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It’s OK to Just Say No!

October 4, 2011

It’s OK to Just Say No!

by Kara Coleman

Regardless of whether they’re children or adults, Americans are busier now than ever before. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That’s like saying that the Earth is round. Everyone knows that,” and that may be true but college is the perfect time to learn the power of two little letters: N-O.

Over the course of this semester, I’ve found myself saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that,” more times than I ever thought I would. I live and work in a town that’s about a 30-minute drive from where I go to school, so I do a lot of driving back and forth for classes, newspaper staff meetings and school events. I spend a few hours each week tutoring eighth grade math and I babysit one night a week, on top of the 25 or so hours I spend at my regular part-time job. This puts a severe time limit on the time I have available to spend with family and friends so I decided that I had to learn to say no.

When a parent called and asked if I could tutor her daughter two nights each week, I asked if we could do it on an assignment-by-assignment basis instead. When I received a text asking if I could help paint sets for an upcoming theater production one night after work, I declined because it was the only night that week that I didn’t have to go anywhere after work.

It’s hard to say no when we are asked to do something because we think we’ll be letting somebody down if we say anything less. But you know what? If you don’t say yes, someone else will. Know your limits and how much you can commit to without going crazy and learn to just say no!

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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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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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

December 19, 2011

Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

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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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

November 21, 2011

What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

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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Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

November 8, 2011

Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

by Kara Coleman

What does the average college student’s wardrobe consist of? Most people probably think of hoodies, sweatpants and tennis shoes, or guys on game day wearing white dress shirts with striped ties featuring their school colors. That’s true to some extent but fashions differ from campus to campus and many people use their college years as a time for self-expression.

When I went to a community college, I noticed there wasn’t really a dominant style of dress that students shared. Because it was commuter school, people got ready for the day and headed to their jobs after class. Some people wore their work uniforms, then there were preps who wore Abercrombie clothes, skaters with skinny jeans and long hair, and basketball players in track suits. It was like a big high school. When I transferred to a four-year university in August, however, I was surprised at how many people came to class each day in their pajamas. (I’m pretty sure I was the only one wearing a sundress and matching earrings on the first day!) Why the difference is fashion trends between colleges? The majority of students at the school I currently attend live on campus in dorms or apartments. They roll out of bed, grab their books and walk across the street to class.

Though sweats and tees are comfortable and convenient, college students are increasingly ditching these options in order to reflect current styles. The reason? Since most students have smartphones or tablets and can access the web from anywhere, they can see something they like, buy it online instantly and instruct that it’s shipped directly to their door...all while walking down the hallway or across campus between classes.

So what about you? Do you go to class in your pajamas or plan out your outfits for the entire week? What fashions are currently trending on your campus and what will be the next big thing?

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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Where to Work on Campus

June 9, 2011

Where to Work on Campus

by Kara Coleman

While many students have been working part-time jobs since they were in high school, others are juggling work and school for the first time. On-campus jobs make this transition easy, since your boss will be willing to work around your class schedule. Whether you live at home and commute to your college or you live in a dorm 3,000 miles from home, on-campus employment is available. Here’s just a sampling:

Bookstore Associate: Your school’s bookstore needs people to run cash registers, answer phones, stock shelves and help students locate books they need. This might be a good job for you year-round if your school offers summer courses.

Tutor: At the community college I attended, free tutoring is available to students through the Student Support Services office. Tutors are paid by the school and set their own schedules during the hours the office is open. This guarantees that tutors’ work schedules do not conflict with their class schedules. If your college doesn’t offer a tutoring program, consider starting a private tutoring business.

Ambassador/Tour Guide: My school offers scholarships to students who participate in the ambassador program. Ambassadors are expected to be present at career fairs and charity functions and give campus tours to prospective students. Find out if your college offers scholarships or other types of financial aid for ambassador or tour guide positions.

Campus Security: Some colleges let students work for the university police department. Duties may include directing traffic, inspecting grounds and buildings for safety, and assistance during emergency situations. This is a great opportunity for criminal justice and law enforcement majors...or anyone looking to keep their campus safe!

Student job opportunities vary from school to school – at some universities, the editor of the school newspaper is a paid position! – so visit your college’s website or ask your advisor about potential on-campus jobs for you.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

June 15, 2011

Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

by Kara Coleman

On June 9th, Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed what supporters and opponents alike consider to be the toughest law on immigration in the nation.

The law, due to come into effect on September 1st, requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be illegal if they are pulled over for some other reason. (It’s also a criminal act to harbor or give a ride to someone who is in the country illegally.) Alabama businesses are required to use the E-Verify database to check the immigration status of their employees and businesses that employ illegal aliens could have their business licenses suspended or even revoked.

Opponents of the bill are honing their attacks on the fact that public schools will be required to check the residency status of their students. Jared Shepherd, an attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned illegal immigrants will not send their children to school out of fear of being arrested. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale, said that particular section of the bill is intended to gather information about how many illegal aliens attend Alabama public schools, and the cost of educating them. In fact, the bill specifically states that “primary and secondary education” is a public benefit that does not require residency to be verified.

In the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants could not be denied a public education based on their status. The writers of the immigration bill studied Plyler v. Doe previously, and the state bill contains no provisions violating it. Also, because of the way this bill was written, if one section of the bill is ruled to be unconstitutional, the rest of the law will still stand. “We want anybody who wants to make their home here to be able to do so,” says Representative John Merrill. “But we want every one of them to do it the right way.”

As a lifelong Alabama resident and current undergraduate student, I don’t believe this law will impact me personally – I am a citizen and every international student I know is either part of an exchange program or recently obtained citizenship – but I can see how it might hinder illegal students from wanting to pursue or continue higher education. The real test will be when the law comes into effect in three months.

Kara Coleman attends Gadsden State Community College, where she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism.

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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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Staying Sharp Over the Summer

May 24, 2012

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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Colleges to Extinguish Smoking on Campus

July 12, 2012

Colleges to Extinguish Smoking on Campus

by Kara Coleman

As many as one-half of America’s college campuses are preparing to become smoke-free. Though some schools currently ban indoor smoking or smoking within a certain number of feet from a dorm or academic building, new regulations would discourage students from lighting up even in open air on campus.

As would be expected, students are divided on the issue. Some feel that since college students are adults and smoking tobacco is legal, schools are overreaching their boundaries. Smoking is a stress reliever to many students, is less addictive than chewing tobacco and less dangerous than smoking spice or illegal drugs. Advocates of the no-smoking-on-campus rule cite secondhand smoke exposure as a big reason to bring about this change; they also say it is the responsibility of colleges and universities to encourage healthy habits.

As a non-smoker myself, I am very much in favor of not allowing students to light up on campus. I am not bothered so much by secondhand smoke at the university I attend now as I was at my community college, however: All the buildings were so close together on that campus that there really weren’t very many places to go outside and not inhale smoke. Some people (students AND faculty) would even light up as they walked down the sidewalk, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke wherever they went.

Some campuses are set to become smoke-free as soon as this fall, while other schools don’t plan to enact the rule until the 2013-2014 academic year. Is your school thinking about becoming smoke-free? If so, how do you feel about it? Do you think not permitting students to light up on campus will discourage them from doing it elsewhere...or are schools just blowing smoke?

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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