How to Study Abroad as a Student on a Budget

When I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea, the first month I was in school. I stayed an extra month to explore and solidify my Korean. I ended up going to my friend’s wedding while I was there too….

During my undergraduate career at the “perfect college I traveled extensively. My first study abroad was in Oaxaca, Mexico for about 6 weeks. My second study abroad was in South Korea for about 2 months. I learned a thing or two about studying abroad as a student (and as a woman for that matter) that can make your experience abroad more enjoyable and affordable.

Do the math with your credits! 

Studying abroad can actually be cheaper than taking classes at your home institution. Study abroad with a program that is affiliated with your school or consider faculty-led programs. Traveling with an affiliate program allows you to apply financial aid from your school directly to the program. (That’s including financial aid from FAFSA.) Traveling with an affiliated program makes it easier to transfer credits as well.

For example, when I went to Mexico, I traveled through Sol. Sol is a U of H affiliated program so scheduling the right classes for my minor in Spanish became a streamlined process. They also helped me get the transcript I needed and made sure all my credits transferred.

Get your passport and visa work done through your school if possible!

Working with an academic institution to get the paperwork can make the process faster and less stressful. They can also help you make sure you have everything you need to travel there and back without any problems with immigration. You will most likely find these resources through the study abroad office on campus. Create a strong relationship with the study abroad office on campus. Make sure they know your name. Speaking from personal experience, the study abroad office at the University of Houston is amazing. They helped me find the right program to get to where I needed to be. See if your institution does the same.

Minimize transaction fees!

Open a debit or credit card that does not charge international transaction fees. Charles Schwab is perfect for students abroad because they do not charge students for international transactions. Trust me. Transaction fees add up so either sign up with a bank that does not charge them or withdraw money from the bank in bulk.

If you do bring your card with you, consider bringing your credit card– not your debit card. That way if it’s stolen, they are stealing the bank’s money (not your money). It’s easier to dispute unauthorized transactions on a credit card than a debit card.

Depending on what country you stay in, having a card on hand can save you a lot of grief.  However, owning a credit card can be a slippery slope. Treat your credit card like a debit card and use online banking to track your spending habits. Remember, all the money you spend on your card must be paid back with interest.

Track the cheapest flights through Hopper or Student Universe.

Buy your tickets as early as possible (even if you are not 100% sure on the dates). I know there’s some hesitation in buying tickets before your dates are finalized. However, buying them earlier can save you a lot of money. Message the airline on Twitter (it’s easier than calling) to see if you can reschedule the flight dates without a fee attached. It’s better to pay a lower cost early on and a small rebooking fee than to pay full price as the date gets closer.

Hopper and Student Universe can help you find the best rates. Also, consider opening a free membership account with one of the major airlines to track points and awards. Airlines like to award their members. Having a membership can help you find more hidden deals and it costs you nothing.

I created a free membership with Delta because they have partnerships with Korean Air, Aeromexico, and AirFrance. That in addition to their other locations and excellent customer service influenced my decision to become a member.

Study abroad on a homestay program.

If a homestay program is not available then use a combination of hostels, Airbnb and believe it or not Hiltons. Some programs offer on-campus housing, but sometimes depending on the location on-campus housing can be expensive. Talk to your program coordinator before you decide to book alternative housing. Make sure your alternative housing is more affordable than staying on campus and include the commute from your alternative housing to the campus as a part of the cost. Alternative housing can enrich your experience abroad and is a perfect solution for the independent traveler.

The first month I was in South Korea I stayed on campus. I stayed in an Airbnb the second month. I booked a studio apartment in an area relatively close to campus and took public transit everywhere. The rates for a studio apartment in that area was about the same as I would have paid in Houston.

Did I mention earlier that Hiltons can actually be an affordable alternative housing option? Again, this depends on your location, but being a Hilton Honors member can help you find amazing rates and hidden deals. The membership is free and the benefits are amazing. My sister and I have stayed in really nice Hiltons for less than half the listed price because of our membership. (P.S I’m not endorsed by Hilton. Just recommending it because it’s great. You can also do the same thing with any major hotel chains like the Marriott or Hyatt Place)

Pack light!

On international flights, you are allotted two free checked bags, 1 carry-on and 1 personal item (which is basically another carry on). Pack your checked luggage halfway so you have space for souvenirs and gifts. Make sure your carry on has a change of clothes and essentials like toothpaste in case of an unexpected overnight layover. Spend money on experiences rather than material objects and try to shop like a local. Tourist-centric areas are always going to be more expensive.

Embrace your layover!

