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Will You Be a Perpetual Student?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I first started attending college in 2009, there was nothing I wanted more than to graduate...fast. But now that I’m about to receive my B.A. in English Professional Writing in December, the idea of graduating terrifies me. What if I can’t find a job? What if the so-called “real world” isn’t as glorious as I imagined it? And what if I do find a job but I don’t get to use my writing skills?

But even in my darkest moments, I’ve never considered being a perpetual student like Michael Nicholson, a 71-year-old man from Michigan who is working on his 30th college degree – a master’s in criminal justice. While I admire his extreme dedication and patience, I personally don’t want to spend the rest of my life paying for college or facing the dreaded “Sorry, you’re overqualified for this job.”

With that said, I think that if going to school makes Michael happy, then he should continue to do just that. After working numerous menial jobs, going to college probably makes him feel more productive...and there’s no doubt that he’s more broadly educated than most of us will ever be. His degrees range from home economics to psychology, and an astounding 22 of them are master’s degrees! So, while I can understand why some people feel that perpetual students are determined to avoid responsibility, I think that as a retired septuagenarian who has worked his whole life, Michael has more than earned the right to do as he pleases. And having talked with classmates who are even more terrified of graduating than I am, I think that there are more people who would prefer to remain students than face the “real world” than we’d like to admit.

So, what’s the answer? Like everything in life, I think the key is balance. Most of us (due to financial and time constraints) can’t afford to pursue 30 degrees but we can make the most of our time in college by doing internships, maintaining high GPAs and going to graduate school if our dream job requires it. What path will YOU take?

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.


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Unique Liberal Arts Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Liberal arts students have a reputation for being a bit quirky and colleges catering specifically to these majors are no exception. Carleton College, Naropa University, Grinnell College and Deep Springs College are four such institutions renowned for their unique extracurricular activities, majors and more.

Besides being ranked the sixth-best liberal arts college by U.S. News and World Report, Carleton College is also famous for its unique extracurricular activities. For instance, students have organized multiple scavenger hunts for the bust of German playwright Friedrich Schiller since 1957 and the college is also famous for its Assassins Guild, whose members try to “kill” each other with Nerf guns, “poisonous” Tabasco sauce and “explosive” alarm clocks.

Naropa University is a private liberal arts college in Colorado which integrates meditation into the curriculum and offers a unique blend of Eastern and Western educational practices. Majors include Peace Studies, Contemplative Psychology and Traditional Eastern Arts...interesting, right?

Grinnell College is another private institution known for its independent majors. After their first year, students can tailor their majors to suit their preferences instead of following a rigid degree path. Also of note are the school's post-graduation "Grinnell Corps" programs, which allow students to help others in places ranging from Namibia to China. In addition, Grinnell has the highest per capita Peace Corp volunteer rate of any college, despite only having 1,500 students.

Deep Springs College is an exclusively male liberal arts college famous for its method of selecting 26 students and giving them all full scholarships. The professors knit, stargaze and have ping pong tournaments with their students and they also live within walking distance of the students’ dorms on a cattle ranch/alfalfa farm.

If you decide to attend one of these colleges, it’s safe to say you’ll be in for a college experience unlike any other!

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.


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Devices That Make Students’ Lives Easier

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Between all-nighters, being away from family and having to balance work and school, going to college can be trying at the worst of times. Fortunately, a variety of gadgets designed to save you time, relieve stress and make your life easier in general are available online and at a store near you.

Let’s start off with the backpack scooter, like this one from Glyde Gear. This quirky contraption is just what it sounds like: a rolling backpack with a retractable skate platform. You can roll it, skate on it or carry it like you would a normal backpack. Seeing this kind of backpack reminded me of when I visited a few campuses in Hawaii and California, where many students got from class to class on longboards while carrying backpacks. While the backpack scooter may not look as cool as a longboard, it’s definitely a lot less cumbersome.

Next up is a portable espresso maker. With this product (check out this one from Handpresso), you can enjoy hot cappuccino, espresso, Americano and latte without electricity: All you need is some hot water and an Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pod. If you’re the type who waits until the night before a test to start studying, you might want to snag one of these gadgets to get your caffeine fix.

