5 Tips on How to Succeed in College

So, as I write this, I am completely finished with all college work. Every paper has been turned in along with every exam. It feels really good to be done. Looking back on my four years at SUNY Oswego, I realized that there were a few key things that helped me to succeed in college. Feel free to take my advice and run with it. It can work for you too.

1. Diversify Yourself and Your Skills:

Fun fact, when I originally started college, I was looking to become a journalist. While I was interested in writing, I figured that I should be a broadcasting major as I figured journalists in the future would have to know how to speak in front a camera or a microphone. When getting involved at the campus radio station, WNYO, and the TV station, WTOP 10, I realized that I liked TV and radio production a lot better than I did writing. I changed paths quickly, but always explored other options.

I took it upon myself to learn everything I could. By the end of my college career, I have produced radio, directed TV, learned how to be an on air personality, and much more. I learned a little bit of everything, which made me a well rounded person. Additionally, I also took public relations and journalism classes which helped me to develop other skills.

Rather than looking to become good at one or two particular skills, making an effort to learn everything regarding your career field will take you far. You will find that you can apply for more jobs and adapt to new situations quickly. It’s never good to know or like just one thing. Having multiple interests and skills will benefit you more.

2. Learn How to Write Well:

While applying for jobs this past semester, one of the things employers told me the most was that they were very impressed with my writing skills. One employer even proceeded to say that this is rare as most college students do not know how to write well. I would have to agree with this statement. After being a TA for two years, I have read plenty of papers with ridiculous spelling and grammar errors. Some students even try to use complicated words to make themselves sound smarter, but that just makes things even more complicated.

When it comes to writing, the two things that matter most are content and style. What you say is important, but how you say it makes all of the difference. Anything in the world, even paint drying, can be interesting if presented in the right way. Learning how to write well can allow someone to make anything they say remotely interesting.

What helped me to improve my writing skills were lots of practice. During one semester, I took both a news writing class and a public relations writing class. Having these two classes back to back gave me more practice writing than I ever could have asked for. Both classes also used A.P. Style, a set of rules typically used by newspapers and journalists. Every college student should take a class which requires them to learn from the A.P. Stylebook. It improved the quality of my writing significantly.

Another piece of advice is to always proofread your work. I read everything I write out loud when I’m finished with it, including this blog post, to make sure that it makes sense and also catch any typos or errors. You are doomed to do poorly if you do not proofread your papers at least twice.

3. Get Involved, and Get Involved Early:

One of the best decisions I had made when getting to school was to get immediately involved in a couple of on campus organizations. For tips on how to get involved early, I actually wrote about this in a previous blog post. Getting involved gives you great experience and also allows you to meet like minded people. I had a lot of trouble making friends during my first semester, but getting involved allowed me to meet the people who would become my close group of friends.

My college experience would not feel complete and would probably not feel special if it were not for getting involved. My experiences at WNYO and WTOP 10 are some of the most valuable experiences of my life thus far. The earlier you get involved, the more you learn and the faster you climb the ranks.

4. Use Your Last Semester to Focus on the Future:

If there is anything I have learned over the past few months, it’s that the job market is very tough. I am very lucky that I currently have two paid internships lined up for the Summer and possibly a full time job lined up for the Fall. One reason I got all of these opportunities was because I spent most of my time searching for them.

Since January of this year, my main focus has been on finding a job and making myself look like a great candidate. I visited The Compass (career services) to make my resume and cover letter look stellar, created a portfolio website for myself to further showcase who I am, and did a lot of research regarding how to find different opportunities.

My GPA may have taken a small hit this semester, but I’m glad I used my last semester to both relax a little bit more and focus on my next steps. While I have been applying for jobs since March, I didn’t receive a single reply from an employer until the middle of April. You really do need an entire semester and a bit of luck to get a position right out of college or get into graduate school if that is your next step. Maintaining grades and staying involved on campus are important, but put your future above everything else when you’re close to the end.

