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Challenging Yourself in High School Has Vast Future Rewards

by Julius Clayborn

I began my high school career at EXCEL-Orr High School but quickly realized the school was not doing enough to prepare me for post-secondary success. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to Urban Prep Academy and though my collegiate dreams were now within reach, the transition was not easy. I was met with much opposition and had multiple run-ins with many of the students. I was torn: Here I had this great opportunity but these external factors were taking an academic and emotional toll on me. I began to regret transferring and eventually regret school altogether.

Luckily, I found solace in my extracurricular activities such as debate and youth activism club. These things helped me realize my full potential and made me believe that there was something greater in store for me. Transferring quickly went from the worst decision I had ever made to the best, especially when it came time to start applying to colleges. Initially, I saw more challenges – Will I get in? Can I afford tuition? – but my worries were put to rest just as fast: We had an entire class period dedicated to college preparation and the application process, which is where I found out about the site you’re reading right now. Not only did I get accepted to a fantastic school, I also received enough scholarships and grants to pay for it.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with your high school’s curriculum, don’t sit idly by: Challenge yourself by taking harder courses or transfer, like I did. It may be difficult at first but any struggle will be well worth it in the future.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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by Julius Clayborn

I celebrated my 20th birthday this past year with cake, candles...and tears! Though they were more so tears of shock than sadness – I could not believe I was now going to be considered a "twenty-something" – I had to come to terms with the reality of no longer being a teenager. This also meant I had to address the imminent future and the work and real world responsibilities I would soon be faced with. I knew that I wasn't ready for my life to be filled with such things; I couldn't even remember to go to my professor's office hours (which she repeated over and over again) let alone remember to complete bigger tasks that would inevitably accompany adulthood!

I felt really confused and alone during this period of introspection because everyone else seemed to be handling adulthood just fine. But upon blurting out the absurdity of not wanting to grow older being afraid of what lies ahead, I soon discovered some of my classmates felt the same way. We realized that we weren't so much afraid of aging, but of not knowing what was next to come: We were uncertain about our futures, we didn't know what jobs we would obtain (or if we'd even get hired right after graduation), we didn’t know where we'd live and if we'd live up to expectations. That uncertainty was what resided at the crux of our fears.

What I've come to understand is that no one is ever completely sure. And I feel like life is kind of supposed to be that way...unpredictable and full of surprises. If we knew how everything was supposed to be already, there would be no growth. And with no growth, there is no learning. Now I embrace the unknown. In fact, I welcome it with open arms because I am positive that come what may, I will be stronger, wiser and better because of it.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He is currently in his junior year at Cornell University, where he is an English major with a minor in Africana Studies.


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Managing Pre-Freshman Jitters

by Julius Clayborn

Lately, I’ve been searching far and wide for Neverland – a place where I don’t have to grow older, a place where I can evade responsibility, a place where I can avoid the looming anxiety of college, a place in which to find solace from the fear of independence.

Having never been away from home for such an extended period of time, there are a few qualms I have with starting college, a pivotal chapter in my life. The first one is, well, being away! There will be tons of new people in a totally new setting. Will I be able to manage? Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many people about this issue and they assure me that it’s not as horrid as it may seem. The feelings between me and the rest of the incoming freshmen will be completely mutual. That’s actually the beauty of the situation: Everyone’s just as afraid as you are, therefore just as vulnerable. This vulnerability will, in fact, make meeting people a much easier process because everyone will be wide-eyed, open-minded and ready to build relationships.

Another thing that concerns me is the workload. The sheer thought of being bombarded with 20-page papers and getting no sleep gives me nightmares! Though, the advice I’ve been given in regards to this problem assures me that I am being much too dramatic. My uncle eased this fear by telling me that though multiple page papers are an inevitable part of being a college student, unreasonable demands will not be put upon college freshmen right away as they're still trying to maneuver their way through a college campus.

