Archive | Extracurriculars

Image by Lalmch,

Congratulations – all of your hard work over the couple of years has paid off and you’ve finally graduated with that coveted degree! After years of studying and spending hours in the library, it’s time to sit back, put your feet up and wait for all those job offers to start rolling in. Right?

While we wish we could say that it’s that simple, as you may have already realised, the job market is a pretty tough place for graduates to be right now. Increased competition means that it’s more important than ever for graduates to stand out when applying for jobs  – and as you may discover, it’s a lot harder for you to get your hands on that dream job than you initially thought it would be.

However, don’t despair – not all hope is lost! While it may feel hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there are plenty of other options out there for bright young graduates like you.

Have you ever considered going it alone and starting your own ecommerce business? No? Well, read on.

With a growth rate of 23% year-over-year in the USA, and a total value of $322.17bn sales in 2016, it’s not hard to see why unemployed graduates might consider ecommerce for their big break. But what else is in it for you?

If you are looking for an alternative way to start earning some money and put your degree to good use, here’s why ecommerce could be the answer to your unemployment woes.

Work from home

Thanks to order fulfilment options such as dropshipping, where an external company manages stock control and deliveries for you, there’s no need to have your own storage warehouse. Therefore, depending on what products you’re selling, one of the perks of running an ecommerce business is that it’s pretty easy for you to work from home.

Yes, you heard that right. No need to put on that business wear and leave the house at 6am to start your daily commute. You can roll right out of bed and work in your PJs if you like!

Earn while you sleep

Since ecommerce allows customers to purchase goods via an online store, there are no barriers in terms of distance or time (depending on where you ship to). Therefore, you have a wider audience for your products or services than if you decided to open a physical store in a shopping mall, for example. Your business is always open – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Low operating costs

Running a physical store costs a lot of money. Just think of all the overheads you’d have to pay for rent, electricity and staff. By running your own solo ecommerce operation from home, one of the main benefits is that the overheads are much lower.

For example, an online store requires fewer personnel to manage it thanks to automation and inventory management. You can also benefit from cheap online marketing channels such as social media to spread the word about your business.

But wait – there are downsides too

It’s important that you’re not fooled into thinking that setting up an ecommerce business is going to be an easy ride – because it certainly isn’t. In order to be a business owner, you need to be prepared to work hard, especially in the early days when you are trying to get your ecommerce store off the ground.

You need to spend lots of time researching your business idea and creating a plan to help you establish whether your idea is commercially viable or not. While working yourself certainly isn’t for the fainthearted, if you found it easy to motivate yourself to study hard at college, then you might just have the dedication needed to run your own ecommerce business.

How to start an ecommerce business

If you think that setting up an ecommerce business could a good option for you, then here are a few handy tips to get you started:

  • Find the product or service that you want to sell: Yep that’s right, it’s time to do some research! Once you have an idea in mind, go online and see what your competition is doing, then ensure that you offer your customers something better
  • Choose the name of your business: Once you’ve decided on your product or service, it’s time to pick a memorable name for your business that will help you to stand out in the crowd. To make sure that the one you want isn’t already in use, conduct a corporate name search
  • Register your domain: When you’ve settled on a name, you’ll need to buy the domain – ideally one that is the same as your business name, with a strong extension like .com. Find out more about how to do this here
  • Build your store: Next up you need to work out whether you want to host your own online store or use a third party marketplace such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy. When you’re just starting out, using established marketing channels can help you grow your sales – but you won’t build up much brand equity that way

With the benefits and downsides considered, if you’re a graduate who is currently unemployed and is interested in finding out more about getting into the world of ecommerce, then there’s never been a better time to get started. 

This article was contributed by guest author Victoria Greene.

Years ago, when blogging first started, blogs were just glorified journals, and the main goal wasn’t to make it a profession or make money. However, blogging has evolved to a completely new level over the years. Whether you chronicle your travels, report on the issues in your industry or share your latest fashion finds with the world, blogging can be a nice way to build your brand, or even just a line to add on your resume that can help you land a job.

