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.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone!

“Fear gets in the way of that transformation. They see the person they want to be, but are afraid to take the steps to be that person because that involves a risk of failure. There is no guarantee that even if you take that chance you will be successful and failure hurts. Even the idea of failure is painful.”

The investment you make in a higher education is a waste of time, effort and resources if you spend that investment within your comfort zone. The point of any investment- higher education, starting a business, traveling or even a hobby- is to test and expand the limits of your mind and pave new experiences that are UNSIMILAR in scope and breadth to your past. This is how and where growth happens.

When you push the boundaries of your comfort zone, you are building a bridge between the person you are and the person you want to be. The distance between those people requires a transformation of the person you are and it cannot be achieved by living as the person have always been.

Fear gets in the way of that transformation. They see the person they want to be, but are afraid to take the steps to be that person because that involves a risk of failure. There is no guarantee that even if you take that chance you will be successful and failure hurts. Even the idea of failure is painful.

At the same time, by never taking that risk you are guaranteed to stay the same person you have always been.  Within our bubble, we have mastered a predictable routine. There is safety, security and stability. There is also stagnation, but people do not realize how stagnant they have become until months, years or even decades pass by and they are still the same person with the same familiar experiences. This realization is typically buckled with some deep seated regrets. There comes a time when you become a passive observer of your own life rather than an active participant. Fortunately, this can be avoided by a habitual practice of escaping your comfort zone.

Define what is outside of your comfort zone.

This is your “I wish” list.

I wish I could run a marathon in record time.

I wish I could play the piano as well as a concert pianist.

I wish I could in Spanish to a room full of people.

I wish I could get my doctorate from an ivy league school.  

You get the idea. Define the reality you want that is clearly outside of your comfort zone and write it down. Then say it out loud. When you say it out loud, substitute “I wish” with “I will”. It is important to speak it into existence. This is the early stage of challenging your comfort zone.

Create a pathway from within your comfort zone to the edge and beyond it.

This is where the two realities meet. For instance, let’s say you want to run a marathon in record time but  have not exercised in two years. It would be ludicrous to do a marathon tomorrow but you can take a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood tonight.

Take the same approach to every item on your wish list. The trick is to break it up into small, actionable steps that you can take to achieve those goals.

Get support!

It can be intimidating to venture out of your comfort zone. There will be some psychological elements that you have to overcome on your own, but there is a network of support ready to lift you up! Whether it is your group of family and friends or an online forum or even social media- it does not matter! Any type of positive support can help keep you accountable.

Reflect on your progress.

It is easy to get lost in the shuffle while actively trying to breach your comfort zone. It is vital that you take some time to reflect on your setbacks and accomplishments. Be patient with yourself and remember every step forward, no matter how small, is progress. Set regular breaks to reflect on your journey outside of your comfort zone.

As you venture out of your comfort zone, your horizons will be expanded. What you have believed about what is possible will change while building that bridge to the person you want to become.

How to do Career Fair like a BOSS!

Virtually all colleges and universities alike come equipped with a career services center. The biggest mistake students make in their academic career is waiting until the semester they graduate to prepare for their professional career. Career services offer an abundance of different resources to make you successful post-graduation.

Virtually all colleges and universities alike come equipped with a career services center. The biggest mistake students make in their academic career is waiting until the semester they graduate to prepare for their professional career. Career services offer an abundance of different resources to make you successful post-graduation.

Think of it this way-their job (the people who work at career services) is to get you a job! They should be your best friend! Make it a habit to visit your career counselor at least once every 6 weeks. You should develop a new professional skill every six weeks anyway so during your appointment review the progress you are making as well as any new issues or concerns you have about post graduation.

Everyone should take advantage of the resources available at their career center. By everyone,  I mean everyone: underclassmen, upperclassmen, graduate students and everything in between.

The crowning jewel of career centers across the country is the career fair! Career fairs are an excellent networking opportunity FOR ALL STUDENTS (underclassmen, I’m talking about you)! There are a lot of students (especially underclassmen) who do not go because they do not know what they are doing or do not think anyone wants to talk to them. This is a grave mistake.

Freshmen should go to career fairs.

Sophomores should go to career fairs.

Juniors should go to career fairs.

Seniors should go to career fairs.

Every student should go to career fairs.

With that being said,  I understand the hesitation. Career fairs are basically structured networking events and behavior at a networking event does not come naturally to some people. There is a learning curve and I understand that. Fortunately for you, you can overcome that learning curve by following these tips and tricks!

Do your research!

Go to your school’s website and figure out what companies are going to be there. Then take some time learning about that company. You do not have to become an expert in XYZ Company, but it is important to learn the basics: what the company does, the company’s values, the company’s motto/vision and the company’s products/services.

Fortunately, you do not have to memorize all this information! You can take your notes with you. Invest in a nice padded portfolio and a good pen. Take your notes with you and prepare questions to ask the recruiters beforehand. That way when your approach recruiters, you will be informed and prepared.

