Don’t Be Afraid To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Possibly the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far in college is to push my boundaries and explore new opportunities. After all, college is the perfect time to discover yourself! While my first semester, I was more reserved and hesitant to try new things, I decided to make a change for my spring semester. Here are a few ways I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone:

1. Try new classes

Throughout high school, I generally tended to stay away from history and literature classes because I was not a fan of the humanities. I was much better and interested in math and science, so I filled up my schedule with mostly STEM-related classes. Coming into college, I was set on taking classes related to my neuroscience major and pre-med. The thought of having a schedule only filled with classes I wanted was so exciting.

Only biology and genetics and no Spanish and Language Arts and history?!?! 

It was like a dream come true. Only I soon realized it wasn’t the best thing in the world. I missed the balance of STEM and humanities classes that I’d always had in high school and my schedule felt empty. So, I decided to explore outside my interests and take a history class, culture class, and several other humanities courses. And, I’m so glad that I did. I think it’s fantastic that Rutgers and most colleges have core requirements that make you take a few courses in all subject areas. Otherwise, we’d all just stick to our majors and miss the point of a liberal arts education.

While I still am not a fan of the humanities, I really appreciate the skills I got to take away from the courses I enrolled in. It’s a nice break from the analytical and abstract science classes I take. It has given me critical thinking skills and helped me form informed perspectives on current political and world issues.

2. Join new clubs.

In high school, I wasn’t much of an “extracurricular” person. Sure, I’d participated in a few clubs, but academics was always my main priority. I wanted to change that in college. The college admission process really opened my eyes because I realized that anyone can have a 4.0 GPA and a 1600 on the SAT. What really matters are your extracurriculars and your unique experiences that set you apart from the rest.

I was excited to get involved on campus, but as a commuter, I wasn’t quite sure how to. I didn’t know if I had the time commitment, I didn’t know if I would be able to socialize well, and I didn’t know if I had the guts to join clubs that I had no prior experience in. After a complete year in college, I can honestly say that all of that is irrelevant as long as you are willing to try something new.

One by one, I started looking up organizations online, reaching out to clubs, and joining organizations. Something that I’d always wanted to do was write and have people actually read my writing, but I was scared to put myself out there. But I finally decided to let go of that fear and I joined two blogs my freshman year. The experience has been so rewarding.  I also joined the Rutgers Commuter Student Association and it was the best decision I made so far! It’s given me a sense of community and family in a big school like Rutgers.

3. Look for leadership opportunities.

College is a great place to get a feel for the real world. There are so many opportunities available to help you gather all the skills you need to succeed, so don’t be afraid to take them!

This past semester, I would always see opportunities to become part of the E-Board for student organizations. At first, I’d think to myself: “This would look great on my resume!” But then I’d back down because I’d think I didn’t have enough experience or ability to apply for such positions. If there is anything I’ve learned so far, it is that you never know what will and can happen.

As Nike would say, JUST DO IT! Even if you don’t get the position, it’s still a great experience applying and interviewing. It refines your writing and public speaking skills.  Even though I didn’t get the first few positions I had applied for, I wasn’t disappointed. I just kept going. Soon enough, opportunities started lining up, and I found myself with five leadership positions just my first year here!

4. Make new friends.

This one is a little personal for me and not everyone might be able to relate. As an introvert and a commuter, I have a hard time making and maintaining new friends on campus. During my first semester, I found myself alone a lot of the time and relying on my high school friends. I came very close to accepting the fact that I’d be alone all of college and have no luck with friends.

But, then something changed. I decided I didn’t want to have that mentality anymore. I wasn’t having any luck because I wasn’t trying at all to meet new people. I had to remember that everyone in some way was struggling and lonely. I had to put myself out there. As soon as I started feeling positive and put a smile on, good things started happening. I started talking to more people, hanging out, going to more events, and letting go of only sticking to my high school friends.

Even though college doesn’t really allow for having constant friends, it’s still great for enjoying the moment with those that are around you and having good conversations. The more I joined clubs and got involved, the more people I got to know.

Freshman year was just the beginning. It was the first step outside my comfort zone in a long flight of stairs of unexplored terrains. I’m so excited about my next three years here at Rutgers and I’m eagerly anticipating what the future holds. College can be the best four years of your life if you are open to letting yourself loose!

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To My High School Seniors, It’s OK To Not Go To An Ivy League

Throughout high school and the majority of middle school, my dream was to go to Harvard. Without a doubt, I was naive and overconfident about my abilities, and upon entering a competitive school district for high school, I realized that my chances of getting in were slim. I always thought I was destined for Harvard or any Ivy League, for that matter. But today, after completing my first semester at Rutgers University, I can confidently say that I made the right choice.

When I received rejection upon rejection during the college application season, I came to the conclusion that I’d end up attending my state school. I would say things like “I’d rather be at the top of an average school than the bottom of a top school” and “the college you go to doesn’t really matter for undergrad” and “it’s not worth the money; I’d rather spend it on graduate school” to justify my choice.

Truth be told, I was just trying to make myself feel better and hide my shame of not making an Ivy League. College decisions are totally unpredictable, but that’s a whole other topic entirely and I do not wish to digress.