Chances are if you are on a cheaper flight, you will have a layover. I love a good layover! I’m not being sarcastic. I actually love a good layover. A good layover is any layover that is during the day where the airline provides a voucher for a hotel and food. A good layover is also close to a major city for last minute adventures. I attract layovers like moths to a light. I had a layover in Vancouver, Canada with AirCanada on my way to South Korea and Charles de Guille, France with Air France on my way to Nigeria. Treat layovers like a free vacation and embrace it!

Arrive early and/or stay late

When I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea, the first month I was in school. I stayed an extra month to explore and solidify my Korean. I ended up going to my friend’s wedding while I was there too. Arriving early to your target destination allows you to get a feel for the city you’ll be calling home and explore independently. Use Airbnb/hostels/hotel membership to find the right accommodations. Staying later also allows you to explore or revisit places you have been and solidify the relationships you created.

My next adventure abroad will be in Owerri, Nigeria. There will be no formal studies on this adventure. I’m going to see family and explore where my parents grew up.

I strongly encourage students to study abroad. There are many ways of doing so: service missions, internships abroad, Spring Break abroad, faculty-led and much more. Contact your study abroad office to learn more. If you need a little more guidance, please feel to reach out to me!

Have you studied abroad before? Where did you go? Are you planning on going abroad soon? Share about your travels in the comments section!

12 Course-scheduling Hacks to help you Graduate in 4 years or less

There is a method to the madness of graduating in 4 years or less. Being strategic about the way you schedule your classes will help you cross the finish line strong!

There is a method to the madness of graduating in 4 years or less. Being strategic about the way you schedule your classes will help you cross the finish line strong!

#1 Remember you’re human

What do humans need to survive? Food, water, shelter, sanity, etc. Therefore, don’t set yourself up with an impossible schedule! Make sure you have room for mental breaks, socialization, and food.

#2 Have a backup plan

Chances are if you’re just starting your academic career straight out of high school with no AP, IB or dual credits then you won’t get first dibs on the classes you want. Don’t let this frustrate you. Instead, make a backup plan just in case the class gets filled up before you can register.

#3 Avoid stuffing

This hack does not apply to nontraditional students with extra commitments like a full-time job or a family. However, if you are a traditional student, avoid stuffing your Tuesday-Thursdays or Monday-Wednesdays with classes back-to-back.

The logic is that you can use the off days to study, but it never works out that way. You end up using those off days to recover. Furthermore, cramming and back-to-back classes hurts your retention, and performance in those classes.

Not to mention, you’re going to end up burning yourself out! Do yourself a favor and spread out your classes throughout the week.

#4 Embrace the morning

I know an 8 am class can be a buzzkill, but embrace it. There are perks to having morning classes. It gets you up in the morning so you can be more productive. Everyone is tired so no one is bothering you or being generally annoying. It’s easier to focus and the teacher is probably just getting the day started as well.

Plus, since early morning classes are not popular, chances are there will be fewer people in your class. If you have morning classes, by lunchtime you are done with classes! That way you can dedicate your afternoons to homework, office hours, tutoring, student orgs, working out or anything else that needs to get done that day.

#5 Embrace the evening

This hack is specifically for my non-traditional students. Most likely if you are working during the day or have other commitments, you have to take more night classes. During my academic career, I had a handful of evening and night classes. I know from experience they can be a struggle, but also speaking from experience night classes tend to be more relaxed.

The teacher is okay with you bringing dinner to class and the classroom structure is more flexible. Plus, evening classes tend to be once a week (but 3 hours long). Evening classes make an academic career possible for non-traditional students.

#6 Petition your internship for credit

Seriously, consider your internship academic experience (because it is)! It will help you finish your degree that much faster and take more courses during the semester. I especially recommend petitioning your internship for credit if it’s an unpaid internship. The only fall back is that since it’s a credit, you have to pay for it as if it were a class.

#7 Independent Study

Doing an independent study adds more flexibility to your schedule and degree plan. It allows you to structure your own educational experience with the guidance of a professor. Don’t let the freedom and flexibility fool you! It’s still work and you have to be exceptionally disciplined to pull it off successfully.

#8 Take similar courses at the same time

Personally, I have had several marketing classes that were very similar. I was able to apply some of the concepts from one class to another and vice versa. For example, my digital marketing class and my search engine optimization classes covered similar material. It helped reinforce what I was learning.

Taking similar classes in your degree plan together is like taking one large class. In some ways, it makes things a lot easier.

#9 Include a block for office hours in your schedule

If you know a specific class is going to be very challenging then block off the professor’s office hours in your schedule beforehand. (Email the professor to find out their office hours if you don’t have access to the syllabus yet).

