Going the extra mile…or semester

When I went through my freshman orientation at LMU, I was so excited at the thought of just four more years of school between me and my dream career. Little did I know, I was destined for four and a half. I’m not going to lie, I was devastated when I was given the news by my academic adviser. I didn’t want to spend an extra semester in school, it wasn’t fair. I was caught up in the stigma that if you had to spend an extra semester at college, it was because you didn’t work hard enough. Let me just set the record straight: staying an extra semester in college does not, by any means, make you inferior to those able to graduate “on time”. In my case, and many of the others who have to spend an extra semester college, it’s necessary.

As it turns out, my program is quite hour-intensive. We have 66 credit hours (in addition to our general education requirements) to complete before we graduate. That’s a huge amount when distributed over only 4 years. On top of that, the wildlife courses are offered on a staggered schedule. This means that certain courses are only offered every other year during a particular semester. Therefore, when you’re signing up for your classes, you have to be very careful to make sure that you sign up for every wildlife course offered. Unfortunately, this means that many general education courses may get pushed off a semester, and believe me, those classes begin to pile up.

I certainly don’t say any of this to discourage any of you wishing to pursue a degree in wildlife biology at LMU, because it’s well worth it. I just wanted to talk about my own experiences in the program and the fact that it takes quite a bit of dedication and perseverance. This is definitely a career path that requires passion to be completed.

In my case, I could have potentially avoided the necessity of an extra semester by taking college courses while in high school. I didn’t want to do that in high school simply for the fact that I couldn’t afford it at the time. I’m happy that I decided to wait until college to take any college-level courses, though. It may have come with the price of having to spend an extra semester at university, but I was able to get into the college mindset all at once.

I remember going into panic mode when I came to terms with having to spend an extra semester at LMU. First, I was upset that I wouldn’t be able to graduate with my friends. Then, I began freaking out because I didn’t know how I was going to afford an extra semester out-of-pocket. I couldn’t afford that, even in my wildest dreams! All I wanted to do was spend four years at LMU, walk across the stage in May of 2015, throw my little cap in the air and move into my future. This dream was slowly being pulled out of my grasp just because I needed six more credit hours. You heard that right…SIX hours were keeping that from me. I guess that’s to be expected when you sign up for a major with so many credit hours.  

Once I got over myself (did I ever mention I’m a bit of a drama queen?), and calmed down I began to be logical about this. I started to seek out people who were either in their extra semester, or planned on attending for an extra semester to get some input, and hopefully some relief. I was able to speak to several other wildlife majors who explained that having an extra semester gave them more time to job hunt and plan for their future. Luckily for myself, I was informed that our university has an excellent program in place that extends our financial aid packages for up to a year. This includes all of our state and institutional specific financial aid. To be eligible for this financial aid extension one must maintain a certain GPA. This meant that I wouldn’t be paying out of pocket for an extra semester of required classes.

At this point, I will be entering my senior year at LMU in the fall. Hopefully, with the knowledge that I’ll have an extra semester next fall, senioritis won’t kick in….I hope. I plan to keep on trekking through this college journey, and eventually scaling that mountain called “graduation” and reigning victorious. I love LMU and all of the people here, so I’m lucky to have an opportunity to spend more time here and get to know as many people as possible!  Regardless of my extra semester, I plan to make my four (and a half) years at LMU some of the best years of my life.

As always, please follow my blog. I look forward to telling you about the newest chapter in my ‘wild’life!!



LMU Awards Night

It’s currently two days into finals week at LMU, and I am almost completely done with my junior year of college! Isn’t that incredible?! I can still remember my senior year of high school around this time when I came to LMU for my new student registration. It feels like the time has just flown by, and just yesterday it was my first day of classes as an incoming freshman and I was terrified. The more time I spend here, the more this school feels like home. I look forward to starting every year, and all of the events that a new year brings.

One of the events that I look forward to the most during the year is awards night. I’m not going to lie, I kind of freak out when I get an email saying that I have been invited to the event. It’s such an honor to be invited, and I get to dress up all pretty and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love that?

Basically awards night is an annual event at which the university awards scholarships to students who excel academically, are in leadership roles, and/or have good performance in music, sports, and their specific majors. These scholarships are credited towards each student’s tuition for the following academic year on top of the institutional aid they may receive.

This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded three additional scholarships. These included a donor-based scholarship, a scholarship for excelling in my leadership role on campus, and a scholarship for excelling in the biology department. There were  264 students students to receive $540,000 in scholarships at this year’s award night, and all of them were very much deserving. If you excel during your time at LMU, the university will reward you for your hard work.