ATTENTION UNDERCLASSMEN: Companies hire FRESHMEN and SOPHMORES for internships. (Yes, seriously they do. I know because I got one my freshman year and I’ve seen other people do it too.) There is still hope for you. Plus this is a perfect opportunity to hear straight from recruiters the type of skills and experience you need to be successful.

For example, if you are a freshman and a recruiter tells you that you need to be really good at Java in order to be competitive, you have a heads up! That way you can take more Java electives. You have time more time on your side and that’s not something juniors and seniors can capitalize on. If you need more help when it comes to finding internships, make an appointment with me.

Practice your 30-Second Me!

A 30-Second Me is a basic introduction of yourself. No, it does not have to be exactly 30 seconds but it should NEVER be longer. (You will look like you are rambling and people will tune you out.) A 30-Second Me is great because it is a safe and easy way to start a conversation. As you get more comfortable with attending career fairs, you will be able to start conversations without one.

There are many different methods for creating a 30-Second Me, but I like to keep it simple: Name, Field of Study, Tailored Experiences, and a Segway. Let me break it down:

Name: Your name

Field of study: Major or intended major

Tailored Experiences: Your experiences that correlate with what recruiters are looking for

Segway: Using your research  to ask the recruiter about the company

For example, let’s say a sophomore studying finance attends a career fair and approaches a recruiter from a big bank. A good 30-Second Me would look like this:

Hi my name is Angel Rodriguez. I am currently studying Finance. I am the treasurer of the Finance Association as well as the recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship. In my research  I learned that your company is looking for high performers. What are the skills or experiences you would consider high performance?

This is the break down of that 30-Second Me:

Hi my name is Angel Rodriguez. I am currently studying Finance. I am the treasurer of the Finance Association as well as the recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship. (This is where you include specific experiences that are relevant to what the company is looking for. It’s a bank so they may be interested to know you are actively involved in an organization about their industry. They are also looking for high performers so including that you were recognized for your academic performance helps too.) In my research (this is the Segway! You incorporate the research you did on your own to ask a question to the recruiter. This turns the conversation back to them.) I learned that your company is looking for high performers. What are the skills or experiences you would consider high performance?

(I’ll make a video with more examples of 30-Second Me so subscribe to my YouTube channel or this blog to stay up to date!)

Look your best!

This does not mean go out there and spend money that you do not have! The most important thing is that you look nice and neat. If you are buying a suit, make sure it fits well. To be on the safe side, dress conservatively, but it does not have to be black. Gray or navy blue is fine as well.

Despite any rumors you may have heard, WEARING HEELS IS NOT REQUIRED! You will not be secretly judged for not wearing heels. If you do wear heels make sure you can walk in them confidently and can last all day. If you wobble around at the career fair, you will be judged (and it will not be a secret). Also, if you insist on wearing heels, keep them at kitten heels or shorter.

Secondly, keep the perfume and cologne at home! Consider the recruiter. They are going to be bombarded by people all day. The last thing you want is to be remembered as the person who gave the recruiter a headache just by the way you smelled. Your smell will carry a negative connotation.  If you take a shower and wear deodorant  you will smell just fine.

Lastly, check your breath! You do not want to offend any potential recruiter with your breath. Ask 2 good friends to give you honest feedback about your breath. If you have any concerns, chew a couple of breath mints before you start your conversation. (Not gum, breath mints).

Be confident!

If you tell yourself you do not belong at the career fair, then it will show. If you do not believe you are good enough to hire, then no one will hire you. It is incredibly important to believe in your skills, experience and qualifications. If you are still nervous about the who prospect of career fair then schedule a meeting with your career counselor. They can help you work through your nerves.

If you still believe you need more help, I’m always available! Make an appointment with me today! 

Scholarships: The Equivalent of 3 FULL TIME JOBS

If you just started your scholarship search, this is a great place to start. I’ll break down what you need to know to be successful in your scholarship journey. After reading this article, if you are still nervous about this whole scholarship thing then please do not hesitate to reach out to me! Scholarships are definitely my thing so consider me a resource! 

Scholarships are a form of financial aid that you do not have to pay back, but they are definitely not free! From experience, I can tell honestly tell you the process of finding, applying and receiving scholarships is the equivalent of THREE FULL TIME JOBS!

This is not an exaggeration on my part. If you do this the right way, you’ll end up pouring hours, weeks, months and even years of your life into the scholarship world. It takes significant personal effort and resilience. Consider it a character building experience because you will not be the same person afterwards.

 I can also say from experience that it is completely worth it and it (literally) pays off. I would do it all over again.

If you just started your scholarship search, this is a great place to start. I’ll break down what you need to know to be successful in your scholarship journey. After reading this article, if you are still nervous about this whole scholarship thing then please do not hesitate to reach out to me! Scholarships are definitely my thing so consider me a resource!

