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by Agnes Jasinski

A Web site that aims to help more Hispanics graduate from four-year colleges has kicked off a research campaign to find out about those students' perspectives on higher education to make services for them more effective.

Latinosincollege.com will offer the survey, designed with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, for the next few months on their site. The questions, which target high school, college and MBA students, explore students' thought processes in choosing careers, whether they apply for scholarships and how many receive them, and where they seek out their career advice. Also included are questions specific to students' experiences as Hispanics, namely how they feel about assimilating and maintaining their identities post-high school. The site's founder Mariela Dabbah said she hopes the results will make it easier for outside organizations to find more ways to help Hispanic students succeed in college and the workplace.

The site is geared toward the college-bound with blogs by educators and high school and college students, a resource guide that includes posts on topics like leadership development, managing a social life, money and time in college, and being the first in the family to attend college. Students also have access to other students and professionals, with "Ambassadors" responding to questions. The Ambassadors, who mentor high school students applying to college, attend youth workshops to learn about issues and concerns on the minds of those pursuing a higher education.

Dabbah came up with the site as a response to her own experiences looking for a job as an immigrant from Argentina and the lack of information for a population that she felt was being underserved. According to the site, Hispanic students have the highest high school dropout rate of any group at 50 percent and a college enrollment rate of 20 percent. A study done several years ago by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that although the number of Hispanics going to college was slowly rising due in part to the rapidly growing population, they were still half as likely to finish their bachelor's degrees as white students.

Joan Sotero Alvarez, a blogger on the site and assistant principal in the Progreso Independent School District in Texas, struggled to earn his bachelor's degree. He felt the pressure as the first in his family to finish college, resulting in several failed attempts at the state's entrance exam. Eventually, he was not only a successful undergraduate, but completed a master's degree as well. Today, he mentors students in Texas and Mexico who are at risk of dropping out of school. "I don't see failure in my students; I see hope," he says.


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by Agnes Jasinski

High school students now have more proof that it's as hard to get into college as they think it is. A study released this week titled "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition" looked at the record number of students applying to the country's top colleges and the decrease in admission rates at those schools.

Not surprisingly, the "most pronounced increases in competition" were in the Northeast - New Jersey, Rhode Island, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York - where the most prestigious schools are located. The number of applicants accepted there fell by about 25 percent between 1986 and 2003. But competition has also increased everywhere else. Between 1972 and 2004, there was a 9 percent decrease in admission rates to four-year colleges.

The study, done by scholars from Harvard University and the University of Michigan for the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at potential reasons for the numbers. Students have become more competitive on their own, taking more AP classes and upper-level math courses, and the sheer number of applicants for the same number of slots at colleges has contributed to the frenzy.

So is this good or bad?

The study suggests that students are getting more stressed than anything else. Among those applying to the most selective colleges, more students are doing homework for 10 hours or more per week. But the majority are spending less time on homework than studying for and taking standardized tests. More students are taking both the ACT and SAT, multiple times. (The results of the latest batch of SAT-takers shows a drop in two points, according to the College Board.) Students are also applying to more colleges than ever before, perhaps a reflection of more schools using common online applications and the pressure to get into the most competitive schools.

One good trend coming out of the data and contributing to a more competitive applicant pool is the higher number of female applicants in recent years compared to the 1970s when the study's research pool began, an article by Inside Higher Ed says. Overall, it seems intense competition is here to stay, and it may do well for high school students to look beyond the most competitive colleges and make decisions based on whether a school has the programs they're interested in pursuing instead.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Just about a decade ago now, e-mail addresses were created as a reflection of how cool you were, or how funny you could be within the constraints given by AOL or Yahoo!

Today, e-mail addresses are less a novelty than a necessity, used with everything from shopping online to applying to jobs. No one will deny you a scholarship or financial aid if you have a goofy e-mail address, but it's best to get an early start now before you enter into the job world. In a tough economy and competitive job market, something as simple as an e-mail address could drop your resume to the bottom of the pile, or worse, fail to get past the employer's spam filter. Potential new hires spend so much time crafting that perfect resume and paying extra to print it on the fancy paper that topping it off with PartyGrl124@email.com seems counterproductive.

