Archive by Author

Apply to Be an Orientation and Welcome Leader!

20 Dec

A day in the life of an Orientation and Welcome Leader is varied and high-energy. In this position, you spend your time speaking to different groups of people ranging from new students and parents to advisors and faculty members. Coming into work each day requires a certain level of adaptability and a willingness to be flexible and prioritize your time as new tasks come in. Some days are all about thinking on your feet and answering any questions new students throw at you, and other days you are working with advisors and professional staff behind the scenes to make sure Orientation goes smoothly. The best part about this job is the new challenges you get to tackle each day as an OWL!

If you have school spirit, this is the position to be in! There are new ways every day to show your Wildcat pride! Each orientation day starts with the Bear Down fight song before check in and there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing a new student share how excited they are to partake in the U of A traditions that we all know and love. OWLs get a lot of opportunities each summer that other Wildcats only dream about! This past summer’s training involved a tour of the Arizona Athletics facilities! During Orientation season, the OWLs also got to meet University President Dr. Robbins at a luncheon to discuss their favorite things at the U of A!

Things you’ll do as Orientation and Welcome Leader:

Orientation season is upon us, Wildcats, and if you’re looking for a summer job that won’t stick you in an office all day, Orientation might be for you. Here are some situations you might be familiar with if you work an Orientation session:

1. You see all of the new students at check in and think “Look how cute they are—wait I never looked that young, right?!”


2. You get excited every time you hear Bear Down (even when you hear it 10 times a day).


3. Feeling like a genius when you help a freshman get their perfect schedule.


4. Reassuring parents that their student will be fine because you haven’t died yet, and if you can do it anyone can.


5. Finding a new building on campus and thinking “I’ve been here for years, when did they put that there?”


6. Befriending all of the people at the library Starbucks because the new students don’t know about it yet and coffee is life but long lines aren’t.


7.  Pretending to know all of the things while slowly realizing that you know nothing.


8. But learning how to find all of the things and then becoming a walking U of A encyclopedia.


9. Watching the incoming class enter their first year and feeling weirdly like a proud parent.


If you love the UA and don’t care who knows it, visit our website to apply.

Bear Down & Happy Holidays!

Orientation 2018 Team

Why Do I Have to Take General Education Classes?

22 Sep

Guest Blog from Elaine Marchello, Assistant Director, Assessment in the Office of Instruction & Assessment

Many times, the number one question students ask their advisors is why do I have to take these general education classes?  Well, the general education program is to help students become well-rounded and learn about topics that they would normally not be exposed to.  After taking all of your Trads, Indvs, Nats, and the rest, you should be better at thinking critically, using information effectively, communicating effectively and valuing differences.  Do you think it really matters?  Yes, it does!  The value of a liberal arts and sciences based education is important for you to be a complete package.  So, maybe you won’t meet the love of your life through general education, but you never know!  But, when it comes time to get a job or gain admission into graduate or professional school, having a good general education foundation will make you that complete student that programs like to admit. 

So in the future, don’t try to take the easiest gen ed or the one that is the least amount of work.  Take a gen ed that interests you and that can help make you a better person of the world.

Why Do I Have to Take General Education Classes?

21 Sep

Guest Blog from Elaine Marchello, Assistant Director, Assessment in the Office of Instruction & Assessment

It is Friday night and you are at a friend’s party.  You are bored to tears when the most attractive, heart-stopping guy walks into the room.  You think to yourself, wow, I would sure like to meet him!  So, you work your way across the room, casually coming closer to him, until you finally get up the guts to say hi and introduce yourself.  His name is Dan.  Neither one of you really knows how to continue when he finally says, “So, what, um, classes are you taking?”  You reply, “Oh just some stupid gen ed classes along with English and math.”  Well, Dan says, “Wow, really?  Which ones?  I took a couple of gen eds that totally, like, changed my life!  I changed majors and really found my true love!”  So right away you change your “gen ed attitude” and can’t believe that you are having this great conversation with Dan “the handsome” and it all started because of gen ed. 

