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Posted April 16, 2016 by

6 apps for college students

Long gone are the days of card catalogs, Trapper Keepers, and other broken systems our parents had to wrestle with in order to do A-grade productive work. We are a generation of cyborgs forever enhanced by technology such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the apps these machines enable.

LD prod/Shutterstock.com

LD prod/Shutterstock.com

Okay, so maybe calling us a generation of cyborgs is a bit of a stretch, but to be successful a system is necessary. Thankfully many of us are lucky enough to take advantage of a plethora of great applications that make having a system a little simpler which makes being a student a little more manageable and a little less stressful.

Task Management is basically what life boils down to once you’re on your own and you don’t have mom and dad forcing study habits on you and trying to instill within you the virtues of priority. This is why it is imperative that you replace your parents with a task management app. My personal choice is Todoist. Todoist is a minimalist to-do-list app with all the features needed to keep tabs on what needs to get done and when. The app features natural language dictation, which basically means that instead of having to click through various tabs and settings to create a task, just type, “Algebra homework Thursday at five pm” and Todoist will create a task titled, “Algebra Homework” and remind you to do it at five-o’clock Thursday night. Todoist is available on almost any platform for free and is easily the most intuitively designed to-do application there is. There are, however, many other options like Wunderlist or Anydo if Todoist isn’t right for you.

A Calendar App like a to-do app is there to help you prioritize what you need to be doing and when and where you need to be doing it. However, instead of making lists of each individual task, a good calendar app allows you to quickly block out sections of time to plan out your day and easily view that day so it can be kept up with. The app I use is called Fantastical which also has natural language dictation like Todoist. Fantastical also syncs seamlessly with your Google Calendar, your iCloud Calendar, and any other calendar you might be tied into.

However, in spite of Fantastical’s inclusion in my productivity system, it is not the calendar I would recommend. Instead consider Sunrise Calendar. Sunrise Calendar has basically all of the same functionality as Fantastical, but it’s free and available cross-platform whereas Fantastical has a hefty price tag of $4.99 and is available on both IOS and in the Mac App Store.

Note Taking apps are a no-brainer. Try as you might, you are not going to do well in any lecture based class if you can’t take notes. App developers know this, and that is why there are too many note taking apps to count. Fortunately one sticks out above the rest, and that is Evernote. Evernote is the note taking app for any project really. The app finds use well out of college to collect recipes, shopping receipts, bank statements and some even use it as a word processor. Evernote takes any kind of note from text notes to audio recordings. Once a note is taken you can organize them all by notebooks or by tags or by ways I haven’t even tried yet. Evernote is free to use, very powerful, and accessible on just about any device. If you don’t like Evernote, you can try Microsoft’s OneNote which ties in nicely with the Microsoft ecosystem if that’s your thing. You could also just use Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but Evernote is a cut above the rest in my opinion.

File Storage apps for the most part go unnoticed and just sit there on your computer screen or tucked away into a folder on your phone, but they are far more useful than we give them credit for. Day one at college you are going to receive about a thousand syllabi. Do yourself a favor;  tuck all the hard copies away into a folder where you can find them later for back up. Then ask your professors to send you the syllabi digitally and save them all to an app like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Onedrive. This way you will always be able to access them and tweak them to accommodate snow days or when your professor moves a test around. It doesn’t really matter which of these apps you decide to use; just pick whichever one offers the most free storage possible.

Finally, in a category all their own are Miscellaneous apps. These are the apps that don’t really fit in any of the other categories but are still hugely helpful. First is Flux. Flux is actually a piece of software you can download onto your computer that will change the type of light your computer emits throughout different times of the day. At night Flux adjusts your computer screen to stop using blue light which can mess with your sleep patterns and switches to a less disruptive red light. The change on the screen is subtle, but when you have to pull an all-nighter and need to get a few hours of sleep, you’ll be happy to start the day feeling a little more refreshed than you otherwise would have.

Next is an app I use almost every day called Pocket. Pocket is a digital “pocket” where you can tuck things into to be viewed later. Reading an interesting article but have class in ten minutes? Save it to Pocket. Your roommate sent you a funny fail compilation, but you have a paper to write? Save it to Pocket. Pocket also has an article view function that takes the articles you save and converts them to plain text while removing advertisements and page-fluff. Finally an app that automates your life! If This Then That or IFTTT for short lets you create little recipes that help eliminate pesky tasks. One example is If I tag an article in Pocket “#research” Then save it to my research paper notebook in Evernote. I could go on and on, but for the sake of article length just download these apps, give them a whirl, and thank me later.

