Major Blues

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“Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life” – Buddha

by Natalie

When I started college a year and half ago here at Concordia, I was dead set on being a Music Major.  I wanted to study music and theatre and be become a talented musical theatre star because of it.

Then I started taking Music Theory. And I hated it.

After clawing my way through the first semester, dragging myself to that class every Monday and Wednesday at 8 am, and coercing my classmates to help me with the homework, I decided that I was no longer interested in studying music.

I called my dad, crying, the night before I was supposed to register for spring semester and he granted me wisdom I have since shared with many of my friends and classmates:  your major doesn’t matter.  What you do with your life is not predestined by what it says on your Bachelor’s degree.  So take a few classes in fields that have nothing to do with your major and see if you love something more than you love what you’re already doing.

So I signed up for a political science class, changed my major, and started making plans to go to law school and run for office.

I chose Political Science (“Poli-Sci”) because I knew I could make a living as a lawyer or politician. I knew politics were something I was passionate about (if you’re interested in reading some of my thoughts on politics, feel free to hit up my personal blog).

I figured it was a path that made sense for me.  I loved to read.  I loved to argue.  I was passionate about social and legal change and I was intent on making that change happen.  I decided that I would go forward and become a lawyer for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and go on to run for office someday.

I would marry my significant other, a man who wants to go into theatre, and provide for my future family.

I convinced myself to go all in.  I spent afternoons looking up law schools I would want to go to and could get in to.  I got ahead of myself by about twenty years and, by doing so, I freaked myself out about being a Poli-Sci major.

I went to International Politics a total of 8 times that semester; I spent the other class periods in my bed, panicking about how hard that path was.  I didn’t love it.  I was scared of it. Terrified that I wouldn’t be successful at this and that my future would crumble because of it, I let it consume my life for three months.  My fear of potential failure and a lack of confidence in my abilities pushed me into a downwards spiral that took months to remedy.

I am here today to tell you, dear readers, that you should never let it get that bad.

Remember what I didn’t in my time of major turmoil and future planning: it matters less than you think.  Take the classes that you love.  Take the classes that seem fascinating and worthwhile – not just the ones you think are “necessary.”  Don’t be afraid to drop a class or ask for help; your academic advisor is there just for that.  Don’t be afraid of changing your major; you can change it as many or as few times as you like – you’ll still be successful if you’re willing to work hard.

Every school is different in how they handle the semantics and logistics of changing majors.  But every school will help you do it.  Some schools might be less helpful than others, but your education is yours and yours alone.  If you decide to change your direction, don’t let academic advisors or administrators tell you that you can’t.

It is your money and your time that you are investing in this education and you get to decide what you want to do with it.

This year, I am an English Writing and Theatre Arts double major and I love it.  I’m taking classes that I’m passionate about and not worrying about how much money I’m going to make or whether or not my grades are good enough for me to go to Stanford.

I am focusing on being happy and healthy and being successful here and now.

Sophomore Year Update: The Good and the Bad

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by Ariana

It’s my third semester of college and let me tell you: It does not always get easier.

Unfortunately this reality has been tough to face. The initial weeks of school were pretty calm, but after those manageable weeks I began to get bombarded with papers, group projects, exams. School started to feel like a never-ending uphill battle.

Although this fall has been tough, I keep myself motivated by telling myself that I am almost half way to graduation. I have been setting weekly goals and writing positive notes on my board – and this is something I would highly recommend. I wake up extremely early and seeing those positive words and weekly goals helps me start the day, which now starts at 5:30 a.m. five days a week!

My roommate and I go to the gym every day at 6 a.m., which is the best time for me to go because of my schedule and because starting my day with my workout means more energy for the rest of my day.

But though school has definitely been more work this semester, it has also gotten better in other ways.

I am now living in an apartment instead of the dorms, which also was a bit of a transition, but now I have a kitchen, and with a kitchen comes learning how to cook, which has been more fun than I ever thought it would be. Plus no more gross dining hall food, and no more repeat of the freshman 15! My roommates and I also have a nice big living room, which is a great place to study and invite some of our friends over to as well.

Coming back to school I have also felt a stronger sense of comfort while walking in the halls. I not only know where I am going in life, but also where my next class is. I also feel more confident in my ability to handle change within my different classes and in talking to my professors and asking questions in lecture halls.

So maybe this is something that comes with time, or maybe I am behind in feeling this way?

Either way, I know this feeling is a good one. One thing that I do know is that sophomore year has been a whirlwind. My advice to you is to be ready and stay positive!

Until next time!

