Why You Should Build Good Credit in the US

The US is a very credit-based economy. People often need to borrow money for a variety of reasons: buying a home, a car, starting a business or in case of emergencies. Your credit rating is how many businesses gauge your reliability and trustworthiness. You wouldn’t just loan a bunch of money to a complete stranger, right? But if you can be trusted to pay off your credit card bill consistently, companies and banks are more likely to trust you as well.

Using a credit card responsibly for everyday purchases is a great way to build a strong credit history — a history that will benefit you in a number of important ways throughout your life. For example, it can help you when:

Renting an apartment

Landlords will check your credit history. Oftentimes, they’ll reject people with poor scores or charge them a higher deposit.

Buying a home

Solid credit often means you can secure lower mortgage interest rates because the bank trusts you. Over the course of a 20-year mortgage, that adds up to a lot of money you can save!

Buying a car

Many Americans take out loans when buying a vehicle. Poor credit means you’ll likely have to pay higher interest rates and give them a larger down payment — and nobody wants to do that.

Applying for a job

More and more employers run a credit check as a measure of how reliable you are. In a tight market, you might miss out on your dream job if your credit isn’t good.

Starting your own business

Having a business of your own is truly a part of the American Dream. If you’re looking for a business loan to get started or expand your business, your personal credit history will affect your ability to get a loan. A good credit history might score you a lower interest rate.

Better insurance rates

Insurance companies often use your credit rating when they set the rates for things like homeowners insurance, auto insurance and life insurance. A better credit history can help you save money.

The importance of establishing good credit applies in many other situations as well, and the stronger your credit, the more companies want your business and are willing to give you their best deals. Ultimately, that’s money you can save to achieve more of your goals.

You can start building that credit history by using a credit card. There are plenty of credit card options in the US, and as you do your research you’ll likely find different credit cards that meet your needs. One credit card in particular is a Deserve card, which is designed specifically for those trying to build their credit in the US, like international students. A credit card is great for everyday purchases, and if you pay off your bill every month (or at least the minimum balance) you’ll quickly see your credit rating rise and more opportunities open up for you.

Just remember who gave you this advice when you’re rich and famous. 🙂

This post is brought to you by Deserve and has been re-published on the CampusSIMS blog with Deserve’s permission. Deserve is a digital-first, mobile-centric, highly configurable credit card solution that uses machine learning and alternative data, Deserve partners with universities, associations, financial institutions, fintechs and modern consumer brands to develop, rapidly deploy and power white label and co-branded credit card programs for any audience. The cloud-based platform also provides millennials and Gen Zs fair access to credit products and the tools to achieve financial independence. They’re award winning EDU card offers great benefits for international students without Social Security numbers and domestic students. Cardholders can receive Amazon Prime Student on Deserve, 1% cashback, no international transaction fees and $0 annual fees. For more information, visit deserve.com.

How to Crush Your Next Group Project

Though it might not always seem this way, homework and class assignments do have a practical purpose outside of your time as a student. Writing essays teach you the importance in formulating an argument. Taking tests reinforce discipline and preparation. Then there’s the oft-dreaded group project.

Group projects elicit divisive responses because of the challenging nature of combining different personalities, different levels of understanding of class material, and different levels of work ethic. Yet, group projects are incredibly important in preparing students for what to expect when they enter the workforce post-graduation. In most job settings, it’s important to know how to work with people different than yourself to get a job done.

Because you’ll inevitably end up with a group project at some point during your college career, we’re sharing some advice for navigating group challenges and securing that A grade.

Designate a leader

In a perfect group project, every group member would agree on all elements of completing the project, do the exact same amount of work, and turn in what they need to the group on time. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and with multiple personalities involved, it can be difficult to wrangle the group in terms of figuring out who does what, and coordinating everything needed to complete the project. This is where a group leader comes in.

Ask if anyone in your group would like to take the lead. Being the leader means keeping the group on task, collecting the elements needed for the assignment, and overall being in charge. Being the leader does not mean that one person takes on more work, and it’s important to make that distinction. Select a leader who is organized and conscientious, and who isn’t afraid to call out group members when necessary.

Delegate tasks and roles

Once you’ve determined a leader, now you have to determine everyone roles and contributions for the project. The leader will help assign each individual an element to complete for the project and the group will agree to the tasks and what’s needed for that element.

