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by Agnes Jasinski

Yale  University is playing on the popularity of the tween classic "High School Musical" with a new spot from its admissions - a peppy, somewhat cheesy music video that offers would-be applicants the answer to "That's Why I Chose Yale."

The video, which clocks in at around 15 minutes, starts off safe, with an admissions official discussing what makes Yale stand out above the rest as potential students and their parents look on. That same admissions official, while thinking of an answer to a prospective student's question with a wry smile, breaks out into song. What follows is campy, but it does make the Ivy League institution seem a little less stuffy. There's choreographed dancing in addition to the singing, along with a cameo from NBC news anchor Brian Williams, whose daughter attends Yale. The administrators love it, saying that an effort by students (only current students and alums participated in the making of the video) captures the spirit of the school better than any marketing professional could do. Many students love it, saying that the cheesiness of it makes it cool.

Not everyone has had a positive response to the video. One blogger described the video as "That's Why I Chose to Ram a Soldering Iron into My Ears" instead, calling the effort too earnest. The Yale Herald, while it admitted that the musical romp was fun to watch, especially for those currently at Yale who may recognize familiar faces, suggested the video may do little to entice new applicants not already interesting in the school.  Comments on the story about the video on the Yale Daily News range from "this is so embarrassing" to this: "Next year's class is going to be devoid of any serious academic talent. What a huge sap on our prestige."

What do you think? Are there any Yale students out there who like or dislike the video? Most would agree it's at least better than the effort from Harvard University last year, "Harvard by the Numbers." Let us know what you think, and whether these kinds of efforts hurt or help admissions.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, hopes to lure out-of-work art students by offering a two-week intensive program that promises to teach them a new skill—body art.

The school, Bette Baron's Art of Body Coloring School, opened earlier this month, and faced little opposition from the town, which saw it as another opportunity for students seeking vocational schools. An article in the Chicago Tribune today describes how Bette Baron, the owner and a tattoo artist for the last 16 years, opened the school to take her mind off the death of her son, Brian. Her son's face and "Love You Forever Brian" decorate her left arm. "Even housewives are getting tattoos now," Baron said in the article. Students pay $900 tuition fee and $750 for a tattooing kit at the school, and can expect to make up to $100 once they become licensed body artists.

According to the Tribune article and a 2008 poll by Harris Interactive, 32 percent of adults ages 25 to 29 have tattoos. Do tattoos have a place in academia? Sure, ink and piercings been linked to all sorts of things, including deviant behavior, as Texas Tech University's school of sociology reported recently. (They say the more tattoos and piercings you have, the more likely you are to binge drink, fall into promiscuous behavior, get arrested, and use drugs.) Career counselors also usually suggest you keep your body art from public display when interviewing for a new job, especially if there's a dress code and a fairly conservative office staff.

But tattoos are also becoming the way academics express themselves. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently featured a series of scholars' photo submissions that displayed tattoos scholars got to commemorate their work, research, and theses. The tattoos in the series weren't considered taboo, but representative of the spirit and creativity of those academics. They included scholars who got inked with the symbol for the general formula of an ester linkage, coral fish, a double helix, and the phrase "read books" that came down the calves of an adjunct English instructor in Memphis. Lawrence K. Fulbeck, a professor of art who is the author of "Permanence: Tattoo Portraits," even went to Japan to have some tattoos done the old fashioned way—through an hours-long process using needles rather than an electric tattooing drill.

What do you think? Is body art so mainstream that you wouldn't be shocked to see your professor sporting a tattooed sleeve down his arm? Would any of you consider a permanent reminder of your academic work inked on your body?


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by Agnes Jasinski

Hobart and William Smith Colleges is looking to give juniors narrowing down their college search choices a more unique brochure experience. More than 20,000 of them will receive 3-D glasses to go along with the school's brochures, a strategy the school describes as both a gimmick and symbolic of what the school is all about.

Viewing things in 3-D has only become more popular thanks to the success of James Cameron's "Avatar." But looking at a brochure is undoubtedly a different experience than sitting in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn in your lap. The New York Times talked to the school's director of communications, Cathy Williams, this week. She sees it this way: Hobart is looking to change the way students "see the world." The 3-D glasses are symbolic of that idea, and the brochures ask potential applicants to "open your eyes to new possibilities at HWS."

Nearly 10,000 of the recipients requested the catalogs; another 12,000 or so were identified through a College Board search program. (Institutions of higher education are able to purchase lists of students who have scored above a certain level on standardized tests or who have expressed interest in a particular field of study.) Those who receive the brochures don't only get the 3-D experience on paper. They're also then able to view videos of professors explaining the science behind the concept of 3-D.

