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by Lisa Lowdermilk

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

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

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

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

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the greatest things about college is making new friends; however, the main goal of going to a university is to do well in your classes and obtain that degree. So what happens when those two college aspects collide? Well, the outcome can definitely vary, as taking a class with a friend or roommate can either be fun or stressful. Let me explain.

Freshman year, one of my roommates and I took an introductory anthropology class together. It was fun to walk to class and gossip about the teacher and the other students later on in our dorm room...but that was where the fun ended. My roommate would often miss class and expect me to get her assignments and take notes for her. We would plan to study for tests together but she would bail at the last minute – and then complain when she was unprepared! In the end, the class became more work and stress than was necessary because I had taken it with my roommate. While it was nice to have a familiar face in the class, her habits interfered with mine and created a bad experience.

Now, I know this is an isolated event and that it is possible to take classes with friends or roommates and have it be a good experience – students do it all the time – but I would advise you all to think carefully before enrolling together. If you do want to give it a try, set guidelines right away, much like a roommate contract but for class. Make it clear that each person is responsible for their own notes and assignments, and define your study habits are and whether or not you want to study together or separately. If you set these standards from the beginning, you should have a fun and productive class experience with your friend.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Should You Be an RA?

Aug 4, 2011

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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Anna Meskishvili

There’s this really awesome frozen yogurt at BU called Mixx. It’s self-serve with a variety of different flavored yogurts (pomegranate, cheesecake, mango) and toppings (sprinkles, gummy bears, freshly-cut apples). As I made my latest frozen yogurt concoction, I couldn’t help but wonder what if my career plan was as exciting as this? Well, no I’m kidding, I didn’t think that...but I did learn that there are several colleges that offer a “mix and match” for college majors.

My best friend at the University of Connecticut began as a psychology major...then realized her interest in women’s studies...and then this past year discovered her passion for creative writing. Luckily, UConn is one of the many schools that offer this individualized major option. My friend, Dana, is now dabbling is all three fields with her own custom-made course of education.

The ability to specify a major that caters directly to your interest and passions will only be able to help you become an ideal candidate for your dream job. To play devil’s advocate, you will be perfect for a selection of your target positions, but as stated in Sue Shellenbarger’s WSJ article, “Can’t Pick a Major? Create One,” it doesn’t allow you to choose from as large a pool of careers.

This individualized approach to one’s curriculum is much like an exciting and original frozen yogurt swirl: You have to realize that although you may enjoy cheesecake-gummy bear-kiwi swirl, not everyone will be equality thrilled with your secret sauce.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Radha Jhatakia

When we begin college, we all have ideal jobs we want after graduating. We explore the majors which will allow us to go into these fields and choose schools based on which ones have the best programs for our intended futures. Then we graduate, ready to achieve those goals, but how many of us actually get our dream jobs right away?

While some students are offered jobs in their fields quickly, others aren’t as fortunate. Many recent grads spend months interviewing before settling on something – anything – to pay the bills or realize they can’t do what they wanted with their degree and must gain additional certification or experience. Nothing can guarantee you will be able to do what you’ve always dreamed right out of school but there are ways to prepare yourself for either situation.

Use your college resources from the beginning. All colleges have career centers and counselors who can assist you with internships, jobs and post-college options. Meet with them and create a career plan first semester freshman year instead of last semester senior year. By doing so, you could obtain a job freshman year to help you gain some work experience, serve as a TA during your sophomore year and gain an excellent recommendation letter, score an internship in your field of study during your junior year and continue it in your senior year, then either get a job offer from that internship or at least have a resume or portfolio to present to potential employers who will be amazed with your dedication. Not bad!

If you haven’t found your dream job after you graduate, don’t give up your hope. Everyone has to start somewhere and for most people, it isn’t what they would consider ideal. If you are persistent, work efficiently without complaint and show that you are capable of doing much more, your employers won’t waste your potential.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Jacquelene Bennett

There’s no denying that going to college is a life-changing event but the adjustment from high school life to college life can be a tough one. All of a sudden, you are thrust into a world with no parents and no supervision while surrounded by new people, new responsibilities and new pressures. This can all be very overwhelming but fret not, I am here with some advice to help ease this transition.

First, don’t change your sleeping or eating habits. I know this will be extremely challenging because everyone will be up late talking, hanging out and eating junk food but it’s important to maintain a schedule. If you don’t, you will start to lose focus and gain weight; trust me you do not want either to happen.

Next, communicate with your family as often as you can. My biggest struggle during freshman year was learning how to handle the disconnect I felt from being away from home and my family. Calling, emailing or Skyping to share what’s going on in your lives and telling them about your day can really help ease the homesickness. It worked for me!

The last and probably most crucial piece of advice I would like to give is to make time for yourself. If you are living in a dorm, you will be surrounded by people all the time...seriously, 24/7. While this can be fun and exciting, it can also wear you down and drive you crazy. Even if you just take a walk or eat dinner by yourself one night a week, having that alone time will allow you to not feel so overwhelmed by your friends and roommates.

