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Advice for Incoming Freshman

August 20, 2013

Advice for Incoming Freshman

by Carly Gerber

No matter who you were or what you were known for in high school, college is a fresh start for all students. With a new academic year upon us (already?!), here are some tips for incoming freshmen on how to make their first year a great one:

  • Be a self-advocate. Your university has all the resources you need to help find internships, jobs, organizations and clubs to get involved with. For example, there are writing centers and tutors that want to help students but it’s up to the students to find the resources they need.
  • Be a student first. It’s important to attend class as much as possible and to create healthy relationships with your professors. If you’re applying for jobs or internships that need letters of recommendation, your professors will be happy to vouch for you if they know you and your work ethic. For students going to universities with large lecture-style classes, it’s still possible to create a relationship with your professors by sitting in the front and asking questions or going to office hours.
  • Start interning as soon as possible. Many students take classes while they have an internship so talk to a career counselor on your campus to learn how you can find an internship. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed during the school year, apply for an internship for holiday break or over the summer. Internship experience on your resume will show employers that you’re a hard worker and have dedication, which are qualities they want in future employees.
  • Pick your posse carefully. During my college orientation, one faculty member uttered that exact sentence. Once I got over the fact he used the word “posse”, I realized his advice is true: Surround yourself with people that make you a better person – you never know how meeting one person can positively impact your entire life so always be friendly and welcoming.

Do you have any advice for incoming college freshmen?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Getting to Know Your College Library

August 21, 2013

Getting to Know Your College Library

by Veronica Gonzalez

College libraries are often misunderstood and get very little spotlight in the student world. Many students miss the fact that the college library isn't just a place to study – it's also a place to learn. Here’s how to get to know your school’s library.

You’ll never be a stranger to computers, copiers and printers in college but it’s important to know how to use the technology in public spaces like the library accordingly. For instance, if you have homework to print out, do so to your discretion because it’s likely other students will be waiting to complete the same task on the same equipment.

Next, there are the reference areas. They normally house dictionaries, encyclopedias and academic journals that require special consideration and care because of their age and value. Depending on your school’s library policies, it’s likely that reference books can NEVER leave the building so if you know you are going to need one for an essay or project, plan accordingly.

Knowing where different books are at can speed up the research process when completing homework and writing papers. Most libraries have maps that highlight certain sections but if yours doesn’t, there should be a chart containing call numbers for different subjects. Still unsure where something is? Ask a librarian – they’re there to help!

Finally, the most important thing to do at your school library is to pick up a book and read. Fiction, non-fiction or whatever interests you...just read, Read, READ! Though you may regularly read in your dorm room, doing so in a comfy chair in the library is a nice change of pace. Take the opportunity to visit your school library and check it out for yourself!

Veronica Gonzalez is a rising junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.

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Making the Most of Your Spare Time

August 19, 2013

Making the Most of Your Spare Time

by Mary Steffenhagen

It’s agonizing to suddenly relinquish a free and easy summer schedule to the clutches of the college schedule...but what happens when your weeks in school are just as free they are over break?

You may end up with a situation a lot of college students dream of: a surplus of free time. This happened to me during my freshman year, as I had a pretty open class schedule, a weekends-only job and didn’t join any clubs. I ended up bored to death nearly every day! But I didn’t realize that the extra time was an advantage that not only gave me a chance for homework but time to focus on personal goals. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few tips as to how to best spend your time:

However you choose to spend your extra time, make sure you enjoy yourself. Having time to yourself while in college is a rarity and you may not have such an opportunity in later semesters. College is about exploring and learning...not being bored because there’s nothing to do. So get out there and make use of your time – you won’t regret it!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

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Putting Your Best Face Forward on LinkedIn

August 22, 2013

Putting Your Best Face Forward on LinkedIn

by Mike Sheffey

If you’ve been in any career development class or seminar, I’m sure you’ve heard of LinkedIn. It’s a fantastic networking tool and, if used properly, can lead to some pretty great opportunities...but you’ve got to know how to use it and keep it up to date.

What’s incredible about LinkedIn is that they know you already have a billion social media sites to keep up with so they give you a quick way to get started on their site by providing options to import contacts from email and social media. You can also import your resume: The site does a fairly good job of sectioning off your resume to fit its profile layout, which is a quick way to establish your presence on the site. (LinkedIn also judges the amount of info you have and advises you on how to have a more ‘complete’ profile.)

