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Education vs. Experience

October 17, 2011

Education vs. Experience

by Kara Coleman

I recently had a difficult decision to make: Up my chances of getting an A in my mass communications class or cover a story for the school newspaper that would look impressive in my portfolio. Which would you choose?

Employers put just as much stock – if not more – in your experience than your education. Don’t get me wrong, a degree in your field is important but your prospective bosses want to know that you can do the job you are applying for.

On his radio show, John Tesh said that, in general, most employers admit where you get your degree isn’t necessarily the biggest factor in hiring. Say you got your degree in business administration from an Ivy League school but don’t have any work experience to back it up when you apply for a job. Someone who has applied for the same position may have gotten their degree from a state university but has been working part-time for a local company and learning the ins and outs of operating a business firsthand. Who is more likely to be hired?

I try to work around my school schedule as much as possible and hardly ever miss class; however, the marching band at my university performed for the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London this week and I had the opportunity to cover the story for the school newspaper. Going to the band event meant that I would have to miss my toughest class so I had to decide whether it was more beneficial to meet an English lord and participate in an actual press conference or go to class and gather information for the next test.

Naturally, I chose to attend the event. Not only was it a fun experience but an interview with the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London made a nice addition to my portfolio! Remember, tests and grades are only the beginning: Get involved with your desired field in any way possible while you are still attending college and you will be much more marketable after graduation!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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It’s OK to Just Say No!

October 4, 2011

It’s OK to Just Say No!

by Kara Coleman

Regardless of whether they’re children or adults, Americans are busier now than ever before. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That’s like saying that the Earth is round. Everyone knows that,” and that may be true but college is the perfect time to learn the power of two little letters: N-O.

Over the course of this semester, I’ve found myself saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that,” more times than I ever thought I would. I live and work in a town that’s about a 30-minute drive from where I go to school, so I do a lot of driving back and forth for classes, newspaper staff meetings and school events. I spend a few hours each week tutoring eighth grade math and I babysit one night a week, on top of the 25 or so hours I spend at my regular part-time job. This puts a severe time limit on the time I have available to spend with family and friends so I decided that I had to learn to say no.

When a parent called and asked if I could tutor her daughter two nights each week, I asked if we could do it on an assignment-by-assignment basis instead. When I received a text asking if I could help paint sets for an upcoming theater production one night after work, I declined because it was the only night that week that I didn’t have to go anywhere after work.

It’s hard to say no when we are asked to do something because we think we’ll be letting somebody down if we say anything less. But you know what? If you don’t say yes, someone else will. Know your limits and how much you can commit to without going crazy and learn to just say no!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

Five years after Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, more than one million articles have been contributed to the free-for-all Internet encyclopedia. The open editing format allows for an unlimited amount of information to be shared all over the world but unfortunately, some teachers don’t consider Wikipedia to be a credible source...or they simply want their students to do a little more searching for information. Here’s how to make more informed choices when searching for works to cite.

When you Google your topic, don’t just click on the first link that pops up. Check out the site’s address before you visit. Remember, ANYONE can post ANYTHING on the Internet: An English professor at my community college was known to occasionally log on to Wikipedia and edit articles, just to see if her students were using the site.

College and university websites are reputable. If MIT posts an article about its latest technological breakthrough, take that information and use it. The same holds true for sites belonging to trade journals. A writer for an aviation magazine is talking directly with people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes in order to write articles for other people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes. Their information has to be accurate.

It’s also acceptable to cite articles from credible news sources like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. These are publications everyone is familiar with and they have years of coverage to show for it. The bad apples are few and far between.

Something to keep in mind when doing online research is that if something is true, it’s probably going to be on more than one site. If you come across conflicting pieces of information, be sure to check a number of other sources. And you don’t have to ignore Wikipedia completely: The bibliographies at the end of each article can provide some valuable links!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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In College? Get Tuned In!

September 8, 2011

In College? Get Tuned In!

by Kara Coleman

Last week, my Intro to Mass Communications teacher told my class that if we want to make a good grade, we need to fully submerge ourselves in the media over the course of the semester. I nodded in agreement but secretly wondered how our generation could possibly be more submerged in the media than we already are!