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Because we are a smaller, private university, the ceremony itself was very intimate, and each student is individually recognized and introduced. Then you make your way to the front, accept your scholarship and get to pose for a picture with the president of the university, presently Dr. B. James Dawson. Personally, I see the president as some kind of celebrity and I feel like a movie star or something when I get to pose for a picture with him. He’s actually really active with the student body and extremely kind. In fact, this year at the awards ceremony he posed for a “selfie” with a student accepting an award! How awesome is that?!

Another factor of our awards night that I believe sets LMU apart from other schools is that we actually get to interact with the donors that provide much of the funds for our scholarships. There is a banquet held each year along with the awards night ceremony at which students and the donors of their scholarships get to eat dinner together and get to know one another. I think this is an excellent opportunity for students and benefactors to intermingle and get to know one another.

In addition to the banquet, LMU gives each student that receives a scholarship on awards night the opportunity to send a hand-written thank you card to the donors directly. I was quite surprised when I heard about this aspect of the scholarship process and was honored to be able to reach out to the donors of my scholarship and thank them directly.

As I am finishing out of my sixth finals week at LMU, I am reminded of how thankful and blessed I am to attend this university. It is so satisfactory to be rewarded for the time, effort, and hard work I put into my studies. These times may be stress-filled, but I always leave for the summer with a strong feeling of accomplishment and pride in my school.

As always, feel free to follow my blog to keep up with my ‘wild’life. Have you ever received an award from your school or university at an awards night? If so, what is your school/university’s awards night like? I would love to heard about it.

“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.”

Studying is a hot topic for many, both those who are currently in college and those who plan on attending college. In my experience with studying, I have found that it isn’t as static as a term as many people think. In fact, to many people’s dismay, there isn’t a correct way to study; it’s different for each person.

My first encounter with “studying” was not pretty. I remember it all too well. It was freshman year of college and my biology professor told us to make sure we studied at least a small amount every night after lecture. Being fresh out of high school with a 4.0 and barely doing any studying, I thought I had studying all figured out. Unfortunately for myself, it caught up to me after receiving my first exam grade back. A few minutes of flipping my scan-tron answer sheet over later, it finally sunk in that I had made a 68. This was nothing like I was used to. I could get by perfectly fine in high school without once having to crack open a textbook. So naturally, I blamed the professor. I approached him after class and asked him if he had given me the correct grade because there must be some mistake, I don’t make 68s. He quickly reassured me that it was indeed my grade, and because it was so low and I was visibly upset by it, I should meet with him during his office hours. Reluctantly, I accepted his offer and met with him the next day. Little did I know, that meeting would be one of the most beneficial meetings I would ever attend.

When I arrived in his office, he told me to take a seat. I panicked. I thought for sure I was in trouble. He obviously saw the unease in my face and told me to relax and that he simply wanted to have an informal conversation with me. After about five minutes of awkward silence following this remark, I finally spoke up. “Is there any way I could make this grade up?” I asked very cautiously. The answer shocked me. “No. . .” That word echoed in my mind over and over until I heard him say, “but I do have a suggestion.” I immediately gave him my full attention, and was on ecstatic to hear of this miracle solution. “Caitlin, I know you’re more than capable of doing well on my exam, but you’re going to have to study.” I was offended. Granted he complimented me, but how dare he suggest that I hadn’t studied. I defiantly stated, “I did study. I read over my notes the night before. I just think your exam was too hard.” Now would be a good time for me to recommend that none of you ever tell a professor that his/her exam is too hard. Seriously, that’s just asking for trouble. He quickly pointed out that several students in my class had made As and Bs, so either they were certifiable geniuses, or that my argument was simply invalid. Once my ego was out of the way, he told me that, though reading through my notes is an acceptable way of studying, I shouldn’t only do it the night before an exam. He also suggested that after each lecture I should read back through the material and write down any questions I have about that section so I can ask them in class.

All in all, this was probably one of the most crucial moments of my time in college. From this point on, I began experimenting with different ways of studying. First, I tried my original method of reading my notes–this time beginning a few days before my exam–no matter how I manipulated it, this method just didn’t seem to work for me. Then I tried holding study sessions, in which I was forced to make and read a study guide aloud to fellow classmates. This method was super beneficial for both myself and my classmates. While I read the study guide, I was teaching my classmates and myself the material. Finally, because hosting study sessions wasn’t always an option, I began making flash cards of the information on my study guides. This method of studying, by far, has been the most successful form of studying for myself.