The point is, there are many factors that determine which college is the perfect fit for you. After just a semester, I can honestly say that it really does not matter what college I or any of my other high school friends are going to.

It’s about what you make of your experience at college.

We’ve all heard that statement before, haven’t we? And it’s not very convincing or uplifting, especially when you are a high school senior caught up in seeing other classmates posting their acceptances on Facebook. It’s hard, I get it. There are some things I wish people had told me to help me get through it all. So, here are some things to consider before having your heart set on an elite school solely for the sake of its reputation.

1. Grade inflation.

Grade inflation is the practice of giving higher grades for work that deserves something lower. People justify its use by arguing that inflated grades are necessary for students to succeed in our competitive job markets. It was mainly thought that Harvard and other Ivy Leagues engage in this practice, but in a study, it was found that approximately 43% of all grades distributed in 200 universities were in the A range. It was also reported that private schools have more students at the top of the grade distribution compared to public schools with equal acceptance rates. The median and most frequently awarded grade in Harvard is an A-. Other schools like MIT, Columbia, Yale, and Brown also have rampant grade inflation. These schools either have no F’s, or simply do not give out letter grades, but rather use a Honors/Pass/Fail system. Almost an astonishing two-thirds of Brown undergraduate students receive A’s. It really makes you think whether students from elite schools are actually more competent and successful than their counterparts.

2. You do not make more money.

Yes, Ivy League students do have a significantly higher income than other students in many cases, but do not let these statistics fool you. There seems to be a misconception that students from elite schools are smarter and more successful. While true to a certain degree, these numbers fail to take into account personal characteristics that can influence success.

A 2002 study conducted by Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale compared average yearly incomes of Ivy League students and those who were accepted into Ivy Leagues but chose a state college instead. What did they find? The average salaries of the two groups were essentially the same! So, no, you do not just become more successful by attending an elite school. It really is about your intrinsic motivation.

3. Jobs don’t care.

While Ivy Leagues can definitely raise your chances of getting a head start in competitive fields, such as finance and law, your college degree will not linger on for the rest of your career path. After your first job, what really matters is your experience, not the college you attended. Your employer is probably not going to go through the effort of scrutinizing your transcript.

4. In the real world, connections are everything.

Ivy Leagues are excellent to build networks. I mean, just take Mark Zuckerberg for example. He went to Harvard and dropped out after developing a social network with his roommates. And now, he is one of the richest people in the world with almost 2.07 billion active users on Facebook. Some of the most powerful and influential people have attended Ivy Leagues, so attending one guarantees that you are making bright connections. But, here is the good news. Successful and highly motivated people are everywhere. Any big school will have an ample number of people to connect with and opportunities to embark upon.

5. GPA isn’t everything.

Due to grade inflation, GPA’s have become so saturated and unreliable as an accurate method of evaluating merit and capacity for professional work. No wonder that a recent 2012 study revealed that GPA is the 7th out of 8 factors that employers consider before hiring. Internships, previous job experience and extra-curriculars played a much larger role. These are all assets that can be explored at any college.

6. Use college as an opportunity to explore.

In today’s age, the decision of whether you go to college matters far more than that of where you to choose to go. A degree is a degree and job outcomes are virtually unaffected by whether you attend UPenn or Penn State. The decision really is yours, so choose wisely. It’s easy to get caught up in competition and status, but keep in mind that an elite school will not guarantee your success. Instead, find a school that fits your preferences based on location, environment, cost, and size. College isn’t just a straight route to hang a prestigious degree on your wall, but your chance to explore your interests and build a career path.

To be clear, I am not against Ivy Leagues. They are excellent for their academic prowess, networking, and an almost guaranteed “head start” in the work field. Do not shy away from applying to Ivy Leagues but at the same time, keep in mind that a rejection is not the end of the world. In the grand scheme of things, where you went to college will not matter — but rather what you did once you got there.

 

 

 

 

 

A Bumpy Ride

Hello! My name is Raaga and I am 18 years old. Seeing I am nearing the end of my teenage years, I thought I’d take a ride down memory lane and relive the bumps and excitement that my adolescence brought along.

As I stepped onto the rollercoaster, I had not the slightest clue of the journey I was about to embark upon; a ride that began as a slow trek accompanied with a few bumps – one that I could sustain without fear nor anxiety; I became consumed with my surroundings as my eyes pedaled from the distance to the immediate view- the vibrant skyline, the pretty trees, the tiny people – and then unexpectedly, I’d felt a jerk!

The cart commenced on the incredibly long journey to the peak; my heart began to race, my palms started to sweat, and I clenched my fists in anticipation of what lay on the other side.  The cart stopped for a second at the peak and I closed my eyes. ZOOP! The cart descended to the depths of Earth; my body fell forwards and my heart dropped- it almost skipped a beat. Just as I thought it was all over, I realized that this was only the first obstacle in this seemingly endless ride: my adolescence.

Before I had moved past one challenge, another had already begun. New worries and feelings knocked on my door without invitation. I constantly felt that I was in inner turmoil with myself. Where was I headed? What did I believe in? Who was I? If only I could make my way back to the carousel, the bumper cars, the Ferris wheel – anything to bring back my childhood.

