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New Semester, New Goals

January 5, 2012

New Semester, New Goals

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that you've had some time to spend some time with your family, eat all those holiday delicacies or just unwind, it's just about time for another semester! Since starting a new semester can be daunting, here are several tips you can follow:

First, make sure you order your books at least a week before the semester starts, preferably sooner if you're ordering them online. While Amazon's two-day shipping for college students is great for procrastinators, your books may not be in stock if you wait too long.

Next, make sure you're not taking too many credits. While taking 18 credits a semester may seem like a great idea when you think about how quickly you'll finish your degree, you’ll burn out fast (especially if you have a job...or two). As we've heard a million times, slow and steady wins the race and your GPA will almost certainly be a lot stronger and college will be more enjoyable if you adopt a more moderate pace.

Finally, take advantage of campus resources. As overwhelming as college can feel at times, it's easy to forget that there are all kinds of people who are more than willing to help. From math lab to writing lab to academic counselors, there's no shortage of people who understand what you're going through and can offer great advice. Besides, you're paying top dollar for your tuition so you might as well get your money's worth and use these resources!

If you still feel crazed after reading these tips, remember that you won't be in college for the rest of your life. Sometimes we forget about the eventual rewards of hard work. It may take more time than we'd like but hard work will pay off in the end.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Is College Right for You?

April 30, 2012

Is College Right for You?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

If you had to guess, what percentage of students start college and actually finish it? According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 46 percent of students who started college earned degrees in 2010. Hefty student loans and interest rates, stress and being academically unprepared are amongst the many reasons college drop-outs cite; some students report being as much as $50,000 in debt before graduation with no viable means of paying it off.

Given this info, it’s really important that you consider if college is right for you before applying, especially if the field you’re thinking about going into doesn’t require a degree. There are still plenty of great job opportunities for people who think college may not be for them, including air traffic control and locomotive engineering. That’s not to say, however, that a college degree is overrated. According to a study conducted by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor’s degree holders earn 84 percent more than high school graduates during their lifetimes. And while there are still plenty of jobs that don’t require a degree, virtually every employer will prefer a college graduate over a high school graduate.

My goal here is not to discourage anyone from attending college; instead, I want to present both sides of the argument so that you can commit 100 percent to furthering your education or, alternatively, seek out a job that doesn’t require a degree. It’s better to recognize now that you won’t be able to commit to college than be forced to drop out and pay back $50,000 in student loans later. No matter which path you choose, one thing’s for sure: You’ll have to work hard if you want to succeed!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Recently, The New York Times revealed that two studies have shown that many community colleges wrongly place students in remedial classes. The main reason why this happens is because students are placed according to their standardized test scores, rather than their cumulative GPAs – in other words, students are forced to pay for classes they don't receive college credit for and, if not for one less-than-hoped-for standardized test score, wouldn't even have to take otherwise! Consequently, students forced to take these remedial classes may experience lower self-esteem than their peers, fail to graduate on time and have to work significantly harder (both at work and at school) to afford these additional classes. In short, having to take unnecessary remedial classes has the potential to make college much more difficult than it needs to be.

All of these problems could be alleviated if community colleges (and state and private universities, for that matter) placed students based on their cumulative high school GPAs. After all, GPA is determined by years of hard work, whereas standardized tests are based on (at most) several months of preparation. And while we obviously can't use the excuse, "I don't test well" every time our test scores leave something to be desired, we should also keep in mind that one test does not (and should not) determine our academic futures.

If you or someone you know is having to take unnecessary remedial classes (e.g., you earned a B in high school calculus but didn't do as well on the standardized test), don't be afraid to talk to someone in admissions about your concerns. While changes rarely go into effect right away, faculty will listen if more students question the emphasis on standardized tests over cumulative GPA. Just make sure you're polite and discuss your concerns logically and calmly!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Will You Be a Perpetual Student?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I first started attending college in 2009, there was nothing I wanted more than to graduate...fast. But now that I’m about to receive my B.A. in English Professional Writing in December, the idea of graduating terrifies me. What if I can’t find a job? What if the so-called “real world” isn’t as glorious as I imagined it? And what if I do find a job but I don’t get to use my writing skills?

But even in my darkest moments, I’ve never considered being a perpetual student like Michael Nicholson, a 71-year-old man from Michigan who is working on his 30th college degree – a master’s in criminal justice. While I admire his extreme dedication and patience, I personally don’t want to spend the rest of my life paying for college or facing the dreaded “Sorry, you’re overqualified for this job.”