Yes it seriously is the equivalent of 3 FULL TIME JOBS

A full time job is 40 hours a week. It will take 120+ hours of work on a weekly basis to see the results you want. You need to be committed to making scholarships your lifestyle. (Note: not “part” of your lifestyle. It needs TO BE your lifestyle.) Finding and applying for scholarships should become obsessive. Make it your mission in life to know everything and anything that has to do with the scholarship world.

Focus on what you are good at

Once you begin to explore the scholarship world, you’ll realize that there is a scholarship for everything under the sun. The variety is amazing, but also distracting. Just because there is a scholarship for everything does not mean you should  dedicate your precious time to applying for each and every scholarship you find.

For example, I only apply for scholarships that are academic or essay based. I have very strong writing skills and my grades have always been excellent. Those were the type of scholarships I would most likely win.

There were other types of scholarships that required creative writing samples, creative video submissions, art pieces, woodwork and other elaborate works that required a level of skill that did not come naturally to me. I completely ignored those scholarships and focused on what I was good at: academics and essays. (It paid off.)

Stay up-to-date with all the scholarship engines

It is your job to know what is going on, on each and every scholarship engine platform.

You should know the various scholarship deadlines.

You should know the popular and unpopular scholarships.

You should have a specific calendar dedicated to scholarship deadlines.

Remember the whole “treat it like a full time job” thing I mentioned earlier? This is a part of that. It is your job to know what’s going on in the scholarship world. Don’t let an opportunity fly by because you were not paying attention.

Start with the low hanging fruit

In this case, the low hanging fruit would be the resources that are already open to you. Check within your community first. Is your place of worship sponsoring college students? What about your parents’ workplace? What about your school district? Have you asked your teachers? Professors? Colleagues? Advisers? Peers?  What about your home college or university? What about any national organizations you are a part of?

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of scholarship money that goes unclaimed simply because no one applied. Never make any assumptions when it comes to scholarships. Always ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no.

For example, I got a scholarship from a local law firm my senior year of high school. This scholarship was not widely publicized and only students from my school district qualified. (I did not have to study pre-law to qualify either.) I also got a scholarship from my elementary school and many, many, many scholarships from the University of Houston as well. I am also a member of HonorSociety.org so I was eligible for those scholarships too. These are resources that were already open to me.

The nice thing about low hanging fruit is that everyone always overlooks them (except you because now you know) so there is less competition.

FAFSA! FAFSA! FAFSA! FAFSA! FAFSA! (You get the idea)

Hopefully one day this will become a no-brainer, but until that day comes I will preach FAFSA on the top of my lungs! Luckily I created a nice infographic and video about FAFSA. Make sure you complete your application ASAP!

Stay eligible! Stay focused!

Most scholarships come with a GPA requirement. The last thing you want is to lose all that funding because you let your grades slide! In addition to your 3 FULL TIME JOBS you are also a full-time student. (Most scholarships require you to be in school full time.) It is a juggling act that requires an intense level of discipline, but it is possible! (Again, I say this from experience).

In addition to your GPA, your scholarship might require you to perform a certain number of community hours, or study a particular discipline or play an instrument.

Make sure to honor whatever the conditions of the scholarship so you do not lose your hard earned dollars!

Grow a thick skin

If you do this right, you will be rejected on a regular basis.

I have been applying for scholarship since my junior year of high school. I have applied to thousands of scholarships and in all my years of applying have won less than 15 separate awards. It paid off because I am now graduating debt-free, but I was rejected often and on a regular basis.

You cannot let rejection discourage you from applying. By the time you get rejected (because you will) you should already be working on the next scholarship. In reality, you should not have time to feel sorry for yourself.

Remember your sponsors!

When you do finally win a scholarship, never forget the people who invested in your education! You need to take the time to thank your sponsors. Make sure to honor the investment they put into you.

I know this sounds old school but learn how to perfect the art of a thank you note. It goes a long way. Send a heartfelt email if sending a note is not possible. Get really good at saying thank you!

Like I said earlier, I am an experienced traveler in the world of scholarships. If you need more guidance in this journey, please reach out! Let me help you!

How to Master a School-Work Life Balance!

Although it can be difficult, it is possible to balance the two without sacrificing the full university experience. 

I had the opportunity to focus on being a full-time student during my freshman and sophomore year. This gave me an opportunity to focus on classwork, take heavier loads and become ingrained in the campus culture.

Unfortunately, this is a luxury that not all students can afford. Sometimes working part or full time while attending school is a necessity. I had my first part-time job my junior year. This was also before I started Achievement Consulting. It was the first time I had to balance a full-time school schedule as well as a part-time work schedule.

Although it can be difficult, it is possible to balance the two without sacrificing the full university experience.

Prioritize what is important to you (AND FOLLOW THROUGH)

In reality, your first job is school. If you are a full time student, you are taking at least 12 credit hours a semester. This is not including the (at least) 6 hours you spend preparing for those classes. College is a huge time and financial investment. Try not to let your part-time job erode that investment.

