A lot of students don’t succeed every semester because they don’t get the right start on their classes. Here are my five best tips to getting a great start to the semester:

1) Start using your planner…

Your planner is your life guide. As soon as you know your class schedule the first month of classes should go into your planner, along with your activities (ie: sports, sorority/fraternity events, school breaks and family obligations). It will keep you on track and start your brain thinking as to how you want to arrange your schedule throughout the course of the semester, like times you’ll be able to study.

2) Get the syllabi for your classes and start doing the first reading assignments…

It’s always good to get a jump start to assignments to avoid the stress that you get when you’re first getting back into the classroom groove. So start downloading… Looking for your syllabi so that you can find out how your professor works, grades and what they are assigning you as the first assignments. Then, get cracking.

3) Look up your professors and start getting in touch with them…

Professors always appreciate when students make a genuine attempt to reach out to them. An introduction will always been welcome at the beginning of the semester. Ask them with genuine curiosity about something specific you can do to handle the course better. Look them up on ratemyprofessor.com, see what students say about them too. It’ll inform you of any quirks or issues that the professors have, or whether you might be better off switching sections or taking the course another semester from another professor.

4) Make sure you can cook at least 10 recipes…

One of the best skills you can have as a college students and a young adult is being able to get yourself fed with healthy food. Knowing how to cook a good meal for yourself is going to feed your mind. Nutrition is absolutely crucial to your brain’s ability to work well. That only makes sense, right? So pick out some of your favorite meals from your family’s cookbook and learn them.

5) Create yourself a care package…

Pick out some of your favorite snacks, clothes and beauty products and make yourself a care package. It’s a connection to home. Favorite warm socks, the best hot cocoa you’ve ever had and the scent of your favorite lotion on your skin can always make things better. It’s a reminder to take care of yourself. That’s the best thing you can have when your away from everything familiar and feeling alone.

I watched a video by Kerwin Rae where he was talking about how our friends and family can hold us back. He described as what he termed “social correction” and found that to be an absolutely awesome way of describing it. You see, we like to think of ourselves as unique and above the animals we are surrounded by but in the end, our primary instincts, despite everything we’ve built up around them to “tame” them, are derived from our animal ancestry. We can still influenced by “herd” pressures.

There’s a benefit to being one of a “herd” or group. There is protection, shared resources and other advantages to be among a social group.  When people cooperate, there are vast gains they get. And when they don’t cooperate – when one person breaks off from the pack – it can mean bad things for the group. *Danger, danger – abort, abort* — kind of things. Think of the stray zebra separated from the herd – they get eaten by the lion. There is safety in the group.

Now take a moment and think of what that means to your family and friends when you go off to college. Really think about it…

For eighteen years you’ve been part of their group. Now you’re leaving it. Maybe you’ll return, and maybe you won’t. Logically, all of your family: your parents and even your siblings know that this is what happens in our modern day society. You grow up, you move out of the house and do your own thing. It’s a normal part of our lives but it doesn’t override thousands of years of programming in our brains that says someone leaving the group means serious jeopardy to them and the group.

So what happens? In all of our social constructs, when someone steps away from the crowd, we take actions – big and small – to bring them back to the group. The urge is incredible powerful to do just that too. It can be for your good and that can keep you from achieving more in life. This is what people are saying when they say you are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with. Think of all the times your friends convinced you to go out when maybe you should have been studying. Think of all of the times, your parents influenced you in some way to do something that maybe you might not have on your own.

So when you parents or friends start pressuring you to “fall in line”, act like them, or do what “we all do” – it should be sign, a red flag to take extra care and think extra hard about what you do next. You can’t live your life based on their wants and desires. You and only you have to live with the consequences of your decisions in this life. It is also a really good reason to surround yourself with people who are going to be those positive influences you need to push through hard times and tough situations.

