Things That Matter

College Is An Incredible Experience If You Do It Right. Here Are 21 Tips To Make The Most Of It

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Congrats! You made it to your freshman year of college. Now what? You may be away from home for the first time, free from your mama’s watchful eyes. Some students spend their college years locked away in the library or the door room, barely emerging for meals. Maybe you feel the pressure of being the first person in your family to go to college. Other students spend the entire time on the spectrum of slightly hungover to wasted. Neither one of those is going to be good for you, so here are a few tips to get you on the right path to an enjoyable and productive college career.

1. Go To Class

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Going to class is the number one thing you can do to make sure you pass your classes. This is what you’re paying for, so don’t skip. If you are in class religiously, you’ll get material that is not in the reading and your professors will get to know you better. Both can help if you run into trouble later in the semester.

2. Don’t Overschedule

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Create your first years’ schedule thoughtfully. It may seem like a good idea before you get to college to schedule morning classes. Don’t blame us if you end up regretting it. Especially for your first semester, don’t overload your schedule and think about whether you are really going to want to show up to that 7:30 a.m. advanced chemistry lab.

3. Attend An Activities Fair

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It can be tempting to hide in your room when you first arrive at school, but many colleges have an activity fair that allows campus groups to show you why they’re the greatest. Don’t skip out on these activities. They can help you find your niche, whether you’re into student government, a gamer girl, or want to try out some intramural sports.

4. Find Your Study Spot

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You have to find a spot where you don’t cringe every time it’s time to crack the books. While you can study in your dorm room, be sure to check out other spots like the library, quiet corners of the student union. If you’re like Rory Gilmore you might find a favorite tree outside. Find a spot that is comfortable and where you can concentrate.

5. Have Fun, But Don’t Document Everything

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If you have ever wanted to dye your hair purple and pierce your nose, now is the time to give it a try. Just keep in mind, that if you are going into an uber-professional field like law or medicine, you want to be careful about making changes to your appearance that can’t be covered up. It may suck, but there are still standards of professionalism to be followed, so maybe hold off on face tattoos until you make a solid career path decision. Also, have fun, but don’t do anything illegal that will end up on your permanent record (because that’s a real thing now). Be careful what you put on social media sites. Future employers may be watching.

6. Join An Intramural Sport Or Activity

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Even if sports makes you wince, there are tons of intramural activities you can try. Not into volleyball? There are intramural chess teams at some schools where the only muscle you exercise is your brain. Try to find something that works for you.

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Getting Tutoring

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Many colleges offer free tutoring, and this is not something you should be afraid to take advantage of. Don’t struggle in a class when you have resources available to help you. Don’t wait until the last week before finals either. If you feel yourself falling behind, check out tutoring programs or talk to your professors for help.

8. Talk To Your Professors

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Get to know your professors, both in and out of class. Ask questions that are deeper than “Will that be on the exam?” Your professors can be some of your biggest advocates, and you want to stand out. Most professors are willing to go the extra mile to help students who show just a little bit of interest. Besides, when else are you going to be surrounded by such academic rockstars?

9. Keep The Papers You Write

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While it may be tempting to have a giant bonfire at the end of the semester and burn it all, hang on to those papers you worked so hard for. Some job applications may require a writing sample, and they can be a great reference for later classes if they are in your major.

10. Make A Plan To Get Your Credits 

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For someone who loves learning, browsing through available classes can make you feel like a kid in a candy store. However, it’s important to have a plan to make sure that you get all your credits so you can graduate on time. Make sure to use your adviser as a resource.

11. Fight Your Introvert Ways

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If you are an introvert, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all extroverts in class and in college life in general. Make a point to raise your hand and speak out. Talk to people at the gym and in the dining hall. You never know where your next new friend will come from.

12. Ditch The Freshman 15

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Chances are, you have access to the best gym and more free time than you ever will again in your life. Use this as an opportunity to make and reach your fitness goals.

13. Intern Aggressively

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Use your contacts on campus to help you score an internship (aren’t you glad you made friends with your professors?). This is the time to be aggressively pursuing relevant work experience in your chosen field. It’s better to have unpaid internships now than when you graduate and have to begin repaying student loans. Apply, apply, apply.

14. Keep Your Door Open

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When you are home in the dorms, keep your door open. You’ll be more likely to snag an invite or get drawn into some dorm room fun.

15. Take A Weird Class

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Use your elective credits to take a class that is totally different from your major or what you think you want to do. This will broaden your horizon, and you never know – you might find your passion where you least expect it.

16. Get Your Money’s Worth

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Make sure to explore what your campus has to offer you. Does your medical center offer free visits? Does the gym have free fitness classes? Are there mental health resources on campus? Take advantage of all the things those student activity fees paid for.