Though I am still not happy about the 68 I made in Biology 111, I will never regret it. That score alone led me to break out of the academic ego I had acquired in high school, and have one of the most important conversations I have ever had in my college career.

Do any of you struggle with studying? If not, what method works best for you? I would love to know, and if you’re struggling I would to help you out! Leave your comments on the matter below, and if you’d like to read more of my posts feel free to follow my blog. I would appreciate it!

Social Media and LMU

Like many universities, LMU has several departments that, together, make the campus come alive. Essentially, all of these departments are the support beams of the school. Though all of the departments have equal importance, one unique aspect of the university is its social media. With the ever-growing popularity of social media, this department is also one of the fastest growing and dynamic. In fact, my blog is an example of one of the many social media outlets of the school. Some of our other other social media outlets include: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

Facebook is, undoubtedly, one of the most popular forms of social media in the world today. LMU utilizes this powerful tool to reach out to both its prospective and current students in a more personal way. It also allows for students to connect to one another more easily. In fact, when I was accepted to the university, I joined a group on Facebook of my graduating class and was able to connect with fellow upcoming freshmen, and I was even able to meet my soon-to-be roommates! LMU has an official Facebook page as well as several smaller, official groups for academic programs, graduating classes, campus clubs, athletic departments, and various university offices. These groups make communication between students and staff a breeze. For example, I am a part of the “LMU Buy, Sell, and Trade” group. Here, students post about any books, gadgets, or other awesome things we have for sale and discuss selling and trading them. I’m a member/editor of the Wildlife Society: LMU Chapter group, as well. Facebook really adds convenience to getting in touch with students on, and away, from campus!

LMU also uses Twitter, another easily recognizable and widespread social medium. Twitter allows the university to post real-time updates and event schedules for student convenience. Some of the university’s clubs and organizations have Twitter accounts they use to alert students of meetings, special events, and other opportunities to get involved. The fast-paced speed of Twitter allows students to “be in the know” whenever and wherever they may be.

In addition our Facebook and Twitter accounts, we also have a Flickr account. This social media network allows the school to post photos of campus happenings, athletic events, and general campus life. The photos are available for viewing by the general public as well, which allows for easy sharing with future students or family back home!

LMU has a YouTube channel, too. Here, the university posts a student series composed of interviews with current students with various majors and backgrounds. These videos allow prospective and future students a look into the life of a Railsplitter! This channel also occasionally posts messages from the university’s president, Dr. B. James Dawson, to the students.  These videos play in our student center on flat screen TVs, so while you’re waiting for your Starbucks, you can watch some of your faculty and your fellow students tell you what’s going on at school and in the area.

The newest, and perhaps most exciting social media network LMU uses, is called Merit. Merit is a software system that essentially gets both the school, and its students, more attention. As of summer of 2013, each student received his or her own individual Merit Page. The university began posting the students’ achievements they acquired throughout their time at the institution on their page. These Merit pages are also customizable by the student. In no time flat, students may change their profile picture, the activities they have participated in, any community service hours they have completed, and their work history. There is also a unique section the university uses to post the achievements you have received as a student such as scholarships and academic recognition (being placed on the Dean’s List).   These pages are a virtual resume, if you will. Future employers and post-graduate institutions are simply a click away from seeing all that you accomplished while here. These Merit Pages are an awesome way for students to get their names out there! I love this site, and its easy-to-use layout.  Here’s a link to my Merit Page!

The multitude of social media networks gives the students of LMU a more personal way to become involved with the university. Students are able to easily access important university information in the blink of an eye. The benefits of social media aren’t restricted to the school year, either. These social media outlets allow students and staff to stay in contact, even during the summer!

Social media allows for important university news, communication, and more to be posted and read anytime, anywhere. Today’s generation is very technology-oriented, and our school has adapted to that. It seems that every day a new iPhone, Android, or other Wi-Fi/data compatible device is hitting the shelves, and LMU is using this reality to help reach out to their students. For a complete list of our social media accounts feel free to CLICK ME!!

Being a student at a university that is so social media oriented really gives me a strong feeling of connection with my school. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love being able to stay bonded with my alma mater whenever and where ever this life may take me! (And it’s a good reminder when I get distracted from homework by the internet…) 

Tell me how you use social media in the comments below! Be sure to follow my blogs to keep up to date on all things Caitlin!