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R.I.P., Application Essay?

Counselors Weigh Usefulness, Debate Future

June 21, 2012

R.I.P., Application Essay?

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the college application essay: where a student can give admissions officers insight into the person they really are (in about 500 words) that the standard transcript can’t provide. While some schools rely heavily on the document in their admissions processes, others don’t require it at all – a discrepancy that has experts debating its future.

Admissions officers and college counselors discussed application essays and personal statements at length yesterday at the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions and according to an article in The Chronicle, counselors are citing essays as burdens on overworked admissions staffs as often as they are questioning their authenticity. Gone (or disappearing) are the days where a great essay can help a borderline student gain admission to their dream schools: Top institutions like Brown are giving them less weight than it has in past admissions cycles – “A spectacular essay can raise more questions than it answers,” said dean of admission Jim Miller – and some schools are requiring applicants to submit copies of graded written work to use as a barometer. What do the students think? Sure, crafting compelling prose comes as naturally to some college applicants as breathing or blinking but Martin Bonilla, director of college counseling at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, Calif., has found that the essays cause his students more stress than any other part of the application.

Do you believe the essay component of the college application is on its way out or here to stay?


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Ten Schools Banned from NCAA Basketball Tournament

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 10 schools were banned from participating in the 2012-2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament for failure to meet academic standards: Arkansas - Pine Bluff, Cal State - Bakersfield, California - Riverside, Connecticut, Jacksonville State, Mississippi Valley State, UNC Wilmington, Texas A & M - Corpus Christi, Toledo and Towson.

The NCAA rates teams according to their Academic Progress Rate, in which a team is viewed as a whole and its performance in the classroom is evaluated. If a team’s APR score falls to 925 or below and at least one player fails his classes and drops out of school, that school can lose scholarships. If the APR sinks down to 900, the penalties grow steeper and they increase each year that the team falls below par. Being declared ineligible for NCAA postseason play is a result of scoring 900 or below for three years. If the APR remains low for a fourth year, the entire athletic department is penalized. The school loses its Division 1 status and is reduced to “restricted membership status” in the NCAA.

Is this fair or too extreme? I’m not saying this just because my school – Jacksonville State – is on the naughty list, but I’m not sure that I completely agree with the NCAA’s punishment. If a student-athlete fails to perform academically, he should lose his scholarship, be suspended from the team, etc. But the players who make good grades, the coaches, and the fans should not be punished for the underperformance of the few. College students are adults – it’s up to each individual to study and work hard.

But what do YOU think? Is the NCAA spot-on with its academic standards and penalties, or does something need to change?

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and 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; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.


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Necessary Documentation for Employment

by Radha Jhatakia

As we get older, one of the necessities of life is to always have legal identification with us – a piece of paper or plastic card that confirms who we are. A most basic form that many of us have is a driver’s license but if you want to work or intern, you’ll have to provide specific identification depending on where you’ll be employed.

When applying for a job or internship, you’ll need legal documentation to prove citizenship status within the U.S. and/or eligibility to work in the U.S. The most common forms of identification that you are allowed to use are a birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, state identification card, social security card, school ID and military ID, though there are others. Unless the document you have has both your picture and social security information, which proves citizenship such as a passport, you will need two documents. (One of these documents must have your full name, state of residence, picture, and/or SSN if the other document provides the rest.) This is the bare minimum for jobs and internships in the United States.

If you are looking to work abroad or even study abroad, you will need some additional documents. Students wishing to study abroad will need a visa but the type of visa depends on the length of the time you will be traveling and the country you are going go. The most common type of visa for students is the F-1, which allows the students a small period of time after their education period is over to stay in the country. If one wishes to work abroad, a different type of visa is required; however, it also depends on if it's a U.S. company with a location in another country or if it is a foreign company. Most likely, you will need an international work visa...but don’t wait until the last minute to procure what you need: There is a process that should be started a minimum of six to eight months prior to traveling in order to have the documents on time.

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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Graduate Early, Get Sued in Germany

German University Sues Student for Graduating Too Fast

July 10, 2012

Graduate Early, Get Sued in Germany

by Suada Kolovic

For most students, graduating college in just four years is the ideal and not the norm. So when a student comes along and graduates with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in only three semesters, one would assume a parade of some sort would be in order. The Essen, Germany-based School of Economics and Management went a different route: they sued the student who accomplished this feat.

Earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree should take a typical student about 11 semesters and 60 exams to complete, yet Marcel Pohl did it in just 20 months. How’d he do it? With the help of two friends, Pohl divvied up lectures and swapped notes. Did we mention that in that time, he also completed an apprenticeship in a bank? Well, he managed to fit that in, too! Now, the school is crying foul and claiming “income loss” and suing for $3,772 – a fraction of the tuition and fees Pohl would have paid had he completed the degrees in the customary amount of time. "When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn't be true," Pohl recently told the German tabloid, Bild. "Performance is supposed to be worth something."

With a college education as expensive as it is, can you ever really graduate too early? Let us know what you think in the comments section.


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Colleges to Extinguish Smoking on Campus

by Kara Coleman

As many as one-half of America’s college campuses are preparing to become smoke-free. Though some schools currently ban indoor smoking or smoking within a certain number of feet from a dorm or academic building, new regulations would discourage students from lighting up even in open air on campus.

As would be expected, students are divided on the issue. Some feel that since college students are adults and smoking tobacco is legal, schools are overreaching their boundaries. Smoking is a stress reliever to many students, is less addictive than chewing tobacco and less dangerous than smoking spice or illegal drugs. Advocates of the no-smoking-on-campus rule cite secondhand smoke exposure as a big reason to bring about this change; they also say it is the responsibility of colleges and universities to encourage healthy habits.

As a non-smoker myself, I am very much in favor of not allowing students to light up on campus. I am not bothered so much by secondhand smoke at the university I attend now as I was at my community college, however: All the buildings were so close together on that campus that there really weren’t very many places to go outside and not inhale smoke. Some people (students AND faculty) would even light up as they walked down the sidewalk, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke wherever they went.

Some campuses are set to become smoke-free as soon as this fall, while other schools don’t plan to enact the rule until the 2013-2014 academic year. Is your school thinking about becoming smoke-free? If so, how do you feel about it? Do you think not permitting students to light up on campus will discourage them from doing it elsewhere...or are schools just blowing smoke?

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


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Is Not Struggling a Struggle?

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 22-year-old Taylor Cotter published an article on The Huffington Post about her success since she graduated from college in May. The odd thing about Cotter’s piece is that she doesn’t take the angle of a success story in a struggling economy – she feels that she should be struggling more!

Cotter talks about how many of her friends are working part-time jobs, living at home with their parents and/or having diets consisting mostly of Ramen; she feels that she is missing out on the post-college twentysomething life by having a ‘real job’ and a 401(k). Some readers – including myself – are appalled by Cotter’s tone. It seems to me that it would be the dream of every college student to find a full-time job directly after graduation but Cotter almost seems remorseful that she made herself marketable to companies who would hire her.

I have been living at home with my parents and working part-time jobs ranging from lifeguarding to tutoring to retail over the past few years to supplement educational costs. Now that I am preparing to move into an apartment with my friends next month, I know full well that I’ll be eating my fair share of peanut butter sandwiches and cereal; while I’m excited to begin this next phase of my life, I’m more so look forward to the day when I have a full-time job – the same situation Cotter is essentially complaining about.

Isn’t that what college is for? Teaching us how to go from being dependent children to self-supporting adults? Or I could be wrong: Maybe it’s a time to either live with your parents or eat Ramen noodles. What do YOU think?

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and 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; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.


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Will You Be a Perpetual Student?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I first started attending college in 2009, there was nothing I wanted more than to graduate...fast. But now that I’m about to receive my B.A. in English Professional Writing in December, the idea of graduating terrifies me. What if I can’t find a job? What if the so-called “real world” isn’t as glorious as I imagined it? And what if I do find a job but I don’t get to use my writing skills?

But even in my darkest moments, I’ve never considered being a perpetual student like Michael Nicholson, a 71-year-old man from Michigan who is working on his 30th college degree – a master’s in criminal justice. While I admire his extreme dedication and patience, I personally don’t want to spend the rest of my life paying for college or facing the dreaded “Sorry, you’re overqualified for this job.”

With that said, I think that if going to school makes Michael happy, then he should continue to do just that. After working numerous menial jobs, going to college probably makes him feel more productive...and there’s no doubt that he’s more broadly educated than most of us will ever be. His degrees range from home economics to psychology, and an astounding 22 of them are master’s degrees! So, while I can understand why some people feel that perpetual students are determined to avoid responsibility, I think that as a retired septuagenarian who has worked his whole life, Michael has more than earned the right to do as he pleases. And having talked with classmates who are even more terrified of graduating than I am, I think that there are more people who would prefer to remain students than face the “real world” than we’d like to admit.