As teenagers, we live in a society in which perfection is valued above all.  People are driven to showcase their beauty, accomplishments, experiences, and popularity to the world. The biggest victims of this race are adolescents.

Our timelines are flooded with endless pictures on social media.

Young adults are determined to display their greatest moments to hide their everyday, mundane lives.  Our constant need to be accepted by society and embody this vague definition of what constitutes “normal” and “cool” fuels much of the angst and anxiety experienced in this era.  

The hardest part about being a teenager is the constant worry about what others think of me. Even though in my heart, I know that it is so silly to want to be evaluated by others, I cannot seem to get rid of it. I do not know what to blame: my changing hormones or the predetermined standards and expectations of society.  

Undoubtedly, society has triggered insecurity and doubt within me. In particular, beauty standards have caused many women to feel unconfident and self-conscious. While my feelings of consciousness and doubt do persist, day by day, I am becoming more and more comfortable being with others. I understand that not everyone is staring at my flaws, but rather, people are interested in genuine talks.  As I grow older, I know that while there are people who are judgemental and critical, most of the world is dealing with the same exact insecurities that I deal with. They may not be the same, but everyone has some flaw, some shortcoming, or some baggage. My imperfections only stand out to me because I am exaggerating them. While I am tormenting myself on the inside, the rest of the world is dealing with its own problems.  

Society has created this perception that everyone needs to be perfect, but such an ideal does not exist in reality.

If I could give any advice to any preteen about to embark on this tiresome and overwhelming ride, I would tell them to embrace themselves, and all of their little quirks. When I meet people, I am not attracted to their features or their lavish lifestyles, but their personality and how they make me feel.  

Although the fear and doubt seem near impossible to deal with, it is only one part of an incredible journey.  After all, every ride has its bumps and pitfalls. For me, adolescence is not simply the era between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, but a worthwhile transformation from angsty juveniles to experienced adults. 

The Difference Between High School and College: Grades

College is a completely new experience and for us students who have freshly graduated from twelve years of schooling, it’s a huge transition.  After a few rough weeks of figuring things out, I’m pretty much in sync with the grading system in college. I know that as a high school senior, it seems pretty terrifying to say goodbye to regular assignments and routine chapter-by-chapter tests. Fear not, I’m here to help you out!

SEMESTER-BASED CLASSES

This is the biggest difference between high school and college. You no longer have year-long classes that are slow paced and in-depth.  College courses are fast-paced, extremely well planned out and comprehensive. Time flies in college. Why? Because classes end within a semester — that’s 15 weeks. If you take away holidays and breaks in between, a semester is pretty much finished in 3 months.

Because colleges offer so many courses at different levels and concentrations, it makes sense for them to be split into semester-long courses. In high school, you gain an overview and a general introduction of history, biology, chemistry, and math.  Once you get to college, you choose what you want to focus on depending on your interests, and for each topic that you indulge in, a semester is more than enough.

Because everything is compressed into a semester, college courses have fixed syllabi with little flexibility, but it’s nice being able to visualize exactly how the course is organized and which assignments are due every week. Even your dates for midterms and finals are announced early on! This is a blessing to everyone who loves calendars.

MIDTERMS AND FINALS

Ah, thinking about having only two exams for an entire course was my biggest fear coming into college.  But, trust me, it’s not that bad. You have to remember that courses are only one semester long, so having two to three exams in that time span is entirely appropriate. It is stressful to imagine that the majority of your grade depends on these exams, but keep in mind that there will be other assignments to boost up your grade.  Extra credit is rare, but attendance, participation, and/or weekly assignments can each account for about 10% of your grade.

Midterms and finals take preparation and work, so do not bring along your procrastination tendencies from high school to college. They will not work here. There is no way you can prepare for exams in one night. Give yourself a week or at least an entire weekend to prepare for exams. They’re really not that bad, even if they are cumulative.

LETTER GRADES

Letter grades are all that matter in college. In high school, everyone is caught up in their percent and number grades, but in college, as long as it’s an A, no one cares if it’s a 90 or 98.  Another huge difference is that some classes won’t regularly post grades on assignments.  There might not always be a portal to view all of your grades, so a lot of your time is spent keeping track of your grades and making estimations of where it may lie.

CURVES

A lot of classes in college use curves. So basically, your grade is dependent on how others perform in the class. At times, this is great because even when your average is a B (or even a C!), you can still end up with an A. But other times, this is a huge drawback because your grade can be lower than what you expect depending on the class grade distribution.

HOMEWORK

College homework is a lot easier than high school homework.  Even though the work may take longer, it is definitely easy.  Most of my work is comprised of readings, online assignments, and preparing for exams.  It’s nice to not have loads of busy work and daily assignments anymore. Also, classes don’t meet every day, so this gives me time to space out work and keep stress levels down.