But, when is the right time to start? Especially when starting university, it can be an amazing way to earn some extra cash, as well as improve your written communication, analysis and interpretation skills.

What can I do with blogging?
Running a blog gives you an amazing opportunity to help others by teaching them what you know or sharing your thoughts with the world. By helping others with your advice, you will gain a confidence boost, especially if you’ve just started college. You can pick a topic you want to be recognized as an expert in, and start doing your research! With consistency and effort, your knowledge will expand and it becomes an incredibly effective way for you to become credible and establish yourself as an expert. You can also learn a few more valuable things – blogging isn’t just about writing, it also includes content, layout, design, etc. Starting a blog is easy and doesn’t take much technical skill at all. However, if you’re dedicated, there is always room for improvement.

How do I start a blog?
While studying and working may be difficult and time-consuming, a great way to earn some money is with blogging. If you’re studying, that means there must be something you know a lot about. The best kind of blogs are the ones that reach out to people and teach them to explore new ideas. Here is a list of things you need to do if you want to start a blog:

  • Pick a topic
    Whether it be healthcare, travelling, food, or reviews – whatever topic that comes to mind that you can talk about day and night, that’s the subject for your blog. Be careful not to start a blog without a clear idea of what to write about, because you’ll bore yourself to death or run out of ideas quickly.
  • It’s not all about writing
    There’s some designing, too. You can add visual and artistic elements to your blog that will make it look more appealing and interesting to your readers. Photography, photocopied notes, artwork, sketches and mind maps are all good ways of presenting your thoughts without having to write long paragraphs of text.
  • Consistency
    If you want your blog to become successful, you have to be consistent. That means your content and style of writing should remain the same, as well as your publishing time. You can’t just write one post a month and expect people to read it over and over again. The more familiar and consistent your content is, the more likely will people return to your blog.

How do I make my blog popular?
Although there are many ways in which you can invest your time and effort into creating a good blog on a budget, you’ll have to consider investing in it as well, if you take blogging seriously. If this is something you really want to do, you should be prepared to treat it like your business and make financial investments in it.

The key to the success of your blog may also be search engine optimization – get to know this marketing strategy and try to understand how to be closer to your readers. Writing a blog also requires you to keep up with the trends: you can follow and read what SEO experts have to say on the matter, learn how to optimize your blog, how to use social networks in order to promote your content, and even cooperate with other more influential writers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun while doing it. Blogging will never be honest if you’re doing it just because you want to make more money. After all, if you make it look like a “job” or a “chore”, you won’t enjoy it, and neither will your readers. Blogging can be great way to turn your hobby into an extra income to help you finance your degree!

This article was contributed by guest author Cate Palmer.

Image by Noah Hinton,

In this day and age, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur is budding amongst even the youngest of college students. And, who can blame these full-hearted, ambitious, and inspired kids when the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have turned entrepreneurship into multi-million dollar success stories?

As parents everywhere shake with fear at the thought of their college-aged child not finishing their degree, and students everywhere seek out ways in which to make more money than any college education could prepare them for, I suggest finding a middle ground.

There is no doubt completing a college degree has many benefits. If anything, it provides students with lessons related to setting a goal and achieving it. Moreover, statistics continue to show that having a college education will yield almost twice the annual salary when compared to someone with just a high school diploma. However, that does not discount the advantages that running an online business during college can bring.

So, why not do both?

Being able to manage an online business and the demands of gaining a college degree is no easy feat. However, with enough determination and information about how to balance both, anyone can achieve the success they seek. That’s why today we are going to discuss some of the best ways to effectively manage an online business while still in college.