I was an offender myself, and recall a great deal of anxiety surrounding that first e-mail address. I went with a variation of my birthday and a personal quality I believed I had, "funnie," spelled that way because the right way was already taken by another individual who believed they were just as funny. Once I discovered Gmail, I went with the straight first and last name combo, and the old e-mail address is probably still collecting spam somewhere. I was also blessed with a college e-mail address that I used to apply to internships or correspond with professors as an undergraduate, but as some colleges are no longer assigning freshmen their own e-mail addresses or run forwarding services; instead, many are left to their own devices.

More often than not employers now prefer that resumes and cover letters be e-mailed to them rather than sent through snail mail. So get yourself on a free email site and see what's available related to your actual name, like John.Smith@email.com or JohnSmith321@email.com. Even something as innocuous as showing your love for your pet or baseball or food (spaghettilover@email.com) could put off or even offend an employer. (What if they hate cats, the Cubs or spaghetti?) If you're trying to be funny, charming or original, you're probably trying too hard. Maybe it's not fair, or an example of e-mail discrimination. Or maybe a professional e-mail address makes you look more professional.

If you have a sentimental attachment to your old e-mail address or feel that the new, straightforward address infringes on your creative side, keep the old one as your personal address. If you want to change user names across the board, UserNameCheck.com will show you which names are taken and which are up for grabs.


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Twitter Goes to College

September 3, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

This fall, a group of journalism students at DePaul University will learn how to be even more concise with their news briefs. The Chicago school claims their new course "Digital Editing: From Breaking News to Tweets" will be the first class devoted to Twitter and how the new media tool has changed the way reporters do - and should do - their jobs.

According to the syllabus, the course will look at not only how Twitter can be used as a source for finding out about legitimate news events, but how to fact-check information gleaned from the microblogging site. The class, taught by Craig Kanalley, a DePaul alum and digital intern at the Chicago Tribune, will also explore the effects of citizen journalism and bloggers on the industry, Search Engine Optimization and basic WordPress.

The school's news release describes Twitter as a "major player" and source of breaking news information, citing citizen reporting on the Iranian election and the school's own students tweeting at President Obama's inauguration as examples of how the site has not only competed with the major news organizations, but at times beat them to the big story.

Is the school placing too much emphasis on Twitter as a news source? Maybe a whole class devoted to the subject seems silly. But it's safe to say Twitter has become a go-to for journalists following politicians, who post everything from their plans to host health care forums to what they purchased recently at farmers markets. There's no doubt new journalists need to be well-versed in not only Twitter but how social networking in general can supplement - not drive - their stories.

Twitter is also useful not only for writers, but for job seekers, public relations and marketing professionals or those promoting fledgling freelance careers. Professors use the site as another way to reach their students or promote new courses. A one-time course this fall at Harper College in Schaumburg, Ill., will look at what Facebook and Twitter can do from a business perspective. While I'm not sure how many people would buy into some academics' assertions that sites like Twitter improve students' writing, perhaps it's not as silly to think of an all-Twitter course at a university when you consider how it and sites like it have changed how people communicate.


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by Agnes Jasinski

With college football season underway, it's a good time for high school athletes starting their senior years to be making their decisions on whether they'll be pursuing sports on the college level. Athletic scholarships go a long way toward making those decisions easier, and even in a struggling economy, sports programs continue to set aside funding to better their teams. Better yet, even those who aren't the top soccer, baseball or tennis player on the roster are eligible for scholarship opportunities offered by local groups outside of the NCAA awards looking to reward students who balance their schoolwork with athletics.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune points to several tips for talented athletes in the market for scholarships, including making yourself known to coaches and schools early and often and making sure your grades are where they should be. Most athletic scholarships require a minimum GPA for eligibility, even if you're the star of your basketball team. And even if you do get that coveted sports scholarship, you'll be expected to maintain a decent GPA to be eligible for continued funding and a spot on the team. Student athletes should also keep an open mind about schools they're targeting. Big-name schools are much more competitive, and unless you're one of the top athletes in your field, they may offer much less play time even if you do make the team than smaller colleges outside of Division I. A college search is a good place to start to learn more about colleges offering your sports program.