With that said, I think that if going to school makes Michael happy, then he should continue to do just that. After working numerous menial jobs, going to college probably makes him feel more productive...and there’s no doubt that he’s more broadly educated than most of us will ever be. His degrees range from home economics to psychology, and an astounding 22 of them are master’s degrees! So, while I can understand why some people feel that perpetual students are determined to avoid responsibility, I think that as a retired septuagenarian who has worked his whole life, Michael has more than earned the right to do as he pleases. And having talked with classmates who are even more terrified of graduating than I am, I think that there are more people who would prefer to remain students than face the “real world” than we’d like to admit.

So, what’s the answer? Like everything in life, I think the key is balance. Most of us (due to financial and time constraints) can’t afford to pursue 30 degrees but we can make the most of our time in college by doing internships, maintaining high GPAs and going to graduate school if our dream job requires it. What path will YOU take?

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Earning Money AND Experience for College!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that the semester is well underway, now might be a good time to start thinking about next semester, especially if you're worried about paying tuition. It’s not exactly a secret that college costs are continuing to rise so it’s in your best interest to find a job which will a) help you defray these expenses and b) pay a decent hourly wage. Admittedly, I thought a job which fulfills both those requirements was too much to ask for in this economy, and so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about Education at Work.

Education at Work is an organization which requires you to be a college student and rewards your academic endeavors with tuition assistance and a competitive salary. Sure, you won’t make a ton more money than you would at a more traditional customer service job but you wouldn’t be going to college in the first place if you did, right? Plus, Education at Work supports a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, cable TV, utilities and more, giving even the pickiest of college students a chance to find a career which suits their interests. And of course, maintaining a job through Education at Work looks great on a résumé, as it shows future employers that you were committed to finishing your education from the start.

To apply for a position through Education at Work, click here to tell the organization more about your skills and complete a phone audition and typing test to ensure your customer skills are up to snuff. Make sure to block out about 45 minutes to complete the assessment in a private setting – after all, you don’t want to do a voice audition at a library! Education at Work positions are highly sought after so if you’re interested, apply today!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Devices That Make Students’ Lives Easier

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Between all-nighters, being away from family and having to balance work and school, going to college can be trying at the worst of times. Fortunately, a variety of gadgets designed to save you time, relieve stress and make your life easier in general are available online and at a store near you.

Let’s start off with the backpack scooter, like this one from Glyde Gear. This quirky contraption is just what it sounds like: a rolling backpack with a retractable skate platform. You can roll it, skate on it or carry it like you would a normal backpack. Seeing this kind of backpack reminded me of when I visited a few campuses in Hawaii and California, where many students got from class to class on longboards while carrying backpacks. While the backpack scooter may not look as cool as a longboard, it’s definitely a lot less cumbersome.

Next up is a portable espresso maker. With this product (check out this one from Handpresso), you can enjoy hot cappuccino, espresso, Americano and latte without electricity: All you need is some hot water and an Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pod. If you’re the type who waits until the night before a test to start studying, you might want to snag one of these gadgets to get your caffeine fix.

Last but not least is a laptop lock. Laptop theft is unfortunately as rampant as ever but using a laptop lock goes a long way towards deterring potential thieves. These devices (Kensington makes them as well as a number of other companies) connect to the security slots in laptops using ultra-durable T-bar locks. The lock itself is attached to a carbon steel cable, which can be secured to your desk.

Though money can’t buy your GPA, it can help you buy these and other gadgets to make your time as a college student just a little bit easier.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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You Can Get a Scholarship for THAT?!

Students Seeking Money for College Should Consider These Non-Traditional Awards

September 11, 2012

You Can Get a Scholarship for THAT?!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Like many students, you’re probably wondering how on Earth you’re going to pay for another semester of college, especially if you’ve either a) missed the deadline for your school’s scholarships or b) don’t feel like writing an essay, filling out forms, etc. But fear not: There are plenty of less traditional scholarships available throughout the year. And let me tell you, some of the scholarships out there are strange.

To illustrate what I mean, take a look at the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship. This scholarship is specifically for students studying parapsychology, the study of near-death experience, psychic powers, reincarnation and more. I had no idea you could get a scholarship in parapsychology, let alone major in it!

Equally bizarre is the Gatling Scholarship at North Carolina State University. This scholarship requires that your last name be Gatling or Gatlin (no other variations will be considered) in honor of North Carolinian entrepreneur John Gatling. And no, you can’t legally change your last name to be considered for this scholarship – a copy of your birth certificate is required.

And since we’ve all heard about students who get scholarships based solely on their sports performance, here’s one to level the playing field for the less athletically inclined: the Gertrude J. Deppen Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded at Bucknell University in varying amounts each year to students who not only do not participate in strenuous athletic contests but also abstain from tobacco, liquor and narcotics. I don’t know about you but this is the first time I’ve heard of a scholarship which awards you for not doing something!

