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SOPA, College and the Future of Online Content

by Kara Coleman

The Web was abuzz last month with talk of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Most people were probably aware that sites like Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out in protest on January 18th but what is SOPA and why should it matter to the average American? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stop online piracy, right? It depends.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) authored SOPA and introduced it to the House in October 2011. (The bill’s complete title is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes” -H.R. 3261.) While protecting ideas that belong to the States from plagiarism by people outside the U.S. jurisdiction certainly sounds like a noble cause, dealing with the Web is a tricky demographic: If SOPA comes into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice will be able to seek court orders against sites generated in foreign countries that they believe are violating copyright laws and American sites would no longer even be allowed to conduct business with or be linked to these sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America is a proponent of the bill, citing protection of creative ideas. Other supporters of SOPA say that it will help the pharmaceutical industry in America by preventing counterfeit drugs from being shipped in inexpensively from other countries. Opponents of the bill fear that their First Amendment rights are being encroached upon, as user-generated sites would likely feel the biggest sting. If a small minority of users violated copyright laws, would sites like YouTube or Flickr be shut down for everyone?

Two days after the online blackout/protest, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) announced that the decision to consider SOPA was being postponed due to the negative response from the sites who protested and the citizens who supported them for doing so. Is this the last we will hear of SOPA or is it set to be an ongoing battle? And finally, how would SOPA affect college students? While most professors don’t consider Wikipedia to be a valid source of information to cite on a research paper, it does give students a good overview of a topic and provide valuable links to scholarly websites that would be good resources. Social networking sites could be affected, too...need I say more? SOPA is not just talk that will stay on Capitol Hill – it could potentially change the way Americans use (or don’t use) the Internet forever.

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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MythBusters: The Study Abroad Edition

by Darci Miller

Hello from the beautiful city of London! I’ve been here for a month and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the study abroad experience is just as wonderful as everyone says it is. It’s also given me the chance to put some study abroad myths to the test.

Myth #1: Study abroad is 90% partying, 10% studying. This certainly depends on what kind of student you normally are and what kind of lifestyle you lead at your home university. Europeans do go out more than Americans but “going out” often means drinking a pint with some friends at the local pub and not necessarily getting all dolled up and going clubbing. And once assignment deadlines start looming, you are going to have to hit the books.

Myth #2: It’s too much money. It’s very easy to study abroad in a financially responsible way. If you go through a program hosted by your home university, any financial aid you have will (or should) transfer. After that, it’s all a matter of using your money in a smart way. Also, check online and with your study abroad office to see if there are study abroad-specific scholarships you can apply for. I got $4,500 from Miami’s study abroad office and it’ll be funding all of my travels and then some!

Myth #3: It’s dangerous and/or scary. It’s drilled into our heads before we leave that pickpocketing is a big threat in Europe but as long as you’re smart about your belongings, international cities are no more dangerous than cities in America. And living in a new country is certainly a jarringly different experience but it’ll only change you for the better.

Myth #4: Europeans all dress a certain way and you need to fit in. Everyone in London looks like they’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine – well-dressed and attractive – so if I wear a Miami t-shirt to class, I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s ok, though: Regardless of how you dress, people will know you’re American as soon as you open your mouth.

Myth #5: You’ll have more free time than you know what to do with. I’m taking four classes and each is two hours per week with Tuesdays and Fridays off. I’ve become a champion napper but I’ve also done a ton of exploring. You’re abroad for a short time – don’t waste it!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Hearst Lawsuit Holds Unpaid Internships in the Balance

by Angela Andaloro

College students are always being reminded of the importance of internships. Anyone who has taken a serious look into what’s out there knows that many of the internships offered are unpaid and though students may receive college credit or a stipend, it’s rare that they are actually paid hourly wages. While many students accept these conditions for the opportunity to break into their chosen industry, one former intern is taking a stand.

From August to December 2011, Xuedan "Diana" Wang was an intern at Harper’s Bazaar and is now suing the magazine’s publisher, Hearst Corporation, for improper compensation for her internship in which she was working anywhere from 40 to 55 hours a week. Her lawyers believe that Wang is among many interns who are working for an opportunity and being taken advantage of because if these interns were not doing the work they do, companies would be forced to hire someone to do the work. They reason that interns are not only losing out on money by working under these practices but benefits including Social Security contributions, the ability to collect unemployment and workers' compensation as well. Wang’s claims are grabbing the attention of many as her lawyers are looking to turn her case into a class action lawsuit. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit states that “Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.”