It isn't easy to be recruited for a full ride at a top university. A strategy of more students recently has been specializing in one sport, or getting involved in sports outside of football, baseball and basketball that get less attention to stand out more in the competitive world of sports scholarships. New sports scholarships in fields like lacrosse, for example, are becoming more common, and with new scholarships, the competition is often much less fierce than with more popular, established award programs.

For those who excel in both sports and athletics, straight academic scholarships may prove to be a good option as well, especially if you're a good essay writer.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Suffolk University offers "Sacred Hoops, Sneaker Pimps, and Hoop Dreams: Race, Gender, and Consumerism in 20th Century American Basketball" through its Seminar for Freshmen program. The University of California-Berkeley uses "StarCraft Theory and Strategy" for its course on war tactics. Santa Clara University has gotten students talking about waste and decomposition through its environmental science department's "Joy of Garbage."

Attracting students to courses by having some fun with their titles is not a new phenomenon, but a recent article by The Boston Globe says that it has become more common in a climate where professors are looking to boost enrollment in their classes, perhaps to make themselves less vulnerable during budget cut season. Boston College recently renamed a straightforward course on German literature to "Knights, Castles, and Dragons." The effect? Tripled enrollment.

Professors quoted in the article describe how important marketing has become in getting more students to fill seats in their classrooms. Students have a wealth of options at their fingertips when applying for courses, and after they're done filling their rosters with classes required by their majors, there may be little room for the more fun-sounding titles. So, anything that will give a student pause when putting together their course load is probably a good strategy. The professors also said that a heavy reliance on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter has given the college-bound a shorter attention span, and that even those already in college are bored more easily with the traditional course offerings. Students want to be entertained, even those in fields like computer science, philosophy, or traditionally more "stuffy" majors.

A word of advice, though: Be sure to consider the finished product of your transcript when signing up for courses with kooky titles. That "Science of Superheroes" class at the University of California-Irvine may be fun, but a balance of electives with interesting names and traditional courses applicable to your major will make you a better sell if you plan to pursue an advanced degree or land a job interview where the employer wants to see your coursework. As with an eye-catching course title, image is everything.


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by Agnes Jasinski

I went to a flagship university. Almost everyone I knew came from a city or town I had heard of, because most were there for the same reasons I was - that home state tuition. Those few I met who came from neighboring states or even from as far away as one of the coasts were few and far between. Tuition was significantly higher for those students, making it difficult for many to justify private school costs at a public institution. Still, the school drew some semblance of an out-of-state population because of its research centers and reputation in certain fields of study.

An Inside Higher Education article today explores a tactic being used by flagship universities across the country to boost budgets and work toward replenishing nest eggs that had dwindled during a difficult economy. More and more state schools plan on working harder to increase out-of-state enrollment.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is hoping for a 15 percent boost in undergraduates outside of Massachusetts over the next decade. Rutgers University, where about 10 percent of the student population comes from outside New Jersey, wants to see its out-of-state numbers around 25 percent instead. In New York, the state's comptroller actually issued a report on the millions of dollars in lost revenue because of the State University of New York's low out-of-state enrollment numbers. The article points out that at state schools like the University of Vermont where out-of-state students outnumber in-state students, the demand for an in-state education is much lower.

So how will these schools lure more students from out-of-state, and get them to pay higher tuition costs? The first step is opening up more slots to out-of-state students. The president at the University of Colorado hopes the state lifts the cap on non-resident enrollment. And states like the University of California at Berkeley, a prestigious school that even Californian students must prove their academic worth to attend, will surely have less trouble finding out-of-state recruits based on reputation alone than lesser-known state institutions. Some state schools are looking into new merit-based scholarship programs targeting out-of-state students, but wouldn't that defeat the purpose of bringing more money into the school? The article suggests building relationships with out-of-state high schools, working alumni networks and even reaching out to top, non-resident students, to boost their out-of-state numbers.

Going to school in-state is still a good option to consider if you're worried about the cost of college. You can still be far enough away from your parents while enjoying home state tuition. Many state schools also reward students in other ways, including scholarships and grants for local freshmen, especially if you're pursuing a high-need field of study and plan on remaining in that state post-graduation. Conduct a college search on our site based on your own criteria to find the place that best fits your needs and has the qualities you find most important.


