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The Best Research Methods for College Students

by Jacquelene Bennett

There is going to come a time when you are writing a paper or doing a research project when simply doing a Google search will not be enough to get the information you need. As you progress through your college career, the papers you write and the projects you do will get harder and more in depth and the research tools you used in high school and in intro-level classes won’t help much. So how do you do proper research?

Start off by going to the library and looking at books – real, actual books. Contrary to what people think, books are not outdated or irrelevant but are actually great sources for papers and projects. The plus side to going to the library is that if you have trouble finding sources, you can ask a librarian who will be more than happy to help you out.

Another way to find reliable and informative sources for a paper is through scholarly journals. Scholarly journals are collections or databases of articles written by experts and professionals on different subjects and issues in almost every academic field of study. The databases I use are JSTOR, Project MUSE and LexisNexis but there are literally hundreds of different journals and students generally have free access to them through their universities. You can usually find these sites linked to your school’s library website, through a class’s Blackboard site, Google Scholar (though you generally have to pay for these), or, of course, a librarian can help you access them.

While a Google search might give you fast surface facts, you will have to search for a long time to find citation-worthy in-depth analyses and reliable information. With books and scholarly articles, you get the information you need and you never have to question their legitimacy.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Pick Your Classes Wisely

October 27, 2011

Pick Your Classes Wisely

by Jacquelene Bennett

Sometimes the most difficult part of a university class is not the homework or the tests but the process of picking out and registering for the class itself! Seeing as though this will be my last time registering for classes, I thought I would pass along some tips and tricks of the trade.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to overload your schedule with gen ed requirements early on in your college career; rather, you should aim for a nice balance between your gen eds and the classes you need to take for your major and/or minor. My rule has always been “half and half” – half of the classes I take are gen eds, while the other half is for my major or minor. This method not only keeps you from hating a semester because you were taking nothing but uninteresting classes but helps you in the long run by allowing you start on your degree requirements sooner.

Begin mapping out your course schedule with your adviser well before registration time. They can help you plan your classes semester by semester, give you insight on professors and create a list of back-up courses in case your first-choice classes are already filled by your registration date. You should also talk to friends or people who have taken the classes you’re interested in to get a feel for the material and workload.

Once you’ve registered for your next semester, make a list of classes that you want and need to take the following semesters as well. You’ll be able to see if you'll have time to pick up an internship, job or fun elective.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Double Your Potential with a Double Major or Minor

by Jacquelene Bennett

With the soaring prices of college tuition, most college students are trying to get the biggest bang for their buck when paying for school. One way they’re doing this? Having more than one major or minor.

Now don’t be under any delusions: Having a double major or a double minor is a lot of work – and I mean A LOT – but it can be very rewarding. Not only do you get a leg up in the job market and grad school admissions but it makes your time in college more simulating.

I personally am a double major (government and creative writing) and I also minor in religious studies. It is stressful, yes, but it is very worthwhile. Not only am I studying things that I find important and interesting but I feel like I am preparing myself for a future career in journalism because all these fields of study seem to flow together.

That is the key to having more than one major or minor – they should complement each other. Crazy as it sounds, I have found that classes in religious studies and government are quite interconnected and I’m able to understand each subject more depth because I am studying the other. Analyzing what kind of career you want to have after college also helps: I know people majoring in psychology and religious studies, creative writing and business, or philosophy and anthropology because of their specific career goals.

Like I said before, having multiple majors or minors is stressful and balancing your coursework, a job and a social life can be a challenge. If you are curious or confused, talk to your advisor or other students undertaking this type of workload, as they can provide the insight you’ll need to make the right decision for you.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Transitioning from High School to College

by Jacquelene Bennett

There’s no denying that going to college is a life-changing event but the adjustment from high school life to college life can be a tough one. All of a sudden, you are thrust into a world with no parents and no supervision while surrounded by new people, new responsibilities and new pressures. This can all be very overwhelming but fret not, I am here with some advice to help ease this transition.

First, don’t change your sleeping or eating habits. I know this will be extremely challenging because everyone will be up late talking, hanging out and eating junk food but it’s important to maintain a schedule. If you don’t, you will start to lose focus and gain weight; trust me you do not want either to happen.

