Archive by Author

“If the job sounds too good to be true, it is.” and “If they are vague on the position, they will be vague on the pay.”- How to find a great job and create an awesome resume to land the interview

24 Oct

Now that we have covered surviving the first few months of freshman year, let’s focus on the opposite end of the college spectrum: finding a job. Although, this post is not just for college graduates; this information will help recent grads and some currently unemployed. Websites like MONSTER.COM and CAREERBUILDER.COM just allow companies to post all they want, which means some could be scams, but still some could be legitimate jobs. You have to research fully before spending your time applying and interviewing at the posted companies. Newspapers are relatively safer when job hunting, since there is a monetary fee to post an ad, yet these should be further researched as well.

As a soon to be grad, and marketing major, I am unfortunately the target of most of the scams. These scams are looking for “Recent Grads” “No Experience Necessary” “We believe in rotational programs starting with sales” or just general “Sales Positions”. These positions usually entail cold calling or door to door sales. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes legitimate jobs involve cold calling or door to door sales, but they will be for well known companies and they will tell you upfront, that is what you will be doing. The idea of rotational programs are fantastic, the best employees are the ones that understand how the whole operation works. However, these scam programs start you in commission sales and hope you quit before they have to actually pay you a salary for the other ‘rotations’ in the company.

Now, unfortunately, I can’t just tell you to stay away from companies X, Y and Z. These large companies have hundreds of smaller companies with normal sounding names recruiting for them. The one that I came in contact with was Cydcor. I was searching for a marketing job in the South Jersey/Philly area.  I found five companies I liked, so of course I Googled them. ***Make sure you go to the second page of the results. If that just seems foreign to you (I never go to the 2nd page) re-Google the business with the word “scam”*** I did not do this, so I received a call for an interview with East Coast Business Concepts and scheduled for a week later. I excitedly told my mom and of course she had to check it out herself. She went beyond page 1 of Google and saw that some people we not happy there. I then checked it out and immediately found two posts; Sully’s Blog and Ripoff Report, be sure to scroll down in the comments on Sully’s there is a list of about 50 affiliates. They were affiliates of Cydcor. It turns out these companies go door to door selling Verizon FiOS, for example, and will not reimburse you for gas and over saturates the market so selling is very difficult. The pyramid scheme comes into play when they want you to start your own company with them and recruit your own sales force, but you will not get all the money, only what trickles down. Obviously, when I read this, my excitement for my interview was gone. So I then Googled the other companies+scam and found that three of the five I found were part of Cydcor and there were plenty of other “mother” companies in other parts of the US, doing the same thing on the sites I looked at. Since these sites are basically posting for sales jobs, they are targeting marketing graduates, as well as those who are unemployed seeking a job.


Now that you know what jobs to stay away from and how to investigate them; how are you going to land that fantastic job when you find it? You could find a pin like me on Pinterest (found this the night before I posted) or read my lovely advice I spent hours compiling. Currently, I am still job searching (hopefully not for too much longer), but here are my myths and realities for writing resumes. Can you guess them correctly?

1. Don’t obviously use words from the company website or job posting.

2. Your resume can only be one page, that’s as far as employers look.

3. Your resume is your first impression; make them feel like they know you through the paper.

4. When job searching, send your resume to every company you can possibly think of.

5. You need to write an objective at the beginning of your resume.

6. Separate your work experience into relevant and other.

7. Add all the clubs and activities you were part of to fluff your resume, especially if you have not had many “real jobs”.

8. A resume should be professional and no personal information should be stated.

9. To make your resume stand out, use funky font and a cool layout.

10.People still read cover letters so you should spend the time to write one.

11. Looking over the web site is all the preparation you need to do for an interview.

Okay did you write down your answers? Just kidding, I think we are all beyond that by now. Here are the results.

1. MYTH! Those words are called “buzz words” for a reason.  Using their key words shows you took the time to read the posting thoroughly or even looked through their website before applying. Recruiters and Human Resource personnel have been taught to look for these words; these words are what they want their employees to possess. Now obviously, don’t go crazy and try to copy the posting or website word for word because that is just tacky.

2. MYTH! No one wants to read a ten page resume, but cramming everything on a .5 inch margin page doesn’t look good either; I’ve done it, it looks bad. If you do not have much to put on a resume, just add an extra space between parts and use solid 1 inch margins. If you have too much information on your resume there are two options; cut out your least recent jobs or activities (if they don’t really strengthen your resume) or change your margins to .75 inch and bold your headlines instead of adding extra space between them. Keeping it one page makes printing and handing to people easier, but if you need to go to a second page… organize your “most relevant to the job” items at the beginning of your resume, so if they don’t go to the second page you get your most important aspects across.

3. REALITY! This is a 2D version of you that you need to make feel real 3D, or at least 2.5D. This is your first impression with your employer and

you want to make it count. If you don’t make an impression, you go in the trash, and no one likes to be in the trash…except Oscar.