Many times, the number one question students ask their advisors is why do I have to take these general education classes?  Well, the general education program is to help students become well-rounded and learn about topics that they would normally not be exposed to.  After taking all of your Trads, Indvs, Nats, and the rest, you should be better at thinking critically, using information effectively, communicating effectively and valuing differences.  Do you think it really matters?  Yes, it does!  The value of a liberal arts and sciences based education is important for you to be a complete package.  So, maybe you won’t meet the love of your life through general education, but you never know!  But, when it comes time to get a job or gain admission into graduate or professional school, having a good general education foundation will make you that complete student that programs like to admit. 

So in the future, don’t try to take the easiest gen ed or the one that is the least amount of work.  Take a gen ed that interests you and that can help make you a better person of the world.

#StudiousSeptember: Mastering iMovie

6 Oct

During my years in college, I have never had to record and compose a video. When I first opened iMovie, I had no idea what I was doing. I tried familiarizing myself with the tools and everything, but I still made no progress.

I am a person who does not like to ask questions when trying something knew. I would rather struggle for hours to figure it out on my own.

Steps to be successful in creating a video on iMovie

  1. When recording with a phone, make sure you hold the phone horizonally.
  2. Allow three seconds of silence before your subject begins talking and three seconds when they are done.
  3. Once you have videos uploaded make sure to add transitions.
  4. Listen for how each section ends.

Through this process I learned never to give up. Continue trying till you goals are accomplished. Life challenges are not easy, but determination and will power will get you as far as you truly want to go.


#StudiousSeptember: A Chef in the Making

6 Oct

Friday night rolled around and I wanted to make something unique for my boyfriend and myself. Although take-out Chinese would’ve been an easier option, I decided to bring out my inner Rachel Ray. I figured that since I basically had every vegetable imaginable, I might as well make the ratatouille recipe my sister raved about. For those of you who don’t know, ratatouille is a delicious and traditional French stewed vegetable dish, which originated in the town Nice. My boyfriend and I have always wanted to try making ratatouille at home ever since we tried it at a cute little French cafe.

The recipe was rather straight forward, and it required: eggplant, yellow squash, red pepper, red potato, green pepper, garlic, onion, tomato, marjoram, basil, salt, and pepper. After all the vegetables were washed and cut, they were glazed with a light layer of extra virgin olive oil. The bake time was around 40 minutes, but it only took a couple minutes to smell the delicious aroma. On the side, I prepared a tomato-based sauce and wild rice for the vegetables to be eaten with. Since I am not a cheese lover, I left out the fresh parmesan cheese.

Overall, the recipe was both delicious and nutritious. It also was a rather cheap dinner since I essentially had all the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator! Take that Rachel Ray!

– Erica

Major Change Reporting for Duty!

23 Apr

Whether you came into college with a major picked out already, or thought you’d find one along the way, choosing a major and sticking to it is a huge anxiety for many students. Worse, after you choose a major, you may decide it’s not right for you. What do you do then?

Well, for too many students, step one means freaking out and talking yourself out of it. I mean, you’ve already put in so much work! How can you possibly throw all that away even if you hate your major classes and dread going? I’ll tell you how. Take a deep breath, follow your heart, and take the leap!

See, here was my strange journey. My freshman year, I started out with a history major and an adolescence, community, and education (ACE) minor. Then, my sophomore year, I added an English major. Second semester, I dropped my ACE minor. Junior year, I dropped my history major down to a minor, and added my ACE minor back. Only to drop that poor ACE minor once again. It was a bit of a juggling act, but all accomplished with absolutely zero waste! In just a few weeks, I’ll be graduating with an English major and history minor, on time and with just the right amount of classes to graduate.

That’s the trick to changing your major – look at your requirements and see what carries over. Best of all, there’s a handy tool called the What-If Report to do all that thinkin’ for you!

Introducing the What-If Report!

Introducing the What-If Report!

