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In Academics on
January 15, 2018

How To Survive (& Thrive) In An Online Course

Colleges are beginning to understand that they need to be more accommodating for students. They are creating many different ways of learning such as online courses and night classes that help students by adding flexibility. I am not the biggest online course fan, but during the two that I took during undergrad and grad school, I learned a lot of tips on taking them. Today’s post is going to be all about how to survive and thrive in an online course.

Related Read: The Happy Guide To Surviving Night Classes

How To Survive (& Thrive) In An Online Course | Are you taking an online course at your #college anytime soon? Check out my 10 tips that will help you survive and thrive all your online courses (especially if you are used to taking courses in a classroom!)

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
October 18, 2017

How To Graduate College In Four Years

Many college students head to college, get side-tracked, and have to spend an extra semester or two before they graduate. For me, I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t want to take out more loans than I already had (I took out about $20,000 in loans at the undergraduate level.)

Part of my school money came from the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship which has a four-year maximum. If I didn’t manage to graduate in four years, I wouldn’t have had the money to keep going without taking out way more loans than I wanted to. So, I made my four-year time framework, and today I am going to show you exactly how I did that.

 How To Graduate College In Four Years | Graduation is one of the proudest moments ever, but how do you do so in an economical way? So many people seem to be graduating in five or six years now, but there is a way to stop that. Today on the blog I am sharing my best tips for graduating college in four years.

1. I Kept Up With My Own Class Records

My undergraduate institution had a perfect advising system. Our first year was spent with a general adviser, but if we declared our major, we had a professor as an adviser from our Sophomore-Senior years in college. I loved my adviser deeply, but I was such a control freak with making sure that I knew exactly where I stood when it came to graduation. I made and updated spreadsheets with my course schedules in it all the time; I’ve probably printed dozens of general education, major, and minor check sheets; and I just made sure that I was the most knowledgeable person about my own college education path.

Yes, your advisers can be the most helpful people in the world and I loved mine (and I even took two courses with her during my time in college), but you should take an interest in your own graduation check sheets. When your adviser is advising tons of students, it can be easy for your information to fall through the cracks. While that never happened to me, it could happen to you. Advisers get changed, advisers lose information, and then those things can have a major impact on your graduation time.

Related Reading: How To Make The Most Of Your Academic Advising Session

I Understood All Of My Requirements

With that being said, I also understood all of my requirements. Here are a few you need to consider:

  • How many total hours do you need to graduate? Usually, this is around 120ish.
  • How many upper-division hours do you need? Your college career can’t be strictly made up of freshman and sophomore level courses. You probably have a specific amount of your hours that have to be at the junior and senior level.
  • What courses do you need to take for your major(s) and minor(s)?
  • How many hours do your major(s) and minor(s) require?

Once you understand your requirements, you can make sure that your entire course schedule revolves around them. For instance, I had taken way too many freshman and sophomore level courses, and I almost didn’t have enough hours to take all of my upper-division hours. I ended up taking 15 upper-division hours my last semester at UCA which happened to be just enough credits to fulfill my upper-division credit requirement.

2. I Took My Courses Seriously

I was never one to joke around with courses in college. Going to college is a privilege that not many people get to experience, so your coursework needs to come first. Even if you are just taking a physical education class or a class on film theory, you need to take it seriously! When you do that, you are able to get a higher GPA, avoid academic probation, and make sure that all the courses you finish end up counting for something more than a harsh lesson.

Related Reading: How To Study When You Feel Unmotivated

3. I Didn’t Drop Any of My Courses

Now, I did think about dropping my courses, but I never actually went through with dropping a course until I got to graduate school. By not dropping any of my courses I always got all of my credit hours each and every semester which was super helpful to graduating on time. Sometimes dropping courses is almost mandatory to avoid getting a super poor GPA, but I would not drop classes if you can avoid them. If you have to, you need to make them up at a later date.