Of course, there’s still work that will need to be done and information to be added and changed but that’s all easy to do in your own time. If you have an update to your resume, just change your resume on file and LinkedIn will do the rest with another quick upload. (It’s not that hard to just add things directly to your profile, either.) The more information you add to your LinkedIn profile, the more marketable you are to future employers.

Also, keep your LinkedIn page classy! Do you have a goofy picture everybody just HAS to see? That’s fine...just don’t post it here. LinkedIn is a social media platform but approaching it like any other (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) would be a grave mistake. Nothing says “I don’t take this seriously” like an unprofessional profile photo.

My final bit of LinkedIn profile advice? Keep it current, keep it interesting, make sure the information is accurate and join groups of similar individuals in your fields of interest to make sure your name is out there in the best light. Get a new job? Update your profile just like you would your resume and your profile will reach new people – employers use LinkedIn for recruiting and you could be exactly what someone is looking for. Gotta love technology!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Tips on How to Vet a For-Profit Online Program

May 30, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Not every student goes the four-year route when it comes to getting a college education and instead explores non-traditional options that include for-profit institutions. And while proprietary institutions may not have the best track record, not all for-profit schools are alike. To help you differentiate between the good and the bad, experts at U.S. News & World Report have compiled a few tips on how to vet an online program. Check out their suggestions below:

  • Investigate the true cost of the program. Draft a budget reflecting the actual cost of the program, including the price per credit hour and the cost of books, support, technology and other necessities. Next, explore scholarship options. Scholarships are a great way to cover part or sometimes even all of the cost of a college education. Creating a Scholarships.com profile is a great place to start!
  • Explore your options. Before committing to a for-profit online program, be sure to do your homework. When looking at different schools, be sure to compare career services departments and their ties to the industry in which you hope to eventually work.
  • Check for accreditation. To help ensure that the for-profit school you are considering is reputable, check to see whether it is regionally accredited. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the accreditation agency, make sure it is recognized by one of two authorities on the matter – the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Department of Education.

Do you attend a for-profit institution? If so, how did you decide on your school?

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Attention High School Seniors: Free College in Tulsa, Oklahoma!

June 13, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Understanding the true cost of college is essential when finalizing the decision on where you’ll pursue your post-secondary education. Remember that amid all the literature schools send out, take more than a gander at the teeny-tiny font listing “sticker price” because that number probably doesn’t include room and board, books and myriad other fees you’ll be have to pony up while attending. And while the majority of students won’t pay anywhere near the sticker price, the average cost of college has steadily increased to $20,000 at public colleges and topped $50,000 at private colleges, which has left many families wondering how they’ll afford these astronomical amounts. Unless, of course, you’re a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma: Eligible students there get the first two years of college for FREE!

Tulsa Achieves is a gap-funding program that provides up to 100-percent tuition and fees to Tulsa County high school graduating seniors who enroll at Tulsa Community College the fall after they graduate. Who’s eligible? Every high school graduate living in Tulsa County, including public, private or home-schooled students with a 2.0 or higher grade point average. The program pays for up to 63 college credit hours or up to three years of college, whichever comes first; students are also required to complete 40 hours of volunteer service each academic year. The total cost is $3,400 per student per year and is mostly paid for with local property taxes. "We established Tulsa Achieves seven years ago because we no longer believed that a high school diploma was sufficient in terms of the jobs of the future," said Tom McKeon, Tulsa Community College’s president. "I think we're seeing kids that never, ever dreamed that college was a possibility for them because parents didn't think it was within their realm," he added. (For more on this story, click here.)

Let us know your thoughts on Tulsa Achieves program in the comments section. And if your state doesn't offer a deal as sweet, head over to Scholarships.com to find financial aid that’s tailored to you – create a profile and conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Five Tips for Maximizing Merit Aid

July 11, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out the bottom line when it comes to the cost of your college education is definitely stressful. With everything that goes into determining your financial aid package (your parents’ income, your earnings and your family’s net assets), it’s important to understand that merit aid (aid based on a student’s attributes like (academics, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) is available to student regardless of their “need.” New federal rules are blurring the distinction between scholarships awarded on merit and grants awarded because of a student’s financial need – for instance, a growing number of colleges now award “need-based” aid to students from families earning six figures! – so we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to maximize your chances for merit aid and increase your overall financial aid package.