While your major change may not be as clean as mine, don’t let a few unnecessary classes that you took keep you from pursuing the major you want! Seriously, if you think throwing away an entire semester of classes is bad, think about how much worse staying in your unwanted major is. You spend four years and who knows how much money pursuing a degree for a career you don’t even want any more.

So, would you rather spend a bit of extra time in school because you changed your major, or spend your whole life in a job that makes you miserable?! Okay, so that last part may seem a bit dramatic, and maybe it is. But it’s not far off – that could happen. And changing your major and having a ton of classes become useless is a worst-case scenario. Chances are that your transition into a new field of study could be easy as pie!



Ring Ring! Your Future’s on the Line!

4 Apr

These days, it seems like everything is going digital. Interviews are the same (at least that’s what Franny and Tori have experienced). They’ve put together their top tech tips to help you click with your interviewers, even if you’re half way across the world! Whether you’re in front of a screen or have the phone to your ear, seizing these opportunities take strategy! See what Franny has to say about video-conferences while Tori shares her experience with phone interviews:

1. Set the stage. Find a quiet space with minimal distractions.

  • Franny: when you’re viewing somebody through a screen (or they’re viewing you), you don’t want them to be distracted by the “hang in there, baby” kitten poster floating by your head or have them reading your bookshelf. Pick a fairly bare, private room where you can speak at a comfortable volume. Also, if you’re taking the call at home or in a place with other people, let them know not to disturb you during that time (and lock the door!). (Tip: you can reserve study rooms at the UA library for up to 2 hours!)

It also goes the other way, too! You don’t want to be distracted by things around you, or worse, internet tabs you have open. Don’t have anything unnecessary open on your computer, especially something that may make noise like Facebook (ding! Whatserface poked you, and now you only have 0.5% chance of getting that job you were interviewing for!).

  • Tori: This goes double for phone interviews. Even though your interviewer can’t see you, you need to focus all of your energy into making sure you’re listening carefully. For some reason, it’s much more difficult to understand questions over the phone. Maybe because you can’t see the person’s mouth going along with the words they’re speaking… I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. So, pick a nice quiet place where you won’t get distracted.

2. Troubleshoot all technology beforehand!

  • Franny: Make sure you understand the technology you will be using before the big day! Whether it’s Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts, do a trial run with a friend to make sure the tech-status on your end is good to go. For instance, every time I sign into Skype, the settings automatically default to “external microphone” rather than my laptop’s own mic-system. This means people can’t hear me until I change the settings! Make sure you work out those kinds of glitches beforehand so you don’t have any surprises during show time!

Also, be prepared if something does go wrong! I have had the internet go out as I was answering a question and didn’t realize they were completely frozen (and disconnected) until I was finished. It’s a bit disorienting when your tech fails, but just remember to stay calm! Being able to continue from where you left off shows you can handle pressure, react in crisis-mode, and move on.

  • Tori: Avoid the awkward “can you hear me now?” conversation with phone interviews. It’s best to use a landline so you know you won’t get disconnected, but I think landlines are becoming a bit like mythical unicorns (meaning they don’t exist…). Personally, I only have a cell phone, and that’s what I used for my interview. It works fine if you don’t have another option, but make sure you’re in a place with full coverage so you won’t drop the call.

3. Know who is interviewing you.

  • Franny: This one is just a good rule for any interview, but something about not meeting your interviewers in person makes it more difficult to remember their names! If you have multiple interviewers, things get even trickier. Sometimes they might be physically sharing the screen (by cramming together in the camera view) or they will be sharing screens digitally (which means alternating screens popping up when different people talk). To tame the chaos, try to get their names before the interview, and make sure to write down their names when they introduce themselves. This makes following up with them easier, sending thank you notes more personable, and making second interviews go much smoother!
  • Tori: I think Franny said it all! I had a phone interview where four people were on the other end, and as they introduced themselves, I jotted down names so I could find them easily when I was finished. Phone interviews can be a bit more difficult because, if you have more than one interviewer, you need to go based off of the sound of their voices and can’t match a face to that sound. So, when you go to write that awesome personalized thank you and want to say, “So-and-so, I really enjoyed our conversation about _____,” it may be a bit more difficult to parse out who said what. But do try!

