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The Benefits of Digital Textbooks

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Does your back ache from carrying heavy textbooks from class to class? Do you hate paying extra money for priority shipping to ensure you get your textbooks in time for the new semester? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, you may be interested to know many websites now offer textbooks digitally.

Sites like Chegg.com, Textbooks.com and Cengagebrain.com offer dozens of e-books to accommodate your e-reading needs. You don't need to go out and buy an e-reading device such as Amazon's Kindle or Sony's Reader (you can read e-books right on your computer screen) and you never have to worry about losing your e-books because if your computer or e-reader is misplaced or stolen, all you need to do is download the e-text again.

Even with all these benefits, I know some of you may still be reluctant to go digital because you think you won't be able to highlight pages or navigate a digital text easily. Well, put those fears to rest: Many e-books allow you to highlight specific words or phrases, make notes in the margins and even search the entire e-book for a specific word or phrase.

Finally, you can rent e-books just like you can rent traditional books. Normally when you rent textbooks, you have to worry about water damage, torn pages and shipping your books back on time but not so with e-books! When your rental period is up, the e-text simply expires with no fines for damages or shipping incurred. If after using all these features, you decide you still prefer having your text on paper after all, you can print out whichever pages you specify.

So consider going digital, if only just for one class. I guarantee you (and your back and your wallet) won't regret it!

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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Starting Salaries Increase for 2011 Grads

by Alexis Mattera

Attention recent college grads: You may be able to pay down those student loans a bit sooner than expected!

According to the annual Salary Survey by National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates from the Class of 2011 shows a 4.8 percent starting salary bump over last year’s graduates. The increase was seen across most disciplines including engineering, liberal arts and social sciences, though 5 percent more 2010 graduates were able to find jobs than their 2011 counterparts. With approximately $2,357 more before taxes (this year’s grads will average $51,018 to last year’s average of $48,661), new grads will have enough for a few months of rent, some padding to a savings account or, yes, a way to make a dent in those loans.

Recent grads, are you happy about this news? Soon-to-be grads, are you hopeful the salary figures will continue to increase until you finish college?


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The Good News and Bad News About State Aid for Students

by Alexis Mattera

There’s good news and bad news regarding state aid for students. The good: State financial aid for college students, including grants, work-study and loans, rose by nearly 4 percent last year. The bad: Just about half of the states surveyed cut need-based grants, even as demand for financial aid increased.

The data – from a report by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs – also revealed a 1-percent decline in overall state higher education spending and more money spent on need-based grants versus the amount spent on merit-based grants. While this means some students have access to resources that will help them complete college and bolster the economy, not all students are benefiting. Ohio, Alaska, Michigan, Hawaii and Utah have cut need-based grant funding by as much as 66 percent and in Georgia, lower award levels have been implemented for the HOPE Scholarship. And what about California and Washington, where financial aid increased? They’ve seen an increase in student-aid applications but cannot honor all requests because they have run out of money.

Experts view these findings as positive overall but are proceeding with “cautious optimism.” Do you agree or disagree with the actions taken thus far?


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The Unofficial Mini Transfer Guide

by Kara Coleman

Sometimes transferring can be tricky. If you attend the same four-year university from the get-go, you can pretty much follow a checklist of all the classes you need to earn your degree. If you transfer from a two-year school to a four-year school or from a public school to a private school, however, what happens then?

In Alabama, I am able to use the STARS (Statewide Transfer and Articulation Reporting System) guide. From the STARS site, students can search their major and find all of the basic courses required for their major by all schools in the state. Then they can view degree requirements specific to the school they plan to earn their degree from. Certain courses required to earn an associate degree from a community college may not necessarily be required to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a public or private four-year university, so let your advisor know as early as possible if you want to graduate from your community college or just transfer.

Try to have a transfer plan from your first semester. Life can be unpredictable – I have a friend who attended a four-year university, got married over the summer and is now transferring to a different school closer to her new home – but if you have a plan from the beginning of your college experience, you’ll have a better chance of all your credit hours counting toward your degree. Most college students change their major at least once (I started as an English major but now plan to graduate as a communications major) so if this applies to you, consider changing your original major to your minor. All of those extra lit classes that I took will apply towards my English minor so I didn’t waste any time or money.