Last but not least is a laptop lock. Laptop theft is unfortunately as rampant as ever but using a laptop lock goes a long way towards deterring potential thieves. These devices (Kensington makes them as well as a number of other companies) connect to the security slots in laptops using ultra-durable T-bar locks. The lock itself is attached to a carbon steel cable, which can be secured to your desk.

Though money can’t buy your GPA, it can help you buy these and other gadgets to make your time as a college student just a little bit easier.

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.


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You Can Get a Scholarship for THAT?!

Students Seeking Money for College Should Consider These Non-Traditional Awards

September 11, 2012

You Can Get a Scholarship for THAT?!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Like many students, you’re probably wondering how on Earth you’re going to pay for another semester of college, especially if you’ve either a) missed the deadline for your school’s scholarships or b) don’t feel like writing an essay, filling out forms, etc. But fear not: There are plenty of less traditional scholarships available throughout the year. And let me tell you, some of the scholarships out there are strange.

To illustrate what I mean, take a look at the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship. This scholarship is specifically for students studying parapsychology, the study of near-death experience, psychic powers, reincarnation and more. I had no idea you could get a scholarship in parapsychology, let alone major in it!

Equally bizarre is the Gatling Scholarship at North Carolina State University. This scholarship requires that your last name be Gatling or Gatlin (no other variations will be considered) in honor of North Carolinian entrepreneur John Gatling. And no, you can’t legally change your last name to be considered for this scholarship – a copy of your birth certificate is required.

And since we’ve all heard about students who get scholarships based solely on their sports performance, here’s one to level the playing field for the less athletically inclined: the Gertrude J. Deppen Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded at Bucknell University in varying amounts each year to students who not only do not participate in strenuous athletic contests but also abstain from tobacco, liquor and narcotics. I don’t know about you but this is the first time I’ve heard of a scholarship which awards you for not doing something!

So, while some of the scholarship deadlines may have already passed, remember that there are hundreds, even thousands of other scholarships and grants out there. And if you have your heart set on one scholarship but the application deadline has already passed, at least now you’ll have months to prepare for it. Good luck!

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.


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Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

In my last article, I talked a lot about language classes at school and how you can use those skills in your own cities. But honestly the best way to practice a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it so in this column, I’m going to talk about studying abroad – but cost effectively.

Like with real estate, the costs associated with studying abroad depend on location, location, location. While your parents didn’t have a lot of study abroad options outside Europe, the world is changing and becoming more global every day; by changing that dream European vacation into a jaunt to a different continent, you can save a lot of money and have a unique experience. I studied abroad here in Buenos Aires, which at the time was about $10,000 cheaper than an equivalent program I could have done in Barcelona. Plus, my study abroad program was about a month and a half longer, meaning I had a lot more cultural immersion than I would have had with the program in Spain.

Also, think about if you really need the college credits you’ll get abroad. If you can just go for a summer and give up the academic courses or if you’re ahead on credits and can take a semester off, it might be worth it to check out volunteering abroad programs aimed at young people. Generally, the prices are significantly lower for a few months of building houses than for university classes; however, the experience is very different than taking university classes with native students (which is what I did...and loved) so think about what you’re really looking for in an abroad experience before choosing.

Finally, there are ways to actually make money while you’re studying abroad! Many countries are looking for English teachers and it’s worth checking out expatriate websites to see if anyone needs a babysitter who is a native English speaker. Similarly, if your language skills are good enough, there are lots of translation jobs out there – just check Craigslist like I did!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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The Perks of Volunteerism

March 26, 2012

The Perks of Volunteerism

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I think about volunteering the same way most of us think about fruits and vegetables – important to your health, good for your future and, every once in a while, the last thing you want added to your day. No one talks about it but I've seen it as both a volunteer supervisor and as a volunteer myself. However great the cause, however much you care, some days you just want to stay in bed. After all, they're not paying you so what does it matter if you miss a day or two?

