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Taking a Gap Year May Enhance Your College Experience

May 17, 2013

Taking a Gap Year May Enhance Your College Experience

by Carly Gerber

So you’re a high school senior who has worked hard to maintain the impressive grades and variety of extracurriculars that earned you multiple college offers. But before you purchase those extra-long twin sheets and start choosing fall classes, consider how a gap year could positively impact your future.

According to the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, more than 50 percent of students in Norway, Denmark and Turkey take a gap year (also known as a bridge year) before college. In the U.S., however, the practice is far from the norm. A USA Today article recently explored some misconceptions about gap years – it’s believed that taking a year off is only for affluent students and students fear that they will be at a disadvantage because they will be a year behind their age group – but in reality, students who take a year off from formal education before entering college find “a focused sense of purpose, independence, self-confidence, grit and resilience,” says Abby Falik, who founded Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit that supports gap year choices. And to further debunk the myths listed above, Global Citizen Year even provides financial aid to students who would not be able to afford a gap year otherwise.

Looking back, I believe completing a gap year would have helped me a lot. I enjoyed my time at my first university but I wasn’t striving for a specific future. I felt lost and unsure if I was going down the right path...even after switching my major three times and transferring to a new university. Following three high-anxiety years, I took a six-month sabbatical from college – time that allowed me to explore and reflect on my goals. I am happy I made the decision to take a break from college because I was able to determine who I want to be and how I want to get there. I only wish I had done so sooner!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Cornell Student Organization Gives Financial Solace to Undocumented Students

March 13, 2013

Cornell Student Organization Gives Financial Solace to Undocumented Students

by Carly Gerber

Undocumented students are ineligible for federal aid or loans and as a result, many of these students have a difficult time paying their way through college. Accruing enough funds to turn a collegiate dream into reality isn’t easy but one appropriately-named student group at Cornell University is certainly doing its part to ease the financial burden.

The DREAM Team is attempting to make the American Dream a reality for Cornell’s undocumented students, thanks to a $5,000 reward from the Perkins Prize. Though the initial plan was to give out $2,500 in scholarships and put the remaining $2,500 to DREAM Team events and trips, the group decided it was more important to allot the entire amount to undocumented students in need. The scholarships will be on the smaller side – the DREAM Team receives a minimum of 10 applicants, meaning that awards will be $500 each – but the funds could help awardees purchase the basic necessities to succeed in college. Every little bit helps!

Cornell President David Skorton is proud of his students for being proactive and has said, “Many of us have lost sight of the important contributions immigrants have made – and are making – to our culture and our economy. Their continued contributions are critical to our country’s success.” Yet, along with encouragement comes negative feedback. Conservatives routinely discourage reform that will give undocumented residents a pathway to citizenship, arguing that allowing illegal immigrants to stay in America will burden taxpayers and increase illegal immigration.

Ultimately, the DREAM Team wants Cornell to expand the financial aid it can offer undocumented students and realize the American Dream for deserving students. Other private organizations are offering similar programs and interested students can find these awards via Scholarships.com. What do you think of the work these groups are doing?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Realizing the Truth About a College Education

March 19, 2013

Realizing the Truth About a College Education

by Carly Gerber

During my time at college, I found myself unhappy and unfulfilled. I despised my major and I wasn’t a fan of my campus. This being my second college, I figured it must be that college itself wasn’t for me, so I decided to drop out. I took a few months to experiment with careers that didn’t require college degrees but my choice to leave school kept haunting me.

In the midst of my time away from higher education, I came across a Chicago Tribune article which detailed common misconceptions students have about college....and I realized right away that I was one of those students! Here are just a few points the Trib covered:

  • There’s a misconception that a college degree doesn’t hold any value; like any investment, however, a college degree pays off over time. A college graduate’s earnings rise faster and peak later than the earnings of someone with a high school diploma alone. A college degree is not a guarantee of success but grads do have better odds of finding, keeping and excelling at their jobs long term.
  • Another misconception is that it doesn’t matter where you attend college...yet it’s the most important decision regarding your college career! Getting in is half the battle – the other half is deciding where to attend because that could determine if you stay there and get your degree. In real estate, they say the three most important things to consider when buying a house are location, location, location. The same goes for choosing a college: If you hate the location, it’s likely you won’t enjoy your college experience.

After realizing the true importance of a college education, I knew what I had to do. Recognizing that it was the location of my school and the major I had chosen that were bothering me, I spent my time off figuring out a major I want to immerse myself in and finding a university in a location I can’t wait to live. I’ll be returning to school in the fall!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Light Up...and Send a Student to College?

April 2, 2013

Light Up...and Send a Student to College?

by Carly Gerber

Imagine a place where every time you bought a pack of cigarettes, you would be funding a college student’s education. In the near future, that place could be California: The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 would increase tax by $1 for every pack of 20 cigarettes and the money would be deposited into a fund for financial aid.