4. MYTH! Sending your resume to 20+ companies in one sitting it ridiculous. You want to personalize each resume and application you send. Let the business think you specifically want to work for them; that they were not just part of your mass mailing campaign. The WORST thing you can do is forget to change your cover letter or objective and send to the wrong company.

5. I believe yes, this is a REALITY, but the jury is out on this one still. The objective in your resume is like a super mini cover letter. You can change it for each job you apply to and can put those BUZZWORDS in it. It just gives a little extra personalization to your resume.

6. REALITY! If this is your first real job or you are switching industries you should separate your work experiences. That first job I had at 14 in a market is not relevant to my marketing career; however, it does show that I have been working since I was legally able. If you are changing career industries, your most recent job may not be the most relevant; so re-organize your job history to promote you the best for the job.

7. MYTH! Only put what strengthens your resume, such as leadership in a club or activity. Being a member of the soccer team or the knitting club doesn’t really make you any better of a candidate for a ‘real world’ job. Now if you were the president of a club, you could put that down and talk about your responsibilities. Bottom line is: keep clubs and activities out unless they directly relate to the job you are applying for.

8. MYTH! As stated in #3 this is your first impression you need to make them feel like they know you, and like you, before you even meet face to face. Don’t go overboard talking about your pets or fave food, but tell them something that no one else can. For example, you started your own business, even though it only lasted a couple months; you helped with some program up at your school; anything that will set you apart and is relevant to the job.

9. MYTH! This fits with #8 as well, but there is a line between obnoxious and standing out. Unlike Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (I cant believe I am actually referencing that movie…) spraying some perfume on a pink resume is not going to fly. Pick a common, legible font type and use black ink. Let the words do the talking. You should however, print them on heavier paper (it’s actually called resume paper) if giving a physical copy to a prospective employer.

10. REALITY! Cover letters still matter, just about every previous topic falls into this part. The cover letter is your personal correspondence with the company, it is how you say “I fit in your company because of X, Y and Z and I can bring A, B and C to the company and I am just awesome because…” Obviously, not in those words, but this is where you can really talk yourself up and try to connect with the recruiter or HR employee. You format it just like a business letter, if you don’t know how to write a formal business letter just Google it, they have great templates.

11. MYTH! Their website is a great place to start, but Google them! Also, if you know who you will interviewing with try to find them on LinkedIn or Facebook; you know they will be doing the same thing to you (make your profile private if you haven’t already, but if you don’t post scandalous things then you have nothing to worry about). Looking up your interviewer gives you some small talk topics to go to as well as maybe a common interest to thread into conversation. Interviews are all about making that personal connection so they remember you when it comes time to making the ‘final cut’.

In terms of interviews, just be yourself, I have found that works the best. The interviews I have gone on may not have immediately turned into jobs, but they liked me and kept me on file for future openings. Remember, you have already made yourself up to be the “perfect” prospective employee in your resume, now let yourself come out so you can really make a personal connection and be remembered as a genuine person. Dress for the job you want; the worst thing is to walk into an interview and feel under or over dressed. Men, collared shirt and dress pants at least, probably go for the whole suit look for most corporate jobs. Women, dress pants and a non- revealing top, heels or solid neutral flats, jacket optional. By looking at their website you should be able to get a good idea of the dress code. If you get the job they will tell you what the daily office dress code is so there will be no more guessing.

Good Luck on your job searches, use your best judgement and be yourself!

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 4- Dealing With Being Homesick) – I miss my mommy, daddy, puppy AND my own bed

5 Oct

Sorry for the hiatus (again), final semester of classes is insane, so is trying to find a job. Ahhhh! Hope you all have been surviving the semester and enjoying the last few days of relatively nice weather. However, if you are counting down the days till Thanksgiving Break (48 days in case you weren’t) and feeling a little homesick, still. I am here to help; it’s Super Sam!  Just kidding, but really, I am pretty awesome. Some people could not wait to get out of their hometown and away from their PIA (see first definition) parents; some actually still meant it after being away for a month or so. I could not wait to go to college, I started classes 10 days after I graduated high school in a summer program. Then about three weeks in, it hit me, and I was ridiculously homesick and bawling. I am not embarrassed to admit it. Granted, I had some major drama go down while I was gone that summer, but still, even by October I was still homesick after going home between summer and fall semesters and twice during the semester. If you are still reading this and still saying “I am not home sick, I am going home the least amount possible.” Then you can stop reading and miss out on my awesome tips, your choice. Most of you are nodding your heads; some of you don’t want to admit it, but you are still reading because you know it’s true.

It’s very common to become homesick. Especially if you’re within driving distance of home, you may be tempted to go back within your first few weeks and I hope you fought that feeling. If you did go home, I hope you are feeling better now. But try to avoid going home often and give yourself time to experience your new college life. I rode a bus home for 4 hours almost every other weekend to go home because I was so homesick freshman year. I missed out on so many events where I could have made friends and gotten my mind off missing home. I regret that often when my friends reminisce on their weekend adventures freshman year and I think back to my tear filled bus rides back and forth. It was rough, but I survived and you will too, because you have me!