Related Reading: Dropping A Class: The Happy Arkansan’s Guide

4. I Took Full Course Loads Every Semester

I really thank the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship for that because it required me to take at least 15 hours every semester except for my first one (but I took 15 hours that semester too.) If you want to graduate in four years without summer classes you need to be taking at least 15-18 hours each semester. This means that you need to be a full-time student, otherwise it’s pretty difficult to graduate in four years without a ton of extra summer semesters.

5. I Understood The Importance Of Course Work Balance

Another thing that I did was understand the importance of balance. I tried to understand the different courses that I had to take and I never tried to pair too many difficult courses in one semester. Even if I had to take many upper-division courses in one semester, they weren’t all built the same.

I understand that every major cannot have the same amount of balance, especially when you are a STEM major, but if you can, create some balance in your course load through a fun class or an easy class when possible.

Obviously, you don’t want to take Basket Weaving 101. You want the easier class to be pertinent to you or your interests. Think about which courses will be the most difficult and see if you can spread those out among all eight semesters versus taking multiple difficult classes in one semester.

6. I Decided On my Major My Freshman Year

Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t change around what I did quite a bit.

I started as a History/Sociology Double Major. After my first year, I dropped my double major and majored in Sociology with a minor in Writing. After about another year I changed my minor from Writing to Public Relations. Finally, right before my senior year, I changed my minor for the last time to Anthropology because I could use some of the excess courses I had acquired in Sociology for an Anthropology minor. Last, but not least I did end up adding a Criminology concentration to my Sociology major literally right before I turned in my graduation paperwork. I already had the hours from taking the Criminology concentration coursework, so the people I worked with in the Sociology office convinced me to add the concentration right before I graduated.

In case all that was confusing, I ended up getting my Bachelor’s in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology and a minor in Anthropology. Yeah, that’s a handful.

Picking A Minor That Coincided With The Courses I Took

While I changed my minor a lot, I knew when I needed to settle down and pick the best minor for the courses I had already taken. I never changed my major after my freshman year though.

If you can, stick with the major you love. College is tough, and you will need a lot more from a major than the fact that it will make a ton of money in the future. I am not saying that no one has genuine love for tough majors like those in the STEM field. You can totally adore all things STEM! But you also have to understand why you love STEM. Is it because that field has so many well-paying jobs or because that field really excites you? Most people I knew who went into STEM because of the money didn’t make it, they only made it if they had a genuine love of STEM past their desire for a healthy paycheck later in life.

So, with that being said, use your freshman year to experiment, take courses outside of your comfort zone, etc. I am not rushing you to pick a major because there are probably a ton of general education requirements you need to get out of the way first, but the sooner you declare the better your chances of graduating on time.

7. I Sought Help When I Needed It

Last, but certainly not least, I sought help when I needed it. College can get tough and you never know when you may have an issue adjusting to something or doing something. Your college is filled with amazing resources to help you conquer all of those issues, but colleges aren’t always the best at reaching out to people who need their resources (even though they try.) So you must be proactive, reach out to the right resources so that you can get over any speed bumps you may have. I would suggest reaching out to your academic advisor first because they can be extremely helpful with showing you resources you didn’t even know your campus had.

Methods I Didn’t Use That Are Helpful

I was extremely lucky in that just doing the above helped me graduate on time. Here are a few other methods that will also potentially help you.

1. Consider Summer Courses

I never took a summer course until I went to graduate school, but taking a summer course can help you get back on track to graduate in four years.

I would consider taking a summer course so that you can focus on a particularly difficult class or so you can retake a course that you dropped during the year. If you take summer courses strategically, you may even be able to graduate early!

2. Enroll In The Four-Year Plan

If you don’t mind losing a bit of your flexibility, many colleges often offer four-year plans before you sign up for your first courses. These plans are strict regimens that you take semester after semester that allow you to graduate in four years if you follow the plan to a T. Many schools offer these plans, but it’s definitely not as flexible as creating your own four-year plan.

Four-year plans (also known as degree plans, eight-semester plans, program completion plans, etc.) often focus on getting your general education requirements done extremely early in your college career. For example, the four-year plan for my alma mater wanted me to complete two science courses during my first year of college, which I just didn’t want to do.

