Posts Tagged ‘college’

A Little North of Neverland

I’m with Peter Pan. I don’t want to grow up–it requires too much paperwork. I’m still at that wonderful interim called College, where I have a little bit of independence, a little bit of responsibility, but the parental safety net is still affixed firmly below my little balancing act. And it’s nice, knowing that if I actually need something, my parents are generous enough to help me out more than they already are. Thing is, I’m a proud person. I don’t like help. So I job hunt. And fail. Economy sucks, no one wants a waitress whose school schedule is as weird as mine and the stores around here close early. So I cyber-job hunt. I’ve followed my dear faja’s large footsteps into the minefield that is freelance writing.
BAM! Instant sense of TMI. Too much everything actually. There are so many things out there. You’d think that would be encouraging, I mean SOMEONE has to hire me, right? Wrong. All the sudden influx of information on the industry of the written word (and I don’t mean the fun stuff, I mean internships, editing, proofreading, blogging for business, the usual prostitution of skill that I’ve heard so many people complain about. The world of the Dreaded Day Job.) is really telling me is “You don’t know jack. Now go back to your cute little class room, write your paper on Paradise Lost and feel like you’ve done something productive.” And man, do I want to listen.
Alas and alack, college doesn’t last forever, and the sooner I start getting the hang of the professional world, the better off I’ll be. So I find something not too ambitious and click the Apply Here button. Whoops! I need a resume. Off I go to write my resume. Funny, I feel like I’m missing something under the experience header. I’m a writer, aren’t I? People have been telling me what wonderful skills I’ve had for years. So why does that area look so seriously anemic? I don’t think Mr. Employer is going to care what I got in my Shakespeare class, and citing my experience on my college’s paper feels curiously like dressing up in my mom’s pumps.
After a few emails to the dear old paterfamilias, and conferring with peers about the Evil Resume, I finish it feeling a little out of my depth. But I press on. Oh, time for a cover letter. What the fuck is a cover letter? I know this one, hang on! What I don’t know is how you are supposed to write a cover letter to someone posting an ad on BlogPro, or craig’s list, someone clearly anonymous. I delete “Dear Sir or Madame,” feeling like a third grader learning how to write a business letter and settle on Hello.
After wading through numerous internet tutorials on how to write a cover letter, I finish, click the send button and can practically hear the anonymous Employer cackling his ass off at my inexperience. Sorry, they didn’t teach us Internet Etiquette in Literary Traditions I, or Spanish 202, or even Media Literacy. Good God, I think everything I’ve learned about job hunting has come from the internet, Tweets, or my dad.
Commence beating head on table.
Okay, the people at Einstein’s are looking at me funny, so I’d better stop that. I’m suddenly flashing back to kindergarten, when I thought I would feel so grown up when I hit second grade. And then second grade came and I pictured third grade as the height of maturity, sitting on the braided rug around the teacher, feeling at last like one of the big kids. Third, fourth and fifth grade came and went, and as I went off to middle school, I was starting to feel like maybe I was growing up. I mean, I had a locker now, with a combination. Surely this was the epitome of maturity. And yet, by the end of the first week, I felt small and insignificant once again. I thought in high school that once I graduated, I’d feel and be treated like an adult. Nope. So I’m wondering, eventually I’ll be treated like one of the “grown-ups,” or so I hope, but do you ever really feel it? Does that feeling of playing dress-up ever go away? Or am I always going to be wandering about unsteadily in my mother’s pumps?

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We’re Baa-acck!

It’s a chilly Wednesday morning in Kenosha, and the sun is shining crisp and clear through a blue sky. Little puffy clouds roll languidly along and the lake sparkles. But what’s that, Kenosha residents? Could it be? Le gasp! The unwashed masses of college students roll blearily onto campus, by bus, by shuttle, by car and on foot! Soon, it will be the weekend and they shall descend in locust-like swarms on bars, restaurants and city streets, leaving nothing but crumbs and empty beer cans in their wake. The quiet peacetime is over and I’m sure the residents of Kenosha are just thrilled to have us Carthaginians back. No really, they sent us a lovely welcoming in the form of a noise complaint. My roommates and I watched a movie and went to bed around 12:30 am. We didn’t hear a peep. But truly, thanks.

Contrary to noise-complaining neighbors’ statements, some of us are not uncouth young mongrels. Some of us are decent, hard-working, studious people. I do not think this will keep the KPD (kenosha police department) from gleefully stopping any out-of-state plates going one mile over on Sheridan road in hopes of ticketing a Carthage student. I have Illinois plates and a Carthage decal. All I need now is to find a Bears bumper sticker and I might as well just pay the KPD a flat fee and save them the trouble.

Fortunately, the Carthage campus is a tad isolated by the beach and the arboretum, giving the residents and students a lovely little buffer, with the exception of my apartment building, from whence I heard no peeping. But this buffer also necessitates a car for those of us out job-hunting.

Having exhausted my resources on campus only to discover I can’t be hired due to my ineligibility for work-study last year, I came to the conclusion that this year I would need a car if I wanted a job. So, I bought Old Blue, with his Carthage-decal-shaped police target on the rear, rented a random, hopefully non-homicidal person’s driveway in lieu of a $450 parking spot on campus and am ready to go on the employment hunt. Nice restaurant down the road? Hit it, we’ll see. Restaurant’s downtown? Not hiring, or mysteriously lacking any staff on my last visit. Today? It’s time to invade Chili’s and the various surrounding stores. The ironic thing is I’m out some $1300+ for the car, the insurance and sundry, and yet I have no job. I really am starting to realize the importance of money, despite a certain parents assertions. For instance, the meal plan is paid for by my padres and is thusly considered free food. Kidding. Did you know that my generation (the generation of current high school and college students) are the first generation in over fifty years that will make less than their parents? Swell. Now, I never was one to care much about money, so long as I had food, clothes and shelter, I was fairly good. My American dream is a cabin in the Smokies, with two dogs, a cat, and a tiger. The tiger might be negotiable.

