• Becoming a Successful Leader in a Chaotic World

    by Sarah Faust

    Blog author Sarah Faust sits with seven of her sorority sisters on the steps of an academic building. Due to quarantine rules, they are wearing facemasks.

    The title of this blog might have been misleading. After a few months of reflection, I have struggled with whether or not I truly was a successful leader. However, the thing we need in an abundance, especially during this time, is grace. For the sake of sharing what I learned in 2020, I will grant myself some grace and label my term as successful, even if the only success was my refusal to give up.

    In November of 2019, I was elected as the Chapter President of my sorority. It is an organization made up of around 250 women whom I respect deeply and was excited to serve. With the most trustworthy, capable people by my side, we took over the operations of the chapter with no idea what was soon to come. The first couple months were trying because of a snowstorm cancelling our flights to a leadership convention and contentious senior members who always seemed to disagree with us. By late March, though, those challenging days seemed like a dream.

    The next eight months were a whirlwind of deep uncertainty. Like most other schools across the country, our university shut down in-person classes. Our sorority house closed for the semester. Before I knew it, I was back in St. Louis living in my parents’ house and trying to run a sorority.

    I doubt there will ever be a complete, step-by-step list that will encompass everything it takes to be a successful leader, but it would be a shame if I missed the opportunity to share what I found to be helpful. Here is my personal guide to successful leadership during the most trying times. After all, hindsight is 2020.

    Confidence is key

    If you are not confident that you will be able to carry yourself and those you lead through a difficult time, no one else will believe that you will be able to either. When a global pandemic took the world and turned it upside down, I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college who was barely prepared to lead a large group of young women, much less do so virtually and without consistent information regarding the future. If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that confidence is never something I seem to lack, so it was terrifying when I was faced with something that made me question my own abilities. To be fair, though, no one was prepared to handle all of the fallout that a pandemic can cause, so why couldn’t I be the one to do so?

    You cannot allow that which you cannot control to take control of you

    It was not my fault that my members’ worlds seemed to be falling apart, but it was my responsibility to do what I could to keep one area of their lives safe. Almost daily, I was approached with things that were not part of my training. Rather than throwing a fit because of how unfair it was, I had to take things as they came. Organization and planning are not my strong suits, but I can think on my toes, and that proved to be valuable.

    Self-care is not selfish

    It was easy to take the weight of everything and put it on my own shoulders. That was a good way to drive myself crazy. I was the best leader I could be when I started respecting myself. Taking the time to do what is important for your own mental health indirectly benefits those you lead.

    As the president of a sorority, I did not face anywhere near the worst of what this pandemic has had to offer. However, I felt the challenges of the unknown every single day. It was not the term I hoped for, but it taught me more than I ever imagined. Even if it wasn’t what I would deem “successful,” I know that one day I will use what I learned to be undeniably so.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us - click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • 11 Tips to Make Any College Club Great

    by Alexa Kosloski

    A laptop screen with a Zoom call open, showing a meeting with 22 participants.

    Throughout my undergrad career, I have served on executive boards for 3 different clubs and served Chapter President for one. Having this experience has allowed me to understand what it takes to truly have a successful college club. Although every organization is different, the steps it takes to be successful are similar. Below are 11 tips that can help take any college club from good to great.

    1) Brainstorm ideas ahead of time

    If you have the opportunity to do so, brainstorm ideas for your club before the semester starts. This can be a huge time saver and stress relief. To accomplish this, have your executive board meet on Zoom during the summer or during winter break prior to the semester start. By brainstorming your ideas ahead of time, you will have an idea of what exactly your club offers so that you can encourage others to join. This also will save you time in the future, so you can just be at your club events instead of stressing about what your next meeting will contain. Members can tell if a club planned something ahead of time or was put together last minute.

    2) Pay attention to your members

    While you may have a million different ideas for your club, your members may not be a fan of all of them. Try to vary your events early on so that you can gauge what activities your members enjoy most and use that feedback to shape what your club offers. Make sure to include members as much as possible, especially if you’re a virtual club. It will be more engaging and will give them more to talk about when other students and employers ask them what they do in the club.

