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There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question on a Campus Tour

August 17, 2011

There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question on a Campus Tour

by Katie Askew

Visiting a college campus for the first time can be overwhelming so it’s important to do a little research both before and during your visit.

Most colleges will show you a residence hall during your visit but before you get to campus, check out their housing site online. Take a look at the different options you have for housing (dorms, apartments, etc.) so you have a little background on the types of amenities offered. Also, don’t be fooled by the residence hall you are shown on your tour because it may be the best of the best...and potentially unreachable for you. Ask your tour guide what this hall is like in comparison to others and if it’s only available to certain students (freshmen, upperclassmen, graduate students, athletes, etc.).

With that in mind, ask your tour guide any questions you have about the school you may call your alma mater one day! It makes the visit more personal and relaxes the tour guide (trust me, we’re more nervous than we look!). The guides have lived in the residence halls, they have taken classes and they obviously know what campus life is like. Ask them what they do on the weekends and what their schedules are like during the semester. Getting an idea of what real campus life is like first-hand from a student can help you decide if this is the school for you.

My work behind the scenes in UM's Office of Admissions has shown me all the wrong things I did while touring college campuses as a high school senior but what I regret most is not asking questions. I don’t know if I was too shy or if I thought I was too cool but either way, I was silent during my visits. In hindsight, I realize that I could have learned so much more if I just opened my mouth! Learn from my mistakes and make the most out of your campus visits.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Dealing with College Stressors

July 18, 2011

Dealing with College Stressors

by Katie Askew

Stress is unavoidable, especially in college. At times, it seems like there is a never-ending list of homework to complete, reading assignments to study and laundry to do – not to mention maintaining a healthy social life! It’s important to remember that although you can’t avoid stress, you can learn to manage it. Here are some ways how:

Make time for yourself, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Living in a residence hall can be stressful in itself because you are constantly surrounded by friends and roommates inviting you out and pulling you away from study time. Assignments pile up quickly and just like that, you’re behind in three classes. It’s sometimes hard to find alone time when living with a roommate – and 20 neighbors who also happen to be your best friends – but if you are feeling overwhelmed, chilling out by yourself helps to relax, revive and cross some things off your to-do list! Taking a nap, listening to music, reading a few pages from a non-required book or going on a short walk can help to clear your head and refocus your efforts.

Schedule time in your week for doing something you love – and stick to it as if it were a class. For me, music is my stress outlet. I make sure that I play marimba or piano regularly during the school week to not only keep me sane but also to keep me going through my homework. I always have my music time to look forward to and it helps to keep me focused on my assignments, not distracted from them. I know that the sooner I accomplish my work, the sooner I can pound out some music.

Whether it’s taking part in a favorite activity or just sitting quietly by yourself, make time for it in your week and you will feel much less stressed.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

July 28, 2011

Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Why Ungraded Skills Are Still Important

March 7, 2012

Why Ungraded Skills Are Still Important

by Katie Askew

Some may think that grades are everything but fast forward a few years and picture yourself in the professional world. Your boss will quiz you but you won’t be graded A through F: This is where life skills will come in much handier than book smarts.

Sure, college admissions counselors will look at your GPA as a primary factor regarding your admissions fate but your GPA isn’t everything. There are many more important lessons you learn in high school that won’t be calculated into your GPA. Here are just a few:

So even if you don’t have a stellar GPA, high school still taught you important skills that aren’t graded but will help you throughout your life.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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All Students CAN Have Access to Success!

February 6, 2012

All Students CAN Have Access to Success!

by Katie Askew

If you’re the type of student that struggled through your more difficult high school classes, doesn’t have an outstanding GPA or ACT score and are worried you won’t get admitted to a normal four-year college program, fear no more! Many schools around the country are implementing programs for students who may be below the normal admission averages or require extra help in the first few years of college.

The University of Minnesota’s program is called Access to Success (ATS) and is specifically within the College of Liberal Arts, one of seven freshman-admitting colleges at the U. ATS is a student community that bases selection from your admission application but the community includes high school students who appear as if they will succeed in the college atmosphere and just weren’t fully prepared through high school. The benefits of the program include a small learning community with special classes, tutoring support and student-to-student mentoring all while experiencing everything a college student can experience.

All students in the ATS community are assigned an ATS academic adviser who helps them explore majors and opportunities, a career counselor who helps them research and find careers that interest them and a peer mentor who helps them adjust to college life. In addition, ATS participants will have a major or college adviser who helps them declare their majors and plan their courses. The staff in the program wants its mentees to succeed and will do everything in their power to make that happen.

College really can be a good fit for everyone with programs like ATS in place. If you’re interested, check out your top school’s website or ask your admissions counselor for more information. Even if you’re not eligible for an ATS-style program, tutoring and study tips never hurt. Every school has tutoring sessions or mentoring programs available to students – all you have to do is find them!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

January 26, 2012

Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Selecting the Right Roommate

The Right Choice Could Make a Friend, Not a Foe

November 3, 2011

Selecting the Right Roommate

by Katie Askew

While living at home, my older brother and I were fortunate enough to never share a bedroom with anyone but our stuffed animals so coming into college, I knew I was in for quite the shock. My biggest anxiety wasn’t getting through hard classes, traveling around campus or living in a big city – it was sharing a 12’x12’ space with another human. Living with, studying around, sleeping near and breathing the same air as some random person I’ve never met before? Thanks...but I’ll pass!

If you share my feelings about communal living, one way to ease this anxiety is to room with someone you already know. This wasn’t an option for me: I was not only one of four students graduating from my high school to go to the University of Minnesota and the other three students were boys. If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask around: Maybe an acquaintance or friend of a friend is looking for a roommate as well.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories of best friends attending college together, rooming together and living happily ever after together, right? Well, yes it can happen but it can also turn out poorly and result in losing a friend. Be careful about what friend you choose to live with and if your friendship can survive the trials and pressures of a small space and a new environment.

The alternative is being assigned a roommate randomly. This person has the potential to be your new best friend or she has the potential to be your worst enemy. For me, my randomly-assigned roomie turned out to be the biggest thorn in my side but I was fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my floormates and I always found sanctuary from my crazed roommate in a neighbor’s room.

So, which roommate route are you considering?

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

October 14, 2011

Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

by Katie Askew

Fall in Minnesota conjures images of apple orchards, sweaters, falling leaves and pumpkin patches. The ravishing yellows, browns, reds and greens of the leaves perfectly accent the serious brick buildings and stately campus architecture at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Students take advantage of the pleasant weather patterns by spending as much time as possible outside. There is only one thing that ruins that distinct fall feeling: tobacco smoke.

Even though it’s well-known that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious disease and even death, few colleges have actually made changes to protect the health and safety of their students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 126 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In addition, secondhand smoke in the United States causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. Colleges have been hearing the pleas for tobacco-free campus proposals for years but only a handful have listened – for example, all of Arkansas’ and Iowa’s state-supported college and university campuses have been smoke-free since last year – and it’s time for the rest of the nation follow suit.

Thankfully, a Minnesota school – Minnesota State University – is. MSU in Mankato will implement a tobacco-free campus program starting January 1, 2012. Sadly, the protocol change is not free of complaints from the student body but, if the Facebook page is any indication, the majority is in support of this change. There’s no doubt that not only will campus air be cleaner to breathe but cigarette butt litter will also be vastly reduced. I only hope the same kinds of changes are made at the U of M – I HATE dodging smoke clouds on the way to class!

Is your campus smoke-filled, smoke-free or somewhere in the middle thanks to new initiatives? (Find out your school's status here.) Do you think administrators should address the campus smoking issue more or should it be up to students to take action?

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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