My point? I had one about a paragraph ago, I promise. I may have to go back and find it. Oh, there it is!
College students in general are not loud hooligans, it’s just the non-hooligans are inside watching Disney movies and going to swing dance club, and the hooligans are out drunkenly harassing your cat. Due to kitty’s angry yowls, you are more aware of the drunkies than lame but harmless people like me. Until I knock on your door and offer to rent your driveway. Hire me to protect Mr. Fluffy? I need a job.

Get You Some Ed-ju-ma-cation

It’s back to school time, and many of my friends and cousins are gearing up to go back to college, or anticipating their freshmen year. Back in June, I spent every Saturday at a graduation party. These are just family ones; I was invited to a few non-familial graduation parties, but a girl’s got to work! But amidst all the chex mix, family news and small children running wild, I heard a lot of who’s going where and how they decided on their school-to-be. Hearing all this made me nostalgic, remembering all the ACT preps, the tests, the applications, the acceptance letters, the rejection letters, and who could forget the FAFSA? I sure can’t, I still have to fill it out every year. But still there was something thrilling and terrifying about having to make a decision that could alter the course of my life.

Through all of the stress and worrying, through every college visit and audition, the best advice I ever got came unsurprisingly from my father. He told me it didn’t matter a whole lot what college I ended up at, what really counts is what you do when you get there. Now, we shan’t be discussing my personal decisions, accomplishments and mistakes since I graduated from knee socks and plaid skirts to sweet freedom, no. We’re gonna talk about The Process. Why? Because it’s my blog and I said so. That, and some of my younger cousins have that deer-in-headlights look when discussing the future. Me? I’m hoping the world ends in 2012 so I never have to pay off my student loans.

The Process of choosing a college has a lot of variables. Cost, location, size, intended major, and interests. For me, the top two concerns were strong English and music programs and a low cost.

Let’s start with cost. We’ve all hear about how much the cost of higher education has inflated in the past decade or two. Almost every kid out there is gunning for some scholarship or another, and most will have some debts to pay off when they get out into the cold cruel world. Some choose to go to certain state schools to offset these debts, some go for every scholarship on the face of the earth because they chose a private institution, like me. If you’re smart, you’ll do all of the above: look for a cheap school, and apply for every scholarship you can. It doesn’t matter if all you find are $1000 ones–it all adds up, and $1000 will cover your books for a few semesters if you shop right.

Next deal breaker category for me involved my major. I had the fortune of knowing more or less what I wanted to study, which made finding a specific school easier. Friends of mine were less lucky. Many of them were bright, multi-talented girls who could do just about anything–and thus had no clue what to major in! My advice is make a little venn diagram of your strengths, and your likes, and see where they overlap. Then, look for a school that has a strong program in that category. So maybe you’re really good at math and science and working with kids. Maybe you really like kids and science, but you really don’t like math. So look for a school with a good science program, and a good education program. Maybe you’ll be a scientist, maybe you’ll be a teacher, maybe you’ll be a pediatrician. This method narrows the list down, but keeps your options open.

Next is location, location, location. Sometimes, a little distance is a good thing, but then again flying halfway around the world for school makes being home for Christmas difficult. If you live in Northern California, maybe try looking for a Southern California university, instead of one in New York. I chose a happy medium: Carthage College is about a two-hour drive, with a train route between school and home. Far enough, but only just. Another thing to consider with location is job opportunities and places to go around campus. Some schools are miles away from a decent grocery store, which is hard if you don’t have a car on campus. It also makes getting a job or internship for the school year nigh on impossible.
Size is a matter of preference. If sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and Cheers is closed, then you might want to try a smaller school like the University of Redlands in Southern California. If you enjoy the anonymity and excitement of an urban climate, a larger school like University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign would be ideal.

Lastly, we have interests. Many religious people might want a strong campus ministry, not a strong campus nightlife. For you jocks out there, you can mix business with pleasure at schools with good teams and athletic scholarships. Sometimes, you find groups on the fringe of your major. I would never have considered journalism had I not joined the Carthage Current. Students seeking a business degree at the aforementioned University of Redlands will find needed contacts in Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity. And one last thing? DO NOT UNDERVALUE GOOD FOOD. I will always remember the rockin’ cafeteria at University of Iowa fondly. Yum.

A good place to find schools listed by cost, size and rank (subjective, maybe but fairly good) is the Forbes list of America’s Best Colleges. Sadly, dear old Carthage isn’t on the 2009 one, but the University of Redlands and the University of Illinois at Champaign both made the cut.

Other lists exist, such as U.S. News’s best College list.

One of the most helpful sources for my classmates and I was FastWeb. It connects you with schools, scholarships and employment opportunities based on your needs and qualifications. I wonder if they’ll give me a scholarship for the free publicity? I’m thinking no, but ah well.

I’ve mentioned a few schools on here (cough, CARTHAGE, cough) but that doesn’t mean I think anymore of them than any other school. Look for the ones that jump out at you. Look for what fits your description in these categories. And of course, remember the best advice I received during The Process:

It’s not where you go, it’s what you do when you get there.