    3) Don’t underestimate word of mouth marketing

    Besides just posting flyers about your events, the executive board members need to share your events with their friends and classmates. You can also see if your professors will share your flyers or let you talk about your bigger events during classes that are of relevant subject matter to your club. A student may be more likely to attend your event if they hear about it from a friend, rather than just seeing it posted on the bulletin board.

    4) Get inspiration from others

    Pay attention to the actions and activities of other clubs on your campus and clubs from other colleges that provide a similar experience. Strive to stay up to date with trends in the specific industry that your club revolves around, or even current events. Inspiration can come from anywhere!

    5) Change it up

    Regardless of what your club is, a little change can be very refreshing. That’s not to say that you have to drastically change the activities that you offer, although you certainly could if you want to. But perhaps there’s a way to improve how you carry out your original activities. For instance, maybe your club has fundraisers at the same restaurant every year. Consider holding the event at another restaurant. A simple change of location can breathe new life into an annual event.

    6) Make it more than a resume builder

    The number one thing that makes a great college club is the executive board. No matter what the reputation of your club is, the executive board has the ability to hold or change that. Be willing to put in the work, not just list the position on your resume. The best clubs put their members first and know that their work will help keep the club running for years after their terms have ended.

    7) Stay organized

    There are so many dates, times, and documents to keep track of when you’re on an executive board. Keep it all in one place that every member can access. This will reduce confusion and you’ll all be able to find everything when you need it. I highly recommend using Google Calendar and Google Drive for all of your club’s organization needs.

    8) Do your checks and balances ahead of time

    While normal member meetings may not require this, running a large event has a lot of moving pieces. Make sure that you talk to the necessary parties WAY in advance. Each piece takes time and the more time that you give yourself, the better your results will be.

    9) Don’t burn yourself out

    While it’s great to have tons of ideas, a club’s members have midterms, finals, and holidays to attend to. Keep these dates in mind to avoid having events during these times, if possible. Your members will appreciate having that time to themselves. In addition to this, gauge how everyone on the executive board is feeling. Do they seem burnt out? If the answer is yes, try to build in a week with no events or meetings to give everyone break. This can really re-energize the board.

    10) Help each other

    While everyone on an executive board has their own tasks to accomplish, some tasks involve more work than others. If you have the chance to help someone, help them. This will create a better bond between you and the other executive board member, and the task will be less stressful and more successful.

    11) Plan for transitions

    There’s a lot of knowledge gained from being on an executive board. You learn what works and what doesn’t work, what struggles and opportunities the club has, important club requirements, and much more. If your club’s former executive board has to learn all of this on their own, they are bound to miss out on potential opportunities and repeat past mistakes. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, have each former executive board member train the incoming board member for their position. This will be immensely helpful and result in greater success for the club.

    While this may seem like a lot to remember, the basic idea comes down to putting your people first. That includes both other executive board members, as well as your general club members. If you continuously work to put them first, everything else will fall into place.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog? If you are a college student and interested in writing for us - click here to pitch your idea and get started!

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  • Participate on purpose: Building strong relationships on campus

    by Jaylen Brown

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    I attend the University of Central Florida, one of the largest higher education institutions in the nation with over 70,000 students. It can be easy to feel lost or like you’re just a number at a university this size. The easiest way to avoid this is to get involved or to participate on purpose. I like this phrase because it shows that involvement can be much more than you think if you just put your mind to it. Other than joining a typical club or organization, there are tons of simple ways to build and grow relationships on campus that you may not have thought of.

    Get involved

    The most simple and obvious way to grow relationships on campus is to get involved. This can include joining clubs, organizations, or finding a niche. Involvement brings such a strong sense of self-belonging and community. Personally, I couldn’t imagine going through college without getting involved in at least one thing. I joined the Marching Knights and became a College of Business ambassador. I’ve met most of my closest friends within these two organizations – organizations that turned into families.

    Involvement doesn’t always have to be campus led and can be student initiated with those who share common interests. For example, I ended up creating a small group that plays volleyball on campus every week. Sometimes, others nearby may ask to join in which allows for an opportunity to meet new friends. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, just a gathering for people to meet.

    Step outside of your comfort zone

    This technique of relationship building is most definitely the hardest, but in my opinion, the most rewarding. I want to specifically focus on how to use this diverse method to meet and talk with new people. This can include introducing yourself to a classmate that you’ve never spoken to before or even purposely inviting others to join an activity that you’re engaged in.