Once you prioritize what is important to you, make sure your actions reflect those priorities. For example, your priorities might be 1. School 2. Soccer 3. Work 4. Student organization. Once you determine your priorities (no more than 5) make sure your actions reflect those priorities.

For example, if you know you have a big test next week, you might not be able to attend the social your student organization is having the night before or if you know you have a soccer game in a month then make sure your are not scheduled to work that weekend.

Students can get in trouble because they have their priorities but they do not follow through with them. For instance, they might decide to work an extra shift and attend a social when they know they have a test coming up soon and need to study. When your actions are contrary to your priorities, it is a recipe for disaster.

Realize that work will be one of your priorities

It may not be your first priority, but it is on the shortlist. This sounds pretty obvious but some people take it for granted. This means that there will be sacrifices you have to make because of work. If you are working 15-20 hours a week, you might not be able to spend 2 hours on the phone with your best friend or stay at a party all night or binge on Netflix as much as you used to. You need to be ready and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make sure you can balance your school/work life successfully.

This does not mean that you cannot have fun anymore. You can still have friends and watch Netflix and go to parties. You just have to be disciplined with how you spend your time and with whom.

Communicate your priorities to your employer

If you have an on-campus job, this process is much easier. The university you work for wants you to be academically successful so they will cap the hours you work and are more willing to compromise on scheduling.

However, if you work off-campus you have to take the initiative to talk to your employer ahead of time about certain time conflicts you might have. For instance, if you know if you have a midterm coming in a month, then ask now for time off so you can study. If you know you have to travel for a soccer game then make sure your employer knows that you will not be available on that date.

You do not have to tell them all your personal information, just make sure you give them a clear picture of the times and dates you will be available. Communication is key!

Don’t get stuck

Learning is done in and out of the classroom. Make sure that you are developing yourself in someway wherever you work. If your job does not provide opportunities for advancement or professional development, try to find one that does. Look into finding a paid internship (which I would be happy to help with) or another part-time position that is more challenging but still works with your school schedule. This is not necessarily easy but it is definitely worth it.

If you have any more questions about balancing a school/work life successfully, please feel free to reach out!

How to Find the Perfect College For You!

Not every high school student is going to go to college. Some will choose to enlist or take a gap year. Others might decide go to vocational training or trade school. Regardless of what you end up doing after high school, I encourage everyone to seek a higher education, but that higher education does not necessarily have to be college.

With that being said, if you are pretty sure that you want to go to college, but need help picking the right one-you have reached the right place! 

Not every high school student is going to go to college. Some will choose to enlist or take a gap year. Others might decide go to vocational training or trade school. Regardless of what you end up doing after high school, I encourage everyone to seek a higher education, but that higher education does not necessarily have to be college.

With that being said, if you are pretty sure that you want to go to college, but need help picking the right one-you have reached the right place! 

In-State vs Out-of-State

On average in-state colleges and universities tend to be more affordable than their out-of-state counterparts. Personally, I strongly recommend students consider in-state colleges and universities before they go out-of-state. This is especially important if you plan on continuing your academic career past your bachelor’s degree. Staying in-state can help you save money up front. However, if your heart is set on an out of-state school there is still a way to make it financially viable. 

For example, there may  be tuition waivers for non-residents and various other financial aid options that can help make the experience more affordable. Furthermore, schools that are located in more rural and suburban areas tend to be more affordable than their urban counterparts. If you are looking out-of-state, then consider schools in these areas as well.

Believe it or not, there are some schools that charge out-of-state tuition rates close to their in-state rates! You should check with each out-of-state institution individually. While you are at it, look into how long it would take to qualify as a resident of that state. If you plan on starting the next phase of you life in another state, then becoming a resident before you apply is a good investment. When it comes to comparing out-of-state schools, use the average tuition and cost-of-attendance of your in-state schools as a benchmark for comparison. 

Check Transfer Credits

If you are in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual credit classes, then check to see if your prospective colleges and universities will accept your credits. Then do a deeper check to see under what circumstances will the credits transfers. 

If you need a 4 in AP Chemistry but only a 3 in AP Biology to get credit, then that might influence what classes you take in high school. The same thing can be said about your HLs and SLs in IB. If you only need a 4 in SL Economics to get the credit, but a 6 if you take HL then that might influence which HLs and SLs you want to take.

The process is a little different if you are getting your associate’s. Some schools will automatically accept your associate’s degree upon completion. Other schools pick apart your associate’s by class. Sometimes they give more weight to an Associate’s of Science depending on what program you plan to pursue at their institution. Regardless, you need to check which classes transfer (especially electives)!

Personally, I graduated from the IB program. A part of the reason I chose to attend the University of Houston was because they accepted almost all of my IB scores. I also took the AP exams to give myself the best shot of getting as many credits as possible.

