Hit the road, Jack.

This week commences a very important time of year at work…travel season.

Travel season is me and my car against the high schools of America. It’s a month and a half of college fairs, visits, dinner receptions, Hampton Inn and coffee (a lot of coffee.) And sadly, I see Panera more than my friends. Travel can be daunting, especially when you’re by yourself most of the time. But, I’ve devised an important list of travel prep through the years that helps me stay sane.

Happy Traveler Prep:

1) Clean the house. Thoroughly. Dust, sweep, put the dishes away, change the sheets. There is NOTHING nicer than coming home to a clean house, having a clean shower and crawling into your own, clean bed. It took me a couple of years to learn this one, but it’s at the top of my list.

2) Black or Brown. Pick one. Belts, shoes, accessories, everything coordinates. By sticking with one color scheme, I can streamline my packing. My outfits mix and match so I can get more combinations out of a few pieces. And speaking of packing…

3) Always have a pair of flats. I always have two pairs of shoes in my car during travel; heels and flats. Mostly because I learned really quick that dragging suitcases and boxes into a college fair is only fun in heels for so long (about 2 minutes.)

4) Take your blankie. What I mean by this is to have a security object. Something that makes you feel comfortable and at home. For me this is a big, warm cardigan sweater and a scarf. I’m always cold, and so when I’m not actually wearing work clothes, I want to be able to wrap up and be warm and comfortable. And if you do happen to have an actual blankie, my hat is off to you.

5) Put a trash bag in your car. For the love of it all, nothing is worse than sitting in a car cluttered with coffee cups, tissues, tollbooth tickets and receipts (which I should be saving for credit card statements!) I always keep a trash bag in my front seat so I can keep the garbage to a minimum.

With the right planning, I can arrive home at the end of the week exhausted, but relaxed. It makes me feel 10x better to know that my life is in order even when I’m not here.

Happy traveling! What are your savvy traveler secrets?

5 Years and Counting.

Approximately five years ago, give or take a week, this was me…

Graduating undergrad. Leaving my home at Otterbein and heading off into the real world. I was in a pretty good place; I had an apartment with my three best friends and a job that I started prior to graduation.

This time of year always holds a special place in my heart. Working at a university, I’m reminded of the utter excitement and absolute fear that ending college brings. And as this is a milestone anniversary, I thought I’d take a look at a few things I’ve learned in the past 5 years:

I don’t know if you ever feel like an adult.
The other day someone called me an “MBA holding homeowner” and I literally almost started sobbing. I have these things; titles, degrees, mortgages, etc that are all supposed to mean that I’m smart, responsible and capable. And yet most days, I still feel like a child. I’m often intimidated by my students and all the ambition they have, forgetting that I’m in the mentor position. I always kind of thought that when I got to the next milestone, I would feel more prepared. But alas, I’m not sure it works that way. I’m not sure we ever feel ready and settled.

It’s ok not to know.
I spend my days convincing 18-22 year olds that it’s ok if they don’t know what they want to do the rest of their lives We push everyone to always have an answer to “what now?”; Where will you go to college? What will you study? What will you do after graduation? When will you get married? When will you have kids? Bahhhh…

Sometimes, it’s ok to just enjoy the present. Sometimes you just need to be still and figure out who you are before you can figure out where you want to go. And if you do set off in a direction, and it doesn’t work and you turn right back around…that’s ok too.

One of my favorite verses, Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Home will always be home.
No matter what, I will always be a Clyde Flier. I will always love Pizza House, sitting around bonfires and going to Lake Erie on weekends. I’ll always be a country girl. I still want my mom and dad to sweep in and make things better. And even as I change, and my hometown changes, I still feel comfort every time I drive into town (which unfortunately isn’t that often anymore.) There’s just something special about knowing where you belong.

People are more important than anything. Anything.
I’m notorious for saying that the people I spend my work day with are more important than the work I’m doing and the pay I’m receiving. And I believe that. I’ve had jobs in which I spent my days alone in an office, sometimes never talking to another co-worker the whole day, never seeing a human face-to-face and accomplishing nothing except seemingly making money. I don’t believe that’s a fulfilled life. We’re here for a reason, and that reason involves connecting to each other. Put people first. Everything else will fall into place.