4. You’re never fully dressed without a smile!

  • Franny: This one seems a little obvious, but hey, the face does weird things when you’re nervous. Even though it can be extra nerve-wracking when you are in front of a camera, try your best to relax and be yourself. This means smiling, blinking like a normal human, and making sure your body language isn’t distracting. Also, video conferences have their own kind of distractor–YOU! Try not to look at yourself on the screen, but rather the camera on your computer. This is like the digital-version of good eye contact. (Of course, it’s not your fault that your so attractive it’s distracting,  but do your best to resist!)
  • Tori: Why do you need to smile when you’re on the phone? They can’t see you! Well, that may be true but you can hear when someone smiles. Try it! Introduce yourself without a smile, then say the exact same thing with a smile on your face. It sounds different! That smile comes through on the phone, so even if you look like a weirdo sitting in a room on the phone, by yourself, smiling to yourself, do it.

5. …you’re also never fully dressed without pants.

  • Franny: Before my last interview, I was searching Skype-interview tips (yeah, whatever, I’m a nerdy over-preparer) and I came across this gem: “Even if you don’t think you will need them, wear pants.” Maybe this tip is a joke, but really, dress as you would for a normal interview. Yes, they will only see the top half of your body, but you never know when you might have to get up to grab that pen (that you may have thrown across the floor from nervous fidgeting)– leave nothing to chance! Dress appropriately and modestly and you’ll be just fine. (Need some help with that? Check out this Pinterest Board to make sure you’re camera-ready!)
  • Tori: On the phone, it can be even more tempting to skip the pants. Or a shirt. Don’t! Even though there is literally no chance they will ever see you in your undies over the phone (unless you accidentally FaceTime with them…), being fully dressed puts you in a different mindset than when you’re in your pajammies. I would suggest wearing what you would to an in-person interview, but if your immediate reaction to that is “pfft, nope”, at the very least, wear something that you feel confident and powerful in. And take off those earrings! You don’t want to miss a question because they’re clacking against the phone.

6. Have a copy of your resume and a notepad to take notes.

  • Franny: It’s likely they have a copy of your professional documents with them, so make sure you do, too! I don’t think any of us have our resume memorized, so keep it handy for reference if they mention something specific. That being said, use it ONLY for reference! After all, you should know what your experience, skills, and accomplishments are, so don’t let them catch you reading it during the interview. Also, make sure you have reviewed the cover letter or letter of interest that you sent them. We all have different versions of the same letter, so remind yourself which sparkling personality traits and experiences you outlined so that you can better expand on them during the interview!
  • Tori: The notepad is especially important for phone interviews. I need a visual to make sense of anything, so those infamous multi-parter questions are always quite the challenge for me. One benefit to having a phone interview is that I can jot down words to remind me of what I should be answering (in a video or in-person video, eye contact is usually more important so I can’t stop and take notes!). Also jot down things you want to remember to talk about or might have trouble remembering once you get a bit flustered (and everyone gets flustered!).

7. You only got one shot. So prepare, practice, and perform!

  • Franny: Just like with any interview, take some time to prepare and practice! When you’re researching the position you’re interested in, look up the company’s mission statement and try to get a feel for their goals as a whole. Also, look closely at the job description. Which qualities do they emphasize? What kind of employees does it seem like they are looking for? Try to incorporate these little tidbits that you find throughout your interview. It will show that you took the time to look into the job and that you are thoughtful when it comes to joining their team.
  • Tori: When interviewing for graduate assistantships for graduate programs, I looked over at least 50 job descriptions. No joke. Each school had me rank 5-7 of those many, leaving me with quite a few different jobs to interview for (as you may remember…). It was a bit rough to remember all of the details that Franny mentioned above. I was definitely thrown a few curve balls, with positions asking me if I’d had a chance to look over their website and mission statement and to talk about what I saw. I learned the valuable lesson – really know those pieces well. You never know when you’ll be asked about it. The benefit to a phone interview is that you can have those in front of you for reference! Also, practice answering questions over the phone with a friend to make sure you’re not talking too quietly, or yelling in someone’s ear, that you sound put together, and that you sound happy!

