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Should You Commute to College?

February 24, 2012

Should You Commute to College?

by Kara Coleman

Traditionally, most college students live in dorms or apartments on or near their campuses to get the full “college experience.” But before you sign that rental agreement, you might want to consider living at home and commuting to school.

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical college student – eating Ramen noodles for every meal and taking out student loans to pay for books and tuition – but that doesn’t have to be you! My goal is to graduate from college debt-free so I live at home with my parents and commute to a university about 30 minutes away. Because I live at home, I am able to save myself rent and utility expenses and use the money I earn from my job to pay cash for my tuition and books. Some students prefer the feeling of independence that comes with living on your own (I mean, if you live in your parents’ house, you live by their rules!) but not taking out student loans will mean financial freedom after I graduate and get a real job.

The downside to living so far off-campus is that I’m not as connected to events and happenings at school as the students who live there are. It’s not always easy to make it to meetings and events when commuting from the next county but by no means does it deprive me of the college experience: I still attend football games, plays and seminars at my university, and hang out with friends between classes.

Is living home and commuting right for you? While it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s definitely an option that I encourage students to consider while making housing plans for the upcoming school year.

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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The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

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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See the World in the Summertime!

Exploring the Many Benefits of Summer Abroad Programs

August 10, 2012

See the World in the Summertime!

by Kara Coleman

Many universities across the country offer study abroad programs for students who wish to spend a semester in another country. Every student that I know of who has ever participated in one of these programs hails it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience...but what if you can’t afford to spend an entire semester overseas or you don’t want to interfere with your planned graduation date or schoolwork? Consider seeing the world on shorter-term trips during the summer! You’ll still get the experience of traveling and seeing what life is like in other countries without taking a lot of time off from work or school.

This past May, my university sent 10 students from its honors program to China for two weeks. Though they did do a few touristy things, they spent most of their time learning at Taizhou University. Because the Chinese academic year is different than ours in the U.S., the Chinese students were still in classes and the American students were able to jump in and study alongside them after their final exams had been completed at home. The best part? The trip was completely paid for by JSU!

You can also use the summer months to explore the world on a trip not associated with your college. Last month, I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip, where I volunteered in a shelter for homeless children. I was able to experience firsthand what life is like in a third-world country and have plenty to tell my friends about when school starts back up later this month.

So where will you be at this time next year? Studying kung fu in a Chinese university? Playing soccer with kids in Central America? Or maybe something completely different? A whole world of opportunities awaits you – literally!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and 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; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.


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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

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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Conquering the Grocery Store

December 16, 2011

Conquering the Grocery Store

by Katie Askew

Graduating from freshman dorm life to sophomore apartment living has had its pros and cons. Although I gained more freedom, I lost luxuries like free laundry, a professionally-cleaned bathroom and meals made by a chef. My housing choice meant more financial responsibility – something I realized when I stepped into the grocery store for the first time as an apartment dweller. To keep my spending (and yours!) in check, I created a short list of tips for a college student’s first few trips to the grocery store.

Don’t shop hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s true: When I’m full, I focus only on the foods that are only on my list and I save a ton of money by avoiding impulse buys like giant jars of Nutella.

Plan a weekly menu and take a list. Decide what you’re going to eat on a weekly basis and create a grocery list that reflects this. Keep staples like bread, eggs, cereal and milk in mind but if you want to maintain a budget, it’s important to not stray from your list. If you need recipes for quick dinners, check out sites like Kraft or All Recipes: Just type in what ingredients you have and a meal will be generated for you!

Set a time limit. Saying you only have X minutes to shop will keep you focused on what you need, not what you want. This will also save time for homework or something fun later.

Find coupons. Purchasing a real Sunday newspaper is an excellent investment: Not only can you catch up on the news but you also gain access to lots of great coupons from local grocery stores. Dedicated coupon sites like CoolSavings or SmartSource are also helpful because they find deals based on your zip code.

I’m not saying you can’t splurge every now and then – after a rough week, ice cream is a necessity! – but by living like a student now, you won’t have to later in life!

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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Cars on Campus: Are They Necessary?

by Katie Askew

Public transportation: Some fear it, some embrace it. Ten months ago, I was the former but I’m now proud to say I am the latter.