While I tried to give you the best advice about starting college, the truth is there’s no magic formula. Everyone deals with college life in their own way and once you start, you will figure out what works for you. It may take some time but it will be so worth it in the end. Good luck!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Angela Andaloro

Going to a big school can be intimidating. It’s essentially uncharted territory and most of the time you have no idea what to expect. At Pace University, I share my NYC campus with over 7,000 other undergraduate students — talk about big! Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Many people ask me if I feel like I’m missing out on the college experience by going to a big school in the city. My answer is always a firm “Absolutely not.” While your college experience is undoubtedly influenced by where you go to school and the environment you’re in, there’s one more important factor: what you decide to make of it. So how can you make your big campus feel smaller? It’s simple!

Get to know your surroundings. You’ll learn where your classes are and where to grab a bite to eat as the year goes on but get to know your surroundings beyond those staples. Where can you go if you need a minute of peace and quiet? What’s going on during common hour? Are there any activities that go on every week? When you’re in the know, you’ll feel comfortable.

Get to know people. Don’t be afraid to meet new people! The best way to make your big campus feel smaller is to fill it with familiar faces. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone in one of your classes or to join an organization. There’s so many ways to make new friends and all they require is your willingness!

College is your home away from home for two, four or more years. It’s important to feel as comfortable as possible during this time and there’s no better way to control your school experience than by taking all the steps to making your big campus feel just like home.

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Jessica Seals

It’s August and most college students realize that summer vacation is coming to an end. This means that we must say adios to sleeping in and hello to 8:00 a.m. classes and afternoon club meetings. Many students are preparing to go back to school now by either buying items for their dorm for the first time or by packing up the things they have taken to college in the past. With three years of collegiate experience under my belt, I have definitely learned the dos and don’ts of packing for college and have witnessed the mistakes students continue to make. Here are a few:

Do not pack your entire wardrobe (especially if you are not going to a school that is far away from home). I made the mistake of bringing all of my clothes even though I already knew that my side of the dorm room could barely hold half of them. Instead of having a closet stuffed with items you’ll seldom wear, switch out your summer and fall clothes for your winter clothes when you go home for a break.

Make sure to have some organization to your packing strategy. Another mistake that I have made is throwing things in boxes without labeling them. My logic was that it’s all going to the same place so why bother organizing? Packing items neatly will help you in the long run because you will know where everything is and you’ll waste less time searching for items you need once you’re on campus.

Start packing early. Don’t wait until the night before move-in day to fill your suitcases and load them up in the car...it’s too stressful! Getting a little bit done at a time will not only leave you more relaxed but will also help ensure you bring only what you need and keep your stuff better organized.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Thomas Lee

My time spent on the Methodist University Debate Team was varied and interesting, a very worthwhile college experience overall. Considering joining your school’s debate team? Here’s some info to help you decide.

Debate styles and campus rules vary widely. Some schools use policy debate, which consists of large amounts of research, as opposed to parliamentary debate, which allows only 15 minutes of preparation time to come up with an opening argument based on existing knowledge. The type of debate we used was parliamentary debate, which consists of being given a pro or con on a certain issue and going intervening rounds with your partner against another two-person team. It seems easy at first but the short time in each round forces you to really polish your argument. In other words, debate is easy to learn but difficult to perfect.

All three and a half years I debated for Methodist, I received a $1,000 scholarship per semester for participating so it worked out pretty well for me financially; other campuses may even offer full scholarships depending on the terms and conditions, although campuses with serious scholarship money teams often require equally serious dedication and work. The Methodist University Debate Team was relatively laidback compared to how some teams operate but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fulfilling experience. I got to meet some great people as well as learned valuable debate skills...you know, for the real world. You will, too, if you join!

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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How Do YOU Study?

Jul 29, 2011

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever thought about how to make studying less painful or have you just resigned yourself to pulling all-nighters? If you're like me, the idea of all-nighters makes you cringe – how can you expect to ace your test when you're exhausted, let alone absorb pages of complicated course material?

I've had friends, though, who claim that being under pressure motivates them to study like nothing else. If you've honestly found that pulling all-nighters is more effective than studying during the day, then more power to you; for the rest of us, here are some strange but effective study habits to consider next time you have an exam approaching.

Do you have a specific study spot or can you study anywhere? If you're the former, try to pay attention to what characteristics you need in order to be successful. Does soaking up the sun's rays kick your brain into gear like a plant undergoing photosynthesis or does the sunshine just make you daydream? Do you need to constantly change the location of where you study to keep yourself motivated? I have a friend who never studies in the same place for more than an hour because her attention span starts waning.

It seems everyone has an opinion about background noise while studying. Another friend of mine claims she cannot study unless the news is on the background, as it bores her to tears. The news is so boring to her, in fact, that she claims it actually forces her to focus on her course material! Apparently, if she doesn't have the news on, she'll constantly think about other things like what she wants for dinner, what she wants to do on the weekend, etc.

Regardless of whether you can't sit still for more than an hour or need some white noise to get your brain in sync with your textbooks, one thing's for sure: You can't get through college without studying so you might as well make it as tolerable as possible.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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