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by Agnes Jasinski

It seems that student veterans will finally be getting the assistance they need this Veterans Day. A new website from the American Council on Education will improve access to education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill for military veterans who have faced a number of delays in the processing of their financial aid.

The site, which was unveiled earlier this week, will also help the student veterans choose colleges and future careers, with tips and advice on why college is an important investment and preparing for the transition from the military to a college campus.  The site intends to make it easier for student veterans to navigate not only the college and financial aid application process, but to give those students frustrated with backlogs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs a place to go for guidance.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill has faced a number of obstacles since its creation in August. A backlog of applications caused delays as long as eight weeks for some eligible military recipients, with emergency $3,000 checks eventually issued to student veterans whose financial aid packages were pending. The new law—similar to the WWII GI Bill— was created to bring more financial aid to troops who had served since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (Scholarships are also available to the children and families of the victims of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.) The bill will provide up to 36 months of financial assistance, payable for 15 years following the student veterans' releases from active duty. The bill covers maximum in-state tuition and fees at public institutions, including many military-friendly schools, and covers a monthly housing allowance, and an annual $1,000 books and supplies stipend. (Student veterans enrolled in online degree universities will not receive housing allowances.)

Many of the colleges participating in the program have been accepting late payments from the students to make up for the lag in financial aid application processing. Assuming all goes well with the disbursement of funds from the VA, and the department gets a handle on the backlog—the department hired additional staff when the number of applications continued to grow and overwhelmed regional offices—most student veterans should be getting to the point where they will be receiving regular checks to cover the costs of their new lives on college campuses across the country.


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Social Media and Your College Life

by Angela Andaloro

As embarrassing as it is to admit, one of the coolest parts of selecting your school is telling everyone you know. A school hoodie used to be announcement enough but now, one of the first questions incoming freshmen ask is how they can find out their new school email – a requirement to add their school on Facebook.

Social media is an excellent outlet for communication between freshmen, students and administration, and even students and peer leaders. Many students who live on campus “meet” their roommates for the first time via Facebook. Students can also follow their schools on Twitter, as well as accounts designated for various clubs and organizations. With so many benefits, why wouldn’t college students look to social media as a way to jumpstart their college social lives?

The answer to that is simple: overexposure. Students forget just how open the Internet is. No matter how iron-clad you believe your privacy settings are, the information is out there to be passed around. Many students are concerned about this when it comes to photos, and rightly so – they are often warned of the dangers of posting sexually suggestive images, pictures of parties with illegal activities going on and other questionable material – but there are other ways social media can get students in trouble. Students have been known to voice their comments and complaints about teachers, classes and administration via social networking sites in recent years. When such complaints turn into rants and get out of hand, the administration takes action.

With such a delicate balance between helpful and harmful, how should a student handle social media? I believe in one rule: use social media for communication, not broadcasting. Social media can be great to communicate, ask questions and answer questions. Broadcasting your feelings and not expecting something to occur as a result, however, is unwise.

How do you keep your social media use safe and enjoyable?

Angela Andaloro is a rising junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Expecting the Unexpected in College

by Angela Andaloro

We’re always reminded that we don’t know what will happen next in life. College is no exception; in fact, I’ve found that in college, I’ve probably dealt with more unexpected happenings than ever before. There are problems that arise without warning that will directly affect your education so here are a few unexpected issues I’ve found many college students have dealt with.

Financial aid snafus: If your school is anything like mine, you might find that many of those working in the financial aid office are students doing work-study. While I don’t doubt they've had training and know what they’re talking about on some level, they don’t have all the answers. Financial aid is super important so if you’ve received some information you’re unsure of, be sure to follow up with someone higher up in the ranks.

Technical meltdowns: Technology is as important as air to a college student and the security blankets of yesterday have been replaced with equally precious laptops and other gadgets. Still, we have to remember that they are machines and they do malfunction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a frantic call from a friend (or been frantic myself) about a computer breakdown. They usually occur at the worst possible times, like during midterms or finals week. My advice? Back up everything. Save that 10-page paper you’re writing every 10 words. Really. I’ve been there. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

While there are some issues that we can anticipate, others really do come from out of nowhere. It’s ok to freak out for a minute when one pops up – it’s only natural! – but then relax and use that level head of yours (and maybe that “emergencies only” credit card) to remedy the problem.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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