College Life


Preparing for a New Semester in College

Preparing for a New Semester in College

Seeing the back-to-school sections all over stores makes it hard for me to believe that I’m not actually going back to school in the fall. I feel so old! Is it possible that graduating in three years has made me feel older than just 21? I think it has. 21 going on 31 (it doesn’t have quite the same ring as 13 going on 30, but it’s how I feel).

Lucky for me, I’m still gearing up for the back-to-school season here on the blog. And just like always, I’m getting ready ahead of the game! Keep reading and you’ll find out that getting ready early is better (and for some tips, necessary). Start now and prepare for a successful school year:

5 Easy Hacks to Simplify College Life

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of IntelliARMOR. The opinions and text are all mine.

Easy Hacks to Simplify College Life

College was the first time I was ever on my own for a considerable amount of time. And let me tell you, it didn’t take long for me to realize that being on your own entails a lot more than you think. You have to handle your own schedule, cooking, cleaning, spending, work, homework. Everything. Before it gets to overwhelming, I’m sharing 5 hacks that I learned during my time at college that will make your 4 years a little bit easier.

Big Spender

It’s easy to overspend- whether you’re in college or not! It all starts out so innocently. You have every intention of staying in and cooking a cheap meal… but then your friends call and want to go out for dinner and grab a few drinks after. Repeat a few times a week, and you’ve spent way more than planned.

I think it’s easier to spend less when you pay attention to your expenses. Mint is a really helpful app that tracks what you are spending your money on. When you see just how much you are spending on clothes/fast food, you might just be shocked into keeping your purse locked up. Mint also has other great features; Mint sends you bill reminders and allows you to check out how hypothetical situations will affect your bank account. Want to add a few extra dollars to your savings account each month, Mint will create a graph to help you visualize how much more you’ll have saved by the end of the year.

Too Many Chargers

Easy Hacks to Simplify College Life

As a college student and especially as a college blogger, I had so many electronics. Instead of dealing with a ton of different chargers, the IntelliSMART 4-Port USB Wall Charger allowed me to charge all of my devices in one plug quickly. If your device uses a USB, you can use the IntelliSMART charger. This means whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, Fitbit, camera, anything, you can charge it. Not only does the IntelliSMART charger save you the space and hassle of dealing with a number of different wall plug-ins, it also has smart technology that allows your devices to charge as quickly as possible without overcharging. The intelligent wall charger determines the charging needs of each attached device individually.

I have to say, I’m always super nervous to purchase accessories for my phone that aren’t Apple products because haven’t we all bought one of those charging cords that goes in and out and you’re left fiddling with your phone just to try to get it to charge for a few seconds before being forced to repeat the process? Yeah, I learned quickly saving a few extra dollars was not worth the hassel. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that with the IntelliSMART charger, my device really did charge quickly and efficiently. It’s worth the money. With the coupon code SmartPwr you can even get 20% off!

Struggling Student

I’ve written on how to study and stay healthy during finals and on how to increase your productivity. These are both great posts to check out if you are struggling in class, but I’ll put it here simply. It is quite possible to think you are studying so much and so hard and trying your best and still do poorly in classes or even just one class. The thing is, though, the way most college students study isn’t the most effective or even easiest way to study. You’re working harder than you have to. If you are struggling in classes or even just one class, it’s time to overhaul how you study. Here are a few hacks to help you study more efficiently and get better grades:

  • Reread your notes every night after class.
  • Take short, frequent breaks when you study. This will help you focus, I promise! You aren’t wasting your time like you think.
  • Exercise before you study.
  • Don’t wait to study the day of your exam. You remember information better after a good night of rest.
  • Set your phone down and focus on what’s in front of you.

Screen Time

Easy Hacks to Simplify College Life

As a college student we spend a lot of time in front of a screen. And here’s a real shocker: it isn’t good for our health. I have two recommendations to make your screen time shorter and healthier. To cut your screen time down while you are studying or sitting in class, block social media. My biggest time killer is Facebook. I scroll and scroll and scroll without ever posting, commenting or interacting. It really is wasted time. There are apps you can download on your computer to block distracting sites for a set amount of time while you study. If you’re on a PC, check out Cold Turkey to block your distractions. Cold Turkey is also coming soon for Mac, but if you need a program to block your apps on a Mac right now, there is also Self Control. Make sure to check out the reviews on Self Control first though! I’ve heard mixed reviews. I personally wouldn’t recommend it; if I had to choose, I would wait it out for Cold Turkey.

