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To Charge or Not to Charge?

September 13, 2011

To Charge or Not to Charge?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

“Just charge it.”

I'm willing to bet that you’ve been in a store and heard that phrase. Even if you haven't, you’ve probably been bombarded with letters asking you if you'd like to lower your interest rates, encountered representatives hawking credit cards (and complimentary t-shirts!) on the quad or heard of people who have racked up thousands of dollars in debt from recklessly swiping their plastic.

While handling a credit card involves a lot of responsibility, the good news is that it comes with plenty of perks as well. Citibank, for example, offers a Visa card just for college students and has a system of reward points to boot. Depending on your GPA, you can earn anywhere from 250 to 2,000 ThankYou Points just for doing well in your classes. You also get points for making your payments on time, which is a great incentive not to skip payments or only pay the minimum and accrue unnecessary interest penalties. You even earn five times as many points at restaurants, bookstores and more. So, while textbooks aren't exactly cheap, just remember that you're being partially reimbursed every time you use your credit card to buy them.

In a larger sense, using a credit card responsibly also helps students to establishing a good credit score. The higher this number is, the better your chances are of being accepted for a loan on your dream car or house. Lenders will see that you are not a liability and will be more likely to provide you with the funds needed to reach your goals.

If you're still not sold on getting a credit card, that's okay. There's plenty of time to establish credit after college. For those of you considering a credit card, though, just remember to spend responsibly and make your payments as promptly as possible.

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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Librarians: The Ultimate Research Aid

by Lisa Lowdermilk

I was working on a research paper recently and spent hours scouring the web for the answer to a question one of my teachers had asked. I didn't know about “Ask a Librarian” then but if I did, I would have saved myself a lot of time and frustration.

What is “Ask a Librarian” you wonder? Basically, it's a site hosted by Florida State University where a live person – a real-life librarian, in fact! – answers your questions. In today's world of automated answering services, it's great to have access to a resource like this one...plus, it's free!

You start off by typing in your name, email address, subject (they include psychology, business, music, politics and many more) and the question you want an answer to. So far, so good? Next, you must provide some background information regarding your question so that the librarian understands the context of your question and how you will use the information. For example, telling the librarian that you need to know how photosynthesis works for a specific experiment you're conducting (and explaining the experiment in detail) is more effective than just telling the librarian that you need to more about photosynthesis. You also have the option of telling the librarian which sources you've already consulted so that he/she doesn't waste his/her time and yours by returning the same results. Just make sure you don't wait until the night before your paper is due, as it typically takes three days for a librarian to get back to you through this service.

Waited until the last minute, did you? It happens to all of us now and again so in this case, ask your school librarian for help. Discussing your issue much easier in person and eliminates the back and forth (and potential misunderstandings) of email as well. Even if you’re not pressed for time, find a librarian and pick their brain – most will be more than willing to help you out!

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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Cool (and Helpful) Study Gadgets

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that summer is coming to an end and the fall semester is underway, you might be wondering if there's anything you can do to make studying for your classes easier. While money can't buy everything, it can buy you a couple of cool study-related gadgets.

First off are smartpens like the Livescribe Echo. These babies let you record entire lectures and go straight to a specific portion just by tapping a word from your notes! Just think how much easier your life would be if you could actually focus on listening to the lecture the first time around instead of frantically scribbling notes to make sure you don't miss anything.

If you're like me and find music helps you concentrate while studying, consider buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. How many times have you been forced to study in a crowded room and don't have access to somewhere quieter? If the answer is “Too many,” invest in a pair immediately. Even if you don't listen to music while studying, you can use the device to replay a lecture or listen to a study aid you found online.

Finally, if you've ever copied a passage from a book word-for-word into your notes and ended up with a cramped hand, the portable wand scanner is for you. Not only does this snazzy gadget prevent you from having to lug a scanner to class, it's pretty easy to use: All you do is wave it over the page you want and hook it up to your computer using a USB cable. Just like magic, everything you scanned is now on your computer! The VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand is even compatible with SD cards – ta da!