For example, if the group is working on a developing a business plan together, your group might have each member complete one of the following: company description, market analysis, competitive analysis, financial summary, etc. Each person would be responsible for that entire component. In something like a group paper, you might assign each group member to research various aspects of the paper topic, but then another person might be responsible for pulling the research into an outline, and then others with drafting different elements of the paper, and finally, another person would review and make sure everything flows.

The important thing is ensuring that everyone has equal roles and feels that they have equal responsibilities so that no one person is doing more work than the others. Make sure that each person’s responsibilities are clearly outlined so everyone agrees on the expectations needed to complete the assignment as a team.

Set deadlines within your group

Okay, so your professor told you the due date for the overall assignment – but your group needs its own set of deadlines prior to that due date to make sure: each member has time to complete their work, that your group can compile individual work into the single assignment, and your group can review that work ahead of the due date. You’ll need to figure out what are reasonable deadlines to complete each component of the group project, taking into account that your group members do have other courses, and obligations outside of class.

Additionally, your group members likely have different ways of doing things, so try to agree on deadlines that work for each person individually, but still leave your group enough time to check your final work and add any necessary finishing touches.

Try using Google Sheets, or a project management tool, like Asana, as ways to maintain transparency into deadlines, tasks, and responsibilities within your group.

Determine ways to review each other’s work

Though each individual group member might be responsible for a particular aspect of the group assignment, there still needs to be checks and balances within the group. Everyone should be responsible for reviewing and checking each other’s work to ensure that their part meets the standards and expectations pre-determined by the group. This is not solely the leader’s responsibility. At the onset of setting roles and responsibilities, and after determining deadlines within your group, you’ll also want to think about when and how you’ll review each other’s work. You might want to do it via email, meet in person to review, or find some other method that ensures that everyone has given their approval to move forward with each group member’s individual contribution.

Plan times to meet with your group and stay on-task

Even if your group plans to do some of the work to complete your project individually, it’s still important to maintain communication with your group in-between. For some groups, it makes sense to meet in-person a few times (or however many times you think is necessary) to help with the project’s progress and ensure the group has an opportunity to discuss any issues, questions, or roadblocks they’ve encountered. If your group finds it difficult to meet in-person, consider scheduling a time when everyone is online and working at the same time, and can communicate via Google Hangout or iMessage (or some other sort of method that works for the group). This allows group members to communicate in real-time and ask questions.

It’s important to keep in mind that while your group meets – whether in-person or virtually – the group needs to stay on-task. It’s great if you are friendly or even friends with your group members, but too much chit-chat and not enough work time means that you won’t be able to optimize that time you have together to complete your work. Give yourself a time limit on how much “small talk” you’re allowed to have at the beginning of your work session, and then move on to collaborating. Save time to chat again at the end, or maybe even suggest grabbing a meal together after your group meeting is over.

Hold each other accountable and speak up when you need help

As much as your group will do its best to distribute the workload evenly among its members, there will of course be times when some people do more work than others, or some members fail to do their fair share. It’s important to speak with your team members about this in a non-confrontational way and first, ask what sort of challenges they might be encountering that are preventing them from getting their work done.

If it’s a matter of their not understanding the assignment or struggling with the material, your group can work together to determine a way to help them so they can complete it on their own. If it’s a matter of work ethic, you’ll again want to discuss with your group a way to ensure their part of the assignment doesn’t go unfinished. Many professors will allow an opportunity to review your group at the end of the project, so if someone does fail to contribute equally, then that will be your moment to share that information with your professor.

On the other side, if you’re having trouble completing your part of the assignment, don’t suffer in silence. Let your group members know! Ask them for their insight and let them know what’s causing you issues as you complete the assignment. They are there to help you, and that’s one of the great parts of a group assignment — and something that will become incredibly beneficial as you enter the workforce after university.

The Most Frequently Asked Questions about F1 Visas

When you’re considering studying in another country, there are so many things you have to do to get ready. Some of those things are exciting — matching with your new roommate, learning about your new city — and some of things are…not. One of the less exciting, but absolutely mandatory parts of living in another country is making sure you understand the visa requirements. A visa provides authorization for you to visit, study, or work in a foreign country for a designated period of time.

For international students coming to the US, you’re going to need to get familiar with the F1 visa. To help with that, we’ve pulled together a list of the most frequently asked questions about the F1 visa. These FAQs are here to serve as a starting point, but for more detailed information, you should always speak to an immigration specialist, whether through your university or another channel for the best advice pertaining to your situation.