To make your time sitting at the computer healthier, I suggest downloading an app like f.lux. f.lux adjusts your computer screen to match the lighting during various times of the day. The website explains that, “during the day, computer screens look good—they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun.” Through adjusting the lighting on your computer, f.lux will help you sleep better. Another great way to make screen time healthier is by investing in a pair of computer glasses. I wrote a post about the benefits of computer glasses and my favorite brand last year here. Long story short, computer glasses help block blue light, preventing digital eyestrain. Have you ever gotten a headache from sitting at the computer to long? That’s a good sign you’re suffering from digital eyestrain!

A Busy Planner

To plan out my schedule, I used to use a planner and a black pen. Then my schedule started to get hectic. My assignments and appointments were running together, and my planner was difficult to read. I decided to invest in a multi-color pen set, and my schedule automatically became easier to follow. Using different colors for each aspect of your life helps the important things stand out. For example, I used my blue pen for homework assignments. My green pen for sorority obligations. My pink pen for blog-related work. And my orange pen for everyday life and plans with friends, family, etc. After making the switch, I never forgot an event! If you don’t want to spend the money on a new set of pens, try highlighters or any other colored writing utensils you have available!

I want to know: How do you simplify your college life? Have you ever tried computer glasses? What are your favorite study tips? Let me know in the comments below!

Graduation & Post-Grad Plans

Graduation & Post-Grad Plans - Ali in Bloom

A week and a half ago I graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign; it seems like just last year I was telling you guys about my high school graduation! Turns out that was actually three years ago. I think it’s true what they say; time goes by faster and faster as you get older.

Graduating college has meant a lot of change. I moved back home. I had to update my about me page because I can no longer call myself a college blogger?! I’m taking the first real break since who-knows-when.

Life has been good though, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my break. I’m taking the time to spend time with friends and family, enjoy the warm weather and post here three times a week (starting next week look out for posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday). I’m also taking this time to work on my Youtube channel. I’ll be posting once a week to Youtube, so make sure to watch for a new video every Friday! Despite editing my about me page because I can no longer call myself a college blogger, I’ll still be sharing college-related posts. After graduating, I think I can give an even better perspective on this whole crazy journey we call college. I’ll also be adding post-grad posts into the mix, giving my advice on the job hunt and living a fulfilling life in your 20s, etc. I’m really excited about this more specific direction I have decided to take!

Graduation & Post-Grad Plans - Ali in Bloom

So… The moment you have all been waiting for, I know. Outside of keeping up with Ali in Bloom, what are my post-grad plans? In an effort to be as transparent and open as possible with you all, I will be the first to admit: I have no definitive, concrete plan, and right now, I’m okay with that.

The past three years have been the busiest, most life-changing years of my life. I grew up. I found myself. I discovered new passions and made my way back to old ones. Now, I’m taking this opportunity to sit down and reflect on where life has lead me and on how I’ve grown as a person. Being able to self-reflect and better understand myself, I can only hope, will help me in the future to be the best person I can be.

Now, when I say I have no definitive, concrete plan, I don’t mean to say that I have no plan at all. If you have been around since January, you probably saw my goals for 2016. One of the goals I set for 2016 was to turn my blog into a business and make it my full-time job. I still want to turn Ali in Bloom into a business. I love this blog, you guys. I really do. It has been with me for so long- through so many different parts of my life. I’m not forgetting about this goal. I still have my business plan tucked away in my journal along with mini-goals to keep me on track, but for a number of reason, I won’t be pursuing Ali in Bloom full-time just yet. Here’s why:

  • I want direction. I do want to move out of Illinois at some point in my life (by that I mean some point very soon). As much as I love it here, I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to explore and see the world. Taking on the challenge of moving somewhere new is something I think needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. Working as a full-time blogger, I wouldn’t have a reason to move. I still could, but finding a job out of state is definitely a little nudge that I want for myself- plus it takes away the difficult decision of choosing where in the world to move.
  • I want experience. Sure, managing my own website looks great on a resume, but I’ve never worked in the corporate world full-time. I want to give it a try so that I can know both ends of the spectrum. I really strongly feel that working for a company will give me invaluable skills.
  • I want stability. Right out of college, I feel like I need stability to get up on my feet. I have student loan debt and an empty savings account. College will do that to you, am I right? I want a steady job that can help me in the next chapter of my life as I move out on my own and take on more expenses.
  • I want to be a part of a team. This may be the biggest reason I want to join the corporate world. I love being a part of something bigger than myself. At Ali in Bloom, it’s just me.

With that being said, I will start my job search in July after I finish up the last of my break plans. I’m hoping to find a position in the editorial field. One of the major things I learned quickly on this break is that I love writing and inspiring. At the end of the day, writing is the reason I started blogging in the first place. The wonderful connections I’ve made and photography, videography and marketing skills I’ve learned along the way are all bonuses.

All in all, I am so very excited for this next phase in my life. I may not have a concrete plan, but that only makes it more exhilarating. I could end up anywhere. I could do anything. Meet anyone. Experience everything. As I move forward in my job hunt, I will be sure to keep you in the loop and let you know where I end up. And thank you. Thank you to everyone who has read Ali in Bloom once or 100 times. It doesn’t matter. You all have supported my passion and helped me rediscover my purpose!

Did you have a concrete plan when you graduated college? Did they unfold how you expected they would?

Tested Interview Tips to Get Hired

Simple Interview Tips to Get Hired. You can take actionable steps before, during, and after the interview that will help you get hired.

I can’t claim to be an expert at finding a job or on how to get hired. I have landed a few positions and internships in my past, but now as I am starting my interview process over again to find a job post-grad, even I have had a few failed interviews; from those, however, I was able to learn from my mistakes and grow as a person and potential employee. I spent several hours researching interview etiquette, interview questions and answers, and general tips after my fumbles. Now, I want to share the knowledge I have accumulated over my professional and academic experience in a simple, straight-to-the-point way to help prevent you from having to spend hours scouring the internet for help.  Without experience and practice, interviews can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, however, it’s that with preparation, you have nothing to worry about. You can take actionable steps before, during, and after the interview that will help you get hired.

Before the Interview

Perfect Your Resume. 

  • Proofread your resume to make sure you have no typos. I know that during the job hunt, you can spend a lot of type writing, typing, and editing – emails, cover letters, and resume changes. If you are feeling burnt out and the words are just starting to blur together from rereading so many times, ask a friend or family member to help you look over your materials. They don’t have to be into grammar or English or have any type of editing experience. Having a fresh set of eyes regardless will help catch mistakes you didn’t the first time. Avoiding typos will demonstrate to your future employer that you pay attention to details and value accuracy.
  • Exchange dull, boring verbs and adjectives for descriptive word choices that highlight exactly what you did in your position.
  • Be specific. Add facts, data, and accomplishments. Give hard facts that demonstrate your success. It’s like they always said in high school English class: “show, don’t tell” in writing.

Research the company as thoroughly as possible; it’s impossible to over prepare. For my interviews, I generally scope out:

  • the company website
  • the company social media channels (including the company LinkedIn page)
  • and read reviews and interviews for the company on Glassdoor.

Make sure you also know the ins and outs of the job description. Knowing the position like the back of your hand will enable you to highlight the characteristics most important to the position during your interview and highlight how your previous work experience has prepared you for this specific role and avoid making general statements about your personality.

Research the interviewer if you know his/her name. Knowing your interviewers role in the company will give you helpful background information to know what questions they may be able to answer and if you would be working directly with them. Researching the interviewer will help you avoid an awkward “wait…who are you?” moment.  Your best bet for finding out position and responsibilities is LinkedIn.

Simple Interview Tips to Get Hired. You can take actionable steps before, during, and after the interview that will help you get hired.

Know where you are going.