Sometimes I keep a watch on the group pages on Facebook. Yeah, I know, I’m old and old fashioned. It helps keep me sharp on what people are talking about when it comes to college, though. Some students are in the groups, but I follow one or two groups that are for parents too. One of the recurring themes in these forums is how COVID has impacted students’ relationships with professors and how they get their grades.

It seems as if everything normal, but especially the life of students going to college, has been totally shredded by the virus. It’s something nobody has asked for, but everyone is getting. As with all things, though, it is how we react that brings the best or worst out of the situation. I’d like to help people make the best out of it. But I don’t necessarily think it’s all COVID related.

I think this might just call for a massive shift in mindset about college and a transition into a new way of doing the whole college thing. And it starts with you the college student.

  1. First, and this is something that is really common this time of year… attitude about grades.

I saw a parent post that their student’s professors weren’t being as responsive to requests about their grades and the student said it was if the professors didn’t care if students passed or failed.


No, I don’t mean that your professors don’t care about you. No I don’t mean all professors are heartless and cruel people who lack any semblance of empathy. Professors are very empathetic. Some, I would go as far as to say, flat out LOVE their students… Each and every one. I’d like to think you can put me in that category. Every student that I dealt with in the labs while I was teaching was MY student and I absolutely felt a personal responsibility toward each one. That responsibility was to teach good lab technique and chemistry concepts, while keeping them safe in the lab. Every good grade was celebrated. I often had students end the class giving me hugs. It was near sacred to me.

What my responsibilities didn’t include? Making sure you passed the class.

This attitude seems to be a lingering hang over from your K-12 school days, where parent teacher conferences happened and the teacher’s job was made out to be making sure that every student moved on to the next grade level. The teacher is looked at as a magical fairy that taps the student on the head and says, “You pass!” Even among teachers themselves, at that grade level, there is pressure to see that students get certain scores on standardized tests and grades. This is really happening a lot at high schools and it seem to have warped your thinking.

This same mentality is slowly but surely sneaking on its belly to college campuses. I would argue that this doesn’t do you any good in high school but it certainly isn’t going to do you any good as you head into adulthood while in college.

Why? Because you, and no one else, need to be responsible for making the grade. Now that you are adults you need to start developing an adult mindset. That mindset includes, in part, “I am responsible for doing the work and learning the things that will allow me to successfully pass the class.”

I know that we new-agey types like to talk about pouring our knowledge into people… But we don’t mean that literally. I can show you in a million different ways and spend a ton of time giving you information, but if you’re not working on the studying, actively engaging in the learning, you’re not going to learn a darn thing! The proverbial horse being led to water has to drink in order to quench its thirst.

More than that, you have to proactively study the way in which you’re being judged. The professors set the standards that you’re being graded by in clear terms in the syllabus and in more detail by their feedback on exams and assignments. There’s no excuse – no reason, at all – for you to be saying, “I don’t have any idea what my grade is.” If you quite literally haven’t gotten any feedback on assignments – no grades, no comments, not anything – you have every right to take it up with the department, but that is a very rare occasion.

2. Parents don’t call the shots anymore…


I see a lot of well-meaning parents who still wanting to clutch on to any shred of the dependence their children have on them. That means wanting to know their grades and everything that’s going on in their lives while you’re away at college. They are doing what they think is best for you. They love you.

But this can be incredibly annoying and bordering on stalking behavior, or so it feels. It can make you feel even more anxious than you already are about the responsibilities that you have, but they’re not always thinking about that. They’re thinking that they have to love on and care for their child as long as they can.

It’s such a credit to the caring individuals who raised you that they want an incredible life for you, but at the college level, they’re no longer in the driver’s seat. I know they may be paying for the gas still, but you are the one behind the wheel.

You’re not always going to want to tell your parents, or the other people in your family everything. In the case of something like grades, I’m betting a lot of the time when you say, “I don’t know what my grade is,” what it really means is you don’t really want to talk about it.

Maybe it’s because you’re a little fearful of what it may mean to tell them and maybe it’s because it’s the first time you’ve had complete control and just feel like using it. Whatever the reason, be aware that you have the right to some privacy and can set some boundaries.

