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Getting to Know Your Professors

by Veronica Gonzalez

In college, you will never be a stranger to professors. In fact, professors can be your greatest allies if you get to know them academically, professionally and socially. All professors are different so it’s best to get to know them as individuals and as educators.

The first step? Introduce yourself on the first day of class. Acknowledge them fully so that they’ll know that you’re willing to learn what they have to offer and always be courteous towards your teachers; if you respect them, they’ll give you respect in return – it’s a win-win.

All professors differ when it comes to academics because they have different grading techniques. Pay close attention to how your professor(s) grade assignments and exams; it’s very likely that they’ll explain their grading process to you early on in the semester so be sure to grab a pen and paper and take notes!

In a professional aspect, your professors will always provide the class with a syllabus. Reading and studying a syllabus will help you familiarize yourself with the rules and expectations for the class. If you forget a rule or expectation, then feel free to look back on the syllabus at any time.

Socially, professors will definitely expect communication and feedback from their students so don’t be afraid to talk to them, ask them questions if you’re struggling to understand something, attend office hours and keep in touch with them via email/phone in case of emergencies. And if you see them outside of class, be sure to say hello!

Veronica Gonzalez is a rising junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.


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Making Time for Reading Assignments

by Veronica Gonzalez

Stuck on a textbook or novel on your syllabus? Want to make your reading assignments much easier? Here’s an idea: JUST READ! This may sound too obvious or pointless but it just might be crazy enough to work – all you have to do is prioritize, don’t think of it as a chore and go for it.

  • Prioritizing: It’s imperative that you make time during your studying and school time to read what’s being assigned to you by your professors. If you have free time in your class schedule, dedicate it as reading time.
  • Don’t Think of Reading as a Chore: Most college students cringe at reading long chapters in a textbook, with most turning to SparkNotes or other related websites to get an understanding of the chapters that they’re supposed to read for class. However, the websites only give you summaries, which may be missing important information that would be mentioned in class by your professors. Summaries are great if you are in a pinch but if you truly want to understand the assignment and be prepared for class discussion, actually reading the text is the way to go.
  • Go for It: Here are few tips on reading chapters from your textbooks. First, take a deep breath before you start to read. Next, read slowly to better understand the subject matter. And lastly, make sure to take notes on what you’ve read so far in the chapter so that you can refer back to what you learned and review any trouble spots.

What are your tips for tackling reading assignments?

Veronica Gonzalez is a junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.


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Prioritizing Your Study Time

September 10, 2013

Prioritizing Your Study Time

by Veronica Gonzalez

Exams lurk in college classrooms and quizzes have been known to (literally) pop out of nowhere! The question is: Will you be ready for them? Professors know that every student has time to study no matter what and as a college student, list-making, planner-investing and avoiding distractions has helped me improved my study skills when exams and quizzes draw near. Need help prioritizing your study time? Take note!

Homework will come at you like angry bees before you know it so take the time to determine what you need to work on, which papers are due when and what needs to be turned in. If you like going digital, make a list on your phone and/or tablet.

To-do lists are essential but what would make them easier to remember and complete is a planner. Planners aren’t hard to find – most retail stores sell them for between $3 and $20 depending on the brand and style – but if you want to save money, consider the fact that some mobile devices like tablets and cell phones have planners just by using the calendar feature.

Although we’re in the digital age, digital mobile devices can be both allies and adversaries. Try to limit the use of cell phones, social media and other distractions while catching up on homework or when studying for a test. If you cut out the distractions during study time, you’re more likely to focus more on the course content.

The main focus in college is supposed to be academics. By taking extra steps in prioritizing your study habits, you’ll be on the right path to success.

Veronica Gonzalez is a junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.


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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Veronica Gonzalez

by Veronica Gonzalez

My name is Veronica Yvette Gonzalez. I’m 20 years old and I’m entering my third year at the University of the Incarnate Word this fall. At UIW, I major in English. I’m also a committed member and fellow officer of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society at UIW. In ALD, I was vice president from 2012 to 2013; this fall I will be a returning officer but this time as a junior delegate.