For example, at Bauer College of Business, Business Statistics was the kiss of death for many students. If you are about to take that class or another difficult class, find out your professor’s office hours and make sure you don’t have a class scheduled during that time.

#10 Take harder classes earlier in your academic career

Take the kiss of death early in your academic career. You want to move past those hurdles fresh out of the gate. Like I mentioned earlier, Business Stats is the weed-out course for Bauer students. To graduate from Bauer or even declare your major, you have to take that class.

Imagine taking that class senior year and failing it (which is what many students so the first time around) you won’t be able to graduate!

Take those type of classes early to relieve the pressure of not graduating on time. Plus, taking them early will give you enough time to take it again or make a different decision about your degree while still graduating on time.

#11 Avoid classes with 300+ students

In other words, avoid the large, stadium-style classes whenever possible. Smaller classes provide a more intimate academic experience. You are more likely to network with your peers more effectively and create a sustainable relationship with your professor. (Read more about that here.) You can do this by joining the honors college at your school, taking prerequisites at a community college or taking alternatives to satisfy the credit.

For example, maybe you need an English credit. Instead of taking English 101 that everyone and their mother takes, take Creative Writing in Poetry that maybe 30 people might enroll in. It still fulfills the credit you need and provides a better academic experience.

#12 Don’t underestimate online courses

A lot of students take an online class thinking it’s going to be a blow off. Since you’re reading this, you are not like a lot of students. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes they are a blow off, but making that assumption can get you into a world of hurt if you are wrong. Just assume you have to put effort in all your classes until the class proves you wrong.

 

These course scheduling hacks will help you navigate your undergraduate academic career successfully! Do you have a hack that’s been particularly helpful? Please share in the comment section below! If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. If you still need more help making sense of your higher ed journey, feel free to reach out to me.

7 Easy Ways to Keep Your Resume Relevant and Up-to-Date

Your resume is a reflection of your accomplishments and hard work. Now is not the time to be humble. If you did amazing work, own it! Show off to potential employers how promising you are.

Your resume is a living, breathing document that keeps track of your experiences as you venture into your academic and professional career. However, don’t let this fact intimidate you! If you tend to your resume regularly, it is relatively easy to keep it fresh.

#1 Use your college resume template as default

I know there are a ton of different resume templates out there. Some are better than others and some are downright awful. There is an art to making a strong resume, but to keep things simple, use the resume template your college has as a default.

I do mean college specifically. Sometimes different colleges within one university have different resume templates. For example, Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston has a different resume template than the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Since I am part of both colleges, I have both copies on my Google Drive. I use them interchangeably depending on the situation or what I am applying for.

If your college or university does not have a distinct resume template, then I recommend using the Bauer or CLASS resume template.

#2 Have (at least) 2 versions of your resume

One version should be long-form and the other version will be 1 page. Whenever you apply for ANYTHING (unless you have 10 years of experience or more) your resume should be 1 page. I do actually mean 1 page. Not more (or less) than one page.

The long-form resume will have all your experience and accomplishments. This is the resume that will have at least 5 descriptive bullet points per experience, all of your awards, leadership experience, etc. Don’t hold back on this resume. Make sure you have EVERYTHING on it and make updates while it’s fresh on your mind.

You’ll use this resume to customize your 1-page resume when you have internships, leadership positions, jobs, scholarships or anything else you need to apply for. Having two versions of your resume will keep you 1-page resume robust.

#3 Have a PDF version of 3 DREAM job descriptions

These job descriptions should be ambitious! Do you want to be the superintendent of a large private university? How about the CEO of a large oil and gas company? Do you want to own a chain of international consulting firms? Whatever it is, make sure it is bold, audacious and actually something you want to do.

These job descriptions will be a guide for you. Your goal is to model your resume to fit the job description of your dreams. If the job description of your dreams requires extensive leadership experience, then maybe you should apply for a leadership position in your student organization or join Toastmasters to become a more effective public speaker.

Don’t let this step intimidate you! It should inspire and motivate you to reach for the stars. It will also help you figure out the type of experience you need on your resume to get you to where you want to be.

#4 Update your resume ASAP

I touched on this briefly before, but it’s worth repeating. Update your resume ASAP! I don’t care if today was the first day of your internship, you should update your resume with the title, month and year of your internship that same day.

Update your resume with accomplishments as you achieve them. These bullet points don’t have to be perfect but they do have to be there in order to have something to fix later.

Trust me. Waiting until after you have left a position to recall all the amazing things you accomplished will always leave you feeling like you missed something.

Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can fix the bullet points later, but it’s easier to clean up the bullet points you have than to make it up from scratch a month after the fact. (By the way, these bullet points should be on your long-form resume.)

