• Community college students: Tips on deciding where to transfer

    by Albert Hernandez

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    Congratulations! You got accepted to transfer to some of your favorite schools. Your hard work and dedication in high school and community college has separated you from all the other applicants and now all these remarkable universities want to welcome you into their campuses. However, now you face a new issue: how are you supposed to know where to go? You can’t attend two schools in different corners of the country, so you must choose between them. Before we dig in into this topic, let me give some quick advice: Do not select your school only for its name. Now that we are clear in what not to do, here are some elements that might help you make an informed decision. 

    Money

    Cost of education has skyrocketed during the last decades drowning many graduates into student loans for years. If you are eligible for financial aid, make sure to take a deep look into your financial package. Analyze how much money each school is offering you in grants, loans, and work study in order to compare them to their cost of attendance. Remember that if you are planning on leaving your current town, you will need to account not only for tuition and fees, but also for food, housing, and transportation. When you are doing this analysis, do not assume that your in-state school is your best option because it seems cheaper. For many of my friends and I, out-of-state institutions offered us a remarkably better package of grants than what our in-state school did.

    Weather

    Let’s say that you are fortunate enough that your family can afford any institution you want to transfer to or more than one school is offering you a full ride. If you are in this selective group, you might want to consider weather as part of your decision. Let’s say that you are from a northern state and you are considering moving to South Florida. Are you sure you want to live your next couple of years in a never-ending summer? Or what if it is the other way around? If you are originally from Florida and all you have experienced is summer, are you willing to transfer to a state like Michigan or Wisconsin where it can easily snow for five months? You need to be happy where you are at and the weather can play a big part in that. 

    Happiness

    Weather and money aren’t breaking the tie? Base your decision on what will make you happier. I know it can be hard to know what school will actually make you feel more welcomed and happier, but you can start by asking yourself the following questions. If you transfer to either of your choices, will you go alone or is there a friend that might go with you? Transferring with someone you know that can support you and help you in this new transition can make a huge difference. How is the student life at both schools? Make sure to do the appropriate research and see the universities’ traditions. What school resonates more with your own values? Can you visit either school and walk around town? If it is possible, try visiting both schools and pay close attention to their culture. Are they friendly and welcoming? Or do they look exhausted and mean? Being able to see these things can be a good representation of if you think you’ll be happy there and actually like going to school.

    Once again congratulations, not many students have the privilege of saying that they are having trouble picking between two or more amazing institutions that accepted them. I hope these points help you make an appropriate decision. If none of these factors broke the tie, then refer to each school’s ranking. However, just remember that for any employer, their expectations and prestige will be the same for an engineering graduate from Georgia Tech, University of Texas, or University of Michigan; or a politician graduated from Stanford, Harvard, or Georgetown. If you are on the top, one or two positions on the rankings will not matter.

     

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  • Work smarter, not harder: 3 rules to help you reach success

    by Albert Hernandez

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    “How did you go from a small high school in a developing country to a booming public university in the United States?” “How did you travel to Austria and Japan in the middle of the academic year and still manage to keep a 3.96 GPA?” “How do you balance your time when you take 17 credits, work, and participate in extracurricular activities at the same time?”  I hear these questions from friends, family, and peers often as they look back on all I have done in the last couple of years. I explain that I constantly look out for content on how to be more productive, successful, and happy. 

    Tons of hours invested on TED talks, books, and seminars have given me mountains of advice. Some examples include waking up at 5 am when everyone else sleeps and no one will distract you, but when I do that, I run out of energy by 2 pm. I have also heard to attend office hours and ask questions, but my professors’ office hours often conflict with work or other classes. Focusing on your passion means I love engineering, but trust me differential equations are no pleasure. Even though all this advice has been somewhat helpful, it is often too specific and not flexible enough. I had to take in the advice and then tailor it to my own need and situation. After looking back and analyzing the last couple of years, I realized that the secret for my success comes down to these three simple rules I want to share with you. 