Are you ready for my single most important strategy to succeeding in college?

I credit this to being the single most important tip I could ever give someone starting college or continuing it.

5. Show Up!:

I’ve already written an entire blog post on this strategy, but I’ll provide a little more insight. You can only benefit yourself by going to class. Being present and attentive are the most beneficial things you can do for yourself in college. Even when I did not understand anything I was learning in a particular course, I would have been even more lost if I had missed even a single class.

This tip is so powerful because it is so effortless. All you need to do is walk out of your room and be in class or at your job on time. There’s nothing more to it. The best part is as Woody Allen says, “Showing up is 80% of life.” When you attend class or a meeting for a club, you’ve done most of the work by just showing up. By doing this, you’re 80% of the way towards being successful in college.

4 Guys in a Booth: More Than Just Radio

The clip above is from 4 Guys in a Booth, the longest running radio talk show currently on air on WNYO, SUNY Oswego’s student run radio station. While the show has been on air for four years, I have been a producer on the show for three. We have won the Ozzie (Communication Studies Department award) for best radio talk show for two years running, including this year.

On 4 Guys in a Booth, four guys talk about absolute nonsense for two hours each Monday night from 9-11pm. Each of the four hosts are very different from each other. There’s John Mongiello, the funny one, Allen Wengert, the smart one, Brian Camporese, the lazy and nerdy one, and Adam Rosenbarker, the…how do I put this… not so intelligent one.

What makes their conversations interesting are what each host brings to the table. We also have three producers who plan content for the show and come on it regularly including Chris Walters, Tyler Baker-Carr, and myself.

I am the Executive Producer of the show, so my job is to help create content for the show, organize content, and assist the hosts while they are doing the show. All seven members of the show submit ideas each week for what we want to talk about, either through Google Docs or during meetings. John, Allen and I sort through the ideas and pick the very best ones.

My Mondays for the past three years have been completely absorbed by 4GB. I spend time organizing the show, writing my news breaks which I read on air, and making sure everyone is doing their part. If we have a guest coming on, I usually also make sure that they know what time to call in or arrive at the studio. I arrive at WNYO almost two hours before each show begins to finalize everything and assist in finishing what isn’t done.

The staff of 4GB are not just my co-workers, but also some of my best friends on campus. When we aren’t doing the show, we all hang out together. We have become very close over the past four years and it has made the show grow stronger as a result. When many people listen to the show, they say that they feel like they are sitting at the radio booth with the hosts and feel like they are part of the conversation. The strong chemistry between everyone who works on the show provides this grand illusion.

After producing over 50 episodes during the three years I’ve been with the show, I am very sad to leave it. We have improved greatly since the beginning and now we are preparing for it all to end. I’ve learned so much from trial and error when it comes to making people laugh and having people not tune out after five minutes. When the show is live, I just feel like I’m hanging out with friends for two hours. That’s how we all feel.

With one episode left, we are working hard to deliver the best show we can. Our series finale is at a special time on Monday May 12 from 7pm-10pm.

If you haven’t heard the show before, you can listen for free on our iTunes podcast. All of our past episodes are available to download. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 10.57.29 AM

It’s safe to say after it all ends that my Mondays will never be the same again.

My Thoughts After Four Years at WTOP 10

“Thank God we found your resume.”

This was the first thing an employer said to me during an interview for an internship I had applied for last year. Probably about 70% of the experience on my resume came directly from WTOP 10, the campus TV station. I hit the ground running when it came to involvement and since my first week on campus, I’ve been an active member. After four years, my final weeks at WTOP 10 are upon me. I definitely have mixed emotions as one of the highlights of my last four years comes to an end.

I started off doing a position in the control room where I queued up and played videos and commercial breaks for the station’s nightly news show. The next semester, I had a great on air audition and became a reporter for the station’s news show. By the end of my journey, I have directed TV shows, trained members both for on air and behind the scenes positions, and executed new ideas to make the station better. I progressed forward by becoming smarter and meeting new members at the station who would help me to learn new things.