We were children during the Internet boom of the 1990’s and now, the technology that we grew up with in our homes fits in our pockets. For the majority of our waking hours, we are bombarded with media messages. We have news updates pop up on our computer screens and phones as soon as they happen. We wear t-shirts advertising our favorite brands of clothing. We sing along with song lyrics that are blasted at us over radio airwaves. Candidates in the 2008 presidential election reached out to us through MySpace and Facebook and rebels in Egypt and Libya used Twitter as their primary means of communication earlier this year.

College can be a confusing time, especially for students straight out of high school. Of the thousands of messages we receive each day, how do we decide which ones are worth listening to? I’ve heard people say that college is a time for you to explore all of your options and find yourself but it’s also true that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Head into college knowing what you believe and what’s important to you. As one writer put it, “By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”

Be receptive to the messages that come your way. Know whether or not you agree with them and why. Perhaps the most important lesson you will learn in college is how to think for yourself!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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How to Make Friends in College

by Kara Coleman

After high school, you and your friends have to go your separate ways and now you’re faced with the challenge of making new friends. Where do you start?

Get on board. Joining a club or organization will allow you to meet and spend time with other students with whom you share common interests, especially if you live off campus. After I joined Phi Theta Kappa, I met friends that I sometimes hang out with outside of school activities and plan to keep in touch with for years to come. Colleges offer countless opportunities for you to get involved, from Circle K to Baptist Campus Ministries to Student Government Association; if your school has a get on board or recruitment day, go explore your options!

Find study buddies. Who’s your lab partner in biology? Who sits next to you in your favorite class? Sometimes, friendships actually form over homework! I met some of my best college friends after I started working as a tutor for Student Support Services. I got to know the other tutors and several of the students who came to be tutored. I was also able to get help with my Spanish homework from the Spanish tutor, who was a native of Bolivia. She introduced me to other international students and she even came to my pool party last summer and met my family. Even though we tend to gravitate toward people who are most like us, sometimes the best friendships can be with people who are most different.

Look to your roomies and floormates. If you are moving away to college, your roommate could end up being your best bud...but remember that other people live in your dorm, too! When one of my friends moved off to school, she actually became close friends with a girl who lived across the hall from her. My friend ended up transferring to a different school in a different state but she still keeps in touch with that girl!

How did you make friends in college? If you're not there yet, do you think you these tips will help when the time comes?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Stress-Free Study Time? It DOES Exist!

by Kara Coleman

Does it ever seem to you like each one of your professors thinks that theirs is the only class you have to do homework for? How do you give each subject the attention that it needs? These tips may help you out:

Set study goals for each day. Set a schedule based on amount of work and not on time. Don’t say, “Today I’m working on my essay for an hour and a half,” because an hour can quickly get away from you. Instead, say, “Today I’m writing the rough draft for my essay.”

Don’t skip the intros. Reading the chapter introductions in each of your textbooks can help speed up the note-taking process. Since intros tend to hit the highlights of each chapter, go ahead and write down anything that looks like it may be important. Also, having a basic understanding of a chapter’s overall content will help you when you dig deeper into the material.

Pay attention in class. You’re probably thinking, “I already know that!” but sometimes teachers will tell you when certain material is going to be on a test. If your teacher says that a piece of information is important, be sure to make a note of it or highlight it.

Don’t beat yourself up if you forget something. Obviously, there’s no way you can remember everything you hear. But that’s okay! Every time you forget something, your brain has to re-learn it. This reinforcement will actually help you retain information for longer periods of time.

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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The Dos and Don’ts of Job References

by Kara Coleman

Picture this: You’ve got a brand new diploma in your hand and are applying for your dream job or, if you’re not quite there yet, you’re trying to find a job to help pay your way through school. In addition to your resume, you’ll need references who can vouch for your abilities. Since companies usually check three references for each prospective employee, here’s how to pick the best individuals to speak on your behalf.

Don’t list family members or your best friend as references. Have you ever seen an “American Idol” audition where the contestant sings horribly but their mother argue with the judges and claims their child has the most beautiful voice in the world? The same principle applies here. Your family wants you to succeed so they’re only going to say positive things about you. Your references should be based on professional opinions so instead of listing Mom and Dad, list a professor in your field of study, a previous employer or a board member/faculty advisor for a service organization you are currently involved in.