What is an F1 visa?

An F1 visa is the visa you apply for if you live outside the US, but want to study in the US. You’ll need the F1 visa if you want to study at a US school – whether that’s high school, college, English-learning program or any other type of academic institution.

Is there a fee for the F1 visa? How much is the F1 visa fee?

There is a fee called a SEVIS fee for the F1 visa and it costs $350.

What do I have to do to keep my F1 visa?

To maintain an F1 visa status, you have to meet the minimum requirement of classes for full-time students.

Can I work with an F1 visa?

You can work with an F1 visa, but there are restrictions. You can work on-campus. When school is in session, you can work for a maximum of 20 hours per week, but between semesters (or when school is not in session) you can work more than 20 hours per week.

Do I have to pay taxes with an F1 visa?

You need to pay state and federal income tax, but you do not have to pay Social Security of Medicare.

How long can I stay in the US with an F1 visa?

As long as you are enrolled in school, you can stay in the US with your F1 visa. So the length of your program is generally the length you can stay. However, once your program is completed (or you graduate), you can stay in the US for another 60 days before needing to leave.

Is there an age limit for the F1 visa?

There’s no age limit for the F1 visa. As long as you are accepted to a school in the US, you are eligible.

Is multiple entry to the US allowed with an F1 visa?

You can enter the country multiple times with an F1 visa, unless otherwise noted. Your visa should indicate whether multiple entry is allowed, and you must have your school sign your visa before you leave the country.

Can I apply for an H1B visa?

You can apply for an H1B visa as an F1 visa holder as long as you have an employer to sponsor you.

Can I go to Canada with an F1 visa?

Yes, you can visit; however, you must make sure you have permission for multiple entry and you must check whether or not you need a visa from the Canadian government depending on your home country.

What happens if my F1 visa expires?

If your F1 visa expires, you can still stay in the US as long as you maintain your student status, but you will need a valid visa if you leave the US and want to return.

Is my F1 visa still valid after graduation?

Your F1 visa is valid after graduation for 60 days, or after you complete the entirety of your program.

Please note that for any and all questions related to immigration, you should consult an immigration specialist. These FAQs are intended as a starting point, and should not be used for complete legal advice.

3 Ways You Can Improve Your Participation Grade as an Introvert

If you’ve ever freaked out when receiving a syllabus and noticing that “participation” was part of determining your grade – you’re not alone. For introverts, or really anyone who can feel insecure speaking up during class, “participation grades” can be scary.

Professors require participation grades to encourage class discussion, to facilitate the exchange of ideas, and to make lessons overall more interactive. Class participation ensures that class is less boring for everyone (your professor included!), but it also can be a source of stress if you’re an introvert or if you’re feeling unsure of the class material. There’s no need to stress though – we’ve rounded up a few ways you can tackle the participation grade, even if you’re not outgoing in class:

1. Attend your professor’s office hours

Visiting your professor during office hours can be helpful to your participation grade for a few reasons. First of all, use this as an opportunity to express your stress or concerns about in-class participations. Let them know you’re introverted and that it’s a little more difficult for you to speak out during class. Ask them if there are alternative ways you can participate and contribute without missing out on crucial grade points. Your professor might suggest you emailing him/her directly with your thoughts after class or some other options for boosting your participation. Additionally, come to office hours with some questions and thoughts about your recent class material. Sometimes professors will offer participation points to students who attend office hours, as that is a form of participation, and in a more personal setting, you won’t have to worry about speaking in front of a large group.

2. Participate in online discussions

Does your class utilize Blackboard or other online platforms for class discussion? This is your time to shine! If contributing to discussion boards online is part of your class structure, use this opportunity to participate. Pose thoughtful questions about the class material either to help you understand a topic or to facilitate further discussion among your classmates. Whenever another student posts, be sure to reply to their question or comment, explaining why you agree or disagree, or reinforcing their point with new evidence, material, or thoughts. Not only will your professor appreciate it, but it will contribute to thoughtful discussion.

3. Be an active group participant

You know those times during class when you have to split up into groups to work on an in-class assignment or discuss a particular topic or concept? These smaller group settings can be much less intimidating — and much easier for participation. Be less of a passive group member and more active by contributing to your group’s thought process. Pose ideas and questions to the group. Voice your opinion and thoughts. Your professor will notice that you’re participating in the discussion, but there’s less risk of “saying the wrong thing” like you might worry about when speaking in front of the whole class. In fact, you might even be able to help your group come up with the right answer – or a good answer – and you’ll be associated with that victory.

