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Next Step Academy | Life Skills

Tips for Saving Money in College

August 16th, 2016 by

Money is tight when you’re in college, forcing you to become thrifty and develop your money management skills. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years for saving money in college.

Take advantage of campus activities. Instead of going out and spending money, look for events on campus. Your college most likely offers movie nights and other social gatherings that are either really cheap or completely free.

Buy used. This goes for textbooks, clothes, mini fridges, everything. Almost every bookstore has a used section and you can always look online to see if people are selling old textbooks cheap. Many colleges also host a sale at the beginning of the semester where they sell things past students gave away or left behind. This can be a great place to get dishes and cheap electronics.

Opt for a cheaper meal plan. Be realistic about how much food you eat and choose the correlating meal plan. It may also be worth it to choose a basic meal plan and supplement with groceries. Do you really need your meal plan to cover breakfast if all you eat is a granola bar?

Always make a shopping list. Whether you need new school supplies or it’s your weekly trip to the grocery store, always make a list. A list will ensure you get everything you need, but will also help limit wandering and impulse purchases as you shop.

Avoid name brands. Believe me, the generic chocolate sandwich cookies are just as yummy as Oreos. There’s no need to spend the extra buck for a name brand product and those bucks add up fast.
Need help managing your finances in college? Here are some courses that can help you out: Paying for College, Credit

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Scheduling College Classes like a Pro

August 9th, 2016 by

The fall semester is fast approaching and if this is your first semester, you may not know the best way to schedule your classes. Some of it is trial and error, but there is a lot you can plan for ahead of time. Consider this your guide to scheduling classes like a pro.

work-1515801_960_720Register ASAP. Don’t wait to register for classes, do it as soon as you can. While you may be limited based on your rank and number, this will ensure that all of your classes are open and you have more flexibility to choose class time.

Check out your professors. In the digital age, there are countless ways to investigate a professor before you register for a class. Use services like Rate My Professor to learn about their teaching style and see what other students have to say about them.

Be aware of program requirements. Make sure you know what classes you need to fulfill general education and major requirements. Keep a list and check them off as you complete them to make sure you stay on track. Try to take classes that fulfill more than one requirement if possible.

Learn the campus. Consult a map while you are registering for classes and make sure your classes aren’t too far apart. Most colleges only give you 10 minutes to travel and if you have back to back classes on opposite sides of campus, you may not make it on time.

Know yourself. If you aren’t a morning a person, then don’t schedule an 8 a.m class. If you have a short attention span, opt for a one hour lecture three days a week, rather than a three hour lecture one day a week. Don’t try to force yourself into a routine you aren’t used to. You’ll lose motivation and the prospect of skipping class will begin to look better and better as the semester goes on.

When in doubt, reach out to your academic advisor. They are by far the best tool available to you and can help you stay on track as you complete your degree.

 

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Living With Roommates

July 27th, 2016 by

Throughout college, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad roommates. Sharing a space with other people isn’t always easy, but there are some ways to help make it work.

Communicate and establish ground rules. We all have different habits and preferences. Communicate those preferences to your roommates and ask them to do the same. Then, find some common ground and use that to create some rules for your shared place. For example, if one roommate likes to go to bed early, have a rule that guests need to leave by 10 p.m. Or, let your roommates know what possessions you don’t mind them using and what is off-limits.

Track your expenses.  Bills add up quickly so it’s helpful to track spending carefully and make sure everyone contributes equally.  Luckily, there’s an app for that. The best one I’ve come across is Splitwise. Anytime someone pays a bill or picks up dinner, they log it into the app. Then you pick a day to “Settle Up” and the app does all the math, letting you know who owes who what. You can connect your bank account and pay your roommates instantly.

Share the work. With a great apartment comes great responsibilities. Chores add up quickly and you need to decide who does the dishes and cleans the bathroom. A chart may not work for every set of roommates, but it’s good to have a physical reminder when it’s your turn to dump trash. A set chore rotation also ensures that the same person doesn’t get stuck with scrubbing toilet every week.how_to_live_in_harmony_with_roommates

Spend time together. Don’t let yourselves become ghosts to one another, where the only time you remember you have roommates is when you realize someone finished the cereal. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do need to get along. Take part in each other’s interests or have a weekly movie night. By spending time together, you’ll be more likely to discuss conflicts when they arise and who knows, you may actually become really good friends.

Effective communication is the foundation for a good relationship with your roommates. Need to brush up on your skills? Take Next Step Academy’s “Communication Skills” course.

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Building a Stellar Resume

July 25th, 2016 by

Your resume is the first impression you leave with a potential employer. Before the interview, they’ve already reviewed your skills and accomplishments. Don’t let a bad resume be the reason you can’t get your foot in the door. Follow these tips to help you create a stellar resume as you take the next step towards your dream job.