Believe it or not, you parents miss you just as much if not more, so putting on a front for them is not the best for either of you. Here are the top ways to combat homesickness (and even some mild depression, though I am not really authorized to talk on the topic).

Call, e-mail or video chat your family and even friends. You may find your friends are having the same issues you are. I use Skype since I do not have a Mac for iChat, I am just not cool enough. There are other services as well such as Oovoo and Google chat.  These are the best ways to ‘be with someone’ even if you are many miles apart when you feel home sick. These types of services are awesome, your parents miss you and you miss them, don’t deny it, call them.

Did I mention I am also a bit of a hippie…

As I have mentioned before, music is my lifeline. Not only does it help me crack down and my work done, it also puts me in a better mood when I am stressing or a bit depressed. I usually listen to my “John MayerPandora station which of course has John Mayer, but it also has some Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, The Script; with some Killers, Coldplay, Bob Marley and Sublime sprinkled with some oldies, such as The Eagles, Don Mclean, Credence Clearwater Revival, AC/DC, Steppenwolf, The Beatles, Guns and Roses, John Mellencamp, Jim Croce, and Queen: just to name

Man and his guitar…

a few. Basically give me some good quality oldies or a man and his guitar and I will instantly be in a better mood. Find your “happy music” and just let it play while you do work or steal a moment to actually relax for a bit. Music has amazing powers. According to PsyBlog, music can give us solace and diversion, as well as entertainment. The only negative, is that if you listen to sad music you will become more sad, so try not to do that. Lifehacker has some tips about music and its effect on mood as well. Music can actually boost our immune systems through decreasing stress and increasing levels of antibodies. Awesome! Music can even help you when exercising, which is also a great way to relieve stress, by distracting your attention (ouch my body hurts) and makes your heart rate increase.

Unless you go to school in the mountains, then you may have already missed out…

It is not too late to join clubs and groups, sure you may have missed out on some activities in the beginning, but most will accept new members all semester long. These groups are great ways to meet people outside you dorm and classes.  They often have events and socials you can go to to mingle with people or just have a weekend day/night to get away from the stresses of campus life and have some fun. As I had mentioned in an earlier post about making friends with your roommates and floormates. Bring them to these group meetings if you are wary of going alone. Maybe you both will have a new group of friends. Now is also a great time to go on a pumpkin picking adventure, visit a haunted house or  just wander outside, soaking in the last bit of nice weather for a long time.

Now if you really feel like you have to go home and see you puppy, I mean parents, there are many options to get you home if you are car-less (I was for the first three years, I know how it feels) Buses, trains, even planes can be available near your campus depending on where you are located. In terms of busses, I have rode Greyhound, Fullington Trailways and Megabus. Greyhound is the ‘good ol standby’, it is moderately priced, has a fair amount of hubs, and is on time within 15 minutes. Out of 6 trips, I only had one bad experience, and it was not really their fault. I took a Thursday morning bus, I had no class Fridays and my Thursday class ended up being cancelled, so I took the opportunity to get an earlier start. I handed the driver my ticket and climbed up the steps looking for a 2 seater I could take and hog it so I could sleep, college students are always tired. The first thing I realized was that everyone looked the same, they all had light blue, jean-like jackets on, the same type of pants and white t shirts. (Anyone figure it out yet?) The bus was packed already, it was a Thursday morning, what was the deal? I asked the first guy who looked nice if I could sit down, he said, “Sure hun, take a seat.” I sat down and listened to the conversations around me: “Hey you know what happened with John? Haven’t seen him in awhile.” “Oh, he will be in there another 3 months, he broke probation.” “You hear about Bob? He shanked a guard and is gonna be in there for a long time”. I wish I was joking about the story, I really do, but I was sitting on a bus surrounded by newly released inmates. I texted my dad what was going on and I hugged my backpack the whole trip and put my headphones in and hood up to try and pretend I was not there. Needless to say, that was my last time on a Greyhound bus.  Fullington Trailways was my next to try out, they were a bit more expensive ($5 or so dollars), but the busses were nicer and they had TVs with movies playing. They also had an “express service” from school to King of Prussia or Philadelphia, which shaved about an hour of the trip. I took Megabus once, everyone raved about how cheap it was. It was in a Walmart parking lot instead of the bus station, so it took some extra effort to get there, but for $5 it was no big deal. I was meeting a friend in Philadelphia who was going to bring me home since my parents were flying from Florida and could not pick me up. The bus ride started off on time, but we took a turn to go west on the turnpike, and drove for about an hour until we heard the driver call someone and say, I took a wrong turn I am going to be late to Philly. I looked on my phone map and we were certainly going to be late. No one else has every had that issue, but I still prefer Fullington for my excursions home.

