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What Do College Students Really Want?

Study Shows Self-Esteem Trumps Other Feel-Good Activities

January 11, 2011

What Do College Students Really Want?

by Alexis Mattera

With spring semester almost upon us (or already in session at some colleges), what are students looking to get out of the next four months on campus? Sure, Verizon iPhones, BCS Championship trophies and not having Facebook close down are excellent guesses but in reality, all students want is to feel good about themselves via regular self-esteem boosts. The real question then becomes if is this a good thing or a bad thing?

According to a new study by Ohio State University to be published in the Journal of Personality later this month, 130 University of Michigan students were asked to rate how much they wanted to partake in an enjoyable activity, like seeing friends, getting paid, having sex, eating a favorite food, drinking alcohol or receiving a self-esteem boost on a scale of 1 to 5 and how much they liked each of these things using the same scale. The findings overwhelmingly showed that these students cared more about increasing self-esteem.

Results did differ between male and female respondents – males ranked self-esteem above all else while females rated money and friendships as equally attractive as self-confidence – but the gap between liking self-esteem and wanting self-esteem was the slimmest out of all topics rated by both sexes, resembling an addictive mentality. Though not a full-fledged addiction for college students, the data show self-esteem comes dangerously close to being one. Levels of entitlement are also stronger with those who weigh wanting above liking - a trend the study’s authors Brad Bushman, Scott Moeller and Jennifer Crocker believe is not for the best.

Let’s put it to our own vote: Is it a confidence boost you want or does it take something else (our scholarship search, maybe?) to make you feel all warm and fuzzy?


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What We Can Learn from Pima

Duncan Says College Officials Acted Appropriately, But What Else Can Be Done for Troubled Students?

January 12, 2011

What We Can Learn from Pima

by Alexis Mattera

By now, you know what happened in Arizona on Saturday. You’ve heard about the innocent bystanders who lost their lives. You’ve been kept abreast of Representative Giffords’ condition. You’ve seen the shooter’s disturbing mug shot. But could this terrible occurrence been prevented? Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes Pima Community College did all it could.

The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was a student at the community college until October, at which time he dropped out because the school told him he would need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to keep attending. Dealing with worrisome students has long been an issue for colleges – the New York Times reported that schools remain ill-equipped to handle those exhibiting potentially violent warning signs, making it quite surprising some groups are lobbying for students’ rights to carry guns on campus – yet Duncan believes Pima Community College officials acted appropriately in their dealings with Loughner. "If I was the chancellor of that community college, I think that would have been my response," he told the Washington Post.

There’s no way administrators can 100-percent safeguard their institutions against violence but centralized efforts should be explored. There is typically no single person or department responsible for tracking the sorts of complaints that teachers and fellow students make about students like Loughner. And while schools don’t have the legal authority to force people into treatment against their will, more steps should be taken to get troubled individuals the help they need (Pima notified Loughner's parents that their son needed a mental examination to continue in school but not much else).

Do you think Pima Community College officials could have done more or do you, like Duncan, believe they handled the situation the best they could?

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College Culture , College News

Tags: College News

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Fee Increase? No Problem!

Students Willing to Pay Up for Needed Projects

January 13, 2011

Fee Increase? No Problem!

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: You’ve been accepted by College A and College B - your two top choice schools - and have been awarded generous financial aid packages by both. You decide to attend College B but one year in, a project is announced that would increase the fees you’re paying...on top of the already hefty sums of tuition, books and housing. Are you on board? If so, you’re in good company.

State funding for colleges isn’t what it used to be so when a school needs new dormitories, laboratories and classrooms, students have become more willing to fund these endeavors because they will benefit their educational experience. In Colorado, mandatory student fee increases range from 18.5 percent (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) to 611 percent (Mesa State) since 2006 but current students are readily handing over the cash…even though the majority will have graduated long before the projects are finished.

"I won't be a student here when the projects are complete, but I do know my degree will only gain in value," said Sammantha O'Brien, a student at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Brad Baca, vice president of finance and administration at Western State College in Gunnison, agrees. "We're in a very competitive environment and having high-quality amenities and facilities is an important factor," he said. And if the upgrades aren’t reward enough, students at these schools are more informed and involved: At Western State, for example, 40 percent of the student population participated in the fee vote – a record turnout.