Cars are the main mode of transport where I’m from in South Dakota – even 14-year-olds can have their licenses here! – but moving to the “big city” to attend the University of Minnesota meant giving up my car. I left it dead and dust-covered for nine months and, in a way, also left a piece of me back home. I was petrified at the thought of climbing onto a...a...public bus. Yuck, but I had no other option if I wanted to go to Target or to downtown Minneapolis for concerts and clubs. I even rode the light rail during a shopping spree with friends at the Mall of America (it goes right to the basement of the mall!).

I will never regret learning the bus and light rail routes of Minneapolis because it saves me tons of time, money and public transportation really wasn’t as creepy or dirty as I thought it was going to be. As time passed, the more thankful I became for not having to pay expensive parking fees, car insurance and all the parking tickets I surely would have received. I won’t even mention the loads of money I saved on gas...$4 a gallon, anyone?

The University of Minnesota has extremely discounted bus and light rail passes for students. Your school probably does, too, but if you REALLY can’t bring yourself to take public transportation and are contemplating bringing your car to campus, consider bicycles, rollerblades, longboards and good old-fashioned walking – all of which are cheaper for you and better for the environment. Things may be different if you attend college in a more rural setting but going to a metropolitan school without a car is possible!

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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Public or Private - Which Type of College is Right for You?

by Katlyn Clark

As admissions decisions begin to roll in, high school seniors are weighing their college options. In addition to financial aid packages, programs offered and distance from home, school type – public or private – is an important factor to consider.

If you’re thinking about attending a public university, consider these facts:

I was automatically drawn to private schools (Campbell specifically) because I was not interested in any of the public schools in North Carolina. If you want to go to a private school, here are some points to ponder:

Before you submit an enrollment deposit, I hope that you take a moment to consider these factors and do some deeper research. If you have any questions for me about what it's like attending Campbell or a private school in general, please shoot me a comment!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.


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Finding On-Campus Employment

by Katlyn Clark

After classes, homework and studying, college students often discover that they have some free time on their hands. Some take on extracurricular activities (both fun and professional) but realize it would be cool to make some money as well. Instead of rushing off campus to score a job at the local mall – something that can be difficult for students without cars – see what kind of employment options are available on campus first.

So where should you begin your on-campus job search? First, check out your college’s website. You'll find jobs at the bookstore/co-op that sells school supplies, books and branded apparel, the student center that houses restaurants and campus organizations, or the fitness center where students go to work out. Dining halls are an excellent option, as is the library: You can’t beat the commute and you may even be able to do your homework when there’s a lull.

The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn extra money to help pay for college expenses. These jobs are often connected to a student’s interests or field of study. Certain on-campus jobs are only available to work-study students; to see if you qualify, contact your financial aid office or review the results of your FAFSA.

Speaking of major-related jobs, contact the department of your major – there may be a position for you that can be beneficial to your work experience in the future. At Campbell, for example, I write for the newspaper and help distribute it when it comes out.

Getting an on-campus job can be beneficial in many ways. Where do YOU work at your school?

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.


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Deciding to Double Major or Minor

by Katlyn Clark

Going to college is a huge decision to make but choosing a major can be an even harder choice! You may seem a bit confused about what to major in but whatever you do, I have always heard not to remain “Undecided” for too long. Go ahead and major in a subject that catches your interest...but what happens if you cannot decide between two majors? Double up!

College students have the option to double major or add a minor to their course of study. I knew that when I decided to major in communication studies with a concentration in journalism that I wanted to minor in marketing as well: It gives me sort of a back-up plan if journalism does not work out for me. I also have a greater chance to combine my two majors in my future career since they relate to each other.

The perks of double majoring are enticing but the additional credit requirements could alter your progress toward graduation. I know several students with double majors and minors and though this decision may translate into a later graduation date, they chose this path because they wanted to pursue all fields they are passionate about.

As I was selecting the college I would eventually attend, I told my parents that I was going to pick up a minor in addition to my major field of study. If this sounds like your plan, check with the colleges you’re considering to see if you have the opportunity to double major or pursue a minor along with your major of choice. It will be helpful in the long run!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.


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