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Managing New Experiences in College

by Veronica Gonzalez

Attending college can be both fun and challenging. As a student, you’ll definitely have lot of new experiences but it’s best to know about the good and bad.

The good things about college experiences are that they constantly revolve around activities. In college, it wouldn’t hurt to get involved with a club or organization that interests you – this way, you can make new friends and give yourself a sense of school pride. Also, doing community service with your school can impact you socially because you’re reaching out to your own community and getting to know more people. Plus, joining an honor society or a club that associates with your favorite subject will sweeten your college experience by bringing out your smart and talented edge.

Even though new experiences can be exciting, it’s just as important to be very careful when having them. In college, there are many parties and socials and if one over-parties, their academic performance can easily suffer. Also, peer pressure is always present: People may try to lure you into dangerous addictions like smoking, drinking, etc. – this can also lead to academic failure so watch out.

Now knowing the pros and cons of college experiences, you can rest assured that there are ways to have a great time in school. First, academics always come first so make much of your time “study time” as to not lose sight of your academic goals. Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with going to socials but it’s best to do it in moderation. Finally, listen to yourself: Know what’s best for you and understand that what you do while attending college will stick with you...especially thanks to the Internet. Enjoy your time in college but remember not to lose sight of your goals!

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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by Suada Kolovic

From finalizing your college choice and figuring out your major to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid package in order, the life of the average high school senior is chock-full of to-dos. And while finding the time to volunteer may seem downright impossible, making a positive impact in your community can be easy, fun and could potentially earn you some serious cash for college!

When it comes to scholarship opportunities, community service can help to distinguish you from the competition by showcasing your commitment to making the world a better place. Being philanthropists themselves, scholarship providers appreciate students who show an interest in helping those around them. There’s no better time to get started than during National Volunteer Month so check out some of the scholarship opportunities below – they'll not only have you giving back in no time but could also help fund your college education:

  • $7,500 Fight Hunger in Your Community Scholarship - To qualify for the $7,500 scholarship, collect 10 jars of peanut butter, jam or any other non-perishable and submit a photo of them to DoSomething online. For every ten items donated, you are entered into the lottery once, no limit on the number of entries you can earn.
  • CBC Spouses Education Scholarship - This is the foundation's first educational program. The CBC Spouses Education Scholarship is a national program that awards scholarships to academically talented and highly motivated students who intend to pursue full-time undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degrees that exhibit leadership ability and participate in community service activities.
  • The Salvation Army Linden Scholarship - We are looking for individuals who demonstrate their community spirit through active volunteerism.
  • $10,000 Clothes Recycling Scholarship - Sign up for Comeback Clothes to collect old and worn-out clothes in your school and communities and drop them off at your local H&M store to help save precious resources.
  • Dr. Alma Adams Scholarship - Applicants must provide evidence of service to a community in an economically or socially disadvantaged setting; involvement in volunteer activities such as outreach, peer counseling to prevent the use of tobacco, drugs or alcohol or other efforts of benefit to a local community should be described in a personal statement.
  • Rotary Club of Newark Scholarship - This scholarship will be presented after high school graduation to students who show exceptional character and qualify as judged by grades, class rank, SAT scores, community and school service, extracurricular activities, a written essay and financial need.

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by Emily

New college grads may face an especially tough time due to the recession.  The growth in anticipated new hires, which is measured twice a year by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, has been slowing since it reached a high in spring 2007, falling almost flat in the fall.  The numbers for spring 2009 show that for the first time in years, businesses actually anticipate hiring fewer college graduates this year than last--22 percent fewer, in fact.  According to The Boston Globe, the business and finance sectors have an even bleaker outlook, as does the northeastern region of the United States.

With this dim hiring picture in mind, soon-to-be college graduates are looking at alternatives to the traditional workforce. Additional education, teaching fellowship programs, and volunteer work are all proving popular. If you're a college student staring graduation in the face, keep in mind the increased competition and start researching and applying sooner, rather than later.

Graduate programs, including ones offered by business schools, are seeing increased enrollment as many students choose to either delay their entry into the workforce or push up their long-term plans to attend graduate school.  Graduate students can potentially land full-tuition fellowships or assistantships, as well as generous scholarship awards.  Many graduate degrees can help recipients become more competitive when they do enter the workforce, even if the economy does not recover substantially.

