Advice to Freshmen

A popular hangout spot on campus: The Hazy Library.

Welcome new students to the fall semester! As you have likely noticed, the ERAU college experience is much different than its high school counterpart. Traversing this new university can be challenging, but I have comprised a few pieces of advice I would have liked to know prior to being immersed in the university’s community and hopefully it can help you:

The Prescott campus has over 200 clubs and organizations.

Of course, meet new people! It is more difficult to make friends in the later years of college. First-years tend to be more enthusiastic and open to new, friendly faces. You can do this by getting involved in clubs / organizations / Greek Life to find friends of shared interests. It is also a good way to form relationships with your professors out of the classroom, as each organization has a faculty advisor. Although we are not the most athletically-driven university, if you enjoy sports, I encourage you to join intramurals, with games starting 9/20 this semester.

On-campus jobs outweigh off-campus jobs in most aspects, as I have personally encountered. While your hours will vary depending on the school job, all positions prioritize your status as a student and will work around your class schedule. I have cycled through a few positions, including writing for Horizons, being a Temperature Taker, and a Student Media Assistant. Other common jobs on campus are tutors, TAs, graders, tour guides, Mailroom workers, Sodexo employees, and various assistant positions (located on ERNIE > Workday > Search ‘Find Student Jobs’).

One of our on-campus housing complexes, the Thumb Butte Suites (T2).

Try things out and take advantage of the opportunities presented. For example, if you enjoy helping students transition into college and desire free housing, consider applying to be an RA for the Housing Department. If you have leadership qualities, like to be involved, and can talk to students of all walks of life, look at joining the SGA. Try new opportunities out, and if you don’t enjoy it, move on. It is better to try it now then to regret not being involved by the time graduation rolls around. 

Me (Center) together with my Student Government Association (SGA) colleagues.

Meet with your Academic Advisors. While often overlooked, our Academic Advisors are great resources to ensure you stay on track to graduate over the years, the main goal of college. For an accurate assessment of your progress and how many credits the Registrar has you recorded for, go to ERNIE > Campus Solutions > Academic Advising > Academic Progress > View ERAU Report. The Registrar is the office that either approves or disapproves your credits for graduation, so ensuring your files are in alignment with theirs can be worthwhile in forecasting your schedules.

Overall, enjoy the ERAU campus and community because time does fly by quickly, as is a common phrase our parents like to enlighten us with as students. Good luck this semester!

Hitting the Trail: Granite Mountain

In the network of trails that constitute Prescott’s National Forest, the 7.9 mile Granite Mountain trail is a great option to hike. Driving past the Prescott Walmart and Starbucks, this trailhead is located roughly 20 minutes from campus. I personally enjoy this hike for the peace and quiet it provides, with minimal foot traffic, especially in the scorching heat of the summer season. The breathtaking views you are rewarded with at the top of the mountain aren’t too shabby either.

Here’s my full hiking vlog on ERAU’s official Instagram account.

Contrary to my previous hike at Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain is quite a long and more rigorous trek; so much so, that I was sweating at the bottom of the hike and chilled by the heavy wind at the highest climax of the path. I prefer Granite Mountain over Thumb Butte simply because Granite Mountain offers more opportunities to climb and explore when reaching the top of the trail, unlike Thumb Butte that is blocked off with signs and fences.

With an elevation of 1,656 ft. and scarce shade, the Granite Mountain trail can be either a relaxing morning hike or the next test in expanding your hiking endurance, depending on your skill level. No matter your abilities, I highly recommend trying out the Granite Mountain trail. Make sure to pack lots of water!

Applying for Scholarships

Receiving scholarships is no easy task. Neither is applying for them. Yet, we, as students, do because the chance we could receive one is enough to motivate us to apply. I remember when I first toured Riddle, back in the days of 2018, and met a girl who applied to numerous scholarships and received so many that she didn’t have any student debt when she graduated. I aspired to be that girl, to have that perseverance. 

Proud logo of the College of Security and Intelligence (CSI).