NUMBER OF CLASSES

Whereas taking around 8 classes was the norm in high school, that’s a lot in college. In college, most students take around 15-18 credits per semester which adds up to about 5-6 classes. Also, you no longer have relaxer classes like P.E. and study hall! Each class you take will have a purpose- either for your major, minor or core requirements.  You might throw in a few for personal interest, but you have to be wise in time management and organization.  Each class is about an hour and 20 minutes (labs are 3 hours), so create your schedule wisely.

How to Get Work Done, Like Actually

A new year and a new semester has begun, so you know what that means. A new you! Just kidding. As someone who doesn’t believe in temporary new year resolutions, I try my best to set long-term goals for myself.  Specifically, I like taking tangible and practical steps to improve myself, rather than creating fluffy and whimsical hopes like “I will work hard this year!” for myself.

Keeping a clear goal of getting working done efficiently and without distraction in mind, I have come up with six ways that are actually effective when it’s time to be productive.  These are things I’ve picked up after years of experimenting which conditions work best for me. Keep in mind that they may not apply to everyone.  Without further ado, I present to you ways to actually get work done.

1. Self Control

The biggest hindrance to being productive is all the distractions that are present around us. Especially if the work involves using a computer or the Internet, social media, YouTube and texts are just waiting to interrupt your work ethic. I know it’s hard, but do yourself a favor and keep your phone on Airplane Mode or your Mac on Do Not Disturb when there’s a big assignment due.  Your notifications can wait. Also, resist the urge to keep checking your email or Facebook so often.  Just attempt to not click on those websites for a certain period of time. Not working? That’s okay.

Possible solutions include:

  • Delete bookmarks of distracting website so it is not so easy to reach them
  • Do not have them open in other tabs. Just close them.
  • If you still cannot control yourself, then the most effective solution is getting a website blocker. If you have a Mac, you can download Self-Control. It is one of the best ones I’ve ever used. Once you block the websites for x amount of time, you cannot undo that action.  You have to wait it out. Instead of crying out of regret, might as well use that time to work!

2. Organization

It is so important to keep your life organized to get work done.  This includes everything. Keep your work environment clean: a clean desk, a desktop with minimal apps and a clear state of mind. Most importantly, having a schedule and to-do list is a must. I never understood the point of planning out my day and writing down what assignments I have to complete in one place. I’d think it’s too tedious and extra. But, trust me- it helps so much. Instead of trying to memorize your tasks or logging them in ten different places on your phone, have a homework or reminder app that keeps it all in one place. I recommend iStudiez, myHomework Student Planner, and The Homework App. You can upload your entire schedule and class times on it. It’s a great way to mark your due dates and set priority for your assignments.

3. Determination

No matter how distraction-free and organized you become, it’s all useless if you don’t like what you are doing. And I get it, sometimes the task is mundane and uninteresting. So, if you have a list of tasks to complete, save the one you are most excited about until the end.  This way, you have something to look forward to.  Most often, the boring assignments are the ones that are the most time-consuming and take the most effort. Get them done first when you have the most energy. Leave the fun stuff for later.

4. Rewards

If you are doing something that takes a long time to complete, break it down into sections.  For example, if you have to read 50 pages, reward yourself after every 10-15 pages with a YouTube video.  If you have been working for 2 hours at a stretch, watch an episode of Parks and Rec on Netflix.  If you have a lot of tasks to complete, take a break after finishing two.  Try to manage your time well by either giving complete focus to your work or truly relaxing during your break time. Do not attempt to do both because it just slows everything down.

5. Be Excited

Time flies when you have fun, doesn’t it? Well, guess what? Work can actually be fun when you like what you are doing. Just think about. Say you are really passionate about biology. Anytime you do biology homework, you give it your complete attention and finish quickly. So, even if you are doing work that doesn’t excite you, try to find things that are exciting about it. For example, if you have to write a research paper to complete, and you hate finding sources, but love writing, look forward to that. If you are reading a history textbook and find it boring, try to formulate it as a story in your head to connect ideas and events. If you don’t understand a concept and are more of a visual learner, find videos and graphics online to clear your doubts. Even the dullest things become exciting when you understand them well!

6. Just do it.

Nike’s slogan “Just Do It.” is pretty motivational. The best way to stop stressing about a task is to just do it and get it over with. Procrastination makes things worse. Instead of worrying about your workload and complaining about how much you are not looking forward to doing work, actually being productive is much more efficient. Once you start working, it becomes easy and you feel a burden lifted off of your shoulder.

Remember kids, it’s all about your motivation and prioritization. With just a little bit of self-control and a few rewards along the way, nothing can stop you from hustling hard.

 

Lessons I’ve Picked Up After One Semester

I can’t believe I am one-eighth of the way done with college! While I still have a long way to go, here are just a few things I’ve experienced and learned after my first fifteen weeks in college.

  1. Time flies. Whether you are having fun or not, time really does fly in college.  It feels like just yesterday, the semester had begun. It’s remarkable how much I have learned in my classes in a matter of a few months.  If only high school were the same…

  2. You miss high school. Throughout high school, all I wanted was to go off to college and fulfill my aspirations.  But now, I want to go back.  Well, not go back, but I do miss the simple things: how close my classes were to each other, a constant day to day schedule, a tight group of friends, going out for lunch and basically how approachable and convenient everything was. Now, there are no bells, no lockers, no guidance counselors, and no one running at the back of me telling me that I need to go to class. It’s a whole new life.

