12 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About College

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Most of our knowledge comes from experience. That’s why a lot us will look back on events in our lives and say things like, “If I only knew then what I know now.” We tend to think about things in retrospect – what we could have done better if we had known more at that present time. But of course, this never really does us any good because, try as we might, we can’t go back to those moments.

Now that I’m about to graduate this semester, I have been thinking of a lot of things that I wish I knew going into college, things I wish someone had told me. Although, even if someone had passed this knowledge my way then, would I have listened? Who knows? My hope is that, in sharing these tips with you, you’ll trust me and take it to heart so you can get the most out of your time and money.

  1. Take the classes that matter to you.
    I am going to be completely honest. Every semester, when it came time to build my schedule for the next semester, I focused only on a) what was required to graduate, b) what was most convenient time-wise, and c) what was easiest. This worked out to make my time here quite efficient, but all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I have taken all of the classes that I will take.
    I wonder if I missed things. I took a couple easy A courses, but did I take things that would be practical and applicable? Yes, but not as many as I could have. Do whatever you can to broaden your horizon now. Take communication, business and writing courses, no matter what your major is. These will help you so much. Then be sure to fit in things you find interesting.
  2. Class attendance is crucial, but your health is the most important thing.
    This past semester, I got hit with mono. It took me a week or two to get diagnosed, but I knew something was severely off. The type-A part of me was saying, “Go to class!” But my body was physically incapable of movement. I did the right thing and went to the doctor instead of class, then brought my professors a doctor’s note. When you have a serious illness like mono, you have to put your health first.
  3. The best way to do well in a group project is to take charge.
    We all know that, despite professors’ best effort, group work is never an equal division. And if you don’t get to pick who you’re working with, there’s no guarantee the people you work with have the same work ethic or concern for their grades as you do. Therefore, if you want to do well on a group project, the only way to do so is suck it up and take the reigns. You need to be in control, be responsible, and be aware of dates and requirements. As harsh a reality as it is, that’s just group work for you.
  4. Your professors want you to succeed.
    It feels like they’re out to get you when they hand you a research paper assignment, but I swear, they want to see you do well. They will do everything in their power to help you if you show you’re willing to work and to reach out to them.
  5. Make time to see your family.
    A lot of kids want to get away from their families when they go off to college. And even if that wasn’t the case for you (it wasn’t for me; I didn’t want to leave), it’s likely you’ll assume you have your entire life to visit your family, and you won’t make it a priority on breaks. The thing is, life is going to keep changing and more and more things will get in the way of spending time with them, whether it’s jobs or distance or whatever. Take the time while you have it and be with your family as much as you can.
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  6. Get at least one person’s phone number in every class you’re taking.
    This will come in handy on many levels. If you’re stuck in traffic and going to be late, you can text someone and ask them to let the professor know (make sure you pull over to do this though!). If you miss a class, you can reach out to them for notes. If you’re confused about something, you can ask them for clarification.
  7. Pens exist only to be sucked into a black hole when you’re not looking.
    Seriously, buy a million, because they’ll all be gone in a week, even if you don’t lend them to people.
  8. Learn to cook.
    This is for men and women. People like people with food. It will help you take care of yourself, make friends, get on professors’ good sides, and you’ll look smooth on dates.

    A Loaded Cheese Fries Grilled Cheese from my blog.
    A Loaded Cheese Fries Grilled Cheese from my blog.
  9. You really need to check your email.
    Ask any professor; students don’t check their emails. That’s because our generation is accustomed to texts, and email seems like a thing of the past. However, you have to remember that your professors still use email avidly. It never fails that the one day you don’t check your email is the one day you got a class cancellation notification, but missed it and drove to school for nothing. Plus, you need to look out for weather and campus safety updates. All kinds of important stuff goes to your UC email.
  10. Establish credibility with your professors.
    This is especially true for professors you know you’ll have again. Even if someone rubs you the wrong way, you want to be on their good side. Prove to be diligent, motivated, and responsible by consistently handing assignments in on time, showing up to all classes on time, and participating in class. Always hand in your best work and be friendly. That way, when an unfortunate circumstance does happen, your professor trusts you and is willing to work with you. For example, I got rear-ended on the way to a midterm a few semesters ago, and was consequently a few minutes late, but my professor knew what kind of student I was, and he understood.
  11. You are never “too busy,” so ditch that excuse.
    The saying is true: if you really care about something, you’ll find the time for it. When you tell someone you were “too busy,” you really just didn’t see the thing you didn’t do as priority. I don’t care how much crap you take on – I’m the queen of taking on too much – you will find a way to do what matters to you.
  12. It never hurts to ask.
    A lot of people refrain from asking for something they want/need if they’re sure the person will say “no.” I have always adopted the mantra that it doesn’t hurt to ask, and it’s almost always been helpful to me. When I’m feeling like things are going south in a class, I see if there’s anything a professor can do to help me, even if I think they’ll say “no.” Nine times out of ten, I get surprised. The same goes for anything. I’ve expressed to professors that the whole class could benefit from a couple days extra of studying and gotten tests moved back. This semester, an incredibly understanding professor was willing to work with my teaching schedule at the gym. People will surprise you, and if they say no, so what? You should ALWAYS ask.
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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Feasting

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As a devoted food lover, this is my favorite time of year. There are so many seasonal treats to indulge in, and calories don’t count until after the New Year, am I right? Now, perhaps you need some inspiration for what to chow down on this holiday season, or maybe your usual menu is starting to look a little lackluster. Allow me to help you out. I’ve got a smorgasbord of delectable dishes to make this the tastier holiday ever. But I must caution you: Please feast responsibly. Over-indulging in these mouth-watering treats may cause food comas.