Why? Because you deserve that privacy. So now you say, “Renee, my parents say they’re the ones putting out the money, they say they have a right to know the money isn’t being wasted… to know what my grades are and what I am doing.” Here’s the harsh reality: no, they don’t.

FERPA laws in the US ensure the privacy of the grades and status of any student on a campus. By law, parents do not have any right to know anything about their sons and daughters on campus after the age of eighteen; not even their dorm room phone number – if they still have phones.  They’re going to have to trust that you’re doing the right thing with the opportunity they’re providing. Though they may not always see it that way.

Now, would it be good for you open up to your parents and let them into your world? Of course, it would. I pray, in fact, that you do. Good relationships with caring adults are the key to success in college, as well as, life. But whether or not you do open up and expose your thoughts in the most vulnerable ways, is up to you.

But it is important to realize it when you’re feeling a bit backed into a corner by your parents and to find good ways to express that feeling when it comes up. I was raised with a lot of cats and dogs and one of the things I was taught is that you never want to corner an already scared and anxious dog or cat. You wind up getting bitten every time.

Obviously, you are not dogs and cats, but, in some ways, the same idea applies. You’re already trying to do your best, working hard, tired, feeling bad about those things you feel you’re not doing well in, then your parents ask you, “How are your grades?”, “Did you talk to the professor?” or “How’d the last test go?”. When it feels like you’re constantly being asked uncomfortable questions or about things you just don’t want to open up about, it can be tempting to verbally “bite” back. Try your best not to. Your parents love you and want you to do well. Let them know in kind ways that you understand that they love you but they have to listen to your boundaries.

Open up to them when you feel it’s ok, and hopefully, it feels ok to tell them about all of the big things, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed or some out of this world anxiety. Trust me they would rather you told them so they can do whatever you’re comfortable with them doing to help you out, than for you to suffer in quiet of your dorm room.

#1 – You’re feeling overwhelmed

Sometimes when we have so many things going on in our lives, we get caught up in it. Assignments, things we need to do for clubs, family stuff, a part time or full time job all feel like their important and pull us in different directions. It can get to the point where the list of things we need to do is so long that we don’t even know where to start, so we don’t do anything. Then more things start piling on, adding to the stress. It’s a really vicious little cycle. That’s overwhelm.

You can fix that though. Taking yourself out of the overwhelm while simple in some ways can often be hard to do. The best way I’ve learned how to get myself out of the overwhelm is to sit down and write a list of everything I need to get done. Then I pick one or two quick easy tasks off that list and do them right then. It can be as easy as writing that paragraph for Spanish class, followed by taking out the garbage. It’s such a great feeling to cross off or check off my list. Once those first few are done, you start feeling the momentum of accomplishment and then you just start ticking one thing off after another until suddenly, you realize you’re done. Voila! You’re feeling better, out of the overwhelm and ready to tackle the new things that come your way without procrastinating anymore.

#2 – You’re feeling scared or fearful of the class

I’m re-reading the book Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. This book is geared for music and performance students, so if you’re in a music, dance or theater program you might want to check it out. It also has some interesting notes for those who are not necessarily in those fields but might have a little “stage freight” in the classes where they have to read out loud or give presentations.

In this book Werner says: “People who have unusual difficulty learning and playing might have been told at an early age that playing music is very difficult, or that they were untalented. Once that is believed it becomes very hard to progress.”

Basically, he says that it comes down to us not wanting to feel foolish or unworthy. You see, our egos are pretty fragile little creatures that will do anything for us avoid embarrassment or failure.

That happens a lot in classes too. I know that I would sometimes avoid doing math assignments because I always feel dumb when I couldn’t figure it out, even if I spent a lot of time on it. Or I just knew I was going to fail the assignment anyway, so what was the point? Why would I want to see another bad grade on something I was working so hard at. So, I started, truly, procrastinating out of fear.

