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What Are My Housing Options?

by Thomas Lee

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

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

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

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


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Student Soldiers: Attending College While Serving in the Military

by Thomas Lee

With its proximity to Fort Bragg and its extensive ROTC program, Methodist University could be considered in many ways an “army school.” Because of this, a number of Methodist students were non-traditional – soldiers who were stationed on base or local residents who attended classes at night.

I certainly respect but do not envy the life of a soldier. Not only must many of them balance classes and family life, but a military career is considerably more difficult than an office job. They must be in peak physical condition and reliably meet the demands of their commanding officers, as well as other supervisors both on and off base. Their usual days can be exhaustive, with schedules consisting of morning training and exercises, day classes, personal errands, night classes and then family duties. Since my time at Methodist, I have gained a greater respect for soldiers and military families and all they manage to accomplish.

There are practical benefits to being a student soldier. Depending on one’s status, the U.S. government may pay most – if not all – tuition costs. Soldiers and their families also have medical and dental care provided by the military. Attaining a degree while in the service may mean a pay increase or advance in rank. Despite experiencing difficulties the average college student will not face – imagine being in class one morning and receiving deployment orders that night – all of the student soldiers I met had one thing in common: They were deeply proud to be part of the military and of having been able to faithfully serve their country.

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


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

by Diane Melville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Abby Egan

by Abby Egan

Hi all! My name is Abby and I’ll be a junior this fall at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). Nice to meet you!

I chose MCLA mainly because it was as far away from the city as possible: I’m from Quincy, MA, right outside Boston, so I’m well acquainted with the city lifestyle but when choosing a college, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I major in English Communications with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy but when I’m not busy with schoolwork, I love to read, drink tea and walk around town with my camera. Most of the time, however, I run a very busy lifestyle including working three jobs, participating in two volunteer groups and testing out more clubs than I could possibly count.

I applied to be a virtual intern with Scholarships.com this summer because I saw this as my chance to use my own experiences to help incoming college students get a taste of what college is really all about. When it comes down to it, I’m just a regular girl finding her footing in the college atmosphere...just like you. Hopefully I’ll be able to shine some light on what it’s like to live away from home and start the next chapter of your life but the best advice I can give you would be 1. sleep is the most important thing in the world, and 2. your college experience will be what you make of it. Looking forward to sharing more with you soon!


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Making the Most of Your College’s Resources

by Abby Egan

Navigating college can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. Every school runs a little differently but most have many common resources available to all students, new and seasoned.

  • In the Residence Halls: Ever wonder who puts those pretty name tags on your door? That’s your residence advisor (RA)! They’re your immediate resource in the residence halls if you lock yourself out of your room or want to get involved in your building’s community. A step up from the RAs are the residence directors (RDs), who are the head honchos of each residence building. If your RA doesn’t know the answers to your questions, it’s likely that the RD will. Make sure you know these people and how to get in contact with them because they are always available to help.
  • In the Classrooms: In your classes, your resources are a little more obvious. Your teachers are there to guide you through the courses you’re taking with them but since many professors believe in student independence, sometimes you’ve got to figure it out on your own. Connect with your peers to help each other out with homework, group projects and other assignments – it will give you a chance to make new friends and find a study partner for finals as well. Some professors have teaching assistants (TAs) who can help you in class or out of class for tutoring if you make appointments with them. It’s important to remember that you have connections in every college situation you’re in, even the hardest of classes.
  • Outside of the Classrooms: There is an abundance of resources available to students outside of the classroom that are just waiting to be utilized, such as academic advisors, librarians, info booth attendees, peer advisors, tutors, admissions tour guides and even the registrar workers. Colleges are full of helpful people who are there to make sure you have the best experience and achieve your goals while you’re enrolled. The best part about these resources is that if they can’t help you or answer your questions, then 9 times out of 10 they know who to connect you with so that you can get the help and answers you need.
  • Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Your Guide to On-Campus Living

September 4, 2013

Your Guide to On-Campus Living

by Abby Egan

As an incoming college student, you’ve probably heard the term “freshman experience” a million times by now. Well, think of residence halls as feeding grounds for memories and experiences you can gain outside of the college classrooms: The social atmosphere of residence halls is the most basic way to build college connections and relationships and staying on campus during freshman year is essential to receiving that crash course to how life really is on a college campus.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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How to Make a Miniscule Dorm Room Feel Less Like a Broom Cupboard

by Abby Egan

On the way to college: "Okay, the car is packed. I can’t see out the back window but everything fit – barely. I wonder how I’ll fit it all in my dorm room..."
Unpacking at college: "What do you MEAN I only get one closet?!"
All unpacked: "I guess I’ll just send half of this stuff home with my parents because there’s no more room for it."

Dorm rooms are notorious for being the size of a closet – think Harry-Potter-Cupboard-Under-the-Stairs small – but you can do some magic of your own when it comes to organization. Most dorm rooms come with a closet/dresser, a few extra drawers and a desk for storage. The best trick to making space is by utilizing the space under your bed: Though it can be disconcerting to have your bed so high – I’d suggest getting a stepstool if the height is a problem for you – it’s the easiest way to free up space. Plastic drawers, bins or boxes can be used as under bed storage, plus most colleges have beds that can be adjusted high enough to slide at least one piece of furniture under. The more you fit under your bed, the more floor space you’re going to have.