Find out if your state offers a STARS-like guide and, above all, talk to your advisors! Let your field advisor and a transfer advisor know of your plans; they’ll help you make the best decisions for what classes you should take to achieve your goals.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. 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.


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What Are My Housing Options?

by Thomas Lee

There are many options for living on or off campus but what’s the best housing option for you?

The most common housing option for a full-time day college student is an on-campus dormitory. As a freshman, I was permitted to join a program called “First Year Experience” or FYE. FYE was for incoming freshmen who had a 3.0 or above grade point average and filled out an application in advance. I stayed in a nice suite-style, co-ed dorm called Pearce Hall but not all on-campus accommodations are this cushy: The following year, I stayed in an all-male dorm where the conditions weren’t all that great but it was less expensive. As an upperclassman, you may have access to on-campus apartments. Here, you could have your own bedroom and restroom and a shared kitchen and living space but this option is usually the most expensive on-campus choice. You just need to decide what’s more important: paying more for a newer dormitory or saving by living in an older residence hall or living with both sexes versus just one.

Off-campus housing is another option, which, like on-campus apartments, is popular among upperclassmen. I rented a room for three months at a house leased by one of my fraternity brothers during a summer semester and can tell you this option isn’t for everybody. Before deciding to live off-campus, make sure you have an agreed upon price with a signed and printed contract so that you aren’t cheated out of any money; this is especially important if you are paying rent to a friend if you want to preserve your relationship. More than a few college students fall prey to rent gouging or don’t carefully read their apartment contract – don’t be one of them!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Rationing Your Refund Check

by Jessica Seals

The first day of classes means new professors, new classmates and a completely new routine. It is also about the time that universities distribute refund checks to students. Refund checks are extra funds that are left over after all school fees have been paid. These funds are the result of excess scholarships, grants and loans. Refund checks can come in handy, as students can use the extra money to buy a laptop, food, books or to pay off another loan. Some students, however, are not wise with their money and are left scrounging for pennies before the end of the semester.

I always hear students complaining about how they do not have any money left from their refund check long before finals roll around. They chose to splurge on clothes, the newest Droid phone, expensive restaurants or they spent money on friends. Buying a few extra “fun” items is not something that should necessarily be avoided but you should maintain a budget and be conscious about how much money you are spending. I have taken money from my refund check and separated it into two separate bank accounts. The money in my savings account rarely gets touched unless it is an emergency and the money in my checking account is what I use on a daily basis. I keep less money in the checking account so I am not tempted to spend more than I intend to.

While in college, it is especially important to learn how to manage your money. If you get a refund check back from the school, this could be your chance to start learning how to do so. You will feel great knowing that you will not be labeled a broke college student!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Finding College Employment ASAP

by Darci Miller

In college, money becomes a legitimate concern. For the most part, parents have taken care of finances until now and unless you’re lucky enough to come from a wealthy family, college is the first time you’re largely on your own financially.

In the weeks leading up to my first semester as a college student, my dad was adamant that I get myself a job. I’d failed in my attempts to get one that summer and was beyond broke. After many a stern talking to, it was decided for me that I’d apply for jobs at my campus’s wellness center because not only was it right next door to the freshman dorms, but it was related to my sports administration major. At least two weeks before even leaving for Miami, my dad told me to get my application in. Right then. At that moment.

I thought that applying for an on-campus job weeks before I even set foot on campus as a student was a bit of overkill, but I listened to him and shot off an application. I got a phone call from them the next day, had an interview set up for a day or two after I arrived and had a job before classes even started.

Getting this job was one of the smartest decisions I (or my dad) made that first year in college and I encourage all of you to follow the same advice. On-campus jobs understand that you’re a student before you’re an employee, so they let you do homework during down time and have very flexible scheduling. Being on campus, they’re conveniently located and often offer the potential for promotions and pay raises. They’re a great way to meet new people and, well, hello spending money!

However, on campus jobs aren’t always easy to get because they’re so in demand. If you’re heading to school for the first time or returning for a new year, start scouting the field and getting applications out within the next few weeks. Employers are always looking for people before the semesters start or during summer/winter breaks, when most students are away. Good luck and happy job hunting!

