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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

Five years after Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, more than one million articles have been contributed to the free-for-all Internet encyclopedia. The open editing format allows for an unlimited amount of information to be shared all over the world but unfortunately, some teachers don’t consider Wikipedia to be a credible source...or they simply want their students to do a little more searching for information. Here’s how to make more informed choices when searching for works to cite.

When you Google your topic, don’t just click on the first link that pops up. Check out the site’s address before you visit. Remember, ANYONE can post ANYTHING on the Internet: An English professor at my community college was known to occasionally log on to Wikipedia and edit articles, just to see if her students were using the site.

College and university websites are reputable. If MIT posts an article about its latest technological breakthrough, take that information and use it. The same holds true for sites belonging to trade journals. A writer for an aviation magazine is talking directly with people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes in order to write articles for other people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes. Their information has to be accurate.

It’s also acceptable to cite articles from credible news sources like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. These are publications everyone is familiar with and they have years of coverage to show for it. The bad apples are few and far between.

Something to keep in mind when doing online research is that if something is true, it’s probably going to be on more than one site. If you come across conflicting pieces of information, be sure to check a number of other sources. And you don’t have to ignore Wikipedia completely: The bibliographies at the end of each article can provide some valuable links!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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In College? Get Tuned In!

September 8, 2011

In College? Get Tuned In!

by Kara Coleman

Last week, my Intro to Mass Communications teacher told my class that if we want to make a good grade, we need to fully submerge ourselves in the media over the course of the semester. I nodded in agreement but secretly wondered how our generation could possibly be more submerged in the media than we already are!

We were children during the Internet boom of the 1990’s and now, the technology that we grew up with in our homes fits in our pockets. For the majority of our waking hours, we are bombarded with media messages. We have news updates pop up on our computer screens and phones as soon as they happen. We wear t-shirts advertising our favorite brands of clothing. We sing along with song lyrics that are blasted at us over radio airwaves. Candidates in the 2008 presidential election reached out to us through MySpace and Facebook and rebels in Egypt and Libya used Twitter as their primary means of communication earlier this year.

College can be a confusing time, especially for students straight out of high school. Of the thousands of messages we receive each day, how do we decide which ones are worth listening to? I’ve heard people say that college is a time for you to explore all of your options and find yourself but it’s also true that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Head into college knowing what you believe and what’s important to you. As one writer put it, “By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”

Be receptive to the messages that come your way. Know whether or not you agree with them and why. Perhaps the most important lesson you will learn in college is how to think for yourself!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Why I Love My School Newspaper

Helpful Hints for Would-Be Campus Correspondents

January 27, 2012

Why I Love My School Newspaper

by Kara Coleman

Are you thinking about joining your school’s newspaper staff? If you’re planning for a career in writing, photography or any kind of journalism, you should be!

The obvious benefit of writing for your university’s newspaper is that it will help you in building your professional portfolio. My school’s newspaper is issued weekly so each week during the academic year, I am able to add at least one more article to the portfolio I am building. Listing the paper as an employer/extracurricular activity will look good on your resume as well.

A perk of being part of student media is that reporters can get admission into school events for free and have unlimited access to interviews with coaches, directors and event organizers. But for me, the most enjoyable part of writing for my university’s paper is getting to meet people and do things that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Last semester, I met with members of our robotics team (who knew we had a robotics team?) after they placed second at their national convention and I got to drive the robot around. I also got to interview a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and an English lord who visited our school. As a frequent writer for the arts and entertainment page, I have met many students in the drama and music departments – two places I never set foot before.

While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, students must understand that working for the paper is a huge commitment. Sometimes covering stories interferes with class time, homework time or hanging out with friends. Before signing up to become a reporter, make sure you are dedicated to itl you must treat it like a job and meet deadlines, even if you aren’t getting paid...but really, no value can be placed on the experience you will gain as a member of student media at your school!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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See the World in the Summertime!

Exploring the Many Benefits of Summer Abroad Programs

August 10, 2012

See the World in the Summertime!

by Kara Coleman

Many universities across the country offer study abroad programs for students who wish to spend a semester in another country. Every student that I know of who has ever participated in one of these programs hails it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience...but what if you can’t afford to spend an entire semester overseas or you don’t want to interfere with your planned graduation date or schoolwork? Consider seeing the world on shorter-term trips during the summer! You’ll still get the experience of traveling and seeing what life is like in other countries without taking a lot of time off from work or school.

This past May, my university sent 10 students from its honors program to China for two weeks. Though they did do a few touristy things, they spent most of their time learning at Taizhou University. Because the Chinese academic year is different than ours in the U.S., the Chinese students were still in classes and the American students were able to jump in and study alongside them after their final exams had been completed at home. The best part? The trip was completely paid for by JSU!

You can also use the summer months to explore the world on a trip not associated with your college. Last month, I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip, where I volunteered in a shelter for homeless children. I was able to experience firsthand what life is like in a third-world country and have plenty to tell my friends about when school starts back up later this month.

So where will you be at this time next year? Studying kung fu in a Chinese university? Playing soccer with kids in Central America? Or maybe something completely different? A whole world of opportunities awaits you – literally!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.


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Staying Sharp Over the Summer

by Kara Coleman

Thousands of college students across the country have been making their way home from school to spend the summer relaxing and taking a break from studying. But how do you keep from forgetting everything you’ve learned throughout the academic year? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Rack up the credit hours. The most obvious way to keep your study skills sharp over summer break is to not take a break at all. Most schools offer summer classes – some full-term, some mini-mesters and some online. Even just taking one class during the summer can be good for your brain.
  • Hit the books. While lounging poolside this summer, why not do a little reading? You don’t necessarily have to tackle War and Peace, but try for something a little deeper than Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly. Visit GoodReads.com to browse books in any genre and find something that will keep you turning pages all summer long!
  • Help someone else. I spent last summer tutoring two eighth-grade girls. Even though we just worked through pre-algebra books together, it really helped the girls to remember all that they had learned and it was a great brain booster for me, too!
  • Just play. Whether you're right-brained or left-brained, puzzle games are a fun way to keep your mind active. Sudoku – a wordless crossword puzzle that involves the numbers 1-9 – is available in book form as well as via download on Kindle. Also available for free via Kindle is Grid Detective, a game where players unscramble words.