8. Shine bright like a diamond!

  • Franny: So you’re sitting alone in that bare, quiet room just waiting for a video chat to pop up on your screen. They said that they would call at 10:00am, thirty seconds have already passed, and all you can hear is your heartbeat in your ears…is that too dramatic? Okay, maybe you don’t get as nervous as I do, but the point is that nerves are going to happen! Remember to breathe, relax, and let your personality shine through! The problem with a Skype-interview is that you are already losing the personable element of shaking someone’s hand and sitting next to them. Your job is to make sure they still get a chance to know you as a person beyond your resume and through the screen. Don’t be afraid to throw in some of your natural humor or maybe a less than flattering story–you’re painting them a picture about yourself, so it might as well have some color!
  • Tori: The “personable element” that Franny refers to is pretty much nil when you have a phone interview. I don’t know the exact figure, but something like 90% of the impressions people have of us is based on body language and facial expressions, not what we say. Over a video, you lose some, but over the phone, you lose a whole lot more. All you really have is your voice, so again be as enthusiastic (smile!) as possible and try to make sure to let yourself shine through your answers.


–Tori and Franny


9 Days of Staycation Fun!

7 Mar

This spring break, I’m staying in Tucson. I was a little bummed at first. But, now I see that it’s more of a chance for me to relax, explore Tucson, and not have to worry about travel stress! I’m not sure I’ll get to all of these, but here is a plan for 9 days of Tucson fun!


Saturday, March 15
Kick off your spring break with some St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Yep, you know, that holiday every celebrates, but no one knows why (but now you can!). There’s a free parade and festival at Armory Park , starting at 10am! Don’t forget to wear green!


Sunday, March 16
Have you been wondering what all those white tents out on the UA mall are for? It’s for one of U of A’s biggest spring break traditions – The Tucson Festival of Books! You can volunteer to help out at the event, or just go for the day and enjoy yourself. You’ll have the opportunity to meet some of your favorite authors and feast on festival food! Some of the authors you can meet include  Luis Alberto Urrea, Sandra Day O’Connor, and R.L. Stine! The festival is open March 15 & 16 from 9:30am – 5:30pm.


Monday, March 17
Head to the Tucson Botanical Gardens for “Butterfly Magic at the Gardens.” It’s a seasonal event that’s only here for a short time! Get up close to the butterflies (you may even have some land on you!) and explore the beautiful plants around you! This is a fairly low-cost option – entry into the Botanical Gardens is only $12 for students!


Tuesday, March 18
Make a day of it, and head to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Old Tucson! These two Tucson attractions are a bit out of the way, but they’re both fantastic! Whether you’re new to the area or a Tucson native, the Desert Museum is a great place to learn about our home! It’s got the components of the zoo, with live animals, and a museum, with tons of information about the plants and animals. Admission is $19.50. Old Tucson is a western film studio/theme park celebrating 75 years in Tucson! There are tons of fun exhibits, shows, and even rides! Also come back in October to see the whole town as “Nightfall” for Halloween! Admission is $16.95. You’re not really a Tucsonan until you have been to these two landmarks!


Wednesday, March 19
Do Nothing Day! It’s important to relax, read books, play video games for at least part of your vacation. You can go see a movie in the cheap movie theaters, but it’s really important that you don’t do homework or clean anything for a day. You’ve worked hard. You deserve it.


Thursday, March 20
Do Things Day! Make up for the well-deserved laziness from the previous day by getting things done. Do any homework you can, clean out your closet, do whatever tasks you need to get done all in one day. (It’ll be rough – but then you won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the break!)