Thank goodness we live in the 21st century where stores are stocked with aisles of nifty little storage contraptions for dorm rooms. There are amazing storage products out there for students like us – shoe holders that hang on the back of your door, accordion shelves that hang from your closet pole and bed risers to give you even more height than the school bed can reach – so take advantage of these opportunities to create more space. Freeing up even a few square feet can really make the difference between feeling claustrophobic and feeling comfortable in your own space.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Deciding Between On- and Off-Campus Employment

by Melissa Garrett

Getting a job in college can be a good opportunity for students in financial need, taking off tuition charges or putting more spending money directly into their pockets. Although choosing a job can be a stressful decision, one of the biggest issues comes from deciding between on- or off-campus options. There are upsides and downsides to both but fortunately, it is not too hard to find out which employment choice is better for you.

On-campus jobs are definitely convenient, as they require little traveling time and transportation. Students without cars can greatly benefit from being able to walk to their job within a matter of minutes. If a student decides to do a work-study, then they may get to pay less in college costs; however, campus jobs for one’s own profit are often in short supply after work-study students have gotten their jobs. If it’s money in your pocket that you are looking for, then on-campus jobs might not be as practical.

Earning money that can be put in the bank is always a good idea and the money earned at an off-campus job can be put towards college costs just as funds from a campus job or work-study can. Bosses at jobs off-campus are sometimes less understanding of a student’s college schedule but this can often be worked out with one’s employer since businesses surrounding college campuses get many student applicants. There is also the matter of transportation, which can be an issue for students without their own cars.

Whether you decide to work on or off of your college campus, finding one isn’t really that difficult. For jobs at school, consult an on-campus career counselor who can guide you in the right direction; you can also check with your department head for a major-related position. Otherwise, search around campus for nearby shops and restaurants – if you take the time to walk in and ask for an application, the result could prove quite beneficial to your college experience!

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Reducing Chatham's Carbon Footprint with Green Transportation

by Melissa Garrett

With the environmental crisis being an important issue to many college students, an environmentally-efficient campus is definitely a plus for potential enrollments. Chatham University boasts environmental sustainability as one of its most important missions and the school has definitely tackled one issue: transportation.

Chatham has a number of common methods but some that are a bit more unique and uncommon. Like many universities, Chatham has embraced a shuttle system. These shuttles are referred to as “Green Machines” and run on biodiesel, a renewable and clean-burning alternative to diesel fuel. The shuttles run until 3 a.m. and not only take students to the nearby Eastside campus but also to the hotspot of Oakland. Students needing a break from studying and the everyday hustle and bustle of college life have an efficient way of getting to the restaurants, stores and museums that can be found in this popular area of town.

A student with a driver’s license who does not have a car on campus has the option of renting a Zipcar. Having a Zipcar available discourages individual car ownership, therefore resulting in less pollution. Of course, not all students have licenses to drive but fortunately, public transportation has been made extremely easy to access at Chatham: Students are permitted to use any Port Authority bus for free simply by displaying their Chatham ID. The university encourages public transportation as a way to conserve energy and offering free fares for college students is definitely a great convenience for students looking to get to different areas of Pittsburgh.

Chatham University has definitely lived up to its promise of encouraging environmental sustainability. With transportation being one of the leading causes of pollution, providing alternatives to students that are easy to access greatly helps to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. What is your school doing to lessen its environmental impact?

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Staying Stylish on a College Budget: It's Not Hard!

by Melissa Garrett

Whether you dread clothes shopping or can’t wait to go back to school in style, there’s no denying that new clothes can put a serious dent in your budget. Although college students can spend small fortunes on their new fall wardrobes, they definitely don’t have to: Clothing happens to be one of the easiest categories to cut back your spending if you know where to go.

While some people may turn up their noses at the thought of shopping at Goodwill or other second-hand stores, they can actually be great places to find brand names at very low prices. Just recently, I bought some clothes that included a Lip Service dress and tops from Express and Loft among other popular stores...and I walked out of the store having paid less than $20 for all of my new clothes, some of which didn’t even appear to have ever been worn. I am very picky about what I wear (I usually prefer black) and even I manage to find several items each time I visit a second-hand shop.

While shopping at thrift stores is fantastic, you must buy with skepticism as you would at any store. Don’t load up your shopping cart just because the items are cheap – prices add up and if you are careless, you may end up spending as much money as you would have at a department store! Remember that items have been owned before so check garments for any defects before purchasing. Also, don’t forget that a pair of fabric scissors can work wonders: Don’t be afraid to get a cheap, plain top and alter it yourself to make it an original.

All of this saved money can really benefit college students throughout the school year. More money in the bank means bigger budgets for textbooks, school supplies and fun...and who DOESN’T need a nice day out with friends after a hard week of studying? The better you learn to balance your budget, the more often you will be able to feel guilt-free treating yourself to a study-free weekend.

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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