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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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The Freshman Experience

October 19, 2011

The Freshman Experience

by Julius Clayborn

You know those feelings you get when you are about to embark on a new and exciting journey and are completely overwhelmed by curiosity? Well, I harbored all of those same sentiments...at least until one unbearable train ride to college.

Let me give you a brief synopsis on my less-than-brief journey to Cornell. It consisted of an awfully long (more than 12 hours!) and uncomfortable train ride from Illinois to New York. Imagine going that long without Facebook or other social networking sites – the horror! My excitement, coupled with utter nervousness, would not let me sleep at first but I eventually drifted off into an awkward slumber, awaking in Syracuse. From there, I continued my journey to campus.

Once I reached Cornell's campus in Ithaca, there was an abundance of people to assist with luggage and to help new students get settled in their new homes. I found this very helpful, for the realness of the entire situation hit me once I put my things away and looked at my ID card: "I am a freshman in college. I am a freshman at Cornell. Wow." I was in shock for a while but the apprehensiveness soon passed. I had the opportunity to immerse myself into the orientation activities and leave all of my worries behind. There was everything from rock climbing to music concerts and I met some pretty cool people while doing it all! I got to explore the campus, hear urban legends and attend a riveting convocation ceremony that reminded me of why I chose Cornell the first place.

When I finally started classes, I was grateful to have been allowed the opportunity to be taught by brilliant professors who are masters in their fields. I knew that by the end of these four years, I would leave Cornell smarter. I would move beyond regurgitating information and would truly have an intellectual grasp on the world. Although future train rides will be bumpy ones, I know the reward at the end of the line is well worth it.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Managing Pre-Freshman Jitters

by Julius Clayborn

Lately, I’ve been searching far and wide for Neverland – a place where I don’t have to grow older, a place where I can evade responsibility, a place where I can avoid the looming anxiety of college, a place in which to find solace from the fear of independence.

Having never been away from home for such an extended period of time, there are a few qualms I have with starting college, a pivotal chapter in my life. The first one is, well, being away! There will be tons of new people in a totally new setting. Will I be able to manage? Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many people about this issue and they assure me that it’s not as horrid as it may seem. The feelings between me and the rest of the incoming freshmen will be completely mutual. That’s actually the beauty of the situation: Everyone’s just as afraid as you are, therefore just as vulnerable. This vulnerability will, in fact, make meeting people a much easier process because everyone will be wide-eyed, open-minded and ready to build relationships.

Another thing that concerns me is the workload. The sheer thought of being bombarded with 20-page papers and getting no sleep gives me nightmares! Though, the advice I’ve been given in regards to this problem assures me that I am being much too dramatic. My uncle eased this fear by telling me that though multiple page papers are an inevitable part of being a college student, unreasonable demands will not be put upon college freshmen right away as they're still trying to maneuver their way through a college campus.

After discussing my college concerns with a few different people, I’m glad that much of my anxiety is starting to dissipate. I think I’ll put that trip to Neverland on hold and fly to my college campus instead. The growth I experience there won’t be something I have to fear and in the end, I’ll be happy that I made the decision to grow up.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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The Unofficial Mini Transfer Guide

by Kara Coleman

Sometimes transferring can be tricky. If you attend the same four-year university from the get-go, you can pretty much follow a checklist of all the classes you need to earn your degree. If you transfer from a two-year school to a four-year school or from a public school to a private school, however, what happens then?

In Alabama, I am able to use the STARS (Statewide Transfer and Articulation Reporting System) guide. From the STARS site, students can search their major and find all of the basic courses required for their major by all schools in the state. Then they can view degree requirements specific to the school they plan to earn their degree from. Certain courses required to earn an associate degree from a community college may not necessarily be required to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a public or private four-year university, so let your advisor know as early as possible if you want to graduate from your community college or just transfer.

Try to have a transfer plan from your first semester. Life can be unpredictable – I have a friend who attended a four-year university, got married over the summer and is now transferring to a different school closer to her new home – but if you have a plan from the beginning of your college experience, you’ll have a better chance of all your credit hours counting toward your degree. Most college students change their major at least once (I started as an English major but now plan to graduate as a communications major) so if this applies to you, consider changing your original major to your minor. All of those extra lit classes that I took will apply towards my English minor so I didn’t waste any time or money.

Find out if your state offers a STARS-like guide and, above all, talk to your advisors! Let your field advisor and a transfer advisor know of your plans; they’ll help you make the best decisions for what classes you should take to achieve your goals.