What do you think, readers? Would you pony up the dough for a dorm you won't live in or an academic building in which you’ll never hear a lecture?


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ABA to Law Schools: "We (Might) Object to LSAT Reporting!"

Change Could Allow More Flexibility, More Diverse Applicant Pools

January 14, 2011

ABA to Law Schools: "We (Might) Object to LSAT Reporting!"

by Alexis Mattera

Ophiuchus, schmophiuchus. If you’re considering applying to law school, this next story will take precedence over what moon is in your house.

In the wake of many undergraduate programs making the SAT and ACT optional, the American Bar Association is considering ending the requirement that law schools use the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Will the elimination of the LSAT create an influx of underqualified applicants? Just the opposite: This shift is expected to create more diverse applicant pools without leading to any loss in academic performance.

If the ABA approves the change – Donald J. Polden, dean of the law school at Santa Clara University and chair of the ABA committee studying the standards, said a "substantial majority" indicated that they would like to drop the LSAT requirement – all law schools will have the option to dismiss LSAT requirements but will not be forced to. Polden went on to say that while there are "good arguments" for the change, he was not endorsing it and didn’t expect Santa Clara to alter its admissions policy.

Standardized testing is the norm but I believe it’s not the only way students should be measured. Do you think this proposed change is a step in the right direction in law school admissions or think the current system is fine as is? Our scholarship search and law scholarships page will be useful to you either way!


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And the Best Value Colleges Are…

Kiplinger Ranks Top Private and Liberal Arts Schools

November 15, 2010

And the Best Value Colleges Are…

by Alexis Mattera

True or false: Public schools are always a better value than private schools or liberal arts schools. Have your answer all bubbled in? Let’s see if it’s right.

A school’s value isn’t solely determined by cost; though it does play a significant role, if you factor in curriculum caliber and overall quality of life, it turns out that many private and liberal arts schools are indeed better values than their public counterparts. That and the amount families actually have to pay after financial aid is only around $20,000. Nice.

According to Kiplinger’s annual lists, Swarthmore College and Princeton University lead the pack for liberal arts and private institutions, respectively. Why? Swarthmore’s most qualified applicants only pay $18,791 – that’s nearly two-thirds off the school’s $52,650 sticker price and a huge reason why almost all Swatties return for sophomore year – and Princeton graduates leave its hallowed halls with the lowest average debt, due in large part to a tuition bill less than $50,000 and the elimination of student loans from its financial aid package. Here are the top 10 in each category:

Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. Swarthmore College
  2. Pomona College
  3. Williams College
  4. Washington and Lee University
  5. Davidson College
  6. Bowdoin College
  7. Claremont McKenna College
  8. Amherst College
  9. Hamilton College
  10. Vassar College

Best Values in Private Colleges

  1. Princeton University
  2. Yale University
  3. California Institute of Technology
  4. Rice University
  5. Duke University
  6. Harvard University
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Columbia University
  9. Brown University
  10. Dartmouth University

Students and parents, does this information have you rethinking the possibility of private and liberal arts schools?


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A Little Birdy Told Us Tweeting May Boost Grades

Recent Experiment Revealed Higher Marks, Increased Discussion

November 17, 2010

A Little Birdy Told Us Tweeting May Boost Grades

by Alexis Mattera

Logging onto certain social networking sites while in class may be frowned upon by some schools but at one Midwest institution, doing just that resulted in grade point averages about half a point higher over the course of a semester.

The school was not named to protect the identities of the 125 participating students but the subsequent report, entitled “The Effect of Twitter on College Student Engagement and Grades,” showed the 70 students who used Twitter to access information and complete four class assignments displayed higher GPAs, were more engaged in classroom discussion and more likely to interact with their instructor about course material than the 55 non-tweeting students in the control group.

But is Twitter really responsible for the grade boost? Reynol Junco, an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, said the familiarity with Twitter (which is a lot like Facebook’s status update feature) may make students more comfortable participating in discussions outside the classroom and responding to class material. But Dave Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media at the University of Texas at Dallas who has used Twitter in his classes, had reservations. He said more specific studies needed to be conducted to determine if Twitter is the deciding factor in increasing grades and what uses of Twitter are most effective to achieve desired results.

