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Should You Be an RA?

August 4, 2011

Should You Be an RA?

by Shari Williams

If you have lived on campus, hung out in the dorms or simply attended classes, you have encountered a resident assistant or resident advisor, perhaps better known as an RA. I was an RA during my junior year while I was participating in the National Student Exchange at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and loved it! It was a great opportunity to save money, meet people and gain personal knowledge.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the perks of being an RA – free housing, a single room, etc. – but not everyone will meet the qualifications. RAs must be very responsible; for example, if someone decides to trash the hallway or throw a noisy party, it’s the RA's responsibility to report the incident and think of ways to prevent it from happening again, even if some decisions they make are unpopular with their advisees. I enjoyed my time as an RA but this position isn’t for everyone. It’s not about the money or free housing – your heart really has to be in it!

During my time at CSUN, I found the housing staff and all RAs to be very supportive, family-oriented, and genuinely care about the students. If that sounds like you, you could be a great RA candidate but here are a few more things you should know before applying:

The Pros

The Cons

RA positions vary from school to school, as do their responsibilities. If you want to be an RA, do your research at your college by asking some current or past RAs about their experiences. To be or not to be an RA depends on you and, if you do decide to take on this role, your advisees will depend on you, too!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Graduating On Time: It CAN Be Done!

by Shari Williams

Before starting school, I didn’t know very much about college life but now that I will be in school a year beyond my expected graduation date, I know what I could have done to enter the real world sooner.

At Towson, all freshmen receive class schedules assembled by the school. I didn't think to change the times of the classes (which were all at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday), nor did I research the professors. This turned out to be a huge mistake – I never was a morning person and I got stuck with some of the worst professors at Towsonmy school – as was the number of credits (12). I figured my university that I pay thousands of dollars in tuition to attend would know best, so I stuck with only 12 credits from then on. It was another oversight: Even though 12 credits is considered as full time, 12 credits is not enough to take every semester in order to graduate in four years without taking winter or summer classes. I had to figure this out myself and adjusted my class schedule accordingly.

I’m not saying you need to overload yourself with academics and never leave your dorm room – that’s not a college experience to remember! – but I am saying take as many classes as you can comfortably manage. If you have the means or have grants and scholarships, you can always take some classes over the summer or the next semester as long as it falls accordingly to your academic plan. Simply do what is best for you.

Graduating a four-year program in five years is not the end of the world but it is not something that you should shoot for, either. If you can handle five or more classes each semester, take them; you can also consider enrolling in a few online courses or opting to take a few classes pass/fail. Take what you can handle so that you can succeed.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Lending a Helping Hand Pays Off

by Shari Williams

Community service is something most of us have done at one point or another. For some high schools, it’s a graduation requirement but I believe serving your community is vital whether it’s mandated or not. The good news for college students is that not only does community service help others but it can also translate into money for school.

One renown program is AmeriCorps. Several colleges and universities take part in this program, providing information and opportunities for students to get involved. Each year, AmeriCorps gives students opportunities to participate in year-long service-learning programs. If a certain amount of community service hours are acquired by the end of the year, the student is granted a stipend.

Another option is the Fulbright Program. Fulbright has an array of grants included in their U.S. Student Program to students who have studied or are studying foreign language, music, business, journalism and public health, to name a few. Fulbright is an opportunity geared more toward soon-to-be or recent college graduates looking for more experience in their fields. Students live outside the U.S. with most expenses paid and full or partial tuition awarded. A special program opportunity that Fulbright offers is the Fulbright-mtvU Awards, which provide four grants to recent graduates studying outside of the country who will conduct research on international music culture. If that sparks your interest, they have many more opportunities to apply for.

Both AmeriCorps and Fulbright are awesome opportunities and are great ways to gain valuable experience. For more information on Americorps or Fulbright, visit www.americorps.gov and US.FulbrightOnline.org, respectively, or contact your college.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Travel This Summer...for Cheap!

by Shari Williams

It's summer break, the perfect time for college students to travel. Sounds good, right? The thing is that although many of us like to travel, we can get discouraged by the costly expenses that come along with it. I actually felt the same way until I learned of several resources during my personal travels.

My favorite way of taking a leisurely (or even last minute) inexpensive trip is through AirTran Airways. They have a program called AirTranU: As long as you are between the ages of 18 and 22, you can ride to any destination that AirTran offers for between $49 and $99. You are allowed to bring a carry-on at no charge but no other baggage is permitted. This is perfect for long weekend trips but if you know that you will be staying at your destination for a while, I suggest packing your items in advance and sending them via UPS or another shipping company so you won’t have to worry about lugging your baggage around or – worse – losing it before it reaches baggage claim.

If you are not too keen on flying, Greyhound also has discounts specifically for college students with its Student Advantage Discount Card. By using the discount card, students can save 20 percent on online fares. If you buy your tickets early with the card, it could result in many inexpensive trips, whether you’re going back to college after visiting family or simply wanting to take a road trip of sorts with some friends.