Next, communicate with your family as often as you can. My biggest struggle during freshman year was learning how to handle the disconnect I felt from being away from home and my family. Calling, emailing or Skyping to share what’s going on in your lives and telling them about your day can really help ease the homesickness. It worked for me!

The last and probably most crucial piece of advice I would like to give is to make time for yourself. If you are living in a dorm, you will be surrounded by people all the time...seriously, 24/7. While this can be fun and exciting, it can also wear you down and drive you crazy. Even if you just take a walk or eat dinner by yourself one night a week, having that alone time will allow you to not feel so overwhelmed by your friends and roommates.

While I tried to give you the best advice about starting college, the truth is there’s no magic formula. Everyone deals with college life in their own way and once you start, you will figure out what works for you. It may take some time but it will be so worth it in the end. Good luck!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Taking Classes with Friends or Roommates

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the greatest things about college is making new friends; however, the main goal of going to a university is to do well in your classes and obtain that degree. So what happens when those two college aspects collide? Well, the outcome can definitely vary, as taking a class with a friend or roommate can either be fun or stressful. Let me explain.

Freshman year, one of my roommates and I took an introductory anthropology class together. It was fun to walk to class and gossip about the teacher and the other students later on in our dorm room...but that was where the fun ended. My roommate would often miss class and expect me to get her assignments and take notes for her. We would plan to study for tests together but she would bail at the last minute – and then complain when she was unprepared! In the end, the class became more work and stress than was necessary because I had taken it with my roommate. While it was nice to have a familiar face in the class, her habits interfered with mine and created a bad experience.

Now, I know this is an isolated event and that it is possible to take classes with friends or roommates and have it be a good experience – students do it all the time – but I would advise you all to think carefully before enrolling together. If you do want to give it a try, set guidelines right away, much like a roommate contract but for class. Make it clear that each person is responsible for their own notes and assignments, and define your study habits are and whether or not you want to study together or separately. If you set these standards from the beginning, you should have a fun and productive class experience with your friend.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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What Teaching Style Works Best for You?

by Jacquelene Bennett

We all know that good study habits can make or break your college career but how a professor teaches and conducts a class will also shape your college experience. Large lectures, small classroom discussions or workshop-like environments are all different types of teaching styles that professors employ in their classrooms.

I go to a very small school where there are never more than 25 people in a class so I am used to discussions being an integral part of almost every class I take. My sister, however, goes to Cal State San Bernardino; large lecture halls are the norm here and her classes have anywhere from 30 to 300 people depending on the subject and level.

Classroom discussions are intense: They ensure that every person has done the homework and reading because at any moment, your professor could call on you to discuss the assignment. Larger lecture halls allow for more leeway because there is often very little interaction between the professor and individual students so how hard you prepare for each class depends on your own motivation.

So, what type of teaching style works for you? For me at least, small classroom discussions help me learn best but for my trouble subjects (anything science or math related), lectures tend to be better. What I would recommend for any new college student is to test the educational waters; regardless of where you go to school, you can always find small classes with no more than 25 students that will allow for discussions or classes that are nothing but weekly lectures. Find what works for you and stick to it...your GPA will thank you!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Building Lasting Relationships with Your Professors

by Jacquelene Bennett

Lifelong friendships and connections are made in college but some of the most important relationships you will make while attending school are not just with your peers but with your professors, too. Aside from teaching you what you need to know, professors are excellent sources for advice, future job and internship recommendations, and insider information about the bureaucracy of the school; moreover, a professor can be a knowledgeable, sympathetic ear that can help guide you through your college years so forming a beyond-the-classroom relationship and repertoire with some of your professors is crucial. Here are some tips to help you form that bond with your professors.

Speak up in class. One of the quickest ways to grab a professor’s attention and have him or her learn your name is to raise your hand and ask a question. While other students may be going out of their way not to be noticed, your professor will appreciate your input.

Go to office hours. Professors have office hours for a reason but they are not just for answering questions about homework, tests or lectures. Office hours are designed to allow students and professors to interact beyond classroom walls; stop in to discuss an interesting article you read outside of class and go from there.

Say hi! For some reason, we students think professors are confined to their offices so it can be awkward when we see them walking around campus or eating in the dining hall...but it doesn’t have to be! When you see your prof, say hi and strike up a conversation. They’re people, too!