-Ariana

Picking a Major/Path

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by Alia

Many of us are asked at a young age what we want to be when we grow up. For some of us the answer stays the same, but for many of us the answer changes over time. In some families and cultures certain paths or careers are seen as better than others. For example, parents might tell us what we should become when we’re older.

Parents usually just want what’s best for their children, they want their children to be successful and bring pride to the family name. The problem in many cases is that parents don’t always know what is truly best – they know what they wish they did with their lives, they know what opportunities they didn’t have, they know what jobs are seen as good by the masses.

If your parent or other parental-like figure is telling you who you should become, then really ask yourself who’s dream job is this? Is it just theirs – or yours also? If you are feeling pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer or something high-paying or respectable like that by your parents take a step back and look at yourself. What do you want to be when you’re older? What do you want to be right now? What are your passions? If it’s not the same as what your parents want for you, then maybe what your parents want isn’t right for you.

Why do so many college students switch majors? In my opinion, it’s because they go into a field not sure what their true passions are. In high school most of us aren’t exposed to the world and all of its possibilities. We only see what our high school and other things in life have shown us.

It’s not just young college students dealing with this either. You might think what you’re going to become is dead-set, but be prepared for changes because they are going to happen. Your path isn’t set until you’ve made it to the end of your journey. As long as you’re alive your path can always change, you can always change as a person. Your passions can change, they can become more or less clear with time.

You are less likely to change your major when you know and understand what really drives you inside. If you’re not doing it for yourself, someday the motivation will dwindle. Exerting yourself for others’ dreams and passions when you don’t share those dreams and passion will eventually wear you down.

Do it for you.

It’s your life, so why should anyone else be writing off your story or your destiny. This may sound like a debate on free will, but let me tell you, some things will happen no matter what and some things are just up to you in life. What you like, what drives you – that’s up to you and no one else.

What if you don’t know what you like, you don’t know your passion in life?

Like I said, be prepared for changes. Maybe you don’t know right now, but you will know some day. College isn’t for everyone. Maybe taking some time off to find yourself is what you need. Explore some different jobs, explore the world, explore yourself and your values. Let time tell the story you don’t yet know. If you’re very passionate about going to college or feel like you have to, then go!

Try liberal arts or another major that lets you explore your options. Do your generals and take a variety of different classes until something clicks inside and you finally know where you want to go. Trial and error is one of the best teachers throughout life’s journey. Some things you have to learn for yourself. All of us have weaknesses and all of us have strengths, so find yours, and that will help you uncover your passion someday.

What if your problem is not that you don’t know your passion – what if you want to do too many things? What if you love too many things, and are passionate about too many things?

Don’t listen if someone tells you to pick just one, don’t lower that bar on your options. Be free and express yourself in everything you love. Some things will become hobbies over time, but never completely give up on your passions just because they become hobbies.

Life can take so many turns so always have a back-up plan and back-up plan for your back-up plan.

Be talented and passionate in multiple things so that no matter what is thrown at you, you can still keep going. My uncle only studied one field, he did well in that one field until it no longer existed. He didn’t have a back-up plan and he never saw this change happening. Now he is jobless and just barely scrapping along because he doesn’t believe he can do anything else.

Don’t be like my uncle, be open and explorative to your options. A hobby could become a career and a career could become a hobby. Don’t limit yourself; be bold and be you. I am double majoring because I couldn’t choose just one thing to be and guess what? I would triple or quadruple major if I was able to. Maybe it sounds like a lot of work, but I am passionate about what I’m studying and so far I haven’t had any problems. This could be you too. The wonderful thing about college is you get to decide what you do for yourself. No one is going to hold your hand and say “be there,” or “do this,” or “you have to”. You get to say those things to yourself because finally it’s something you care about.

College shouldn’t be a chore, it should be the education and experience you always wished you had before. Some people think that can only happen outside of college, but college is an open door and you can do whatever you put your mind to.

You’re only limited by your thinking – by your imagination. Nothing is impossible. Never tell yourself that you can’t do something or become something someday. Maybe odds are stacked against you, but break those odds because there is no one on this Earth like you and averages or stereotypes shouldn’t define what you’re capable of.

Choose your path for yourself and maybe some things will not be in your control, but this is something you decide. If you’re thinking money will stop you, guess what? There are countless scholarships and other ways to pay for college, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. There are programs like Power of You that will pay for it all, if you can do your part.

So don’t falter under the dollar because that piece of fabric ain’t worth the worry when it’s your dreams and your life we are talking about. If you think you don’t have the brains or the skill, guess what? You can develop the brains, you can cultivate the skill. It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you have the drive. Don’t let people step on your dreams because no one can stop you from dreaming.

