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Tuesday, March 25, 2014



Tricks of the trade

My blog is probably not the only place you’ve been told to enhance your college experience by doing large-ish-scale things like going to office hours or getting to know the local area. But what about little strategies to get through your everyday routines at Binghamton University? Here are a few little tips:

1. Don’t try to print things when classes are about to start. At Binghamton, Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes are usually 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM, 9:40 AM - 10:40 AM, 10:50 AM - 11:50 AM, etc., and Tuesday/Thursday classes are usually 8:30 AM - 9:55 AM, 10:05 AM - 11:20 AM, 11:30 AM - 1:05 PM, etc. A lot of people print things right before they go to class, so that there are usually really long lines at the times when classes are about to start. Avoid the crowds by printing in the middle of regular class periods.

2. Check out the Uppergrounds. Located on the second floor of the new union, it offers free coffee and sometimes food during the day.

3. Stop by the bookstore and see what’s on sale
. Sometimes, on the counter, you can find snacks on sale for a dollar.

4. Read B-Line.
B-Line is the campus newsletter and every student gets it in their inbox daily. People tend to ignore it, but it really is the best way to find out what’s going on around campus, and it only takes a minute or so to scan.

You’ll build up your own collection of small-scale ways to make your daily life at Bing better once you get here—but hopefully these ideas will give you a good start.

Saturday, March 08, 2014



An excellent early evening

Yesterday, a friend and I decided to get dinner at Water Street Brewing Co., a new-ish eating place in downtown Binghamton. While my friend had been there before, I hadn’t, and I was excited to try what I’d heard was high-quality food in a classy, relaxed atmosphere.

I liked the atmosphere a lot—it’s set up for people to linger and talk. As its name suggests, Water Street Brewing Co. offers a high-quality selection of craft beers, so it’s a good place to go for those if you’re over twenty-one (I, for the record, am twenty-two). It’s not snobby about that, though (the menu lists beers by IBU and other criteria but explains what those things mean), and beer’s definitely not the whole point. The food is really good in its own right, and the menu offers lots of local and vegan options. I decided to get a spiedie, which, as Neal explained, is a delicious and popular local specialty sandwich made with chunks of marinated meat. Since I’m Catholic and yesterday was a Friday during the season of Lent, I wasn’t supposed to eat meat, so I ordered a tempeh spiedie, unsure of how well that would work. I almost spat out my first bite—because it tasted so much like a chicken spiedie that I thought for a moment I’d been given the wrong order. It was tempeh, though, a little nuttier and softer than chicken. I highly recommend this great new take on a Binghamton classic.

After eating, my friend and I walked around checking out First Friday events. One really cool thing about First Friday gallery showings, aside from the free food they often offer, is that the artists are there to mingle with the crowd. At the ART Mission and Theater, for instance, two artists, Abigail Burpee and Patrick Branigan, were exhibiting their work. One of Branigan’s paintings, The Ascension, showed horses going upstream in a river. My friend was curious as to whether that could happen in real life, so she went up to Branigan and asked. He gave us the picture’s whole backstory about horses on a certain island in Maryland. How cool is it to get that peek behind a painting, within minutes of seeing it, from the painter himself?

That I enjoyed the evening so much was a good reminder to me that having fun on the weekends doesn’t necessarily have to mean staying up late. First Friday only goes from 6 pm to 9 pm, which was convenient for me because I was on back-up duty as an RA, meaning I had to be in the office by 10 pm. But maybe you want to be back to your room early because you want to study, or because you’re starting to get sick and want to fight it off with sleep, or just because you’re an early bird. Whatever your reason, it’s nice to remember that from going out to eat to attending First Fridays to seeing an early movie or sports game, there are lots of entertainment options for weekend nights when you don’t want to mess up your sleep cycle.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014



The most underutilized resource on campus

Last week, I got an assignment back in one of my creative writing classes, and I was surprised to find I’d gotten a B. The quality of my work, the professor’s comments said, was good, but it turns out that I had not followed the correct instructions.

We creative writing majors don’t generally see creative writing classes as individual pursuits for good grades or even specific knowledge. We all have our own fluid systems for improving our craft, and taking classes can be a part of those systems. The point of me taking this class is for me to learn to write better, so I redid the assignment correctly to see what I could gain from it. Then, hoping to gain even more, this morning I took the redone assignment to my professor’s office hours for review.

Office hours, for those who don’t know, are times that professors (or teaching assistants or whoever) sit in their offices waiting for students to go talk to them. Every professor has them, a lot of students don’t bother to go to them, and they’re actually super useful. You can go to office hours about anything related to your class. If you’re confused or falling behind in a class, go ask your professor or TA for help. If you think something you learned in class is cool and want to know more about it, go pick your professor’s brain. If you don’t have anything in particular to say but want the benefits of getting to know a professor (like a good recommendation letter or possibly insider knowledge about what’s going on in their department), go ask your professor what projects they’re working on. They will probably be super-flattered that you’re interested in their research or creative activities, and you’ll get to learn more about what goes on in academia.