But life will sometimes present us with hard things that are worth the effort and we can’t hold off on doing them just because they are hard. The best way out of this procrastination trap is to seek out help. Go to office hours for your professor, if there’s a mentoring program for the class, take advantage of it, and if you still find yourself struggling, get a one-on-one tutor. You don’t need to suffer this type of procrastination. Go beat it with taking action.

#3 – You’re feeling bored or disinterested

Oh wow, is this a huge one guys! Gen Eds can sometimes be boring. Sometimes classes within your major can be boring. I remember taking an entire class on Chaucer. Don’t get me wrong. Chaucer did, at times, have a salty sense of humor, but he was not my favorite author… Not my idea of a pleasant beach read. Shakespeare might fall into the same category for you. I found him way more interesting than the Canterberry Tales. Different people like different things…

But when you’re taking a class that requires you to show some interest in a topic that thoroughly makes you snore, you still have to show up as your best self. Your GPA can’t afford for you to put off assignments just because you don’t see why in the world you should have to take the class.

This is perhaps the toughest form of procrastination to overcome, because you just have to do the work. There’s a book called “Eat That Frog” that I think perhaps some of the best suggestions for it. The best of which is this: Do the most unpleasant task of the day, first. If it’s a boring, uninteresting thing but you have to do it, get it over with first. Get it off your plate and then you no longer have to think about it, or stew about the unfairness of having to do it. So as your grandma might have said, “quit belly aching” and just make it the first thing you get done, so you move on to the things that light a fire in you.

#4 – You’re not allowing yourself enough time to rest

Sometimes, procrastination is just a sign that we need to rest. It is so easy for our brains to become overloaded over the course of a semester. There’s so much expected of students and the worst part is, the way the course work is designed the heaviest load might come at the time you’re the most tired, the end of the semester. It’s as if every professor secretly got together to stack all their work on top of each other’s.

When that happens, it’s important to remember to take extra breaks and not study for more than 30 minutes at a time on any one subject, taking 10-15 minute breaks in between. Our brains are not wired for concentration over long stretches and we don’t learn our best when we try to cram. So take breaks often, get your sleep, take care of your body by exercising or walking and you’ll avoid this form of procrastination.

Hope this helps you #stressless and #achievemore on campus!


What is a hero? On a day like Veterans Day, we meditate on and have gratitude for Veterans and they undoubtedly deserve our most sincere thanks for keeping us safe from harm.

But let’s dig into the term hero.

A hero is…what? Your first picture might be Superman or The Incredible Hulk? Maybe Spiderman? Ironman? Wonder woman? Captain Marvel? The Black Panther? Batman?

But I believe that we are defined by – labeled by – what we do. So what is a hero? Someone who saves other people? Who goes to extraordinary lengths to help others in their time of need? When looking at it that way, do you start picturing first responders (police, firefighters, paramedics and doctors)? They are very much heroes to a lot of us. They do things that are beyond belief – saving lives – putting their lives in peril for others.

Let’s take it step further though. Let’s broaden our thoughts a little more.

Is a hero someone who took you in when you didn’t have somewhere to go?

Is a hero someone who saw you didn’t have enough when you went to pay for your food and slipped you some money so you could eat?

Is a hero the person who stayed up with you all night talking through your relationship or friendship problems, leaving you feeling better?

Someone working with you on a group project who gives a pep talk to the team before you present your work?

Yeah, I think so. You see, too often we think of heroes as doing these huge consequential things, when really, it’s about just putting in the extra effort to make someone feel special and valued.

I know I have had quite a few heroes in my life. Some are family who supported me and never gave up on me, some were friends who gave me an ear when I needed someone to listen and some were complete strangers who donated to scholarship funds that I benefited from.

If we start thinking about it in those terms, can’t anybody be a hero? Can’t YOU be a hero? Tell me a story about someone who was a hero in your life, in the comments below OR tell me about how you became a hero for someone in your life. Thank them!

Yesterday, was the first day students could complete the FAFSA.