The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 has a projected revenue of $800 million but there is an estimated loss of $70 million of proceeds that go to existing resources. The taxes on tobacco that already exist go to programs for tobacco education and prevention, tobacco-related disease research, breast cancer screenings for uninsured women and early childhood education. (The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 would still receive $730 million from its excise on tobacco.)

The tax on tobacco that the California Residents of College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 wants to initiate has to be reviewed by the Board of Equalization. The Board’s job is to estimates the impact the tax would have on other programs that already use taxation on cigarettes. Cal State Northridge senior and sociology major Debra Hendricks said she would vote for the taxation because she has lost many people to cigarette smoking and she likes the idea that the money would be used to support students who want a college education. Junior biology major Jessica Fuentes, however, isn’t sure if another cigarette tax proposal would pass but she thinks the financial aid aspect of the proposal makes the excise appealing.

Personally, I think taxing cigarette smokers again is unfair because they are always the ones getting taxed for their activity. I don’t promote smoking but smokers shouldn’t be the ones to shoulder the burden of spending more because of a societal view on cigarettes. Maybe the California tax should be on alcohol instead – the state would make more revenue that way! What’s your view about this taxation proposal on cigarettes?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Getting a College Education Behind Bars

April 8, 2013

Getting a College Education Behind Bars

by Carly Gerber

Did you know Cornell University offers a program for inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility and Cayuga Correctional Facility to receive college educations?

The Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP) began from the ideas and actions of English professor Winthrop “Pete” Wetherbee who, without funding, began teaching in the Auburn prison in the mid-1990s. By 1999, CPEP was offering Cornell credit for completed courses and in 2008, Cornell and Cayuga Community College (CCC) made an agreement which has Cornell waive tuition and fees, CPEP supply instructors and pay for books, school supplies and administration and CCC endow associate degrees. Plus, the CPEP is relatively low in cost – $1,800 per student – and has numerous benefits: Prison education appears to increase the safety of the prisons because the men and women are staying occupied, learning and building self-esteem.

The programs have been getting a positive reaction because other inmates want to join. Retired Cornell professor Richard Polenberg taught a constitutional history course at Auburn Correctional Facility and had said, “These men are extraordinary” and “They are very, very well behaved in the classroom and they ask really good questions.” Government and American Studies professor Mary Katzenstein explains, “Ninety-five percent of men and women in prison are released to society. Do we want people returning who have learned only to hone tricks of the trade, or do we want people coming back to our neighborhoods who have had a chance to learn the kind of analytical skills and be exposed to the ethical values that a liberal arts education is able to impart?”

With the low cost and many benefits of the CPEP, I think all correctional facilities should have a program like it and more colleges should follow Cornell's lead. What are your thoughts about the CPEP?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Worry About Finances Less, Enjoy Life More

Several Websites Make Saving Now (and for the Future) Easy!

April 17, 2013

Worry About Finances Less, Enjoy Life More

by Carly Gerber

Summertime is chock full of activities from music festivals to road trips. Don’t let your current spending limit your options of things you want to do (think: traveling abroad) or things you need to get done (see: paying next month’s rent). Instead, check out these websites (thanks, USA Today!) that can help you manage your money now and even help you save for a future purchase.

For example, Mint.com allows you to easily and securely connect your bank account to the program, which categorizes your spending to see where and how much you’re spending. You may need to cool it with the soy lattes from your favorite café for a few weeks but it’s worth enjoying those summer activities.

Another website is Smartypig.com. Here, you determine your goal and then start saving for it. You can also sync your bank account to Smartypig.com and it will withdraw funds until your goal is met or you can manually withdraw money from your bank account and sync the money to Smartypig.com. Need airfare and a ticket to Bonnaroo? You can set it as a goal on Smartypig.com and start saving!

Maybe you and a few friends are running a marathon and want to raise funds to donate to a worthy cause. If so, Gofundme.com is the place to go. Set up an account, share it on social media sites or through email and collect donations. It’s easy and you can raise money for anything! Need a laptop for college? Create an account on Gofundme.com and you could collect donations from friends and family.

Are there any activities you have planned for the summer or any helpful tips on ways to save? Let us know in the comments section!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Going Green on Campus

February 26, 2013

Going Green on Campus

by Carly Gerber

Making the decision to go green is not only environmentally sound but cost effective and healthier. Here are a few tips you can take to go green on your campus!