Family is a fluid concept.
It isn’t until you’re away from your family that you realize that can mean more than blood relatives. I’ve found my true soul mates are some of my best friends. We’ve gotten each other through the past five years, sometimes dragging one another when life made that necessary. We’ve laid on the floor, staring at the ceiling, waiting for some kind of direction. We’ve stood next to one another through weddings, heartache, babies, moves (oh, good grief, so many moves!!), job changes, job loss, celebrations and frustrations. I know for a fact that I would not have come through these past few years without these people. They mean the world to me. And when you’re on your own, nothing could be more important.

I’ve learned far more than just five things in the past five years…but I thought I’d save you from some of those boring lessons, such as how to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving or how to steam a wedding dress (of which I think I’ve become an expert!) What lessons do you have to add to the list??

To any of my students (I know some of you find this)…know that it’s ok. The next few years may be scary as all get out. But we’ve all been there. And we are coming through on the other side. There are some lessons that only life and time can teach us.

Gratituesdays: May 1…a day late.

Tuesday was May 1. For most people, this day probably comes and goes no differently than April 30 or May 2. But, if you work in college admissions you know that May 1 is perhaps the most important day of the year.

It’s like D-Day, Christmas and the Olympics all rolled into one. It’s what you work the entire year for.

May 1 is the college decision deadline for high school seniors.

And this year May 1 was a good day in our office.

Today (or yesterday) I’m yet again grateful for the completely a-mazing people I work with. Some of my best friends. I’m thankful for how intelligent they each are and how hard they each work.

And it won’t be long before we start working full steam ahead towards May 1, 2013!

Gratituesdays: Graduate School.

As of about an hour ago, I have exactly 14 classes left until I finish my MBA. That’s right, of course we have a countdown.

The 2 1/2 year journey to earn this degree has been quite a process. And I admit, I’ve spent my fair share of time stressed out or complaining about the time commitment. But it’s a benefit I will never take for granted. The opportunity for education and development is not something to be taken lightly; I consider it a privilege.

I’ve met some amazing friends through this program, as well as learned some important lessons about the business world and myself. I look forward to the next phase of my life, when school is finished and I can take the experience and apply it to my own life. (Ok, I’m also looking forward to some more free time!)

May 5 will be an exciting day, when I accept my diploma at the same graduation ceremony as many of my students. I can’t wait to stand next to them and my classmates to celebrate all of our accomplishments!

My Favorite Admission Question #1.

Parents often ask me, “What is the best school for X major?” or “What is your school known for?” And I could give answers based on statistics or my personal opinion for these, but my common answer is similar to this…

Yes, some universities are known for specific programs. But each student is unique and has a school that is the right fit for him or her. So what if a certain college is ranked #1 in a degree program? If the school doesn’t fit your student’s personality, it isn’t the #1 program for him or her. It must be a personal decision. It’s about the student experience and learning environment. If you are a student who thrives on personal attention, getting to know your classmates and professors, and getting one-on-one help anytime you need it, a large, research-based school where you’ll be in a lecture hall of hundreds of students may not be the best fit for you, regardless of how acclaimed the program is. And at the same time, that school I just described might sound perfect to another student. It’s different for everyone.

All schools have their pros and cons. So explore your options. Visit. Ask LOTS of questions. Get a good feel for a school and find “home”…which will look different for every student. And that’s ok.

Gratituesdays: My Students.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of my job. They remind me of what all the hard work is about. They teach me new things constantly. They make me proud. They challenge me to be a better mentor and a better leader. And without question, they make me laugh and make me smile.

I work in higher education because I believe college is the most important four years of your life. It’s your chance to discover life, to change, to make mistakes, to gain a vast amount of knowledge through experience, and to grow up in ways you never thought you would.

I love living life with “my kids” as I sometimes call them. Cheering with them about good news, and crying with them over devastation.  They keep me on my toes to be a strong role model, a position I gladly accept, because not too long ago, I was in their shoes.