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Graduating On Time: It CAN Be Done!

July 6, 2011

Graduating On Time: It CAN Be Done!

by Shari Williams

Before starting school, I didn’t know very much about college life but now that I will be in school a year beyond my expected graduation date, I know what I could have done to enter the real world sooner.

At Towson, all freshmen receive class schedules assembled by the school. I didn't think to change the times of the classes (which were all at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday), nor did I research the professors. This turned out to be a huge mistake – I never was a morning person and I got stuck with some of the worst professors at Towsonmy school – as was the number of credits (12). I figured my university that I pay thousands of dollars in tuition to attend would know best, so I stuck with only 12 credits from then on. It was another oversight: Even though 12 credits is considered as full time, 12 credits is not enough to take every semester in order to graduate in four years without taking winter or summer classes. I had to figure this out myself and adjusted my class schedule accordingly.

I’m not saying you need to overload yourself with academics and never leave your dorm room – that’s not a college experience to remember! – but I am saying take as many classes as you can comfortably manage. If you have the means or have grants and scholarships, you can always take some classes over the summer or the next semester as long as it falls accordingly to your academic plan. Simply do what is best for you.

Graduating a four-year program in five years is not the end of the world but it is not something that you should shoot for, either. If you can handle five or more classes each semester, take them; you can also consider enrolling in a few online courses or opting to take a few classes pass/fail. Take what you can handle so that you can succeed.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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Lending a Helping Hand Pays Off

July 26, 2011

Lending a Helping Hand Pays Off

by Shari Williams

Community service is something most of us have done at one point or another. For some high schools, it’s a graduation requirement but I believe serving your community is vital whether it’s mandated or not. The good news for college students is that not only does community service help others but it can also translate into money for school.

One renown program is AmeriCorps. Several colleges and universities take part in this program, providing information and opportunities for students to get involved. Each year, AmeriCorps gives students opportunities to participate in year-long service-learning programs. If a certain amount of community service hours are acquired by the end of the year, the student is granted a stipend.

Another option is the Fulbright Program. Fulbright has an array of grants included in their U.S. Student Program to students who have studied or are studying foreign language, music, business, journalism and public health, to name a few. Fulbright is an opportunity geared more toward soon-to-be or recent college graduates looking for more experience in their fields. Students live outside the U.S. with most expenses paid and full or partial tuition awarded. A special program opportunity that Fulbright offers is the Fulbright-mtvU Awards, which provide four grants to recent graduates studying outside of the country who will conduct research on international music culture. If that sparks your interest, they have many more opportunities to apply for.

Both AmeriCorps and Fulbright are awesome opportunities and are great ways to gain valuable experience. For more information on Americorps or Fulbright, visit www.americorps.gov and US.FulbrightOnline.org, respectively, or contact your college.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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Should You Be an RA?

August 4, 2011

Should You Be an RA?

by Shari Williams

If you have lived on campus, hung out in the dorms or simply attended classes, you have encountered a resident assistant or resident advisor, perhaps better known as an RA. I was an RA during my junior year while I was participating in the National Student Exchange at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and loved it! It was a great opportunity to save money, meet people and gain personal knowledge.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the perks of being an RA – free housing, a single room, etc. – but not everyone will meet the qualifications. RAs must be very responsible; for example, if someone decides to trash the hallway or throw a noisy party, it’s the RA's responsibility to report the incident and think of ways to prevent it from happening again, even if some decisions they make are unpopular with their advisees. I enjoyed my time as an RA but this position isn’t for everyone. It’s not about the money or free housing – your heart really has to be in it!

During my time at CSUN, I found the housing staff and all RAs to be very supportive, family-oriented, and genuinely care about the students. If that sounds like you, you could be a great RA candidate but here are a few more things you should know before applying:

The Pros

The Cons

RA positions vary from school to school, as do their responsibilities. If you want to be an RA, do your research at your college by asking some current or past RAs about their experiences. To be or not to be an RA depends on you and, if you do decide to take on this role, your advisees will depend on you, too!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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Building Your Network in College

September 27, 2011

Building Your Network in College

by Shari Williams

It’s the beginning of the semester, meaning there is still plenty of time to get involved on campus. If your school is offering some sort of “Meet the Clubs” fair, find some time between classes to stop in. Why, you may ask? In addition to allowing you to meet people that share the same interests as you, clubs are great networking tools.

As a college student, you may hear some variation of the word “network” just about every day. From social networking to networking events put on by various organizations, making connections is vital. Depending on the type of club you join, members often share the same majors. Knowing the people within your major will give you a good support system especially during exam and course selection time. It’s easier to set up study sessions or discuss requirements for a class you are planning to take with someone who's already taken it.

