket, etc., and they are available to reserve at the beginning of every semester; this makes remaining on campus more manageable. The commuter lounge is also a great space to do homework, take a nap, mingle with other commuters or just eat lunch. 

Making Friends 

Unless most of the friends you had in high school conveniently moved to the same college as you, it can be a challenge establishing friendships as a commuter. The biggest struggle for me was being comfortable staying on campus after my classes were over, and finding campus involvement. OCCSS hosts events during the academic year like a Cornhole Tournament, roommate fairs, the Scarlet Warrior Challenge and the Off Campus Living Expo. They also have a commuter mentoring program for first-year commuters which pairs new students with a mentor and includes monthly group events on campus and in the Columbus area. There are also a ton of other organizations on campus in general–pick the one you are most interested in and try it out, you’ll thank yourself later.

Ultimately, what I want you to know is that commuting doesn’t mean you can’t experience college the same way as others. I hope this was helpful and good luck, commuters!

Being a Resilient Student

Whether it’s your first year or your fifth year, you’re most likely going to experience some type of obstacle during your time at Ohio State that affects you academically, financially, emotionally, physically, or all of the above. Being able to overcome these types of challenges is a crucial part of being a student and individual. Resiliency and learning to advocate for myself was the theme of my first year, and the experiences, successes, and challenges I endured allowed me to grow and learn so much about myself.

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Being a resilient student could mean something different to every person. To me, being a resilient student means that in the face of obstacle – a failing grade, a homework assignment you forgot, or something entirely unrelated to academics – you’re able to advocate for yourself, overcome, and continue. Resiliency is being able to ask for help, use your resources, and having an open mindset to overcome your challenges.

When approached with a new challenge in college, having a “growth mindset” guided me. It was incredibly easy to view failures and average grades with a fixed mindset, being stuck in as negative of a space as possible; I would blame myself for not being productive and successful and stay stuck in a cloud of worry, which only distracted me from what I needed to do, which in return worried me more, and the cycle would continue. Teaching myself to have a growth mindset (which took a lot of practice) that could let me view challenges as learning and growth opportunities and in a slightly more positive light would at the very least allow me to shift my perspective and not spiral into worry. Image result for growth mindset

If faced with an unexpected obstacle during your first year, remember that you are capable of advocating for yourself. There’s most likely someone on campus who can help you with whatever you are going through, or who can direct you to someone else who can help. So many of my problems during my first year could have been solved or reduced by asking for help. Being able to ask for help during these periods of struggles is one of the largest components of resiliency and a form of self-advocacy; use what you have available to help you.

It’s important to remember why you’re here at Ohio State and how capable and worthy you are of success. Use that as motivation to continue through those obstacles while studying here, and the skills you learn along the way will allow you to be a more open-minded, aware, and resilient person.

You’re Not Alone in Feeling Alone

“Get involved! Leave your door open the first few weeks! Find your lifelong friends!”

Sound familiar? Coming into college, I figured it would be easy to make friends. On a campus with over 50,000 people, it couldn’t be too difficult to find a handful of close friends, right? I certainly didn’t think so, but it ended up being harder than I expected. If you had idealistic expectations like me, you probably fell into some of the traps I did. For example:

You assume your roommates are going to become your close friends. When you’re trapped in a confined space with other people, you think you’ll end up spending so much time together and inevitably become BFFs. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case. If you end up with roommate(s) who you really click with, that’s great! If you don’t, that’s pretty normal. With so many people at one school, it’s unrealistic to expect that the people you happen to live with will become your closest friends.

You expect the first people you meet in a student organization to become your close friends. You go to the involvement fair, find the perfect club, and muster up the courage to attend the first meeting. You talk to a few people and consistently continue to go to the meetings. A few months in, though, you may realize you don’t really see these people much outside of the club. While it’s nice to think that you’ll easily become friends with people who share common interests, it’s not necessarily going to happen so easily.

You expect the people in your first semester classes to become your close friends. In the first few weeks of the semester, everyone’s trying to make friends. People are going out of their way to introduce themselves, exchange phone numbers, and work on group projects together. For the duration of the semester, you may consistently see the same people because you share a class with them. This doesn’t mean you’ll automatically become friends, and once the class is over, it doesn’t mean you’ll stay friends. 