How to Use Winter Break to Get Ready for Next Semester

You’ve survived finals! Or at least, they’re almost over, and the end of the semester is finally in sight. After spending the past few months attending class, studying, and completing assignments, you have really earned that break. But what do you do with all of that free time in the coming weeks? We have a few suggestions for how to use your winter break to get ready for next semester.

REST your brain, your body, your soul

For the first time in months, you likely don’t have any looming deadlines or assignments. You might not realize it, but your brain can get tired too! Spending all of that time coordinating your schedule and due dates, prepping for class, studying can be mentally exhausting. Use the time over break to slow down your pace and do things that mentally revive you. For some people, that might be exercising, meditating, going for a walk, taking a long bath — anything that allows you to relax. In doing this, you’ll feel recharged and ready to take on the upcoming semester.

READ for fun

When you spend an entire semester reading for classes, it can be difficult to remember that reading can actually be fun. Give yourself a break from reading assignments, and instead, pick up a FUN book (yes, they exist). Find a book that covers a topic you’re personally interested in, or find a novel that promises a compelling story. It’ll give your eyes a break from your phone, laptop, or even TV screen, and let you have some quiet time for yourself. Bonus? Reading will keep your mind sharp over the break!

HANG OUT with friends and family

There’s nothing quite as re-energizing as being around people who you love, who you have fun with, and who make you feel good about yourself. Spend time with those people over your break! If you’re heading home for the break, make time for people you haven’t seen in a while. If you’re traveling, find a travel buddy or make friends while you explore a new place. If you’re staying local, use this time to strengthen the bonds with your community. This quality time will make you feel good and catch up with people you might not have been able to spend time with during those busier times over the semester.

GET A HEAD START and prep for next semester

Okay, okay, we know the semester just ended – but with so much time ahead of the next, you could use some of that time to get ready for what’s ahead. As your professors start posting their syllabi, check out what books you have to buy and what assignments you’ll have. You could start some of the reading early, or even just map out some of the deadlines throughout the semester so you know how busy (or not) you will be in the spring, and can plan some fun things when you’re back at school.

Our Favorite Things about Holiday Season in America

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, it’s safe to say: the holiday season is upon us. In the US, Thanksgiving marks the start of a month of festivities, decorations, and general merriment in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas and the New Year. Christmas might have its origins as a Christian holiday, but admittedly, the holiday has become commercialized and less about a particular religion, and more about friends and family members celebrating and exchanging gifts. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there are plenty of things to do in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year that give you a glimpse into American culture around the holidays. That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite things about the holiday season in the US.

Holiday lights

If you live on campus, we recommend grabbing some of your friends, renting a car (or a Zipcar) and heading out to the suburbs! There are so many neighborhoods where people drape their homes in thousands of lights and adorn their lawn with decorations befitting a winter wonderland. If you do a little internet research, it’s likely you can even find some neighborhoods in your area known for getting into the holiday spirit. Play some Christmas music while you drive by and admire people’s commitment to the holiday!

Mall Santa

Want your picture taken with Santa? Go to a local mall and meet him! Usually malls will put together a faux North Pole and allow people to pay a certain amount of money to take a photo with Santa Claus. Many malls hire a Santa specifically for the holiday season, ensuring he looks the part. Normally you’ll see little kids waiting in line for a chance to meet Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas, but this could be your opportunity to make sure you made it on the “nice list” this year.

Christmas movies

There are, of course, tons of classic American Christmas movies. You might be familiar with Elf, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and others. Gather some friends and have a Christmas movie marathon, coupled with some hot chocolate. There has also been a recent cultural phenomenon surrounding made-for-TV Christmas movies. These are movies made specifically for TV networks. You can find lots on Netflix, and even on the Hallmark Channel, which is known for some overly romantic (and maybe unrealistic) storylines, but that still prove fun to watch.