Similarly, teacher certification programs, such as the popular Teach for America, are seeing an increase in applicants.  These programs offer a stipend, as well as teacher certification, and in some cases a master's degree in education, in exchange for a commitment of one or two years teaching in a low-income school or a high-need subject.  Other programs exist with similar benefits, including teaching fellowships in several major cities such as New York and Chicago.  College students or recent grads who want to teach but don't want to pay for more school may want to consider these options.

Other volunteer programs, like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, also are seeing more applicants.  Such programs often come with a stipend or living allowance, as well as student loan deferments or even loan cancelation or repayment benefits.  Students can also participate in many of these programs while still in college or while pursuing graduate degrees.  If you're interested in an alternative to the post-collegiate rat race, there's no time like the present to start considering your options.


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by Emily

A bill to expand AmeriCorps and create new community service opportunities has passed the House of Representatives.  The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education, or GIVE, Act passed today with bipartisan support in the House, and a similar bill, named the Serve America Act, has also been approved by the Senate education committee.  It will move to the Senate floor early next week, where it is expected to be met with a similar level of enthusiasm.  National service has been a priority of the Obama administration, so expect to see opportunities for community service expand shortly.

Over the course of five years, the bill will appropriate $6 billion to AmeriCorps, increasing positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and also increasing education stipends to $5,350--the same dollar amount as Federal Pell Grants.  The GIVE Act also includes provisions to encourage middle school students to volunteer, as well as funding to increase volunteerism on college campuses.  The GIVE Act will create volunteer programs focused on issues that have become major priorities in recent years, such as education and healthcare.

This legislation is heralded as the largest expansion in national service since the Kennedy administration.  While AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs pay far less than a full-time job, many students have been showing increased interest in them due to the education stipends and living allowances they provide, as well as the opportunities for service and unique experiences volunteers gain.  People serving full-time in positions affiliated with AmeriCorps or other programs also qualify for a new federal loan forgiveness program, which forgives Stafford loan debt for public service employees after ten years.


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by Emily

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law a bill to expand Americorps, a national service program that provides small stipends to people of all ages engaged in volunteer work throughout the country.  The act, officially known as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, paves the way for Americorps to grow in size from its present 75,000 volunteers to as many as 250,000 volunteers by 2017.

In addition to creating more volunteer positions, the Serve America Act will also increase the education stipend for volunteers to $5,350, the same amount as Federal Pell Grants.  This will enable more recent graduates and people currently attending college to participate in Americorps programs, which are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to employment in the current economy.

The national service bill, sponsored by Senator Kennedy, quickly made its way through both houses of Congress, receiving bipartisan support, as well as a ringing endorsement from President Obama, who has long been a proponent of community service.  Congress still needs to find funding for Americorps to begin to expand, but a provision to provide an immediate 25% increase in funding to the program was included in Obama's 2010 budget proposal.


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by Emily

High school students face a lot of pressure when it comes to planning their future. There's a persistent idea that if you don't have your entire life mapped out by the end of 11th grade, you're somehow doomed to a life of vagrancy or doing whatever job your parents pick out for you. If you're a high school senior still uncertain about choosing a college major and setting career goals, a career Q&A that appeared in the New York Times earlier this week might help. It primarily offers advice to parents, but can also serve as a road map for high school students who are thinking about potential college majors and post-college careers.

Focus on Strengths and Interests: Rather than starting out by exploring careers and seeing which one you can fit into, begin by thinking about what you're good at and what you like doing. Maybe you're amazing at math and like to build things in your spare time, or maybe you get joy out of helping your classmates edit their English papers. Think about what you like doing and what environments you prefer to work in. Then begin looking for careers that play to those strengths. By focusing on both what you enjoy and what you excel at, you stand a much better chance of finding a major or a job you can enjoy doing.

Research Potential Careers Now: Don't wait until your final year of college to decide whether or not you like the professions you found fascinating in high school. Look for opportunities to learn more about potential careers and the people who pursue them. Internships, volunteer experiences, and job shadowing can be great ways to do this. If you know any adults whose job sounds interesting, see if you can arrange to talk to them about it, observe them at work, or even help out after school. Consider reading books about careers you find interesting, as well, but be sure to balance glamorized or fictionalized accounts with real-world observations and experiences to avoid disappointment. Career exploration and research don't have to stop in high school, either. You don't need to go to college with a career plan set in stone, nor do you need to wait for your department or advisor to take the lead on preparing you for a career or showing you what options exist. Feel free to choose classes that interest you and find time outside of school to continue to learn about what people with your degree can do and take advantage of opportunities to gain exposure to and experience in fields you find interesting.

