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Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

by Katie Askew

Fall in Minnesota conjures images of apple orchards, sweaters, falling leaves and pumpkin patches. The ravishing yellows, browns, reds and greens of the leaves perfectly accent the serious brick buildings and stately campus architecture at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Students take advantage of the pleasant weather patterns by spending as much time as possible outside. There is only one thing that ruins that distinct fall feeling: tobacco smoke.

Even though it’s well-known that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious disease and even death, few colleges have actually made changes to protect the health and safety of their students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 126 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In addition, secondhand smoke in the United States causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. Colleges have been hearing the pleas for tobacco-free campus proposals for years but only a handful have listened – for example, all of Arkansas’ and Iowa’s state-supported college and university campuses have been smoke-free since last year – and it’s time for the rest of the nation follow suit.

Thankfully, a Minnesota school – Minnesota State University – is. MSU in Mankato will implement a tobacco-free campus program starting January 1, 2012. Sadly, the protocol change is not free of complaints from the student body but, if the Facebook page is any indication, the majority is in support of this change. There’s no doubt that not only will campus air be cleaner to breathe but cigarette butt litter will also be vastly reduced. I only hope the same kinds of changes are made at the U of M – I HATE dodging smoke clouds on the way to class!

Is your campus smoke-filled, smoke-free or somewhere in the middle thanks to new initiatives? (Find out your school's status here.) Do you think administrators should address the campus smoking issue more or should it be up to students to take action?

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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If the College Fits...

How to Find the Right School for You

October 4, 2011

If the College Fits...

by Katie Askew

Finding the right college for you may seem daunting but it’s actually easier than ever before. (Thanks, Internet!) For those new to the process, here are a few tips to get you started on your quest to find your perfect school:

The easiest way to find colleges is to let them find you. A major part of a college admissions counselors’ jobs is to recruit prospective students so keep a close eye on your snail mailbox, your email inbox, your phone and even sites like Scholarships.com because you’ll most likely be contacted by a college via one of those paths. (Side note: Create a more professional email address for college communications – the admissions office WILL laugh at your 2hawt2trot@whatever.com address so keep it simple and classy with some variation of your.name@whatever.com.)

Don’t turn away any one type of school just because you think it’s not for you. Generic college brochures and pamphlets you receive in the mail are just that: generic. It’s impossible to get the big picture from a few glossy pages; it takes some personal research to find the parts of the school that pertain to you.

Just because a school was perfect for your parents, best friend or significant other doesn’t mean it’ll be the right fit for you. College Board and Scholarships.com both have great college search tools that allow you to narrow your search based on location, majors, cost, activities and housing. Just pick from your personal list and you’ll get links to colleges’ admissions pages.

Virtual tours are helpful but try to physically visit the schools you’re most interested in. I can’t stress enough that the campus visit can be the most important factor in a student’s decision. Visiting various kinds of schools can help to narrow your search as well; tech schools, public institutions, private institutions, rural colleges, Big 10 universities, Ivy League universities, community colleges, small schools and even beachfront colleges all have something unique to offer and you may not know what that is until you step foot on campus!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question on a Campus Tour

by Katie Askew

Visiting a college campus for the first time can be overwhelming so it’s important to do a little research both before and during your visit.

Most colleges will show you a residence hall during your visit but before you get to campus, check out their housing site online. Take a look at the different options you have for housing (dorms, apartments, etc.) so you have a little background on the types of amenities offered. Also, don’t be fooled by the residence hall you are shown on your tour because it may be the best of the best...and potentially unreachable for you. Ask your tour guide what this hall is like in comparison to others and if it’s only available to certain students (freshmen, upperclassmen, graduate students, athletes, etc.).

With that in mind, ask your tour guide any questions you have about the school you may call your alma mater one day! It makes the visit more personal and relaxes the tour guide (trust me, we’re more nervous than we look!). The guides have lived in the residence halls, they have taken classes and they obviously know what campus life is like. Ask them what they do on the weekends and what their schedules are like during the semester. Getting an idea of what real campus life is like first-hand from a student can help you decide if this is the school for you.

My work behind the scenes in UM's Office of Admissions has shown me all the wrong things I did while touring college campuses as a high school senior but what I regret most is not asking questions. I don’t know if I was too shy or if I thought I was too cool but either way, I was silent during my visits. In hindsight, I realize that I could have learned so much more if I just opened my mouth! Learn from my mistakes and make the most out of your campus visits.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Dealing with College Stressors

by Katie Askew

Stress is unavoidable, especially in college. At times, it seems like there is a never-ending list of homework to complete, reading assignments to study and laundry to do – not to mention maintaining a healthy social life! It’s important to remember that although you can’t avoid stress, you can learn to manage it. Here are some ways how:

Make time for yourself, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Living in a residence hall can be stressful in itself because you are constantly surrounded by friends and roommates inviting you out and pulling you away from study time. Assignments pile up quickly and just like that, you’re behind in three classes. It’s sometimes hard to find alone time when living with a roommate – and 20 neighbors who also happen to be your best friends – but if you are feeling overwhelmed, chilling out by yourself helps to relax, revive and cross some things off your to-do list! Taking a nap, listening to music, reading a few pages from a non-required book or going on a short walk can help to clear your head and refocus your efforts.

Schedule time in your week for doing something you love – and stick to it as if it were a class. For me, music is my stress outlet. I make sure that I play marimba or piano regularly during the school week to not only keep me sane but also to keep me going through my homework. I always have my music time to look forward to and it helps to keep me focused on my assignments, not distracted from them. I know that the sooner I accomplish my work, the sooner I can pound out some music.