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Hopefully, you’re beginning to see a common pattern here: you expect the first group of people you meet on campus to become your close friends. These are assumptions that I made my first year, and when the first semester had ended, I felt alone. I thought I had somehow failed at college by not finding a close group of friends within my first semester. When I went home for winter break, I felt isolated, and coming back to campus didn’t sound as appealing without a close group of friends to return to. At that point, I wasn’t sure what to do, but here are some things I eventually learned:

Building worthwhile relationships takes time. After knowing the same people my entire life, I had forgotten what it felt like to form new relationships with strangers, and I was in too much of a hurry to make connections. Eventually, some of the people I occasionally talked to my first semester grew to be some of my now closest friends. We ended up spending more time together and things eventually clicked. Whether you connect with someone instantly doesn’t determine whether you’ll end up being good friends, so give yourself time to get to know people.

It’s okay to let people and expectations go. In the eagerness that comes with trying to find a new group of friends, it can be tempting to cling onto the first group of people you meet on campus. You may try really hard to keep in touch with people from your first semester classes or the first few people you met at student org meetings. You may even keep trying to force a connection with your roommates that just doesn’t pan out. At some point, you have to give up. You’re not meant to be friends with everyone you meet, and you’re not obligated to stay in touch with people just because they were the first people you met when you came to campus. Chances are, you’ll end up meeting some of your closest friends later on in your college experience.

Sometimes, there’s value in being alone. During the month of winter break, I had a lot of time to reflect on my first semester, and I came to an interesting realization. One of the most exciting (and sometimes terrifying) aspects of coming to college is the newfound independence. Part of me associated independence with being alone, and that idea made me uncomfortable. In high school, I was used to being surrounded by people all day, including club meetings after school. During my first semester, when I didn’t spend as much time with other people, I learned to become more comfortable spending time with myself. Even though I eventually found my social circle, I learned the value of spending time alone and enjoying my own company. 

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Here’s my ultimate piece of advice: when it comes to finding your social circle on campus, just give it time. It’s perfectly normal and okay to feel alone sometimes, even at a school where you’re constantly surrounded by people. Eventually, as you continue to meet more people, you’ll end up finding those lifelong friends you’re searching for- and it will be well worth the wait. 

5 Things You Need to Know about CCS

WHAT IS CCS? WHY DOES IT EXIST?

I’m a firm believer that every college student can benefit from mental health resources. On top of everyday stress of being a college student, we all also deal with life stuff: relationships, losses, financial stress, depression, anxiety, break-ups, identity crises, eating disorders–the list goes on and on. Finding support that can help you navigate all of this is crucial. Counseling and Consultation Service (CCS) is an amazing campus resource that helps many Ohio State students navigate not only the stress and struggles of being a college student, but also of just being a person.

WHAT DOES COUNSELING ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE?

I want to talk to you a little about the process of connecting with CCS. I grew up with a stigma around mental health, and so the first thing I used to think of when someone brought up CCS was of a client laying on a couch talking and a therapist sitting close by, the therapist nodding their head and saying “Mm hmm” and occasionally scribbling notes on a notepad.

Some people do go to CCS for one-on-one sessions. These sessions last an hour and consist of you and your therapist having a discussion about what you are experiencing, validating how you’re feeling, and coming up with strategies and steps to help you get to a place where you can be successful at Ohio State. However, CCS offers way more than one-on-one sessions. They have numerous groups to choose from that focus on a shared identity, issue or experience, and others that focus on skill-building (though it’s important to note that an initial screening is required to determine eligibility to join a group). CCS also holds drop-in workshops (no screening required) that are more low-key and help students with quick strategies and wellness practices.

One thing that I didn’t know about until recently is that CCS has started an initiative to embed clinicians in colleges across campus. This means that some therapists are trained solely with specific majors and schools. Check online or talk to your academic advisor to see if your college offers this!

HOW CAN A STUDENT ACCESS CCS?

Getting started with CCS can be the most daunting part, especially if you are like me. That’s why I am going to walk you through the steps to take to get started:

  1. Go to the Counseling and Consultation Service webpage.
  2. On the left, select “Schedule a Phone Screening.”
  3. Select the link for online registration to schedule a phone screening time. This page also explains what to expect from the phone screening.
  4. Actually DO the phone screening. Be as honest and open as possible.
  5. Plan a follow-up with the person on the phone. Together you will discuss preferences in therapy style and next steps, which may include a referral to a community support network (that’s the “Consultation” part of CCS).

WHAT IS NOT UNDER THE SCOPE OF CCS?

The CCS homepage includes a link to mental health support options. This page discusses other campus resources, as well as what to do if you are in crisis or in need of immediate help. This page has the phone numbers for countless hotlines, text lines, and other resources.

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?