#5 Articulate your accomplishment to your career adviser to help with bullet points

First of all, you should be meeting with your career adviser at least once a month. In addition to all the other topics you’ll cover, take some time to talk about your long-form resume. If you’re having problems articulating your accomplishments or wording something the right way, ask your career adviser. When you’re done with the rough draft of your bullet points, show it to your career adviser to fine tune it for you.

#6 Compare your resume to that of industry standards

This is another way to make sure your resume is competitive. If the industry you want to enter (or think you want to enter) demands that you know R and at least 5 programming languages then it’s time sign up for a free course on edX.org and get working!

Your career advisor can help you figure out the skills you need to be competitive in your industry. You can do more industry research on sites like Vault, LinkedIn, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These resources can help you stay on top of the industry. Make sure you’re actively seeking resources and experience that will make you competitive.

#7 Create an experience wish list

This experience wish list should be experiences you would like to acquire within the next 3-4 months to help you get closer to that dream job we talked about at #3. For instance, if you know your dream job requires that you become an effective public speaker then becoming an effective public speaker should be on your wish list. Maybe you need to learn Spanish or learn more about the stock market. Use the skills you need to learn as a guide for the type of experience you need to seek.

 

Your resume is a reflection of your accomplishments and hard work. Now is not the time to be humble. If you did amazing work, own it! Show off to potential employers how promising you are. Reading your resume can also be an ego boost when you hit a slump. (We’ve all been there.) With these 7 easy steps, you can keep your resume sharp and ready for any opportunity that comes your way!

If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. What’s on your experience wishlist? Let me know in the comments section below! If you have any questions, comments or concerns, you can address them here or in the comments section as well!

 

How to Successfully Complete College with Two Degrees (or more) in Four Years

Personally, I have two degrees and yes, they are completely worth it. I have a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Marketing and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Liberal Studies. I knew long before I started at the University of Houston that I wanted a degree in Liberal Arts. I’ve always valued a liberal arts education and I believed it would round out my educational experience at U of H. (I was right).

Believe it or not, completing your undergraduate career with multiple degrees in four years or less is completely feasible. With that being said, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Before you venture off to earn two degrees (or more) you need to evaluate the reasons why you want these degrees and see if it’s worth it.

Personally, I have two degrees and yes, they are completely worth it. I have a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Marketing and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Liberal Studies. I knew long before I started at the University of Houston that I wanted a degree in Liberal Arts. I’ve always valued a liberal arts education and I believed it would round out my educational experience at U of H. (I was right).

Furthermore, I was familiar with the Liberal Studies program and knew it was completely doable with the number of credits I was bringing in from high school and my summers at a community college. (Community colleges are the BOMB.COM)

If you are going to get more than one degree, I strongly recommend making a strategic choice in which degrees you choose. Make sure the degrees you choose complement one another and you enjoy both areas of study.

For example, my Liberal Studies degree and my Marketing degree complement one another very well. Marketing is more technical in nature whereas my Liberal Studies degree adds more depth and interpersonal context. It helps me apply the skills I acquire in marketing in different disciplines and to think more broadly which is very important.

Another example of two degrees that can complement one another is Supply Chain Technology and Education. These degrees may help you break into the more technical and administrative side of higher education.

Getting a degree in Biology and Public Health could prepare you for grad school or entering the public sector with a strong emphasis on health care.

Finding a combination that can complement one another will take time and energy, but it’s worth taking the time to do it now. Make sure you think through these things early so you have an idea of the prerequisites you need to complete.

Step 1: Decide if you want a double major or a dual degree

People get this confused all the time. There’s a difference between a double major and a dual degree. In most cases, getting a double major is easier than getting a dual degree. A double major means you have two majors in the same college. For example, my BA in Liberal Studies is from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. If I majored in Liberal Studies and Anthropology then I would have a double major because those two majors are from the same college.

A dual degree means you get two degrees; one from a different college. For example, I have a degree from Bauer College of Business and a degree from College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Since they are from different colleges they have different degree requirements.

Completing a dual degree program can be more tedious than getting a double major because dual degree has different prerequisites. That’s why people either don’t finish their degrees or don’t finish on time.

Step 2: Study the degree plans

Once you have decided which degrees you would like to complete, look at the degree plans available online. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the degree plans on your own. (Right now, I’m assuming you want to complete two degrees. Completing a double major is a relatively straightforward process. I’ll cover that later.) Learn the all the prerequisites for various electives and keystones for each degree. A keystone is a course that defines the degree and cannot be substituted for anything else. Also become familiar with different substitutes you can use for prerequisites. This will help you out later.