A well constructed resume includes the following sections:

Summary statement. This is the first section of your resume and it should be short and sweet. Just a quick blurb about who you are and what experience you have to offer. Ex. “Public relations professional with 5+ years experience using innovative social media tactics…”

Notable skills. Now is your chance to tell your potential employer what useful skills you have that make you the perfect candidate for the position. You can include soft skills such as teamwork and time management, but most employers expect that from all candidates. Try to highlight the specific skill sets you have and include software you are familiar with.

13903383190_5920c870e1_bProfessional experience. Where have you worked, what have you done and how have you used the skills you mentioned? You do not need to include every job you’ve ever had. Only include relevant experience to the position you’re applying for and make sure you are honest. Omitting irrelevant experience is fine, including experience you’ve never had is not.  

Key projects and accomplishments. This section can actually be included as a subsection for your professional experience. Describe impressive projects you’ve worked on, especially if you received recognition or an award for your accomplishment.

Additional experience. Include volunteer work, internships, freelance and consulting work. Make sure you describe the work and create a connection between your skills and your professional experience.

Education. Where you went to school and the degree you received should typically be the last section on your resume. Unless you are using your resume to get an internship or entry-level position, your major and GPA are often less important than the experience and skills you’ve acquired.

Don’t overshare.

Believe it or not, some people put everything on their resume, including their favorite color and how many kids they have. Stick to skills and experience and leave the personal details about friends, family and non-professional hobbies out of your resume.

Remember to proofread for spelling and grammar and keep things consistent. This means using the same punctuation, using either paragraph or bulleted format, not both, and keeping text the same size and style throughout.

Take Next Step Academy’s “Career Readiness” course for more professional and career building tips.

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The Auto i and Other Tech That Revolutionizes the Way We Drive

July 20th, 2016 by

Technology can often be seen as a threat to our driving, but it can also be the solution to building better and safer driving habits. We’ve found three innovative technologies to help you and your loved ones drive safe and distraction-free.

LifeSaver

LifeSaver is an app that detects when you’re driving and automatically disables phone functions. The app allows the driver to receive hands free inbound calls and hear GPS instructions, but all other apps become blocked while the car is in motion. The app now comes with the Driver Portal, which allows parents and loved ones to set driving guidelines, monitor behavior and reward drivers for distraction-free driving. If a teen unlocks their phone or disables their phone’s GPS tracking while driving, parents receive a notification on their smart phone. LifeSaver also sends an alert to let loved ones know you arrived at your destination safely.

Lifesaver is available on iTunes and Google Play

69715ab2bc28313e37beec5272fd8365_originalAuto i

The Auto i is a 360 dash cam security system that connects users to their vehicles. You install the small device beside your rearview mirror. If the car is involved in an accident or broken into, Auto i alerts the vehicle owner and sends the 15 seconds of footage prior to impact to your smart phone. Auto i sends out a verbal warning when involved in an impact or being broken into to alert the perpetrators that the camera is recording them. The device includes a GPS locator so you can find your car in the event of its being stolen, when it’s being used by another family member or when it’s lost in a crowded parking lot. You can also watch your teenager’s driving habits and make sure they are driving safe and without distractions.

Pre-order the Auto i on Kickstarter

Cobra JoyRide

Cobra JoyRide is a car charging device and app compatible with Android smartphones. The device plugs into your car’s 12v power port and has a USB port to connect your phone. The JoyRide app will launch a driving mode window upon connecting your device to the charger. Driving mode limits the apps you can use while the car is moving. You can customize driving mode and choose several apps you want access to while driving, such as GPS or your favorite music player but all other apps become blocked. You can toggle between functions, manage apps, answer calls and voice search simply by tapping the charger. The app also comes equipped with a GPS car locator. Cobra JoyRide is great for helping you remove distractions while still maintaining access to some apps.

Cobra JoyRide is available on Amazon

Looking for more information on safe driving? Take our “Distracted Driving” course.

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The 20-Hour Rule

July 18th, 2016 by

We all want to become better at something. After all, learning new skills is necessary to give yourself an edge as you develop your career. For many years the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell has been the standard for mastering skills. If you do the math, 10,000 hours equates to about 90 minutes of practice every day for 20 years!

6-Ways-to-Learn-New-Skills-OnlineThe truth is, to reach a reasonable and useful level of skill proficiency, you only need to commit yourself to 20 hours, not 20 years. Whether you want to become better at public speaking or learn HTML, you can develop the new skill by dedicating yourself to just 40 minutes of practice each day for one month.

So how exactly do you learn a new skill with the 20 hour rule?

  • 1. First, you need to decide what skills will help you on your career path. Then, you need to pre-commit to 20 hours of dedicated practice. The 20 hour rule is a good way to gauge interest in the skill. If you aren’t willing to schedule 40 minutes a day to learn a particular skill, then you should consider learning something else.