Holiday parties

We love any reason for a party – and the holidays are a great reason! People come together and listen to Christmas music, drink eggnog, and participate in general merriment. Some parties will feature gift-giving, while others will just focus on celebrating another holiday season and the approaching new year. In recent years, “Ugly Sweater Parties” have become extremely popular around the holidays. These ugly sweater parties require guests to wear sweaters that tend to be extremely festive and holiday-themed. They’re not ugly, so much as they are a little exaggerated in their commitment to the holiday theme. Whatever holiday party that pops up on your schedule, be sure to attend as they’re a great way to celebrate and meet new people.

Gift-giving games

We love being able to select the perfect gift for our friends and family members, but one of the other fun parts of the holidays is participating in popular gift-giving games. There’s the gift-giving game “White Elephant,” also known as “Yankee Swap” and “Dirty Santa,” in which participants pick gifts and get to swap them with others. “Secret Santa” is also a popular and more benevolent gift-giving game where members of a group assign each person a single gift recipient. That person then buys a gift for their recipient, but keeps their identity a mystery, usually revealed only after the gift has been given. These gift-giving games are a fun way to participate in gift-giving.

Christmas cookies

Every holiday throughout the year comes with its own traditional treats, Christmas is no exception. Christmas is generally associated with its cookies, and many people will have “cookie swaps” around this time of year to share their cookies with friends or family members and maximize their own treats. People will bake basic sugar cookies and then decorate them with sprinkles and frosting. This can be a fun activity to do as a group, or even just on your own – but be sure to share!

Tree-lighting ceremonies

Throughout the US, many cities and towns will host a tree-lighting or just a lights ceremony to commemorate the start of the holiday season. There might not be as much pomp and circumstance as you see in the movies, but it’s a great way to feel like a part of your community, and sometimes there can be other events planned in addition to the lighting – and usually hot chocolate and other treats.

Outdoor ice skating

With colder weather comes the perfect conditions for outdoor ice skating. Some cities and towns will transform a part of their parks into a place for ice skating by creating a rink open to the public. Bring some of your friends, rent ice skates, and don’t worry so much about falling down! Be sure to wear warm clothes, a hat, scarf, and gloves so that you can enjoy the experience of skating without getting too cold. It’ll be a fun experience for you and your friends.

Giving back to charity

Though this time of year is special for so many reasons, one of the most special reasons is that it provides us with the opportunity to reflect on what we have, and how we can help others. In between all of the parties and festivities, don’t forget to think about others who might not be as fortunate. Participate in school fundraisers or charitable events as a way to show your support for others in the community, or consider volunteering your time at a homeless shelter or other organization serving those in need. Helping others will make you feel good and is great way to cap off the holiday season and your year.

5 Unconventional Study Tips for When Flashcards Just Don’t Work

Studying is a necessary – and unavoidable – part of academic life. If you want to do well in your classes, you need to prepare ahead of your exams and assignments to increase your chance of getting a good grade, and even more importantly, to retain the information and knowledge shared with you in that class. We go to university to learn more about a subject matter of interest to us, so it only makes sense that studying enables us to become an expert in that subject, and as a result, do better on our tests and essays. However, that’s usually easier said than done. Studying involves a lot of time and effort, and unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to studying. Everyone learns and retains information in different ways, so sometimes just reviewing your notes or making flash cards isn’t enough to help you actually understand what you need to know for that upcoming test. Fortunately, there are plenty of other study methods that can help you break out of your routine. We’re sharing five unconventional study tips that might just help you ace your next exam. 

1. Create a recording of your class notes

You know all of those notes you feverishly take during class? How many times do you actually review them before your next exam or test — if you even review them at all? Put those notes to good use and record yourself reading them. After each class, create a recording of yourself reading your notes, but don’t just stick to the script. Add some context for yourself for when you listen back to the recording later. Expand on some of the key terms or concepts by adding examples or recounting anecdotes that your professor might have shared but that you didn’t quite catch in your notes. You might even want to add some of your own questions into the recording as a reminder to find the answer. After you record yourself reading the notes, play it back when you walk to class, when you have to do chores around your room, or in any other scenario when you could add a study soundtrack. 

2. Create a study guide background for your phone background

You’ve probably been instructed to create a study guide before – but have you ever considered making a study guide worthy of your phone background? Think about it. Make a study guide that’s fun and colorful that puts key concepts and terms front and center. Use a user-friendly design tool like Canva to add graphics or fun fonts and colors that’ll make it easy to see the content when you look at your phone screen. Every time you look at your phone, you’ll be reminded of and become more familiar with the material. Consider making a new phone background after every class to brush up on what you learned, or just create one prior to an exam. As an added bonus, you’ll be forced to review the material while you’re making the study guide so that’s extra time with those terms and concept.