So what does this mean for unpaid internships nationwide? Will employers cave under pressure and start paying interns for their work? It’s hard to say at this stage but the fact is that many employers hire interns to provide a learning experience for students and because they cannot afford to hire entry-level employees to do that work. This could lead to a decrease in the number of internship opportunities available to students, making them more coveted and prestigious positions when attained. The qualifications to be hired for an internship would be higher than ever. Whether this would be a good thing for students or a bad thing depends on a number of factors. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Respecting the Beliefs of Others

by Radha Jhatakia

No two people are alike and neither are their beliefs. People have similarities and differences, grow up in different environments and have diverse experiences which shape their beliefs; when we are in college, people with diverse beliefs are brought together and thus students must be tolerant and respectful of the beliefs of others. It is not right to ridicule the beliefs of others or to impress our own beliefs upon them.

In college, people will have many different issues they are passionate about and we will take classes with these students and interact with them on a daily basis throughout our time in school. People will practice and believe in whatever is best for them and no one has the right to dictate otherwise. We may not believe in another religion over our own but does that make someone else’s lesser? No, it does not and as citizens of a country where freedom is valued, people must respect that. People must be tolerant of is sexuality; homosexuality may not be your orientation but your beliefs should not cause others to suffer. Whether you believe the same or not isn't the issue and this mindset is especially useful when living on campus for the first time: Your roommate or neighbor could be 100-percent your opposite but respect for their beliefs and lifestyle will make for a more comfortable living arrangement and maybe even a lasting friendship.

In a time when the world is at odds and there are wars over petty issues, respecting beliefs of others is more important than ever. Can you imagine how many conflicts would end tomorrow if those fighting simply followed this advice? Argue for what you believe in – everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but just because you don’t believe something doesn’t mean you have the right to disrespect it. Be respectful of those around you and their beliefs – sometimes it’s all we have.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Friends and the College Search: How They Can Help or Hinder Your Decision

by Katie Askew

There are many factors that one should consider while searching for the perfect college. While cost, location and student life are all very important, where your friends are or aren’t attending school could play an unexpectedly vital role in your decision.

During college search time, my best friend and I were both focused on out-of-state schools. We both knew we wanted to get out of South Dakota but our interests were different – she was focusing on music and I was looking into English – and in the end, we had one college we both loved in our top three choices: Colorado State University. After much debate, I ended up at the University of Minnesota, while my best friend chose to go to CSU. My decision to not go to CSU was (along with a slew of other minor factors) mostly due to my friend, as I wanted to forge my own path and start fresh in a new city. Two years later, I have no regrets and our friendship is just as strong as ever.

Some students base their college decisions on where a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend or relative is attending school without really considering what they themselves want and need out of their own college experience. Yes, these relationships are important but it’s more important to decide for yourself: I know I made the right choice because I thrive in the big city and my friend loves the picturesque views of the Rocky Mountains outside her apartment window. Would our friendship have survived the turmoil of change college students go through if we were at the same school? We’ll never know for sure but it certainly has stayed intact across the miles...not to mention that I get an amazing spring break in Colorado and she gets a week-long summer vacation in the Twin Cities!

Some friendships may survive the chaotic transformation every college student goes through but some will not and you should not base your college choice on just this one factor. Distance from your high school friends, whether it’s thousands of miles apart or a couple blocks across campus, will impact your college life – just don’t let it dictate your decision for the wrong reasons.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

In my last article, I talked a lot about language classes at school and how you can use those skills in your own cities. But honestly the best way to practice a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it so in this column, I’m going to talk about studying abroad – but cost effectively.

Like with real estate, the costs associated with studying abroad depend on location, location, location. While your parents didn’t have a lot of study abroad options outside Europe, the world is changing and becoming more global every day; by changing that dream European vacation into a jaunt to a different continent, you can save a lot of money and have a unique experience. I studied abroad here in Buenos Aires, which at the time was about $10,000 cheaper than an equivalent program I could have done in Barcelona. Plus, my study abroad program was about a month and a half longer, meaning I had a lot more cultural immersion than I would have had with the program in Spain.