I actually, never rode a train until about a year ago, but they are really great if your destinations are near stations or else they are really out of the way and don’t save much time compared to busses and are about the same price. If you are lucky enough to be near one, invest in those “frequent rider” cards to save some money. If you live really far away, then a plane is your only option. I would recommend only fly with a carry-on (unless it is for a long break, then bite the bullet) and take the earliest flight out and back. The last thing you need is your flight to be cancelled or delayed and it ruins you whole weekend. Flying is expensive, but if you fly at off peak times, you can really save.

It is only seven more weeks until Thanksgiving, when everyone will be heading home, you can do it!

Have any other questions about being homesick, or just want to talk? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

P.S. After finishing this post last night, I went to StumbleUpon and came across this little gem here. Little late for most, but very true nonetheless.

Also willing to take suggestions for future posts, if it sounds like a cool idea, I will write about it. If it sounds cool, but I don’t know about it, I will research it and write an awesome post anyways.

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 3- Showing Up To Classes) – That Whole “Actually Going To Class” Part of College

28 Aug

Hey all, I know I have been MIA for awhile, sorry, insanity getting ready for my…wait for it…last semester of college! Ahhh. Real World, I am coming, get ready. Anyways, back to real topic at hand: going to those pesky classes at college, you are there to learn after all.

Even if you find out “attendance is not mandatory” you still need to show up, at least 95%. Professors will notice if you come to class, yes even in lecture, they will notice, especially if you introduce yourself in the beginning of the year. Professors can help you network, part of the reason you are at college is to find a job, and can even set you up with research they are doing if you are interested. Also, when you have a borderline grade, they are more likely to bump you up a letter. I am not going to lie to you, I have cut classes and chosen sections of a course by the professor whom I could cut a Friday class of. If you are going to pull a long weekend, don’t do it more than once, or the professor will catch on, I swear.  I am not your mom, but you should still go to your classes. If you are going to miss, you should email the professor ahead of time and ask what you will miss. When you email, make it believable, and sound sincere; even if you are lying, and they know it, if you never missed class before you can probably still get away with it.

Speaking of getting away with things, you will actually have to study and spend time doing homework. This is coming from someone who never spent time at home doing homework or studying for all of high school and graduated with a 95 average and in the top 15% of her class. I had the rudest awakening ever when I started freshman year. I don’t want you to face the same. You may be shocked at the little amount of time you spend in a classroom or lecture hall, but even more shocked at the amount of time you spend in your dorm or library studying or doing homework.  There is supposedly some rule that for every hour you spend in class you are supposed to spend like two hours doing work for it. I don’t believe there is a set ratio, but you will spend many hours outside of class on class work. For someone who is an epic procrastinator, me, this led to many Sundays locked in my room doing work until at least 2am freshman year. Then I wised up. In the first week of school, when you get all your syllabi mark up a calendar, whether it is google or a paper planner, just write the important things down so you don’t forget them.

I know you are enjoying this new sense of freedom, with no one telling you what to do, but I have to burst your bubble, sorry. Enjoy syllabus week, but then you need to start buckling down. College is for learning after all.

Have any other questions about classes? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

Fourth installment will be coming in the next month. Get Pumped Everyone!

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 2 – How To Get Along With Your Roommate) – So about that whole sharing a room the size of a jail cell thing…

25 Jul

This is part two of a multipart series on getting ready for freshman year of college.

Living with other people can be difficult especially if you are an only child (like me) or just happened to have your own room back home. You and your roommate(s) could be from very different backgrounds and ideals, be open, college is all about new experiences. Be upfront about your expectations for the room and the semester overall. Set boundaries, and stick with them, don’t be a push over. But don’t be so steadfast that you can’t compromise. You can’t ask them to change if you are not willing to either. Having a roommate will certainly present challenges; however, it can also be a highlight of your college experience.

Just about every possible problem stems from poor communication. First and foremost, when you find out who your roommate(s) is, Facebook or text them (most schools post phone numbers) just dropping a quick “hey, we are going to be roommates, when is a good time to talk” shows you care to get to know them, but understand everyone is busy in the summer. Don’t let too much time pass though (more than a week) there are important items to talk about (mentioned later in this post). Most items to be talked about will happen when you finally meet and are moved into your dorm, but one conversation can start now: Who is bringing what? Will you want a TV in your room? Movie collections? Extra seating? Video game systems? Oh and girls, even if you have old school N64, like me, bring it to school, you will instantly make some friends on your floor. After going over those topics, keep in touch as the summer winds down, updating on what you bought so far for the room.

Okay, so now you have moved into your dorm, using your trusty saran wrap of course, your parents have left and now it’s just you and your roommate(s) sitting in your room that will probably never be this organized ever again. What do you do? Lay down the ground rules of course!