Billy Stidham, guest writer

Billy Stidham, guest writer

I coasted through high school and was never a productive student. I put all my homework off until the last minute if I even did it at all. However, during my senior year, I started to take my grades and the idea of college seriously. Once I got to college I lacked basic study habits. I had no system, but now these apps have turned me – a super procrastinator – into a cyborg of proficiency.

Billy Stidham is a writer and blogger. Hoping to earn a living by writing, Billy is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. You can follow Billy on Twitter @I_R_Beast  and on Linkedin.

Posted March 26, 2016 by

Online portfolios: Using blogs to demonstrate college success

How to start a successful blog today note on laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Aysezgicmeli/Shutterstock.com

For some college students, graduation day is coming soon. Okay, there may be a few more months, but after Spring Break, graduation is just around the corner. Time flies when students are having fun with those studies, doesn’t it?

The post-graduation period is a time for job searching, especially if college students have loans knocking at their doors. Today, we are going to discuss a tool (blog software) and method (blogging your portfolio) that should help students in the following ways:

• Remind them of just how wonderful they are.

• Remind them of what they have accomplished.

• Remind college students of what they are capable of accomplishing.

• Provide an online resource for future recruiters and hiring authorities to see the details of what students have done → their online portfolios. Provide them with an opportunity to start (or continue) networking. This may be students’ way “in” to the companies of their choices simply because someone who faithfully reads their blogs works at a company where they want to work.

• Give students practice in many contemporary skills, like blogging, marketing, social media marketing, time management, team management, and many more. These skills may also be added to resumes, especially if they have been consistent with their portfolio blogs, over time, and built up a following (i.e. subscriber base).

It is helpful to keep in mind many times the reason companies hire “entry-level” candidates is two-fold:

• College students fill entry-level jobs, and the cost of employment (including salary) is lower than more experienced candidates; and

• The company can train students into what they want them to be as their employees. Many times, more experienced candidates are less trainable and more “set in their ways.” Or, at least that may be the view of the human resources department and may thwart the hiring of more experienced employees. This is an advantage for students, as recent college graduates.

Even though we are using the term “entry-level” and it may not sound glamorous, students are actually in an enviable position. There are many of us who are disqualified because we are “over-qualified,” even if we are willing to be trainable and moldable. So students are in an excellent position for their job search!

What we are suggesting here is college students add a bit of an edge to their credentials. That is, building a blog that displays what they have accomplished in a contemporary manner. It is like a “living resume,” played out by way of bite-size blog posts pleasing to read and ingest.

It may not be likely the CEO of the company where students want to work will look at the blog, but the idea is they are getting their names, credentials, and authority out there. They have a place to send people when they really want to get a feel for what students are about and more importantly, what they have accomplished.

Starting the blogging process

The thought of starting a blog can be both tempting and daunting. However, it is very doable, and after all the hard work college students have put into acquiring their degrees, it should appear very easy. Why? Students are accomplished, and the process is much easier when students know what they need to do.

There is a helpful article on “onblastblog.com” that walks students through a day-by-day process, with the goal of helping them understand what to know before starting a blog. It is a helpful process, even if it isn’t college-centric. The article should help to take the “scary” part of starting a blog out of the equation. Also, since this article is more about the college portfolio portion, that resource may help students with the blogging basics, if they are not already familiar with the blogging process. I highly recommend they “study up” on that process so what I am sharing here makes more sense in the context of their online portfolios.

Reminder: There are some basics to setting up a blog like choosing a domain, choosing the software (I recommend WordPress), going through the settings, etc. That is where the link above is helpful for going through those basics. There are also some wonderful articles on the Internet. Students can find them through a simple “Google Search.” We are going to move forward with the assumption they have the basics set up and are ready to move on with the content (blog posts).

The graphics for a blog portfolio

We wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk a little bit about the graphics for college students’ online blog portfolios. Of course, one of the key aspects is to include a nice headshot of themselves. Possibly, students want to include some action shots (i.e. graduation; working with something that fires up their passion; etc.). Be creative! Find high quality photos representing who they are and where they are going in life.

In addition to the images of students, there is also a need for a graphic appeal to their sites. One possibility, especially if students want to develop the branding component of their portfolios (the brand of “you”), is to hire a professional. It can be expensive but is something they should consider if they want to ensure they are using the most effective graphics for their online portfolios.

There is a new way of soliciting graphic design examples from the professionals. It is call crowd-sourcing, and it is done by groups like Designhill.com. The idea is to take the heavy lifting and hard work out of students’ efforts to come up with a description of what they are looking for in a design and sort of present it as a design contest to a bunch of professional designers.

