October, 2009

The (Academic) Life

joseph-85In the last month, I’ve begun to think seriously of what my role in academia is.  Perhaps the most surprising conclusion that I have begun to arrive upon is that our roles are constructed.  Undoubtedly it would appear that such a conclusion offends the very grain of our existence as it doubts our very core assumption of personal power.  Perhaps that is why I have not begun to consider this until now.

Familiarity makes us comfortable, but sometimes we stand on pedestillian prisons of our own making.  We imagine a role as ours that we want, regardless of what our role may be.  We cannot construct our own roles though. It may conflict with the popular conception of individualism to realize that our function is not exogenous, but we are better for appreciating it.

Resigning oneself to the fact of a world that we must fit into is at once frightfully pessimistic. But that world is already there.  Recently, I read a book entitled “They Say, I say” that suggested the academic conversation is like a party:

  1. It has been going on a long time when you arrive
  2. Just as soon as you hear enough of the conversation to jump in, you do
  3. After hours of lively conversation and stimulating debate, you have to leave
  4. The conversation continues long after

The intellectual in all of us wants to stay at the party, and see what happens next.  We are only given short time to learn from it and offer what we can though.  I think this realization is crucial to intellectual growth, and any further understanding of what our role is.  In many ways, then, life is just the party.  All that you have to do is be attentive, forget shyness, and your role finds you!

Pick Me, Pick Me!!


As I see the colors of the leaves change and hear the chit chat of the tours through the hallway I realize it is a critical time for high school seniors, so I have some advice for you. If you have heard it, good. You are more likely to remember it. And for everyone else I have something for you to. :]

Narrow things down.
This time last year I had my choices barely narrowed down to three and I was still curious about all the other schools our there.  I was getting new information everyday. I hadn’t even began filling out my applications. While it is okay to look, you should really have an idea of where you want to go. If you find something you like more after you have already applied, that’s okay too. I applied for Truman University at the end of February. And make sure you have back ups just in case.

Follow Through
Think of applying to college like applying to a job… you want to follow up on your applications and make sure there are no questions. After I applied I e-mailed my admissions counselors and asked them to inform me when they got notice that my application made it through. I also kept hard copies (I applied online) of all my applications in case something went wrong.  Any important document that a college may need from you, always follow through so you don’t get penalized for being late.

For you non-seniors:
Start looking at schools now.
Figure out what you are looking for.
Visit local schools to get a feel for it all.
Talk to your high school counselors and college admissions counselors.

*Have questions?  Let me know what you want to know more about!

Harvard BEAT DOWN!!

jesse-85I was cornered, surrounded, and jumped by my workload this week.

Let’s start from the beginning of the story. This past weekend was Parent Visitation Weekend at Harvard. My Mom and Little Brother were coming to visit – I was PUMPED!! I missed them so much and I couldn’t wait to give them the biggest hug of their lives. It was their first time on the east coast and my brother’s first time on a plane, I wanted to show them how I live now that I’m in college and also show my brother that he too can go to a great university if he works hard.

Just when Parent Visitation Weekend was finally inching closer, I received some news that made me wonder if I was even going to see them long enough to have a conversation.

In the span of two days, I was assigned a 5-7 page paper that was due this past Monday, a take-home midterm, which was two 7-page papers and an I.D. section due this past Tuesday, and a Philosophy paper (which is a style of writing that is COMPLETELY different than what I am used to) due this Friday – on top of the regular workload for the week AND my family being in town.

I could have freaked out and panicked but, like in high school, whenever you are faced with a potentially FATAL situation, you have to stay calm and make the best of it.

It was rough but I managed to see my family and I was able to work on my papers. At some points, I did both at the same time.

I have to say, this is probably the roughest week of my entire college career, so far. I’ve only been in school since late August, but still. Like in high school, you have to find balance. Stressing will do nothing; you have to stay calm.