I would definitely encourage you to look over the four-year plan for your school just to see if you like it. If not, they also are a great thing to model your own plan off of.

3. CLEP or AP Test Out Of Courses

Do you have a lot of knowledge already? You may want to use an AP or CLEP exam to get out of some of your college hours.

AP stands for Advanced Placement. If your school has any AP classes, you can get credit for courses by scoring a high score on the exam (usually by scoring a 3 or 4). This is great for testing out of courses like college writing, college algebra, world history, etc. The great thing about AP tests is that they are paid for by your high school so you don’t have to pay for them out of pocket. They are extremely lengthy tests though and you have to be really prepared for them to make a good grade on them.

There is also a CLEP test. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. These tests run about $100 a piece (which is a fraction of the cost of a college course) but they also require a lot of preparation to master. Your school may have a limit on how many hours they will allow you to CLEP out of too, so remember that as you are deciding which tests to take.


Graduating in four years is not an easy feat. With so many distractions and the difficulty of college courses, more people are taking a longer time to graduate. For me, I graduated in four years out of necessity. I couldn’t afford to spend longer than four years on my college degree, but you may have another reason for wanting to graduate on time. Whatever your reason, I hope this advice has helped you out!

Why Do/Did You Want To Graduate In Four Years?

In college on
October 4, 2017

Your Complete Guide To College Campus Tours

I don’t know if you know this about me, but when I was in college I was a volunteer tour guide for my campus during my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year. With that experience I have helped a number of potential students tour my Alma Mater’s campus in a number of ways from student information days (we called them Bear Facts Days) to one-on-one and group tours. I have even done a tour on a bus (my least favorite tour, personally) point being–I know a lot about tours.

I don’t think I have ever truly talked about this experience on the blog save for a post I did a few years back about questions you can ask your college tour guide and a post I did for The University Network on how to have a great college tour day. There is a tad bit of overlap between that post on The University Network and this post, but overall I feel they stand on their own.

So, with it being prime time tour season right now, I thought I would share my complete guide to college campus tours.

 Your Complete Guide To College Campus Tours | Campus tours are an important part of the college search process, but they can also be intimidating because you may not be sure how to utilize them. Today on the blog, I am going to share my best tips for campus tours including: which kind to attend, what to bring, what to do and not to do, and what your follow up steps should be.

What Type Of Tour Should You Go On?

At my school there were two main types of tours. I am going to break those down and let you know which one I think is best.

Daily Tours

At my alma mater we used to have tours two times a day Monday-Friday and once every other Saturday. I am not sure if that is the same schedule they have today, though I am sure it’s about the same schedule. With this tour it usually took about an hour to an hour and a half. It was a walking tour around the most important parts of campus. You were paired with 1-2 tour guides and you were usually in a pretty small group of other parents and students.

This is one of the best tours for truly getting to know the day-to-day campus experience. You get to go through campus buildings, see students on their way to and from classes, and in my opinion you get the best feeling of whether you would belong at a particular campus. There isn’t as much pomp and circumstance on a daily tour. It’s just you, a group of other potential students, and a few guides.

Information Days

Information days are MUCH more curated.

At my school, they started early in the morning with a ton of tour guides on staff greeting hundreds of potential students. You got some refreshments and then you were seated in our biggest auditorium. You listened to a few speakers from across the university, then you were split up into your academic colleges.

At the college talk you got to meet your potential academic dean and the higher-ups of your academic college. Then, we took our students back to an area where they could go on a campus tour, go on a housing tour, get free shirts, visit with financial aid, get their application fee waived for applying on site, and even attend a fair to meet the student organizations on campus.

The afternoon was wrapped up with lunch, and sometimes we even gave away game tickets because the event was usually on a Saturday.