For those who are unfamiliar, FAFSA is short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  Filling out this form provides a student access to Federal funds from the US Department of Education, for higher education. It requires students to provide their families personal financial details so that it can be determine what their family’s financial “need” is. Pell grants, need based local college scholarships and student loans are apportioned by the government (state and federal) via this application.

In some states you may also have to fill out a supplementary application for the state too, but the majority of your student aid is going to be given to you through completing this one document. On a yearly basis, the U.S. Department of Education gives over one hundred and twenty billion dollars in federal grants, loans and work-study funds to more than thirteen million college students. (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/28/why-every-student-should-fill-out-the-fafsa.html)

Stunningly, on average only about half to two thirds of graduating students fill out the FAFSA. Some stats I’ve seen even show the number to be as low as forty percent of graduating high schoolers.

The list of excuses for students not filling out this form is as long as my arm.

Here are the top three excuses for not filling out the FAFSA are and why I call BS on every single one of these excuses:

1) We can afford it

Thirty-three percent students who didn’t fill out the FAFSA thought they or their family could afford school or college without financial aid.

Why is this BS?

It’s great that your family can afford to send you to school and I can totally appreciate your willingness not to “be on the public dole” by not taking financial aid. That’s really socially responsible of you. However, you’re not saving the government any money or increasing the amount anyone gets in financial aid by doing so. What’s budgeted is budgeted. It does spread a small bit more toward others, if you don’t take it. However, each student’s amount of aid is determined by their “need” as determined by calculations made with the financial data you provide and what the federal government provides the University you attend. There’s only so much Pell Grant, for instance, at the institution and only so many students will qualify for it. You’re not going to move the needle that much. Your family is also shooting themselves in the foot by not taking financial aid that you’d be entitled to and saving the money to give you, the student, for a better start in life after college graduation, or even for themselves after retirement. Wouldn’t that be nice to have? Right! So, fill out the form!

2) We’re too rich to qualify

Thirty two percent of students who didn’t fill out the FAFSA thought they or their family may be ineligible or may not qualify for financial aid.

Why is this BS?

This is tightly tied to the number one reason. It is so hard for me not to roll my eyes at this one every time I hear it. Like “OMG I’m going to die” type of rolling my eyes… This is especially true when I hear certain teachers and even college counselors telling students that they shouldn’t apply using FAFSA for this reason. It is such a huge disservice to the student and, as I’ll discuss shortly, the higher education system in general.

First off, check your privilege if you’re thinking this way. Saying this is like saying you’re too good to even try on a cute new pair of Jessica Simpson shoes because you have used Manolo Blahniks in your closet. It just doesn’t hurt to try it and see what happens. You lose nothing in the attempt except for some small amount of time and you might be surprised because…

Secondly, realize you might just be wrong. Aid is available for anyone with a household income below two hundred and fifty thousand a year. If your parents make more, and bless them if they do, they (and you) are part of only two percent of the population. (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/28/why-every-student-should-fill-out-the-fafsa.html and https://www.factcheck.org/2008/04/americans-making-more-than-250000/ ) If you’re high school had about two thousand students, maybe forty students would fit that criteria. That’s not that many.

If you’re in that upper part of the bracket– close to but not making two hundred and fifty thousand per year — you might not get as much financial aid as some, but you’ll get something. You also might be keeping yourself out of consideration for state and school specific scholarships which require FAFSA to be filled out. That includes merit scholarships too.

Additionally, any student loans you do decide to take out through the FAFSA program will be less costly. Forty-seven percent of private student loan borrowers could have used more affordable federal loans. (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/28/why-every-student-should-fill-out-the-fafsa.html)

Beyond that, you also have the chance to reject the aid package if it is all student loans or you decide you really just want to pay yourself. There is no harm at all in applying, even if you think your family is too wealthy to qualify for aid. So, fill out the form!

3) I don’t want any loans

Twenty eight percent of students who didn’t fill out the FAFSA did not want to take on debt.

Why is this BS?