17. Consider Studying Abroad

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Explore study abroad programs. Even if you can’t afford to travel, there are many programs with scholarships and subsidies available.

18. Become Friends With The University Events Calendar

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College campuses always have something going on, whether it be performances, art exhibits, special speakers, or sporting events. Generally, these are free or greatly reduced for students. Pack in as many activities as you can to expand your horizons. There should never be an excuse to be bored.

19. Cheer On Your Team

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There is just something so electric about dressing up in your university colors and cheering your team to victory. The games usually lead to fun times with every united for one cause. You might even make a new friend or two.

20. Don’t Forget To Call Your Family

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They probably helped get you here. Make sure to call your family at least once a week. Trust us – they miss you and are worrying.

21.  Enjoy the Moment

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These are probably some of the best years of your life.  Explore, learn, and have fun!  Four years will go by really fast – make the most out of it!


READ: From Diapers To Dorms, I Worked Hard To Make Sure My Baby Sister Could Go To College

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Here’s How You Can Support Your Incarcerated Family Members If You Don’t Know How

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Here’s How You Can Support Your Incarcerated Family Members If You Don’t Know How

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Talking about our primos in prison is taboo. If you ever had a family member in prison, you may avoid talking about it outside your family circle. The incarcerated family member then becomes a ghost, a cautionary tale, or a source of shame. We forget how they arrived in this situation and hesitate to offer support. Looking closely at issues that contribute to mass incarceration in this country can offer insights into the matter. It’s time we take a new approach to incarcerated family, and offer help in ways the correctional system refuses. It’s time to humanize our imprisoned primos and primas, showing love and empathy that we would want to see if we were behind bars.

Considering the U.S. census shows Hispanics make up 18.3 percent of the population, it is bewildering how they come to make up 32 percent of the Federal inmate population.

However, looking at social issues that plague the Latinx community, it is no surprise that low levels of education, poverty, and structural discrimination lead to incarceration. With the latest instances of aggression toward the Latinx community at the presidential level, it will be no surprise if acts of discrimination and targeting of Latinos continues to rise.

What other factors contribute to the incarceration of Latinos?

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The Pew Research Center reports that in 1991, 60 percent of Latinos were sentenced in federal court for drug-related offenses, and 20 percent for immigration crimes. Yet, these figures changed dramatically, with 48 percent of sentences for immigration crimes, and 37 percent of sentences for drug-related crimes in 2007.

The incarceration of Latinos is feeding into the conversation around the school to prison pipeline.

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What is the prison experience really like? Netflix series like Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” and “Orange is the New Black” help pull back the curtain on the harsh realities of prison life. More than just TV shows, these depictions exposed micro and macro ways the U.S., home to the largest prison population in the world, focuses not on prisoner rehabilitation, but recidivism instead.

When we think about our family members in prison, we need to remember that they could be facing sexual violence, lack of access to mental health services, solitary confinement, and denial of their reproductive rights.

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It may be the case that an incarcerated family member’s situation is shrouded in mystery and whispers, but this need not be the case. It is not only time to confront these matters at the family level, but to address them at the social level as well. The first step may begin with actually accepting that inmate call. Ask what your family member is going through and share that with the family if he or she permits. You may feel a sense of hopelessness, but there is so much you can do to help not only your own family members but the greater incarcerated Latino community too.

Moving beyond thoughts and prayers—although they’re good too—here are substantive ways you can help incarcerated family members.

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  • Visit if you can. Even if it is only a few times a year, the impact of human contact cannot be overstated. Ensure you are on the approved visitor’s list before you go. Bring identification and arrive early. Be a good listener and most importantly, show that family love.
  • The experience of visiting prison can be inconvenient or even traumatic, so if you feel you cannot commit this fully then try a virtual visit. Apps like JPay offer inmate services like email, video visitation, and secure payment transfers. Send pictures of the family or a video of a holiday gathering.
  • If apps prove to be intimidating, try sending a letter. Have picture printed out—old school style—and include them in your letters. Families are full of births, marriages, and so many other beautiful life events. Share them with your primos and primas who can’t be there with you. If you feel like you simply don’t want to communicate with your incarcerated family member, but you still want to contribute to the cause in some way, join a prison pen pal organization and bring a sense of human connection to others.
  • Another way to help the family behind bars is to send books. The organization, NYC books through bars, understands how much books can help with the rehabilitation and the education process in prison.
  • With vulnerable peoples such as the trans community,  women in prison, those with mental health needs, simply raising awareness on their behalf can be a radical act of kindness.
  • Another act of solidarity with your incarcerated family member is to donate to the ACLU Prisons Project. “Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, we work to ensure that conditions of confinement are consistent with health, safety, and human dignity and that prisoners retain all rights of free persons that are not inconsistent with incarceration.”