By doing it that way, the heavy lifting is done by the graphic designers, as they vie to get students’ attention with their wonderful design skills. They peruse all of the designs, and choose the one that appeals to students. That way, students are not spending all their time (and money) going through multiple iterations with one designer, only to possibly be disappointed with the final outcome.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview the co-founder of just such a company, and he explains it much better than me, in this interview. Watch as Rahul Aggarwal, co-founder of Designhill, explains the concept of crowd-sourcing the graphic design process:

If the video is not playing or displaying properly click here.

Turning a blog into a college portfolio blog

Now it is time to discuss blogging in the context of being a recent graduate. Ideally, if college students are reading this, and they haven’t yet graduated, it is a great time to start the blogging process. Of course, they wouldn’t want the blogging to interfere with the time they need for their college studies (or social and relaxation time). The reason it is a great time is it 1) gives students time to network prior to graduation; and 2) gives them time to write articles about their experiences with their projects, while it is fresh in their minds.

Fresh in your mind also creates that sense of “real person,” transparency, and engagement → all very popular in our culture.

For college students who graduated some time ago, this doesn’t leave them out of the game. I have been blogging for years, and I am just now starting to re-purpose my essays into blog posts on my site at Tech-Audit.com. Many of the articles on that site were inspired by experiences in corporate America, but also, many of them were inspired by knowledge gained during my college studies. Now, the next step is to re-purpose my essays.

Process overview

Like I mentioned, I am getting ready to add some of my essays and papers to my blog. Students can set up their blogs to indicate (i.e. in the tag line) this is a portfolio. That way, readers will expect that is what they are reading, records of students’ projects and accomplishments from college. This gives an audience a chance to feel like they are being included in something special.

In my case, I set up a professional blog on the topic of finance and technology and where they intersect. I am about to embark on including my essays into the blog. It is possible, since my current degree is I/O Psychology the blog will morph into a bit of a different topic. That is okay. Today, there are so many options to make modifications on our blogs; the sky is the limit.

It may not be ideal to change the name or tagline, as it would be recommended we stick with the original intent of the blog (and that is what students are likely to read in the “how to blog” type articles), but in this case, we are sort of defining our path as we go. Also, loyal readers will become interested in what YOU have to say because this blog is more personal about students own paths and accomplishments, so an audience is less likely to care if they change the tagline later. When viewers get attached to a blog about a certain topic or company, it is a little different. In those cases, the audience may not be as attached to the person and may become be more bothered by a tag line change. Fortunately, this is a blog about and by students, so they have more leeway.

So, here is my process, as an example for you…
I’m looking through the essays I wrote in one of my favorite classes, “Social Psychology.” I found one titled “Group Cohesion.” Ok, that sounds interesting.

Let’s take a look at this essay that earned a grade of 100%, and then you tell me:

Group cohesion

For research to have scientific merit, one of the components needs to be the analysis of future implications. In other words, what is the outcome of this research? As a part of that analysis, questions like, “How does this research affect the scientific community, or a specific group, or the subject of the research?” may be asked.

Ok, I am yawning, even though I wrote it. It was great for the class, but will people read it on the blog? Honestly, I’m not sure I would read it! So, let’s revise it a bit:

Why group cohesion is so important

Research often plays an important part in understanding how we relate to one another, even how we relate to each other in social media. While we may not want to spend all of our time studying research expertly performed by scientists, it is helpful to consult what has been studied.

One reason quality research is so important is it analyzes future implications. In other words, if done correctly, it helps to identify what the outcome of the research is. After all, how important is the research if it doesn’t help us to apply it to what we are doing and help us to improve our skills?

Ok, it might still bore us a little, but college students can start to see how they can take their academic work and play with it, mold it, and make it into something interesting. It is possible, if students truly enjoy writing, they may end up with a completely different blog post when they are done.

Remember those APA formatted references at the end? I suggest students find a link to the resource (journal), even if it is a link that requires payment and use that inside their articles (instead of the “References” section). Why do I suggest that? Many times readers are confused and steer away from their posts because they don’t know what to do with the “References” section. It is easier for readers to understand a link in the middle of the article and helps them feel more comfortable. Students can still write a final paragraph thanking the researchers of the journal articles they consulted, but they want to ensure it is written in a personable enough manner that readers are not scared off and away from their blogs.

Don’t forget how to format those articles with proper APA formatting. College students never know when they will have the opportunity to be published in the peer-reviewed journal. That is worth retaining those skills they have learned in college!