 

  • 2. Once you’ve committed to learning a new skill, break it down into smaller more manageable sub-skills. This eliminates the tendency to feel overwhelmed, making it easier to get started. You can break down a skill like HTML into first learning how to place tags, then how to manipulate text, then how to create links, and so on.

 

  • 3. After you’ve broken up a skill into sub-skills, decide which sub-skills are most important and focus on those first. By dedicating your early practice to the fundamental sub-skills you’ll notice a significant increase in your performance after just a few hours of commitment.


Need ideas for a new skill to develop? Check out one of Next Step Academy’s job skills courses.

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Tips For Living On Your Own For the First Time

July 4th, 2016 by

Moving out of your parents’ house for the first time can be scary. Groceries will no longer magically appear in the fridge and there won’t be anyone to wash your sheets for you. If you’re considering leaving the nest and finding your independence, here are some tips for planning ahead and making a smooth transition into adulthood.

17233058042_b2a96148e4_bCreate a budget. Once you move out, money is going to become an even bigger deal than it is now.You’ll soon discover that money doesn’t go as far as you think. Start researching apartments to get a feel for how much rent costs in your area. You also need to consider expenses like insurance, food, gas, electric, internet and your phone. Make a list and compare that to your current paycheck. See where you can cut costs like eating out less or finding a roommate.

Save up. Once you find a place to live, moving expenses add up quick. You’ll most likely need to pay an application fee, security deposit, first and last month’s rent and a pet deposit if you’re bringing along a furry friend. Before you move out, save up as much money as you can. Make sure you have a good cushion of funds for all the mandatory payments, but also for an emergency fund. Keep at least three months’ rent saved away in case of emergency.

Plan ahead. Start preparing for the move way in advance. Collect furniture and boxes that your friends and family may be giving away and check out thrift stores for cheap household items. It’s easy to forget everything you’ll need when you move out, like a kitchen table, chairs, rugs and hand towels. Preparing ahead of time gives you more time to look for cheap items you actually like, rather than just taking whatever you can get your hands on the month before you move.

Learn good habits. Do you know how to cook? More than just boxed macaroni and cheese? Before you move out it’s important to brush up on your life skills and develop good habits. Learn how to cook a few basic meals, do laundry regularly (not just when you run out of underwear) and start washing your dishes after every meal. Make sure you can do all the chores you’ll have to do on your own when you move out.

You’re going to learn quickly that living on your own for the first time is hard. You may not be living the high life and your apartment may not look like the ones you see on Tumblr, but it’s still a good life. Start preparing early and you’ll be able to make it on your own just fine.

 

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Five Tips to Nail Your Interview

June 27th, 2016 by

Interviews can be the most stressful part of getting a job, with your future employment dependent on the impression you leave with a total stranger. The key to having a great interview and landing the job is being proactive and confident.pexels-photo-70292

Here are five tips for having a successful interview:

Research. Read up on the company before the interview. Make sure you know exactly what position you are interviewing for and learn about the company’s history and values. This will help you stand out from the beginning of the interview. Bonus points if you learn the names of your interviewer and the higher-ups in the company.

Dress for success. Make sure the clothes you wear to the interview are clean, wrinkle-free and professional. Think you’re under-dressed? Call ahead of time and find out the company’s dress code and use that as a guideline for what to wear to the interview.

Arrive on time. Do not be late, but also don’t arrive too early. Aim to walk into the office five minutes before your interview. Not parking five minutes before, but in the office and ready to shine five minutes before your scheduled interview time.

Come prepared. Review common interview questions and have answers ready. Consider practicing a mock interview with a friend or family member. Bring multiple copies of your resume, a notebook and a pen. Also consider bringing a list of questions you have for the company. Employers tend to ask at the end of the interview if you have questions for them. Make sure you ask something thoughtful like where they see the company going in the next five years — but leave the conversation about salary for the follow-up!

Send a thank you. Follow up with the interviewer by sending a thank you note. An email is adequate, however a handwritten note adds a personal touch and will help you stand out. The best advice I ever received was to write the thank you note BEFORE the interview, and slip it in the company’s mailbox on your way out!

 

Want more tips for nailing your interview and getting your dream job? Take the Next Step Academy course “Interviewing Skills” to learn more.

 

 

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Physical Activity and You!

March 30th, 2016 by

fitness-332278_1920

Go to school, go to work, do homework and projects, go to club meetings, clean your room, go to bed; get up and do it all over again with little time to spare. Considering the amount of commitments everyone has, it’s a wonder there’s time to do anything but work, let alone do the one thing many dread: exercise. There’s danger in getting caught up in the busyness of all our responsibilities, though—major stress, both emotional and physical. The best way to allot enough “me” time to de-stress and stay healthy is to be active a few times a week. During the hours spent looking through Netflix, trying to find something to watch, we’re better off doing some kind of physical activity. Most times, marathoning a TV show on the couch seems much more appealing than prepping for a marathon, but the no-so-long-term benefits of exercise are worth the extra effort.