Again, you don’t have to take the loans they offer. If you decide to take the loans, there’s a separate “application” and agreement form you’ll have to fill out, but you don’t have to take the loans. You simply decline the aid package. You can even appeal the aid package with your college or university to get different or increased financial aid.

This is especially important to remember if your financial status changed in the period since you’ve filled out your taxes or FAFSA initially.

But what if you’re wrong? What if you don’t get an aid package comprised completely of loans? Don’t you want whatever grant or scholarship money you can get? Yeah, that’s right, I know you do! So, fill out the form!

Some slightly more legitimate reasons for not filling out the FAFSA, but still shouldn’t stop a student from doing so are:

1) I don’t know how to do it or I don’t have what it is asking for

Twenty three percent of students who don’t fill out the FAFSA say did not have enough information about how to complete a FAFSA. I suspect that this is because there’s a certain amount of students in a similar position to what I was in. I didn’t know what it was, or how the FAFSA worked. That was taken on by my mother in my freshman year. I didn’t have access to certain documents from my mother’s taxes to fill out the FAFSA in my sophomore year, either.

I bit the bullet. I learned and got the documents. I got my aid. You can do this too.

I get that the form, even though it’s online now – or maybe even because it’s online now, may be intimidating. It may seem very difficult to overcome, but it is worth it.

Furthermore, they have now made it even easier to handle your FAFSA application by linking the tax system to the FAFSA online. All you have to do is have your personal information (social security number, birthdate etc.) or the personal information of your family members supporting you and the system will automatically fill in the financial information from tax forms submitted previously into the FAFSA. It’s just that easy. So, fill out the form!

2) I’m not going to college or I didn’t know it existed

Twenty two percent of students who didn’t fill out the FAFSA, did not plan to continue education after high school. Not going to college is a very good reason not to want to fill out the FAFSA. I would definitely keep in mind that if you’re going to a trade school or something of that nature, there’s a chance that you still might be eligible for aid in doing so. Definitely check with them about it.

Plus you never know if you’re going to change your mind and decide to go, so it still may be something you want to fill out.  Otherwise, work hard and have a great life.

Fifteen percent did not know they could complete a FAFSA. Your high school guidance counselor clearly didn’t tell you because they were too busy or well, just weren’t the best at their job. That’s ok. It happens. You know now. So, fill out the form!

3) It’s too time consuming

Nine percent of those who didn’t fill out the FAFSA thought the FAFSA forms were too much work or too time-consuming.  Yeah, I can see how having to take a few hours of time to fill out a form that will give you access to money to cover your college tuition would be a real bummer.

You know what’s even a bigger bummer? Not being able to pursue your dreams because you let a little paperwork get in the way. It’s online, and easier than ever. Yes, it takes time and there can be complications but do it! Go the library if you don’t have WIFI, but do it! Fill out the DANG form!  (Stats from: https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/01/14/new-research-shows-why-students-dont-fill-out-fafsa)

Maybe it should be required. Having students fill this form out automatically, is a small change that might have big consequences in terms of future generations access to higher education.

Can you see how doing this eliminates all but may be one (not going to college) from the list above? It takes too much time… Too bad, fill it out. I think I’m too rich… Sorry you have to fill it out. Didn’t know it existed… Nope, it’s mandated and your school is required to let you know and have it filled out by you.

We can take that fifty to six something percent of students filling out the FAFSA to near eighty or ninety percent with just this one move and here’s what we get from it:

• Students are more likely to go to college if they know they can afford it. “Ninety percent of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA proceed directly to college, versus only 55 percent who don’t complete the FAFSA.” (https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student/application-volume/fafsa-completion-high-school)

• A requirement would make it more likely that high schools take on the responsibility of helping all students get this form completed.

