Giving Back: Volunteering In College

Maybe in high school you were required to do a certain number of community service hours in order to get your degree, or a club or organization required volunteering in order to be a member in good standing. But many students, after they’ve gotten their diploma and moved on to college, tend to forget about all that community service they did in high school. In the midst of challenging classes and new and exciting extracurricular activities, it can feel like you don’t have a lot of time for volunteering.


But spending some of your time giving back to your community has a lot of benefits, both for those you’re serving and for you. Below are just a few of the reasons you should consider volunteering in your community, even if it isn’t required by your school or by a club or organization:


  1. A sense of accomplishment. This is probably the benefit you’ve heard about most often, that good feeling you get from helping others. One of the biggest rewards of serving your community is the knowledge that you’ve done something good, whatever your service was.
  2. Boost your resume. This is something that almost all college students are concerned about, and for good reason. Volunteering is a great addition to any resume – it shows commitment, time-management skills, and a dedication to your community, all of which reflect positively on you as a potential employee!
  3. Learn new skills. Depending on what kind of volunteering you’re doing, you may be building skills that can help you in other areas of your life, or even in your career. If you know another language, working with immigrants or refugees in your community is a great way to practice your skills while serving others. Other types of service may help you build computer or interpersonal skills that you can use in the future.
  4. Explore new interests. Again, this depends on the type of service you’re doing, but volunteering can be a great way to explore new career fields or interests that you may have. In addition to the skills you’re building, you’ll also have a be able to visualize yourself in a particular field before you ever get a job!
  5. Network, network, network. You hear it over and over again from your parents, your professors, and the career center. And volunteering is a great way to do it! Not only do you get to know your fellow volunteers, but you also can connect with professionals in the field in which you’re doing your community service. This is especially important if you’re interested in entering the field after college!
  6. Helping others. This is by far the most important reason to volunteer – giving back to your community. Any service is good service in some way, but community service that comes from a genuine desire to help others and to improve your community will have the most benefits for both you and those you’re serving.


It can be hard to carve out time from a busy schedule to find an hour or two a week to volunteer, but it’s definitely worth it!

Life is full of heartaches and heartbreaks, and not just the relationship kind either. The “I just failed my chemistry test”, “I can’t pay my bills this month”, or “I can’t be pregnant right now” kind also really hurt. We’ve all been there at one time or another, facing some really tough situations. Whether it’s due to your own mistakes that caused the pain or pain inflicted by someone else, pain is pain. We all need a little inspiration to keep pushing through when life as we know it at the moment just plain hurts.

I’ve learned that when everything around me seems to be crumbling, it’s crucial to have positive and encouraging influences in my life. Sometimes that can be accomplished through friends and family, but they can’t be there when I’m alone with my thoughts. Because of that I’ve learned to change my thoughts.

Of course that’s easier said than done. It begins with little changes. Writing encouraging phrases on Post-It Notes and putting them where I’ll see them throughout the day has worked for me. I’ve also used dry erase markers on my bathroom mirror to jot down some empowering messages for me to see when I start my day.

Technology has made it possible to easily find material for inspirational messages that speak straight to you and your situation with a quick search on google images or Pinterest. Don’t overlook the opportunity to also save images as your wallpaper or lock-screen background! I’ve included a few that have worked for me. Blessings to you on your journey to better thinking!






It’s interesting how easy it is to forget what holidays are all about. Christmas is meant to be about giving but too often we focus on “what can I get out of it?” We prepare our wish lists before Thanksgiving even arrives, before we have decided what we should give to our family members. And Thanksgiving itself is meant to be about counting our blessings, and yet we often focus too much on the food we will eat, and the football game we will watch. Or maybe we get excited to see the people we will be spending it with and the things we will do to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong, those are important parts of the holidays. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be a very special time if it wasn’t commemorated by family get togethers and festive traditions. However, each holiday has a theme which is worth pausing to think about, a lesson which is worth trying to learn in a new way each time the special day comes around.


Giving thanks is a beautiful theme. Gratitude makes each good thing more meaningful. Without gratitude, without pausing to appreciate all the beautiful things in our lives, they can too easily slip right by us unnoticed. If we don’t stop and notice the beauty, we might get too busy, too pre-occupied to see it. On the other hand, if we foster an attitude of gratitude, if we make time to give thanks, we will see more goodness and beauty all around us, and we will also appreciate it more than we did before. It’s the difference between being handed a sandwich and chowing down immediately, and looking in the eye of the person who handed you the sandwich and saying “thank you” and thinking to yourself, “I’m really lucky to be able to eat this. Some people have nothing to eat right now.” When we practice an attitude of gratitude, each tiny part of our daily lives becomes something to celebrate, something to rejoice in. This Christmas, we all have good and bad things happening in our lives. Some hard parts, some parts that are going well. But let’s really make an effort to give thanks, both in words and silently in our hearts.


By Colleen McCrum

Active listening is a skill that many people could use a little help with. It’s easy to talk to people without giving them our full attention. Practicing active listening skills can be just the thing to increase successful communication in your relationships.