WTOP 10 taught me so many important things that will be useful for my upcoming career. I learned how to work well with others, how to be a great leader, and I’ve developed incredible problem solving skills. My favorite moments have been pulling huge shows where people from different departments in the station come together and create something magical. The one that I am most proud of was last year’s Media Summit Red Carpet Show which I had the honor of directing. It was a huge task and everyone put in their best efforts to make it as great as possible. It was a huge success.

The friends I’ve made at WTOP 10 are some of my closest on campus. Not only are they good friends, but I’m also sure that if I’m ever in need of a job in the future, they may be able to provide me with one. The network WTOP 10 creates between students is very strong. Some of the alumni I know are doing incredible things such as working for Time Warner Cable News and ESPN. I can only hope to have as much success and I think I can with them as my role models.

Joining WTOP 10 was easily the best decision I made while at SUNY Oswego. Through being a member, I gained real experience in my field, made many new friends, and gained leadership experience through training members in new skills. I didn’t think it would come to an end so fast and I am very sad that it is. I’m just so glad it happened. I did get a job offer this past week and without WTOP 10, I probably wouldn’t have even been considered.

For those on the fence, WTOP 10 is an amazing club to join. Whether you want to gain real experience in the broadcasting field, be a play by play announcer or news anchor, or just want to make a silly show starring you and your friends, WTOP 10 makes gaining these opportunities very easy regardless of one’s class or major. It’s an amazing ride and I recommend you take it.

One Month Until Graduation…

It’s hard to believe that this four year journey I’ve been on is coming to a close. Unlike getting out of high school, I’m actually saddened by the fact that I’m not going to be a student here for very much longer. These years have been amazing to me and I’ve done much more with my time here than I ever thought I would.

Graduating is a mixed bag, especially considering I don’t have a job in place yet. The outlook for me has been looking better lately, but more than likely, I’m going to have to be patient and just keep applying. I’m probably going to do some internships until I get hired so I can at least get out of the house and do something productive daily.  Maybe one of these internships will even lead to a job, so who knows. I have some interviews for internships this week so we’ll see what happens. The bright side of graduating is that a new adventure awaits with new people, new places, and a regular paycheck. I’m very much looking forward to a fresh start.

I’m very comfortable where I am at school. I have a solid set of friends, plenty of activities I participate in, and I’m taking interesting classes. It’s going to to be hard to leave all of this. Although every week feels fairly routine now, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. I don’t want to do keep thinking about the last times I do things here. My goal for the next month is to just be in the moment and enjoy everything. It’s going to be a very fast month, but one I’ll remember for a long time coming. One month left. This is it. Let’s make it great!

Five Benefits of Being a Teaching Assistant

Many students have sat in a class with a teaching assistant, or TA for short as they are commonly referred as. They are students who help professors with their duties both inside and outside of the classroom. Being a teaching assistant is a very interesting experience and one that has made me a smarter person in many different areas. I have been a teaching assistant for two courses over four semesters. Here are some interesting things I have realized upon reflecting on my time doing the job.

1. You Become a Mini Celebrity:

I’m a TA of 70-90 students over the course of a semester. After four semesters of doing this, I have met so many new people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Just about everywhere I go on campus, I either see a student I have or I get recognized by one.

Towards the beginning of each semester, I am bombarded by people I have never met before, asking me questions about what assignments are due the next day or other class related questions. I guess I kind of know what being famous is like. It’s a weird, but cool feeling when someone you don’t think you have ever seen before says hi and uses your name. It’s a hard task to memorize 70 faces and names, especially for the one class of 50 people I have. I usually know most names towards the second half of the semester.