I think the main reason students don’t go to office hours as much as they could is just laziness—very few professors ever require you to visit them, so you do have to be slightly proactive. Another reason is that some people might be intimidated by the idea of just going to a room and talking to a professor. It helps to plan things to ask and say ahead of time. It also helps to know that, for the most part, professors loooooove having the chance to build relationships with students. Think about it: you’re paying all this money to have access to experts in all different fields, and they’re really excited about talking to you. You have every reason in the world to go to office hours.

This morning, my reason was to get feedback to help me with my short stories. My professor gave me some really helpful feedback—he helped me realize some of the not-super-desirable tics I have when it comes to writing the beginnings of stories, came up with punchier ways of phrasing certain things, and highlighted the places where my voice was the strongest. He also bumped my grade on the assignment up to an A-. I’m telling you, office hours are almost always a win-win situation.

Thursday, January 16, 2014



Recommendations for recommendations

I have come to a conclusion: getting your letters of recommendation submitted is the most frustrating part of the grad school application process. Essays you pretty much have control over, and your resume you should have updated all the time anyway. But recommendations involve coordinating with your recommenders, and that can become difficult. Here are my tips to make the process go as well as possible.

1. Build relationships with people who can recommend you. As life advice, it’s good to build relationships with everyone, for tons of reasons, but for recommendations you want to make sure you’re building relationships with professors—even the best TA may not be considered a legitimate recommender in some situations. Also, be aware that some professors are really popular and get a lot of recommendation requests. If you have a particularly good relationship with one of them, go ahead and ask, but pay especial attention to the next tip.

2. Ask for recommendations early. Writing recs is time-consuming, and it’s not like anyone is required to recommend you. You’re asking someone for a favor, so be respectful of that person’s time.

3. Build relationships with more people who can recommend you. You never know when someone is going to leave Binghamton and magically become unreachable, or go on sabbatical somewhere, or have some big life circumstance change that otherwise prevents them from recommending you.

4. Ask in person. It’s friendlier and less awkward. Also, it shows you’re not just messing around if you accidentally end up asking on the late side, and it can help a professor who maybe doesn’t know you that well get to know you a little better.

5. Consider Interfolio. Binghamton’s CDC recommends using this online credentials portfolio. It lets recommenders submit letters to one place online, and you can distribute the letters from there (though of course you can’t read them). Personally, I find Interfolio to be kind of user-unfriendly, but it does save the recommenders some trouble, which is a thing you want to do. What’s really good is that it keeps your letters there for a long time—so if a professor recommends you for an internship during your junior year, let’s say, and then you want the same professor to recommend you for grad school, all they have to do to find their old letter is go to your Interfolio.

Good luck to everyone applying to college or grad school or anything else—it’s not fun, but we’ve just got to keep thinking that in the end, it’ll be worth it.

Sunday, January 05, 2014



Coming soon

For me, winter break is about halfway over, so naturally, I’ve been looking forward to my next return to Binghamton. As I mentioned before, I signed up for a maxed-out course load of 18 credits. Depending on how much work that turns out to be, I may drop something, since there’s really only one course I need to graduate and I want to make sure I’m also focusing on my other commitments and on last-semester bonding with friends. Here’s what I’m signed up for right now, though:

-Banned Books and Stories Not Told: This is the one class I actually need (to fulfill the English major’s American literature requirement, in case anyone’s curious). I’m taking it for that reason, but also because it seems like the class will give a good amount of weight to both texts and the contexts in which they’ve existed, and I tend to prefer that kind of perspective.

-Humor in Film: I’ve never studied humor or film, but I like both (how distinctive of me). This is a kind of “why not?” class.

-Blacks and Jews in American Culture: This will be the first history class I’ve taken since I was a sophomore, and I’ve missed studying it. I’m especially looking forward to this topic because it seems like it will be complicated, yet not overwhelmingly so, and like it will teach me more about the social context I live in now.

-In the Beginning was the End: As a person who likes to write stories, I often find starting them to be really intimidating. Time to take care of that!

It’s also worth noting that I know who’s teaching each of these courses, even though I haven’t had any of them before personally. Two of them, my friends have had and recommended; one of them, other professors have recommended; and the last one I just looked up on Rate My Professor. Oftentimes, especially in the humanities, the professor makes the class. I’d say teaching quality at Binghamton is, overall, pretty high, but it can also be variable (plus, your particular preferences, learning style, etc., might not be compatible even with every “good” instructor). When you’re mostly choosing among intro classes, it’s not as big a factor, but as you continue through college it’s definitely a good idea to ask around to get a feel for different professors before deciding whose class to take.