  • Choose CFLs (a.k.a. compact fluorescent lamps): They use 75 percent less energy to produce the same amount of illumination and last eight to 15 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.
  • Start recycling! Once you start recycling, you’ll notice how much can be recycled – your recycling bin may be fuller than your trash can!
  • Buy used textbooks. Buying or renting used books is much cheaper than buying new books, plus it eliminates trash in the landfills. You can buy and sell used books at your campus book store, as well as rent them from sites like Bookrenter or Chegg.
  • Many of you have already signed leases for next year but that may mean filling your new space with couches, TVs, kitchenware, etc. Instead of going to retail stores to buy these items, you can go to websites like Craigslist, Gigoit, Freecycle and eBay. Remember, every time you buy something new, you’re adding to your carbon footprint so buy used when possible!
  • Use recycled printing paper. Recycled paper may cost slightly more but it saves tress, energy, water, is a pollution reducer and the use of harmful chemicals and bleaching are much less than that of virgin paper production.
  • Don’t drive to class – walk, bike or use the campus/public bus system instead. When you drive to class, you waste time trying to find a parking spot, increase the pollution in the air and spend unnecessary money when you pay for parking.
  • Use a reusable water bottle. Not only will you be saving cheddar by not buying packs of water bottles but you’ll be decreasing the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills.

Have any other tips for going green on campus? Leave a comment with your suggestions!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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The Perks of Public Ivies

March 1, 2013

The Perks of Public Ivies

by Carly Gerber

Some of you may be striving to gain acceptance to an Ivy League school and that’s very admirable – they are some of the best schools in the world! – but there’s another group of universities that may interest you as well: the public ivies!

The Public Ivy League consists of the College of William & Mary, Miami University, the University of California (campuses as of 1985), the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UT Austin, the University of Vermont and UVa. These schools rival the eight Ivy League schools in academic excellence, attraction of superstar faculty, competition for the best and brightest students, appearance and rich history but with lower sticker prices. (If you live in a state where there is a public ivy, then the tuition price goes down even further.) Many of the public ivies are regularly ranked among the top schools by U.S. News & World Report; their graduate programs in business, education, engineering, law and medicine are also highly ranked.

If you are an athlete, you may want to consider the public ivies because, unlike Ivy League schools, they award athletic-based scholarships. (Ivy League athletes may receive scholarships and financial aid, but not towards their athletic merit.) Plus, they participate in major athletic conferences – think the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC or Pac-12 – that put athletes’ skills on display at the national level and attract interest from professional teams, if that is your ultimate goal.

Public ivies are also great options for students who want the challenging academic environment of an Ivy League school but would prefer a larger campus. By choosing a public ivy, students have access to a more diverse student body, bigger course catalog and wider range of campus groups.

What are your thoughts on public ivies? High schoolers, will you be considering one or more of these schools in your college search? College students, if you attend one of these schools, we'd love to hear how you made your decision!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Finding Your Place as a Transfer Student

February 12, 2013

Finding Your Place as a Transfer Student

by Carly Gerber

Transfer students: Does your new school offer everything you want in your college experience or are you still having trouble adjusting to its unfamiliar environment? As a transfer student myself, I know it can take a while to determine your niche so here are a few easy ways to make your new school feel more like home.

My number one piece of advice for transfer students is to get involved with any club or organization that interests you. Shoot for one to three on-campus groups – this way, you’ll be able to meet people with similar interests and still have time for schoolwork and part-time employment. In addition to student government, the newspaper and intramural sports, some sororities and fraternities offer rush during spring semester so if Greek life interests you, go right ahead!

In that same vein, you want to choose activities that you’ll be proud to look back on and talk about during job interviews. (Yes, it’s time to think about where your future is headed – a little scary but we all feel the same way!) Consider visiting your school’s career center and exploring internship opportunities in your chosen field. An added bonus? Some can even be used toward college credit.

Lastly, become friendly with faculty you’ll see often. If you haven’t yet, introduce yourself to your professors before or after class – once they hear you are a transfer student, most will be interested in hearing why you switched schools and will be happy to help you adjust to new academic rigors. Professors and academic advisers are potential recommendation writers so be sure to make a good first impression!

I truly hope your new college or university is exactly what you have been looking for. It takes time to find your way but you’ll get there...trust me.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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Is the Four-Year Plan Making Us Feel Guilty?

June 4, 2013

Is the Four-Year Plan Making Us Feel Guilty?

by Carly Gerber

According to the Buffalo News, there has been a decrease in the amount of students who receive their undergraduate degree in four years. Fewer than half of the University at Buffalo graduates graduated in four years and many other universities have seen the same decrease in their students graduating in that once-traditional timeframe. For example, Niagara University had only 60 percent of its students graduate in four years, while Alfred University only had 43 percent of its graduates graduate in four years. These statistics aren’t just exclusive to New York State, either: I personally know students from all over who have taken an extra semester or two to graduate.

My circumstances of being a transfer student and a student who has changed her major more times than she can count have caused me to extend my stay at college by a few semesters. Initially, I felt guilt, regret, sadness and self-loathing for needing to spend extra time at college; however, I wanted to feel excited for the future and those negative emotions were only going to hold me back from my full potential. Now, I’m feeling excitement, urgency and passion to take my college career seriously and to become a proud and successful graduate. I feel more mature and wiser because of my setbacks and changes during my time at college.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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