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New at School? Find a Mentor to Show You the Ropes!

by Cameron Pybus

I didn’t receive my acceptance letter to Texas A&M until May 7th, I had no idea where I was going to live because dorm rooms had already been filled and on top of that, I was working 40 hours a week that summer. I was in a not-so-ideal situation for a soon-to be-freshman in college and knew I was going to need some advice to have a successful year. I was going to need a mentor.

Having a mentor or someone who can show you the ropes is an incredible advantage at the beginning of your college career. It’s what helped me through my first semester and really launched my success at A&M. Seeking out somebody with experience to answer your questions may seem a little awkward at first but I bet they’ll be more than willing to help you out. Lots of new students decide to go it alone; that’s fine if that’s your personality but in my own personal experience, college is about the people you meet and create unforgettable memories with.

Here are some tips for finding a mentor or someone older to show you the collegiate ropes:

  • Put yourself out there. You can’t expect someone to find you, show you around campus and tell you which social club to join. Make the effort!
  • Figure out who can help you. For me, it was someone who had gone to my high school but for you, it may be someone you meet at orientation or someone older than you in your major.
  • Get involved. Being part of niche organizations and extracurricular activities are great ways to meet older students at your university and find advice for surviving college.
  • Keep in touch. Sure, it’s nice if they show you around the week before school starts but it really helps to utilize your mentor’s expertise throughout the semester.

Cameron Pybus is a rising senior at Texas A&M University, where he’s majoring in environmental design. He plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2012 and eventually pursue a career as an architect. Cameron has been involved in various activities at A&M including student government organizations and a service organization called A.M.C. He just returned from studying abroad in Italy and is looking forward to his last year as an Aggie.


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Why Liberal Arts Degrees ARE Useful

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With majors like engineering, computer science and nursing, there may not seem to be a whole lot of room for generalized majors like liberal arts. All of the aforementioned majors train you for a very specific field, whereas liberal arts degrees (which include philosophy, literature and history) don’t, making “What are you going to do with your degree?” one of the most common questions liberal arts majors are asked.

While it's true that the broadness of liberal arts degrees can make finding a job difficult, this broadness also presents more opportunities than many other degrees. According to the University of California at Davis, the skill most valued by employers is the ability to communicate effectively. This is to a liberal arts major's advantage, as their classes require a lot of writing, critical thinking and listening – all of which are crucial to effective communication. Along this same line, technologically-driven communication like texting and IMing has made our society increasingly reliant on “chat speak” and its disregard for grammar, punctuation, etc. Some people worry decent writers are becoming scarce but liberal arts degree holders lay these fears to rest.

Additionally, liberal arts majors are creative individuals. They’ve been forced to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and translate abstract information into concrete, easily understandable ideas. In today's ever-changing business world, problem solvers and innovators – two traits often held by liberal arts majors – are extremely valuable.

In sum, if you decide to major in a liberal arts field and worry you’ll lack the training for more specialized jobs, you can make up for it in your ability to think outside the box.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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How to Not Kill Your Roommate

by Darci Miller

Before college, the only time I’d ever shared a room with someone was at sleep-away camp. Living in a bunk with a dozen other girls was certainly an experience but I was still nervous about moving in with my freshman roommate. We’d talked on Facebook but never met in person and all of a sudden we were supposed to live together harmoniously.

Not only did we survive that first year without killing each other but we successfully lived together sophomore year and will be moving back in together in August for year number three. Pretty good for a first roommate experience! While I lucked out in finding someone I’m totally compatible with, I think our trick was abiding by several unwritten rules.

First and foremost is respect. We never touch each other’s things (including food) unless we get permission to. At the same time, there are certain things we share: Her printer is mine to use as I need it (as long as I help pay for ink), she has full privileges with my television and then there was the time we bought a jar of Nutella together. Respect also involves being quiet when you come in at 3 a.m. and keeping sexiling to a bare minimum (no pun intended).

Compromising is important as well. You’ll have to learn to go to sleep with the lights on now and then (I did) or plug in your headphones if your roommate wants to turn in early. If you both go in knowing that you’ll have to give a little, you’ll make each other’s transition much easier.

In my opinion, the most important aspect of living together is liking each other! You don’t have to be BFFs but spend some time together and find something to bond over. Do you both hate the Yankees? Are you both huge OneRepublic fans? Heck, do you both like Nutella? It can be the littlest things that form a great relationship and make living together a pleasure.