3. Doodle all over your notes

Sometimes words alone just don’t cut it. Sure, you try to write down as much as possible during class as your professor discusses the subject – but ultimately, you might need some more visuals to better understand what you’re learning. Go back through your notes and try adding some drawings and illustrations to help you consider the concepts in a different way. Sometimes it makes sense to add diagrams or charts, but you’re not limited to those sorts of illustrations. Maybe you’re learning about a particular event during a history or literature class. Draw it! Maybe you were learning something in physics class and there’s an example that helps you remember the concept – draw that example. If you’d rather make some doodles during class – do that too. It could help cement your understanding in the moment so that when you look back later, you can recall exactly what you meant. They’re your notes, so doodle in them and perhaps you’ll gain a better understanding of the subject matter in the process.

4. Assume the role of the professor

Having a study group is by no means an unconventional study method. Studying with classmates is an easy way to compare notes and collaborate on assignments when possible. However, maybe it’s time to rethink how you have your study group. Instead, reframe your study group as another sort of lecture or class session. Assign one person in the study group the role of the “professor” and have that person teach a key concept, term, calculation, or any other important element of the subject matter. That person can prepare a mini-presentation or lecture, and then “teach” the “class” (or rather, your study group). This is beneficial not only for the person assuming the role of the professor, as naturally that person would have to prepare and review the subject matter to ensure they can teach it to the study group. The study group itself also benefits because the “professor” might present the subject matter in a way that’s more accessible than the actual professor might have originally presented it.

5. “Explain it to me like I’m an eight year old”

Any Office fans? If you’re familiar with the show, The Office, you might recall one particular episode where Michael Scott asks his coworker, Oscar, to explain what a “surplus” was. Michael had been tasked with deciding what to do with the “surplus,” but didn’t know what it was. He asks Oscar to “explain it to me like I’m an eight-year-old” because the concept was difficult for him to understand. This reframing of the term in language that’s simpler and easier-to-understand is actually a great way to approach reviewing some of your subject matter. Take a concept you’re struggling with or that you’re trying to better understand, and then if possible, try simplifying it as though you were going to explain to someone who had never heard of it — or an “eight-year-old.” This forces you to consider the topic in a different way and once simplified, you might be better able to recall it.

American Football for Beginners

They say that America’s favorite pastime is baseball, but if you’ve ever observed a Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night at a bar or pub, you’ve likely noticed that everyone is there to cheer on their football team. Football is an extremely popular American sport — though it’s not to be confused with the “football” that the rest of the world watches. American football is a lot different than its global counterpart, which Americans refer to as “soccer.” American football is a sport that both fans and non-fans alike gather together to watch, not just because of its entertainment value, but because of its cultural importance. That’s why we’ve compiled a handy guide to understanding American football for any beginner out there who wants to understand more about the sport (and the cultural phenomenon).

The Rules of the Sport

In football, two teams play opposite each other on a 100-yard field (that’s 91.44 meters) with the sole purpose being to score the most points in a 60-minute game, consisting of four quarters (15 minutes each quarter). Each team is comprised of 53 players, with 11 players on the field at a time, depending on if they are playing offense or defense against the other team.

Each team tries to move the football into the opponent’s end zone, which is located at the end of the field, to score a touchdown. A touchdown is worth six points, but you have the opportunity to score an additional one point with a field goal or an additional two points with an additional play.

Teams move the ball down the field through a series of plays. The offense must move the ball 10 yards down the field, every four plays (called downs). To get a first down, the team must successfully move the football 10 yards. Teams do this by either passing or handing off the ball to their teammate, while the opposing team tries to block the pass or stop the running from making his way down the field.

When It’s Played

32 teams play in the National Football League, or NFL. The NFL football season begins in September and lasts until the end of December or early January, with the final game of the season being the Super Bowl, which occurs sometime in January or even early February.

Games take place on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays throughout the season.