You will find that the people who join clubs that are major-related are very serious about their future careers. For example, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a student offshoot of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) that provides equal access and networking for student members and professional members. If you’re looking for a mentor or internship opportunity, a club like this is an excellent place to start your search.

No matter what year in college you are, it isn't too late to join a club and start networking. Take the time out to check out the clubs offered at your school – major-related or not – and get to know those around you. You’ll make friends, be better prepared for your classes and even get a leg up in your job search after college – you never know when and where you’ll see your fellow club members again!

Shari Williams is a senior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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Learning to Live Off Campus

July 27, 2011

Learning to Live Off Campus

by Thomas Lee

Sometimes on-campus living is not an option. Dorms are too expensive or overfilled, or housing may not be provided to transfer students. Well, off-campus housing it is!

One of most efficient ways to live off campus is to find a friend, relative or even a parent’s friend who lives near the campus to see if they would allow you to stay with them. If you choose this option, make sure the person you’re renting from writes up a signed agreement that lists the duration of your stay, the set fee per week or month and the conditions to stay. A verbal agreement isn’t set in stone and may leave you without housing if something should go wrong.

Another option is finding an apartment but this may be even more expensive than a dorm. Apartment and condominium rates vary wildly, as so do their living conditions. If you find an apartment that fits your budget, make sure it’s in a reasonably safe part of town and read your lease or contract so you won’t be cheated by the landlord.

Off-campus living also may have stipulations not necessarily found in an on-campus dormitory. Make sure you fully understand the terms and agreements your friend or landlord and don’t assume you can do things you may have normally done at home. Loud music, wild parties and maybe even leaving the toilet seat up are grounds for eviction. If you’re living with a friend, he or she may also expect you to help out with buying groceries or cooking.

One way to cut down on the costs of off-campus living is find a group of friends or roommates and share rent in a large apartment or leased house. Again, a written contract signed by all members is the best way to protect your and your friends’ interests. Be sure to keep your dreams of finally being away from your parents from turning into nightmares!

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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Debate – It’s Great!

August 1, 2011

Debate – It’s Great!

by Thomas Lee

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

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

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

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

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What Are My Housing Options?

July 22, 2011

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

August 17, 2011

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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College Challenges and How to Overcome Them

July 5, 2011

College Challenges and How to Overcome Them

by Thomas Lee

The practical hassles of everyday life can become a problem for college students used to living at home. I learned this the hard way my freshman year when simple tasks like doing the laundry became a chore.

My freshman dorm only had two washers and dryers per hallway. A week’s worth of laundry quickly became an insurmountable pile because I couldn’t find a free washer. My parents suggested using a Laundromat but that costs extra money which a student may or may not have. The trick was for me to pick a specific time of the week where the laundry room would be mostly free and stick to it. Washing on Sunday afternoon when most students were not in the dorm became my weekly ritual.

The most difficult part of day-to-day college life for me was car trouble. Throughout all four years, gasoline prices were roughly around $3 a gallon and today show no signs of dropping. If you have a car on campus, the best thing you can do is hope to get a decent paying job and minimize your driving to only what is necessary. Another option is establishing a good network of friends and carpooling to save both time and money. Another major cost for me was car repair. I shelled out hundreds of dollars for a single repair, as well as an incident in which I was towed after having a flat tire. One rule of thumb (although this may differ by region) is to hook a white t-shirt or plastic bag to your window if your car breaks down as a distress signal to avoid towing for two days.

The best general advice I can give for college life is make smart, rational, common sense decisions. And don’t give in to peer pressure. But perhaps that is a story for another time.

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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College is a Real (Political) Party

July 11, 2011

College is a Real (Political) Party

by Thomas Lee

As a day-to-day college student, the political arena may not be the first thing on your mind, unless you’re a political science major like me. But even if you aren’t, joining a college political group is a good way to get involved in the campus and local community.

I was a member of College Republicans and am also a registered Republican. My first foray into the political arena was putting in 20 hours of phone banking as required by my Electoral Process class. I went to the Fayetteville Republican Party office each weekend and spent a few hours making survey calls to find out who would vote for John McCain in 2008. It wasn’t glamorous (except for the Election Day party!) but it was a great way to network with other students and state and local candidates. The following year, our group focused on campaigning for NC Republican Senator Richard Burr and the NC State House of Representatives candidate Lou Huddleston. I frequently met at schools and other community outlets to hold signs, give out t-shirts and shake hands. I even had the opportunity to meet Senator Burr and many other state candidates in person.

If you’re considering joining a college political club, make sure it corresponds with your own beliefs and interests and doesn’t try to shape you into something you’re not. Although as far as mainstream campus groups go, your main choices are College Republicans and College Democrats and only one of those groups may have a presence at your campus. Just like voting, make an informed decision before you decide to commit to anything so your fellow members won’t see you as insincere or indecisive...like a politician.

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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