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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Prepping for a Study Abroad: Social Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When I was preparing for my first study abroad to Jerusalem, I envisioned myself walking though the cobblestone streets and trying exotic foods and seeing wonderful sights. The one thing that my pre-departure vision never included was other people. I always imagined myself alone and having the time of my life. It wasn’t until we got together, all in one room, that I realized that girl who asked that silly question was going to be there and that guy who looked too cool for school was going to be there and that this trip was going to be full of people and not just places.

I ended up falling in love with my Jerusalem group. Those bad first impressions resolved themselves over time and we found ourselves attached to one another in a way that is much more than the “false intimacy of fellow travelers.” Study abroad rules often dictate that you travel everywhere in groups, meaning that these people are going to punctuate every experience you have in your destination of choice. Don’t let that punctuation be big ol' question marks or – worse – frustrated exclamation points.

As you start your journey looking into the faces of strangers that you will ultimately get to know better than you can currently imagine, remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him." Everyone in your study abroad group will have something unique and wonderful to offer your experience, so be open to accepting that contribution. When you discover some great and respectable trait in a travel buddy, be confident enough to tell them so. Everyone will be feeling a little out of whack in a new place and that kind of lift will connect you and improve the adventure for you both.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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To Stay Informed on Campus, Develop a Nose for News

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the most striking differences between high school and college is how everyone pays attention to the news. Most students are up to date with their current events and world happenings and they love to talk about it in and out of class. So how can you become news savvy?

Whether they are reading online newspapers, blog or user-generated content on social media sites, college students get their news primarily through the Internet. I first learned about Bin Laden's death through Facebook after someone had posted it as their status and I know people who get Twitter updates from online publications sent directly to their phones so they can stay on top of major news events.

Another way to gather news is by watching television. CNN or MSNBC is always on in the cafeteria or coffeehouse area at my school. My friends and I tune in to those channels but we prefer to watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” These shows keep you informed without beating you over the head with hours of unimportant opinions and reports and they make you laugh in the process.

Of course, there is always the traditional method of gathering news: newspapers and other print media. When I’m on campus, I never have to look very far to find copies of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal or a number of local publications. Not only are these print publications widely available to students every day but they are also free. Thanks, U of R!

So for all you incoming college freshmen, I would recommend you brushing up on your current events and for all you fellow college goers, how do you stay informed?

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Finding a Summer Job Late in the Game

by Kayla Herrera

Spring semester ends and summer rolls in with its blossoming heat and sunny days. Summer classes are starting up, birds are gathering in trees to sing their summery tunes and some students are starting their job search...late.

I tend to start looking for a summer job in the early spring in order to secure a position but if you have a particularly demanding spring semester class schedule, you’re not going to get this kind of head start. In an injured economy, it’s difficult to find a job, especially in smaller college towns that are not located near metropolitan areas. Many businesses are often family-owned – there are lots in my college town – which usually eliminates anyone outside of the family for employment.

The best thing to initiate late in the job hunt is to check with your school. Ask around to see if there are any openings for summer help. The admissions office is a good place to start but dining services is also a great hidden opportunity. With the lack of summer students, your school will probably be looking for help. I joined up with a catering service through my school where I work weddings and class reunions and – get this – set my own hours.

The most important advice about any type of job hunting is that you cannot be picky. I cannot stress this enough. If you've got rent and bills to pay, you've got to make money somehow. Apply everywhere – gas stations, gift shops, restaurants, department stores – and if you’ve still got nothing, fast-food might have to be an option. At least fill out an application; you can always decline the offer if you find something else. With today's economy, cash-strapped college students can’t afford to cherry pick. The race is on, time is ticking and money is waiting to be made.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Utilizing Your College’s Resources Effectively

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Do you ever feel frustrated or overwhelmed with the amount of homework you have? Is it impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel? There are all kinds of resources at your college which can help!

If you're having trouble writing an essay or just want someone to look over your work, the writing lab is there for you. Writing lab tutors are trained to help you with everything from grammar and punctuation to strengthening your argument. They can even help you get started if you feel like you're having a case of the dreaded writer's block.

As the name suggests, math lab tutors can help you with all levels of math. I've even heard of students coming in to learn how to use their graphing calculators. Even as an online student, I have access to the writing lab, math lab and all kinds of services designed to give me feedback from the comforts of my own home.

So many students are reluctant to ask for help because they are worried it will make them seem unintelligent. Don't worry: Asking questions shows that you are conscientious, determined and hard-working. Teachers appreciate students who are curious enough about the material to ask questions.

Even though going to the writing lab or math lab requires you to spend time on your coursework outside of class, you’ll generally be able to schedule one-on-one appointments with tutors to ensure you get the help you need. In my experience, hardly anyone ever came to math lab or writing lab, giving me plenty of opportunities to ask all the questions I wanted.