Find Your Priorities
Trying to excel at both your college education (e.g. securing a perfect GPA and attending all extracurricular activities) and your online business (e.g. making money!) is near impossible. While some may be able to do so (lucky them), the truth is that is extremely difficult. In the end, it is likely that both your grades and business will suffer and that is not the goal.

Deciding early on where you see your future career path going will dictate your overall priorities. If you see your college education garnering you a successful job position post-graduation, make your grades a priority and use your online business as a side hustle to earn extra cash. On the other hand, if you see it the other way around, and your online business is going to be what makes you the big bucks, use your college education as a building block to becoming a successful business owner by learning what you can, but don’t stress over every grade.

Want a bonus tip? Try integrating your business into your schoolwork. For example, take courses that will support your business goals and give you the expertise and knowledge needed to become a more successful business owner.

Make Time Management a Daily Task
As a college student, you will experience plenty of downtime. Whether that be when you are not physically in class, on the weekends, or even on summer vacation. The same is not true when you are attempting to run an online business while in school. Your business will not wait for the weekend to end. And, it will definitely not take summer vacations. As a college student managing an online business, you must dedicate a certain amount of time each and every day to your business if you wish to be successful and continue to grow a reputable brand.

Here are some great time management tips you can try:

• Design a schedule so you can focus on school or business at any given time
• Don’t try to work on both school and your business tasks at the same time
• Arrange your class schedule so you can have off days to focus solely on your business
• Put your social life in check
• But make sure you schedule breaks into your weekly schedule – see a movie, go out with friends, visit family
• Make sure you schedule enough time for rest

Utilize Campus Resources
As a college student, you will have access to a multitude of resources that might otherwise be unavailable to you.

Not sure what type of resources college can afford its students? Look here for some of the best one available at most universities:

Experienced faculty members. Those working for universities not only have a lot of first-hand experience with what it takes to be successful after college, they have access to all of the resources you could possibly need to help you learn the modern business models and make your grades count.
Advisors. Advisors are great for keeping you on track when it comes to graduating on time. They can also help guide you when it comes to choosing a major that coincides with your newly started business. This way you learn all of the necessary skills that will carry over into your online business.
The writing center. Starting an online business typically requires you to start a blog as well. After all, a blog is the best way to inform potential customers about your company, products you sell, and overall valuable information about your niche. In addition, it’s a great way to encourage people to make purchases. Becoming a strong writer is necessary when it comes to online blogging. Utilizing your school’s writing center is just another way to achieve success with your business.
The career center. Your campus’ career center can help you determine a major, seek out internships, and practice networking and interviewing skills. All of these things are welcome because you never know far your online business might take you. Being able to function in the real world as well as behind your computer is a necessity.
Student Organizations. Without overextending yourself with too many activities (remember time management is key), there are college organizations that can introduce you to like-minded people. In fact, some universities hold business-plan competitions that you can enter that give out prize money or even invest in your idea. This may be something that comes in handy depending on what your online business is.

Become Proficient with Online Websites
One of the easiest ways to manage going to school and running your online business is to become proficient and knowledgeable about online websites. For starters, it is important to choose a well-established content management system (CMS) to build your website on. For instance, the popular WordPress platform is currently used by 58.5% of all websites worldwide. Plus, WordPress offers the following advantages:

• It’s free to download, install, use, and modify
• No experience needed – it’s easy to use
• Thousands of free and premium themes and plugins make it extendable
• It is SEO friendly
• The built-in updater makes it easy to manage
• It is safe and secure from outside threats
• It can handle multiple media types – images, video, and audio content

In addition, WordPress works for all different types of websites. This includes blogs, online shops, portfolios, galleries, a rating and review website, membership sites, and much more.

After deciding which CMS to use, the next most important thing to do is become familiar with the different web hosting providers. Finding the best solution will depend on the various features you are prioritizing as the most important – bandwidth, custom support, speed, security, feature set, and of course cost.

Altogether, if you learn about even the basics behind starting and building a website, you will find managing your online business and school much more doable.