Start off with the easy question: Night Owl or Early Riser– This answer will determine much of how your morning and night routine will go. If you happen to have a suite with a shared bathroom this question will help you figure out when to get a shower and where you can get ready; you can’t hog the bathroom to get ready if your roommate needs to shower too. Be courteous of their sleeping habits. If you are a night owl and your roommate is not, invest in a good desk light as mentioned in my first blog so you can both do what you need to. Or go to a study lounge or common area and work and come back when you are ready for bed (quietly). If you are a morning person, please be courteous of your roommate who likes to sleep in, grab all your stuff in one shot and take it out of the room, so you don’t keep opening and closing the door and blinding them with light.

You are at college to learn after all, well kinda. Some people need complete silence to study, others, like me, need music to concentrate. No matter what end you are on, you need to be respecting of your roommate’s study habits. Also, some students like to study between or right after class, others later in the day and into the night. This branches back to the night owl or early riser conversation, be considerate. If you have very different study regimens figure out who can study in the room or maybe prefer the library silence.

Sharing is Caring, but not always. Bringing a TV or extra chairs for your room is screaming “I am shared!” so just make sure you lay down the law of what can be shared and what can’t. Will some food or general household items (such as toilet paper) be shared? Respect eachother’s privacy and personal space, make a clear delineation between your stuff and theirs, or at least as much as you can. Always ask before borrowing, ALWAYS. There should be no problems if you let your roommate(s) know what’s off limits at the beginning; such as your computer, favorite article of clothing, oh and your boy/girlfriend.

Speaking of a boyfriend or girlfriend, they will probably want to come and visit you, or maybe you just have awesome friends who want to crash one weekend. Either way, you need to talk about the overnight guest policy of your room. Some key questions are: how much notice must be given; school vs weekend night; how many days in a row; and what is the roommate supposed to do when you have people over. The last is probably the most important; you CANNOT have hookups while your roommate is in the room! I don’t care how ‘deep of a sleeper’ they are or if they are ‘passed out’, it is the most awkward thing ever to wake up to that in your room. Also, lay down the law against ‘shady friends’, if you are not comfortable with them being in your room, tell your roommate nicely, propose maybe they hang somewhere else, maybe their place if they are a fellow student.

Water Pong, Fun For All Ages

College is where you are finally free to go out and stay out as late as you want, you finally have independence; or at least that is how I felt, finally shedding that midnight curfew, yes it was terrible. Whether it is a frat party or a house party or even having some people over in your dorm, you will end up partying at some point. Now before I go any further, I am not condoning underage drinking, nor am I condoning drinking in your dorm; it will end very badly if you get caught.  But I feel the approach of giving the knowledge to make your own decisions is the best way for you to learn. You can have ‘parties’ in your dorm by playing games or having a dance party, it’s all relative. Also, you can go to parties and not drink, that’s completely fine, but if you plan on it, please keep checking back for my post dedicated to partying safely. If your roommate decides they want to go out to parties there are some ground rules that should be set. The Buddy System, maybe go with them and you two (or a group from your dorm floor) can keep an eye out for each other and you will have a walk home buddy. If you don’t want to go out with them make sure you don’t lock them out of the room or set up a time that if they are later than that they need to find somewhere else to crash.

Once you have made a solid base for your roommateship spend time with them. You may be instant friends, or you may not, but there has to be a general level of camaraderie. Get to know your roommate, talk about classes, eat dinner together, watch a movie, etc; but don’t be overly or fakely interested, it will make it worse. Having an open channel of communication will be key if a problem arises. Hmmm that sounds vaguely familiar…

This is more general safety, but make sure you lock the door and windows, this may not seem entirely relevant to the roommate dynamic, but if your roommate’s laptop gets stolen on your “5 second run down the hall” you will feel terrible; or think of how mad you would be if it was reversed.

The cliché is true, the bottom line is communication.  You may think it’s weird to start talking about this with essentially a stranger, but come Thanksgiving break you will be so happy you did. Although, I will admit, you may get a complete dud of a roommate, it happens, but there is a whole dorm floor where you can find a pseudo-roommate.

Oh and two important side notes: everyone, or at least I do, hate those corny ice breaker games, but suffer for the hopes of meeting some people. Suffer together! Also, you will make mistakes, it’s inevitable; skipping class, getting very drunk, vomiting, and hooking up with someone you immediately regret the morning. See TextsFromLastNight for examples. Every freshman makes at least one mistake, if you are lucky you will learn from the experience. As Adele says “Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made,” college is all about making memories.

In the end, just expect the unexpected. No matter what others tell you about “how college is” your experience will be slightly different, don’t let false expectations let you down, or scare you to death.

Check out Part 3 about classes!

Have any other questions about roommates? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 1 – What to Bring?) – Don’t Forget The Saran Wrap!

17 Jul

This is part one of a multipart series on getting ready for freshman year of college.

So you graduated High School. Attended the countless Grad Parties. Explained where you are going to school for the umpteenth time. And now it sets in, you have to pack up your life and move it to school. How will you ever decide what necessities you should bring and should leave home; the must have’s and what are the big no no’s?