Doing these simple things everyday will create lasting personal relationships with your professors. Start making those connections as early as you can – that intro professor you reach out to freshman year could help you get a teaching assistant position with a notoriously difficult colleague when you’re a senior!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Should You Write an Honors Thesis?

by Jacquelene Bennett

To write an honors thesis or to not write an honors thesis? That is the question. If you are a senior in college, you know the dilemma that I am talking about.

At the beginning of their last year as undergrads, college seniors are presented with the option of doing an honors thesis - typically a 25- to 30-page research paper or paper that concentrates on a single subject within your declared major; you must not only demonstrate what you have learned while attending school but you will have to defend your work to a committee. Being a senior in college comes with a lot of stress and pressure – finding a job, filling out grad school applications, and completing capstone projects and papers are just a few of the things on a college senior’s to-do list – so why would anyone think of taking on another anxiety-filled task?

The pros of undertaking this type of project is that you will not only have a substantial piece of writing to present to grad schools and future employers but the work you’ve done will be reflected on your university diploma and resume. The cons of this project are the massive amount of work and time you have to devote to it. Honors thesis requirements differ from school to school but you’d be hard pressed to find a college where the experience is an easy one.

So is writing an honors thesis right for you? Well, that is a decision that you (and your advisor) have to make. After much debate, I found I do not have the time or enthusiasm to write an honors thesis...but if you do, good luck!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Three Tips to Ease Your Mind on Test Day

by Jacquelene Bennett

SAT, ACT and AP these are all acronyms for the tests that many high school juniors and seniors are gearing up to take in the next few weeks. While these tests may not be fun, they are important because they help determine which universities and colleges you get into and whether or not you’ll receive credit for intro classes. So to help ease the pressure of taking these tests, I am here to offer a few helpful pieces of advice.

  • Go over the basics. This tip applies to any and all tests regardless of subject. There are always fundamental terms and concepts that will be part of any test, such as certain grammar and punctuation rules or simple math concepts. Reviewing these basic elements beforehand will help you on the test.
  • Practice your timing. These tests are timed and since you know about how many minutes you have for each section ahead of time, use that info to your advantage: If you are taking the SAT or AP English test, practice writing as essay in 25 minutes or fewer. Timing yourself when you are studying or taking practice tests will also help you when you are taking the real test.
  • Don’t freak out. I know that this isn’t an actual test prep strategy but being relaxed while you take the test will result in a higher score. Making sure you get a good night’s sleep and eating a substantial meal beforehand will also help you out when you go to take these tests. This may seem like common sense but so many students still pull all-nighters and skip breakfast on test day. Don’t be one of them.

In addition to these tips, don’t forget to be confident and easy on yourself. I know it may seem like these tests are be all and end all factors when you’re trying to get into college but they’re not. There are other factors that determine admission and you can always take some of these tests again for better scores!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Making the Most of Your Final College Visits

by Jacquelene Bennett

It is the start of the spring season, which means that high school seniors everywhere are getting their college acceptance letters. While the stress of applying to schools is over, making the difficult decision of where to attend college is just starting. Visiting the campus and taking a college tour is one way to help you in that decision making process because while a school may look good on paper, your feelings toward it might be swayed one way or another once you actually experience it in person.

Before I enrolled at the University of Redlands four years ago, I was thrilled to be accepted to UC Riverside. It had the academic programs that I wanted, a couple of my high school classmates were going there, it was close to home and the pictures in the brochure of the campus were beautiful. I thought that UCR was the school I’d one day call my alma mater but once I actually went to UCR and toured and walked around the campus, I discovered that it wasn’t the right fit for me.

Visiting a college gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the things that you care about. Is there Greek life on campus? What kind of clubs are there? Are the buildings handicap accessible? When you visit a school, you get to interact with actual students and ask why they chose that school; hearing these experiences could play a vital role in your college decision.

During a campus visit, you get to experience firsthand what life will be like if you went to that school. You see what the dorms and classrooms look like, you see the dining areas and what food will be available to you, you see the hustle and bustle of everyday student life and, most importantly, you feel the energy and vibe of the campus that lets you know if it’s the school for you.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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