Friday, March 21
Visit the zoo and go on picnic at Reid Park! Take a friend or someone special and have a wonderful day out and about. There’s an amazing new elephant exhibit, so make sure you don’t miss out!


Saturday, March 22
Okay, so this one is a bit outside of Tucson, but not too much of a drive! Take some lads and lasses and harken on back to ye olde festival grounds for the Arizona Renaissance Festival! Again, tons of food (I really like to eat!). Watch the shows, buy the things, play the games. You can be fearless like Kaelyn and try your hand at throwing axes (or ninja stars, if that’s your thing).


Sunday, March 23
Explore the beautiful scenery around us with a nice hike – Tucson is full of AMAZING trails! Here are a few to start with:

  • Mt. Lemmon Meadow Loop: This easy 1.5 mile loop among Mt. Lemmon’s pine trees offers wonderful views of Tucson and Oro Valley and features views of an active lookout tower!
  • Sabino Canyon Trail: Easily accessible from the city’s northeast side, the Sabino Canyon Recreation area is one of the most visited outdoor sites in Tucson. This 8 mile trail will accommodate everyone, from the most experienced trail-blazer to the a newbie nature-enthusiast.
  • Ventana Canyon Trail: This is a challenging 6.4 mile hike that begins at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, follows a rugged, steep trail up Ventana Canyon, and ends at a spectacular rock arch at the top of a peak.
  • Southern Arizona Trails: Discover AZ has a great interactive page to find trails all around Southern Arizona, and you can read safety tips to make sure your adventures are fun AND safe!


Remember to have fun! Don’t mope just because you’re not jetting off to Paris or Cancun. No matter what your spring break plans are, your number one priority is to stay safe and have fun!


Taking on the World, One Heeled Step at a Time

27 Feb

Phew. I made it! Last time you heard from me, I was getting ready to do a slew of graduate school interviews (16 in two weeks, to be exact). These past two weeks have been absolutely insane!

But, here I am on the other side.

As you will remember, my #FearlessFebruary challenge was to change my attitude about this whole crazy experience that has consumed two weeks of my life. Under normal circumstances, I would have been a nervous wreck before an interview. I would usually do a pretty poor job of hiding my nerves, and then berate myself and my performance as soon as I finished, thinking back to every silly thing I wished I could have done differently. As you can imagine, this outlook doesn’t help me during or after the interview.

But it’s hard. This whole graduate school adventure is kind of one of the biggest decisions of my life so far, so that’s a lot of pressure. I knew I needed the morale boost, and this would make a difference… only I didn’t realize how much that change could impact my whole experience.

First things first, I say I had 16 interviews in two weeks, but let me break down the timeline for you. It doesn’t really set in until you take in the whole picture.

Two weeks ago, I started my week bright and early with a Skype interview with University of Georgia… at 7:30am (ewww). I had three Skype interviews that first Monday amidst work and classes. I even had to rearrange work hours to make up for my missing two whole days of school and work. Another Skype interview kicked off Wednesday morning, followed by a few hours of work. Wednesday afternoon, I flew from Tucson to Denver and took a shuttle to Fort Collins, Colorado. Thursday was spent touring the Colorado State University campus and the city of Fort Collins. I learned about the graduate school program I was applying to, met tons of graduate students, and (dun dun dun) had a faculty interview! Friday was filled with (get this!) SEVEN interviews! What a great Valentine’s Day treat 😀 (Although one of my interviewers did give me a Reese’s heart)! So, if you’re just counting that very first week, that’s 12 interviews in 5 days!

After my interviews, I shuttled on back to the Denver airport to come home. At midnight, Joey picked me up from the airport and I spent the rest of the weekend recovering. Monday kicked off a whole new week, where I had to makeup an exam I missed while I was in Colorado, and another set of interviews. I had a phone interview on Wednesday, and three more interviews on Saturday. So, there you go. Sixteen interviews, two weeks. And each of them were the intimidating panel type, with two, three, or even four interviewers sitting across from little ol’ me.