Necessities and Must Have’s article-images/laundry.png

  • Bedsheets, pillow(cases) and blankets/comforter Depending on the climate. Check if your school has “extra long” twins or regular.
  • Mattress pad Many, many students have slept in that bed before, you want as much between you as possible.
  • Under bed storage bins, preferably plastic, and/or risers to lift the bed if need be. You will have zero room in your dorm, you will need to create as much storage space as possible.
  • Clothes are obvious, but make sure you bring a variety of seasonalwear, temperatures can change quick and you don’t want to be without a pair of shorts or a warm jacket. If you go to a school that has a wide swing of seasons, think of Thanksgiving and Spring break as your “clothes swap” points. Don’t forget some interview outfits  for impromptu job offers or career fairs.
  • Hangers! I totally forgot and then Walmart was sold out, slight problem.
  • Laundry will most likely be in your basement or on a random floor, so you must lug your dirty laundry (no pun intended) past many  fellow dormmates so make sure you have a sturdy basket, along with detergent, dryer sheets and quarters (or other payment method, depending on your school)

  • A variety of batteries will be essential as well for your TV remote, alarm clock, calculator and more. Not much is worse than getting ready to take an exam and your calculator dies
  • Bath Towels and a Robe to walk to and from the floor shared bathroom.
  • Shower Caddy will be your savior walking to and from the bathroom. Try carrying shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash and a razor down the hall without dropping them…its impossible. Oh and don’t forget your other toiletries: toothbrush and paste, deodorant, perfume/cologne and those other items sitting in your bathroom.
  • Shower Flip Flops kind of go with the mattress pad reasoning. You don’t know what’s been there…and you don’t want to.
  • Laptop (further explanation in a following post, stay tuned)
  • Printer with respective cords, ink and paper, some schools give you printing pages to use in the labs, but when you have a couple of end of semester papers or have to make copies of something for the whole class, you will wish you had your own printer.
  • TV for your room will be important, talk to you roommate about who will bring one.
  • Flash Drives– Many professors prefer this for presentations so there are no “Ooops the file wont open” excuses. Also, with group projects this is the easiest way to share information that is too big for email.
  • Extension Cords and Outlet Expanders– You won’t have enough outlets for your stuff in, believe me.
  • Headphones and MP3 device As mentioned in my previous post about Pandora, music is a necessity to get work done at school.
  • Ethernet Cable– not all dorms have WiFi, get a really long one at least 25 ft because you never know where the jack may be in your room.

Get Organized

  • Desk chair– Sometimes you are given a painfully hard wooden chair, sometimes not, so check your housing website.
  • A window fan if your campus is in a warm area, it is very unlikely to have A/C, and a fan is a great way to get airflow in a stuffy dorm room.
  • Lamp for your desk or floor lamp, you will want your own personal light source since dorms usually just have an overhead light on the switch.
  • Super Glue and Duct Tape will be your best friends, they fix just about everything. Oh and duct tape is great for those ABC parties.
  • Ruler, Scissors, Highlighters, Pens/Pencils, Stapler, 3-hole punch and PostIts notes. Self explanatory.
  • Alarm Clock because odds are you will end up having at least one class that is “early”. Also, come the end of the semester, you will be tired and even your 10am class will seem rough to get up for.
  • Bulletin Board– Whether it’s pictures, syllabi, a calendar or general reminders, it will help you keep organized. Don’t forget the push pins.


– Everyone has their preferences but a general list would be cereal, ramen, granola bars, peanut butter/jelly, popcorn, soup and bottled water/Brita pitcher.

  • Can/Bottle opener, solely for opening soup and root beer.
  • Paper plates and plastic silverware are definite for the food items listed above.
  • Backpack– Maybe they were a no no in High School, but in college it’s a no brainer. Walking all across campus for 3-4 classes with books, binders, folders and your laptop is just not going to work.
  • Index cards work better than you think. I will admit I didn’t really study in High School, let alone spend the time to make flash cards, but in college, they really help and can easily be studies in between classes or on a bus.
  • First Aid Kit, complete with Antibiotic Cream, Band Aids (I revert to my childhood and buy Disney Princess or Toy Story ones), Cough Drops, Decongestants, Pain Relievers and any prescriptions you have.

Don’t forget your Clipboard+ for your on the go working needs.

Don’t forget to check with your roommate(s) and see what they are bringing too so you wont have duplicates.

And girls, find some cute boy neighbors to help you move in, they will be happy to oblige…your dad however, not so much.

 Things to Leave at Home

  • Expensive jewelery or other pricey accessories.
  • Important documents (birth cert, SS card, passport, etc) if for some reason you need them, have them sent to you or your parents bring them on a visit (yes you will have them visit you, they miss you).
  • Most of your t-shirts, there will be many events with freebies. After my freshman year I think I had about 10 new T’s. If you end up with waaaay too many check this out!
  • Your stuffed animals, if you must bring one, pack it in a bag/box/bin no one can see in and see if it’s safe to let him/her out and hang on your bed. Tigger came with me freshman year, thankfully my roommate loved Tinkerbell and we bonded over Disney movies, since I got Tigger at Disney World.
  • More than 10 pairs of shoes, yes I know boys, you don’t own that many to begin with, but girls, you will probably never wear them all, just bring a variety and you should be set.
  • Too many pictures or posters-That is a good thing to buy at school or with the roommate. First bonding activity?
  • The dorky lanyard, it screams freshman, and not in a good way at all.

