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The Adderall Effect

"Study Drug" Creates Issues for Users and Non-Users

June 21, 2011

The Adderall Effect

by Alexis Mattera

It’s the night before your final in a particularly challenging class and though you’ve been studying for weeks, you decide to turn this evening into an all-night cram session. You feel your eyelids starting to droop at around 2 a.m. and to prevent your GPA from doing the same, do you run to the vending machine for a soda or down the hall to buy some Adderall from your floormate with ADHD?

The latter scenario is playing out far more than the former on college campuses across the nation as students turn to Adderall to gain an academic edge. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported full-time students are twice as likely to illegally use Adderall as individuals their age who are not in school or only enrolled part-time. But how are students getting their hands on the drug? Usually from other students whose ADHD or narcolepsy warrants a prescription. While some students are happy to act as their dormitory’s resident pharmacists – a UC Davis sophomore said they make about $200 per week selling Adderall but a whopping $1,200 the last two weeks of the quarter from students studying for finals – others are less than willing: A student at Christopher Newport University said she has to deadbolt her door and carry prescriptions in her purse to ensure her Adderall pills (which she actually needs) aren’t pilfered.

Does your school have an Adderall addiction? Do you think students who take it are cheating in a way and that those who don’t are at an academic disadvantage? If you have an Adderall prescription, are other students constantly asking you to sell it?


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Wikipedia Gaining Classroom Approval

by Alexis Mattera

“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”

Though those words were spoken by a bumbling television character, there is some truth to his musings: The website is slowly gaining legitimacy...and not just within the walls of a fictional paper company – in college classrooms.

While many professors have banned students from citing information from the free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project, Wikipedia is gaining some academic traction. "I do encourage [my students] to use it as one of many launch points for pursuing original source material," said Karl Kehm, associate professor of physics at Washington College. Peter Shulman, assistant professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, agrees it's ok for basic facts but tells his students they shouldn't be referencing the site for anything further. "Saying it's off-limits won't stop students from using it, so I've switched to helping students understand when it's useful and when it's not," he said.

Strides are being taken to further legitimize Wikipedia – faculty members and students from more than 20 colleges are helping site editors clean up errors and broaden articles directly applicable to specific college classes – but its status as a 100-percent trusted source is still a long way off. Do you use Wikipedia in your classes? If so, is it frowned upon or somewhat accepted?


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College Acceptance in 500 Words

Common App Sets Essay Word Limit, Counselors Voice Concerns

June 10, 2011

College Acceptance in 500 Words

by Alexis Mattera

The college application essay has long been the place where students with mediocre grades, lackluster standardized test scores and nonexistent extracurricular activities have displayed their above-average writing skills and possibly turned admissions tides in their favor. College hopefuls will still be able to achieve this feat next year but with far fewer literary devices.

Officials for the Common Application have announced they’ve set a new word limit for its essay section. For the 2011-2012 application cycle, students will choose from one of five prompts – for example, "Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence." – and have 250 to 500 words to respond AND effectively sell themselves to college admissions officers at 415 colleges and universities. Some guidance counselors have complained about the limit, saying students will not have enough space display their writing abilities; in truth, the new parameters are plenty wide if students have received sufficient writing instruction in high school.

I believe brevity is a virtue but know this truncated word count will be shocking to college applicants. What do you think of the Common App’s announcement? Are you up for the challenge or has the change deterred from using the application entirely?


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Faith Trumps Graduation Speech for One H.S. Valedictorian

by Alexis Mattera

Imagine studying hard, taking AP classes and earning a stellar GPA for four years and having that hard work pay off by being named the valedictorian of your class. Sounds like a dream, right? Not necessarily. Just ask Carolyn Fine.

Fine received the news that she'd been selected as Vacaville High School's valedictorian and but her heart sank when she found out the date of the graduation ceremony: It was scheduled to take place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a day prohibiting the use of anything requiring electricity until after sunset. This meant she would not be able to use a microphone during her speech, drive to the ceremony or pose for pictures in her cap and gown after receiving her diploma. Fine spent the next few weeks struggling to decide between honoring her faith and delivering her valedictory address and ultimately decided the former was more important. Admiring her choice, school administrators offered a solution to satisfy all parties. “They prerecorded my speech and they are going to play that while I’m standing up there,” Fine said. “It was a tremendous relief. It seemed like I had reached a compromise where I could keep to my faith and accept this, because it’s a huge honor.”

What would you have done in Fine’s situation – honored your faith or given the speech using a device powered by electricity?


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From Yale, With Love (and Perhaps a Lawsuit)

Online Course Transcripts for Sale in China

June 8, 2011

From Yale, With Love (and Perhaps a Lawsuit)

by Alexis Mattera

This is not a good week for higher education in China. First, a cheating scam is toppled just days before the national college entrance exam and now, it’s been discovered that Shaanxi Normal University Press is selling transcripts of Yale University’s free online courses.

The content – five transcripts from Open Yale Courses, a program that’s been offering free online videos of popular Yale classes since 2007 – has been published by Shaanxi without Yale’s permission. In addition to lifting content from the video lectures, Shaanxi also took material directly from the transcripts’ translations prepared by YYeTs, a Chinese nonprofit. Diana Kleiner, a Yale art history professor and principal investigator for Open Yale Courses, told the Yale Alumni Magazine blog “possibly as much as 95 percent” of the material was copied; this plus the sale of the content violates the terms of the course giveaway, which states others cannot profit from the material.