    Of course, this can be challenging; many overthink it and let their minds get clouded with doubts, such as “what do I say to this person?” or “what if they don’t want to talk to me?” This happened to me as a freshman. During the first few weeks, everyone in the dining hall sat alone because they were brand new and didn’t know anyone. When these doubts clouded my mind, I reminded myself that most other students here are experiencing the same thing. They all wanted to make friends but didn’t want to risk rejection. I initiated a conversation with the guy in line behind me and asked to sit with him afterwards. He was delighted by my request, and we both made a new friend – all because I stepped out of my comfort zone.

    Keep your head up

    When walking or biking around campus, I always see friends and acquaintances. Usually when I attempt to speak or wave, they don’t notice me because they are staring at their phones or have their headphones blasting. I purposefully differentiate myself from “the campus zombies” and walk with my head up, making myself approachable. It makes a huge difference – priming a way to strengthen relationships. I encourage other college students to also keep their heads up while migrating across campus – it creates an opportunity to “catch up” with your peers.

    I’ve asked a few people what they do on their phones while walking and I was shocked by the responses. Many feel socially uncomfortable if they aren’t doing what everyone else is doing, so they just swipe left and right on the home screen or even type random letters in their notes. If this sounds like you, it’s totally fine to not do what everyone else is doing. Keeping your head up makes you stand out and gives you the opportunity to socialize with others, overall strengthening relationships.

    I hope you now realize that building strong relationships on campus can be much easier than you might have originally thought. Just by making some small adjustments and by participating on purpose, you can have a more meaningful and impactful college experience.

     
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  • Don't Let the Unknown Stop You from Being Involved

    by Maddie Parker Martinez

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    As students, we’re always told how important it is to get involved on campus, but sometimes this can seem really intimidating. There are so many options for involvement with clubs, programs, and organizations, how can you know where to start? Not to mention that putting yourself in a situation with new people can be really scary, at least I know it is for me.

    I’m currently a junior attending Utah Valley University and there are hundreds of ways to get involved on my campus, as is true with most universities. One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that being involved comes in many shapes and sizes and everyone’s experiences with involvement is different.

    Trying new things

    My freshman year of college I got accepted into a scholarship program called the UVU Ambassador Program. I helped plan events for prospective students and traveled to different high schools around Utah to educate high school students about attending UVU. This program taught me so much and I loved every minute of my experiences there. However, during my sophomore year I realized that I wanted to try something new. I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with a desire to change. Whether you’re currently involved and looking to try new things or you’re looking where to start, I hope you hear my experiences and are motivated to find the way that is best for you.

    Getting outside your comfort zone

    I was nervous to try something new and break out of my old routines and habits. Despite this, I knew that if I wanted to continue to live my best college experience, I had to put myself out there and search for something different. This can take time. By my junior year I found what I wanted to do next – participate in my school’s PRSSA Chapter. PRSSA is short for Public Relations Student Society of America. It helps to develop students going into the Public Relations field by expanding their networks and teaching important skills with hands on learning. I had been attending a lot of their events for my classes when I made the decision to run for the secretary position on the student board. This was a hard transition for me because I knew I would be closing a chapter in my life. However, it also meant that I would meet new people and learn skills that were out of my comfort zone.

    Accomplishing great things

    I decided to take a huge leap of faith by applying and to my surprise, I won! I was shocked, nervous, and excited all at the same time. The moral of the story is that when we take risks, we can accomplish great things. More importantly, taking risks helps us put ourselves in a place that will make us happy. Moving from one form of involvement to the next takes courage, but also has rewards.

    My wish for all those who read this is to know that no matter where you are in your involvement, if you want a change, you need to believe in yourself enough to make it happen. It’s okay to be afraid of the unknown, but don’t let it stop you from getting to where you want to be.

     

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  • Collegiate extracurriculars: Can too much of a good thing become bad?

    by Sydnie Ho

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    Getting involved on campus has led me to some of my best experiences in college. I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people and learned so many new things. I went into college with the idea of getting involved in everything, which resulted in me getting almost ‘too involved’. I was so busy that I didn’t have time to do homework, hang with friends, or even just relax. It is good to be involved, but you do not have to be involved in everything. You have to make sure you find the right balance.