    Rule One: Don’t procrastinate 

    Regardless of what your goals might be, there will always be a list of tasks we all need to complete to reach them. Have you ever woken up one Sunday to realize you have a paper to write, a presentation to prepare, and a midterm to study for, all by the next day? If you ever experienced this, you probably procrastinated on these tasks. Wouldn’t it feel better if you had written that paper a week in advance, prepared the presentation two days ago, and all you had to worry about was reviewing the hard concepts for your exam? The emphasis is on reviewing, as you had hopefully already studied one hour per day during the last week and feel confident for the upcoming test. The idea of getting things done in advance does require a high level of discipline, but such discipline will not only help you in your academic life,  it will also make a great impact in your professional and personal life. 

    Rule Two: Sleep

    Coming from an immigrant household that had to work remarkably hard to pursue a better future, I grew up with a dad that had a mentality that sleeping is a waste of time. When talking about sleeping, my dad pointed out that by sleeping eight hours per day as recommended, I waste 33 percent of my life in bed. However, it did not take me much time to realize that in the 16 hours I am up, I get a lot more done than fighting between getting things done and trying not to fall asleep. Additionally, sleeping has a great influence on your body, and proper sleep helps you enjoy your life more and makes you happier. It is important not to use this rule to oversleep and argue that it will make you even more efficient. Sleeping too much can be as bad as not sleeping enough. If you have the discipline to regularly sleep six, seven, or eight hours per night depending on your own body needs, you will be a lot more productive than those that sleep less and work more, or those that party until late and suffer the next day.

    Rule 3: Learn how to manage stress

    It is common knowledge that university students experience high stress levels during the academic year. Students perform better when they manage their stress levels. Getting things done in advance and good regular sleep will surely help drop stress levels. However, no matter how well you follow the first two rules, if all you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed is work and study, I promise you will burn out by the end of midterms with half of the semester left to go. It is crucial to learn what helps you de-stress. It could be working out, going to the movies once a week with friends, or maybe just watching an episode of your favorite show. Whatever it is, make sure you find the time on your schedule to treat yourself. 

    I hope these quick general rules will help in your goals. I know it takes a lot of discipline and time to include them in your lifestyle, but it will be rewarding and will take you closer to your goals. If you are looking for other strategies on how to be productive, I recommend the books “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins. Best wishes in your goals and good luck!

     

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  • Plant today, collect tomorrow

    by Albert Hernandez

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    Up until a couple of years ago, I lived a rather comfortable life. I was enrolled in the engineering program at one of the best universities in Colombia. I lived with my mother and grandmother, who always took care of all responsibilities at home, and I spent many hours a week with family and friends. I never worried about wasting time or money on transportation since I attended classes just a couple blocks away from home. Although I was grateful for all the blessings in my life, I always felt motivated to challenge myself for more. I dreamed of an opportunity that would push me to accomplish greater goals.

    Opportunity knocked on my door in February 2016 when my father, who lived in Miami, proposed the idea of me immigrating to the U.S. to pursue my higher education. This proposal did not only mean leaving my family behind, but it would also be a big risk because I was not proficient in English nor had any higher education opportunities secured. As far as I knew, I could be exchanging an outstanding institution at home for nothing overseas. However, there was also the potential of me attending a recognized institution in the U.S., so I challenged myself and moved in July 2016.

    The Planting Year

    Just as expected, my first year was the hardest and my life totally changed overnight. My responsibilities increased as well as my maturity. Academically, I enrolled in Miami Dade College’s English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program, which my adviser said I’d need over two years to complete. Psychologically, I had no friends in the city and my mom was thousands of miles away from helping me emotionally. My dad also constantly reminded me that life here was harder and that I needed to work even harder to accomplish anything. I considered quitting countless times, but instead I decided to do everything I could to succeed. With the help of my professors, I sought resources to complete the EAP program faster and connected with the Honors program on my campus. During that first year, I devoted myself to “plant” myself wherever I could in order to accomplish my goals. I understood that success comes over time, and in order to collect the fruit of my efforts, I needed to plant them first.

    The Collecting Year

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