Final Thoughts
In the end, balancing both an online business and school can be a demanding process. However, by implementing some of the above-mentioned tips, you will find managing your business and college degree is easier than you thought. All it takes is a little extra thought when it comes to your priorities, time management, and available resources.

Have you started an online business while attending college? What are some of the best management tips you can share with fellow entrepreneurs? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

This article was contributed by guest author Dev.

Image by Anna Vander Stel,

Image by Anna Vander Stel,

There’s a big difference between arguing and debating. Debating requires a certain level of decorum and eloquence to actually win. When debating, you can use the following approaches in order to strengthen your position without simply attacking your opponent’s position. Achieving greater eloquence in your words can help you succeed and get to your end goal in any in-person debate:

Acknowledge Your Opponent’s Position, Then Distinguish, Distinguish, Distinguish!
Acknowledging your opponent’s position puts them in the unfortunate position of having to acknowledge yours as well, lest they want to appear dogmatic in their approach. When you show that you understand their position, but have a different perspective based on logic and objective facts, it strengthens your argument by showing you’ve considered other ideas and settled on yours as being the strongest. The trick here is to distinguish why yours is different and how the opponent’s position fails to account for what yours takes into account. By stating how your positions differ in a way that implies your position is superior, your opponent is left to do the explaining. Remember the old adage: If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Make your opponent explain why their position is not wrong.

Use Objective Facts and Avoid Anecdotes
While anecdotes are entertaining and moving, they lack objectivity. Staying objective strengthens your position by showing that your rationale takes into account the outliers that will always exist. Additionally, statistics are stronger and can easily discount the persuasiveness of an opponent’s anecdote. If an opponent in a debate resorts to anecdotes, it is easy to dismiss them with statistics that show the story is not a true reflection of the issue, but rather a red herring meant to distract. Using real measurable data allows you to present your position as an objective, logical conclusion based on facts.

Keep Calm and Listen to Your Opponent
When debating any topic, getting excited or riled up may be unavoidable, but you should do your best to avoid it. Being able to put your personal feelings aside, while difficult, is very important when it comes to understanding what your opponent is actually saying. If you get upset by their third sentence, you risk not really hearing what the rest of their position entails. Listening to your opponent is critical as it will enable you to distinguish your position as well. If you missed something, it invariably will be the most important thing.

If you’re looking for courses to perfect your debate skills, ones offered for a master’s degree in law are perfect. Education like this can teach you to pick apart arguments as you hear them, rather than getting worked up in the moment. They can also teach you how to argue passionately and get your point across without being viewed as aggressive. It’s a delicate balance, but becoming better at your debating skills can help put you ahead in your career or your personal life. Use these ideas to help your in-person arguments and give you an edge. It’s a great personal skill to have in almost any industry.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Image by Ed Uthman, Flickr

Image by Ed Uthman, Flickr

Vivid displays of team spirit help many young athletes accomplish great feats during competitive sporting events. When teams appear evenly matched, the ability of one side to foster a high morale among players and supporters sometimes makes a critical difference in the outcome of a game. Consider applying one or more of these ideas to help boost your school spirit on game day.

Teach Everyone Your Team Anthem
One excellent way to encourage a strong school spirit involves sharing a song. By teaching all your team members and fans the words of an anthem, you’ll possess a powerful technique for encouraging players during the game. The sound of spontaneously singing supporters may inspire an athlete on the field to make an exceptional effort.

Competitive sports teams have relied upon this strategy for decades as an effective way to motivate players. Choosing a team or school anthem everyone can sing easily offers a big advantage. Since members of the audience may find themselves breaking into song without any music in the background, lyrics that are easily memorized and sung remain a wise choice.

Demand Polite Conduct at Sporting Events
Another important way to promote a strong school spirit involves maintaining high standards of conduct during games. By encouraging your students and coaches to display polite, respectful conduct towards others, you’ll help unify your team.