Main Dishes to Steal the Show

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  1. Eggplant Parmigiana This overloaded cheesy behemoth is a meal in and of itself. You’ve never seen so much ooey-gooey cheese in one place, plus a sweet yet spicy homemade sauce with fresh basil makes this dish special. And who could resist crispy, golden brown fried eggplant tucked underneath all that goodness?
  2. Vegetable Lasagna with Blush Sauce You’ve probably seen vegetable lasagna with white sauce, but you haven’t lived until you’ve tried it with my rich blush sauce. This substantial main can be customized with your favorite veggies.
  3. Classic Polish Pancakes Whether you’re Polish or not, this recipe is a must-try.

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  1. Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese The flavors of this ultra-creamy mac are comforting and warm, and everyone who’s tried it has raved about it.
  2. Cheesy Twice-Bake Sage & Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes Words cannot describe how heavenly and flavorful these potatoes are. You’re a fool if you don’t try them.
  3. From-Scratch Cheddar Green Bean Casserole Way better than the canned, chunky version, and just as easy to make.
  4. Ma’s Baked Corn Pudding If you’ve never tried corn pudding, this is the recipe to make you a corn pudding lover. It’s sweet, savory, golden brown, and indulgent.
  5. Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole Because everyone needs the perfect sweet potato casserole recipe.
  6. Extra Creamy Stovetop 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese Chances are, you’re short on oven space as is. Save yourself stress and make this super creamy & cheesy mac on the stove in about 20 minutes.
  7. Roasted Garlic & Basil 3-Cheese Shells A sea of rich cheese sauce kissed with the robust flavor of roasted garlic and the sweetness of fresh basil blankets mountains of tender pasta shells.

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  1. Best Spinach-Artichoke Dip Seriously, I’m not kidding. This is the creamiest, cheesiest, best spinach-artichoke dip on the planet, and it’s a one-pot dish.
  2. Party Bread Sourdough bread cut into tearable, sharable pieces and stuffed with monterey jack cheese, drenched in butter, & sprinkled with poppy seeds and fresh scallions. It’s all baked until golden brown and melty. Yum.
  3. Tortellini Dippers w/ Pesto Sauce So easy, and yet everyone will rave over how cute and delicious these are.
  4. Easy, Big, Fat Garlic Knots Starts with a can of store-bought biscuit dough, but tastes like homemade.

Delightful Desserts

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  1. Chocolate-Gingerbread Pumpkin Mousse Trifle This pretty dish is a show-stopper, and the perfect dessert to please pumpkin pie lovers and gingerbread lovers alike.
  2. Peppermint-Gingerbread Cookies & Cream Ice Box Cake All the flavors of Christmas in one insanely indulgent and delicious make-ahead dish.
  3. Nutter Butter Penguins Cute, quick, and delicious.
  4. Eggnog Christmas Cookie Milkshakes What else are you going to do with all those Christmas cookies?

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  1. Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Everyone needs the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  2. Fudge Brownie Thumbprints with Caramel Drizzle These cookies are as gorgeous as they are sinful.
  3. Hello Dollies A 7-layer cookie tradition handed down to me by my grandmother. Just pile all the ingredients in a pan and bake!

What’s on your menu this year?

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The Great Mac & Cheese Debate – Elbows or Shapes?

photos & backgrounds2Almost any kid growing up in America enjoyed the iconic blue box of mac and cheese as a main food group. We loved its neon orange hue, the creamy sauce, and bountiful noodles. It’s quite likely that, while growing up, your mother was often frustrated when she’d prepare an elaborate, home-cooked meal, and yet you’d whine for boxed mac and cheese instead.

Some of us have grown out of that favorite childhood food, but many of us, myself included, have not. Even as my culinary tastes have matured, and I’ve become somewhat of a food snob who adores a good homemade mac and cheese, I still think there’s something inexplicably delectable about classic boxed mac and cheese.

However, I have one major criteria that must be met when I pick up a box at the store: it’s got to be the shaped kind. Over the years, I’ve seen Scooby Doo, Spongebob, Monsters Inc., Spiderman, and more formed into pasta and packed into my favorite blue box. I can’t quite explain it, but I think these shaped ones taste so much better than the elbow macaroni. They hold onto more cheese sauce in all their nooks and crannies. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even bother buying the elbow kind.

But that’s just my opinion. Many people feel the exact opposite. If you talk to my sister, she’ll say elbows all the way. So, I started wondering if there were more people out there who are diehard elbow fans, or if most people prefer the shapes.