Students, do you tweet? What do you tweet about: schoolwork, politics, gossip? Have you noticed a difference in your grades – positive or negative – since activating your account? Do you follow us?


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The Far-Too-Common Application

Advocates Displeased with Rejection of New Questions

January 26, 2011

The Far-Too-Common Application

by Alexis Mattera

Can you remember the first time someone asked you to think outside the box? Whether it was for a homework assignment, a science fair project or college admissions essay, you probably noticed taking this creative approach was appreciated – and earned you an A, a medal or admission – but sometimes, unfortunately, the status quo wins.

This scenario was recently echoed by the Common Application’s board when it rejected a proposal to add optional questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization – which recently added a LGBT category in the activities section for students who participate in gay-straight alliances in high school – said the questions could "pose problems" now and though it left the possibility of addition open in the future, advocates are none too pleased with the message that’s being sent to the students applying to the 414 colleges that accept the Common App…especially Shane L. Windmeyer.

Windmeyer, the founder of Campus Pride, a national group that works on behalf of gay students and sponsors college fairs at which gay students can meet college representatives, believes the Common App organization is "acting like a parent of the 1950s" because the proposed questions would not be an issue: Since they would be optional, any applicant uncomfortable with them could elect not to answer; he also said a second gender question following birth certificate information would allow colleges to meet reporting requirements while accommodating all gender identities.

You can read more from both sides here but the fact of the matter is this: Many students go to college to find themselves but when they can’t even find a way to identify themselves on the application, is that school really where they want to be?


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Got Stress?

Annual Study Shows College Freshmen are Overwhelmed but Optimistic

January 27, 2011

Got Stress?

by Alexis Mattera

A student’s first year in college is one rife with new experiences and challenges. We have plenty of info on our site to help ease that transition – from dealing with common roommate problems to overcoming writer's block in college essays to beating the winter blues – but it looks like members of the class of 2014 are having more difficult times adjusting to the college lifestyle.

An annual study found 51.9 percent of first-year, full-time students reported their emotional health was above average. That may not seem so bad but lead author, UCLA's John Pryor, said this figure is a "fairly alarming" 3.4 percentage points lower than last year and the lowest since the inaugural study in 1985 when 63.6 percent reported feeling above average. Despite these record-low levels of emotional health, about 73 percent of students surveyed generally expressed positive attitudes toward higher education, even as they struggle to fund it because they believe it will help their future earning power.

But why the disparity between low emotional health and high expectations? It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific reason but Marcus Hotaling, chairman of mental health for the American College Health Association, has a theory: When the study began in 1985, he said, many students with mental health issues did not get into college but today, they are able to pursue post-secondary degrees because of improved medication, reduced stigmas and a greater willingness to share concerns with others. "Students are more attuned to who they are, what they're dealing with, and that there's help out there," said Hotaling.

First-time college students, do you share the sentiments of the students surveyed or is your freshman year shaping up to be one of the best years of your life thus far?


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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?


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Why Students Drop Out of College

New MSU Study Cites Key Risk Factors

February 17, 2011

Why Students Drop Out of College

by Alexis Mattera

It may seem counterintuitive to work hard throughout high school, score well on your standardized tests, get accepted to your first-choice college and wrangle enough financial aid to pay for your education only to drop out before graduation but it does happen. What causes this academic 180? That’s what researchers at Michigan State University revealed in a new study.

The team, led by MSU assistant professor of psychology Tim Pleskac, used a mathematical model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 "critical events" and students were asked whether any of the events happened to them in the previous semester; later, the students surveyed were asked whether or not they planned to drop out. Among the top risk factors reported were depression, loss of financial aid, tuition increases, unexpected poor marks and roommate issues. Other "critical events" like family deaths, failure to get into a specific program of study, significant bodily injury and addiction, however, were less likely to impact a student’s decision to leave school. "Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac said. "We are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues."

Would any of the factors listed above effect your choice to drop out of college? If they did, do you think you would eventually return to obtain your degree?


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