Cultural Impact

American football is more than just a sport – it’s a bonafide cultural phenomenon in the U.S. Many people are fans of the sport due to their love of the game itself, but even non-fans watch football. This is because of the culture surrounding football games. For those people who watch the games in person, it can be a day-long event that starts with tailgating – a term which refers to people gathering around in the parking lot of the football stadium, grilling, listening to music, and hanging out by their cars until the game begins. It’s something that everyone can enjoy, even if they’re not necessarily a big sports fan. Similarly, for those people watching at home, they might invite friends over, and plan snacks, drinks, and food around the game. It’s a reason to gather together and support a team – or engage in a little rivalry. As a result, watching football sometimes transcends the sport itself and more so prompts the social activity or feeling of camaraderie. Even if you’re not sure you’re interested in the sport itself, we highly recommend attending a game or game-day social gathering to get a sense of what it’s like to support one of America’s favorite sports.

5 Reasons Why We Love Fall

It’s finally feeling like fall. The air is crisper, people are starting to wear their sweaters, and the pumpkin spice frenzy has officially spread to coffee drinkers. Summer tends to get all of the fanfare when it comes to favorite seasons, but we’re here to make the case as to why you should love fall in the U.S.

Leaf peeping

Depending on where you live, you may be able to witness the magic of Mother Nature as the leaves start to change colors. As the chlorophyll in leaves starts to break down, they go from their natural green color to a vast array of colors normally associated with fall: reds, yellows, and oranges. There are places across the U.S. where you can see this phenomenon in action. The New England area tends to be known for its prime leaf peeping locations, but there are other states where you can catch a glimpse of these radiant colors too. Enlist a few friends, rent a car, grab some hot chocolate, and drive around taking in the colors.

Homecoming

Fall in the US tends to be homecoming season. Homecoming literally means “coming home” – but when used in the context of your university, it tends to mean the time of year (usually a weekend or week) when alumni return to campus for various school-focused events. You may have first been introduced to the concept of a “homecoming dance” in US TV shows and movies. Some universities may have those, but mainly homecoming consists of a big football game or sporting event, and other fun events geared towards reuniting alumni with each other, and providing ample opportunities for bringing the student community – of past and present – together. Check out your school’s event calendar to see what sort of fun activities your university has scheduled for homecoming.

Halloween

Calling all candy lovers! Halloween is definitely a reason to love fall. For one thing, there are lots of Halloween-themed events, sites, and activities usually planned throughout the month of October. Throughout the country, there are pop-up theme parks that you can go to where they have multiple haunted houses and rides intended to scare and thrill you. Many cities and towns have ghost tours that you can go on that will show you the spookiest spots and share scary stories.

Additionally, someone is always throwing a Halloween party this time of year – expect the weekends, and days leading up to Halloween to be filled with opportunities to have fun with friends in your spookiest (or most clever) costumes. People tend to take their costumes very seriously, with many planning weeks and months ahead of Halloween. Be sure to get your costume ready ahead of time as many of the Halloween stores tend to sell out as you get closer to the holiday. Finally, if parties or haunted houses aren’t your thing, you can always hand out candy to kids in your neighborhood. Stock up on candy in advance, leave the light-on outside of your apartment (or put some fun Halloween decorations up on your door) and wait for trick-or-treaters to knock!

Apple-picking and pumpkin-picking

Sure, at first glance, it might seem like “apple-picking” and “pumpkin-picking” is just picking fruit. But going apple-picking and pumpkin-picking are fall past times. It’s more than just about the “picking” of the fruit – it’s about the entire experience. You go to an orchard or a farm with some friends, and you spend the day selecting some apples or the perfect pumpkin (did we mention it also makes for great Instagram posts?!) After you’re done picking, you can either enjoy the fruit of your labors (sorry for the pun – we couldn’t help it!) or you can indulge in the various snacks the farm likely has to offer. Many farms offer things like hot chocolate or apple cider and cider doughnuts for purchase, offering the perfect complement to a day of picking. Take your apples home to bake into apple pie or apple crisp, and carve your pumpkins into a spooky design just in time for Halloween.

Football

Baseball might have the title of America’s favorite past-time, but it’s football that really has America’s heart. You can find many Americans every Sunday gathering together to watch football, whether in person or on TV. It’s a distinctly American sport, and there’s something for everyone, whether or not you’re really into the sport itself. For starters, many colleges and universities have football teams. We definitely recommend attending a game at your school, even if just for the camaraderie and school spirit alone. The games are usually a day-long event, with people tailgating, meaning that they’ll host a pre-game event with food, music, and drinks to prepare for the game. If you want to watch a pro team, in-person is really fun, but you can have a great time gathering around a TV with a bunch of friends to watch at home. Even if you don’t love sports, there are always plenty of “game day” snacks – think Buffalo chicken wings, nachos, chips and dip – and usually some great commercials in between the game.