  3. You have adjusted to this new lifestyle. Despite losing that sense of familiarity and routine that I’ve been used to for the past 12 years, transitioning to college has not been too rough.  I have classes all over the campus, classes so large that it seems impossible to get to know people, and teachers not forcing you to do things. You can go wherever you want, hang out with whoever you want (or no one at all), and participate in anything you want.  The independence is the best part of college.                                                                                                                                                                                         

  4. Friends? Who? Just kidding, but not really. College friends are quite different from high school. If you are anything like me, you take time to open up and make close friends. I know I am not the only one. Every day, I see people eating alone, walking alone and chilling alone in the library.  This is totally normal.  With every new semester, my friend group will change and I am okay with that. I am still holding on to my high school friends and even though we are miles apart, whenever I run into them or call them over the phone, it feels like old times again.

  5. Food is everywhere. Literally.  Everywhere you turn, there is food. College is really the time when you are left on your own and free to splurge on whatever you desire. It has been a struggle to refrain from spending money on Starbucks, Dunkin, or a quick snack anywhere, but I’m getting there.

  6. Stress kicks in right before exams.  The majority of the semester has been pretty relaxed for me.  Why? Because college courses do not have rigid due dates, daily assignments, and so on. Instead, you already know what the syllabus is and what readings are expected of you to read.  So, if you have been slacking off and not managing your time well, be prepared to pull all-nighters before midterms and finals.

  7. There are so many people. In just a few months, I have met so many different kinds of people.  It’s crazy.  I rarely run into the same people and each person has their unique style and beliefs. Whether in my classes or at the bus stop, it’s cool to meet and be around new people every day.

  8. Netflix is your new best friend.   Whenever you have free time (or, sometimes even in class), you resort to Netflix.  It’s comforting and offers a variety of TV shows/movies to complement any mood or genre you may desire.

  9. It is your choice to pay attention in class. Only in college can you go to lecture, pay no attention and still feel proud that you at least went. Attendance is no longer important, sick days are the new norm and seeing classmates watching Netflix or playing video games is not uncommon.  It is really your choice to pay attention and there are no immediate consequences for slacking off. Until finals of course.  So, it is important to prioritize.  Finish binging Stranger Things or put in some effort and pass Expos? Hmm…

  P.S. I’m writing this post while I sit in my sociology lecture.

After just a semester, it is clear that college is a great experience to discover yourself.  It presents a boatload of opportunities and it is exciting to anticipate what the future holds.

Why Humans Love Negativity

Whether it is in the news or social media, negativity seems to be everywhere these days. Tragic incidents, accidents, celebrity bashing, roast challenges, you name it. While exposure to negative content is important and inevitable, it is the fact that humans love it that is interesting. We know it is bad, yet we cannot stay away from capturing or consuming it. Why?

It has been reported that there are about seventeen negative news reports for every positive one in the media. Evolutionary psychologists and neurologists say that because our brains evolved in hunter-gatherer environments, we immediately attend to anything dramatic and threatening for the sake of our survival.

Another explanation is the probability theory which suggests that the probability of unusual/tragic events happening in large cities compared to local neighborhoods is higher.  Becuase the media focuses on large-scale cities, the prevalence and distribution of negative content increase greatly.

Researchers find that a negativity bias exists in which people have a desire to hear bad news.  This bias exists mainly because people tend to believe that they are “above-average” and that the world is a much better place than it actually is.  Thus, when bad news comes out, they give it more attention.

The brain has increased sensitivity to bad news as opposed to good news. In other words, an insult stings more than a compliment, unpleasant feelings linger longer than positive/neutral ones, and bad news overshadows good news. Thus, despite the presence of all the good in this world, the negativity sticks out like a sore thumb.

In specific, I want to focus on the vastness of negative content online, mainly Youtube. Whether it roasting other Youtubers, hating on celebrities, or capturing another person’s pain, there is plenty of negativity out there. What is concerning is that these are the videos that trend and gain the most attention.  If a video is circulated rapidly on the Internet, it is defined to be viral.

In April 2016, a 16-year-old girl named Amy Joyner-Francis was beaten to death by three girls in a high school bathroom.  Dozens of other girls simply stood by and watched the violent encounter unfold.  Some even chose to record it, rather than intervene. Click here to read more about this incident.

How sad is that?! Is the chance to create a viral video worth risking someone else’s life?

Research shows that negative videos can become viral because they trigger high arousal emotions like anger and disgust. Videos bashing celebrities and capturing accidents/fights gain attention because of the immediate response the viewer experiences.

However, there is an incentive for positive videos as well. Another component in virality is dominance- when you feel in control of your emotions. For example, a high dominance emotion is happiness, whereas a low dominance emotion is fear. Thus, videos that elicit high dominance feelings, such as happiness, admiration, and love have been proven to trend.  Trending videos like “In A Heartbeat” and “Grace VanderWaal: 12-Year-Old Ukulele Player Gets Golden Buzzer – America’s Got Talent 2016” promote positivity and inspiration.