Of course, the ERAU Financial Aid Office offers many good options, but they are only the starting source. I’d say, about 80% of applying to scholarships is dependent on your self-determination. Some students receive competitive scholarships through their ROTC programs, if that is what you like to do. I am not one of those students. Initially, I looked for programs through the clubs I was active in. Sometimes, clubs and national organizations may be funding scholarships for their members. I found that there were quite a few in aviation clubs, although despite going to an aeronautical university, I knew little about. In Cyber Defense Club, a group closely related to my interests, I learned about a few opportunities supported by WiCYS and applied to those. Sadly, no luck.

Entrance to the CSI Building

Then, I moved online. Gauging my status as a college student from my metadata, advertisements were popping up with sources of scholarship search engines, like FastWeb and Scholarships.com. Having had applied to many scholarships prior, I was tired of asking my professors for glowing recommendation letters, answering essay questions, and writing slightly tweaked cover letters for each scholarship. The minimal requirements for the generic scholarships online were greatly appealing, so I applied to many. Yet again, I had no luck.

This is the famous Cyber Lab, located in Room 127 of CSI Building.

At this point, I had an Excel spreadsheet of over 50 scholarships I had applied to. Fatigued but still determined to not have student debt, I traversed on. This was around year two of college, so I had already started accumulating debt. I decided that I needed to look outside my previous methods. I turned within my College of Security and Intelligence and Department of Cyber Intelligence and Security specifically. Perfect timing! Dr. Sampigethaya, the Department Chair of Cyber Security, was just promoting applications to the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program. In 2019, our Cyber Lab was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense Education, Cyber Defense Research, and Cyber Operations by the DHS and NSA, making ERAU students applicable for this program. Recognizing the magnitude of this opportunity, I jumped right into the application process. Five months later, I received a phone call, a scholarship, and a post-graduation job! In retrospect, the process of scholarship applying doesn’t seem that rigorous; however, when I was in it, it was horrible. The longer it takes to receive scholarships, the more debt you accumulate. If you have many disappointments like I did, don’t give up! Working hard now can only benefit your future self, and honestly your bank account.

The scholarship application process is challenging; if you need assistance on any step, a smart move would be contacting the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships. This ERAU Office can support you in just about all aspects of the application process, from formatting your resume to requesting recommendation letters from professors. To contact them, please email uaawards@erau.edu.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Security Agency.

Hitting the Trail: Thumb Butte

No doubt, the town of Prescott is known for its numerous outdoor activities and hiking opportunities.

First sign entering the Thumb Butte trailhead, signifying the trail’s parking.

With such a well-known presence that ERAU even named dorms after it (T1 and T2), Thumb Butte is an ideal trail. Located in the Prescott National Forest, Thumb Butte Trail #33 is a moderate hike for people of all hiking backgrounds.

Thumb Butte trail information.

Hearing such appraisal in town, I too ventured out to the Thumb Butte. Once at the trailhead, I was instantly forced to make a decision that would greatly affect my hiking experience. Choosing to hike up the left or right route first, since it is a loop, would either be a more difficult steep climb or a nice gradual incline, respectively. Of course, representing the rebellious youth, I chose to start off with the difficult left side.

The two paths hikers must choose when starting the hike.
Hiking up the trail.

Honestly, the upwards half of the 2.5-mile loop was the ultimate thigh killer, paralleling the soreness one gets after leg day. The 700 ft elevation gain, fit into one mile of switchbacks, was no simple walk in the forest, pun intended. It was quite the struggle.

However, it was worth a quick sweat and soreness. The views on the climb up and opportunities to keep climbing higher were superb and greatly appreciated. Being a well-maintained concrete path, it was nice to see a chance to continue up an unbeaten path.

If you are considering hiking “Thumb Butt”, as I humorously call it, ensure you check the forecast prior. Living near the mountain, I have done this hike a couple times a month over the years and have made the mistake of hiking in wet and snowy climates; so, don’t follow my lead unless you enjoy involuntary sliding and sloshy shoes. Overall, as proven by my consistent return to the mountain, I recommend this trail for a day when you have the desire to hike but may not have the time to take on a longer adventure.