2. Time Management Becomes Essential:

I always have a large stack of assignments to grade or attendance to log in. Balancing this job alongside classes and my other responsibilities on campus proved to be a huge challenge when I started the job. My drive to succeed forced me to learn how to have really good time management skills. If I told myself two years ago that I would finish class assignments at least a week before the due date, I would have laughed. Now, I sometimes don’t have a choice as my schedule fills up with grading and meeting up with students for extra help. I think these skills will really come in handy when I graduate and try to keep a good balance between work and my personal life.

3. Back to the Basics:

The classes I am a TA for are introductory classes. Being a broadcasting student, the classes are the foundations for the entire major. I attend every class and I have seen every lecture multiple times. It’s like the lyrics to a song that just keep repeating every semester. This has led me to make insights about what I’m studying that I would not have been able to make otherwise. Having a solid foundation of the basics has increased my understanding for more advanced topics within my major.

4. Fear of Public Speaking Vanishes:

I remember I use to shake with nervousness when stepping up in front of a crowd to speak. Throughout high school, I hated giving speeches. It made me so nervous. The public speaking class I took during my freshman year helped me with this fear a lot, but it was being a TA that gave me the large amount of practice I needed. My professor lets me teach at least one class per semester. Upon creating my lesson, I would practice it in front of my professor multiple times. He would not let me teach until my lesson was perfect. This gave me hours of public speaking practice I wouldn’t have received otherwise. Lecturing felt incredibly natural and as the semesters went on, I got used to speaking in front of a crowd.

5. I Became a Better Student:

Professors complain all the time about students not doing their work or not putting effort into their work. Being a TA has allowed me to experience the professor’s perspective for myself. Through grading papers, my writing skills, especially my grammar, improved significantly. When students aren’t trying, I can now sense it just like a professor can. This whole experience has made me realize what it means to be a good student and what it means to put effort and time into assignments rather then getting them over with at the last minute.

I do graduate in a little over a month and while I won’t be student for much longer, these skills are applicable to many other areas in life. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to be a teaching assistant.

Three Ways to Easily Get Involved

One of the things that made my experience at SUNY Oswego incredible was getting involved in student clubs and organizations. With well over 100 of them, it’s very easy for students to find a club that interests them. I joined WNYO, the campus radio station as well as WTOP, the campus TV station. I joined both clubs during my first week on campus and stuck with them ever since.

During my four years at both of these clubs, I held leadership positions, met new people, and learned incredibly valuable skills which will help me in the real world. About half of my resume is full of the experiences I gained through the organizations. I get asked all the time by both incoming and current students about how to get involved early on. The start of each semester is always a new beginning. Here are three tips which helped me and others I know:

1. Attend the General Interest Meeting:

It seems pretty obvious, but attending a club’s general interest meeting at the start of the semester is very much crucial to getting involved. Every club has one. These meetings explain what the club is about and how to get involved. The hardest part about this is finding out when and where the meetings are and attending them. If you’re interested in a certain club, find their social media pages, look out for fliers hanging around campus, or ask an existing member. These are three surefire ways to get the information regarding the general interest meeting. Upon attending, how to get involved is explained.

2. Attend an Event:

So whether or not you attended a general interest meeting, if you see advertisements for events around campus for a club you’re interested in, attend it. Upon attending the event, you can decide whether or not the club is right for you as you’ll be meeting its members and participating in the club’s activities. If you’re not already a member, joining is usually as easy as asking a member how to get involved. If the club has an office like the campus media organizations do, stop by and ask how you can get involved. You will always get your questions answered.

3. Show Up:

I had written a post months ago about the power of showing up. Being present and attending all events or executing your responsibilities is the most important thing you can do as a new member of a club or organization. The more you attend events and meetings as well as fulfill duties, the more people you meet and the more likely you become trusted with a leadership position in the future. Show that you are responsible and care about the club.

Bonus Tip:

As part of WTOP 10, I am aware that are over 30 leaderships positions within it, some of which do not get filled at the start of a new year. These positions range in many different areas. I’m sure there are more clubs with empty leadership positions at the start of the year too.