This experience is curated from your very arrival on campus. Yes, you are able to accomplish a lot in one day, but a Saturday is not usually a good representation of a college campus. On Saturday’s, you have one of two things happening:

  1. Everyone has gone home for the weekend.
  2. Everyone is tailgating because it’s College Football Saturday.

Well, at least that’s how it is in Arkansas. Either way, you could end up with a warped picture of what a day on the campus is really like.

Also, our campus tours were really abbreviated on information days. At my school, we had a special tour route just for information days. I am not sure if that’s how it is at every school, other tour guides will have to fill me in on that.

Which One Is Best For You?

They both have their positives and negatives.

On a daily tour, you are going to have to create much of the experience yourself. You will get a lengthy tour with a tour guide and you will be able to see the campus how it normally is, but that’s about it. Your experience is only curated while you are on the tour. If you want to meet with housing, get a meeting with financial aid, meet a professor, etc. you will have to arrange that on your own which can be frustrating for many students.

When visiting for an Information Day, you normally get the entire VIP experience. You are guided through much of your time on campus and you get to do a number of things all in one day. On the other hand, you may not get the best feel for the campus because of the entire curated experience.

When I actually toured my alma mater, it was on an Information Day, so I definitely don’t knock it. My college years were some of the best years of my life (so far)!

Above all else, I say choose the experience that fits in best with your schedule. Touring a college campus in some capacity is better than not touring it at all.

What To Bring On College Tour Days

Here is a small list of things you may want to bring on your college tour day:

  • Campus map: You may even be able to get this on your phone, but bring it however you can. You don’t want to get lost on campus!
  • Parking Pass: Usually you are sent a free parking pass for your campus tour date. Print that out and be sure to bring it with you. Campus officers love to give out tickets and you don’t want your first experience with a campus to be getting a ticket from a campus officer!
  • Comfortable shoes: Chances are, you will be walking, especially if college students are giving your tour (because they won’t be able to drive golf carts probably, it’s a liability!)
  • Water bottle: They may have some on site, but if you get dehydrated easily, I wouldn’t count on it. Bring you own that way you are prepared.
  • Umbrella: Again, they may have some on site, but you never know how many they will have. If you think it might rain, bring an umbrella.
    • Rain boots/jacket: Again, if it’s raining or snowing, dress for the part. They DEFINITELY won’t have rain boots and a rain jacket for you to borrow.
  • Hair Tie: Put one around your wrist before you leave the house. It may get hot after a while of walking, so you may want to put your hair up in a ponytail.
  • Information you need to apply: Sometimes during information days and regular tours you can apply on site. If you think it’s a possibility that you may want to apply, bring your information along.
  • Phone: In case you get lost and need to call someone or you want to take pictures of the campus while you are on tour.
  • A purse or bag: All that stuff will be annoying to carry around, so bring a small drawstring bag or crossbody. You may be able to leave somethings in the Admissions office, but don’t count on that.

What To Do On Your College Tour

Here are a few things that I think will help you get the most out of your college campus tour.

Do: Ask Questions

As I stated earlier, I even wrote an entire list of tour appropriate questions you can ask. College tour guides want to hear your questions! It helps you get the most out of your tour, and it helps them get out of the mundane tour script. Your tour mates may get frustrated with your questions, but at the end of the day, this is your time to ask questions! You took the time to be here today, so don’t let someone else’s issues stop you from getting the most out of your tour date.

Do: Take Mental notes

Get in the moment with your campus tour and take mental notes of how the campus makes you feel. Do you think you could fit in at this university? Tours are a lot to process, but be sure to take notes in your head about how you feel or let the people on the tour with you know your feelings as you go along.

Do: Go Exploring After Your Tour

When your tour is done, your exploring shouldn’t be over. Check out the student center or cafeteria for lunch, meet with housing or financial aid, chat with a professor. You can even check out what’s happening in the neighborhood around your college campus. Schedule as much ahead of time so you are not scrambling for things to do on the day of your campus tour. You want to make the most of any days you take off for campus tours.

What Not To Do On Your Campus Tour

On the flip side, here are a few things you should not do on your campus tour.