• For those students whose income (or family’s income) exceeds the limits, a simpler form could be made available to complete. (A FAFSA-EZ – you could call it)

More importantly, as Catharine B. Hill eloquently points out in her Inside Higher Ed article, FAFSA for All:  “It is completely reasonable for policy makers to expect certain outcomes from highly subsidized institutions in exchange for federal and state financial support. This new FAFSA policy would result in greater transparency on the part of colleges and universities regarding admissions decisions and the resulting socioeconomic diversity of their students.  FAFSA for All would lead to a higher number of lower- and middle-income students being eligible for financial aid, including Pell and institutional grants, reducing their need to borrow. Greater transparency could also encourage colleges and universities with higher graduation rates to do more to recruit lower- and middle-income students, as they respond to public pressures to justify their large federal and state tax advantages. Expanded financial aid resources and more enrollment opportunities would significantly benefit lower- and middle-income students.” (https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/02/24/why-every-student-applying-college-should-be-required-fill-out-fafsa-opinion)

Why would it increase the incentive for more selective and retentive schools to recruit more financially disadvantaged students? Because they would know that the students’ tuition would be paid. Financially disadvantaged students tend also to be a more diverse population too. It stands to reason then, that if colleges were encouraged by this change to recruit from this population, their campuses would automatically be more diverse, as well. We catch two birds from the bush in one swoop.  (or whatever mixing of metaphors you care to use that doesn’t involve killing things)

CASE EXAMPLES: Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Illinois  How does this work in practice? We have some data from the “case study” that Louisiana has turned into. In the state of Louisiana, they have made filling out the FAFSA a requirement. As of June 28, 2019, Louisiana had the highest percentage of high school seniors completing the FAFSA, at just under eighty percent. Just under seventy-eight hundred more students applied in Louisiana in the first year of implementation.

What’s more impressive is how it motivates young people to pursue higher education. According to MorraLee Keller, director of technical assistance at the National College Access Network, Louisiana saw a six percent increase in college and university enrollment after the requirement was put in place. (https://www.educationdive.com/news/does-requiring-seniors-to-fill-out-fasfa-forms-increase-college-attendance/559852/)

Tennessee has had similar results with a close in-kind program. The program, called Tennessee Promise, is a last-dollar scholarship initiative that allows high school graduates to complete an associate degree or technical certification program at a community college or the Tennessee College of Applied Technology free of charge, and requires students to fill out the FAFSA. This program set lead them to be a close second to Louisiana in terms of percentage of students filling out the FAFSA. (https://www.educationdive.com/news/does-requiring-seniors-to-fill-out-fasfa-forms-increase-college-attendance/559852/)

Texas implemented the requirement in July of 2019. Illinois has instituted the same requirement as of June 2020.

We will have to see where these states shake out in terms of statistics but the initial data from the other states is quite promising.

Bottom line, fill out the FAFSA!

I have a problem. Often my husband comes home from a long night shift at work and eats his breakfast. His breakfast usually consists of cereal, upon which he sprinkles cinnamon. What’s the problem with that, you may ask? Well, it turns out that when you sprinkle real cinnamon on cereal it leaves a residue that a dishwasher has some trouble removing, especially if it’s been sitting in the bowl for a bit. So when I go to remove the bowls my dear husband has used from the dishwasher excited to see them clean, my hopes are dashed because the cinnamon remains. Once it goes through the dishwasher, it’s nearly impossible to remove whatever is still caked on, too.  It’s absolutely maddening.

It would be really easy for me to go, “UGH! Him and his cereal. I wish he could do without the cinnamon, or at least rinse it out after he’s done!” But then I remind myself how much joy he brings to my life, the millions of laughs we’ve shared. The exhilarating “ups” and the terrifying “downs” we’ve been through together. And I realize that with all that we have been through – the good and the bad — a little cinnamon residue cleaning is not so much to ask of me. Nor is it his fault that the cinnamon does, what is cinnamon is going to do: stick to things. So despite my irritation, how could I take it out on him? I couldn’t possibly. What do I do then? I shake my head, grab a little vinegar and clean the bowl out.