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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Learning to Live Off Campus

by Thomas Lee

Sometimes on-campus living is not an option. Dorms are too expensive or overfilled, or housing may not be provided to transfer students. Well, off-campus housing it is!

One of most efficient ways to live off campus is to find a friend, relative or even a parent’s friend who lives near the campus to see if they would allow you to stay with them. If you choose this option, make sure the person you’re renting from writes up a signed agreement that lists the duration of your stay, the set fee per week or month and the conditions to stay. A verbal agreement isn’t set in stone and may leave you without housing if something should go wrong.

Another option is finding an apartment but this may be even more expensive than a dorm. Apartment and condominium rates vary wildly, as so do their living conditions. If you find an apartment that fits your budget, make sure it’s in a reasonably safe part of town and read your lease or contract so you won’t be cheated by the landlord.

Off-campus living also may have stipulations not necessarily found in an on-campus dormitory. Make sure you fully understand the terms and agreements your friend or landlord and don’t assume you can do things you may have normally done at home. Loud music, wild parties and maybe even leaving the toilet seat up are grounds for eviction. If you’re living with a friend, he or she may also expect you to help out with buying groceries or cooking.

One way to cut down on the costs of off-campus living is find a group of friends or roommates and share rent in a large apartment or leased house. Again, a written contract signed by all members is the best way to protect your and your friends’ interests. Be sure to keep your dreams of finally being away from your parents from turning into nightmares!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Could Foursquare Be the Next Big Thing on College Campuses?

by Alexis Mattera

It should come as no surprise that the number of higher education institutions with social media presences has skyrocketed over the last few years. Today, 98 percent of colleges are on Facebook, 84 percent are on Twitter and some of these savvy schools are beginning to complement the information shared through these platforms with the geo-social site, Foursquare.

According to a recent study, just 20 percent of campuses have an institutional presence on Foursquare. Though the usage is limited by comparison, officials at the schools using the site are finding it is an effective tool for engaging with students. How? First, a quick breakdown for the uninitiated: Foursquare uses the geo-locator technology built into smartphones and encourages users to “check in” virtually at places they’re visiting in real life, leave notes for future visitors and possibly earn perks (discounts, badges, etc.) for doing so.

While Liz Gross, director of university marketing and communications at the University of Wisconsin at Waukesha, says, “You can’t say ‘10 percent off tuition for checking in,’ or ‘free tuition for the mayor,’” she does believe foursquare allows administrators a direct way “to tap in to student engagement.” Texas A&M is doing it right – the winner of a recent Foursquare scavenger hunt throughout campus earned a 30-percent discount at the school bookstore – and Syracuse University will soon offer a special badge to users checking in at campus venues and could eventually allow students to redeem badges for campus bucks.

Do you think incentivizing students is the best way to engage them or is organic involvement more effective?


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Should You Be an RA?

August 4, 2011

Should You Be an RA?

by Shari Williams

If you have lived on campus, hung out in the dorms or simply attended classes, you have encountered a resident assistant or resident advisor, perhaps better known as an RA. I was an RA during my junior year while I was participating in the National Student Exchange at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and loved it! It was a great opportunity to save money, meet people and gain personal knowledge.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the perks of being an RA – free housing, a single room, etc. – but not everyone will meet the qualifications. RAs must be very responsible; for example, if someone decides to trash the hallway or throw a noisy party, it’s the RA's responsibility to report the incident and think of ways to prevent it from happening again, even if some decisions they make are unpopular with their advisees. I enjoyed my time as an RA but this position isn’t for everyone. It’s not about the money or free housing – your heart really has to be in it!

During my time at CSUN, I found the housing staff and all RAs to be very supportive, family-oriented, and genuinely care about the students. If that sounds like you, you could be a great RA candidate but here are a few more things you should know before applying:

The Pros

The Cons

RA positions vary from school to school, as do their responsibilities. If you want to be an RA, do your research at your college by asking some current or past RAs about their experiences. To be or not to be an RA depends on you and, if you do decide to take on this role, your advisees will depend on you, too!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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