Here are some ways to practice your active listening skills:

  • Stop what you’re doing. You cannot actively listen if there are other distractions stealing your attention. Give the person in your conversation 100% of your attention. It also communicates respect to the person you’re talking with.
  • Make eye contact. It shows the other person that you’re interested AND paying attention to what they’re saying. It also shows compassion to the person you’re talking with by sharing their gaze.
  • Just listen. This can truly be the hardest of all. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to fix their problems. Don’t share your opinions. Simply listen and Hang. On. To. Their. Every. Word.
  • Wait for a natural pause to ask the right questions. The right questions are clarifying questions. This is the perfect time to ask questions to make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
  • Show empathy when necessary. When you’ve done all of the above, you should have a pretty good idea what emotion they’re feeling. For example: If your friend is feeling down and just needs a shoulder to cry on, now’s not the time to throw a pep rally of a celebration for your friend. Just be in the moment with them. (Tip: This is especially true for people who have just received difficult health news about themselves or loved ones.)

To all our college students out there; we’ve been there. It can be super hard to stay focused and motivated with Thanksgiving Break arriving and leaving your life so quickly and finals week on the horizon, but YOU CAN DO IT! We’ve got some tips to help you stay encouraged and carry you through!

  1. Start your morning with positivity.

Google encouraging quotes, grab some dry erase markers and let your creativity shine all over that bathroom mirror! Every morning you’re bound to see it, and hopefully it will make you smile. Ask your roommate to take turns with you and be surprised half of the mornings about what encouraging message you’ll find!

  1. Don’t procrastinate.

Why wait to start studying for finals? Get a jumpstart! Set aside time each day for creating a study plan to brush up on your current subjects. Now is also the time to get caught up on any reading you’ve just been skimming to get by during the semester. [Yeah, I’ve lived your life.]

  1. Take care of your health.

You need to be in tip-top shape both mentally and physically to perform your absolute best on any test. Finals are no exception. Even though TV shows and movies through the years have normalized the picture of studying for finals as if you’re supposed to be without sleep for days, living on pizza rolls and stressed to the max is obviously not the best-case scenario. Eat right and sleep tight now, while you start your studying plan and continue that routine up until the big tests.

Don’t forget that you’ve already made it this far, and you’ll continue to do great things! I’d tell you “good luck,” but if you follow this advice, we don’t think you’ll need it! <3

Y’all it’s so easy to do. You see something that you just KNOW your friend or family member will LOVE for a Christmas present, and you hand over the cash or the credit card to purchase your new-found treasure. Then—Oh wait! You see another something that you just KNOW your friend or family member will LOVE for a Christmas present… and before you know it you’re on the other side of the Holidays and Just. Plain. Flat. Broke.  

You’re left feeling upset that you’ve allowed yourself to get to this place once again because, trust me, as you get older life doesn’t get any easier to get through the holiday gift giving season without a plan. If your future self wrote a letter to you, it would probably look something like this: 

“Dear [Your Name Here],  

Please, for the love, write out a budget for this holiday season. Be realistic about it. Besides gifts, think about the travel to [our holiday destinations] to visit [our favorite or… maybe least favorite people. Your secret is safe with me!]. Don’t forget to take into consideration all of those extra lattes we enjoy while out shopping! (P.S. Did you know we’re probably spending more on our coffee each year than our retirement? Yikes!)  

Watch out for the retail tricks! There’s a reason why the US is expected to spend over 183 billion U.S. dollars for advertising in 2017, which includes market research to explore the psychology behind consumer decisions. Loyalty cards, store credit cards, decoy pricing, etc. are all ways that stores win in the end. If they didn’t profit from these practices, do you think they’d really keep doing them? Taking advantage of sales is a great way to shop if the purchases fit the requirements of our budget. Do not fall for the retailer mind games that convince you to buy a new tablet because you’ll get 72 rubber chickens for free! 

Gift cards can make great gifts, but beware! Hope I got your attention with that statement, but it’s probably not what you’re thinking. When purchasing a gift card at a store or on a website, 72% do some shopping for themselves. Remember, you’re not shopping for us when you’re picking up that gift card for [the name of that person who we know is impossible to buy for].  

Don’t forget that in order to properly execute a budget, tracking our spending is key. A budget is just numbers on a page unless you go back and account for how we spent the money on our budget items. There’s a sense of awareness and self-accountability when you complete the FULL process of budgeting. 

Finally, please know that no one in our circle wants us to go into depression debt on January 2nd, after all of the parties are over and the tree is down. If you have to cut back on gift giving in comparison to previous years, you’ll know as soon as you write out your budget, so be sure to do that early. That way you can talk with friends and family ahead of time to explain your new vision for avoiding overspending during the holidays.  


[Your name + some wisdom and sanity] 


P.S. You’re welcome, my friend. Also, can you please tell our friends the the future says that man bun is a bad idea? 