Lsports-731506_1920et’s get physical. The most obvious benefits of exercise are the physical ones. First of all, exercising develops muscles and burns fat, contributing to our physical fitness. Depending on your personal self-image, exercise may be what you need for an extra confidence boost. Secondly, exercise is great for our insides. Physical activity strengthens the heart, just like any other muscle, and lowers blood pressure. While this may not sound too exciting now, 70-year-old you will thank you for it. Exercise can also give you an energy boost, in addition to help you sleep more soundly. Better sleep patterns can lead to better work performance, decreased stress and generally better moods.


Happy, happy, happy.
As Elle Woods once said in “Legally Blonde,” “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.” Sustained. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are the “feel good” chemicals our bodies produce when we exercise, and even after we finish exercising. The production of these chemicals leads to less stress, more happiness, less depression, less anxiety and better self esteem. These benefits transfer into every facet of our lives, including work and school. Physical activity can lead to better performance at work, in school and play a part in developing healthy personal relationship. So, in the interest of your academic life, personal life and career, get up and be active.


healthy-person-woman-sportThe starting line.
In order to cash in on the benefits of exercise, you should be active three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. Being physically active doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, not one that makes you miserable. The more fun you have exercising, the more you’ll want to do it, and the better the payoff will be. Shake it up and rotate your activities to avoid boredom: attend a yoga class, go golfing without the golf cart, ride your bike, or jog around the neighborhood with the dog (he could probably use the exercise, too). Anything that gets your heart pumping is fair game. Give yourself the motivation you need by setting goals for yourself: nail the tree pose in yoga without toppling over, shave an extra minute off your mile, do three more reps in each weight session, etc. 

Next time you go to sit down and browse for a show you’re just going to be bored of 10 minutes in, consider doing something that will pay off big time in the long run—exercise. Get started today, but first, take our quick fitness course to find your motivation! 

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How to: Cultivate Creativity

March 23rd, 2016 by

Creativity and creative expressions are as unique as each of us. And like many of our personality traits it can be developed over time. Being creative is a highly adaptable skill in all aspects of life—from writing and design to problem solving and engineering. Our world becomes increasingly creative day-by-day. With thanks to the Internet, we can share these wonderful creations and learn from each other.

So, how can you improve your own creative skills? pen-idea-bulb-paper

Stop Hesitating: “Creativity takes courage”, said French painter, Henri Matisse. Let your guard down and put aside negative thoughts and fears. Often, we let our minds get clouded by the “what-if’s”: “what if no one likes it” or “what if it doesn’t turn out the way I want?” These types of anxieties can be paralyzing. Be brave. Let go of these thoughts and you’ll feel free to begin creating.

Explore: Step outside your comfort zone. We’re all different and are inspired by different environments, so it may take time to find what awakens your creativity. Exploring new places and seeking out new experiences can be a great way to find new ways to be creative. Whether it be hiking a trail, trying a new sport, or learning a language; there are a thousand different paths to take, so take as many as you can.

Ask Questions: There’s a saying that goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. So, when you find yourself out in the world and encounter something unfamiliar, ask about it. Access your inner child and indulge that curiosity. Creativity can be sparked by the most unlikely of sources. Plus, the more you learn, the more experiences you have to draw from and the more references to build from. You’ll begin to appreciate all forms of creativity and develop your own unique style.                                                                             

female-865110_1920Write: Even if you don’t fancy yourself a ‘writer’, writing is an awesome tool for developing creativity. For non-writers, there are many ways to make writing work for you: idea books, mind maps, “100” lists, morning pages, and writing prompts are just some of the popular exercises. Many of these do not require proper grammar, spelling, or even full sentences. Think of these as streams of consciousness, as the words come to you, write them down, don’t second guess yourself—just write.

Challenge Yourself: Set goals for yourself. Find unusual ways to accomplish your everyday activities. Branching out to try other creative outlets can also be a challenge, especially if it’s an activity you haven’t tried before. Setting themes can help to focus your creative challenges, for instance, if you’re working with writing prompts, pick a theme for the day or week and write about related topics. If you’re focusing on visual creations, apply the same method by drawing, building or photographing objects within your theme.

At the end of the day, your own curiosity will help cultivate your creative side. Make a conscious effort each day to do, write, think or create something out-of-the-box, then share your creativity with us! We’d love to see what you’re capable of, so share your creations with us in the comments below or on any of our social media pages using #NSACreates! 

Creative resources to get you started:

Writing Exercises:                                  Creative Resources:

Writers Digest                                         Creative Thinking

Poets & Writers                                       Creative Commons

Practical Creative Writing                        Creative Bloq

 

 

 

 

 

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