Make it a habit to frequently review the degree requirements and keep track of changes in your degree plans. Declare your degrees as soon as possible. This way even if the program changes their requirements, the changes will not affect you.

Step 3: Map out your four-year plan

Map out your four-year plan with these two degrees in mind. Check for prerequisites that can be counted toward both degrees. This will save you time and money. Include summers and winter sessions as well. To complete your two degrees, you will probably have to take extra sessions to finish on time. Also, keep in mind that you will probably have to take at least 15 (sometimes 18) credit hours during the Fall and Spring semesters to make this work.

I’m serious about keeping it to four years or less. I would almost never recommend completing a dual degree program in lieu of finishing in four years.

The reason I am adamant about completing your degree in four years (unless you’re in a special 5 or 6-year program) is because college can get significantly more expensive after 4 years and sometimes students get stuck in a rut. Most financial aid and scholarships also stipulate that you finish in four years unless there are extraneous circumstances.

If you are considering a dual degree program, you are probably ambitious in nature. It’s better to finish in 4 years and back up your academic experience with professional exposure. Plus, you still have the academic experience from your extra degree (even if you didn’t finish it).

Since you’re the ambitious type, you probably want to go to grad school anyway and complete other amazing things in your academic and professional career. Don’t let completing a dual degree program be the thing that deters you from moving forward.

Step 4: Talk to your academic advisors

The only reason this step is not number 1 is because it takes a lot of forethought on your own to make sure that this is worth it. Your academic advisors will only be familiar with the degree from their college.

For example, when I was completing my two degrees I had to talk to an academic advisor from Bauer and CLASS regularly. I needed to be in constant communication with each one to make sure I was on track. They always saw extra classes and credits on my account they had no idea about because I was pursuing another degree.

Therefore, it is very important to talk to your academic advisors. (I wrote an article on how to do just that if you need some extra help.) Make sure to talk to your academic advisor about prerequisites. Try to find as many prerequisites as possible that can count toward both degrees. Clear it with your academic advisor as well so you know that you’re on track. You should meet with your academic advisor at least three times a semester (that means 6 different appointments if you’re getting two degrees).

I know I said this earlier but it’s worth repeating, you will most likely need to take at least 15 (sometimes 18) credit hours per semester (and 9 during the summer and winter respectively) to complete your degrees on time. That’s why it’s important to make sure your degrees are worth it and you are meticulous about your planning and time management.

Step 5: Check out community colleges

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Community colleges are the BOMB.COM. They can save you a lot of money and time completing your degrees. Check out your community college to see if you can complete some prerequisites you need for your degrees over the summer or winter.

As always, before you enroll to make sure you clear the classes with your academic advisor so you know for a fact that they will transfer to your home institution. The last thing you want is to enroll in a class that won’t be counted.

Step 6: Consider doing research, an honors thesis, independent study, study abroad or internship for credit

These alternative academic experiences can help you customize your academic career and complete your dual degree program on time. These alternatives can count toward your upper-level electives and in some cases, can count toward both of your degrees.

Think about it.

If you petition one of your internships for credit (yes, you should definitely complete an internship while you’re in college) you are that much closer to finishing your degrees!

By the time you get to your higher level courses you have a wealth of knowledge and insight that can help add more depth and a unique spin to either your area of research, an honors thesis or independent study. Make sure you clear this with your academic advisor first.

Studying abroad is a nice loophole that can allow you to complete a lot of credits at once at a lower rate. For example, most liberal arts programs have a foreign language requirement. It’s much easier (and honestly better) to complete those requirements in the country where that language is spoken.

Step 7: Do it!

I know it sounds silly for me to mention this but you’d be surprised how many people take this step for granted. Once you have created a four-year plan and talked to your academic advisors you actually have to enroll in those classes and do well in them. It’s not enough to just talk about wanting two degrees. You have to work towards it. Put your money where your mouth is and do it!

I know making a four-year plan can be intimidating. The point of a four-year plan is to give you direction. The only part that of your four-year plan you want to make sure you have nailed down is the semester you are in. The future semesters can (and should) be flexible. While you’re on your way to completing the degrees, things will change. That’s okay. Change happens.

 

It’s okay change your mind about getting two degrees. It’s okay to change which degrees you choose to get. If you fail or make a mistake make sure you learn quickly and get back on your feet. At the very least make sure you graduate with at least one degree! I know that sounds silly but sometimes people are so focused on getting two degrees they don’t end up finishing either.

BONUS TIP: Throughout your entire academic career, you should be networking with your peers and professors. Pursuing two degrees gives you access to more resources and areas of study that your peers will most likely never see. Take advantage of that!