In the long run, creating positive content is far more impactful.  Think about it.  Once the short-lived relevance of a negative video dies out, it is quickly forgotten.  This is because negative content is solely remembered for its content, whereas positive content has a lasting impression.

And the misconception that it is impossible to trend without negativity is just false.  Whether it is #DamnDaniel, Gangnam Style, Watch Me Whip or Carpool Karaoke, these videos have managed to become viral without promoting any negativity.

It is impractical to hope that negative content will cease to exist because there will always be an audience for it. However, if people make an effort to resist watching and sharing these types of videos, then people will be less encouraged to record such content.  So, while it is tempting and difficult to focus on negativity, do not bash what you hate.  Instead, promote what you love.

Why Snapchat Is Making Us Crazy

Now before I begin, I should mention that I am a loyal Snapchat user, so I am guilty of being absorbed in this obsession as well.  I’ve been thinking about writing about this for weeks now, but I refrained because I did not want to be hypocritical.  Yet, the more I have thought about it, the sillier and more trivial Snapchat became.  To clarify, I am not suggesting that everyone needs to delete their Snapchats or even break their streaks (oh, the horror!), but I think it’s important for us, including me, to take a step back and consider the extent to which social media has taken over our lives.

Our obsession with Snapchat only works to the company’s advantage with each update becoming more and more exciting and tempting for the consumer.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Snapchat is a fun way to connect with people, share our lives through pictures, and even experience others’ lives (including celebrities) in a quick 10-second video and a five-word caption.  It’s also a simple way of interacting because it takes the pressure and effort from having a full conversation and typing things out.  However, some features on Snapchat which seem “fun” are actually quite problematic.

Here are 4 ways that Snapchat is making us all go crazy.

Streaks. 

Streaks are basically a challenge you have with another person, in which both people send one snap daily.  A fire emoji appears next to that person’s name after 3 consecutive days, with the number increasing every day.  When you approach the 100-day milestone, a 100 emoji appears to celebrate the achievement. Not going to lie, reaching this mark for the first time was pretty exciting!

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But, here is where the problem begins.  Once you start one streak, you are suddenly tempted to start more. It almost feels like an unofficial rule that once you reach a certain stage of a new friendship, a streak must be initiated.   As the number continues to increase, the pressure to maintain the streak increases.  It’s a commitment that I honestly did not sign up for.

Some of my streaks are with people that I barely talk to. If a daily snap back and forth is the only communication you hold with someone, why is so much value placed upon the streak? The truth is I’d rather have streaks feel exciting like they initially did rather than a daily task I have to complete.  Of course, I do have some friends and groups on Snapchat that I actually share meaningful things with.  Streaks that are built this way are totally awesome! But, if the only reasons I snap people daily is for the sake of the streak, then something is wrong.

Sending mass snaps or blank screens with “streak” written on it, asking my friends to take over my account when I’m on vacation or cannot use Snapchat, and attaching too much value to a streak are signs of the obsession. Can we just take a second to acknowledge how silly all of this is?! What’s worse is that the easy solution of breaking streaks is frankly not-so-easy.  After a certain point, breaking a streak feels like betrayal.  Like, why break it now after coming so far?  But, we really need to ask ourselves: if not now, when? 

Stories.

Stories are great ways of sharing memorable moments with all of your friends at once.  Even better, it lasts an entire day, so it’s cherished longer.  However, I think stories lose their purpose and value when people feel the need to share every moment of their lives without taking the time to put their phone away and really enjoy it.  Because, trust me, no one wants to go through 2 minutes worth of a concert that you are attending on his/her phone.  Instead of watching the whole thing through a screen, I bet you that being present in the moment is much more fulfilling.  And it’s okay, you can spare the rest of your friends the shaky footage and replace it with one or two pictures because they are probably tapping through it anyway.

But, I get it.  Some meals, moments and places are so aesthetic that they have to be captured. However, people who snap everything they eat, every place they visit, and every party they’re at are a bit concerning.  Stories are a lot more interesting to look through when they are something new and exciting.  Seeing my entire Snapchat flooded with the same old stories every day is honestly a bit depressing.

Snap Score.

Snapchat scores are a sum total of all the snaps that you have sent and received.  Like other social media websites, the higher the number, the more “authoritative”, “cool” or “popular” you seem.  Humans are naturally competitive. Increasing their scores can become a motivation to constantly add new people, send pointless snaps and keep loads of streaks.  In fact, the Internet has tons of websites on how to increase snap scores. Here’s an example:Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 9.47.24 PM

Just the fact that such websites exist is scary because it shows how deeply engrossed we are into social media.

Emojis.

Ah, the infamous best friend list on Snapchat.  The emojis next to people’s names code for so much, effectively ranking friendships and increasing paranoia everywhere. The fact that it’s so indirect makes it exciting and sneaky, but also super nervewracking.

In particular, the smirky face and gritting teeth emojis are prone to making people feel jealous and insecure.  Also, the hearts hold special value.  The red heart appears after 2 weeks of being each others #1 best friend, and the two pink hearts appear after 2 months.  Losing a heart is heartbreaking to some people, and can potentially lead to salty feelings.  The whole ordeal is stressful and worrisome.