Sorry... I only have pictures from my interviews at UA, but I also had my support system! Do I look pro-fresh-ional or what?

Sorry… I only have pictures from my interviews at UA, but I had my friends to help take them! Do I look pro-fresh-ional or what?

Did that make you sick just reading it? Because I lived it. And let me tell you, it was… actually pretty great. I would be lying if I said it all went off without a hitch, that I never once thought I was an idiot or regretted how I answered a question, never had any negative thoughts. But for the most part, I had some fantastic interactions with my interviewers, and I think it was all due to my efforts to be more positive about my experience.

Instead of trying to come up with the perfect answers that would make me seem like the best option for the position, I took time to answer honestly. My interactions were much more genuine. I treated each interview as a chance to have a simple conversation, giving me and the interviewer an opportunity to get to know each other better. I preferred this approach over treating it like a one-sided test to see if I’m good enough. It worked!

In one interview, I opened up about my experience with my family as a first-generation college student (it was applicable – I was applying for a position in Parent and Family Programs at Colorado State University!). It was far from the stock answers I would normally give, had I been my usual nervous wreck at interviews. It changed the dynamic of the interview completely, and for the better. The Dean of Students, who was one of the interviewers for the position, began to tell me about her dissertation on first-generation students and their families and her research. At that point, we were connecting on more than the typical question/answer format that dictates most interviews.

The opportunity to be fearless presents itself to every person differently. For someone like me, someone who tries to be outgoing but is often terrified of social interactions and making a fool of myself, having to complete 16 interviews in two weeks was one of the scariest things I could imagine. So my challenge was to change my outlook on the gauntlet I faced so that it wouldn’t be a gauntlet, and I’m happy to say I succeeded. My success translated to better interviews immediately, but I also learned that I am capable of facing terrifying things and letting my bravery win out over my fear. I hope to extend #FearlessFebruary into #Fearless2014, and hopefully #Fearlesslife. As someone told me in one of my interviews, the moments when everything goes according plan and you’ve done everything correctly don’t help you develop; it’s in those moments when you take risks, make mistakes, and challenge yourself that you see growth.


Keepin’ that Booty in Check

17 Feb


Ever since my freshman year, I have attended countless budgeting and financial planning workshops. In these workshops, the facilitator would urge me to be more “money savvy” and track my doubloons. Well, long story short, I never did.

Just like too many students do, I would get my disbursement (I mean, I would find my treasure chest) at the beginning of the semester, spend it on what I wanted and needed, and hope that it would stretch until my next one. I worked of course, but as all my student workers out there know, student pay doesn’t buy ship. Mostly, I relied on that disbursement money to pay for my captain’s quarters, buy groceries, and hopefully entertain myself with a movie or shopping every once in a while. I’m guessing I’m not the only student out there who didn’t take budgeting very seriously.

But here’s a sneak peek to the ending of my cautionary tale – budgeting while you’re in college is super important, because *spoiler alert* you might find out you were missing out on ways you could have been saving money for years.

I spent my entire high school and undergraduate career thinking that, as long as I had money in my treasure vault and was not going into debt, I was really good at managing my money. Even when that didn’t happen and I’d need to borrow money from my older brother or my parents (or loot the nearest port) to pay for that last month’s rent before my next disbursement check came, that was okay because I’d pay that debt back in just a few weeks. Well, that’s not smartly managed money.

I’m getting ready to graduate this May, sailing off to new adventures, and that has finally made me think about how I’m spending my money. I realized that I need quite a bit of gold to put deposits on a new apartment ship and rent a moving truck dinghy when I move for graduate school. A few weeks ago, I decided to open up a savings account to separate my discretionary spending from my required expenses.

I calculated out my portion of rent until the end of my lease and added $200 a month for food expenses. When I asked my roommate first mate if $200 per month was enough for food, he laughed at me.