So, what’s the answer? Like everything in life, I think the key is balance. Most of us (due to financial and time constraints) can’t afford to pursue 30 degrees but we can make the most of our time in college by doing internships, maintaining high GPAs and going to graduate school if our dream job requires it. What path will YOU take?

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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Ready. Set. Apply!

Common App Now Live, Students Already Registering for Accounts

August 3, 2012

Ready. Set. Apply!

by Alexis Mattera

Sure, most high schools won’t be back in session for another month but some rising seniors aren’t wasting any time getting back into the academic swing of things: As of Tuesday evening, admissions season officially began with the launch of this year’s Common Application. According to the not-for-profit’s website, 300 individuals registered for Common Application accounts within the initial 30 minutes they were available this admissions cycle, with the first one coming in less than 60 seconds after the launch!

So should you use the Common Application? Seeing as though some of the most selective schools in the country (think UChicago and Columbia) have adopted it, we think it’s definitely worth it if you are applying to more than one school. The online system makes it very easy to complete and submit applications to multiple schools but some colleges and programs do require Common Appers to complete supplemental questions to gauge applicants’ knowledge of and interest in that specific school; these are NOT optional and neglecting to submit supplements means your application will be viewed as incomplete and will not be considered for admission.

Ready to get the application process started? Register for your own Common Application account today!


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Student Punished for Creating Class Registration Website

by Suada Kolovic

Registering for college classes takes time, patience and, above all else, persistence. If you’re a college student, then you’re familiar with the frustrating process: It’s officially your last year and the only obstacle standing in your way from victoriously crossing that graduation stage is COM: 101 – a required course you’ve been putting off since your freshman year and as luck would have it, it’s full. Now what? An extra semester? Shouldn’t schools be obligated to offer an easier, better way to register for classes? Well, a student at the University of Central Florida came up with a solution...and now he’s on academic probation.

Tim Arnold, a senior at UCF, created U Could Finish, a website that notified students when a seat was available in a given class. While the site was helpful, officials argue that it violated portions of the tech policy that prohibited students from using university tools to make money (Arnold had been charging for use of his site, taking in a total of just $7.78, he revealed) and disrupted normal technology use. Arnold plans to appeal his sanctions, which also require him to write two papers and prevent him from holding student office. “I just feel that the actions they did were very extreme, considering my intent was to help students and not to intentionally subvert the rules,” he said.

What do you think of UCF’s handling of the situation? Was it fair to put a proactive student on academic probation for trying to solve a real-world problem?


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Attending College Versus Going Pro: A Tough Decision Facing Successful Student-Athletes

by Alexis Mattera

An Olympic gold medal is the ultimate goal for many athletes but when you’ve managed to achieve this feat before even turning 18, what do you set as your next accomplishment? There are usually two options – attend college and perfect your craft or go pro and rack up endorsement deals – but figuring out the "right" choice is becoming more difficult for many up-and-coming student-athletes.

A perfect example is Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old swimming phenom who scored five medals at the London Olympics. She has made it clear that she wants to swim in college but if she does so, she will not be able to take advantage of the potentially millions of dollars in endorsements her Olympic success has afforded her. (The NCAA strictly prohibits athletes from accepting sponsorship and advertising money if they want to maintain their eligibility, though many athletes have petitioned this rule).

A recent article in The Atlantic details that going pro makes more sense for athletes in certain sports – for example, since the level of competition in collegiate gymnastics is lower, gold medalist Gabby Douglas didn’t hesitate to give up her amateur status...and sign a deal with Kellogg’s – but for Franklin, attending college would give her not only a chance to improve upon her already impressive swimming skills but earn a degree and have somewhat of a normal life after her time in the Olympic spotlight. Her choice? She hasn't announced it yet but it's her decision to make. "If Missy Franklin wants to go to school, bravo for her, and nobody who doesn't live inside her heart and mind should criticize it," said sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who has worked with athletes ranging from Olympians Brian Boitano and Kerri Strug to pros Troy Aikman and Steve Young.

What path do you think Franklin will follow? If you shared her situation, what would your choice be and why?


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