Snapchat should not be about maintaining unnecessary commitments, but rather sharing and interacting with friends.  If once in a while, your best friend list changes around, it should not mean the end of the world.  Friendships on Snapchat are ranked according to the number of snaps you send people.  It’s impossible to send snaps to the same person for a prolonged time unless it’s done purposefully. Therefore, your best friend list is bound to change around and does not necessarily equate to your real-life friendships.  If not being your friend’s BFF on Snapchat is enough to get you paranoid, how strong is your friendship?

I have yet to break my streaks or even consider deleting my Snapchat because quite frankly, I’m weak and easily tempted. However, just realizing the extent of the obsession is important.  As they say, acceptance is the first step to change.  Personally, I’m taking little steps to step away from social media once in a while and really enjoy the moment.  Resisting the urge to snap everything, not adding all of my suggested friends, and not worrying about my best friend list are some ways I have addressed the problem.  At the end of the day, real-time interactions hold so much more value than a three-second snap.

The Truth About Freshman 15

I remember the first time I was introduced to Freshman 15 like it was yesterday.  Health class during my junior and senior years of high school, my teachers cautioned us about the dreaded weight gain college students experience in their freshman year.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard about it.  15 whole pounds?!

But, when I stepped foot into college, I realized how possible it truly was.  The tempting aromas, the endless options in cafeteria buffets, the abundance of cool restaurants everywhere I turned and could not wait to dine at…Freshman 15 almost seemed inevitable.

Also, just think about it.  For many people, college is the first time that they are in complete control of their eating choices.  Students are at liberty to eat whenever they want, wherever they want.  With hours worth of free time between classes and an overload of tasks to stress about, snacking becomes the perfect solution distraction.

After a month of college, I am tempted almost every single day to grab some hot chocolate, delve in ice cream, maybe even treat myself to bubble tea! Being a commuter, I do not have meal swipes, and get home-cooked meals.  Maybe that makes it a little easier for me to avoid unhealthy eating habits, but I can imagine how difficult it is for residents to resist the temptation.

   

So, we all seem doomed, don’t we? Actually, no, we aren’t.  There are several myths floating around about Freshman 15, making it seem more dangerous and unavoidable than it actually is.

  1. People typically 10-15 pounds of weight gain. The truth is that the average weight gain 2 to 5 pounds.  Some studies show the average to be around 7 pounds.  Of course, it is difficult to compute a mathematical average because every individual is unique, and different factors, including metabolism, family history, medical history and environment, influence one’s chances of weight gain.  Although 15 pounds is an exaggeration, it is not impossible–about 10% of students gain that much.
  2. Weight gain only affects freshmen. Changes in eating habits and lifestyles are constant throughout adulthood.  Metabolism slows down as people approach their 20s. While most weight gain is said to occur during a student’s first year in college, it is possible in any year.  In freshman year, most students are in the transition phase.  They are prone to experience homesickness, elevated anxiety levels, sadness and loneliness.  All of these responses can trigger stress-eating.
  3. Weight gain is due to partying and drinking.  The truth is that Freshman 15 is the result of a combination of different factors. Large meal plans, excess snacking, lack of exercise, binge drinking and increased stress can contribute.  Although partying and drinking are unhealthy, it is a jump to conclude that they are the cause of Freshman 15. The overall changes in eating behaviors, such as irregular eating times and large portions are more likely to cause weight gain.
  4. Weight loss is impossible. Sometimes, just the fear of Freshman 15 can put students at risk of body dissatisfaction and potential eating disorders.  The paranoia can lead to unhealthy dieting and habits.  Instead of skipping meals, the best way to avoid weight gain is to adopt healthy practices. Rather than making drastic changes to diet, it is far better to make small adjustments and set attainable goals.  If you feel guilty or over conscious about your food intake, talk to your doctor or seek counseling at Rutgers (CAPS).

Putting on a couple of pounds is not something to fear. As our bodies continue to develop, changes in weight are expected and completely healthy.  However, increased weight gain is problematic.  Many health risks, including high cholesterol, blood pressure and joint problems are likely.  A poor lifestyle can pave the path for future problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Even if some students do not gain significant weight, they should not continue to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors. They most likely do not have a balanced nutrient intake.  Their concentration, memory and performance, in general, can lag behind.

Here are a few tips to avoid Freshman 15:

  • Stick to an eating schedule to avoid unnecessary snacking
  • Avoid eating late night
  • Do not skip meals
  • Keep a watch on your meal portions
  • Avoid vending machines
  • Replace soda with water/milk/juice
  • Treat yourself occasionally 🙂
  • Do not eat while doing other tasks- watching TV, studying, etc
  • Work out for a minimum of 30 minutes daily (gym, fitness group activities, dance, jogging)
  • Sleep for 7-8 hours each night
    • Avoid caffeine or watching TV before sleeping (I know it’s hard!)

With a little bit of control and moderate efforts to maintain an active lifestyle, Freshman 15 is yet another challenge in college that can be conquered.