Parents, teachers and other visiting guests genuinely appreciate athletic teams displaying sportsmanlike conduct. Few things contribute as much to a successful season as upholding a lofty standard of polite interactions among teammates and rival players.

Use a School Mascot in Costume
Another important way to boost school spirit involves selecting and supporting a colorful school or team mascot like the ones found at Best Mascots. Today, students enjoy many opportunities to select professionally tailored costumes to distinguish these characters.

As players approach a pivotal point in the game, they may take heart seeing a cheering mascot standing on the sidelines waving at the audience. The mascot’s distinctive attire encapsulates the goals and aspirations of the school for its students.

Ask Everyone to Wear Team Colors on Game Day
By encouraging everyone rooting for your team to wear your school’s colors, you’ll provide another visible sign of support for your players. This tactic won’t prove as effective as traveling with a school mascot during away games, but may offer vital morale-building during home matches.

For example, a booster club might consider selling T-shirts in distinctive colors as a way to encourage school spirit. By offering t-shirts and paraphernalia with the logo of your team, you can help unify the crowd. People wearing this attire might even want to sit in the same part of the stadium.

Encourage Friendly Game Social Events
Finally, encouraging friendly game social events, such as ice-cream mixers, provides a great way for team members to become better known to their peers. Periodic pep rallies followed by school social gatherings infuse a sense of camaraderie into athletic meets.

It’s vitally important to maintain a cordial, welcoming attitude on these occasions. By encouraging participation, schools may assist their students in developing better social skills while also boosting the team’s performance.

Regardless of your preferred methods for demonstrating school spirit, it is important to celebrate the benefits of team sports. By ensuring that everyone enjoys the game and displays superb sportsmanship, you’ll help maintain a high morale. Competitive events often inspire exceptional athletic performances. Foster a strong school spirit to help young players excel in sports and in life.

This article was contributed by guest author Emma Sturgis.

Image by The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command, Flickr

Image by The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command, Flickr

Teenage years are challenging for adolescents as they navigate the tumultuous waters between childhood and adulthood. For many, self-confidence falters as new and troublesome emotions emerge around never previously considered issues such as body image, fear of failing, and real-life stress about academic and career futures. Teamwork activities can help you succeed by restoring and bolstering confidence, making you a part of something bigger, helping to develop leadership skills, and expanding your social circles. Here are some teamwork ideas to inspire your own success:

Team Sports
Team sports are as varied as your interests, so there is certainly an option for nearly everyone. Playing a team sport is a well-known way to gain confidence, a sense of worth, discipline, healthy relationships, and to help reduce stress. Of course, the physical benefits are great too. Particularly for teen girls, sports can minimize negative body image that far too often develop during this time of life and help you feel happier in a healthy and strong body.

Trivia Teams and Other Non-Sport Competitions
If you’re a less physically inclined teen, there are abundant opportunities for non-sport competitions for almost any interest group. Many teens will find shyness melt away and new social skills develop with competitive teams ranging from spelling to mathematics. Competition of any kind, and particularly academic, is critical in pushing you toward the most you can achieve. It’s also great for helping to develop better cognitive and problem-solving skills. If you’re a more solitary type, solidifying leadership skills like these can be done through courses such as an online organizational development master’s degree, or local community learning events.

Volunteer Groups
Socially aware teens may find depth, discipline, and the value of working with others by tackling a group volunteer project. Many volunteer opportunities carry the benefit of putting teens in touch with important people in their field of interest, or in line for college scholarship opportunities. Volunteering can give you a sense of perspective that will stay with you throughout your life, making you a successful steward of your communities. Look into your local library and other community centers to find a cause you’re interested in.

Performing Arts Groups
Often overlooked when discussing teamwork, performing arts groups including orchestras, choirs, and theater groups require intensive collaboration and foster the social skills necessary for long-term success. Many teens find being on stage a way to become more secure in themselves, discovering a poise and grace that will serve them well in school and in the future.