In addition, I recommend taking some classes at your community college over the summer before you start your first semester. It’s a perfect way to get a head start on your pre-requisites if you are proactive. Plus courses at a community college are quite affordable! (Make sure you take pre-requisites that will transfer to your home institution!) The goal is to get as many pre-requisites knocked out before you start.

Personally, I went to Collin Community College the summer before I started at U of H. The classes I took transferred and helped me blaze through my pre-requisites.

Transfer credits can make your academic experience more affordable, give you more flexibility in your degree plan, and potentially speed up your graduation date if you want to graduate early. 

Financial Aid

Check the financial aid packages available for students and on average how many students receive financial aid. You can find this information on collegeboard.org or on the school’s website. I also encourage you to set up an appointment with a financial aid adviser and apply for any scholarships you are eligible for through the school. Never assume you are ineligible for a scholarship. Always check the eligibility and if you are unsure then contact the sponsors of the scholarship.

Most importantly APPLY FOR FAFSA!

How much financial aid a school provides to their students is a good warning sign for you and your family as you prepare to pay for college.

For example, if you want to apply to XXX University, but you notice only about 10% of the students receive financial aid, then that may be a signal to start shopping for competitive student loans or (more preferably) get busy applying for scholarships! 

The reason you may see a low percentage of students receiving financial aid from the school is either: the school is super affordable and few people need financial aid to attend (unlikely) or the school is prestigious in nature and most students have the financial resources to pay for the tuition (more realistic).

If your heart is set on a school that seems out of reach financially, please set up an appointment with me. There is still hope yet!

 

Financial aid distribution at UH
Financial aid Distribution at the University of Houston | Source: collegeboard.org

Campus Resources

Recreation center. Career center. Student center. Tutoring services. Housing center. Religion center. Student organizations. Counselling and mental health services. Center for students with disabilities. Child care.

These are just a few examples of the type of resources colleges and universities should provide to ensure the academic, personal and professional success of their students. THESE RESOURCES SHOULD NOT BE HARD TO FIND. This is not a game of hide-and-seek.

These resources will act as a lifeline during your academic career. They need to prominent and relatively easy to find online. The contact information needs to be up-to-date with staff on stand-by to answer further questions. It is vital you keep up with these resources. You should take a lack of ample student resources as a warning sign.

For example, if you know you have a learning disability, but getting in contact with the disability center is giving you a migraine or you know you need extra help in math but there is no tutoring services offered through the school,  that is a sign it is time to move on.

Here are some other campus resources to look out for: health center, financial aid, women’s center, LGBT center, campus police, student advocacy, international student support, etc.

This list is not exhaustive and some resources may matter more to you than others but this will give you an idea of what to look for.

Academic Programs

You do not need to choose your major before you step on campus, however I strongly recommend researching the type of programs that are available at the schools you want to attend. Furthermore, take a close look at the programs the schools are known for. This will  let you know about the strengths of the school.

For example, the University of Houston is known for having one of most competitive Entrepreneurship and Sales programs in the nation. This is a sign that their business program is competitive. A prospective student with a strong interest in business may take this information into consideration and decide to apply. If you are more interested in STEM then look for schools with larger STEM programs. The same things can be said about the Arts or any other discipline you are interested in.

Unless you are super sure about what you want, my best piece of advice is to look for school with a variety of programs so you have the flexibility to try new things.

I was fortunate enough to fall in love with Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston early in my academic career, but another reason I chose U of H was because of all the different programs and specialties it offered.

Diversity and Culture

Culture and fit are vital! Check out the diversity and size of the student population.

Fun fact: my graduating high school class was the largest graduating class in the nation. I knew long before I started applying to a college that I had to go to school with a large population in a relatively urban area or risk claustrophobia. On the other hand, you might feel more conformable at a small or medium size school.

Preferences like these matter.

They will affect your campus experience. You can find this type of information at collegeboard.org or the school’s website.

Diversity at the University of Houston
Diversity at the University of Houston | Source: Collegeboard

 

Diversity is also another factor that can add color (or not) to your academic experience. Going to a school that is inherently diverse makes going to class more engaging. You are more likely to be challenged and exposed to different values and life experiences.

Never underestimate the importance of culture. Keep in mind, this is where you will experience the most amount of growth for the next 4 years.

What I love about U of H is the hustle mentality of its students. U of H has a long working class history and it shows in the mentality and worth ethic of the students and staff.

Bonus Tip: Community Colleges are AWESOME!  

If you are on the fence about attending a college or university or need to take things a little slower then community colleges are an excellent option as well! Traditionally, community colleges operate at a slower pace and they give you more time to figure what direction you want to go in. Plus, they tend to be more affordable than traditional colleges and universities. (If a community college you want to attend costs more than a traditional college or university, then think twice before you enroll. In fact, I encourage you not to.)

Even if you are currently attending a traditional college or university, you can still attend a community college during the summer or winter session.