Don't Feel Forced: Finally, and most importantly, don't worry if nothing comes to mind right away, or you're still hearing nothing from your parents and teachers but "you're good at math! Be an accountant!" It's normal to be undecided for awhile or to change your mind later, and you likely have a lot more talents and interests than what you can recall immediately as a high school student. College students switch majors and adults switch careers and both groups do so successfully. So don't feel like you have to make a lifelong commitment to the first idea that appeals to you or those around you. If you keep your mind open and have some strategies in place, you'll eventually come across something that will stick.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you're inspired to consider a study abroad program after seeing all the news on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall today, chances are you're twice as likely to follow through on the idea if you're female than if you're male. A recent study conducted by three University of Iowa researchers suggests that women, especially women at liberal arts colleges, are more likely to study abroad because of factors like their academic pursuits and backgrounds.

Explaining the difference exactly seemed difficult for the researchers, as they tried to dispel common wisdom that more women studied abroad because more women than men were interested in fields of study like the arts and foreign languages that more easily lent themselves to overseas programs. The research suggests it's more complicated than that. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that examines the study suggests that the women interested in foreign study were also more easily influenced by liberal arts programs, especially those exploring diversity issues, than men, and that women were also more influenced by outside sources such as professors and their parents when determining whether to study abroad.

The study's results also found that:

  • Men who interacted with their peers were less likely to study abroad than those who interacted little with their peers.
  • Women at regional and community colleges were less likely to study abroad than women at liberal arts schools.
  • Men who reported undecided majors were more likely to study abroad than men with set fields of study, although that characteristic had little effect on women.
  • Asian-American men were less likely than white students to study abroad, but this was not the case for Asian-American women. Hispanic and white men were equally likely to study abroad, but Hispanic women were much more likely tostudy abroad than white women.

So should you study abroad? Apart from the obvious of being able to get out of your comfort zone and learn more about a new country, the experience is a good way to pick up skills you may not have picked up otherwise. If you're somewhat proficient in a foreign language already, consider visiting a country where that language dominates so that you're able to come back home and boast that you're bilingual. Studying abroad could also be a good resume booster in a difficult economy if you go overseas with the intention to pursue a particular field of study that you're interested in, or be a part of a volunteer project, as community service looks good not only to employers, but to scholarship providers as well.

And if you're worried about how you're going to pay for your time abroad, or whether you'll need to take out more student loans to do so, there are study abroad scholarships available to help you cover those expenses, especially if you've shown that you have significant financial need.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As the Red Cross speculates that up to 50,000 people may have died in the Tuesday earthquake in Haiti, colleges across the country have begun tracking down students, staff, and faculty members who are studying or conducting research on the devastated island.

Several schools had already been able to locate their students and employees. The University of Wisconsin at Madison has reported that the two student groups who were studying in  Haiti were safe and accounted for. One group was about 70 miles north of the capital with the organization Engineers Without Borders as part of a project to build a small hydroelectric plant. The second group was there as part of the Haiti Project, doing electrical work and working on bringing Internet connections to a small mountain village. A dean from Maryville University is safe and writing a blog about the situation. Four people from Virginia's Blue Ridge Community College who had traveled to Haiti as part of a program through the nonprofit SIFE, which works to build socially responsible business leaders, were safe following a full day of emailing and phone calls by administrators. Two students and a faculty member from Taylor University were also reported safe; the students were there working with Radio Lumiere, a Christian radio station.

Others were still looking to make contact in a country where it has become increasingly difficult to reach people, or even send aid. Administrators at Lynn University are still waiting for word about whether six of the 12 members of a group that arrived in Haiti hours before the earthquake hit are safe. The group was on a humanitarian mission. The University of Florida has not been able to make contact with two graduate students who went to Haiti to work on a documentary about building a school there. Two faculty members from that school working on a grant through the U.S. Agency for International Development were safe and accounted for.

If you feel helpless and want to do something, consider contacting the American Red Cross about a donation. The organization has already raised more than $800,000 for Haiti through its online and text messaging campaign - people can text "Haiti" to 90999 to send an automatic $10 donation to the Red Cross, an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. (Your donation will appear on your next phone bill, and all cell phone carriers are participating in the program.)