The main reason why I chose to attend UIW was because I found it possible to pursue a career in writing there. The English Department offered all kinds of classes and recommendations to help me pursue my dream career. Another reason why I chose UIW was because of its friendliness and hospitality. When I researched the school, it was totally different from other universities: UIW wasn’t going to hook me up with so many classes and tell me “Good luck” – they stepped up and helped me get through the first day of school. They were very helpful and brilliant at answering every question I had.

Majoring in English was an automatic choice: Ever since I was a kid, I read lots of books and I envisioned writing my own books and signing them for my fans. At UIW, I was placed in special classes where the professors were hands-on and gave every student feedback on their essays and stories. Having an advanced start to a writing career in college is heaven! Although I am quite busy with school, I also make time to read, write, draw, paint and brainstorm ideas on what to write about.

When I heard Scholarships.com was calling for virtual interns, I immediately rose to the challenge. As a writer, I know that I shouldn’t be afraid to put my writing to the test. This internship won’t just look good on my resume – it will advance my dream career because I will gain so much experience as a writer!


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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Mary Steffenhagen

by Mary Steffenhagen

Hey there, Scholarships.com readers! I’m Mary, a junior English major/business minor student at Concordia University of Wisconsin.

I’ll admit, I didn’t give my college search as much time or thought as I should have. I chose to attend Concordia for two main reasons: I was offered a substantial academic scholarship (and rather a lot of financial aid) and was able to take a free trip to London, Normandy and Paris through the honors program during my freshman year. However, my time at Concordia has been well spent as I have been able to take a number of fascinating classes with some exceptional professors, make a few lifelong friends, travel and even get some decent sleep.

I love having a busy schedule so this year I plan to intern in Milwaukee and hopefully (fingers crossed!) head to New York City in the winter. I've indulged myself a little with my English major – reading and being impacted by what I read has always been one of the best parts of my life – and I am looking forward to a career that not only allows but requires me to do just that.

The opportunity to be a virtual intern with Scholarships.com is one I couldn’t pass up: Not only is this the sort of writing experience necessary for my resume, but it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. I hope to challenge myself to be a resource to you readers and help bring some insight into the ordeals of life as a college student.

I’ll sign off with the most important thing college has helped me realize (so far): Challenge yourself and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish. Thanks for reading!


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Making Time Your Friend Instead of Your Enemy in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

Some days in college feel like a battle against the clock: We students are constantly at the beck and call of our class schedule, homework and the professors who assign it. Add a job on top of that or perhaps an internship, sprinkle a few friends in here and there, squeeze in a few meals and the day is already gone! Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that way no matter how busy you may find yourself: It all depends on the way you organize and prioritize, and you’ll often find that it’s the little things that count most.

I’ve found that doing things the night before (and I don’t mean homework!) can save loads of time and worry. Try setting out your clothes, packing your meals (if you commute) or putting together your necessary class materials before you go to bed rather than in the morning before class. If you end up running late, you’ll still shave off crucial minutes; plus, it’s easier to make sure you won’t forget anything if you check it over twice.

Draw out your general weekly schedule and stick it somewhere obvious. I have found that being able to actually see where your time is being spent is incredibly helpful as opposed to just going day by day in a planner. Block off the times you know you’ll be in class, take advantage of the empty spaces and you’ll soon get into a groove that allows you control over your time.

I multitask...a lot. Say you’ve got a lot of reading to do – try finding it in an audio format and listen to it while you work out, do laundry or drive. All those obnoxious little activities that must be done can do double-duty if you need them to.

If you still feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to make time for yourself. Skip a class if you must, put aside the obligations and homework and just take some time to relax. All the planning in the world is no use if you’re simply too overworked. It’s OK to throw the schedule out the window every once in a while and do what makes you happy. Time is a precious thing – even more so in college, it can seem – so make the clock your friend rather than your enemy!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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Making the Most of Your Spare Time

by Mary Steffenhagen

It’s agonizing to suddenly relinquish a free and easy summer schedule to the clutches of the college schedule...but what happens when your weeks in school are just as free they are over break?