    Taking a chance

    Let me start with saying, get involved! It makes college 100x better. Getting this advice from older peers, I decided to dive right in during my first year. I went to a bunch of general meetings and met so many people. From there, I decided what organizations I wanted to keep pursing. It is scary at first, showing up at your first club meeting not knowing anyone, but it just takes a “hello” to start a new friendship.

    Not only have I been able to meet some incredible people, but I’ve had so many opportunities to grow and experience new things. I landed a leadership position my sophomore year, which was such a rewarding experience. I learned so much and am able to talk about it in job interviews. Getting involved can be scary, but the rewards are worth it. Don’t be afraid to take a chance!

    Keeping up with the Jones

    Recognize that there is a fine line between getting involved and getting too involved. My freshman year, I made a friend who was involved in so many organizations and working an internship, all while taking 21 credits. He would push me to get involved and be like him, and I started to feel the pressure. I went to many different club meetings that I was not invested in. I was just doing it to keep up with the everyone else. I soon realized that I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. There is no point in getting involved with something if you aren’t passionate enough to grow from the experiences you are investing in.

    I learned I needed to stop comparing my involvements to others and just focus on the ones I actually enjoyed. Even now, as I am taking on new exciting projects and positions for this semester, I am realizing there are still things I need to drop. And that’s okay. Do the things you want to do and stop wasting your time on things you think you need. There is no point in having an organization on your resume when you weren’t truly involved. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. You are going to make the most out of your experiences because you are involved with your passions.

    Using time wisely

    With that said, I suggest taking some time to reflect on the organizations you are in and where you are putting your time. Is there something more you want to do? Are you involved in too many things? Are you doing these things for yourself or for someone else?

    You are going to enjoy college a lot more the quicker you recognize your passions. Allocate your time accordingly. Good luck ?

     

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  • Keeping a full plate steady

    by Sanjana Saji

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    I’ve always been told that ‘your college experience is what you make of it.’ I never truly understood what that meant until this past year. I am a senior at Penn State University and I just completed my first year at the main campus, University Park. To go from a small branch campus that’s only two hours away from home to attend a large ‘typical college style’ campus that is a five-hour trip away is a big change that I had to mentally prepare myself for. 

    Walking into junior year, I realized that I only have two years at the main campus to experience and accomplish everything that I wanted to, which is an endless list in reality. Thankfully, time management and decision making weren’t my weaknesses, but these were two of my skills that were constantly tested. I had an unfaltering positive attitude and an ambitious drive walking into junior year, which is a big part of how I accomplished so much and still managed to keep calm throughout.

    I had multiple things on my plate which included my classes, my job with Pearson, dance team, and being a director for a student organization. Other things on my schedule that didn’t occur weekly included meetings for the national honor society that I’m a part of, attending TA office hours, group projects, and social events. Personally, I like to stay busy and limit my free time because that’s what helps me sustain a productive lifestyle. With so much on my plate, here are a few tools that I use to stay organized and manage my time.

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  • Learning through leadership

    by Michelle Gomez

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    Throughout the experiences I’ve had over the years, I have realized that through helping others I am also helping myself to be a better person for my school, community, and country. Some of my greatest learning experiences occurred outside of the traditional classroom environment via the several officer positions I have held in student organizations. I have worked hard and consistently sought positions of leadership, seizing opportunities to lead and mentor at the forefront.

    Transforming into a leader

    Participation in extracurricular activities not only allows you to give back to the school, but it also allows you to build relationships with people you might not work with otherwise. We can always learn something new from someone else. Transforming into a leader is a rewarding experience, but it also means encountering a host of unanticipated challenges. The added effort of attempting to successfully collaborate with others and the struggle of efficiently managing my time are some of the challenges I have faced as a student leader. 

    Filling a void

    The most significant leadership endeavor I’ve experienced was helping start a new student organization. While enrolled at Lone Star College – University Park (LSC-UP) in Houston, several classmates and I noticed that the campus was lacking an organization where students interested in pursuing a degree in Business could learn about the business world, its different fields, and network with local leaders and other students sharing the same interest. These reasons motivated us to create the Student Business Organization in the Fall semester of 2016. 