Right now, I’m enjoying being home with my family and not doing very much else. Sometimes, I feel excited about the idea of taking on all these classes plus finishing my independent study; other times, I feel anxious. Whichever classes I end up taking, though, I’m sure they’ll be good.

Thursday, October 10, 2013



Someone wants brrrraaaaiiins

I’ve seen a lot of people around campus the past two days with neon greenish-yellow bands tied around their heads or arms. No, it’s not some weird fashion fad—it’s Humans versus Zombies.

Humans versus Zombies (or, colloquially, HvZ) is played on college campuses across the country, and at Binghamton it’s run by our friendly Zombie Students Association. Basically, it’s a role-playing game with a plot (the specifics change every time it’s played) revolving around an impending zombie apocalypse. ZSA members moderate the game, and one person who’s playing is designated the Original Zombie. That person has a set amount of time to turn other players, all of whom begin as humans, into zombies before his/her identity as the original zombie is revealed. Zombies turn humans into zombies by tagging them, and humans can “stun” zombies with Nerf guns. For zombies, the goal is to zombify all the humans; for humans, the goal is to stay human until the end of the game. For longer games, there are also night missions that the humans try to complete.

I only played HvZ once, back in my sophomore year, but it’s pretty popular at Binghamton. There’s a core group of people who are really into it, so if you’re super excited about this kind of thing, you should definitely get involved. If not, I would definitely recommend that you at least play it once. College is the last time it’ll be socially acceptable to run around demanding brains or shooting Nerf guns at people, so really, why not?

Thursday, September 05, 2013



Questions to ask at an open house

It’s that time of year again: the time when high school students start visiting college campuses. Of course, some of you have been doing that all summer, but it’s kind of a different experience in the fall because the college students are back on campus.

I know that when I help out at open houses, a lot of prospective students and their parents like to ask me questions. People tend to ask the same general things—“What do you like best about Binghamton?”, “What kind of internship opportunities do you get?”, “How’s the food?”—or else they ask questions about specific programs. Here are three questions that I think you should consider asking when you’re visiting colleges. The answers you get will give you a different perspective from the answers to the usual general questions, and unlike questions about specific programs, the quality of the answer you get shouldn’t depend on the major of the person you’re talking to.

1. What did you do for fun last weekend? A dad asked me this question at an open house once and I think it was brilliant—it kind of catches the college student off guard, so you get a more unplanned answer, and it prevents them from telling you about opportunities that sound cool but that no one actually takes advantage of. Just keep in mind that what one person did one weekend isn’t necessarily representative of that person’s school as a whole. I was asked this question during midterm week, so the weekend before, mostly I’d just studied. I told the dad who was asking about the one fun thing I’d done—going to Wegmans with my friends, buying a bunch of weird fruit, and having a weird-fruit party in the res hall. This may or may not have resulted in the dad laughing in my face, but hey—it was an honest answer.

2. What do students talk about outside of class? I didn’t come up with this one on my own, either. I found it on a college-search site when I was writing a review of Binghamton. I’d never thought to ask it during my own college process, but now it seems like such an obvious question—what gives you more of a feel for a certain school than what its students like to talk about? At some schools it might be sports, at others it might be classes, at others it might be world affairs, and while most students at most schools will discuss a mixture of things, it would be nice to have some idea ahead of time what your potential peers are focused on. (At Binghamton, I would say that my friends and I talk a lot about the things we do on campus, like our jobs and extracurriculars. To be honest, there are a fair number of people who don’t want to talk in depth about the things they learn in class, but there are also a lot of us who do, and we do tend to find each other.)

3. What is the resident-to-RA ratio? Schools love to show off low student-to-faculty ratios, and obviously those are nice. Especially when you’re a first-year student, though, you’re probably not going to get (or even need) as much guidance from your professors as from other students. Having more RAs for fewer residents is a sign that you’ll be able to get that guidance, because it means it will be easier for you to create a bond with your RA and for your RA to help build community among you and your neighbors. (I don’t actually know the ratio for Binghamton as a whole, but I can tell you that in Dickinson it’s usually one RA for either 23 or 28 residents, depending on the neighborhood. The other learning communities are around that range, too, except for the apartments, which attract people looking for more independence and have many more residents per RA.)

Hope that helps! Have fun exploring your college options, and don’t forget that wherever you end up, everything will be OK.

About

Binghamton University's Admissions Blog is written by current students for students considering, applying, transferring and enrolling. Here you will find real-life points of view and personal opinions about campus life, classes, faculty and more! The opinions expressed by the bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the university. So, if you want to read more about Binghamton University students, you've come to the right place.