Though one professor says he is flattered by the attention, Yale officials are less than pleased, especially since the school is planning its own book series based on the Open Yale Courses.


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Students Say "I Do" for Lower Tuition

Would You Marry to Keep College Costs Down?

June 7, 2011

Students Say "I Do" for Lower Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

In February, we read a New York Times article about students getting married to save on tuition and asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers if they, too, would get hitched if it meant they’d pay less for school. The responses? Mixed, but the topic is still hot four months later.

State aid is down, tuition is up and students are stuck in a tough position these days. While some are continuing down the traditional paths of obtaining funding for college (filling out the FAFSA, applying for scholarships and grants, taking out loans, etc.), others are taking a different route – or should we say aisle – with a friend or another student in a similar monetary situation. Why? If a student is single and under the age of 22, their financial aid is determined by their parents’ income but if the student is married, aid is determined by the joint income of the student and their spouse – an enticing loophole for cash-strapped undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike marrying to obtain citizenship, marrying for financial aid or in-state residency benefits is legal according to WalletPop; there are even matchmaking services that help students find likeminded individuals to marry for tuition relief and divorce after graduation!

What are your thoughts on these “on-paper” marriages? Would you say “I do” if you could save thousands on tuition and fees or do you feel this practice – while legal – is too unethical to consider?


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Cheating Scam Busted in Beijing

by Alexis Mattera

There have been countless movie and television show plots surrounding forms of academic dishonesty but in real life, cheating doesn’t pay. The cheater’s reputation, on the other hand, does. Dearly.

The Associated Press reported 62 individuals have been detained by China's Education Ministry for selling wireless devices they believe would be used to cheat on the upcoming college entrance exam. Since the plot was discovered before the exam, however, the ministry hopes its actions will protect the test's integrity, which more than 9 million high school students are expected to take this week.

Whether it’s copying and pasting someone else’s words into your paper, crafting the tiniest of crib sheets or constructing an elaborate system of two-way radios to relay information in real time, cheating is everywhere. The good news is that educators are fighting back with new outlooks, smarter software, harsher punishments to curb students’ urges to cheat. Are these tactics working? The jury’s still out. What’s being done at your school to limit and eventually stop academic dishonesty? Do you have any suggestions how to make these methods more effective?


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Australian Student Discovers Universe’s "Missing Mass"

by Alexis Mattera

Summer breaks vary from college student to college student. Some work multiple jobs to help defray tuition costs, others intern or volunteer in their field of study and a select few sit by the pool and do absolutely nothing. Regardless of what they accomplish this summer – a semester paid in full, a professional reference or a tan – this student’s “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay is going to be way more impressive.

Twenty-two-year-old Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, an undergraduate intern with a team at Monash University's School of Physics, recently confirmed she had found part of the universe’s “missing mass.” For those not majoring in science or aerospace engineering, this basically means that scientists had previously detected matter present in the early history of the universe but it had disappeared. Astrophysicists had been stymied by its absence for decades...until advanced technologies and Fraser-McKelvie came along. "We don't know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found," said Monash astrophysicist Dr. Kevin Pimbblet. Pretty amazing stuff!

Now we have to ask: What are you doing over your summer break?


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Automated Attendance Monitoring Proposed at UK University

by Alexis Mattera

On days like today, it’s hard to get out of bed, let alone head out to an early morning class. True, your professor may not notice you’re missing from their 8 a.m. 300-person lecture now but it could get more difficult to skip class in the near future.

Case in point: De Montfort University in Leicester, England is considering monitoring student attendance via electronic chips in their ID cards. Unlike attendance-monitoring programs introduced at other institutions, De Montfort’s would be completely automated and, according to the minutes from a recent meeting of the school’s executive board, combining Wi-Fi and RFID technologies would make for "the most foolproof way of monitoring attendance."

The National Union of Students warned that members would "balk at the prospect of being treated like inmates under surveillance" and I have to agree. Students don’t need to be monitored and penalized for lack of attendance; it’s their decision whether or not to go to class and their participation and overall grades will reflect that choice. Do you think this attendance monitoring system (or attendance monitoring in college in general) is a good idea or a bad idea and why?


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Thiel Fellowship Pays Students to Leave School, Develop Ideas

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, all of our resources are geared toward helping students prepare for and afford college educations...not leave them behind. That being said, this new award probably won’t be popping up in our database any time soon.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, announced the inaugural recipients of the Thiel Fellowship, a program that will bestow 24 students with $100,000 each to not attend college for two years and develop business ideas instead. The driving force behind the fellowship is Thiel’s concern about the “irrational” increase in cost and demand for college educations and his belief that certain students would learn more by leaving school than continuing traditional coursework.

Not surprisingly, heated debates have erupted in academic circles – William K. Aulet, managing director at MIT's Entrepreneurship Center, believes the fellowship is sending the wrong message, stating, "To say that you're better off dropping out of school is a gross generalization." – but the fellowship winners have a different outlook: At least two recipients have expressed interest in returning to school at the end of the fellowship and one prospective winner turned down the deal entirely to enroll at MIT, which signals traditional education is still valued.

What do you think about the Thiel Fellowship? Would you be more than willing to apply and leave school if selected or would you prefer to continue your education in the classroom instead?


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