  • Write down the address.
  • Print out old fashioned Map Quest directions.
  • Make sure your phone is charged if you are using it as a GPS and pack a phone charger for the road.
  • Look up an image of the outside of the building so that you know what you are looking for when you arrive.
  • Figure out where you will park if parking is not available. You may be interested in asking your company contact their opinion on where to park. Of course, they do work there. They would know what your best option is.

If your interview is in the area and it is possible, it would even be a good idea to take a practice trip the day before your interview.

Prepare your answers for the common interview questions. Know how you are going to answer:

  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “What is your greatest strength/weakness?”
  • “Why should we hire you?”
  • “Why do you want to work for our company?”
  • “Why do you want to work in (insert field here)?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

There are a large number of resources on the internet about how to answer specific interview questions. My advice to you is just to be careful that you don’t sound like you’re reading those answers word for word. The interviewer wants to get a sense of who you are- not what you read on the internet. Answer the questions truthfully and according to who you are, how you feel, and based on the role you are applying for.

Also make sure that you have specific situations in mind for requests such as:

  • “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
  • “Tell me about a time you failed.”
  • “Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.”
  • “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.”

These questions are a little bit harder to find examples for on the internet since they are highly personal, but there are still great resources out there. My personal advice is to make sure that you are honest and real. It’s okay to admit that you failed, but it is important to show how you have grown from it, what you learned, and how it has helped you in your career.

Other helpful resources on preparing your interview answers:

“Tell Me About Yourself” Answers (Examples Included)

31 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers

During the Interview

Dress professionally. Each company has its own policy on dress code, so if you are worried about what to wear, don’t hesitate to ask your company contact what the appropriate attire is. If you get a generic “business casual” response and still are unsure, in the past I have even been able to do my own research. I have found pictures of the employees in the office on the company LinkedIn page and social media accounts and have based my outfit around them. Your best bet, however, is to always be over dressed as compared to underdressed. If you find an image of the employees in jeans, assume it was casual Friday, and still dress professionally.

Want to know a fun fact about dressing for an interview? The best colors to wear to an interview are blue and black, and the worst color to wear is orange.

If you need more inspiration, I just posted my office lookbook over on my Youtube channel that highlights my favorite office looks!

Show up early. Showing up early will help you in a number of ways. You’ll look punctual to your future employer, and you will be much more relax if you’re not running through the door at the last minute to make your interview in time. Take the extra few minutes to adjust any stray hairs, remember what you want to say, and just relax and absorb your surroundings.

When showing up early, avoid playing on your phone to pass the time. You never know who is paying attention or notices you. It is much better to look attentive, present, and ready to go at any moment.

Ask questions if the interviewer asks if you have any questions… and even if they don’t. Asking questions helps show that you are interested in the position. Some of my favorite questions (although they vary based on position) are:

  • “What does a typical day in this position look like?”
  • “What is the next step in the process?”
  • “When is the expected start date for this position?”
  • “How can I be successful in this role?”
  • “Does this role require primarily independent work or collaboration?”

I would avoid asking any questions that are answered in the job description. Be wary of this; it may seem like you didn’t study the job description well enough, which in turn makes you look uninterested.

Ask honest questions. Going to an interview helps you get to know the company as much as it helps the company get to know you. If you are wondering something, ask- as long as it is appropriate, professional, and doesn’t reflect negatively on you as a candidate.

After the Interview

Simple Interview Tips to Get Hired. You can take actionable steps before, during, and after the interview that will help you get hired.

Send a thank you note to the interviewer in the mail or via email after you finish your interview. Although I’m sure you thanked the interviewer for his/her time before ending the interview, it never hurts to go the extra mile to follow up and express your interest and gratitude one last time. The little things matter when trying to land a new job.

Other helpful resources on sending a thank you note after your interview:

22 Thank You Note Tips That Will Get You the Job

Sample Job Interview Thank You Email

There is no doubt that getting hired requires more than just a well prepared and beautifully executed interview. It requires being the right fit and having the needed experience and skill set. But if you fit the criteria for the position and have the relevant, necessary experience, nailing your interview will get you hired in no time.

What do you get most nervous about for an interview? What is the most unexpected question you have been asked in an interview? What is your go-to interview outfit? I want to know! Let me know in the comment section below.