Practice being present so that you can better focus, overcome negative thoughts, and develop your sense of purpose.
By Elizabeth Catanese & Kate Sanchez
Mindfulness Exercise #1: Gratitude
When things get tough, stay positive by remembering what you are thankful for in your life. In this exercise, Elizabeth walks you through a simple gratitude exercise that you can do every day.
Mindfulness Exercise #2: Cultivating Focus
Get the most out of class, studying, and homework by integrating Kate's simple strategies to cultivate your focus. It will help save you time and energy while creating higher quality work.
Mindfulness Exercise #3: Deep Breathing
Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, bringing yourself back to the present moment can be as simple as taking a few intentional, deep breaths. In this video, Kate guides you through a mindful breathing exercise.
What Is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who started the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (1994). People practice mindfulness in many different ways (meditation, walking, coloring, eating), but what connects them is this intentional embrace of whatever is happening now.
Mindfulness brings awareness to the volume of the thoughts swirling in your head, or in the world around you, so you can really connect to the moment in front of you.
Mindfulness practices have existed for thousands of years all over the world and are now being used in education to help students thrive.
How to Start a Practice?
If you want to reap the benefits of a mindfulness practice, start by trying some different activities, searching for the one that connects most to you personally. For instance, you might enjoy coloring, while others find it frustrating. Others may enjoy a sitting meditation, while you might benefit from a walking one. After you find a mindfulness exercise that works for you, plan to do it regularly, but start small. You might begin by writing three things you are grateful for in your journal each morning, or you might meditate for five minutes before bed each night. Making it a part of your daily routine can help you remember to do it. Keep in mind, this is a practice, and you cannot do it “wrong.” Stay open to learning as a part of the process and have fun!
Benefits of Mindfulness
When you practice mindfulness, you find ways to be aware of your experiences. It may sound simple, but it’s harder than it seems! Have you ever read a page from a textbook and then not remembered anything you read? In this case, practicing mindfulness might have led to greater focus or even a realization that you needed to take a nap before studying. Also, when you increase your awareness and notice more stress and anxiety inside you, this can remind you to do a meditation or a creative activity to re-center.
Mindfulness has all kind of health benefits too. For some, it has reduced anxiety and depression. For others it has helped with chronic health conditions like migraines and high blood pressure.
Studies have shown that mindfulness practice can lead to greater persistence and success in education as well.
It’s easy to try to block out experiences, especially negative ones, but in the long run, mindfulness practice can help you become a more engaged participant in your own life and a much better friend to yourself.
Take the mindfulness survey!
Elizabeth and Kate want to develop more mindfulness activities, but they need your help. Please take this brief mindfulness survey to provide your feedback. Both instructors and students are invited to participate. Just click the button below.
Elizabeth Catanese is an Assistant Professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia. Trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction, Elizabeth has enjoyed incorporating mindfulness activities into her college classroom for over ten years. Elizabeth works to deepen her mindful awareness through writing children's books, cartooning and parenting her energetic twin toddlers, Dylan and Escher.
Kate Sanchez is an Assistant Professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia where she enjoys finding creative ways to incorporate mindfulness into her curriculum. Inspired by her own journey, she created the Vitamin.k.mindful YouTube channel to share mindful living strategies with others. Every night before bed, she does a metta “lovingkindness” meditation with her toddler daughter.
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Take care of your mind, body, and spirit to accomplish your goals.
By Paul Gore, PhD, Wade Leuwerke, PhD, and A.J. Metz, PhD
During stressful times, learn to identify your emotions so you can better manage them. In this video, A.J. provides an overview on how you can develop your emotional intelligence.
Selfcare and Adaptive Coping
Defending yourself against stress includes selfcare strategies, like making sure you get enough sleep. In this video, check out A.J.'s 7 strategies for preventing and managing stress.
Having the right mindset can help you successfully overcome challenges. In this video, Wade offers some advice on how to cultivate a mindset for success.
Paul’s efforts to promote college and career readiness, high school and college student persistence and academic success are informed by over twenty-five years of research, program development, implementation, evaluation, consulting and teaching. Paul currently serves as the Provost at Bellarmine University. Paul earned his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in student career development, academic success, and transition, from Loyola Univeristy - Chicago. Learn more about Paul here.
Wade is an associate professor of counseling at Drake University. He earned his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. Wade has authored over fifty journal articles and book chapters, as well as national and international conference presentations. One of his areas of research is the assessment and development of student and employee non-cognitive skills. Learn more about Wade here.
A.J. is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Utah and serves as director of the master’s program in school counseling. She earned a M.Ed. in rehabilitation counseling in 1997 and a Ph.D. in urban education (with a specialization in counseling psychology) in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Learn more about A.J. here.
For more help on getting the most out of your first semester of college, see Paul, Wade, & A.J.'s book, Connections, Second Edition.
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Academic & Financial Planning
How to stay on track in a time of uncertainty.
By John Gardner, PhD & Betsy Barefoot, PhD
The most important resource for you in college may very well be your academic advisor. John & Betsy offer their advice on how to develop and achieve your academic goals, even if attending college from home, with the help of your academic advisor.
It's never too early to get started on your career planning. John & Betsy discuss how to utilize the resources of your college's career center to develop your career readiness and to explore potential career pathways, including new fields that may be growing as the economy changes due to COVID-19.
During a time of uncertainity and economic hardship, keep sight of your long-term goals and remember that you are not alone. John & Betsy discuss why your investment in your degree is a smart decision, and offer some tips on how to maintain your financial health while working towards it.
John N. Gardner is universally recognized as one of the country's leading educators for his role in initiating and orchestrating an international reform movement to improve the beginning college experience, a concept he coined as "the first-year experience." The recipient of his institution's highest award for teaching excellence, John has over forty years of experience directing and teaching in the most widely emulated first-year seminar in the country, the University 101 course at the University of South Carolina (USC), Columbia. Learn more about John here.