If you have a family member in prison, it is important to their own recovery and reformation to know they have people who love and support them.

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With an array of opportunities to help our family members in prison, it is important to note that reintroduction to society can pose a major challenge for former inmates. These are areas where you can help too. Our imprisoned family members may have been victims of the system, they may have survived the only way they know how, or maybe they just made a mistake. Whatever the circumstance, the key is to remember they are human, and most importantly, they are familia. So ask yourself, for their sake and the sake of our community, what can you do to help?

READ: Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years– This Is What Resistance Looks Like

This Week’s Google Doodle Is About One Teen’s Appreciation For Her Colombian Mother’s Sacrifices And I’m Sobbing

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This Week’s Google Doodle Is About One Teen’s Appreciation For Her Colombian Mother’s Sacrifices And I’m Sobbing

Even since 2008, search engine Google has dedicated a contest to aspiring young artists around the world. With a yearly theme, the company challenges these young people with the task of creating a specialized Google Doodle. This year’s theme was announced to be “When I grow up, I hope… ;” a hopeful look at the future of our society. Each year, thousands of entries are submitted and one is selected as a winner for each age group. Of those winners, only one is declared the overall winner of the Doodle for Google contest. 

This year’s winner is Georgia teen, Arantza Peña Popo.

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Entitled “Once you get it, give it back,” the doodle depicts a representation of a real picture of Peña Popo and her mother when the artist was a baby. In front of this display is the artist and her mother imagined in the future when Peña Popo will repay her mother’s devotion and care for her in her old age. 

According to a press release from Google, Peña Popo describes her mother, who is from Colombia, as a person who lights up any room she’s in. Also, the teen hopes to one day be able to help her mother to travel around the world and do all the other things in life that she hopes to do.

Peña Popo’s win was announced Monday night by Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” where she appeared as a guest. Her doodle was picked as the winner out of over 200,000 entries.
“I wanted to make it more personal to me,” the teen artist said in her interview with Fallon. “So, I decided to make it about my mother. You know, she’s made so many sacrifices for me so I kind of wanted to show me paying it back in the future”

According to Peña Popo, she has been interested in art since she was three but was suffering from a major artist block while working on this piece. 

Twitter / @GoogleDoodle

“I came up with the idea at the last minute, actually the day of the deadline,” she shared. “I looked at the photograph of my mother [the real version that inspired the drawing] and thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I reverse it?’ I wanted to focus more on a message of helping out my awesome mother more than anything else.” 

This is just the start of Peña Popo’s promising art career. Last Spring, the Colombiana graduated valedictorian of Arabia Mountain High School. In the Fall, she plans to attend the University of Southern California and wants to publish alternative graphic novels and comics in the future.  

The win also comes with some amazing perks for the artistic teen. 

Twitter/ @FallonTonight

As an aspiring artist, Peña Popo will get some of the best exposure in the world. Google.com will display her winning doodle for the entire day and it will appear whenever the search engine is used. The teen artist will also receive a $30,000 college scholarship to help with her as she attends the University of Southern California. Finally, Peña Popo will go on a trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Reactions to Peña Popo’s beautiful illustration and the story behind it have been incredibly supportive.

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Most people can relate to the story of sacrifice and love told by Peña Popo’s Google Doodle. Basically, it makes us all think about our own mothers. No wonder her entry won; it tugs at all of our heartstrings. We can’t help but want to support this young artist. 

This tweet credits Peña Popo’s win to #BlackGirlMagic and we have to agree with this based on her undeniable excellence.

 Twitter /@destinyiyabo

We always love to see a woman of color succeed but we are especially proud of this Afro-Latina and her accomplishments. It just goes to show that brilliance and talent can’t be contained by bigotry, bias or colorism. We have to label this win with #AfroLatinaExcellence.

While Peña Popo was both the winner in her age group and the national champion of this year’s Doodle for Google, she wasn’t the only one to win

Google / Amadys López Velásquez

Natalia Pepe of Connecticut won the K-3 grade group with a doodle that honors the farmers of America. Amadys López Velásquez of Puerto Rico won the 4-5 grade group with a doodle that celebrates the power of imagination. Texas student Christelle Matildo won first place in the 6-7 grade group with an entry that hopes for a better tomorrow. New Jersey native Jeremy Henskens won the 8-9 grade group with a comic book-inspired doodle. 

Congrats to Peño Popo and all the other winners. We hope the real future is half as beautiful as the one they’ve doodled

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