Personally, when I was home over the summer, I would go to Collin Community College to get some electives out of the way. If you struggle in an area and need extra help, then community colleges are a great way to gain extra skills and practice.

For example, if you know you have to take calculus 2 in the fall, but your pre-calculus is rusty, then sign up for pre-calculus and calculus at a community college over the summer. If you think you want to specialize in something related to biology, but you are not ready to commit then take a biology elective at a community college.

You get the idea.

Use community colleges as a resource to sharpen your skills and stay ahead of the game. Maybe after taking a biology elective over the summer, you discover that you like chemistry more and change the class you were going to take in the fall.

Community colleges are great because they give you the time you need to explore your interest.  Some people decide to get their associate’s, others choose only to take the pre-requisites necessary to transfer. Regardless, they are an excellent option for students who need help transitioning. My only cautionary warning is to check with your institution to see if those credits will transfer.

If you start with these factors in mind, it will make the process of finding the right college for you much smoother. If you need more help with this process, feel free to reach out me! Let me know how your search goes in the comments below!

Following your dreams does not have to make the most amount of sense right away

Wherever your dreams take you, the most important think to remember is the reason why you are passionate about it in the first place. The reason does not have to make sense to everyone, but it needs to make sense to you. It also has to be compelling enough to keep you going when following this dream becomes difficult.

Following your dreams does not have to make the most amount of sense right away….it should eventually, but not right away.

What do I mean by that exactly?

Well, don’t be too quick to throw away all you inhibitions. This is not a call to abandon your impulse control but rather to encourage you to take calculated risks and believe in your own ability to be successful. I will use my experience as the prime example.

I traveled to South Korea for 2 months in June 2017. This was not a random adventure. I have been studying Korean independently for about two and a half years. Going to South Korea was designed to be the capstone of my study of the language. I planned on going to South Korea for some time and have thought about it seriously for at least a year before I ever booked a ticket. This is the rational, calculated side of following through on your dreams that I encourage everyone to exercise.

What did not make the most amount of sense to most people (except me) was the decision to study Korean. I had no direct relationship with the Korean peninsula. I enjoyed Korean movies and music and the culture was fascinating, but not enough to decide to learn the language. (That’s kind of like learning Chinese because you like Chinese food. The reasoning is there but it does not make much sense.)

Without going into too much detail, I decided long before I started learning Korean that I would become a polyglot (a person who speaks many languages) so learning my third language was inevitable. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to befriend a Korean family about 5 years ago. The personal motivation and reason was there and it was enough to keep me going. Learning Korean became somewhat obsessive.

Wherever your dreams take you, the most important thing to remember is the reason why you are passionate about it in the first place. The reason does not have to make sense to everyone, but it needs to make sense to you. It also has to be compelling enough to keep you going when following this dream becomes difficult. In addition, it needs to be attractive enough to keep you coming back when you need to take a break or get sidetracked.

After spending about 2 months in South Korea and about two and a half years studying Korean my interest in the Korean language and culture has blossomed into a viable business opportunity and network in South Korea. My journey of learning the language and traveling to the peninsula has introduced me to people and resources that I would otherwise have never known. There are opportunities for me to flourish professionally and personally that simply did not exists when I first started learning Korean as a hobby. What started out as just another hobby has turned into so much more and the same thing can happen for you!

Following your dreams will lead you to your own journey. I know it can be discouraging or confusing when your interests seem to contradict everything else that is going on in your life. Sometimes you might hear people tell you to stay focused and forget about all these “distractions”. Oftentimes, these people mean well but they do not see or understand your priorities. What looks like a “distraction” to them may be something of high importance to you.

It may not make sense to them yet and that’s okay. It may not make complete sense to you either and that’s also okay. What matter is that you have a clear idea of what you are passionate about and why. What’s more important is that you take steps toward those goals and with time things will start coming together.

How to travel abroad as a woman

I understand how staying in a country for an extended amount of time when you don’t speak the language can be seen as a bold and audacious move…….but brave?

When I tell people that I travel on my own a common reaction I get is “Oh! How brave!”

Brave?

Really?

I understand how staying in a country for an extended amount of time when you don’t speak the language can seem like a bold and audacious move…….but brave?

The term ‘brave’ insinuates that traveling alone is inherently dangerous for women.

That’s not true.

Now I do acknowledge there are inherent dangers to traveling alone but those inherent dangers are applicable to everyone regardless of location. I do also acknowledge that women face inherent dangers being alone especially at night that traditionally men don’t worry about but (unfortunately) these dangers are universal. That means the women who live in the places you travel have to live with the same amount of risk and exposure you risk when you are home.

Think about it.

There are millions of women around the world who go about their lives every day without incident. They do it alone and they are fine. Seoul, South Korea is a foreign city and country for me but for millions of other women, it’s home. They walk the streets confidently and safely during the day and night.

If you are thinking about traveling abroad (which I strongly encourage you to do) but you are too afraid to make the leap here is some practical advice to help you bridge that gap.