Still wondering where the Saran Wrap is involved…? Most schools give you hotel luggage carts or big industrial size laundry bins to move in and out of your dorm. If you get one of those hotel racks, how can you stack your items 4 feet high to the crossbar and still make turns without losing everything? Wrap Saran Wrap around the whole rack and then cut it off when you get to your room. You’re welcome.

Have any questions about specific items to bring or not to bring? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

Keep a lookout for the second installment about how to live with a random person and how to get along with your roommate!

10 Applications to Help Combat the “Back to School Blues”

5 Jul

We have officially passed the ‘unofficial’ midpoint of summer, July 4th, which can only mean one thing…BACK TO SCHOOL! Yeah, anyone under the age of 22 doesn’t want to hear those words; for others, it can’t come soon enough. Whether you are excited or not; these apps will certainly help you transition back into the ‘school season’.



Evernote, as mentioned in my previous blog post will help you organize all of your to-do lists, audio recordings, pictures, and webpages.

However, I found an even awesomer (yes it’s a word) app for $0.99; that’s about 99.5% off retail! The Graphing Calculator app can graph multiple equations and you can even email yourself the results. It will not work in an advanced calculus class, but for those who have to take an introductory class of Calculus or Statistics this will work perfectly. You will most likely be unable to use this for a test, but for homework and classwork it will make your life easier. Who wants to carry that brick of a calulator with them anyways?


Most Apple Applications can run on iPhones and iPads, but the following are some that are best suited for the iPad’s larger screen:

CourseSmart is another avenue of purchasing your eTextbooks and eResources at deep discounts from the hard copy version. This app also allows you to view your text from your iPad, iPhone, or computer. The program is free; you just pay for your eBook like you normally would. (This application is also available on the Android Market).

This application, Stanza, slightly branches off from CourseSmart. Stanza allows you to download copies of ‘the classics’ that have fallen into the public domain (The Sorrows of Young Werther, The Waste Land, even Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as pictured at right). The texts are free and so is the app. You can also pay to download other, currently copyrighted, readings as well. The iPad’s ability with this app, rivals the Amazon Kindle, since the screen is larger and allows other programs to run as well (such as your music).

QuickOffice is as close to a windows tablet as you can get currently, until the Surface makes its launch. This app is not Office itself, but it allows you to edit documents from those programs. It pulls from your Dropbox or SugarSync folders, let’s you edit them, and then you can send them back to your cloud. You can also bring in Evernote documents. For $9.99 it sounds like a great deal to me!

iAnnotate PDF allows you to take notes, highlight, circle and just about anything else you can think of for $9.99. The price it a little steep, but it has more abilities than I can fit in this post. My favorite aspect is that you can use different highlighter colors depending on the content; also it makes sure you highlight in a straight line, something I seem to be incapable of doing. The app even allows you to add a secondary level of protection on your documents with another password; it also supports iOS data protection and Keychain functions. It will also flatten your files to keep them from being modified at a later time without your knowledge. Similar to Evernote, it also has a search function for all your documents. So you can easily find what you need, when you need it.


I was only able to find one Android specific application ready to help combat the ‘Back to School Blues’; Layar. Layar is pretty epic looking, I must say. This application aggregates information from third party apps, such as Yelp and UrbanSpoon, and layers the information on your screen, as the camera scans your surroundings. You can choose what you are specifically looking for and narrow the results from the 1,500 layers they have in the database. Note: Apple has an app called Layar as well, but it has a different purpose.

There is also an app called Pocket, originally ReaditLater, which is Android’s version of Instapaper, which I explained in my previous post as well.

All Platforms

With the race in smartphone technology never ending, there are many applications that span from the iTunes Store to the Android Market seamlessly. Two of the best are Pageonce and GroupMe.

Pageonce helps you keep track of your bills and where your money is going. You can receive alerts BEFORE your bill is due, keep track of your cash and look how much you have put on your credit card all on one screen (as seen at right). Oh and it’s free! You can even pay your bills from the app for 30 cents, that’s less than a stamp.

Who actually likes group projects? Anyone…anyone? Exactly, but this app can make your life slightly easier when your class takes the “group work is essential to learning…” turn. GroupMe allows you to add all your members phone numbers to one unique number so you can text everyone, by texting that one number. You can also see where your members are through the GPS feature; no more Starbucks stops when you “forgot your papers at home and have to run back”. This app is free as well and will definitely be a timesaver when your group projects start piling up.