Also, think about if you really need the college credits you’ll get abroad. If you can just go for a summer and give up the academic courses or if you’re ahead on credits and can take a semester off, it might be worth it to check out volunteering abroad programs aimed at young people. Generally, the prices are significantly lower for a few months of building houses than for university classes; however, the experience is very different than taking university classes with native students (which is what I did...and loved) so think about what you’re really looking for in an abroad experience before choosing.

Finally, there are ways to actually make money while you’re studying abroad! Many countries are looking for English teachers and it’s worth checking out expatriate websites to see if anyone needs a babysitter who is a native English speaker. Similarly, if your language skills are good enough, there are lots of translation jobs out there – just check Craigslist like I did!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Memes Sweep College Campuses Nationwide

by Alexis Mattera

There could be a 15-page research paper deadline, a monster exam and an internship shift tomorrow but if you think a college student isn’t going to take even a few minutes to destress or have a laugh, you’re crazy. My go-tos were Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Snood and UCTV but today, it’s all about college-centric memes.

According to Time (and Richard Dawkins), a meme is essentially an idea that replicates and evolves through imitation – a process the Internet makes almost too easy. Since October, schools like Florida International University, McGill, Appalachian State, UT, Duke, Northwestern and BU have all jumped aboard the meme train and the viral school spirit shows no sign of slowing: More student-created takes on Success Kid, Uber Frosh and others keep popping up on Facebook every day.

Have you caught college meme fever or do you think the meme trend has already worn out its welcome?


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all '80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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From Hollywood to Harvard: Celebrities and College

by Angela Andaloro

When we think of celebrities, we think of polished perfection on the red carpet, wild escapades and overall lives of luxury. What we don’t really think of are celebrities sitting in lecture halls, doing lab work or writing research papers but the mentions of celebrities enrolling in college have increased greatly within the last 10 years. While it’s always positive for someone to continue their education and improve themselves, are celebrities really doing that?

Recently, many young actors and actresses have begun attending college. It seems, however, that their college careers aren’t being taken very seriously – by themselves or others. One such celebrity is Emma Roberts. Roberts began attending Sarah Lawrence College this past fall but after just one semester, she has deferred her studies due to work commitments. Even while she was in school, Roberts was known to miss class, once admitting at a fashion show, “I ditched class to come to this show, and that's probably bad.” How easy would withdrawing from school mid-semester be for a regular college student? What would the limitations be? It’s unlikely these factors existed for Roberts.

Do the Hollywood elite get special treatment in the world of higher education? It certainly seems like it. Perhaps the most interesting case of celebrity favoritism is that involving James Franco and his NYU attendance. A professor at the university claims he was fired, in part because he gave Franco a D in his class after missing 12 of the 14 sessions. The professor’s accusations were shocking, with claims including Franco bribing professors by hiring them to write, direct and even appear in his films. He told the New York Post that “The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco” despite his ridiculous superstar behavior.

Not all celebrities treat their college careers as cavalierly. Natalie Portman is one celebrity who put has always put her education first, not attending the premiere of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" to study for her high school finals and, later, pausing her career to attend Harvard. She once said, “I don’t care if it ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Perhaps young Hollywood should follow her example and do the same: She has a college degree AND an Oscar, after all.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Get a College Degree - It’s Good for Your Health!

by Suada Kolovic

There are myriad reasons to get a college education – better employment opportunities, higher earning potential, experiences that will last a lifetime, etc. – but you probably didn’t realize that it might be good for your health, too: A new study suggests that earning a bachelor’s degree before reaching the age of 25 is linked with having fewer symptoms of depression and having a higher self-rating of health, compared to people who don’t have college degree before 25.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, were based on data from 7,179 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979. The study suggests that people with college degrees are more likely to report regular exercising – 63 percent of college graduates reported participating in “vigorous exercise” once a week or more, compared with 37 percent of people in the same age group who only had a high school diploma. Study researcher Dr. Katrine Walsemann of the University of South Carolina said in a statement that the findings “provides preliminary evidence that the timing of education is associated with health advances current research on the importance of attaining at least a bachelor’s degree after the mid-20s.” (For more on the study, click here.)

What do you think of the study’s findings? Do you think obtaining a college degree has a direct correlation to an individual’s well-being or do you think everyone has the potential to develop bad habits regardless of their educational backgrounds?


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