Stop telling yourself it’s dangerous

Most likely the place you are going is not inherently dangerous. Would you purposefully put yourself in a foreign  country that is inherently dangerous?

No.

Of course not.

So stop telling yourself that traveling is dangerous! You can’t travel in peace when you are constantly telling yourself that you are in danger. That’s the equivalent of saying that women who call that place home are constantly in danger and that’s not rational. Use the same sense of self-preservation you have at home and you will be fine. Women’s intuition is a global phenomenon.

 

Choose a destination with excellent public transportation

Public transit is key to traveling independently and confidently. Choose a location that is known for its public transit then invest time in learning that system intimately. Using public transit can be a liberating experience especially when you start exploring. While I am in Seoul, I rarely ever know where I am going but I always know how to get back home. An excellent knowledge of public transit is key to your independence as a traveler.

Socialize!

Use apps like Facebook Events and MeetUp to meet new locals and foreigners. Whatever city you happen to land in, the point of traveling is getting outside of your comfort zone so make a conscious effort to do that every day. Personally I use MeetUp find to language exchange cafes to practice my Korean. These apps are a great tool you can use to get out there!

Create an itinerary….. but do not treat it like the Bible

The nice thing about an itinerary is that it gives you direction and a sense of purpose for the day. It’s a great way to get the day started. With that being said it’s okay to deviate. In fact, invite it! Take a detour! It a part of the experience. It’s okay to miss that museum tour because you ended up talking to someone you met at a cafe. Enjoy your travels with all its twists and curves.

There are some obvious aspect of traveling that I purposeful left out. For example, you know to keep your passport safe and to notify the bank about your time abroad. I trust you to take care of yourself while you are abroad; now trust yourself and start your next adventure.

Forcibly silenced

I forgot how intimidating it can be to be expected to engage in a language that you cannot speak and barely understand. It is frightening. There is a pressure to perform at a level that is just no accessible to me right now.

I feel forcibly silenced in South Korea; both literally and figuratively. Literally because I cannot speak Korean. The words run into one another when I am listening. Figuratively, because it is much harder to make relationships. I want to reach out and make connections, but it is nearly impossible to do so if you cannot speak to them. For the first time in a very long time, I feel mute.

I know that only about 10% of communication is verbal, but I did not realize how important that 10% was until now. Another thing I did not realize until this experience is that our verbal communication and cultural context informs our non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication varies between cultures. It can be challenging to decipher the non-verbal if you are not familiar with the language or the culture that creates that context.

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On the steps of Memorial Hall building at Korea University!

Even though I am living in the city, go out of my way to explore on my own and attend classes at Korea University, I know that without knowing Korean, I will only scratch the surface of what this country has to offer.

During my time here, I have been reflecting on the experiences of my parents and other immigrants who had to learn English. I am well aware that English is not easy to learn, but even beside the language component- there is so much lost in translation. There is robust vigor of a person’s personality that can be hard to translate. I feel robotic in a sense because I can only express myself in very simple, mechanical phrases. There is so much depth missing. I have a renewed appreciation and respect for people who are able to make the transition because it is not easy.

I am also working on overcoming this element of vulnerability. My Korean class is bringing back suppressed memories of my early Spanish classes. Normally my memories of learning Spanish are positive but I forgot- until recently- how vulnerable I felt in those early days. I forgot how intimidating it is to be expected to engage in a language that you cannot speak and barely understand. It is frightening. There is a pressure to perform at a level that is just not accessible to me right now.

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My teacher is so nice, but I still feel so vulnerable in her class!

I realize – in a unique way- that I truly know nothing or at most very little. It is difficult to put this feeling in words because I have never felt like I knew everything- in any language. The expectation to know everything is unrealistic, but it is still humbling to realize that a toddler understands their surroundings more than I do at this point. This level of vulnerability is both familiar and foreign. Familiar because I felt it once before. Foreign because I hate it. That’s probably why I blocked it out. I have no idea how to resolve this other than learning the language. I’m sure, like before, as my fluency increases this feeling of vulnerability will evaporate but until then I have to come to terms with this oddly sickening feeling until it doesn’t make me sick anymore.

Nnenna Umelloh

Redefining access to higher education and professional achievement

Achievement Consultant

 

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Nothing particularly scandalous happened! I thought a picture like this would add dramatic effect!

Fake smiles and missed opportunities

The difference between living and being alive is the difference between being the driver or a passenger. Those who are living are empowered to make certain demands from their life like authenticity, joy and progress. Contrarily, those who are simply alive become the accumulation of other people’s choices instead of their own.

You probably know at least one person like this. They went to school because everyone told them it was a good idea. They ended in their current job by apparent coincidence rather than any personal interest.

Drivers are the people who are bold enough to make decisions based on personal interests. They are the ones who seek reward and fulfillment by being true to themselves.