As a student, there are so many ways to travel without emptying your pockets (Amtrak and Student Universe also have great deals) so make sure to take advantage of them while you can. Happy travels!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Escape from In-State Through the National Student Exchange Program

by Shari Williams

When applying to colleges, I had an “out-of-state” mentality: I wanted to go anywhere besides the very state I lived in. After applying and being accepted to several schools, the cost of out-of-state tuition caused my plans of leaving Maryland to come to a screeching halt. It wasn't until my second year of college that I found my escape when a friend of mine told me about a program called the National Student Exchange (NSE).

The NSE is a program that allows college students to go to another four-year university within North America for a semester up to an entire academic year. My friend went to Florida but I chose to go to California State University – Northridge and had one of the best years of my college life. It was a great opportunity for me to experience another part of the country (I’ve lived on the East Coast all my life) and it was also a very beneficial area for both of my majors, deaf studies and broadcast journalism. To top it all off, I could still pay my in-state tuition to attend the school!

If you are a college student who would like to explore, see more of the world or know what it would be like to live in another state, the NSE is for you. For me, it wasn't only a learning experience but also a life changing one. I would highly encourage anyone who attends a college involved with the NSE to participate in it. If you are interested in the program and would like more information about it, go to www.nse.org and see if your school is one of the nearly 200 member universities.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Should You Go Greek?

June 16, 2011

Should You Go Greek?

by Thomas Lee

When I first arrived at college, joining a fraternity – or getting involved with anything remotely connected with Greek life – was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know that by the end of 2007, I would be one of the founding pledge members of the Methodist University chapter of Kappa Sigma. The first members at a new school are known as Founding Fathers, of which I was one, and our training is known as pledging. My new fraternity brothers and I were pledges for a full academic year until our induction in 2008.

If you are considering joining a Greek organization, fraternity or sorority, there are multiple things you must consider. First is how much being involved will affect your schoolwork. I was able to maintain a high GPA while still being scholarship coordinator for the chapter until the summer I lived with some of my brothers.

Second, determine how much Greek life will affect your personal life. I didn’t really start partying until that summer and it negatively impacted my academics and social life. You should determine whether or not joining a Greek society will subject you to peer pressure or negatively influence your values.

Third, price is a major factor and you should not rush if you cannot afford to pay dues. My fees became more expensive with each year and I could only afford them with the money I made doing a paid internship.

Going Greek does have many benefits, such as gaining friends and valuable networking contacts that you might not have encountered otherwise. I spent time with golf students and athletes that I would have otherwise never met. Greek life may also help you overcome personal biases. All in all, while fraternity life was both a blessing and a curse, I do not regret my decision to join and have made some lifelong friends and brothers along the way.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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What Are My Housing Options?

by Thomas Lee

There are many options for living on or off campus but what’s the best housing option for you?

The most common housing option for a full-time day college student is an on-campus dormitory. As a freshman, I was permitted to join a program called “First Year Experience” or FYE. FYE was for incoming freshmen who had a 3.0 or above grade point average and filled out an application in advance. I stayed in a nice suite-style, co-ed dorm called Pearce Hall but not all on-campus accommodations are this cushy: The following year, I stayed in an all-male dorm where the conditions weren’t all that great but it was less expensive. As an upperclassman, you may have access to on-campus apartments. Here, you could have your own bedroom and restroom and a shared kitchen and living space but this option is usually the most expensive on-campus choice. You just need to decide what’s more important: paying more for a newer dormitory or saving by living in an older residence hall or living with both sexes versus just one.

Off-campus housing is another option, which, like on-campus apartments, is popular among upperclassmen. I rented a room for three months at a house leased by one of my fraternity brothers during a summer semester and can tell you this option isn’t for everybody. Before deciding to live off-campus, make sure you have an agreed upon price with a signed and printed contract so that you aren’t cheated out of any money; this is especially important if you are paying rent to a friend if you want to preserve your relationship. More than a few college students fall prey to rent gouging or don’t carefully read their apartment contract – don’t be one of them!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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The Politics of Student Government and Greek Council

by Thomas Lee

In my last article, I mentioned some of my experiences with college political parties and gave a little advice on how to choose one. While the two main choices are College Democrats or College Republicans, there are other ways one can get politically motivated on campus.

One way is joining Student Government Association or SGA as it is called at many schools. SGA is a student-led body that usually has a president and senators who help make operational or financial decisions that affect student life. I was an SGA senator my sophomore and junior years and helped plan the budget on the financial committee. SGA was allotted a certain amount of money from the main budget every three-month grant period and the finance committee would then receive proposals from all the organizations and departments on campus requesting money for specific functions. SGA then usually granted money to campus functions and student events that would promote campus life. It wasn’t a perfect process, but when has politics ever been?