If the news has made you more aware of countries in need, there are a lot of things you can do both abroad and closer to home, and many alternatives to employment for college graduates looking to make a difference. Interested in education? Consider Teach for America, a program that offers a stipend and teacher certification in exchange for a commitment of one or two years teaching in a high-needs school. Often, students are eligible for loan deferment or forgiveness programs if they consider programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. Looking for something more short-term? Organizations like Habitat for Humanity work with student-led projects that have done quite a bit of difference in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Such programs don't just build character and help people, either - they're also good for your resume. So if you're interested, there's no time like now to sign up and help out, even if you just do some community service in your neighborhood.


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by Agnes Jasinski

By now you've probably slept in, taking advantage of the day off from class. If you venture outside of your dorm room or apartment though, chances are your campus will have a number of activities happening surrounding the holiday. Why not then recognize the work and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a local activity celebrating diversity? It'll probably be more rewarding than watching reruns all afternoon.

Here are some highlights we found from college observances of Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

  • Former "lost boy" John Bul Dau will speak today at Champlain College tonight. Dau led groups of displaced Sudanese boys after 27,000 of them were driven from their homes in 1987 by the region's violence, and has raised $700,000 through a foundation he set up to open a clinic in Sudan.
  • Northwestern University will feature a performance tonight by Chicago jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and his trio, as well as lectures, panel discussions, and film, music and theater events throughout the day.
  • Alma College will host a live performance tonight of "The Meeting," a drama about the lives and philosophies of Malcolm X and King.

Some students had planned to make the most of the day off well in advance. At the College of Charleston, teams of 10 students apiece are participating in the MLK Day Challenge, also known as the National MLK Day of Service.  Each team receives $75, a van, and six hours to help a local nonprofit group complete a community service project (painting playground equipment or leading educational sessions in the community, for example) by the end of the day. A number of students from Whatcom Community College will work on two projects today, partnering with Habitat for Humanity and with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association in stream-side restoration.

If you need some inspiration on this important day, check out how some teens in the Silicon Valley are living King's dream. It's never too late to help out, whether it's looking for ways to make change in Haiti or as close as your local neighborhood. Enjoy the day off if you want to, but consider what you can do to help out once you're done relaxing, because there aren't a shortage of volunteer opportunities out there. And if you need even more of an incentive, conduct a free scholarship search to see the number of community service scholarship opportunities out there for college students interested in volunteerism.


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by Emily

Last week’s earthquake in Haiti has had a profound impact on students, faculty, and staff at a number of college campuses. Students and faculty from Lynn University in Florida are still missing in Haiti, while members of other campus communities in the U.S. and Canada have been counted among the more than 70,000 dead. Schools are beginning to reach out to their students who suffered losses in the earthquake, including one college that’s offering free tuition to its Haitian students.

Tallahassee Community College is offering 100% tuition relief for the duration of their education to 35 currently enrolled students from Haiti. After a unanimous vote from the school’s trustees, Tallahassee Community College will begin figuring out the logistics of offering this assistance immediately. The college’s president Bill Law said, “These students will go to school for free. We will keep that in place while they are here,” while acknowledging that there are still details to be ironed out when it comes to getting the funding to the students.

While Tallahassee Community College appears to be first to announce special financial aid for all Haitian enrollees, other schools are reaching out to their students who were affected by the earthquake. Colleges and universities are offering counseling, help contacting friends and family, and assistance finding ways to stay in school for their Haitian students and students of Haitian descent.

The City University of New York and Miami Dade College are also engaging in a variety of special efforts to help their students who are from Haiti or who have family and friends there. CUNY has 6,000 students who are either Haitian or of Haitian descent on its 23 campuses. Miami Dade College Both schools are offering counseling services and are trying to help students stay in school during this crisis. Medgar Evers College, part of the CUNY system, has set up support centers to help students reach friends and family members in Haiti. Students are able to make long distance calls and use computers to try to reach their loved ones.

In addition to aiding in the search for four students and two faculty members who were volunteering in Haiti when the earthquake struck, Lynn University has established a fund to assist members of their community whose lives the earthquake has impacted. The Lynn University Haiti Crisis Fund donation page states the money will provide assistance for 40 Haitian staff members at the school, as well as students and faculty from Haiti.

Students and schools nationwide are engaging in other relief efforts, including holding fundraisers and donation drives for a wide range of charities that are assisting in the recovery effort. Doctors from several medical schools have already arrived in Haiti to assist in treating the wounded. As more time passes and immediate needs are met, there will be more opportunities for students interested in community service and humanitarian aid to help out in Haiti, both through sustained donations and volunteer efforts.


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