Colleges have been working extra hard lately to entice potential applicants. Some have revamped their college application packets to resemble credit card offers, now speeding up processing times, waiving application fees, and using language typically used by credit card companies: Advantage Application, Distinctive Candidate Application, and the Candidate’s Choice Application, to name a few. More than 100 colleges and universities paid the same marketing company to send out variations of these applications last fall. Some spent more than $1 million on these application campaigns, according to the New York Times.

While their applicant pools have indeed increased thanks to the marketing campaigns, it makes one wonder how colleges find advertising dollars in their budges while tuition and fees continue to increase, schools shutter their "no loans" programs, and colleges struggle with budget deficits. What do you think? Would 3-D glasses included in your college brochure spark your interest in a school more than the glossy materials you usually receive? What other gimmicks have you seen colleges use to get students to apply to those schools?


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by Agnes Jasinski

As more states continue passing medical-marijuana laws (14 and counting), it was only a matter of time before higher education would take notice. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, Calif., institution that provides "quality training for the cannabis industry."

Oaksterdam (named after Oakland and Amsterdam) has been offering weekend seminars and semester-long courses since November of 2007, when a group of marijuana-legalization activists their burgeoning movement deserved a trade school. The main school exists in a 30,000-square-foot converted office building, with satellite campuses in Los Angeles, Sebastopol, Calif., and Flint, Mich. Its academic departments, which admittedly began as a "political stunt," according to the article, now include coursework in biology, political science, horticulture, and "methods of ingestion," a class that teaches the benefits and history of extracted medicine, the chemistry behind it, and the different extraction methods and equipment used.

Although classes at the school aren't transferable - Oaksterdam isn't an accredited institution - that fact hasn't seemed to hurt enrollment. The "campus tour" described in the Chronicle article included an out-of-work engineer looking for a new career and a teenager who decided against majoring in horticulture at the University of California at Davis in favor of Oaksterdam. "I was convinced it was the best road for me to go down," he said in the article.

MedGrow Michigan Cannabis College is the Midwest's version. Students there take one class a night for six weeks, and take a cooking and concentrates lab, a history of cannabis class, and several horticulture lectures. The school's site boasts that more schools outside of its current Southfield, Mich., location are coming, and the faculty there include attorneys, professors in botany, and a professor of history who was one of the first 500 patients in the state of Michigan to obtain his patient ID card for medical marijuana use.

Cannabis colleges aren't the only kind of school taking advantage of career changers looking to pick up new skills and improve their job outlooks. Michigan’s ABC School of Bartending and Casino College has been training potential new employees for new casinos planned across the border in Ohio. Students at the casino school learn how to deal cards and count poker chips, among other tricks of the trade, to prepare for the more than 7,500 potential jobs at casinos to be built in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, Bette Baron’s Art of Body Coloring School, offers a two-week intensive program in body art.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you've had classes since 2001, the year the (in)famous online, user-edited encyclopedia was launched, chances are you're guilty of using Wikipedia as a source of information while completing your coursework. A new report from First Monday, an online peer-reviewed journal, took a look at just how prevalent the site has become on college campuses in particular (although high school students are probably just as bad offenders), and how students have begun to rely on Wikipedia as a resource.

According to the study, more than half of all respondents use Wikipedia frequently or always for course-related research. Students in architecture, engineering, or the sciences were more likely to use the site in their courses than other majors. (This could have something to do with the fact that students in social sciences like psychology or history must provide reference lists more often for papers they turn in, and citing Wikipedia simply won't fly on a college level essay.) The study surveyed 2,318 students, and took qualitative data from 86 of those students who participated in focus groups.

Other major findings of the study include the following:

  • Most students said they used Wikipedia for a summary about a topic (82 percent), the meaning of related terms (67 percent), and to get started on research (76 percent).
  • About 52 percent of the respondents were frequent Wikipedia users, even if an instructor advised against it.
  • Only 22 percent reported that they rarely, if ever, used Wikipedia.
  • About 17 percent used Wikipedia because they thought it was more credible than other sites.
  • Only about 2 percent used Wikipedia toward the end of their research process.
  • Overall, the strongest predictor of using Wikipedia was being someone who also used Google for course–related research.
  • Those enrolled in two–year campuses were less likely than those in four–year institutions to report that they used Wikipedia.