Since you are pursuing two degrees you are probably the ambitious type anyway. Don’t squander this experience by keeping your head stuck in a book. You can network by joining a few organizations that a related to your field of study or the industry you want to pursue. You can also network with your professors as well. (Oddly enough I wrote another article on how to do exactly that *wink, wink*)

ANOTHER BONUS TIP: To make sure you graduate with at least one degree, start with the degree of your preference. I know I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating.

For example, I knew for a fact that no matter what I wanted to graduate with my BBA. I was okay with not completing my BA (in a worst-case scenario) so I made my schedule for the first half of college Marketing focused while interlacing Liberal Studies prerequisites during the summer.

Now keep in mind that I had a lot of credits from high school and the Liberal Studies program I chose was relatively straightforward. My situation will be different from yours. The point is to be smart about your academic career and don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Now, what if you want to double major…

So far, this article has been focused on how to graduate with two degrees in four years, but if you want to complete a double major the process is much more straightforward. Basically, complete all the same steps and you will be well on your way to completing a double major.

Chances are if you are pursuing two degrees in the same college then all the prerequisites will be the same. It’s typically much easier to add an extra major. Oftentimes it means taking more upper-level electives which are completely possible. Normally you only have one advisor as well who can help you map out what that would look like. You still need to be tenacious about your planning though to make sure that you get what you need done in four years.

Now what if you want more than two degrees….

The title of this article suggests that you can finish with 2 or more degrees in four years and I wasn’t kidding. The thing is finishing with three separate degrees oftentimes takes special permission the dean to move forward. It also takes a high level of finesse, focus, and determination.

A way around that is to get a double major in one college and a degree in another college. For example, let’s say I was fluent in Italian. I would have probably been able to complete a double major in Liberal Studies and Italian with very little problems while finishing my degree in Marketing from Bauer. Graduating with more than two degrees probably means you have some home field advantage and you’re able to skip a lot of prerequisites or simply test out of them.

For example, if you’re a math whiz then you’re probably able to test out of a lot of prerequisites for math and take the upper-level math courses sooner. Those upper-level math courses probably count toward some physics electives as well making it relatively easy to get a double major in math and physics while still giving you time to get a degree in Spanish if you choose.

My point is it’s possible. A lot of things are possible you just have to plan accordingly and communicate your intentions to the right people.

If you found this article helpful, please pass it along and visit my Facebook page for more resources. Are you thinking about doing a double major? What motivated your decision? Share your experience below! If you have any questions comments or concerns, you can address them here or in the comments section.

 

 

Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for a Scholarship

If you are an amazing student, whoever writes a letter for you wants to do it well. Give them as much material and time to write a killer letter.

Regardless of who you end up asking for a letter of recommendation, it’s important to make sure that whoever you ask has experience working with you or understands the type of work you do. They need to be able to talk highly of you on paper.

Furthermore, you need to respect their time. Give them an opportunity to write a strong letter by providing them at least 2 weeks to write the letter, an up-to-date resume and an extra summary of your accomplishments.

If you are an amazing student, whoever writes a letter for you wants to do it well. Give them as much material and time to write a killer letter. Afterwards, send a handwritten thank you note to show your appreciation.

#1 Mentors

Asking a mentor to write you a letter of recommendation can be a little nerve-wracking but trust me the mentor will be flattered. Mentors are people in your life who you turn to for help and cheer you on to achieve more. You might have formal mentors through organizations or informal mentors through networking and life experience. Regardless, they are an invaluable resource. They have seen you through your ups and downs. I encourage everyone to find at least one good mentor. They make all the difference. (Learn more about how to find a mentor here.)

#2 Professors

You want to be thoughtful about the professor you ask to write you a LOR. Choose professors with whom you were actively engaged in the class and know you by name. It’s important to develop a relationship with your professor first before you ask them to write a LOR.  Sometimes professors prefer to have you for at least 2 classes before they agree to write one for you. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but use it as a measurement.

#3 Employers

Unless it was a summer internship, try to use employers with whom you have worked for at least 6 months and can write about your growth on the job. Again, it’s important to choose an employer that you have a close relationship with. They need to be able to talk favorably about your work ethic and other exemplary characteristics. If your employer barely remembers your name, then move on. (If you need help balancing school and work check out my other article here.)

It doesn’t have to be your official employer either. If Person X hired you but Person Y manages your day-to-day activities and has more interactions with you then you should probably ask Person Y for a LOR.

#4 Student organization leaders

If you are very active in your student organization for at least 2 semesters, then you can ask the student org leader to write you a letter of recommendation. If the current student org leader changes by the time you need a LOR, ask the former leader who has the most amount of experience working with you. (It’s still professional if they were a former leader of an organization.)