Do talk with your potential references before you list them. Tell them what you are applying for and why you wish to use them as a reference. This may be stating the obvious but only list them if they give you permission to do so. You should also consider asking them the types of questions you think your prospective employer might ask them; if their feedback isn’t entirely positive, you can always find a different reference.

Don’t list your references on your resume. Rather, have the names and contact information of your references typed out on a separate sheet of paper. Not only will it keep the length of your resume down but you’ll look prepared and confident when you offer up your list without hesitation.

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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Pell Grants, the Debt Ceiling and You

by Kara Coleman

If you’re one of the more than nine million undergrads who depend on Pell Grants to pay for school, you have probably been pretty anxious over the past few weeks.

This past February, the United States House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution which would slice the federal budget drastically. One of the programs to be affected by the cut is the Pell Grant program. The maximum amount of funds available to college students would be lowered from $5,550 to $4,705 and the changes were set to take effect for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Students were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the Pell Grant program, which has long received bipartisan support from the Senate, was able to avoid major cuts after all. The debt-ceiling bill passed earlier this week will limit overall discretionary spending to $1.043 trillion in the 2012 fiscal year. Since that’s about $7 billion below the current level of spending, how will students be able to receive their maximum Pell Grants? Grad students will be the ones taking the hit. At the moment, graduate students with federally subsidized student loans don’t have to be concerned with interest until after graduation but under the new plan, interest on these loans will begin to accrue while they are still working towards their degrees.

National Economic Council director Gene Spurling says of the bill, “This is a compromise budget, but one that we believe makes the necessary room for the most important investments in winning the future in innovation and research and education.”

How do you feel about these changes? For those with dreams of advanced degrees, are you already researching alternate funding options for graduate school?

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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Helpful Study Sites

July 26, 2011

Helpful Study Sites

by Kara Coleman

In this age of technology, we have access to nearly unlimited resources to help us learn. You might want to add these URLs to your favorites list:

Google Scholar. This site is like the original Google, only smarter! You can search for articles on a topic and narrow your search to articles written during a specific time period, or even limit exclusively to federal or state court documents pertaining to your topic. The best part? The links for all articles include citations!

Cool Math.. From math games for kids, to calculus and trig, to money management, there’s a Cool Math page dedicated to almost everything. The site also features handy graphing and scientific calculators and a math dictionary to refresh your memory on terminology you may have forgotten.

Khan Academy.. This free library puts more than 2,400 online videos at your fingertips! Video topics include physics, currency exchange and the French Revolution and there are also practice exercises to help you apply what you’ve learned.

Spark Notes.. Search Spark Notes’ extensive literary database to read summaries of classic books and Shakespearean dramas, including character lists and their roles in the stories. While reading summaries does not replace actually reading the books themselves, reading the summary before you tackle the real thing can help you to better understand the material you’re learning.

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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The Wild World of College Sports

by Kara Coleman

Do you think that just because you’ve never scored a touchdown or hit a home run you can’t have the student athlete experience? Think again! There is a whole world of collegiate sports opportunities awaiting you. Here are two of the most unusual:

Underwater Hockey. Though these two words typically aren’t used together, schools ranging from George Mason University to the University of Florida have underwater hockey teams. Teams consist of 10 players, with only six players from each team in the water at once. The puck, which weighs about three pounds, is pushed along the pool floor by 12-inch hockey sticks. Players wear water fins for mobility, masks for sight and, of course, snorkels for breathing. This might be a fun sport to try if you like swimming but since the game is played entirely underwater, it’s not much of a spectator sport.

Quidditch. Quidditch, the game invented by J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter book series, has become a hit among college students. Each team is composed of seven players – one keeper, one seeker, two beaters and three chasers – who score points by knocking a ball through hoops and the game ends when one of the seekers captures the “snitch.” In the books, the snitch is a flying ball that tries to evade the seekers; in the Muggle version, the snitch is a person with a ball in a sock hanging out of his or her pocket and the seekers try to snatch it while running with broomsticks between their legs. The first intercollegiate quidditch match was held in 2007 at Middlebury College in Vermont, now home to the Quidditch World Cup. More than 100 schools in the U.S. have quidditch teams, including LSU, Purdue and the University of Washington.

These players may not be nominated for ESPYs any time soon but they’re definitely having fun. You can, too: Check to see if your school offers these teams or start one of your own!

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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