So, while some of the scholarship deadlines may have already passed, remember that there are hundreds, even thousands of other scholarships and grants out there. And if you have your heart set on one scholarship but the application deadline has already passed, at least now you’ll have months to prepare for it. Good luck!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Easy Ways to Get the Job You Want

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Students around the country are finishing up finals, breathing the sweet scent of fresh summer air...and figuring out ways to pay for food and “Avengers” tickets this summer. Whether it’s a high-powered investment banking internship or making coffee at your favorite hipster hangout, finding a summer job is incredibly competitive but here are a few simple (though easy to overlook) tips that make you a stronger candidate.

First, do your research before making contact with a potential employer. Know what the company does, what your potential job entails and the names of most major staff members (including everyone you would potentially be working with/under). Now don’t be creepy – just because you recognize someone doesn’t mean you should shout out their high school GPA and prom date’s name (you’d be horrified what people can find on Google) – but use the info to tailor in-person and written responses to be relevant to what they’re interested in adding to the company. I recommend Glassdoor.com for good insider information on popular companies.

Second, take what you learned about Google and search yourself! I guarantee you that many potential employers are doing just that, as well as looking at your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. (You can probably leave your unupdated-since-2005 MySpace alone – even employers don’t care about that anymore.) I know I sound like a parent but I cannot stress enough that you should improve your privacy settings on everything. Worst case scenario, your employer doesn’t use search engines and you’ve frustrated that dude from freshman year algebra who still looks at your pictures. Best case scenario, potential employers won’t see that “awesome” happy hour/prank/streaking incident.

Finally, remember the benefits of networking. I know I’ve always felt embarrassed about using a friend or acquaintance to find a position – it feels like my achievement is less real – but a job is what you put into it, not how you get it. Talk to as many people as possible about your goals, set up informational interviews and even shadow someone for a day. Take friends or family members up on every opportunity – it feels like nepotism but they might be seeing something in you that would be an asset to their company. Don’t turn anything down just because you didn’t apply on Monster.

What’s that? You followed these tips and got the job? Great! Just don’t forget to take a minute to enjoy that feeling of success and achievement before you actually start working.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

In my last article, I talked a lot about language classes at school and how you can use those skills in your own cities. But honestly the best way to practice a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it so in this column, I’m going to talk about studying abroad – but cost effectively.

Like with real estate, the costs associated with studying abroad depend on location, location, location. While your parents didn’t have a lot of study abroad options outside Europe, the world is changing and becoming more global every day; by changing that dream European vacation into a jaunt to a different continent, you can save a lot of money and have a unique experience. I studied abroad here in Buenos Aires, which at the time was about $10,000 cheaper than an equivalent program I could have done in Barcelona. Plus, my study abroad program was about a month and a half longer, meaning I had a lot more cultural immersion than I would have had with the program in Spain.

Also, think about if you really need the college credits you’ll get abroad. If you can just go for a summer and give up the academic courses or if you’re ahead on credits and can take a semester off, it might be worth it to check out volunteering abroad programs aimed at young people. Generally, the prices are significantly lower for a few months of building houses than for university classes; however, the experience is very different than taking university classes with native students (which is what I did...and loved) so think about what you’re really looking for in an abroad experience before choosing.

Finally, there are ways to actually make money while you’re studying abroad! Many countries are looking for English teachers and it’s worth checking out expatriate websites to see if anyone needs a babysitter who is a native English speaker. Similarly, if your language skills are good enough, there are lots of translation jobs out there – just check Craigslist like I did!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

by Mariah Proctor

A good study abroad program is designed to seamlessly integrate the graded classes into the active, living experience so that the two aspects don’t find themselves in conflict. That is the hope but, as my roommate will tell you through frustrated tears, that is not always the way it goes down.

You’ve got to feel for the professors – they are often experts on the place you are visiting and they look into the blank, ignorant and often not properly appreciative eyes of their students and want to tell you everything there is to know to make you see what they see. Your average student, however, cannot synthesize all of that new information while simultaneously managing a new climate, new customs and money that, it turns out, is not Monopoly money and actually does deplete your savings as you spend it. All of this while trying to have a completely carefree, time-of-your-life, otherworldly good time? It can’t be done.

My advice is to forget the classes. Don’t misinterpret my meaning: Be the person who goes to class, is present in body and mind, takes in everything they can, inhales knowledge the way they inhale gelato and fancy pasta outside of class. It truly will add depth to the place. If you’re the person who is a perfect GPA, point-pinching, anxiety-ridden, stress cadet that thinks that excelling in the classroom will make you excellent as a person, studying abroad will break you.

Do as well as you can and keep up on your classwork but if you have to choose between an evening in studying or going to the opening event of the world’s largest international dance festival downtown, choose the dancing. If you can either finish some back reading for class or go to a procession celebrating Corpus Christi, don’t let a textbook literally rain on your parade. I know it will be hard but please when you prioritize, remember not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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