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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

by Kara Coleman

You probably saw the title of this blog post and thought, “Oh, I know what this is going to say. Take AP classes, get involved in extracurriculars, etc.” But there are a few other not-so-obvious things that you can do to increase the chances of getting into your dream school:

Update your resume. Each time you win an award, get elected to an office in a club/organization or get any sort of recognition, let your potential college(s) know about it. That way, they have a full list of your accomplishments when you graduate from high school.

Hook up with the college community online. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow your dream school(s), their sports teams, drama department or anything else that might interest you to keep up with what goes on there during the school year.

Send a handwritten thank you note. After you go for your official campus visit, send a handwritten (not typed!) thank you note to your tour guide or, if you had an interview, your admissions counselor. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the attention they showed you that day.

Show them that you’re genuinely interested. College admissions can sort of be like dating: Admissions officers want to make sure that you are interested in them before they commit to you. Imagine yourself as a student at that school and express a sincere interest in the goings-on there: If you don’t have a 100-percent interest in a particular school, take it off your list of potential colleges.

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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Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

Not-Your-Average College Majors and the Schools That Offer Them

June 11, 2012

Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

by Kara Coleman

What are you majoring in? Business? Nursing? Psychology? I’ve been scouring the Internet for some cool and crazy college majors so if you’re having second thoughts about your curriculum of choice, consider switching to one of these:

  • Home Economics. Yep, you can actually attend college and get a degree in home economics. Idaho State University offers this degree, with courses in interior design, nutrition and meal management.
  • Comic Book Art. The ultimate nerd degree can be obtained from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. To get this BFA, students focus not only on actually drawing comics but on plot and character development, publishing in both print and web forms and, the coup de grâce – an advanced comic art seminar.
  • Motorsports Management. You can travel to the heart of NASCAR country to pursue this degree. Winston-Salem State University’s website states that “WSSU is the only four-year university in the country and the only Historically Black College and University to offer a Bachelor of Science degree program in motorsports management.” Classes include sponsorship, public relations and mass media, and operational logistics; an internship in the field of motorsports is required before graduation.
  • Folklore and Mythology. If you are an honor student at Harvard and have always dreamed of attending Hogwarts, you can get pretty close. This Ivy offers a degree in Folklore and Mythology from a wide variety of cultures including Celtic, Scandinavian, Japanese and African. One featured class is “Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature,” where students read books by Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm and, yes, J.K. Rowling.

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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Ten Schools Banned from NCAA Basketball Tournament

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 10 schools were banned from participating in the 2012-2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament for failure to meet academic standards: Arkansas - Pine Bluff, Cal State - Bakersfield, California - Riverside, Connecticut, Jacksonville State, Mississippi Valley State, UNC Wilmington, Texas A & M - Corpus Christi, Toledo and Towson.

The NCAA rates teams according to their Academic Progress Rate, in which a team is viewed as a whole and its performance in the classroom is evaluated. If a team’s APR score falls to 925 or below and at least one player fails his classes and drops out of school, that school can lose scholarships. If the APR sinks down to 900, the penalties grow steeper and they increase each year that the team falls below par. Being declared ineligible for NCAA postseason play is a result of scoring 900 or below for three years. If the APR remains low for a fourth year, the entire athletic department is penalized. The school loses its Division 1 status and is reduced to “restricted membership status” in the NCAA.

Is this fair or too extreme? I’m not saying this just because my school – Jacksonville State – is on the naughty list, but I’m not sure that I completely agree with the NCAA’s punishment. If a student-athlete fails to perform academically, he should lose his scholarship, be suspended from the team, etc. But the players who make good grades, the coaches, and the fans should not be punished for the underperformance of the few. College students are adults – it’s up to each individual to study and work hard.

But what do YOU think? Is the NCAA spot-on with its academic standards and penalties, or does something need to change?

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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How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

by Kara Coleman

For my final Scholarships.com article, I was supposed to write about things homeschooled students can to do adjust to college whether they are living at home and commuting or moving to campus. As I sat holding my pen and staring at a blank piece of paper, however, all I could think about was how homeschooling actually helped better prepare me for college!

Homeschooling taught me how to study and pursue knowledge for myself. One of the top complaints I heard from my peers when I tutored at community college was that they didn’t really know how to study. I was not fed information via lecture when I was growing up – as a kid, my mom and I spent a lot of time reading and learning together and by the time I was in high school, Mom would give me my assignments and I would research and write about them myself.

This approach to education also helped me to think for myself and form my own opinions. My parents taught me to hold my beliefs and convictions to everything my professors tell me and to not be swayed by popular opinion. This sort of critical thinking led me to pursue and accept leadership positions when I began attending college, including editor-in-chief of my school paper and a member of the SGA Cabinet.

Time management is an important lesson that many students learn for the first time in college but I was able to learn how to juggle studying, extracurricular activities and a part-time job during my senior year of high school. In short, homeschooling more than prepared me for college life. If you were homeschooled and are preparing to attend college for the first time this semester, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can take what you’ve learned at home and apply it to your college experience. Let me know if I’m right!

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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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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Stress-Free Study Time? It DOES Exist!

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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Helpful Study Sites

July 26, 2011

Helpful Study Sites

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

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


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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Education vs. Experience

October 17, 2011

Education vs. Experience

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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


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