(I guess I should preface this with a bit of information about me…I don’t cook. My discretionary spending is usually spent going out to dinner, far more often than I go to the movies or do a little mall shopping. Also, I already mentioned that I never considered looking at how much I was spending each month, so I was blissfully unaware of my actual food spending.)

Anyway, he laughed at my $200 per month budget for food, and I was indignant. $200 is plenty! I probably just spend a little, tiny bit over that now, without trying to cut back to save money! And I set out to prove that my $200 per month would work for food. Starting from last November, I calculated each months’ food totals, including each meal and trip to the grocery store.

Aye, I was shocked.

So shocked that I am too embarrassed to admit the amount, but it blows my $200 per month food budget out of the water (with cannons). I saw how much money I spend on food, and I realized that if there’s one place I can cut my monthly budget significantly, it’s there. How much money could I have been saving this whole time if I had been paying more attention? I definitely wouldn’t have to be as stressed out as I am now about money.

It’s too late for me, but oh, you’re still young and you can get your sea legs in the treacherous waters of financial woes!

Now that you’ve heard my horror story (and really, it could have been muuuuch worse, but still, lesson learned…), you know how important it is to stay afloat of your finances, starting right now. After this horror story, I’m not going to cut you loose without some budgeting tips to help you out!

Understand Your Spending
Take a look at your bank statements for the past few months. How much are you spending on bills each month? How much on food? Entertainment? Peg legs? Shopping? Parrot food? World of Warcraft accounts? Netflix? Coffee every morning? Eye patches? Really take a look at how much you’re spending and on what.

Throughout your budgeting experience, you’ll want to keep a weather eye out on your spending. Luckily, in the digital age, it’s easy to keep it at your fingertips! A great (and free) budgeting buddy called Mint can be downloaded directly onto your smartphone treasure map. How’s that for convenience?

Make a Budget Captain’s Log
Now that you know how you usually spend your gold, draft up an ideal budget. You can download Excel templates, or stick with a trusty parchment and quill. The main thing is to understand where all of your income is coming from (include loans, scholarships, jobs, babysitting money, money from your parents, etc.). If you get a big check at the beginning of the year or semester (from loans or scholarships), try to divide that money by the number of months until you get your next one. For example, if you receive $2,400 in loan money at the beginning of the semester, and you know that you need that money to last at least 6 months until your next loan check, you should only spend $400 per month. That way, you’ll know how much you should spend from that pool each month without overspending.

Then, you’ll want to figure out your expenses. First track the things you need, so consider rent and bills. You also need food, but there are so many ways to spend various amounts of money on food. (Your roommate may be cool with eating bologna sandwiches breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but not everyone is!) This is where understanding your past spending habits comes in handy. Set your food budget based on a realistic figure you can live with. Next, set a discretionary spending limit. Again, you can break this up into any number of categories depending on how you typically spend.

Your budget is basically your stencil for how you should spend your money each month, so it definitely doesn’t help to do a budget and never look at it again. At the end of each month, use your bank statements to compare how you actually spent your money to how you wanted to. Make adjustments as needed (I know I definitely have had to!).

Use Cash
I requested a parley with me mother about me recent problems with budgeting, and the first suggestion she gave me was to use cash. Usually, a $1 charge here and a $3 charge there doesn’t seem like much in the moment, but by the time you get to the end of the week, that’s a pretty penny! Decide how much you would like to spend on oh, I don’t know… let’s say food. At the beginning of the week, I visit an ATM and take out that amount of money.

I won’t use my debit card to buy food, just my cash that I take out. That way, I know without a doubt that I’m staying within my weekly food budget. Right now, I only do this with restaurants and such, not my groceries, but it’s already been a huge help. You can do this with other expenses too. Maybe your weakness is shopping for clothes, or buying video games. Whatever it is, using cash will make you more aware of how your purchases are adding up and make sure you don’t overspend (at least without you knowing it!).

 Avast, before ye know it, ye be a seasoned sailor of the financial seas.