What’s important to remember is that your participation in the organization needs to be genuine and consistent. Whoever is writing the letter for you needs something to write about. If you only showed up occasionally and no one really missed you then you probably won’t get a good LOR (or one at all).

#5 Previous scholarship sponsors

It’s important to keep up with your previous scholarship sponsors. If you talk with them regularly and keep them up to date about how you are progressing and some of your accomplishments, they would be more than willing to write you a letter of recommendation to win more scholarships!

#6 Religious leaders

If you are active in your faith and you participate heavily then asking your religious leader for a letter of recommendation is completely appropriate. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the Rabbi or Bishop or Imam directly either. If you are involved in the youth ministry then ask one of the leaders in the youth ministry. If you are more involved in the women’s group or you run the daycare program in church ask one of those leaders respectively.

The point is to find someone who is familiar with your contribution to the organization and can speak about what you have done for the religious community. Obviously, it will be in the context of a religion and the scholarship sponsors will know that you prescribe to a certain faith, but that doesn’t disqualify your experience. (Obviously, if you feel uncomfortable with revealing your faith through a letter of recommendation, then don’t ask a religious leader.)

#7 Volunteer leaders

Let’s say you’ve been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for the past 5 years or at the local food bank for some time, then asking the project leader or manager to write you a letter of recommendation is completely realistic. Whoever you ask need to be familiar with your contribution. The tricky thing about getting these people to write a LOR is that it’s all volunteer based so they might not be consistent enough to see your contribution or you might not be consistent enough to leave an impression. Regardless, community leaders who talk about how you’ve benefited the community can go a long way with scholarship sponsors.

 

There is such a thing as a bad letter of recommendation. Bad letters of recommendation have been written before and the worst part about it is that you’ll never know. The intention is rarely ever malicious. After all, if someone doesn’t know you well enough or doesn’t believe you deserve a letter of recommendation, they just won’t write you one.

A bad letter of recommendation is written when there is no relationship with the person writing the letter. The letter will sound generic at best and scholarship sponsors will see right through it. This is why it’s important to have a relationship with whoever is writing you the letter so they can make it come to life with personal experiences and interactions with you.

If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. Who did you ask for a letter of recommendation? Let me know in the comment section below. As always, if you have any questions you can ask them here or in the comments section!

Step 3: Reach Out to a Mentor

The point is to build a relationship with a professional so you can learn from their experience. That is the purpose of a mentorship.

Mentorship is crucial in starting your business. I felt very vulnerable asking for help, but I was also eager to learn.

My best advice when it comes to reaching out for a mentor is to be resourceful when it comes how you find mentors. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. I encourage you to branch out wide in your search for a mentor.

You might have a hard time finding a mentor. Don’t worry. This is normal. Finding a good mentor can be difficult and time consuming. Consider this, the title of mentor can be intimidating for some people. The word implies a level of commitment either emotionally or time-wise. Some people do not feel like they can make that level of commitment.

This is where being resourceful becomes important. Remember that a mentor is someone you can turn to for advice. At the very least, they are resource to answer a couple of questions and give pointers. Sometimes, that is all someone can commit and that’s fine.

I strongly recommend refraining from the phrase “Will you be my mentor”. That phrase can be very intimidating for the receiver.

Instead, I recommend starting with a couple of questions here and there or maybe even an informational interview to get the ball rolling. Take time to learn more about the person and try to build a relationship from there.

Personally, I found my mentors through recommendations, LinkedIn, peers, professors, and networking events. You can also find mentors through online forums and social media support groups. Remember to cast your net wide.

When you approach someone who you think would be a good mentor, reach out to them via email or LinkedIn. Ask them for no more than 15 minutes of their time to answer a few questions. This conversation could happen over the phone, email, or a LinkedIn conversation.

The introduction could go something like this: “Hi. My name is XYZ and I recently started a business. I saw that you have been in the industry for a while. Do you have any recommendations regarding the best [credit card payment processor] to use?”

You can replace the words in the bracket with anything and it does not have to sound exactly like what I stated above, but you get the point. You want the question you ask to be simple and relevant.

If they respond, great! Thank them for their time and take their advice into consideration.

If they do not respond, it’s okay. Move on to another prospect.

A couple weeks later, follow up on that recommendation. For example, “Hi ABC. Thank you for recommending 123 to me. I went through with the recommendation. 123 is great, but now I am having issues with Z. Have you had experience working with Z? If so, what did you do?”