Down to the Minute

A Beginner’s Guide to Time Management

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by Natalie

College, not unlike all other stages of life, requires amazing skills of patience, scheduling, finagling, and, most importantly, time management.  In my first semester at Concordia I was taking 18 academic credits and working 5 hours a week for a small stipend as an intern in the theatre department, as well as balancing a full-fledged romantic relationship and a role in the musical, Les Miserables.

This semester, however, is a little different.  First, I stopped working in the theatre department because it didn’t pay enough and it wasn’t a good fit for me as far as scheduling hours went.  Second, I’m only taking 15 credits this semester, as I started taking an elective class about lighting design that proved to be too much to chew.  Third, I picked up a job working at Target.  I work 10-20 hours a week, folding clothes and working the cash registers.  And, on top of all of that, this semester, a friend of mine was hospitalized and I spent a good chunk of time being there for her.

I like to think of everything in my life as a class with a credit number.

  • My boyfriend, Nick, is a 4-credit course.
  • My role in Les Mis was two 4-credit courses; it took up about as much time as 2 full academic classes and I put in extra work on show weekends.
  • My job in the theatre department was a 1-credit course.
  • My job at Target is a 4-credit course.
  • My friend in the hospital was a 2-credit course.
  • My Netflix habit is definitely a 2-credit course at least.
  • My social life at large is probably about a 2-credit course as well (if we don’t include Nick and my friend in the hospital).

Assuming I did my math correctly (which is not a safe assumption), I came out with 35 credits last semester and 29 this semester.  So why did last semester seem so much easier than this semester has been so far?

Well folks, it comes down to how well I’ve been managing my time.  Last semester, I kept myself to a strict schedule that documented what I had planned 24/7.  I would wake up, go to breakfast, go to class, do chores, go to my next 2 classes, do homework, go to choir, get dinner, watch an episode of whatever series I was working on in Netflix, go to rehearsal, do homework, hang out with Nick, go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

This semester I haven’t handled my time in the conservative fashion I did last semester.  I have been waking up, going to class, getting lunch with friends, dilly dallying all the way to my next two classes, going to choir, getting dinner, going to work, coming home and going to bed.  On the days that I don’t have classes (Tuesday and Thursday this semester), instead of getting up and taking care of business, I sleep in really late, waste a whole bunch of time on Buzzfeed, eventually do some homework, eat dinner, go to work, hang out with Nick, hang out with other friends, stay up really late doing the homework I’ve been putting off, and then, finally, getting to bed.

The moral of this story, dear readers, is to take care of your time in college.  Ration it, split it up, portion it, and schedule it.  Make it work for you, not against you.  Working out a routine might seem mundane and boring but it is so beneficial when you set aside an hour and a half here, 45 minutes there to get your homework done.

College isn’t just going to class, and working a job so you can pay your tuition.  College isn’t just parties and friends and good times.  College is hard.  It’s hard work, it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time.  Time management is the best way to handle the barrage of knowledge and experience you’ll get hit with in college.

You might seem a little crazy at first when you have your day planned down to the minute but you’ll feel less stressed, more motivated, and you’ll learn how to be accountable to yourself and to others.  Time is money and we’ll all need to pay off our student loans someday.

College vs. High School Schedules

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by Guanani

Ah, sweet freedom!

The amount of unstructured time you get in college is by far the biggest adjustment from high school. Instead of having six or seven back-to-back classes with sports or other activities after school, college is a big mishmash of vastly different time slots, four-hour labs, student group meetings, and awkward breaks between classes.

In some ways, this is liberating. No one expects you home by a certain hour, and some days you might only have a class or two. However, it’s much harder to discipline yourself and know where and when to do things.

Here’s where the dreaded Time Management comes in. There are more strategies for how to plan your time than will ever fit in a blog post, but the most important strategy of all is to have some kind of strategy. Here are some of mine:

  1. Whenever possible, try to schedule classes back to back (with enough time to walk between them) in order to maximize long stretches of time instead of chopping up your day.
  2. If you do have some time between classes, use it to get homework out of the way. Always carry something you can work on in short periods, like readings or worksheets.
  3. My RA, Brandon, gave me this advice: Treat schoolwork like a 9-5 job. During the day, work on homework and academics until 5 in the evening. Then do fun things to wind down, instead of waiting until late at night to start working.
  4. Set aside specific times for different things, for example: chemistry problems from 4:00 to 5:30, then start working on the next sociology paper from 5:45-7:00.
  5. Create your own study groups. It’s always helpful to talk through material with others, and chances are you’ll remember things better if you’ve explained and repeated them to each other.
  6. Work on things that are important before things that aren’t urgent.
  7. Review as much as you can, even daily. College classes move quickly!