Betsy O. Barefoot is a writer, researcher, and teacher whose special area of scholarship is the first-year seminar. During her tenure at USC from 1988 to 1999, she served as co-director for research and publications at the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. She also taught University 101 and graduate courses on the first-year experience and the principles of college teaching.. Learn more about Betsy here.
Understanding Your College Experience
For more help on developing academic, career, and financial plans, see John & Betsy's book, Understanding Your College Experience.
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Master the skills to tackle online learning.
By Jamie Shushan
In an online course, there is often no regularly scheduled class time, which means you have to set your own schedule. In this video, Jamie offers some key tips for being successful in an online course, including using a planner, committing to a schedule, and then showing up for yourself. (And don't forget to take some time away from the screen!)
Learning online from home can introduce new distractions. To stay focused, Jamie offers some helpful advice, including creating a dedicated study space, putting on your headphones, and finding a spot to park your phone.
Jamie H. Shushan is Associate Director of the Crimson Summer Academy (CSA) at Harvard University where she works to increase access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and helps them succeed once they arrive on campus. In her work at CSA and beyond, she teaches numerous classes focused on college success, engages students in career exploration fieldwork, and serves as an advisor and advocate for students at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Learn more about Jamie here.
The Pocket Guide to College Success
For more advice from Jamie, see her book, The Pocket Guide to College Success, Third Edition, a handy and affordable tool for any student entering college.
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Orientation & Summer Bridge Programs
Starting college is always an exciting challenge, but we know that you need even more support during these unprecedented times. These resources will help visualize your life on campus and prepare for a memorable and informed transition to college.
By Andrea Malkin Brenner, PhD and Lara Hope Schwartz, JD
Professionalism in College
The most successful college students approach college academics like a job. That means showing up on time, being respectful, and taking responsibility for your own performance. Check out this video to learn Lara's best tips for being a college pro! For more info, see Chapter 5 in How to College.
Life Beyond the Classroom
Most first-year students report that they feel significantly more connected to their campuses and student community if they enmesh themselves in clubs and organizations as soon as possible. Andrea discusses how you can do this as an incoming student even if your first semesters end up delayed or online. For more info, see Chapter 8 in How to College.
Discuss Before You Go
Families and students often have differing expectations about matters such as finances, safety, and communication. In this video, Lara and Andrea offer helpful discussion prompts so that you and your families can have frank, productive discussions before college in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.
College isn’t only about what is taught in your classrooms. On campus, learning takes place absolutely everywhere—and this includes your involvement in clubs and organizations. College students don’t join clubs, activities, and teams to improve their transcripts; they join because of a sincere interest or passion in a particular area. Every campus boasts a large number of student-run clubs and organizations, and unlike in high school, you’ll have quite a bit of free time to get involved and choose how committed you want to be in each club or organization you join.
Even if your first semester of college ends up with a delayed start time or moves online, you can still get a jump on learning about clubs and organizations at your new school this summer and begin to get involved as an incoming student. You’ll be surprised how connecting to an existing group of students who share some of your passions will leave you excited about your life outside of the classroom once you do arrive on campus. During this pandemic, many almost-college students feel that the fall semester ahead is so tentative. Yet beginning to get connected, even from your home, can make you feel much more a part of your new campus.
How Do I Choose?
Many new students participate in two or even three clubs, organizations, or groups during their first semester of college. This can remain the same, even if your first semester of college takes place online. There are two different ways to choose clubs and organizations in college:
You can drop some or all of your high school identities (as a soccer player, singer, debater) and try a brand new activity on for size. College is a time to try some completely new activities you’ve never had a chance to join before, or even return to some of the activities you liked as a child.
Alternatively, you can really hone one of your current passions and develop skills to excel in it at the college level. Now that your resume isn’t focused on gathering various activities, as it likely was in high school, you can focus on one or more areas that you care about.
What Types of Clubs Exist?
There are many different types of college clubs and organizations available to students, although the language used to describe them may differ by campus. Here is a list of the most common categories with examples of each:
Academic Organizations: undergraduate history club or a film students’ association
Cultural Diversity Groups: Black Student Alliance or a Korean student association
Faith/Spirituality Organizations: Hillel or a gospel choir
Professional Clubs: International Sociology Honors Society or business students association
Sports/Fitness Groups: intramural volleyball team or a hiking club
Political Groups: College Student Republicans or Students for Justice in Palestine
Publication Teams: campus newspaper or a photography journal
Honors/Achievement Clubs: a business club or Future Teachers of America
Public Service/Civic Organizations: Get Out the Vote or local elementary school tutoring
Fraternal Organizations: social, professional, or community service sorority/fraternity
Performance Groups: Shakespeare theater group or an improv comedy troupe
Social Clubs: gamers group or a Harry Potter club
College Representation: campus tour guide or student representative to the Board of Trustees
Andrea Malkin Brenner, PhD is a sociologist who works with high school and college students, parents, faculty, and staff on all things related to college transitions. She is the creator of the nationally-recognized AUx Program, the mandatory full year first-year transition course at American University. Dr. Brenner served as a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at American University for 20 years and directed AU's University College program, the university's oldest and largest living-learning community for first-year students. Learn more about Andrea here.
Lara Hope Schwartz, JD teaches in the Department of Government at American University School of Public Affairs (SPA) and is the Director of the Project on Civil Discourse. In teaching law and government, she draws on her experience as a legislative lawyer, lobbyist, and communications strategist in leading civil rights organizations. Learn more about Lara here.
How to College
For more help on preparing for your first semester of college, see Andrea & Lara's book, How to College, the first practical guide of its kind that helps students transition smoothly from high school to college.
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