As I write this post, and just about every other writing related thing I do, I have Pandora Radio playing. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I CANNOT work in silence. I have to have music in the background and Pandora is my lifesaver. Late nights writing a paper; Pandora playing through my headphones. Reading Business Law; Pandora kept me sane. I am sure Pandora is not new to most of you, but it sure is a good old standby in terms of music. Pandora is run by the Music Genome Project and has 80,000 artists and over 800,000 tracks. You can create stations based ona genre, a couple singers/bands you like, or one of their preset stations (i.e. Sounds of Summer). A “Thumbs Up” keeps the song on your list, a “Thumbs Down” takes the song off your list forever. You can create a playlist completely tailored to you! Everyone can find music they like on here, and did I mention its free, and you can log into your account anywhere?

Back to ‘that which must not be named’ is on its way, but if we are prepared, we can make it through.

5 Must Have Productivity Apps for iPhone/iPad

23 Jun

My generation, the late 80’s early 90’s babies, have never read directions for technology. We just can innately figure out random devices, but as I enter my senior year of college, I finally had to “read the directions.” I’ve never written for a blog. I have written just about every other type of prose, even poetry, but the “post” has always eluded me.

First, I read WordPress’s directions; one line really struck me, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” Then, of course, I Google’d “do’s and don’t’s of writing a blog.”  What would we do without Google? Actually, maybe that should be the topic of my next post… hmmmm…


Let’s talk about Apple Apps. (Say that three times fast.) You don’t need to be super tech savvy to rock an iPhone, iPad, even the iTouch. With the application riff-raff, over half a million apps, which ones are worth the money, let alone using up your monthly data allowance? Here are five, in no particular order, that I think are definitely worth it.


I have been in love with my Google Calendar, and the other Google Applications, for years now. I questioned how I would have ever survived hectic college life (and summer where the days run into each other) without it. I was wrong, dead wrong. iStudiez allows you to organize your classes, syllabi, to do lists, important deadlines, and just general events to remember…all in one place, your phone’s calendar. It allows you to color code your events, organize your tasks in countless ways, and gives you a ‘today’ view of everything that needs to be done. With the countless items that need to be done today you will never forget with notifications on your phone reminding you. All of those things are great, but my personal fave; the class countdown. Oh and there’s a free version that does everything except track your GPA, who needs to do that anyways…


Evernote for iOS iconYou know that infomercial on at 3am, when you are struggling to find sleep, about the machine to ‘read’ your receipts and notes and organizes them on your computer? This is even better, AND FREE, for your phone! Evernote has over 20 features to keep all your information in one place; you can make to-do lists, record audio, search for text inside images, email or tweet your notes, take pictures of the black (or white) board full of notes, even view web pages when you are no longer online. Best part? You can sync all of your notes across your computers and devices.

Pulse News and Instapaper


Instapaper (Photo credit: Johan Larsson)

Keeping up to date with various social media, newspapers, and even epic blogs (like Changing the Way You Work) can take a lot of time and energy. Pulse News allows you to combine all your news sources into one screen, no more swapping windows, or missing out on ‘the newest thing’ while checking another source. Instapaper, on the other hand, allows you to save web pages to read later, offline. We all know there are times you don’t have a signal, or you have to turn on ‘airplane mode’, but you need to keep yourself occupied. The app also lets you change the font and text size to what suits you. Pulse News is free; Instapaper is $2.99, but well worth it to catch up on news, gossip, friends and family while on the go.


Okay, I’ll admit it, I have walked out of a building and rhetorically asked, “Where did I park…?”, but I swear it’s only been a few times! Some parking lots are straight up labyrinths and even if you ‘kinda’ remember where you parked, everything looks the same. iParkedHere to the rescue! It uses the GPS in your phone to ‘drop a pin’ where your lovely vehicle is and will help you find it later. It also has a handy parking meter counter so you will get notified when your meter is close to running low. For a $2.99 price tag, it will easily be worth it when you don’t get another parking ticket.


Remember back to that time you went to a job fair, or really any networking event, and you had countless business cards to keep track of. Not to mention, having to email thank you’s to some and resumes to others. This app, ScanBizCards, allows you to take pictures of all the cards and then automatically imports the information into your contact list for easy emailing. I wish I had known about this app when I went to the job fair, I had so many cards and couldn’t keep straight who had said what and I think a few fell out of my folder. I was a mess. For the super low price of free you can be much classier than I was last spring.


Those were my five-ish, yes I combined two, apps to help you get your life together, but this next one I had to post about because it is just plain awesome. Daniel Chao, ten years old, created the iReadMonthly app to keep track of how much time he spent reading. Entrepreneurial spirit is starting earlier and earlier. Love it!

I survived my first blog post! And you survived reading it! Congratulations! So maybe, blogs are not so enigmatic. For years my English teachers told me I “wrote too conversationally”; what they didn’t know was my style was perfect for blog postings. According to, a blogger must “be willing to talk like a human being…show feelings and a point of view. Let your inner self come out…Just speak!” Hope you all enjoyed my first ever blog post, you are now part of history. I would love some feedback on it, other topics you’d like to read about, or just questions/comments in general.