But here’s one life lesson I take from the cinnamon resistant to virtually all cleaning methods: If cinnamon defiantly sticking to the surface of a bowl is the worst thing I face during the day – the only thing I have to really worry about in my day to day life – then I am doing better than 99.9% of people out there. It’s a cue for me to remember that life is never as bad as it may seem. What’s your cue?

That quiz that you failed, that snarky comment one of your sorority sisters made that hurt you, the bad break up you had with your ex-girlfriend when she cheated… Is it really the worst thing that could ever happen to you?  Or is it just the cinnamon sticking the bowl of your life after a tasty life experience? Are you still doing better than 99.9% of people on this planet?

More importantly, are you willing to forgo the spicy of life because of the mess it may leave behind? Or are you going to learn how to clean it up, start fresh and set yourself up for the best experiences life has to offer? Resiliency is what I am getting at here. Your ability to bounce back and see the cinnamon of life for what it is, a short term resolvable problem, is going to serve you immensely as you learn to “adult”.

Here’s another lesson I take from it: How many times have you been in this situation in high school or college? Irritated with a friend who wasn’t as supportive as you thought they should be, a project group that just couldn’t come together to get the work done, a lab partner who stood to the side while you did the work, a TA (Teaching Assistant) you felt was being overly strict in his/her grading or whomever else, for things they had no control over, or worse, things that you had control over and didn’t want to admit that you did. I know I have been in those situations. Oh, how I wish I could redo some of the moments where this was the case. It would have meant so much less mental stress for me. But I can’t undo it.

So I put this lesson out you in the virtual space, hoping that it will do you good – help you stress less and achieve more – to have a reminder to take a moment and consider if what you’re being upset over is cinnamon caked in a bowl. Can you move past the cinnamon? Can you pull out the cleaning supplies with a smile when others drop their minor cinnamon bowls in your sink? It may not be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

My husband is upstairs asleep, and the living room is nearly silent as I type up some work on my laptop from the comfort of my gray overstuffed couch, with my stocking feet up on the dark stained wood coffee table standing in front of me. My two black and white tabby cats snore loudly in their slumber, curled up next to me on both my sides. I think to myself, “Now, this is the life”. I’m comfortable and focused on the words I am typing when the ringing of my phone startles me.

“HI, I’m calling from Business Talk Radio and we’d like to interview you…”

What a surprise! A very good surprise! I don’t know what jolted me more, the phone ringing or the idea that a radio host wanted to interview little ol’ me! But, of course, I happily obliged. In this interview, we talk about college, COVID and business. It was a fantastic experience and I thank Business Talk Radio for the opportunity.

Give it a listen, here: https://businesstalkradio1.com/renee-bailey-05-05-20-youth-motivational-speaker/

Mike Pickles is a Canadian podcaster who seeks “to educate, inspire and empower you to become your absolute best.” That first word, “educate”, resonated with me, so when Mike asked if I would come on his podcast, The Daily Dill, it was a no brainer! Come listen to our conversation about education, college and the challenges that university students face. Many thanks to Mike for a great conversation on the topic love the most.

Listen here: https://anchor.fm/mike-a-pickles/episodes/Ep–12–Renee-Bailey-Youth-Speaker–Author-eephl6

One word best describes my amazing friend Ricardo Luis Canez. While he is, indeed, amazing that isn’t the word. It is music. As any truly musicophile might, Ricardo has an encyclopedic knowledge of bands, songs and instruments. He doesn’t just love music, he loves music. From Jimi Hendrix to Prince to Beyoncé, Mexican and Latin artists, and every artist in between, he knows it all.

Ricardo’s passion for music is only out matched by his passion for helping those around him. To that end he started not one, but two different podcasts to help musicians and everyday folk like myself, stay amazing. I was humbled and honored when he thought I was amazing enough to ask me to come on his podcast “The Stay Amazing” show.

To hear the podcast, go here: https://www.thestayamazingshow.com/2020/03/
Follow Ricardo on Instagram, go here: https://www.instagram.com/thestayamazingshow/