What professional volunteer coordinators know is that volunteering isn't just good for showing the world you're a good person who cares about others: Choosing to volunteer builds skills you might otherwise not have the opportunity to develop, making you immensely more attractive to future employers and colleges. If you volunteer with young students at a religious school or daycare, for example, you will be better at working with young students than someone with no experience but that commitment also adds to your organizational ability, proves to potential employers that you are responsible and able to do self-directed work and shows your commitment to causes outside your normal purview.

In addition, peer mentoring or tutoring (paid or unpaid) adds to your employability. First, it shows that you are good at working with other people – a requirement for many jobs – and second, many employment opportunities (from consulting to banking to physical therapy) require that employees can clearly and concisely explain their point of view to others. Teaching someone how to do a math problem may be as applicable to your career in management consulting as any classes you took in college: It's a transferable skill that you will use again and again.

Finally, if you are interested in working in the industry that you're volunteering in, there's a good chance that you'll be considered an internal candidate for any job opportunities that come up. That usually means that your application will be read before outside candidates (even if they have more direct experience) and often increases your chances of getting an interview. Besides, if you've done good work, you've effectively gained an extra (positive) reference so think about your time volunteering as an extended job interview.

On that note, go forth and volunteer! As a former volunteer supervisor, I know we welcome the help but you're probably getting as much from it as we are.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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Bilingual Benefits at Home and Abroad

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I live in Buenos Aires full time, I was a Spanish major in college and I’m about as obsessive about Latin pop music as any actual Latina I know so naturally, people laugh when I tell them I almost didn’t take AP Spanish my senior year of high school. Once upon a time, I thought foreign language classes were good for silly skits and fluffing up your college resume but looking back, I can honestly say that even if I had no idea at the time, my high school Spanish classes were probably the most important classes I took in those four years.

Most colleges require language classes to graduate and have varying levels of language requirements for different study abroad programs. The thing about really trying to learn that tricky foreign language is that it lets you become part of whatever culture you’re visiting, whether you flew to another continent or just visited a part of your own college city that you’d never been. Instead of being just a tourist, you can become an observer – an anthropologist of that new and exciting land – but if you don’t know the language (or your basic cultural history), that task becomes impossible and you’re just a tourist with a resident visa. Think about practicing your French in a New York Haitian neighborhood, your Cantonese in San Francisco Chinatown or your Arabic in Dearborn, Michigan. You don’t have to fly a thousand miles away to get out of your comfort zone or expand your horizons.

Now I’m not advocating walking into Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and expecting your six words of Spanish to make you a whole bunch of new friends. Just like when you’re a visitor in someone’s home, be polite and know that your presence can easily become a burden rather than a novelty. If you work at understanding the people around you, finding out about their lives and listening to their opinions and goals, your limited language skills might rapidly expand.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Liz Coffin-Karlin

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Hi all! I’m Liz, the newest virtual intern here at Scholarships.com. I’m from Sarasota, Florida originally, and then moved way up to Chicago to attend college. I picked Northwestern University for a lot of reasons – it was in a whole new part of the country, it had great academics and it had a lot of student involvement – and I wound up with double majors in Spanish and history and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

While academics were important to me, I always felt I expressed myself best through student activities. I worked on our newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, for four years, was an executive board member on the Global Engagement Summit and participated in NU’s huge Dance Marathon. Along the way, I also volunteered at a Chicago soup kitchen, worked as a lifeguard for our sports center and once even sold hot dogs at a football game to raise money for a student group. (It is COLD in those stands!) I also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, where I fell in love with empanadas, tango music and backpacking in the Andes.

I loved my time at NU but most of all, I loved the connections I made and the friends I met. I took a public service fellowship in Chicago right after graduating from college in 2010 and ran a teen internship program last summer at the Adler Planetarium. When that ended, I felt it was time to use my Spanish skills and after studying abroad in Buenos Aires and then getting a research grant to come back before my senior year, I had the language skills and the connections to get an internship at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Now, I’m excited to be with Scholarships.com, where I'll be sharing travel tips, college tips (make sure you set the microwave timer for two minutes not 20 minutes...unless you want to burn your dorm down) and professional tips for getting that internship or job you wanted. Nice to meet you guys – can’t wait to start writing!


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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

November 4, 2011

Stepping Up and Standing Out

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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