Although it might not seem political at first glance, campus Greek life also plays a large role in making decisions that impact non-Greek students. At Methodist University, we instituted a Greek Council my junior year, as there ended up being a total of two fraternities and two sororities by the time I graduated. Greek Council was a governing body made of members from all four groups. They helped promote SGA events and raised money for community causes, such as helping soldiers. Ultimately, Greek Council influenced the university board of directors to approve the construction of a four-house Greek village. Academic Greek clubs such as Alpha Chi also may help in campus and community service.

So just because you don’t identify as a donkey or an elephant doesn’t mean you still can’t rock the vote on your campus!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Learning to Live Off Campus

by Thomas Lee

Sometimes on-campus living is not an option. Dorms are too expensive or overfilled, or housing may not be provided to transfer students. Well, off-campus housing it is!

One of most efficient ways to live off campus is to find a friend, relative or even a parent’s friend who lives near the campus to see if they would allow you to stay with them. If you choose this option, make sure the person you’re renting from writes up a signed agreement that lists the duration of your stay, the set fee per week or month and the conditions to stay. A verbal agreement isn’t set in stone and may leave you without housing if something should go wrong.

Another option is finding an apartment but this may be even more expensive than a dorm. Apartment and condominium rates vary wildly, as so do their living conditions. If you find an apartment that fits your budget, make sure it’s in a reasonably safe part of town and read your lease or contract so you won’t be cheated by the landlord.

Off-campus living also may have stipulations not necessarily found in an on-campus dormitory. Make sure you fully understand the terms and agreements your friend or landlord and don’t assume you can do things you may have normally done at home. Loud music, wild parties and maybe even leaving the toilet seat up are grounds for eviction. If you’re living with a friend, he or she may also expect you to help out with buying groceries or cooking.

One way to cut down on the costs of off-campus living is find a group of friends or roommates and share rent in a large apartment or leased house. Again, a written contract signed by all members is the best way to protect your and your friends’ interests. Be sure to keep your dreams of finally being away from your parents from turning into nightmares!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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How to Win a Scholarship: From a Girl Who's Applied for 300+ Awards

by Diane Melville

Yes, I’ve applied for a LOT of scholarships. It was basically my full-time job throughout college and Scholarships.com was my preferred source for finding the scholarships that I qualified for. You may think that this post will outline how you should do the same thing. False: Me telling you how to apply for 300 scholarships would be like a guy who found a mountain of gold after searching for 30 years telling you to take the same long, exhausting journey. You don’t want to repeat his arduous trek – you just want to buy a one-way ticket to gold mountain! In the same way, I want to teach you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that will help you to win scholarships...without having to apply for hundreds of them.

Start Small. I started this whole thing by applying to one scholarship. That’s it. I won that scholarship ($1,500 a year for the rest of my education) and that’s what motivated me to apply for more. Some students create massive goals for themselves and set out to win a ton of scholarships, yet they soon find the process to be daunting and give up. The best piece of advice I can give you is to start small. Don’t try to find hundreds or even dozens of scholarships in one shot. Instead, find five scholarships that have deadlines within the next six months and make it a priority to apply for them. First off, it’s a lot easier to find five scholarships that you not only qualify for, but feel you have a solid shot of winning. Second, this will be enough of a taste of the application process to help you determine whether or not you’d like to keep this whole scholarship thing up. If you do end up winning a scholarship, or if you simply enjoyed the process, then you can go to town and apply for many more. Until then, keep it simple.

Select the Right Scholarships. National corporate scholarships draw a lot of applicants so even if you are eligible, the odds of you winning are low in comparison to the smaller ones. The same goes for awards with very limited requirements. What should you do then? I suggest that your five scholarships look something like this:

  • Two national scholarships (examples: Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, etc.)
  • Three small or local/state scholarships (examples: Central Massachusetts Community Foundation, City of Boston Scholarship Fund, The Girl Friends Fund Scholarship, etc.)

This mix still gives you the opportunity to win a national award but increases your chances of success by including smaller, local scholarships that receive fewer applicants.

Take Your Time. Now that you’ve got your scholarships selected, you should put maximum effort into completing the applications to the best of your abilities. Don’t procrastinate until the night before the essay is due and just slap a few things together with the hope that it’s good enough – really research and consider what each scholarship organization values and try to highlight the areas of your life that reflect these values.

Push Through It! You are going to feel unsure. Maybe you hate your essay. Maybe your resume feels lacking. You get stuck, then procrastinate, then neglect and before you know it, the deadline has passed and you didn’t apply for the scholarship. Don’t let this happen! If you don’t apply, you will never have a chance of winning. Push through those feelings of frustration, ask for help if you need it and just submit your scholarship application. Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did.

Diane Melville is the author of The Community College Advantage and president of the community college planning website, Transfer Bootcamp. Diane has applied for more than 300 scholarships (using Scholarships.com, of course!) and paid for her entire college education using private scholarships. She hopes to use this blog to share everything she has learned about paying for college.


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