    Facing challenges

    The hardest obstacle we encountered was writing the organization’s mandated constitution. We were lacking in guidance, not knowing exactly what we wanted our purpose to be, how often we would meet, or what we would do as an organization overall. Seeking advisers as well as potential and similarly dedicated officers was one of the most tedious processes we encountered. In the end however, the entire process was worth it. Knowing other Business students at LSC-UP would have the opportunity to socialize and have a platform to learn more about their future goals and ambitions brings great satisfaction to me. The Student Business Organization is now one of the most active student organizations on campus, providing students with knowledge in various aspects of essential business principles ranging from interview processes, resume workshop writing, financial planning, and technical skills that students can apply to various aspects of their lives. 

    Making an impact

    As Vice President my responsibilities were primarily focused around organizing events and delegating tasks to other officers. The most significant event I organized was scheduling a team of representatives from a well-known local business to come to campus and host interviews. This event gave students the opportunity to revise their resumes, practice their interview skills, and receive feedback from employers, as well as the chance to get hired on the spot. 

    Moving forward in leadership

    The leadership experience I gained through the Student Business Organization taught me invaluable lessons. It enriched my life with friends and experiences that I will cherish for years to come, illustrating the importance of teamwork, understanding and cooperation in tough situations. Above all, it showed me that belief in oneself can work wonders, even while facing the most daunting of challenges.  Being a leader in an organization has been so imperative in my time in college. I’ve carried these lessons learned with me as I continue my education at the University of North Carolina. I highly encourage you to take a step and gain experience by not only joining a student organization, but also taking on a leadership role. You will grow in it. It is something you won’t regret.

     

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  • The importance of collegiate extracurricular involvement

    by Sidney Li

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    It is fairly known that academics plays a crucial role for graduating and applying for post-secondary routes; however, volunteering and participating in extracurricular activities has a hand in the application process too. Students are always told how important extracurricular involvement is throughout their high school and collegiate years. As classwork begins to mount, students may forget how valuable these voluntary acts are. Strong academia can only get a student so far. There is a plethora of benefits that extracurricular activities provide. 

    Broadening Your Horizons

    One benefit of extracurricular involvement is how it can broaden a student’s social circle as they will be surrounded by like-minded people that have similar interests. With that, the opportunity to create long-lasting friendships and socializing is inevitable. In the first semester of my freshman year, I applied to be an advocacy fellow with a local non-profit organization, Asian American Community Services. I also actively volunteered and engaged within my Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) scholars community. Through these clubs, I have made valuable friends that I can barely live without now. 

    Building Relationships

    Students can build professional and social relationships with their peers, professors, and advisors by engaging in extracurricular activities. These same people want others to strive, too. Whether the club that a student joins is a physical one or professional, it will help strengthen the student’s mind. For example, intramural sports trains a student to learn resiliency and collaboration with others that will be a major benefit in the workplace. A professional development club will allow students to practice public speaking along with training in their future professions. 

    As I am a pre-dental student, I joined my university’s Pre-Dental student organization which allows undergraduate students to connect with faculty, professionals, and graduate students in the local area in a gamut of ways—from shadowing and working on research projects to applying for jobs within the dental field and studying for the Dental Admission Test. It has been so beneficial during my first year in college that these doors have been opened to me and my fellow peers through the Pre-Dental club.

    Learning Something New

    Another benefit of extracurricular involvement is how it will positively impact time management skills. Even though activities like these do add more responsibility to your plate, they can also train you for a more demanding schedule when you enter the workforce. Finding a balance between a variety of extracurricular activities while maintaining high grades and meeting deadlines forces student leaders to make priorities and become good time managers. Not only that, but extracurricular activities can allow a student to take their mind off from their rigorous coursework. Extracurricular activities that will be mentioned in resumes alongside academic achievements will demonstrate to future employers the work ethic the student has learned to maintain throughout their college years. 

    College is a place for students to grow and learn for themselves. Students can utilize extracurricular activities to learn more about interests they’ve never before encountered, build their network, and learn employability skills. Good grades place a graduation cap on a student’s head; extracurricular activities allow students to flourish in the coming years after their college career comes to an end. All they have to do is take that leap of faith and take advantage of all their interests. Who knows what you’ll find within yourself? 

     

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