Learning teamwork skills is an important part of your development and those skills will not only drive success in high school and college, but throughout life. In most modern business models, it is the “good team players” and the “leaders” who are most successful, and in an increasingly small world, most projects will require extensive collaboration. With so many options available, there is certainly a teamwork activity to interest any teen.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Image by PublicDomainPictures,

Image by PublicDomainPictures,

Being a language learner and co founder/CTO of Skill Silo, a live language learning company, I am constantly being asked: “Why should I learn a new language?” or “What are the benefits of learning a new language?” The answer can vary from person to person, but there are a few reasons that apply to almost everyone.

Let’s start with the most impactful benefit; your career. Whether it is for advancement, or higher pay, employees who are multilingual have a major advantage. It is a fact that employees who speak more than one language are paid higher wages for the same job as mono-linguals. (Source). What’s interesting to note is that different languages have higher pay. The benefit of career advancement is coupled to the industry and company you are working for. If your company is seeking individuals for global travel and you speak the local language vs another employee who doesn’t know the language, the choice is obvious.

The other two benefits of why you should learn a second (or third) language are more personal.

If you are fortunate enough to travel the world, you will undoubtedly find yourself in a situation where speaking the local language is helpful – if not, you’re not traveling properly, but that’s for another time. Ever been exploring a new city and wanted to eat at a tasty local restaurant without guessing the menu items? How about public transportation – ever get lost or were unsure of where to get off/which direction to travel? You don’t need to know the full grammatical structure of your host’s language to ask for directions or for food recommendations. Basic conversational skills with emphasis in various contexts can be a lifesaver.

Lastly, learning a new language is fun and mentally challenging. You get immediate results and can actually apply your new skill in the real world. Learning new phrases and speaking to others within minutes of comprehension is rewarding. Advanced calculus is fantastic, but when was the last time you used it outside of a classroom? Being mentally challenged/stimulated is incredible for your health and brain. You will boost your memory, and be able to identify patterns more quickly. (Source)

There are dozens and dozens of benefits to learning a new language. Above I outlined the three most common benefits and reasons to learn a foreign language. Depending on your situation there are other benefits not mentioned, but ones that are just as valid. Time to start learning!

If you are interested in learning a new language, give Skill Silo a try! You get to choose your own teacher and meet with them, 1-on-1, without having to leave home. Upon registering, you will receive a free 30-minute lesson in any of the languages they offer. Even better, by using coupon code STUDENTS10 you will receive 10% off your first purchase!

This article was contributed by guest author Judah Lamm.

Image by Hermann,

Image by Hermann,

So you’re off for two months, and then university. What are you supposed to do in the meantime? Though it seems like a whole two months away, your summer will (sadly) fly by faster that you’d think. Here are 10 tips that can help you make the most of it and prepare for your first year at university!

1. Review your grade 11 and 12 material
Many programs, especially life sciences or engineering, are based heavily on prerequisites that you took in high school. Reviewing chemistry, physics and math will put you at an advantage when it comes to your first year classes.

2. Buy your textbooks
If you know your schedule, search around online for some old syllabi and start buying your textbooks. It’s better to buy used, as you save money and may get some notes out of it, so join university textbook exchange groups, look at the school’s bookstore for used copies, and start buying early! The later you wait, the harder it is to find students with copies of the books that you may need.

3. Scope out the campus
If you have some free time, take a trip down to your campus and take a tour! You can use this time to check out some good study spots, food places, gyms, as well as find out where your registrar is. This way you won’t be stressed out when finding where to go on your first day!

4. Layout your room
If you aren’t sure what you’ll need to take with you to university, try getting a layout of the dorm rooms, and plan out your space. Then make a list of the things that you’ll need and start shopping!