Of course, college isn’t just schoolwork.

There are loads of fun things to do, including opportunities to hear guest speakers, going to parties, spending time with friends, and exploring. I have a personal goal of getting off campus once a day, even if it’s just for a short run. This helps me remember that the world does not revolve around Reed, and that there’s much more out there than the next biology test and cafeteria food. Include fun things in your schedule: plan events for yourself or with friends, look up cool things to do or see in your college town, or volunteer in something you find rewarding.

In college, you are free to do whatever, whenever, which makes the biggest challenge figuring out what to do when. If you find yourself overwhelmed and confused, bogged down by piles of work at one in the morning, you’re not alone. Once you do get a handle on how to best do your work, remember that the appeal of spending any extra free time scrolling through blogs or just hanging around wears off quickly. Do a couple things you could never do back in high school. Go exploring. Join teams and groups to find new friends. The only way to get time is to make it.

Your time is yours; make what you spend it on something worth telling people about.

College Work Load: Surviving the Pile

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by Guanani

I tried to brace myself, but it didn’t do much good.

At first college seemed almost like an intensive summer camp. Within a week, however, the focus shifted from get-to-know-you activities and scavenger hunts to problem sets that took hours and 50 page readings. More than the amount of work, what really took getting used to was figuring out where and when to do the work, for how long, and how much depth and understanding was really necessary.

Unlike high school, college professors don’t necessarily remind you about upcoming assignments. There are fewer things to turn in, and in some classes you have no idea how you’re doing until you get your midterm exam back. With no set schedule for each school day and less transportation, you have much more freedom in terms of deciding when to do your work. This makes procrastination easier than ever, and due dates have a way of sneaking up from two weeks in the future to tomorrow.

Sometimes the sheer amount of work is overwhelming. The week feels like a whirlwind, and I’ve felt like I don’t have the time to ever process and really understand what I’m learning. It’s easy to get confused, get behind, and feel like you’re just barely treading water in one or more of your classes. This is where I will repeat a piece of clichéd but important advice: ask for help before you need it. It will be easier to learn from your mistakes if you ask about something confusing as soon as you realize you don’t understand it.

After going to Reed’s academic support center about three days a week, getting tutoring, and studying ten days in advance, I still failed my first test. I realized that taking detailed notes and doing all the assignments wasn’t enough. The depth of knowledge and speed of recall I needed for tests would require a lot more preparation than I first expected.

Disappointed and hungry for advice on how to do better next time, I visited my professor during her office hours and asked for some tips and extra resources. I had never imagined I would do such a thing, but my new strategy involves creating extra homework for myself: extra practice problems, extra review, extra notes. Hopefully the next test will go more smoothly.

Besides office hours, something I’ve come to realize is that colleges really go out of their way to set up support systems and student resources. Find a tutor, create a study group with your classmates, sign up for any workshops or talks and get involved with your learning outside of class. Take advantage of all the resources available to you, and if you can’t find one related to what you’re struggling with, ask professors or older students for guidance. Sometimes resources and help aren’t obvious or easy to find, especially in the labyrinthine tangles that are large public university websites.

At Reed, there are students you hardly ever see. They are the people whose academic work is the top priority, and the problem is that at this school, you could spend every waking hour doing homework and still always have plenty more to do. There is a point where you have to decide how much is enough for you, and stop.

One of the first critiques I heard an older student make of Reed was about “stress culture,” where people brag about how much work they have, how little sleep they get, and compare stress levels with their peers constantly. I recognized this phenomenon from high school, but being on campus alongside students who are all extremely smart, able to understand equations at a glance or write brilliant essays without doing the reading, it was hard not to feel inadequate or just plain dumb in comparison.

At Reed, academics are sometimes terrifyingly hard. I feel under-prepared and incompetent a lot of the time. Somehow, though, I’ve found I really like it. Taking the time to get engaged and talking about the material helps a lot, even in classes that aren’t my cup of tea. They say you’ll get whatever you put into an experience out of it. I came here for a challenge, and boy did I get what I asked for.

Registration Nation

A brief history of how worried I was about signing up for classes

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by Natalie

A long time ago, at the very beginning of this summer, a mere 6 days after graduating from Southwest, I drove up to Moorhead, Minnesota with the ‘rents to register for classes at Concordia College.  I had been emailed a course catalogue a few weeks earlier that I scoured for five minutes, got stressed out about, and put away; never to be looked at again.  I started panicking a little.  Never a good idea.

When I arrived on campus, I was worried that the registration people would be mad at me for not knowing exactly what classes I wanted to take.

I was worried that I wouldn’t get into classes that I needed to take in order to get the degree I’m now working towards.