I learned a lot from this experience. First, I learned just how much my family and friends support me and how as long as I keep them in my thoughts, I can find strength to pull through. Second, I learned how important it was for me to work hard in high school so I could be ready for times like these where time management is key to survival. Third, I learned that if you’re struggling, whether in a class, in school, or at home, and you feel as if there is no way out, there IS help. You can get help, you just have to look for it. In high school, you can get it from family and friends, counselors and staff at school, and after school programs. This week, I used the Writing Center, Bureau of Study Counsel, Office Hours of my professors, and more. Find those resources, guys! And always keep your head up!

College is hard but don’t feel intimidated. The harder you work now, the more prepared you’ll be when you get there. This week in college was rough but I’m almost there! And you’re almost here! It’s tough but VERY rewarding.

I’m still working on one more paper that’s due this week, so wish me luck.

Until next time,


Ace Your Next Scholarship Interview!

lysa-85Hey seniors! I know it’s getting to be that time of year when all that is on your mind is how on earth you are going to afford to attend all of those great colleges you’ve been preparing applications for. Well, no need to worry anymore! The following  suggestions will help you to easily become a top candidate for any scholarship that requires an interview process. It is important to remember that an interview is useful in complimenting your actual application. It should be viewed as an opportunity to set you apart from all other applicants. That being said, make sure you have something unique to contribute to the conversation and to share about yourself!

Always Remember:

  1. Make sure you have a general idea of what you would like to accomplish while in college, and into your future. Some frequently asked questions in interviews include: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you plan on doing with your education, and how you plan to contribute to society? What you’ve learned from a specific mistake or difficult experience. And most importantly, consider why you think you would be an excellent recipient for the scholarship you are applying for.
  2. Next, think specifically about the scholarship award that you are seeking. Be sure you are very well informed about the organization. Ask questions if there is anything you would like more clarification about.
  3. Look your best for an interview! When preparing your outfit, consider the formality of the interview, and don’t under dress or overdo your outfit by any means.
  4. What if you can’t think of a good answer to a question that’s been posed? Or, you can’t even think of a bad answer because your mind has gone blank? Again, keeping your composure under pressure is the key. You could suggest that it’s a really interesting question that has prompted a lot of different ideas for you and you’d like to take a moment to organize your thoughts. In situations such as this one, it may be best to take a little pressure off by giving yourself a moment to collect your thoughts. You may even ask them to repeat the question to give yourself more time to reflect on what is being asked. They are not going to think less of you for being human-like and taking a breath/pause before answering a question!
  5. The key is to remain confident and don’t let a problem shake your sense of yourself. The judges recognize the pressure you are under and, as in life, you are often judged not by the reality that problems occur, but by the style with which you manage those problems. Approach the interview with a sense of confidence, some humility and enough good humor to get you past any awkward moments.

-Lysa Vola

Time Management 101

khadijah-85So, I’m at Harvard University. I have perfect time management skills, I’m some super-genius, and I got a 2600 on the SAT. Extra points for being awesome, of course. In my spare time, I rescue starving children in Africa. I wrote my first paper and got a A+ on it. I read Shakespeare in my sleep and spout rhetoric wisdom over lunch. I’m surrounded by super geniuses and us Hahvahd students, noses pointing towards the sky, relish in our superiority with the rest of the world. The lightbulb joke about Harvard sums it up: How many Harvard students does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One. One to hold the bulb and the world to revolve around it. 
If this were true, my life would be sooo much easier. 

So yeah, the truth is, I stayed up all night writing my comparative politics paper (I’ve subscribed to the college student’s words of wisdom- sleep no longer exists in college). I, of course, can never keep up with the thousands (ok exaggeration, but close) of pages of reading doled out every day. Time management is, to put it lightly, a bit of an issue for me (I can survive on 4-5 hours of sleep everyday, no problem)

So I’m freaking out, you would guess. Actually, I’m not. Ok, I am. That’s normal. But it’s not the end of the world. Because college isn’t just about things such as grades and tests and such. That’s part of it. You have all that, or you wouldn’t be reading this. What college is for us is the fact that we recognize that we don’t have perfect lives, or perfect SAT scores, but that we’ve put up with so much adversity and yet continue to thrive and succeed. That says more about your potential than a perfect SAT score ever will.