It doesn’t hurt to ask if there are any free positions. You may be surprised by what the response is. If there are none available, find a leadership position you like and let the person holding it know you’re interested in one day taking their place. This is smart as the person may allow you to shadow them and it could lead you to eventually taking their place. Leadership positions in a club are awesome resume builders and can easily lead to internships and jobs in the future.

Three Ways to Budget Your Time Wisely

As one goes through their college career, they start to get busier and busier as they take harder classes and become more involved on campus. Everyone also has their “week from hell” every once in a while where so many important things are all due in the same week.

This past week, I had one of those weeks from hell. In a single week, I had two huge group projects due two days apart, a paper, and more (which is mentioned below) added onto my usual weekly workload. I had dreaded last week for this whole semester and it arrived rather fast. I believe I survived last week by doing the following things:

1. Leave Open Space for Unexpected Surprises:

While I knew I had a lot of assignments due last week, I knew there would be more than I was expecting. For example, I wrote a paper that was due in the middle of the week. Upon bringing the paper to class, the professor without prior notice says, “Now, you are going to switch papers with someone else in the class and critique their work. This is due two days from now.” Because I left open patches in my schedule, I knew I had to give one of those up in order to complete the assignment.

That week, I also helped a friend with a project and helped out with a video shoot. These two tasks were all on short notice. Every week is different and a single week is never set in stone. One’s schedule has to be flexible enough to change at any moment. Always keep a few hours free just in case.

2. Get Things Done Early:

There would have been no way to finish all of my work in a single week. I instead broke my tasks up in chunks and did small bits of each beforehand. One of my two group projects was actually completed the week before it was due. I met with my group members both online and offline and worked during less busy weeks to get it done. The paper I had due Wednesday was actually finished a couple of days prior because I wanted to use the time Tuesday night to work on other things rather than rush out a paper.

There have also been times in the past where I completed assignments a week or more before they were due, just because I couldn’t think of any other time I would have to get them done. Procrastinating is easy to do. I’ve done it plenty of times. When one has multiple assignments due day after day, procrastinating isn’t an easy option to choose. There’s no shame in getting things done early.

3. Make a To-Do List:

The most successful days and weeks I have are the ones where I have made to-do lists. I always have so many things to do during any given week that it becomes very hard to remember them all. To-do lists allow me to keep track of what I have to do. Making a to-do list also gives me satisfaction when I’m able to cross an item off of my list. I can get a visual as to how much progress I have made in a day or week. It also forces me to commit to a plan of action.

Throughout college, there are always so many things to do and so little time to do them. College students typically procrastinate, but sometimes, that will prove to be ineffective. This is especially true during midterm and finals weeks, I do follow the advice I gave above and it does lead to be more productive and relaxed. These strategies also give me time to polish my work rather than hand in the first draft of a paper and call it a day. Be wise with your time. Don’t waste it.

4 Years and 4 Roommates: My Story

I remember as a college freshmen, I was very nervous to find out who my first roommate was going to be. Living with someone you don’t know can be scary. This same “fear of the unknown” is something I went through multiple times. I have had four different roommates, one for each year of school. Three out of four of these roommates were randoms.

I really have gotten lucky with roommates. My first roommate and I had a lot in common. We got along great and even had a similar group of friends. To make a long story short, there was a conflict within our group of friends and I grew apart from them. My roommate and I at the time went from being close friends to more so acquaintances. He also had a girlfriend who would never acknowledge me, no matter what I did. It got pretty uncomfortable in that room at times.

During our second semester, one of my roommate’s friends had his roommate move out, so he moved into that vacant spot, leaving me with no roommate for the rest of my freshmen year. If you have a good roommate, having your own room isn’t that much different. The room is just quieter and there’s a lot more space for activities. About this first roommate, as the years went by, we actually became closer friends and he is even my neighbor now which is really cool.