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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The Wild World of College Sports

by Kara Coleman

Do you think that just because you’ve never scored a touchdown or hit a home run you can’t have the student athlete experience? Think again! There is a whole world of collegiate sports opportunities awaiting you. Here are two of the most unusual:

Underwater Hockey. Though these two words typically aren’t used together, schools ranging from George Mason University to the University of Florida have underwater hockey teams. Teams consist of 10 players, with only six players from each team in the water at once. The puck, which weighs about three pounds, is pushed along the pool floor by 12-inch hockey sticks. Players wear water fins for mobility, masks for sight and, of course, snorkels for breathing. This might be a fun sport to try if you like swimming but since the game is played entirely underwater, it’s not much of a spectator sport.

Quidditch. Quidditch, the game invented by J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter book series, has become a hit among college students. Each team is composed of seven players – one keeper, one seeker, two beaters and three chasers – who score points by knocking a ball through hoops and the game ends when one of the seekers captures the “snitch.” In the books, the snitch is a flying ball that tries to evade the seekers; in the Muggle version, the snitch is a person with a ball in a sock hanging out of his or her pocket and the seekers try to snatch it while running with broomsticks between their legs. The first intercollegiate quidditch match was held in 2007 at Middlebury College in Vermont, now home to the Quidditch World Cup. More than 100 schools in the U.S. have quidditch teams, including LSU, Purdue and the University of Washington.

These players may not be nominated for ESPYs any time soon but they’re definitely having fun. You can, too: Check to see if your school offers these teams or start one of your own!

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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How to Make Friends in College

by Kara Coleman

After high school, you and your friends have to go your separate ways and now you’re faced with the challenge of making new friends. Where do you start?

Get on board. Joining a club or organization will allow you to meet and spend time with other students with whom you share common interests, especially if you live off campus. After I joined Phi Theta Kappa, I met friends that I sometimes hang out with outside of school activities and plan to keep in touch with for years to come. Colleges offer countless opportunities for you to get involved, from Circle K to Baptist Campus Ministries to Student Government Association; if your school has a get on board or recruitment day, go explore your options!

Find study buddies. Who’s your lab partner in biology? Who sits next to you in your favorite class? Sometimes, friendships actually form over homework! I met some of my best college friends after I started working as a tutor for Student Support Services. I got to know the other tutors and several of the students who came to be tutored. I was also able to get help with my Spanish homework from the Spanish tutor, who was a native of Bolivia. She introduced me to other international students and she even came to my pool party last summer and met my family. Even though we tend to gravitate toward people who are most like us, sometimes the best friendships can be with people who are most different.

Look to your roomies and floormates. If you are moving away to college, your roommate could end up being your best bud...but remember that other people live in your dorm, too! When one of my friends moved off to school, she actually became close friends with a girl who lived across the hall from her. My friend ended up transferring to a different school in a different state but she still keeps in touch with that girl!

How did you make friends in college? If you're not there yet, do you think you these tips will help when the time comes?

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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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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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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Education vs. Experience

October 17, 2011

Education vs. Experience

by Kara Coleman

I recently had a difficult decision to make: Up my chances of getting an A in my mass communications class or cover a story for the school newspaper that would look impressive in my portfolio. Which would you choose?

Employers put just as much stock – if not more – in your experience than your education. Don’t get me wrong, a degree in your field is important but your prospective bosses want to know that you can do the job you are applying for.

On his radio show, John Tesh said that, in general, most employers admit where you get your degree isn’t necessarily the biggest factor in hiring. Say you got your degree in business administration from an Ivy League school but don’t have any work experience to back it up when you apply for a job. Someone who has applied for the same position may have gotten their degree from a state university but has been working part-time for a local company and learning the ins and outs of operating a business firsthand. Who is more likely to be hired?

I try to work around my school schedule as much as possible and hardly ever miss class; however, the marching band at my university performed for the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London this week and I had the opportunity to cover the story for the school newspaper. Going to the band event meant that I would have to miss my toughest class so I had to decide whether it was more beneficial to meet an English lord and participate in an actual press conference or go to class and gather information for the next test.

Naturally, I chose to attend the event. Not only was it a fun experience but an interview with the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London made a nice addition to my portfolio! Remember, tests and grades are only the beginning: Get involved with your desired field in any way possible while you are still attending college and you will be much more marketable after graduation!

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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