Don’t: Get Overwhelmed

College tour guides practice a huge script. We have a lot to talk about, but we know that it would be impossible for you to remember everything. Don’t get stressed out if you can’t remember every detail of your campus tour. Remember what sticks out, and if it doesn’t stick out, it’s not as important as it seems.

Don’t: Waste A Tour Date Just To Get Out Of Class

I saw this so much when I was in college. We were in a town with a pretty big school system so often around the end of the year students from that school would get tour dates and really just come to tours because it was a way to get out of class. They lived in the town so they really had no reason to tour the school they had seen their entire lives. Don’t do that. Spend your college tour days getting to know schools you have never seen or schools you truly want to see more of. That’s the best way to get the most of your college tour dates.

Don’t: Loudly Compare The University You Are Seeing To Past Universities

This has happened to me once or twice and it’s just really frustrating. I chose my alma mater for a reason, and I am sure your college tour guide chose their school for a reason. It’s disheartening when students do that on tour, and this is really not the place for that behavior. If you don’t like the school, a tour doesn’t force you to attend that school. I was literally a volunteer campus tour guide, so I didn’t get paid enough to put up with that behavior, and even if I did that’s not acceptable behavior. Keep those kinds of opinions within your family outside of the campus tour environment.

What You Should Do After You Leave Campus

Okay, so you have successfully made it through your day on campus. What should you do next?

Write As Much As Possible About Your Experience

In the car before you drive off campus (or on the way home if you aren’t driving) take some time to write down your thoughts or use the voice recorder on your phone to speak your initial thoughts. Be sure to take as much time as you need to write down:

  • What the culture felt like on campus?
  • How did you feel while walking the campus?
  • Did you learn any interesting facts while there?
  • Were there any cool things happening on campus that day?
  • What questions did you ask, and how were they handled?

Your goal should be to write down all the things that would help you make a good decision about which college to choose. Be as detailed as possible because these will be your best notes for comparing and contrasting universities later.

Get More Information About The University

I know what you are thinking, you just went on a tour, how much information could you need? Well, you may need a little more. I would consider picking up brochures from different departments while you are on campus because that may be easier. If that’s not possible though, check out the website when you get home for different brochures on processes like:

  • Housing
  • Your potential major/department
  • Disability Support Services and other campus resources

Chances are, you may not even need to request hard copies of these. Often brochures like this are loaded into the university website. Just take your time and scroll the website to learn as much as you can, especially in the places where you didn’t get as much information as you wanted during your tour.

Schedule Follow-Up Calls/Visits If Necessary

You may not have been able to do everything you wanted on your first campus visit. Maybe you went to an Information Day and you want a more in-depth campus tour so your schedule a visit during normal business hours. Or, maybe you had a normal visit, but you want more of the pomp and circumstance of an information day. This may not be necessary, but don’t be afraid to visit the campus more.

You could also schedule calls with people in different departments. Maybe you would like to get some of your questions answered about your potential major, playing sports at the collegiate level, or anything else. Take some time to think about who you may want to have a conversation with, then schedule that, and make it happen.

Start Your APplication Process

Last but not least, if you love the school, start the application process! That is the most important thing you can do, if you haven’t done so already because touring a school is only the first step. To get into any school, you have to apply!


The days when I gave college tours were some of my favorite days. I look back at those memories now and I am so happy that I was able to be a part of so many student’s college search process stories. I hope that this guide is beneficial for you as you start to search or continue to search for the college of your dreams.

Let me know if you learned anything about college tours today!

Related Reading: 3 Things House Hunters Taught Me About The College Search Process

In Lifestyle on
October 2, 2017

Why Snacking Is Important In College

Disclaimer: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #SnackHonestly #CollectiveBias

Let’s talk about snacking, y’all.

So many college students come to college used to the daily grind of high school. In high school, we are taught that we can’t eat during class and that we should just eat during breakfast and lunch and then go home to a dinner. Snacks help us more than we know. Today I am going to talk about why snacking is important in college (and in life!)

Keep Reading, Darling