If there is anything I want for you to know, it is that you are not alone. Countless other students–including me–utilize this resource. As a stubbornly independent person who grew up thinking only “crazy” people need therapy, learning to ask for help and coming to the realization that I couldn’t get better on my own was a journey. Needing help is NORMAL. Asking for help is OKAY. It’s what makes you an adult. People ask for help all the time when things happen like breaking an arm, or they are struggling to study for a test, or they can’t reach something off of a tall shelf on their own. Asking for help with mental health should be no different. Advocate for yourself, for your friends, and for your loved ones.

My First Time using the COTA

Coming to Ohio State and leaving everything familiar behind was daunting, especially as an out-of-state student. Not only did I have to get used to a new school, new academic rigor and new friends, I had to do it all in a city that was 12 hours away from my parents by plane. Whether you are moving to Ohio State from a different state or just a different city, getting off-campus and exploring the city is one of the best ways to make this place feel more like home. And how do you do that? By using the COTA, of course!

What is the COTA?

COTA stands for Central Ohio Transit Authority. It’s pretty much just the public transit system for Columbus. Now, if you’re anything like me when I was a first-year student, you may never have used public transportation before. That is OKAY! Using the COTA can be an adjustment, but here’s a short video about how to get started!

The first time I used the COTA was when a friend and I wanted to go check out the Short North. I had heard about the Short North from people in my residence hall and people who were more familiar in the area, but no one had explained much to me about what it was besides that I NEEDED to go there. So I looked it up on the maps app on my phone, talked to my RA about which buses were the best ones to use, and the following weekend we walked to High Street, got on the #2 COTA bus heading south, swiped our BuckIDs and sat down for the ride. Some quick pieces of advice:

Have your BuckID out and ready when you enter the bus. I didn’t and it took me way too long to both get it out of my wallet–hidden deep inside my purse–and figure out which way to swipe it in the machine sitting beside the bus driver.

Find your seat quickly. As soon as everyone is done swiping in, the bus driver is on the move again and if you’re still standing when the bus starts moving, you won’t be soon after. Generally scan the bus for seats to sit in as you’re swiping in, that way you head straight there after swiping. Even if the bus starts moving before you get there, you will have somewhere to land!

Use a maps app or download the COTA app on your phone. These will help you to see which buses are arriving soon, what routes they follow, and which ones to take to get to a designated place. The #1 and #2 bus are generally the best ones to get on if you are just wanting to stay on High Street.

Back to the story–it turned out that the Short North is a section of High Street that has many little shops, restaurants, mural art and more. We were a little confused about where to get off, so we got off as soon as we saw the arches over the street that say Short North. Also, you need to pull the yellow cord to stop–it isn’t like the CABS buses on campus that automatically stop at every stop.

At night, the arches are lit up and the Short North becomes a whole new place. We spent the day walking around, taking pictures, eating food and checking out fun shops–though we didn’t buy anything. We even travelled further downtown to check out more mural art and architecture. We came home feeling way more connected to the city and confident in our ability to continue exploring Columbus. I definitely recommend checking out the Short North when you get the chance. For more places to explore and a list of events around the city, visit the Experience Columbus website.

Top 5 Time Management Skills

Time management is a difficult task to grasp for any student. It requires a lot of organization for which most college students do not have the patience. However, this is a skill that I acquired early on to benefit my future. I based my ability to master it through five key topics. It takes time to get comfortable with the routine, but it can be extremely beneficial when having to complete multiple tasks (especially during exam week.)

Planning

I know sometimes it’s really hard to see the use in a planner, especially after you spend 20 minutes picking out the one that “looks pretty” in the Target school supplies aisle. In reality, planners can actually be a lot more than a pretty visual. The idea of keeping track of what obligations, activities, events and responsibilities can also be applied through a calendar app. I practiced this by always writing things down and even including Post-it Notes for more important tasks. Highlighting important events is also helpful. The routine of organizing all of these in certain time frames can make you feel a lot more comfortable about your schedule. 

Prioritize/Set Deadlines

On any walk back to my residence hall, I would often anticipate how much homework I had to finish for the next day. I realized that if I completed each assignment based on the order of my classes, I would be able to enjoy a more peaceful walk home. If I was assigned projects, I would make sure to prioritize them leading up to the deadline so that I had time to work over multiple days. The Eisenhower Matrix (above) is a great chart system that helps make the decision of when to complete work. This can really encourage a good sense of organization and have you feeling a lot more relieved when it comes to due dates.