Taking the backseat is depressing and unnecessary. I know this because normally I am the driver but on the second day of being in South Korea I became a passenger. Surprisingly so, the transition from driver to passenger is a slow and subtle process.

I attended an all-day orientation on my second day in Seoul. At first, I thought I was having fun and enjoying myself, but as the orientation continued I became bored. Before I knew it, I became a puppet going through the motions.

By the time I realized all I wanted to do was go to bed, I was miles from home, my feet were swollen, and my spirit was dismayed. I was going through the motions because that is what was expected from me. What I wanted from myself was nonexistent.  I put my own well-being aside to try to fit the expectations of others.

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Don’t be fooled! This smile was forced! On the inside, I was beyond exhausted!
I did not take an 11-hr flight to South Korea to become a passenger in my own car. If I was being true to myself, I would have realized that I was dead tired and needed to rest. I would have put myself first and turned in early. Instead I became preoccupied with following a schedule other people set for me.

That day was filled with fake smiles and missed opportunities…..missed opportunities to be true to myself.

Do you feel like you are a back seat driver and need help taking the reins? I promise you making the transition to the front seat is a worthwhile endeavor and I can help you do it! Please reach out.

 

Here lies the unsolicited advice from a woman trapped in Vancouver, Canada

Things did not work out exactly as I planned and there was some inconveniences involved, but on the other hand I had a chance to explore a city I probably would have never visited otherwise on someone else’s dime. I also made friendships that would not have existed without this inconvenience. I’m not saying it’s easy shifting perspective and finding or flat out making opportunities for yourself but it is definitely worth it.

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Flight path to Vancouver, Canada for the layover
I was supposed to have a two hour layover in Vancouver, Canada from Dallas before starting an 11-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea. Instead, my flight out of Dallas was delayed by at least two hours before we were able to fly out. By the time we got out of Dallas, I missed the  connecting flight to Seoul. Everyone who missed their flight had to spend the night in Vancouver and leave the next morning.

I know this sounds like a huge hassle but the experience was amazing.

Air Canada paid for me to stay in a nice hotel near the airport and provided a meal voucher as well. What was originally supposed to be a two hour layover in Vancouver turned into a free vacation.

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Air Canada employees waiting for us at the airport to help us get to the hotel
Making the most of opportunities and hardships has a lot to do with attitude and perspective. There were many passengers who were understandably upset that their plans were interrupted. At the same time, when ample resources are provided to make your stay pleasant, then staying in a bad mood is a choice. The airline went out of its way to print new boarding passes for all the passengers who missed their flight. A free room was provided in a 4-star hotel with food included.  There was also a complimentary shuttle service to commute from the airport to the hotel. Furthermore, public transportation in Vancouver is self-explanatory. There are more than enough resources to make the most of the situation. Fortunately, the same mentality can be applied in an academic or professional setting.

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Air Canada hooked me up with a really nice room!
By no means do I mean to dismiss or belittle the challenges that people face. Those challenges are real. I am simply suggesting that they are not insurmountable. A part of overcoming those challenges include shifting perspectives and changing attitudes. However, it goes beyond just having a good attitude. You have to look, actively look, for a reason to be happy despite the situation. That means looking for opportunities that can serve you.

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I made a friend during the layover! We were did an escape room together! It was fun!
For example, there are many international students at the University of Houston who are ineligible to work legally in the United States. This can make finding an internship very difficult. Most students, for good reason, are discouraged. What is important to remember in this situation is why you want that internship or job opportunity. It goes further than just getting a paycheck (even though paychecks are important).  An internship is about acquiring relevant experience in the field  or desired industry to jump start your career. A traditional internship with an oil and gas company, one of the big 4 accounting firms, or a tech company may not be feasible or realistic so it is important to broaden your horizons.

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We learned that we are not that good at puzzles but we had fun!
Ask yourself, what can I do to  develop myself as a professional? There are many opportunities to do just that on college campuses. For instance, taking a leadership position in student government or taking an unpaid or stipend-based internship with a nonprofit can give you valuable work experience and build your network.

If you need to supplement your income, look into campus jobs or freelance work for special skills on sites like Fiverr. If all else fails, take the initiative to create work for yourself. Show tenacity by creating your own programming language, or building a game or becoming a certified translator or any other activity that shows your skills and talents. The point is to find ways to develop yourself and gain relevant work experience  to show potential recruiters that you are adaptable, creative and persistent.

Things did not work out exactly as I planned and there was some inconveniences involved, but on the other hand I had a chance to explore a city I probably would have never visited otherwise on someone else’s dime. I also made friendships that would not have existed without this inconvenience. I’m not saying it’s easy shifting perspective and finding or flat out making opportunities for yourself but it is definitely worth it.

I will admit that changing perspectives and finding new opportunities in unexpected places is not always intuitive. Luckily for you, I have a knack for that type of work. If you need help finding those type of opportunities, do not hesitate to reach out!

 

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We never would have met if we did not get laid over in Vancouver, Canada!