I was worried about getting all of my generals and a whole bunch of major-specific courses done in my first semester.

I was worried about signing up for a math, a science, a humanities, a language and all of the things I needed for my major.

I was just generally worried.

However, when I went into the Registrar’s Office to get signed up, all of my worry was washed away by the man helping me register.

This man was a theatre professor and I had met him before when I auditioned for a theatre scholarship that winter.  He told me, as I sat down hastily next to him in front of a computer, that I didn’t have to worry about anything at all.  He logged onto my account and looked at what I was already signed up for: a required speech course that I had automatically been assigned.

He signed me up for Intro to Theatre; Materials of Music 1, the music theory course that is currently kicking my butt; Cantabile (the freshman women’s choir); voice and piano lessons; and a history course that I picked out called, “Ancient Gender and Sexuality,” a course that has proven to be more interesting that any of the courses pertaining to my major.  But I digress…

The registration process was effortless and easy and I had to do very little.  I got into a lot of the courses I needed to take this semester and I’m really pleased with how things have been going.  My schedule is hectic, but I love it.  Here’s a snapshot of my schedule:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • 8:30-9:40: Materials of Music 1
  • 9:50-11:40: Work (I have a job as a Theatre Assistant in the scene shop of the theatre.  I build sets.  Or at least, I try to build sets.)
  • 11:50-1:00: Intro to Theatre
  • 1:20-2:30: Intro to Oral Communication
  • 2:30-4:00: Netflix.  Homework and study time
  • 4:00-5:00: Cantabile
  • 5:00-7:00 Dinner and a little down time
  • 7:00-10:00 Les Miserables Rehearsal

Tuesday, Thursday

  • 9:00-11:45: Work
  • 12:00-1:00: Piano and Voice Lessons
  • 1:20-2:30: Ancient Gender and Sexuality
  • 2:30-7:00: Time for Netflix homework and doing laundry and other productive things
  • 7:00-10:00: Les Miserables Rehearsal

It’s chaotic and there’s not a lot of down time but that’s what keeps me from spending hours and hours of my time on Buzzfeed or watching Netflix.  Here’s a little unsolicited advice for when you register for classes:

Don’t worry about getting every class you’ll need to take to graduate into your schedule first semester.  Most colleges sign you up for one semester and then, in four months, you have all new classes and all new credits to earn.  Don’t worry about fitting a math credit, a science credit, a language, three major specific classes, and a required English all into one semester.  You’ll get all of them done in good time.

College is a huge chunk of your life and the staff and faculty are there to help you get into the classes you need to take within that chunk of time.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t feel bad about changing your schedule first semester, either.

I personally didn’t change mine at all but a friend of mine, Rachel, did.  She was a pre-med major for a week and now she’s an English major and changing her classes and her major was, to quote her, “the smoothest process and the best decision.”

The people who work at the colleges are there to help you make it through.  They don’t want to see you fail and neither should you.

Signing Up for College Classes

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by Ariana

If you are undeclared I would highly recommend choosing a variety of classes for your first year of college. I am currently undeclared and I was able to choose many different classes that spiked my interest.

I chose to do public speaking because it is a Liberal Education requirement (classes that everyone must take before graduating) and I am interested in becoming a good public speaker, I also am taking Education in Modern Society. It is a very interesting class and it has taught me a lot. General Psychology is also a class that I was looking forward to taking to see if I wanted to go into that field. It has made me realize that I do want to major in Psychology and I have discovered the many of the different aspects of the field.

Overall taking different classes has really given me more perspective on different areas I would like to either explore more about or never take again. The classes that you take will be beneficial in some way, it will most likely be filling your degree requirements, plus you will learn some interesting things along the way!

The time frame that you choose your classes should also be realistic. Figure out (or you should know by now) if you are a morning or night person, essentially when you think you can be the most alert and productive while in class. I am not a morning person but I had to sign up for an 8 am class because it was the last available time slot for that class.

This leads to another point I want to emphasize; register for fall classes EARLY.

This is so important if you want to have options for different time slots. If you can register at the beginning of the summer then I would suggest taking advantage of that opportunity.

The last thing I would like to suggest to you all is to ASK your advisor questions about classes. Advisors do this all the time, ask them what they have heard from other students and if they might have prior knowledge about a given teacher.

Checking ratemyprofessors.com is also a good resource while reviewing your schedule, to see if your professor is compatible with you. Students go on this website and write reviews about their experiences with the teacher and the class. They usually are very helpful with advice or suggestions on how to go about doing well in the class as well.

I hope you have fun with this process and consider my advice when your time comes to register for your college classes!

Until next time!

-Ariana