5. Find friends
Making friends in first year will define your first year experience. Try joining ‘accepted’ Facebook groups, keeping an eye out for those who are in your dormitory. Then strike up a conversation and meet up with them during Frosh week! This can also work when looking for study buddies – try posting your class schedule and finding those who are in your class. Now if you’re ever sick, you have someone to get notes from!

6. Research Resources
Most universities offer crazy amounts of resources for their students – whether they be workshops, skills training, or essay help, look into what your school offers so you know what to make use of in your first year. Knowing that you can get essay or math help for your classes can definitely help boost your grades!

7. Look up your profs
Searching for prof ratings before your classes can help give you a sense of how the class is going to be. Sites like give ratings about how much you’ll need your textbook, how much is weighted on lectures, etc., which can be helpful advice for your classes. If reviews are negative, fear not! If you find out ahead of time you can try and switch profs – or just learn what makes them tick. Once you find your profs, try emailing them to get to know them! Then during the year, they can put a face to a name, which can make it easier for you to ask questions and get help. This will definitely set you apart from other students in your program!

8. Join clubs
Getting involved in your school in first year is a must! It’ll help you get out there and experience what your university has in store for you. Look up some school clubs that you may like to join, and try emailing them if you have any questions. Clubs look great on your resume and will help give you a break from classes.

9. Search for jobs
Moving to a new town for university? You may want to consider looking at businesses in the area, or town or university specific job boards to find a position. You can even try emailing different professors asking if they have any research opportunities available. Finding a job will definitely help make sure you have money throughout the year, look great on a resume, and help you create a support system in your new home!

10. Find fun hotspots
University, if anything, should be a learning experience! Look up fun things that you would like to try with your friends, as well as any food places, clubs and festivals that take place in your university area. Always wanted to try kickboxing? See if a gym nearby offers it – then take your new friend from tip 5 to try it out!

Be safe, have fun and be prepared for your new year of university! 🙂

Image by Giulia Bertelli,

Image by Giulia Bertelli,

Here’s some recommended reading for your scheduled MCAT study breaks.

The House of God (Samuel Shem)

For any wannabe MD, this is a classic. It is also easily one of the weirdest novels I have ever read. As the only work of fiction on this list, its painfully real unreality often borders on the bizarre. But don’t be fooled, this book reveals a profound truth. I’m just not completely sure what it is yet…

Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death, and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years (Michael J. Collins)
A surprisingly funny and candid account of what it’s like to be an orthopedic surgery resident at the Mayo Clinic. Collins is introspective, honest, and often sleep-deprived, but clearly passionate about medicine which makes for an enjoyable read. However, if you want to maintain a romanticized view of what it’s like to do a surgical residency it might be wise to skip this one.

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science (Atul Gawande)

Humans are fallible. We make mistakes. We learn. We get better. Perfection is something often strived for but rarely attained. This is true of life. This is also true of medicine. Doctors are not superior beings. Even when they fight against their inherent humanity, acting like a machine is far from actually being one. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in Gawade’s book of personal essays and compelling anecdotes. Set in the early years of his surgical training it serves as a much needed reminder of the uncertainties and unsolved questions that still plague modern medicine.

How Doctors Think (Jerome Groopman)

An excellent look at the psychology that drives the diagnosis doctors arrive at, the treatments they prescribe and even the general approaches they tend to favour when it comes to patient care. While Gawade addresses the concept of doctor fallibility, Groopman takes it to the next level, exploring what kind of mistakes doctors make, why they make them, and perhaps most importantly how they can be prevented. Do good physicians know more or do they just think better? A must-read for aspiring doctors and occasional patients alike.

White Coat: Becoming a Doctor at Harvard Medical School (Ellen Lerner Rothman)

The one who wears the white coat wields the power. She has the power to cure and the power to mend but also the power to do great harm and cause horrible suffering. She should never let it rest easy on her shoulders. This reality is not lost on Ellen Lerner Rothman as she recounts her journey from pre-med life to Harvard graduate. At every turn, she is aware of the responsibility conferred on her and her peers from the very first day they set foot on campus. A sobering look at the life of a medical student, this book serves as a reminder to all medical school hopefuls. The path may not be easy but it can be incredibly rewarding.

Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted (Gerald Imber)

Equal parts biography and history of medicine, much of this book recounts the creation of Johns Hopkins and the lives of the medical giants who helped propel it to prominence. One such man, Dr. William Stewart Halsted, carries the story. Surgical pioneer, clinician scientist, and part-time cocaine addict, he almost single-handedly lifted surgery out the dark ages. This book is truly an eye-opening look at the medical advancements we too easily take for granted.

The Gene: An intimate history (Siddhartha Mukherjee)

While not strictly about the practice of medicine this book is, at its core, the future of medical science. While the length can be daunting at first, Mukherjee weaves a seamless narrative that is difficult to put down. In tracing the history of the gene from its ideological inception as an indivisible unit of heredity to its physical manifestation as a protein coding segment of DNA (and beyond) he has created a work of such magnitude, I cannot even begin to do it justice in the minimal space I’ve allotted myself here. It is a story of logic and experimentation, failure and success, heartbreak and triumph, but most importantly it is a chronicle of humanity, and just how far we will go to understand ourselves.

Image by Natesh Ramasamy, Flickr

Image by Natesh Ramasamy, Flickr

With the season of giving over for the year, many have turned their minds to less charitable past-times. However, students would do well to not discount giving and charity altogether. Volunteering your skills and your time can, in the short and long term, help you achieve your educational and professional career goals. Following are the benefits of volunteering:

Mental Health

Mental health, like physical health, is a state that students should be pro-actively nurturing. Depression among college students is a very real danger that has the potential to decrease your ability to do as well as you need to. According to a study conducted by UCLA, nearly one in ten incoming freshmen reported they regularly felt depressed. In another study conducted by the American College Health Association, nearly 30% reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function.

Volunteering on a semi-regular basis can help students ward off depression. According to Wake Forest University’s counseling program, volunteering not only lowers the chance of depression, it also lowers stress, increases self-esteem, and increases happiness. When so many students are in danger of experiencing depression that could cripple their ability to handle their workload, earmarking an hour or two a week seems like a small price to pay for mental health.

Meet New People

Volunteering can be a great way to begin new friendships. Many freshmen, thrown into a new environment and potentially without family and friends, must face down the deceptively easy task of developing new friendships. Yes, college students should be past the stage where they feel the urge to pick up a cutesy children’s book to walk them through how to make friends — but for some, getting up the nerve to approach new people can take a lot of mental fortitude. Failure to form new friendships can lead to social isolation, and social isolation can easily lead to depression.

Volunteering on a regular basis can aid students in building new friendships. Regularly volunteering at the same place and with the same people can lend well to the gradual development of new relationships. For the more introverted, that slow and steady development of new friendships can be the easiest way to form new friendships.

Build Professional Relationships

By the end of a student’s college career, students should have interacted with at least one or two professors enough to ask them for a recommendation, although this can be harder than it sounds. As a student, interacting with professors doesn’t always come naturally. I know that as a student, I never really had any questions or issues with my work that would lead to the regular one-on-one conversations with professors. That became a problem in my senior year, when I needed to begin asking professors if I could use them as a reference.

Regularly volunteering throughout college can help you form professional relationships which you can utilize after graduation. By volunteering at locations and events that allow you to utilize the skills of your future profession (i.e. nursing students volunteering at a hospital), volunteers can make non-academic professional references hold more weight.

The decision to volunteer can help students achieve their career goals, maintain good mental health, form new friendships, and cultivate lucrative references. And the earlier you start, the less time you will need to invest in volunteering per week. If one hour a week can be the ticket to success, why not invest that time?

This article was contributed by guest author Samantha Stauf.