Whether it’s taking part in a favorite activity or just sitting quietly by yourself, make time for it in your week and you will feel much less stressed.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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The Importance of Job Shadowing

by Katie Askew

You’re the high school senior that wanted to be a doctor ever since you saw that episode of “House.” Or, maybe, you’re the high school senior that’s deciding between a few possible careers and has a couple of majors in mind. But really, how is any 17-year-old supposed to decide on a career for rest of their life without any practice?! One activity that high school students overlook is the solution to this problem...and it’s just as important as extracurriculars and volunteer hours: job shadowing.

After a period of stressing out about my future major, I had a conversation with my AP English Literature teacher. He happened to be a former reporter for my hometown paper, The Argus Leader, and suggested that I job shadow a reporter he knew there. He set me up with Josh, a journalism graduate of the University of Minnesota, and I spent the next day observing him in the newsroom. I learned the ins and outs of how a newspaper is produced, how to cover a school board meeting and conduct an interview for an article. All of this helped me get a sense of the job and the daily activities I would partake in as a reporter and Josh was nice enough to answer all of my questions.

I attribute my love for my future career to this day and for this I am deeply indebted to Josh and my teacher. Even today, I know I can go to Josh as a mentor with any questions I have about classes at the U of M, journalism jobs or basically anything that comes up. He really inspired the journalist in me – something I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

So, thank you again, Josh. To everyone else, find the major or career you could love just as much by job shadowing!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Campus Creepers

Who Are the "Interesting" Characters at Your School?

June 22, 2011

Campus Creepers

by Katie Askew

One of the joys of going to a public college in a very urban setting is the abundance of culture, business and interesting people — and the University of Minnesota definitely does not lack in the interesting people category. We have our very own well-known and well-loved campus creeper!

His name is Mike Gould, a man that stands upon a 10-foot ladder in the middle of our giant main courtyard area (“The Mall”) every school day in the fall, spring and summer semesters. Mike has rarely missed a day of shouting to the thousands of passersby as he reads passages from the Bible. Through rain, shine, sleet or 24 inches of Minnesota snow, he is there. His psychological status has yet to be determined but his main objective is to bring the word of God to thousands of Minnesota students. He sometimes aids his sermons with hymn-like songs played on an acoustic guitar. Every student that attends the U of M knows about Mike; there is even a Facebook group focusing on Mike Gould that helps to bond the students with stories, photos and events. It’s even rumored that Mike is attempting to run for mayor of Minneapolis. Good luck, Mike!

The University of Minnesota isn’t the only campus out there with a special addition to their student body. My friends at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln tell me they have “Crazy Blue Protesting Lady” running around their campus. She, too, has her own Facebook group where students document their sightings of and encounters with the woman always completely dressed in blue.

The harmless campus creepers tend to bring the collective student body together — it’s great! Does your campus have a creeper? If so, we’d love to hear about it!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Sick at School? Feel Better...Fast!

by Katie Askew

Being sick at a school that’s hours from home and – let’s be honest – your mom is hard to deal with. Don’t think you’re immune, either: It’s much easier to catch illnesses when you’re living in a 12’x12’ space with another person. On top of that, missing just one college class could be the equivalent of missing an entire week of high school! If you do happen to fall ill, there are ways get better without calling home.

Before moving to campus, make sure you have proof of health insurance (a copy of your insurance card is fine but the real thing is even better). At a new clinic, they will ask you for this so they can treat you and no proof of insurance means no care. Make sure your health insurance covers the clinics and doctors in your new area (some plans don’t) and know your personal medical history and allergies because Mom won’t be in the doctor’s office with you to help.

Next, learn about the health benefits your college has for you. Most universities have free student clinics right on campus with qualified doctors and nurses to remedy you but their limited weekday hours and usually no weekend hours mean you have to work your class and extracurricular schedule around them. In case of emergencies or weekend sickness, know where the nearest hospital, clinic or acute care center is.

For everyday pains, headaches and small scrapes, have a first aid kit in your dorm room. Fill it with the necessities like Band-Aids, Neosporin and Tylenol so you’re not knocking on doors in the middle of the night looking for medicine.

The best way to not get sick, though? Prevention! Wash your hands, get enough sleep, don’t share drinks and eat more than just cake and soda in the dining hall. Stay healthy, my friends!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Graduation Gift Ideas

June 10, 2011

Graduation Gift Ideas

by Katie Askew

Are you still looking for that special graduation gift for a future college student? Here are some foolproof gifts I wish I was given as a graduating senior and they will set you apart from the standard gift of money or towels. (Really, who needs 20 quick-drying towels?!) Your future freshman friend will thank you for it!

Amazon.com and Target gift cards. Sure, buying your books at the student bookstore is easy and convenient but if you know your class schedule and required books before the first day of class, you will save enormous amounts of money buying from Amazon. They even offer free shipping and handling for students! As for Target, it really is a one-stop shop for college students. Can you say economy-sized shampoo and conditioner?

Light-blocking sleep mask. Okay, so maybe the guys won’t enjoy this one as much but once any student has an 8 a.m. exam, he or she will be thanking you – the great gift-giver – for the eye mask that allows them to sleep in a brightly-lit, small room shared with a roommate that likes to stay up until the wee hours of the night with all the lights on. Throw in some earplugs as a cute (and inexpensive) companion gift!

Bicycle lights. Is your friend bringing a bike to school? Bike laws are a concept a lot of students forget about, especially when they aren’t used to riding a bike every day. Let me tell you, bike police are real and they WILL issue you an expensive ticket if you are riding a bike at night with no lights. In addition, a bicycle U-lock is also a great gift and necessary no matter how safe you think your college campus is!

Good luck gift-givers!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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