Whether you're writing a college essay or applying for an essay scholarship, here's a good rule of thumb on citing Wikipedia as a reference—don't do it. While the site can be an excellent tool for you to kick off your search, as the study above suggests, it simply isn't reliable enough to be taken seriously by academia. Anyone can add to and edit entries on the site, so it's always best to do some fact-checking after you get your Wikipedia summary prior to the start of the rest of your research. (Stephen Colbert proved this point when he edited Wikipedia articles on his own show, George Washington, and elephants, all while viewers watched. He also coined the term "wikiality," which refers to the reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you.)


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by Agnes Jasinski

Not too long ago, the furnishings in a typical college dorm room included things like posters of your favorite band, boxes of ramen noodles for late-night snacks, and a land-line phone. The rogue mini-fridge that you covered with a bed sheet to avoid a fine (as mini-fridges were on the "banned" list, along with candles and stolen street signs) was probably the most controversial item in your shared room.

Dorm living today seems to have undergone a makeover. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune took a look at what college students at the University of Illinois bring with them as part of their dorm experience, including flat-screen televisions (on which they immediately install cable, often in HD), sleek laptops, and cell phones to replace land-lines. In fact, the school no longer even offers connections for land-line phones to students, as it became clear to administrators students just didn't need them anymore. In that article, a school spokeswoman said students didn't even notice they removed phone lines in the rooms; students are now able to get everything they need on their cell phones, including emergency text messages when the school is under a weather advisory or another safety-related incident. In one dorm, according to the Tribune, students are able to get a text message or e-mail when their laundry is done, or when there's an available washer or dryer.

Elsewhere, dorms are changing in different ways, unrelated to changing technologies. Mixed-gender dorms are becoming less taboo, with members of the opposite sex not only sharing bathrooms (taboo enough as recently as the 1970s), but rooms, as well. Students at Pitzer College have the option of choosing a roommate of the opposite sex to dorm with, one of about 50 schools across the country that offer incoming freshmen that choice. Still, few students take advantage of the option, with only about 1 to 3 percent choosing to do so at schools where they are allowed room with the opposite sex.

Dorm cafeterias have also been changing dramatically. Some have begun offering healthier fare in the dining halls, or catering to incoming students' food allergies. Others look more like the local Flat Top, with stir fry stations where students are able to pick and choose exactly what they'd like grilled up for them that day, or brick oven pizza days where students choose their favorite toppings.

What changes have you noticed at your dorm? If you've been away from college for a while and are not returning as an adult student, what do you remember about dorm living from your first year on campus?


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Bill Dickey Scholarship

March 29, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

As Tiger Woods prepares to reenter the golf world at the Masters next week, it may be a good time for you student golfers to consider golf scholarships that could help you pay for college. The Bill Dickey Scholarship Association awards annual scholarships to high school seniors and previous winners based on academic achievement, entrance exam scores, financial need, references, evidence of community service, and golfing ability. This Scholarship of the Week targets minority applicants to expand access of the sports to minorities, but there are many scholarships for students golfers out there that place more weight on financial need. And if you're not a golfer but excel in another sport, don't be discouraged. There are athletic scholarships out there for nearly every sport you can think of, so do your research and look beyond your intended college for free funding for college.

Prize: Awards range from one-time grants of $1,000 to four-years worth as much as $3,500 annually.

Eligibility: The primary criteria are: academic achievements, personal recommendations, a GPA of 2.5 or higher, participation in golf, school and community service activities, financial need, employment, and extracurricular activities. Applicants may be high school seniors entering college in the fall or undergraduates who have already received the scholarship as high school seniors.

Deadline: April 26, 2010

Required Material: Applicants will be asked to fill out applications that include a response to the following essay question: "Here at the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association, we live by the motto 'Building Hope...One Stroke at a Time.' With that in mind, articulate your career goals and how they demonstrate personal growth." Applicants will also be asked to include personal references from a high school principal, guidance counselor or other academic professional who will vouch for their academic achievements.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The country's top college sports programs haven't been faring as well as you'd think when it comes to bringing revenue in to their respective schools. With the close of March Madness upon us, USA Today decided to release a data analysis looking at the finances behind some of the most high-profile college athletic programs. And it seems that the schools are keeping their sports programs afloat by tapping into student fees and other general funds.

According to USA Today, more than half of the athletic departments at public schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) were subsidized by at least 26 percent last year. Those figures are up from 20 percent in 2005, or an additional $198 million if you account for inflation. That means athletic programs are getting subsidized by student fees and whatever general funds schools have set up to cover budget shortfalls. The analysis also shows that spending on athletics has increased, despite more of a reliance on outside funding to cover the costs of sports funding in the past year compared to the previous four years.