So, while the Studybot has yet to be invented to do all your studying for you, these gadgets can make studying a lot less painful.

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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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I'm getting ready to start a new semester, one of my first thoughts is “What should I expect from my teachers?” Are they going to be nitpicky or are they going to grade most of my assignments on effort?

Obviously, most teachers are somewhere in between these extremes. Regardless, sites like RateMyProfessors.com and ProfessorPerformance.com can be helpful in determining what your teachers will be like. RateMyProfessors.com, for example, lets students rank teachers in several categories, including easiness, clarity and helpfulness. Unsurprisingly, teachers who are more lenient when it comes to grading tend to rank higher than those who dock you for forgetting to dot your i’s and cross your t's. After all, most students prefer classes where they get an A without much effort to ones where they barely scrape by with a C.

That's why it's crucial to take everything you read on professor rating sites with a grain of salt. Remember, these reviews are just other students' opinions. At the same time, though, I do think students should be allowed to express their opinions if (and only if) their comments are informative and provide constructive criticism rather than outright flaming. It's not surprising that many professors are against these sites – some students criticize irrelevant details, such as the way their professor dressed – but fortunately, off-topic or hurtful comments are few and far between and the majority of ratings on RateMyProfessors.com are positive. As such, these sites can be a valuable tool for prospective students if used in the way they were intended: to provide an informed opinion.

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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There's a Club for That, Too!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you're getting ready to start another school year and are looking for a way to make your college experience more rewarding. You know you can join clubs but none of the traditional ones pique your interest...until one – The Squirrel Club – practically jumps off the page. Hold on...there's a club for that? As it turns out, there are dozens more clubs on the list that you didn't even know existed!

Colleges have all sorts of clubs for you to choose from, some of which are a bit weird to say the least. In addition to the aforementioned Squirrel Club, there's also the Concrete Canoe Club and the Campus People Watchers Club. Here’s some info on each.

The Squirrel Club at the University of Michigan has members come together to feed peanuts to squirrels and discuss ways to protect the welfare of the furry-tailed critters. The club has more than 400 members and continues to expand each school year.

The Concrete Canoe Club at the University of Wisconsin is an engineering major's dream. The ultimate test of members' canoe building prowess comes in the form of an annual race which took place in Evansville, Indiana this past June. I never would have believed it possible for concrete to float until I heard about this club!

Campus People Watchers at the University of Minnesota is for the more observant students on campus. Members literally observe the habits of people on campus, report their findings on various subcultures and even analyze people from a psychological perspective. For such a seemingly unorthodox club, Campus People Watchers is surprisingly structured and educational. Just remember this club does not give you permission to stalk other students. Save that for Facebook.

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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Not-Your-Average Application Essay Prompts

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you have your heart set on one college and you're about to write your application essay. The prompt is “If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk?” Wait...what? Believe it or not, this really is a prompt from the University of Chicago, an institution famous for strange essay prompts designed to make the process of applying to college less painful.

Of course, strange questions like UChicago's may have the opposite effect – a more stressful application process – on some people. C’mon, how many of us have really given thought to what landscape we'd like to walk over when balancing on a tightrope? I know I haven't and I doubt anyone who’s afraid of heights has ever or will ever consider the answer, either, but the point of this question is to show just how unique you really are. Colleges receive thousands of applications from hopeful students each year and it stands to reason that reading that many essays on a less interesting topic gets pretty tedious.

That's why questions like UChicago’s are so useful: They force applicants to come up with a unique answer. Are you thinking about majoring in oceanography? If so, you might say that nothing would calm your nerves like walking over the coastline and hearing the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. Are you more of a bookworm considering a major in library science? Maybe walking over stacks of books and thinking about how your favorite characters had to face trials even worse than walking a tightrope would help you keep your balance.

Since no two essays on such weird prompts as the one listed above will be the same – and if they are, you’ve got some explaining to do! – you might as well take advantage of your opportunity to shine!

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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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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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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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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