Note to the non-writers:
If students detest blogging, there is still a place for them. What I described above was how to blog their essays. They are certainly welcome to just paste the essay “as is,” and let people know they are reading students’ essays (see note at the end of this article regarding the university and any policy concerns). That is ok. It is about managing expectations, and letting your readers know what they will find on the site/blog/portfolio.

University student receiving award courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Volt Collection/Shutterstock.com

Those accomplishments

We didn’t forget about the accomplishments! Sometimes, those are the easiest because college students can insert an image of themselves receiving an award, or a snap of the award itself, or whatever the accomplishment is. Maybe they have a video. It can be uploaded to YouTube and inserted into a blog post with a description of the accomplishment. Again, don’t forget to consult the “how to blog” expert articles for more details and tips on how to do this.

After blogging everything possible about the portfolio

Yay! Congrats to you!

Keep in mind college students may feel like they have blogged everything they can think of as far as accomplishments and school papers, essays, etc., but… They are accomplishing things every day! The path of accomplishment is not over yet. So, there is no reason why students cannot continue to write about their current accomplishments and insights as they come to them. In fact, I dare say they have become experts in other areas, even beyond what they learned in college by the time they’ve reached this point.

Granted, students may not feel like they are writers, and they have had it with writing. I can’t assume just because I love writing that means students love writing, now can I? That is ok, too. In that case, they want to package up their blogs as if they are literally that online portfolio of what they have accomplished in their degrees.

Promoting a portfolio

College students will want to include the link on their LinkedIn profiles. There are options to insert external links, and that is a great place to insert the link to their blogs/portfolios. If students have opted to keep it as just a portfolio, then list it as a portfolio. If they have opted for it to be a continuing blog, then list it as a professional blog.

Now it’s time to get started

Do students have ideas coming to mind? Initially, they can almost copy/paste their work from college. Please do keep in mind any plagiarism rules that may exist in college. If they are currently attending college that may be a concern; ensure writing on students’ blogs doesn’t flag a “TurnItIn” alert that affects their current studies. Students will definitely want to check with their universities if they are current students and have these concerns.

I hope college students have seen this is not the impossible task. If they start something like the blog set-up, and are not entirely sure they “did it right” or they want their portfolios to always look that way, they do have the option to change it easily without impacting the content they have entered. This allows students to get started today and tweak it as they go.

Isn’t that really the way life works? We have to get off our duff to get going and get it done, but we can fine-tune our process as we experience more life lessons along the way. It doesn’t stop at college graduation. We have the opportunity to continue the learning process and impart that to others, as we go through life. Now, let’s share it, shall we?

Looking for additional job search tips for college students and recent graduates? Go to our blog and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

Photo of Deborah Anderson

Deborah Anderson, guest writer

By Deborah Anderson

http://www.Tech-Audit.com

@techauditcom and @socialwebcafe

Deborah Anderson is on her way to finishing her doctorate in I/O Psychology. Along the way, she has served as Chief Technology Officer in the financial industry (in Beverly Hills), Director of Marketing in the health industry, Host of an iHeart Radio marketing talk show, and even a #1 Jazz Singer (Deborah E). From this background, she shares insights to help others overcome their challenges and succeed in their personal and professional lives.

Posted April 16, 2015 by

Building Your Online Profile: Ready for Your Next Interview

Deborah Anderson photo

Deborah Anderson

It is a really good idea to build your online portfolio, so you are ready for that next corporate interview (or even non-corporate interview!).

A business portfolio is your opportunity to create an online resume with visual components that will entice even the most hardened corporate type. And, even if you do not end up using your online portfolio, it serves as a record for you. It doesn’t hurt to review your portfolio before heading out the door for that interview, so you have a reminder of all of your accomplishments. (more…)

Posted February 20, 2014 by

Seeking Your First Entry Level Job? 5 Skills that Can Help You Compete

If you want to boost your chances of landing an entry level job, the following post shares five skills that will make you more competitive.

You finally graduated and you’re on your own, ready to take on the professional world. Sure, you took all the necessary courses to earn your diploma. But there are some very necessary professional skills your professors likely didn’t teach you. These aren’t industry-specific skills like biology or accounting, nor are they soft skills like learning how to get

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Posted July 19, 2010 by

CollegeRecruiter.com is Going Social

Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but CollegeRecruiter.com is just days away from re-launching as a Web 2.0 (user generated content) job board rather than the old Web 1.0 (staff and employer generated content) job board.

For the first time, users of all types will be able to easily connect and converse with each other, includes job seekers to job seeker, employer to employer, career service office professional to career service office professional, admissions office professional to admissions office professional, and one type of user with another.