I decided to keep my freshmen year room for my sophomore year and leave it up to fate as to who would lie in the empty bed sitting in my room. Turns out, it was someone I had met weeks prior to reserving my room once again. I was happy that this new roommate was at least someone I was familiar with. My second roommate turned out to be great! He also had a girlfriend, but this time, the girlfriend actually talked to me and because she was in the room so often, she felt like a third roommate. She was great to me so I really didn’t mind.

My sophomore roommate decided that he wanted to live off campus the following year, so I had to find a new roommate because I wanted to stay in the dorms. I became close friends with a guy that lived two doors down from me, so I asked him if he wanted to be roommates with me and he agreed so long as we moved to a different residence hall. I happily agreed.

My third roommate again was great. This was the first time I didn’t have a random, so I kind of expected this. At the end of the year, I was prepared to live with him again, but he got hired to become an RA. The RA job would come with his own room, leaving the adjacent bed empty for my senior year.

So I lied above. I actually had a fifth roommate. This roommate who came in at the start of my senior year was nice. He was a junior transfer, so the whole college thing was very new to him. I barely saw him and because I was so busy, he barely saw me. After three days, he texted me, saying that school was not for him and that he was preparing to drop out. At this point, I ran from the involvement fair in the campus center back to my room and caught him right on time to say our final goodbyes.

For the following three weeks, I would have my own room once again. It was fun, but because there are more students living on campus this year, I knew it had to end eventually. I was told by a friend on my floor that there was a freshmen who was being bullied by his roommate and was looking for somewhere new to live. I had only met this guy once before, so it very much felt like taking the same plunge as when I got a random at the start of the year. I agreed to let him move in and it definitely was the right decision.

My relationship with my current roommate is different than that of my other three, and that’s not to say it’s a bad thing. My previous three roommates are in my social circle. They would be the people I would hang out with during the weekends or on a random night. This time, my roommate has his friends and I have mine. Even though this is true, we still have become very close over the course of the year. We talk a lot to each other and it’s really fun to kind of look into the life of a freshmen once again, but this time, from the perspective of having been there.

Not everyone can say that they have become good friends with their roommates. Sometimes, it just wasn’t meant to be. I feel very lucky that not only did I become friends with all four of my roommates, but I see them all on a regular basis to this day. I do not take this for granted at all. If you are a freshmen and are worried about who may move in with you, just keep an open mind. You never know who you will meet or what will happen. Its a lot of fun leaving this up to chance.

The Power of Just Showing Up

“Showing up is 80 percent of life.” -Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s quote above is easily one of my favorite quotes. I am almost at the end of my college career and lately I have been reflecting back on just how I made it this far. There are a decent amount of students who end up not making it this far. I have had friends who have dropped out, failed out, or have struggled along the way. College isn’t easy, but with the right attitude and strategies for success, succeeding is extremely possible.

I am a believer in the power of just showing up. There are so many times when I wake up in the morning and don’t want to go to class. I feel lazy and tired. My bed feels way too nice upon just waking up. I’m sure everyone can relate to this. In the end, I force myself out of bed each morning and once I enter the classroom, I am excited to start my day and gain some wisdom.

I could have chose to skip class, but I know that is never the right decision. Even if I am struggling in a class, just being there for each one has definitely made a good impact on my grades. I would feel lost if I just skipped. I believe I remember at my orientation, the staff repeated the phrase, “Go to class!” over and over again. I now understand why.

Aside from just going to class, just showing up is probably the biggest reason why I became so involved in the clubs I joined on campus. When the clubs held meetings, I showed up. When I had to go through training to learn how to operate equipment at WTOP or WNYO, I just showed up and others assisted me with the rest. When I show up, people get to know who I am because they get to see me and we get to talk to each other. There is no way I would have multiple leadership positions if I just sat in my room and took the easy way out.

Next time you have somewhere to go, the most powerful thing you can do is just get out of your room and arrive where you need to be. That’s 80 percent of the battle right there. Once you’ve shown up, the other 20 percent is just doing what you need to do.