As cold weather quickly approaches, it is time to start thinking about ways to stay warm this winter.  These might seem like no-brainers, but they are important to keep in mind while scrambling to find the right winter outfit, but also not freeze in the cold.  Be sure that you wear the following items to ensure you’re warm for the next couple months:

  1. Layers are key. Wearing many thin layers will actually keep you warmer than wearing few thick layers.
  2. Double up on the socks if you are going to be outside. It is perfectly acceptable to wear more than one pair of socks in order to keep your feet warm in the winter.
  3. Wear boots. (Fur-lined boots will actually help keep your feet the warmest.)  But really, any type of boot will keep your feet/legs warmer than regular shoes in the winter months.
  4. Wear a stocking cap/ear warmers. Heat easily escapes from your head.  By keeping your ears covered, you will be sure that your body’s heat is retained and not escaping.
  5. Wear gloves. Dry hands from the winter air is the worst.  Be sure to wear gloves and constantly moisturize your hands.
  6. Enjoy the scarf life. Scarves are a woman’s best friend in the winter months.  No one wants a cold chest.  Stock up on scarves and wear them all of the time.  Scarves are like blankets around your neck, they always ensure that you’re warm.

Stay warm this winter!  <3

Positivity plays a huge role in your life.  Being positive has great benefits for everyone!  Even though sometimes things get difficult, and taking the negative route seems easier, it is best to always steer towards keeping positive vibes.  Here’s why:

  1. You will feel better! When I feel negative about things, I feel like there is a constant “cloud” hanging over my head.  That feeling really stinks.  I have found that turning my spirits around and trying to be positive about things has always felt better for me.
  2. You’ll be happier! If you are always negative and worrying about every single thing that made you upset, you will be miserable!  Focusing on negativity, who upset you, who you are mad at, who said something mean, etc… that is mentally exhausting and boy oh boy is that a gloomy life to live!
  3. You’ll be more motivated! Negativity does not motivate.  If you are gloomy, and the people around you are gloomy, there is a 99% chance that you won’t have positive vibes to boost your motivation.  And come on, who doesn’t love a motivated person?  Trust me… bosses like motivated people, and so do teachers!
  4. It truly does take more effort to be negative. Remember the whole “who upset you, who are you mad at, who said something mean” convo?  Goodness… that takes A LOT of effort to remember and worry about.  So, just don’t.  Ignore negativity around you and save the headache.

Positive people make happy people… and more people will want to be around you if you are shining with positivity!  <3

Procrastination is an art for some people, but the truth is it can be a very bad habit to slip into, causing stress for yourself and others around you. Let’s chat about ways to end procrastination habits in your life today – NOT tomorrow.


Deadlines are a good thing.

When thinking about goals you want to reach, give yourself a deadline for completion. Without a timeline, you could go on forever without actually making progress.

Eat that elephant.

Remember the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Try breaking up your larger goals into smaller more manageable tasks. That’s the best way to build momentum quickly!

Reward yourself.

Set up a reward system to congratulate yourself on your progress. Whether a fun activity with friends, or a treat for yourself, make it something that acknowledges your progress and effort.

Surround yourself with accountability.

Recruit friends to help you stick to your goals. Arrange a time to check-in regularly and talk through ways in which they can help. Help them understand what kind of encouragement you need when the going gets tough. (Do you need to be reminded how far you’ve come or do you need someone to give you some straight talk?)

Sometimes it’s okay to be impulsive.

If you suddenly have the urge to get moving on that project, Act. On. It. Don’t think about it so long that the feeling passes.

Picture the future you want.

Imagine the emotions you will feel.  Visualize yourself in a favorite place celebrating what you’ve accomplished. Imagine those who love you most celebrating your success.

Forgive yourself.

You’re bound to have a setback or two, but that doesn’t define you. Get back on that horse and work harder to keep chipping away at achieving your dreams today!

In this fast-faced, always changing, revolving world… it is easy to get caught up in life and all of the things that are constantly happening around us.  In the midst of all the craziness, it is important to keep a positive attitude and reduce stress in your life.  Living a stress-free life has many great benefits to your health.  Here are some tips to help you stress less:

  • Accept the things that you cannot control, and don’t dwell on them. There are a lot of things that occur every day in our lives.  Most of which, we cannot control.  When things like this happen, instead of getting bent out of shape and stressing out… try to stay calm.  If you can’t control it, make sure you don’t let it control you.
  • Relax when possible! With the revolving world we described earlier, it is hard to take time out for yourself and breathe.  However, it is important to do it!  So, whether that means partaking in yoga, exercise classes, or reading a good book… make sure you take time for yourself.
  • Eat healthy. We talk about the benefits that eating healthy has on your overall health, but did you know that it also reduced stress?  It does.  So the next time you are debating on McDonald’s or a healthy homecooked meal… choose the latter option.

Stress is a major factor in a lot of our lives.  There isn’t a great way to completely remove stress from our lives, but it’s absolutely achievable to reduce the amount of stress we carry.