The Life of a Commuter

Whether it comes up in daily conversation or classroom icebreakers, a common question is “What campus do you live on?!” Us commuters are left responding, “I commute.”

In a school as big as Rutgers, it’s easy to feel excluded or alone, especially when your time spent on campus is limited compared to other students.  It becomes easy to forget the wonderful perks of living off-campus when a large portion of the college experience revolves around being a resident.

So, is it worth it? As a reminder to myself and other commuters around, I decided to explore the life of a commuter. Thus, I’ve made a list of pros and cons as I often do in conflicting moments when I need to sort my ideas.

There are a lot of plus sides of commuting:

You get to live at home.  

Something that’s easy to forget to appreciate because we take it for granted. Living at home and being around your family is a huge bonus! Being a freshman, I am still trying to figure my way around and it can get lonely.  Coming back home everyday is both refreshing and comforting.  After hearing my resident friends complain about missing home, I feel lucky to still have that around.

You can come and leave whenever you want. 

Depending on your schedule, you can sleep in and leave right when your classes end.  I catered my schedule timings to my preferences- no early morning or late night classes.  I do not want to drive at night, especially during the winter months.  Nor do I want to spend hours in between classes in the library or wandering around campus.  I wanted to keep my classes close together, so I could just leave after the last one.  Rutgers has great flexibility for picking classes and timings.

You can avoid taking buses. 

You do not have to take buses going from and back to your dorm.  If you drive to campus, it is best to pick parking in the campus that is a) close to your house and b) where most of your classes are.  Plus, if you live close to campus, then the drive back home is often quicker than taking a bus back!

You have access to better food options. 

Let’s be real, dining hall food isn’t the most appetizing food around.  Meal plans can get expensive.  Thus, home cooked food is pleasant and most of the time, healthier.  Plus, there is always the option of eating out whenever you feel like it! To be completely honest, there are so many options for food at Rutgers and the wonderful smells can make it very tempting.  Having homemade food almost makes is easier to avoid Freshman 15!

It’s cheaper. 

You don’t have to pay for room and board which is huge.  And you’re living with your family, you don’t even have to worry about rent! Saving money is so important as a college student.

You get more alone time. 

You don’t have to deal with roommates or get distracted by loud parties close by. You can choose when you want to hang and socialize with others.

 

That being said, there are a few drawbacks as well.

It’s hard to get involved on campus. 

Most clubs meet late night, so getting involved can be difficult.  Many events held on campus can be hard to attend as well.  It sometimes feels like residents are getting a better college experience.

SOLUTION: Some clubs are flexible with timings- they’ll allow you to leave earlier or not meet regularly.  If necessary, you can always crash at a friend’s dorm! The Rutgers Commuter Student Association is a great student organization to join if you are a commuter!

It’s hard to make friends. 

Most likely, your high school friends are not around you in college.  Making new friends seems difficult, especially when you do not already have a roommate or dormmates to rely on.  Making friends in classes isn’t easy either- mainly because classes are huge and running into the same people is unlikely.

SOLUTION: Meeting new people everyday isn’t so bad.  Even though you miss that sense of familiarity that you had in high school, it’s fun to talk to different people everyday! But, as people say, college is the time when you make your greatest friends. Joining extracurriculars and organizations is the best way to meet new people and make long-lasting friends.

It’s hard to reach out for help. 

Many opportunities and resources available feel distant as a commuter.  Whether it’s tutoring services or asking friends for help, it’s hard to do that sitting at home.

SOLUTION: While some resources may be held back from you, there are plenty of others available at Rutgers.  Noting down a friend’s number from each of your classes is helpful if you ever have questions while doing homework.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

Getting to your parking lot can become a hassle.

Especially if you have to go around to different campuses, getting back to your parking lot can require many bus changes.  It’s pretty annoying.

SOLUTION: Don’t worry, you’re not the only one!  Getting around by buses is annoying at Rutgers, for commuters and resident alike, especially when you are in a time scrunch.

Traffic and gas.

If you take the train, timings can seem pretty inflexible.  If you drive, traffic, especially during peak hours, will be a pain.  You might have to leave home an hour earlier just to make it to your classes.  Also, driving back and forth every day to college will use up gas.

SOLUTION: This is a good time management skill. Really! You never know what can go wrong, so it’s not a bad idea to get to campus earlier than your class time. Gas money is expensive, but at least you’re not paying for room and dorm, right?

You wish you could have that dorm experience.

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Hearing you friends talk about how they will decorate their dorms and seeing pictures of their completed rooms makes you wish you could have that experience too.  Seeing people be able to roam around campus and do whatever they want, whenever they want seems awesome.

SOLUTION: You get to do one thing that they don’t: come and leave campus whenever you want.  That’s its own freedom in a way.

So, what have I concluded? Is there an end to this dilemma? 

Personally for me, commuting has been a great experience thus far.  While being a resident has its perks, being a commuter is definitely a rewarding experience as well.  There will be a few hurdles along the way, but they are not impossible to overcome when you realize that you are not alone. If you want to join the Rutgers commuter group chat, here is the link.