How do you choose to keep those brain juices flowing over the summer? Let us know what works for you!

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Is Not Struggling a Struggle?

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 22-year-old Taylor Cotter published an article on The Huffington Post about her success since she graduated from college in May. The odd thing about Cotter’s piece is that she doesn’t take the angle of a success story in a struggling economy – she feels that she should be struggling more!

Cotter talks about how many of her friends are working part-time jobs, living at home with their parents and/or having diets consisting mostly of Ramen; she feels that she is missing out on the post-college twentysomething life by having a ‘real job’ and a 401(k). Some readers – including myself – are appalled by Cotter’s tone. It seems to me that it would be the dream of every college student to find a full-time job directly after graduation but Cotter almost seems remorseful that she made herself marketable to companies who would hire her.

I have been living at home with my parents and working part-time jobs ranging from lifeguarding to tutoring to retail over the past few years to supplement educational costs. Now that I am preparing to move into an apartment with my friends next month, I know full well that I’ll be eating my fair share of peanut butter sandwiches and cereal; while I’m excited to begin this next phase of my life, I’m more so look forward to the day when I have a full-time job – the same situation Cotter is essentially complaining about.

Isn’t that what college is for? Teaching us how to go from being dependent children to self-supporting adults? Or I could be wrong: Maybe it’s a time to either live with your parents or eat Ramen noodles. What do YOU think?

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.


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How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

by Kara Coleman

For my final Scholarships.com article, I was supposed to write about things homeschooled students can to do adjust to college whether they are living at home and commuting or moving to campus. As I sat holding my pen and staring at a blank piece of paper, however, all I could think about was how homeschooling actually helped better prepare me for college!

Homeschooling taught me how to study and pursue knowledge for myself. One of the top complaints I heard from my peers when I tutored at community college was that they didn’t really know how to study. I was not fed information via lecture when I was growing up – as a kid, my mom and I spent a lot of time reading and learning together and by the time I was in high school, Mom would give me my assignments and I would research and write about them myself.

This approach to education also helped me to think for myself and form my own opinions. My parents taught me to hold my beliefs and convictions to everything my professors tell me and to not be swayed by popular opinion. This sort of critical thinking led me to pursue and accept leadership positions when I began attending college, including editor-in-chief of my school paper and a member of the SGA Cabinet.

Time management is an important lesson that many students learn for the first time in college but I was able to learn how to juggle studying, extracurricular activities and a part-time job during my senior year of high school. In short, homeschooling more than prepared me for college life. If you were homeschooled and are preparing to attend college for the first time this semester, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can take what you’ve learned at home and apply it to your college experience. Let me know if I’m right!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.


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Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

Not-Your-Average College Majors and the Schools That Offer Them

June 11, 2012

Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

by Kara Coleman

What are you majoring in? Business? Nursing? Psychology? I’ve been scouring the Internet for some cool and crazy college majors so if you’re having second thoughts about your curriculum of choice, consider switching to one of these:

  • Home Economics. Yep, you can actually attend college and get a degree in home economics. Idaho State University offers this degree, with courses in interior design, nutrition and meal management.
  • Comic Book Art. The ultimate nerd degree can be obtained from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. To get this BFA, students focus not only on actually drawing comics but on plot and character development, publishing in both print and web forms and, the coup de grâce – an advanced comic art seminar.
  • Motorsports Management. You can travel to the heart of NASCAR country to pursue this degree. Winston-Salem State University’s website states that “WSSU is the only four-year university in the country and the only Historically Black College and University to offer a Bachelor of Science degree program in motorsports management.” Classes include sponsorship, public relations and mass media, and operational logistics; an internship in the field of motorsports is required before graduation.
  • Folklore and Mythology. If you are an honor student at Harvard and have always dreamed of attending Hogwarts, you can get pretty close. This Ivy offers a degree in Folklore and Mythology from a wide variety of cultures including Celtic, Scandinavian, Japanese and African. One featured class is “Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature,” where students read books by Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm and, yes, J.K. Rowling.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Why I Changed My Minor

March 21, 2012

Why I Changed My Minor

by Kara Coleman

I am always curious as to why students choose to minor in the areas that they do. Sometimes, minors complement majors but at other times, the connection between the two is not so obvious.

I have always loved to read and write – I was an English major during my time at Gadsden State Community College – so when it came time for me to transfer to a four-year university, I knew that I wanted to major in communications. Since I already had several lit classes under my belt from my time at Gadsden State, I decided to declare English as my minor. A couple of weeks ago, however, halfway through my junior year, I decided to change my minor.

While minoring in English certainly seemed like the practical way to go because I have to take many more classes, I weighed my options and decided to minor in creative writing instead. Although changing my minor has added a whole semester of classes to the work I have to do before I graduate, taking writing classes will allow me to further hone my writing skills. Since I want to write for a living instead of read poetry, creative writing was definitely the way to go for me.

What is your minor and why did you decide to pursue it? Before you graduate, ask yourself: Are the skills I’m acquiring while working on my minor going to help me with my overall career plans? Did I choose my minor because it’s something that I enjoy, even though it may not have a direct connection to my major? Decide for yourself what would be best for you in the long run when you select your minor...and keep in mind you always have the option to double minor!

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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