Work at Productive Times

I had a hard time studying or doing homework during times when I was most focused. I often would try to accomplish my work during the day, in between classes when I had tiny breaks. I soon realized I was not able to pay attention or be productive when my mind was thinking of the class I had to attend in the next 30 minutes. I realized that the evening time is where my motivation to get things done was most relevant. This aspect is solely based on personal judgement of what time of day you think you can be most productive. Make sure to be honest with yourself in order to ensure a good outcome.

 

It’s Okay To Say No!

There are numerous fun activities, social events and academic responsibilities that encompass a regular day as a student. Your choice to participate is a personal decision depending on your interests and abilities, and it can be tempting to overcommit to multiple projects at once. However, it is okay to decline opportunities simply because you do not have the time. Overcommitment can also cause you not to perform to your best ability. Having the confidence to say no can decrease stress and allow for more time toward other tasks you’ve prioritized.

Me Time

Over the course of school, it is easy to forget to take time for yourself. This does not always have to be strategically scheduled, but sometimes—when you’re really busy—scheduling 45 minutes to do something you enjoy is extremely helpful. I would often spend 30 minutes coloring or dancing to music in my residence hall room just to catch a break from the madness of my schedule. “Me time” is necessary to prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed and reduces stress on a more personal perspective.

I hope these tips help to understand the process of time management. Remember that it takes time to adjust and think about what will work best for you. Happy managing!

Everything you ought to know about Office Hours

What are office hours?

Office hours are special times that professors or teaching assistants (TAs) set aside just for helping students or talking about things related to a class. These are usually among the first things highlighted as the professor goes over the syllabus on the first day. Basically, what tends to happen during office hours is that a few students gather in a predesignated area and go around asking the professor or TA any questions they have about the course. The professor will elaborate on topics covered in lecture, go over homework questions (or random, hypothetical ones), and share any tips they have about understanding the material.

They may also share stories, life advice, suggestions for college, and tips for how to do well on quizzes, tests, and exams. This last part is especially worthwhile.  It’s also worth noting that office hours are like an open houseyou don’t have to show up at the start or stay for the whole time. Even if you can only hop in for 15 minutes and get your question answered, it’s worth it.

What should I ask?

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You can ask about anything relevant to the course material that will help you get a deeper understanding. For TAs, you can also ask the same things you would to a professor; they can certainly be less intimidating and may give you a different perspective.  Here are some examples of what you can ask:

  1. Re-explain a part of lecture
  2. Rework a homework problem
  3. Where to learn more about the topic – even how to get into research with it
  4. What to focus on for midterms/finals
  5. Ways to get extra practice
  6. Things to memorize
  7. How to format projects or what to include

What if I don’t know what I don’t know?

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In a class, there are three levels of being: submerged, head just above the water (most common), and chillin’ in the life raft. You’ll probably experience all of these things at some point in a class. When you’re just lost in a general sense of confusion, office hours are definitely the move. You don’t even have to talk; just sit there taking notes and listening to everyone else’s questions. That’s what I did for the majority of the office hours sessions I attended.  If the prof asks you directly if you have any questions, just be honest and say you’re trying to get less confused or that you’re just listening along for the extra explanations.

Will it be awkward with other people there?

“Come to office hours, I’m just sitting there alone at my desk waiting for students to come in”

You’ve heard this before, I have no doubt. And I’m sure that whoever said it was telling the truth, but I personally have no idea when the stars would align for this to happen. Ohio State is a big school, so even for small classes, a solid number of people will show up to office hours. The other people in office hours may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll quickly realize that you’re among allies in your confusion–you’re all faking it ’till you make it, but office hours pull the mask away a bit. Plus, if you do show up with no idea what you don’t know, you can rely on them to ask the questions for you.

On the flip side, if you’d prefer to meet with your prof or TA one-on-one, many of them have office hours “by appointment”. These tend to be underutilized, so they’re great for focused help and getting to know the professor better. You can also just send them an email saying that you’d like to meet, the vast majority would be happy to schedule at time with you.

How do I get the most out of office hours?

  1. Don’t be hesitant or embarrassed to ask questions, remember that other people will be wondering the same thing.
  2. Come prepared with specific homework questions that confused you.
  3. Have an idea of specific topics that you’re confused about. It helps to mark these points in your actual lecture notes so you know where the confusion began.
  4. Ask any questions that come to your mind during office hours.
  5. Try and stand out to your professor as someone who works hard to understand the material, even if it doesn’t come to them immediately. Your professors are valuable connections and possible rec letter writers.
  6. Make note of what your professor emphasized, this is likely to reappear on a test.
  7. Take notes. Treat it like a mini lecture but with more participation.

Remember that you get out of a class what you put into it. Making the extra effort to attend office hours pays off 🙂