After discussing my college concerns with a few different people, I’m glad that much of my anxiety is starting to dissipate. I think I’ll put that trip to Neverland on hold and fly to my college campus instead. The growth I experience there won’t be something I have to fear and in the end, I’ll be happy that I made the decision to grow up.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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The Day I Discovered the Library

by Julius Clayborn

With my bed, refrigerator and everything else I could imagine within my reach, I thought my dorm room was the perfect study environment and I never explored other places on campus to review course material because I valued the comfort that my own space provided. As soon as I would begin my study sessions, however, I quickly became distracted by the very things that put me at ease. I would always conveniently end up sleeping the afternoon away for what I told myself would be only an hour-long nap.

I soon realized that my room was acting as a big hindrance to my academic performance and I knew I had to do something about it...fast. I had heard other students talk about this mystical place – a place on Cornell's campus that held all sorts of things like books, encyclopedias and, most importantly, quiet study spaces. I became curious as to where this place was and finally found my way there. Lo and behold, it was...the library! Once I sat down and studied, I saw the benefits immediately. The low volume really helped me to concentrate and the overall mellowness of the space worked in my favor. I covered so much more material and I was that much more prepared for class the next day. After I changed my study habits up and became more acquainted with the library, I saw a boost in my academic performance and had fewer stressful nights.

Convenience can come in all sorts of places so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Now, I make more of an effort to tap into all of the things that I have been missing out on on campus; I'm so glad the library was one of them.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping into books during his spare time. He is a freshman at Cornell University, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

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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Why I Changed My Minor

March 21, 2012

Why I Changed My Minor

by Kara Coleman

I am always curious as to why students choose to minor in the areas that they do. Sometimes, minors complement majors but at other times, the connection between the two is not so obvious.

I have always loved to read and write – I was an English major during my time at Gadsden State Community College – so when it came time for me to transfer to a four-year university, I knew that I wanted to major in communications. Since I already had several lit classes under my belt from my time at Gadsden State, I decided to declare English as my minor. A couple of weeks ago, however, halfway through my junior year, I decided to change my minor.

While minoring in English certainly seemed like the practical way to go because I have to take many more classes, I weighed my options and decided to minor in creative writing instead. Although changing my minor has added a whole semester of classes to the work I have to do before I graduate, taking writing classes will allow me to further hone my writing skills. Since I want to write for a living instead of read poetry, creative writing was definitely the way to go for me.

What is your minor and why did you decide to pursue it? Before you graduate, ask yourself: Are the skills I’m acquiring while working on my minor going to help me with my overall career plans? Did I choose my minor because it’s something that I enjoy, even though it may not have a direct connection to my major? Decide for yourself what would be best for you in the long run when you select your minor...and keep in mind you always have the option to double minor!

This past summer, 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 also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, 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 also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Staying Sharp Over the Summer

by Kara Coleman

Thousands of college students across the country have been making their way home from school to spend the summer relaxing and taking a break from studying. But how do you keep from forgetting everything you’ve learned throughout the academic year? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Rack up the credit hours. The most obvious way to keep your study skills sharp over summer break is to not take a break at all. Most schools offer summer classes – some full-term, some mini-mesters and some online. Even just taking one class during the summer can be good for your brain.
  • Hit the books. While lounging poolside this summer, why not do a little reading? You don’t necessarily have to tackle War and Peace, but try for something a little deeper than Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly. Visit GoodReads.com to browse books in any genre and find something that will keep you turning pages all summer long!
  • Help someone else. I spent last summer tutoring two eighth-grade girls. Even though we just worked through pre-algebra books together, it really helped the girls to remember all that they had learned and it was a great brain booster for me, too!
  • Just play. Whether you're right-brained or left-brained, puzzle games are a fun way to keep your mind active. Sudoku – a wordless crossword puzzle that involves the numbers 1-9 – is available in book form as well as via download on Kindle. Also available for free via Kindle is Grid Detective, a game where players unscramble words.

How do you choose to keep those brain juices flowing over the summer? Let us know what works for you!

This past summer, 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 also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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