  1. Fill out the FAFSA. Federal rules have changed and college aid officials are now allowed to award need-based aid to students whose parents earned decent salaries last year but have recently been laid off; institutions can also make accommodations for a family’s unique circumstances, such as high medical bills.
  2. Apply to schools where you’d rank at the top. While your dream school might be an Ivy League, you should apply to at least a few colleges where your GPA would put you in the top 25 percent of the student body.
  3. Do the research. If you’re interested in a college, find out what it has to offer when it comes to merit aid. You might qualify for more awards than you think!
  4. Before making a final decision, compare net prices. Consider the cost of attendance in its entirety, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and transportation. The school that offers the most in merit aid might not be the best choice; sometimes the college offering the largest merit scholarship might have the highest net price because its tuition is higher.
  5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Believe it or not, you have leverage when it comes to negotiating your merit aid package. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities and your first choice has a higher net price than your second choice, contact your first choice institution (which one is “that institution”...first or second choice?)! Some schools might be willing to match the merit aid offered, which would provide you the opportunity to attend your first choice school for less money!

Can you think of any tips that we might have missed? If so, please add them to our comments section! For more information on finding money for college and how to properly fund your college education, check out Scholarships.com Financial Aid section.

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When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

August 26, 2013

When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

by Abby Egan

I started looking for colleges in my junior year of high school because I was so unsure about what I wanted. Deciding on a college was a scary thought to me because I was under the impression that I was going to be stuck at whichever school I chose for four whole years. So to ease my ever-increasing stress levels, I visited my dream school (MCLA) almost seven times before accepting to attend for the fall of 2011.

I jumped at every opportunity to get to know my top choice better and better: I visited on long weekends with my parents, signed up for multicultural nights and participated in overnight programs bussed from Boston. I took the drive to MCLA whenever I needed to talk to the Bursar about bills or the financial aid office about student loans. Though it was a long ride, I got on a first-name basis with the librarian and a handful of school officials, putting faces to names and breaking down that wall between being strangers and being acquaintances.

I took the time to really determine whether I wanted to spend the next four years at MCLA. Though my parents researched facts online and talked on the phone with MCLA officials, I made sure to do my own research as well. The bottom line was that I was attending MCLA, not my parents, so I made sure everyone I encountered at the school I spoke to knew me and not just the me my parents spoke about.

I knew I wanted to attend MCLA after my first visit but I’m glad I took the time to get to know the institution a little bit better. It made me feel more prepared for my first semester of freshman year but even if you visit 100 times, you might not know if your school is the one for you until you immerse yourself in the community. If for whatever reason you don’t feel it’s right, don’t panic: You can always transfer. Deciding on a college isn’t the end all be all – there’s always room for change – but you just have to find what’s right for you.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.

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What to Expect as a Resident Assistant

August 27, 2013

What to Expect as a Resident Assistant

by Melissa Garrett

Resident assistants. So you’ve seen them around campus and you admire how much they help out their fellow students. You’ve seen how much everybody loves them and what a positive impact they have on your university. Are you thinking of becoming a resident assistant yourself? As a new RA, I honestly expected it to be a lot less challenging than it has already proven to be but rather than explaining every last detail, I can tell you that there are some major dos and don’ts for the job:

  • Do come up with some great ideas for your residents. Do you want to plan a fun event or activity? The power is in your hands!
  • Don’t dominate everything. It is important to work with your co-RAs when planning events or deciding on new residence hall policies.
  • Do get excited! Being an RA is not only a rewarding experience but it is also a great way to get to know a lot of people.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy. RAs have to go through a lot of training and come back to campus earlier than most students.
  • Do put your residents first. They will be coming to you with some pretty intense problems and you should be willing to help them out whenever they need it.
  • Don’t abuse your schoolwork. Although your job is a super important duty, learn to balance your time in such a way that your academic performance will not suffer.
  • Do be sure to alert your residents if things are getting out of hand. Nobody wants a messy kitchen or bathroom and chances are that your residents will blame you for not calling a hall meeting.
  • Don’t be bossy. Your residents won't feel comfortable coming to you for advice if they’re afraid that you will snap at them.

Most importantly, you should never get involved in something simply for the popularity aspect. If being an RA sounds like something you would be really dedicated to, go for it! It may be a lot of work but if you enjoy helping people, you will probably have a lot of fun being a resident assistant at your university!

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.

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Popping the Bubble: How to Keep Up on Current Events in College

August 28, 2013

Popping the Bubble: How to Keep Up on Current Events in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

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