How to Write an Awesome Thesis Statement

At university, one of the assignments you’ll be frequently tasked with is writing essays. They’re inescapable as a student, and you likely have already written many throughout your time in school already. However, one of the key components of a successful (and high-scoring) essay is a good thesis statement. You may have heard your teachers over the years emphasize the importance of a thesis statement in the papers you’ve written, but as you progress in college, it’s even more important that your papers are guided by this important element.

It’s pretty simple in theory: a thesis statement is a statement that describes what you’re going to discuss in your essay, usually appearing at the end of your introduction paragraph. Per Rasmussen College, it “clearly identifies the topic being discussed” and “should only cover what is being discussed in the paper and is written for a specific audience.” It’s usually one sentence (sometimes two) and it should give your reader an indication of what’s to come in your paper.

Without a thesis statement, you’re unlikely to meet the requirements of your assignment, and therefore, won’t be able to get a good grade. But having a thesis is more than just helpful in completing the assignment at hand — it’s a crucial tool for guiding your reader through your argument. To help you get an A on your next paper, we’re providing three tips for how to write an awesome thesis statement, including examples.

Tip #1 – Pick a side.

A thesis statement is not merely a statement – despite what its name implies. Your thesis statement needs to have an opinion. Neutrality is not an option when it comes to a thesis statement. It should not just be making a comment; it should be taking a stance, and deciding how you feel about the topic you’re about to discuss. When you think of your topic, the thesis statement should clearly indicate if you’re for or against it; it should allow you to prove something in relation to the topic you’ve chosen.

Basic statement:

The final episodes of Game of Thrones elicited mixed reactions from viewers.

Thesis statement:

The final episodes of Game of Thrones did a disservice to the show, undermining the build-up, and plot and character development that was a hallmark of the rest of the series.

In the first statement, there’s really no opinion on the final episodes of Game of Thrones, but in the second statement, you can tell that the writer is going to argue about something. In this case, the writer will argue why the final episodes did a disservice to the series.

Tip #2 – Guide your reader.

In addition to having an opinion, your thesis statement should also indicate what’s to come in your paper. In reading the thesis statement, your reader should then know: “This is what this paper is going to prove or argue, and this is how the writer is going to do it.” It should lay out the foundation for your argument. At the same time, the thesis statement will also serve as a way to guide you. Everything you write should be in service of your thesis statement, and should relate back to your point. The thesis statement acts as your North star or lighthouse – both you and you reader should be able to return to it and understand how the rest of your paper relates to it.

Basic statement:

Many people consider Friends one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

Thesis statement:

Friends proves to be one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, thanks to its relatable characters, multi-seasonal narratives, and its emphasis on the power of adult friendships.

The first statement doesn’t give any hint as to what the paper is going to talk about. Could the paper be about Friends? Could it be about sitcoms? Could it be about what constitutes a great sitcom? It’s unclear. The second statement clearly indicates how the writer will prove that Friends is one of the greatest sitcoms – suggesting that the following paragraphs will discuss the characters, narratives, and friendship theme.

Tip #3 – Be supportive.

What came first: the thesis statement or the evidence? The evidence should come first – enabling you to come up with your thesis. It’s hard to know how you feel or have an opinion about a topic until you’ve gotten some background on it. As you start researching your topic, write down how you feel – your reactions, your thoughts, and your questions – and from there, you can formulate your thesis. The evidence is ultimately the foundation of your thesis statement, and allows you to determine how you want to present your argument to the reader. As you write your paper, your evidence should always be working to support your thesis. If you find that what you’re writing about isn’t in support of your thesis, then it’s time to re-think either your thesis statement or the argument that follows.

Basic statement:

In the TV show, the Office, the protagonist Michael Scott makes many inappropriate comments.

Thesis statement:

Michael Scott’s repeated offensive comments related to sexual orientation, race, and gender render him the most unlikeable character in The Office.

The first statement is really just an observation of Michael Scott’s behavior in The Office. The second statement, however, not only provides an opinion about Michael Scott’s behavior, but also lays out why he’s unlikeable. This sets the stage for the writer to lay out evidence in the following paragraphs in regards to the offensive comments he makes throughout the series and why that makes him unlikeable.