Why the increase in athletic expenses? Inflation could be one culprit. Drops in ticket sales, declining endowments and state appropriations overall, and general overspending all contribute to rising costs. Many of the big programs also embarked on expensive capital campaigns over the last few years, and those costs are catching up to them. According to USA Today, the number of schools that have sports programs that pay for themselves - via ticket sales and general marketing revenue, for example - fell from 25 to 14 schools over the last year.

Another story published in USA Today as part of their look at sports programs' finances looks at rising coaches' salaries as another factor. Although sports program budgets have shrunk over the last year, coaches' salaries have not shrunk alongside those figures. The country's top coaches, who had been making upwards of $2 million annually just two years ago, now make around $4 million. (Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University and Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville both made more than $4 million this season.) Coaches' compensation has grown so much that it has become the number one expense for college sports programs, replacing athletic scholarships. Last year, Division I schools spent more than $1 billion on coaches' salaries.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A Capella groups, vocal troupes and pitch-perfect singing clubs are fairly common on college campuses as a diversion from academics and another option among the dozens of extracurricular activities students have to choose from. But show choirs have always been more popular at high schools. That is, until the television show "Glee" came onto screens across the country with aims to popularize glee clubs and add some levity to the mood of the country.

Colleges have taken notice, forming their own glee clubs and show choirs that have students singing, dancing, and performing for their student populations and, in some cases, in competitions across the country. An article in USA Today takes a look at some of the new college programs, and what they've done to not only ride the wave of the popularity of "Glee," which returns from its hiatus tonight, but to make their music programs more current and adapt to the tastes of those who buy tickets to their shows.

At Millsaps College, a group of 15 students came together to form a show choir that now performs songs like the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." The group has its first show in two weeks. The University of North Texas created a new singing group shortly after the first season of the Fox show came to an end; more than 100 students auditioned, according to the USA Today article. That group has 30 student members, and will premiere its first performance next month.

High schools across the country have also revamped their concert choirs and chorus groups, incorporating what some say is more audience-friendly music. (Some choirs that aren't too enthusiastic about the show say "Glee" hurts rather than helps them by giving the impression that all choirs perform top 40 hits and include extensive choreography.) The choir at Hoquiam High School in Washington state still performs the traditional tunes one would expect from a conventional vocal group, but the addition of a show choir at the school has allowed Hoquiam to give students the option of performing classic choral styles with the concert choir, and more mainstream country, rock, and hip hop with the show choir. The school's show choir has even performed a song by Weird Al Yankovic.

Tell us about your college or high school show choir or glee club. What kinds of things does your group do to get more students involved in music on campus? Do you still prefer a traditional concert choir over the more unconventional show choirs? And if you are a performer, don't forget that there are music scholarships out there for those with not only vocal talents, but instrumental abilities as well.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many of you have probably joked about being “addicted” to your Twitter accounts, cell phones, and other social media outlets. A recent study from the University of Maryland shows that for many college students, that description of their relationship with those tools may not be too far off.

The recent study, “24 Hours: Unplugged,” found that at least on the Maryland campus, students hooked on social media may experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those addicted to alcohol and other substances if they are forced to do without those tools for any longer period of time. The study, led by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, came to that conclusion after asking 200 students on the Maryland campus to give up all modes of media for one full day. Those students were then asked to describe their personal experiences on, somewhat ironically, a blog, the next day.

According to the results of the study, the students came up with the equivalent of a 400-page novel when describing their experiences. So what did they say? We’ve come up with some highlights:

  • "My attempt at the gym without the ear pieces in my iPhone wasn’t the same; doing cardio listening to yourself breathe really drains your stamina."
  • "I literally had to have my friend hide my phone so I wouldn’t check it by accident."
  • "It becomes a normal task to look at my phone every few minutes, yes minutes."
  • "It is almost second nature to check my Facebook or email; it was very hard for my mind to tell my body not to go on the Internet."
  • "I knew that the hardest aspect of ridding myself of media though, would be not checking Facebook or my emails, so I went ahead and deactivated my Facebook account in advance. It’s pathetic to think that I knew I had to delete my Facebook in order to prevent myself from checking it for one day."
  • "Although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely. I received several phone calls that I could not answer."

Addiction is a strong word, and there haven’t been any formal initiatives to add things like “Internet addiction” to the American Psychiatric Association’s list of disorders and addictions. But is this something we should worry about nonetheless? According to the news release on the study, even the study’s project director was surprised by the number of students who had such intense reactions to leaving their media alone for a day. What do you think? Are college students too dependent on media? How long could you go without your favorite media outlets?


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