From here, you can start a dialog and ease your way into the relationship. The point is to build a relationship with a professional so you can learn from their experience. That is the purpose of a mentorship.

[WARNING: Be honest in your communication. If you did not take their advice, then do not say that you did. Ask them about their opinion on something else.]

The person you talk to may never actually consider themselves a mentor, but if the relationship continues then that is what they will essentially become.

Keep this in mind, you do not have to meet your mentors in person. I rarely see my mentors in person. (We’re all so busy). Fortunately, you do not have to see someone all the time to have a fruitful mentorship. It is all about communication and consistency.

I wish you the best of luck in your search for a mentor. If you have any questions or concerns, let me know. I’m here to help!

Step 2: Claim Your Identity

Being an entrepreneur is not about the amount of stuff you have or the number of clients in you book. It’s about you and the vision you have for yourself. Entrepreneurship is an extension of who you are as an individual and the commitment to make that part of you viable. Everything else- the office, the business cards, the contacts, the website- is secondary.

It took me a while to claim my identity as an entrepreneur.

I thought the true mark of an entrepreneur was in the financial statements, but that’s not where entrepreneurship starts.

In fact, every entrepreneur starts with an idea. That is exactly all I had in the beginning- an idea.

I did not have a website, trademark, clients, pricing, mission or vision statement, mentors or anything else to flesh out my ideas.

I wanted to see the “proof” of being an entrepreneur before I started calling myself one.

Now I know that the relentless pursuit of an idea is all the proof anyone needs to call themselves an entrepreneur.

Early in the beginning, I had an identity crisis. This was in part because I could not find my voice, but also because I did not want to take on the mantle of entrepreneurship. The whole situation was weird. I wanted to start my own business and I really liked the services I provided, but at the same time I was scared to call myself an entrepreneur.

My insecurity came from my lack of stuff. I thought “real” entrepreneurs had offices and business cards and contacts and all this extra stuff that I lacked.

Now I know that’s not true.

The real turning point for me was when I started going to networking events. Before my first networking event, I created business cards and my website. Even though I had a couple of the things I thought “real” entrepreneurs had, I still did not feel like I could claim that title.

The purpose of a networking event is to build meaningful relationships. During that networking event, everything synced. I was excited to hear other peoples’ stories and elated to share my own. I enjoyed engaging in a community of professionals and I felt like I belonged. Plus explaining not just what but why I did what I did over and over again made me fall more in love with my business.

I realized that night that my business is an extension of myself.

Being an entrepreneur is not about the amount of stuff you have or the number of clients in you book. It’s about you and the vision you have for yourself. Entrepreneurship is an extension of who you are as an individual and the commitment to make that part of you viable. Everything else- the office, the business cards, the contacts, the website- is secondary.

Without you all that stuff you think you need (I thought I needed) is meaningless.

If you have an idea that you are willing to pursue relentlessly, then you are an entrepreneur.

Claim your identity. 

Step 1: Find Your Voice

“Since I am an entrepreneur and my clients buy my services, they are essentially buying pieces of my experience. Therefore, my business is personal and the personal is business.”

It took me over six months to start producing original content. I started my business in October 2016, but I did not start publishing original content until June 2017.

Why?

To be honest, I did not think anyone would listen to what I had to say. Furthermore, I did not know what to say. When I started  my business, I could not find my voice. Since I could not find my own voice, I was overwhelmed by the voices of my mentors. My mentors are amazing, but they intimidated me in the beginning.

I wanted to embody their level of credibility. I thought in order to have that level of credibility, I had to sound a certain way, be a certain age and have X many years of experience. Essentially, I was trying to embody the voice of my mentors. Furthermore, I am a young female entrepreneur going into consulting. There are industry professionals who have literally being consulting for all of my life. Faced with that type of pressure, I froze.

My mentors are amazing and so am I, but it took me a while to realize that. I was finally able to find my own voice when I stopped holding myself hostage to superficial standards. When I decided for myself that what I had to share was valuable and developed my own standards of what was good enough, everything started falling into place.

The more authentic I became with my brand, the more people I attracted. For example, I have shared my personal experiences with my time abroad, learning a new language and experiencing new things. Right now, I’m sharing about a time I felt very vulnerable in my business. These are all things I used to think were off limits until I realized that everything that influences my life personally becomes a part of my brand.

Since I am an entrepreneur and my clients buy my services, they are essentially buying pieces of my experience. Therefore, my business is personal and the personal is business.

The first step in my journey as an entrepreneur was finding my voice. This first step took months. I started my business in October 2016, but I don’t think I found my voice until June 2017 at the  earliest.

My biggest piece of advice, especially early on in your business is to find your voice.