The best part about these resources is that they're free! You're already paying for college, so why not take advantage of something that won't dip into your savings for a change?

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Easy Ways to Afford Your Dream School

by Brittni Fitzgerald

Whether it is gas, food or tuition, prices are rising on everything. Everyone wants to attend their dream college without having to end up in debt at the end. College tuition will, depending on your university, have a small increase in price every academic year but if you plan ahead and follow these helpful tips, you can ease that financial burden.

First, open a savings account at your local bank to learn how to manage your money. Banks such as Fifth Third offer students goal setter savings accounts, which allow students to put money into the bank to gain interest as well as receive a 10-percent bonus when they reach their goal. A goal can be $500 and up and you cannot make withdrawal until the goal is met. This feature allows the money to grow without allowing you to give in to temptation and drain the account.

Another way to save is by adjusting your meal plan each semester. Most colleges and universities require that all freshmen have a meal plan each semester and upperclassmen usually have some sort of meal plan whether they live on campus or off. Meal plans are packaged with room and board and can become very expensive. Instead of choosing the meal plan with the most meals per day, choose a meal plan that works for your appetite.

Finally, consider applying to be a resident assistant, or RA, in the university dorms. RAs have to take on a lot of responsibilities like mentoring students and enforcing residence hall policies in addition to a full class schedule but the tradeoff is well worth it: Room and board is free.

Though she moved from Fremont, Calif., to Chicago at the age of 5, Brittni Fitzgerald will always remember the sun and fun of California life. She is the youngest of six children and is currently attending Chicago State University. There, Brittni is an accounting major and an active member of the Student Government Association but also a published poet (in 8th grade, her work was published with the Illinois’s 2004 “Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out”). Brittni enjoys running, swimming, dancing, singing and shopping. Her motto is “Live Life Loud.”


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Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

by Kara Coleman

On June 9th, Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed what supporters and opponents alike consider to be the toughest law on immigration in the nation.

The law, due to come into effect on September 1st, requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be illegal if they are pulled over for some other reason. (It’s also a criminal act to harbor or give a ride to someone who is in the country illegally.) Alabama businesses are required to use the E-Verify database to check the immigration status of their employees and businesses that employ illegal aliens could have their business licenses suspended or even revoked.

Opponents of the bill are honing their attacks on the fact that public schools will be required to check the residency status of their students. Jared Shepherd, an attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned illegal immigrants will not send their children to school out of fear of being arrested. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale, said that particular section of the bill is intended to gather information about how many illegal aliens attend Alabama public schools, and the cost of educating them. In fact, the bill specifically states that “primary and secondary education” is a public benefit that does not require residency to be verified.

In the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants could not be denied a public education based on their status. The writers of the immigration bill studied Plyler v. Doe previously, and the state bill contains no provisions violating it. Also, because of the way this bill was written, if one section of the bill is ruled to be unconstitutional, the rest of the law will still stand. “We want anybody who wants to make their home here to be able to do so,” says Representative John Merrill. “But we want every one of them to do it the right way.”

As a lifelong Alabama resident and current undergraduate student, I don’t believe this law will impact me personally – I am a citizen and every international student I know is either part of an exchange program or recently obtained citizenship – but I can see how it might hinder illegal students from wanting to pursue or continue higher education. The real test will be when the law comes into effect in three months.

Kara Coleman attends Gadsden State Community College, where she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism.


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College: The Ultimate Life Lesson

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many things I wish I knew before I started college...or even a year or two in! Tips about what professors are difficult, what dining halls serve the best food and where to find the dorms with the most square footage are quite often available but the biggest tip – which you won’t realize until you’re done with school – is that college itself teaches you how to get by in life.

The process begins before college with the prep work you do. You take six classes a semester in high school when during college you take three to five classes depending on the semester or quarter system. You take the SAT or ACT, which test your ability to take a test itself, not your intellectual abilities. You participate in every extracurricular possible to make your transcripts appealing, only to realize that those activities won’t really matter on campus. All of these tasks are tests: In college, you’ll spread yourself thin between a job, challenging classes, clubs and your social life but thanks to your prep work, you’ll know how to balance it all.

Once you’re on campus, college prepares you for the obstacles and struggles that await everyone after graduation. You’ll take engineering courses, biology labs and communications lectures and complete projects and papers to gauge how well you can apply the material you’ve learned and tight deadlines to help you to think on your feet. Whether you’re finding a way to pay off student loans or trying to secure a job in your field, those seemingly small assignments you completed in college will have prepared you to deal with the real world.

You’ll gain a lot from your college experience – friends, memories, knowledge – but most importantly is your degree, a testimony that you will be able to make it in life beyond those hallowed halls.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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