I asked a few staff and students what their thoughts were on the mac & cheese matter. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Chris Leogrande, director of media relations, said she prefers Velveeta shells over any Kraft mac and cheese, but her son has to have the Kraft shapes, particularly the Spongebob ones.
  • Victoria, a junior public relations major, says she has to have elbows.
  • Kevin Waldron, assistant director of publications, likes to buy an organic version of the Kraft elbows, but even as a kid, he preferred the elbows, and an occasional spiral.
  • Image production assistant Jamie Callari’s vote was for shapes, but she says she also likes the spiral varieties. She said if she’s going to have the elbows, then they’ve got to be a fun flavor variety.
  • Tyler Gardinier, a senior public relations major, said it’s definitely got to be the shapes.

I don’t know folks, but it sounds to me like shapes are the winner here, and I of course agree whole-heartedly. But this was only a small sample of people’s opinions, so tell me, what do you prefer: Kraft macaroni and cheese elbows or shapes?

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Fuel for Finals Week: What You Should Snack On

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There is actual evidence to show that college students gain weight because of the stress from finals week. It’s a natural habit that we like to reach for the snacks to ease the pain of studying. Often times, we’re not even hungry, but we partake in mindless snacking that can go on for hours. And before you know it, you’ve inhaled an entire bag of potato chips and 20 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You’ve probably got the pizza delivery guy on speed dial too.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh?

But there’s more science to tell you that all that junk doesn’t help you much in the long-run. Not only does it do nothing to fuel your brain or aid your test performance, but it’s unhealthy and will expand your waistband in the future. It sounds pretty obvious to me that, if you’ve just got to snack while studying, then you should reach for healthier options.

I know, you’re sitting there thinking, “Girl, I’m young. I don’t have to eat healthy.” And you probably don’t want to either. But the truth is, the earlier you start treating you body better, the better off you will be. I’m not telling you to give up everything delicious in life and never indulge again; I’m just talking about switching out your normal studying snacks for real brain food.

The common misconception is that brain food equates to raw fruits and veggies, but there are much more exciting options out there if you prefer. Here are some of my favorite snacks that will fuel your brain so you can crush those exams without weighing enough to crush your professors after.

  1. Go nuts. No, but really. There are so many different varieties of nuts that there’s one for everybody, plus they’re salty, crunchy, and delicious. They’re proven to reduce stress and help your brain. And they’ve got protein! Just take it easy on these babies; you only need a handful or two.DSC_7293
  2. Cute & delicious. Teddy Grahams are, in my humble opinion, the cutest snack at the grocery store. You’d think because they’re sweet and targeted at kids that they’re also horrible for you and loaded with sugar, but they’re actually not half-bad. You can have about 30 little bears for around 130 cals, 8g of sugar, and 4g of fat. That ain’t bad! And they come in a plethora of flavors: Chocolaty Chip, Chocolate, Apple, Strawberry Banana, Honey, and Cinnamon.

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    Get the recipe for these PB & Apple Teddy Graham Pretzel Bites on thesmartcookiecook.com
  3. God’s gift to nature: Avocados. I know, you don’t want fruits and veggies, but in my book, avocados don’t count. They are so rich, creamy, and scrumptious that you won’t believe they came straight out of nature. Some people argue they should be classified as cheese because they taste that rich. But half an avocado is only 50 calories, and it’ll amp up anything you spread it on: wraps, sandwiches, veggies, whole wheat pita bread, etc. They are a bit high in fat, but it’s good fat, like in nuts.DSC_6046
  4. Get it poppin’ with plain popcorn. Sound boring? After a lifetime of eating popcorn drenched in fake butter, I never imagined plain popcorn would be any good. As It turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by how addicting and delicious it really is. Just a little bit of salt is enough to make plain popcorn taste like an indulgent snack, but you can have 2 cups for about 40 calories. Score!
  5. Hot and steamy. Did you know sugar-free hot cocoa has only 25 calories? It’s comforting, and it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t put you into a sugar coma afterward.DSC_7464
  6. Cup o’ Joe. Hot coffee has the same comforting qualities as hot cocoa for absolutely zero calories. Just be careful; when you load it up with milk and sugar, it quickly becomes bad for you. Use almond milk or a sugar-free creamer instead. Also, Nectresse is my sugar-free sweetener of choice. It’s not as artificial as other sweeteners.
  7. Take a dip. Hummus is a nutritious but completely delicious and hearty dip that’s perfect for study-time snacking. I only recently fell in love with hummus, but that love quickly grew into an obsession. If you haven’t tried it yet, just give it a shot, and you won’t be disappointed by how creamy and yummy it is. Plus, it tastes good on everything.DSC_8409-6

Those are MY go-to snacks, but here’s what fellow UC students suggested:

  1. Victoria L. – Granola bars (just make sure you look for ones low in sugar), apples, Rice Krispie treats (in moderation – one treat is 90 cal), Subway, and hummus. Did you know you can buy hummus from the Bistro at UC?
  2. Tyler G. – Cheez-Its (in moderation, a handful or two), grapes (try freezing them; they’re like candy), and Chobani yogurt (hello, protein!).

What snacks will you reach for when it’s time to study?

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