WHAT? College time already?


That was one of my first impressions of college. College has been something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and now that I’m here, I love it. I’m also very proud to be here since I’m the first one in my family to ever attend college.

I’ve had mainly good experiences at college and was able to get over one of my biggest worries, which was trying to meet people. I was worried that since I don’t live on campus that I was going to have a hard time making friends but I was wrong. Everyone here at Augsburg is very friendly.

Another thing that helped me meet people was that my school had what they call “Auggie Days” which are the 4 days before school starts and are packed with activities for the 1st year students so we can try to get to know each other in a fun environment. I made sure to attend everyday because I thought that that would be a great way to meet people. I made a lot of friends before school had even started. Those events really helped me meet people.

Besides meeting people I was also worried about time management. I knew that college was going to be a lot of work but I was prepared. I attended a “Time management” workshop so that I could learn how to use and plan my time wisely. I thought it was very beneficial.

There is also a great tutoring program and at anytime I can sign up to get tutored for free which I’m very glad to know that there will always be help if I need it.

My college experience so far has been great and I’m looking forward to see what the rest of this year brings!

Officially Chirping

seanna-85Glancing at the familiar faces in the dining hall, a peaceful emotion settled in my heart.  This was becoming my home, and I was okay with that.  More than okay really…I was thankful to be here.  Each day, realization hits me that I am in college, successfully participating.  For weeks, the idea of being the first in my family to attend college terrified me.  What if I was not as smart as everyone thought?  What if my writing made the literature teacher cringe, and what if I was unable to find derivatives in calculus?  I remember panicking during move-in day.  Stepping on the campus seemed surreal.  I felt that at any second, someone would tap me on my shoulder and tell me that I was in the wrong place, confirming my deepest fear.  However, this never happened, and soon, I was zipping from place to place, collecting keys, finding my room, and moving belongings into the dorm.  On the down side, the room was covered in ants, a persistent pest problem that still wakes me up every so often.  But on the plus side, my roommate was great, and our easy-going sarcasm broke the ice in minutes.  Hours later, with clothes neatly arranged in the closet and posters adorning every conceivable inch, our dorm looked more like home rather than four white walls and a ceiling.  Every day since has been filled with a new adventure, even if it’s as simple as waking up and heading to Advanced Problem Solving-my only class on Fridays.  I am growing confident that my college experience will help mold my influence within society.  After starting school this year, I believe that you mustn’t fear that you are unready for the impact of college, but instead, believe that college is not ready for what you’re destined to achieve!

Check out Khadijah on Oprah!

Khadijah appeared on The Oprah Show, “Don’t Stop Believing,” Monday, October 5 and shared her tremendous story of rising from Skid Row to attend Harvard.

Check out these links:


Khadijah’s Journey to Harvard University Video

Khadijah’s Journey: Skid Row to Harvard

Khadijah’s College Essay

We’re so proud of you, Khadijah!

100 Miles & Runnin

duylam-85I tried to think of what to say to the readers of this blog at first I was going to be specific and target the seniors, but after a draft I figured my message can be applied to everyone.

I remember October senior year, and now it’s a year later and I’m in college chasing these dreams of mine. It all seems so long ago, but when I look back it wasn’t, it just moved so fast – so fast it slipped out of my hands. Looking back on my high school career and much of my life, I honestly mean it when I say I regret some of it. As I step and move further away from my past, I understand what people mean when they say youth is wasted on the young. I don’t mean to make myself sound any wiser than I am, but the grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass you’re standing is pretty much Kelly green. The problem is we never notice. We enjoy the things around us, but we don’t appreciate it.

You might read this now and think I’m completely bonkers, but you’ll know what I mean one day. So, my friend, stop yourself as you step forward to create wealth and success within your family. Don’t forget how sweet it is to be with your family or how fun it is to just kick it with your friends. As much as you want to be 18 or 21, you can only travel through time in one direction – forward – and with one speed – normal. Why not enjoy it?