You may end up with a situation a lot of college students dream of: a surplus of free time. This happened to me during my freshman year, as I had a pretty open class schedule, a weekends-only job and didn’t join any clubs. I ended up bored to death nearly every day! But I didn’t realize that the extra time was an advantage that not only gave me a chance for homework but time to focus on personal goals. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few tips as to how to best spend your time:

However you choose to spend your extra time, make sure you enjoy yourself. Having time to yourself while in college is a rarity and you may not have such an opportunity in later semesters. College is about exploring and learning...not being bored because there’s nothing to do. So get out there and make use of your time – you won’t regret it!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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Popping the Bubble: How to Keep Up on Current Events in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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Becoming a Commuter Student

September 5, 2013

Becoming a Commuter Student

by Mary Steffenhagen

Living on campus is almost a necessary rite of passage for the college freshman. “Don’t miss out on the full college experience!” you’re warned, enticed with stories of spacious dorms, fantastic parties and few rules. Sure, living in the dorms can be fun, exciting and new but it also has it downsides: expensive room and board fees, a mandatory meal plan with food usually not worth the cost, lack of privacy or the risk of a bad roommate. Being a commuter student, on the other hand, isn’t as difficult as it seems: Your school probably has commuter lockers if you have a lot of books, packing a lunch is cheap and quick and carpooling is an efficient way to travel with friends.

I lived on campus for my first two years of school and experienced all the downsides listed above to varying degrees so this year, I am living at home and commuting. In some cases, the pros and cons were obvious. Did I want to pay thousands for a meal plan rather than eat with my family for free? No. Would I rather share a small space with three girls instead of having my own familiar bedroom? No. But would I like to be closer to campus than have the 40-minute commute I now have each day? Yes. I was reluctant to commute at first but I found that the time spent would be made up for and then some by the money I would save. If living at home for a year or two is an option for you, consider it! You’ll save money that you can put toward paying off any student loan debt or – who are we kidding – buying stuff you actually want when you want it.

If a long commute doesn’t interest you but you’re still looking to live off campus, it’s not too late to begin the apartment search. It is possible to find a nice place with affordable rent: College towns often have complexes with student budgets in mind. Splitting rent is an easy way to keep costs down and this time you get to choose your own housemate!

When you live off campus and commute, your time feels more like your own and it doesn’t have to revolve around what’s going on at school. If you’re feeling the itch to leave campus, check out your options and see what’s best for you!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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Research Papers? You Got This! Part 2

by Mary Steffenhagen

Last week, I wrote about research techniques and tips that I've found useful for preliminary research for a paper. Now it's time to start writing!

You have sources and a direction in which to head but you won’t go anywhere without a strong thesis. A strong thesis states your idea concisely and directly. It should be very specific but also something that is not beyond argument – your paper will be proving a point and disproving others – so starting off with “I argue” is a good way to state your thesis confidently.

Quotations from your sources, especially your primary source, are the excellent additions to strengthen your arguments. Don’t let them overpower your own voice, though; if you’re quoting every other sentence, back off a bit. You can still include that information if it’s necessary but try paraphrasing it (with attribution, of course) and injecting your own viewpoint. Use quotations to point back to the thesis and, like the thesis, make sure they are strong and not just in there to bump up the word count (although quotes are great for that if you really need it).

Assuming you have the bulk of the paper down, write your conclusion and intro. The intro is incredibly obvious once you have the body of the paper done – after all, your ideas are concise and flow together in a real format. It goes without saying that the intro is crucial: It has to seize and hold your reader’s attention and present your thesis. Your conclusion is equally important and you shouldn’t just summarize what you’ve already said. Think of these sections as your answer to “So what?” Make your reader see why your argument (and all the work you’ve done) is worthwhile.

Next come the dreaded citations. Whether it’s APA, MLA or Turabian, I’ve never known anyone to enjoy citations but they are crucial to correctly attributing your sources. (Remember, inadvertent plagiarism is still plagiarism.) The Purdue Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource when you are unsure of how to cite something and I often use Calvin College’s Knight Cite to format the source information for me.

It should come as no surprise that your next step should be proofread, proofread, proofread. Get a friend to read your paper over, too, as new eyes catch mistakes better than eyes that are used to seeing them.

Lastly, print it off, smell the fresh ink and breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe there’s even time tonight for a few hours of sleep! I hope what I have learned from writing a plethora of research papers will make your process less daunting and more worthwhile.

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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