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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

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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Should You Commute to College?

February 24, 2012

Should You Commute to College?

by Kara Coleman

Traditionally, most college students live in dorms or apartments on or near their campuses to get the full “college experience.” But before you sign that rental agreement, you might want to consider living at home and commuting to school.

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical college student – eating Ramen noodles for every meal and taking out student loans to pay for books and tuition – but that doesn’t have to be you! My goal is to graduate from college debt-free so I live at home with my parents and commute to a university about 30 minutes away. Because I live at home, I am able to save myself rent and utility expenses and use the money I earn from my job to pay cash for my tuition and books. Some students prefer the feeling of independence that comes with living on your own (I mean, if you live in your parents’ house, you live by their rules!) but not taking out student loans will mean financial freedom after I graduate and get a real job.

The downside to living so far off-campus is that I’m not as connected to events and happenings at school as the students who live there are. It’s not always easy to make it to meetings and events when commuting from the next county but by no means does it deprive me of the college experience: I still attend football games, plays and seminars at my university, and hang out with friends between classes.

Is living home and commuting right for you? While it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s definitely an option that I encourage students to consider while making housing plans for the upcoming school year.

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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Sick at School? Feel Better...Fast!

by Katie Askew

Being sick at a school that’s hours from home and – let’s be honest – your mom is hard to deal with. Don’t think you’re immune, either: It’s much easier to catch illnesses when you’re living in a 12’x12’ space with another person. On top of that, missing just one college class could be the equivalent of missing an entire week of high school! If you do happen to fall ill, there are ways get better without calling home.

Before moving to campus, make sure you have proof of health insurance (a copy of your insurance card is fine but the real thing is even better). At a new clinic, they will ask you for this so they can treat you and no proof of insurance means no care. Make sure your health insurance covers the clinics and doctors in your new area (some plans don’t) and know your personal medical history and allergies because Mom won’t be in the doctor’s office with you to help.

Next, learn about the health benefits your college has for you. Most universities have free student clinics right on campus with qualified doctors and nurses to remedy you but their limited weekday hours and usually no weekend hours mean you have to work your class and extracurricular schedule around them. In case of emergencies or weekend sickness, know where the nearest hospital, clinic or acute care center is.

For everyday pains, headaches and small scrapes, have a first aid kit in your dorm room. Fill it with the necessities like Band-Aids, Neosporin and Tylenol so you’re not knocking on doors in the middle of the night looking for medicine.

The best way to not get sick, though? Prevention! Wash your hands, get enough sleep, don’t share drinks and eat more than just cake and soda in the dining hall. Stay healthy, my friends!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Campus Creepers

Who Are the "Interesting" Characters at Your School?

June 22, 2011

Campus Creepers

by Katie Askew

One of the joys of going to a public college in a very urban setting is the abundance of culture, business and interesting people — and the University of Minnesota definitely does not lack in the interesting people category. We have our very own well-known and well-loved campus creeper!

His name is Mike Gould, a man that stands upon a 10-foot ladder in the middle of our giant main courtyard area (“The Mall”) every school day in the fall, spring and summer semesters. Mike has rarely missed a day of shouting to the thousands of passersby as he reads passages from the Bible. Through rain, shine, sleet or 24 inches of Minnesota snow, he is there. His psychological status has yet to be determined but his main objective is to bring the word of God to thousands of Minnesota students. He sometimes aids his sermons with hymn-like songs played on an acoustic guitar. Every student that attends the U of M knows about Mike; there is even a Facebook group focusing on Mike Gould that helps to bond the students with stories, photos and events. It’s even rumored that Mike is attempting to run for mayor of Minneapolis. Good luck, Mike!

The University of Minnesota isn’t the only campus out there with a special addition to their student body. My friends at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln tell me they have “Crazy Blue Protesting Lady” running around their campus. She, too, has her own Facebook group where students document their sightings of and encounters with the woman always completely dressed in blue.

The harmless campus creepers tend to bring the collective student body together — it’s great! Does your campus have a creeper? If so, we’d love to hear about it!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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The Importance of Job Shadowing

by Katie Askew

You’re the high school senior that wanted to be a doctor ever since you saw that episode of “House.” Or, maybe, you’re the high school senior that’s deciding between a few possible careers and has a couple of majors in mind. But really, how is any 17-year-old supposed to decide on a career for rest of their life without any practice?! One activity that high school students overlook is the solution to this problem...and it’s just as important as extracurriculars and volunteer hours: job shadowing.

After a period of stressing out about my future major, I had a conversation with my AP English Literature teacher. He happened to be a former reporter for my hometown paper, The Argus Leader, and suggested that I job shadow a reporter he knew there. He set me up with Josh, a journalism graduate of the University of Minnesota, and I spent the next day observing him in the newsroom. I learned the ins and outs of how a newspaper is produced, how to cover a school board meeting and conduct an interview for an article. All of this helped me get a sense of the job and the daily activities I would partake in as a reporter and Josh was nice enough to answer all of my questions.

I attribute my love for my future career to this day and for this I am deeply indebted to Josh and my teacher. Even today, I know I can go to Josh as a mentor with any questions I have about classes at the U of M, journalism jobs or basically anything that comes up. He really inspired the journalist in me – something I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

So, thank you again, Josh. To everyone else, find the major or career you could love just as much by job shadowing!

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Selecting the Right Roommate

The Right Choice Could Make a Friend, Not a Foe

November 3, 2011

Selecting the Right Roommate

by Katie Askew

While living at home, my older brother and I were fortunate enough to never share a bedroom with anyone but our stuffed animals so coming into college, I knew I was in for quite the shock. My biggest anxiety wasn’t getting through hard classes, traveling around campus or living in a big city – it was sharing a 12’x12’ space with another human. Living with, studying around, sleeping near and breathing the same air as some random person I’ve never met before? Thanks...but I’ll pass!

If you share my feelings about communal living, one way to ease this anxiety is to room with someone you already know. This wasn’t an option for me: I was not only one of four students graduating from my high school to go to the University of Minnesota and the other three students were boys. If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask around: Maybe an acquaintance or friend of a friend is looking for a roommate as well.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories of best friends attending college together, rooming together and living happily ever after together, right? Well, yes it can happen but it can also turn out poorly and result in losing a friend. Be careful about what friend you choose to live with and if your friendship can survive the trials and pressures of a small space and a new environment.

The alternative is being assigned a roommate randomly. This person has the potential to be your new best friend or she has the potential to be your worst enemy. For me, my randomly-assigned roomie turned out to be the biggest thorn in my side but I was fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my floormates and I always found sanctuary from my crazed roommate in a neighbor’s room.

So, which roommate route are you considering?

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

by Katie Askew

Fall in Minnesota conjures images of apple orchards, sweaters, falling leaves and pumpkin patches. The ravishing yellows, browns, reds and greens of the leaves perfectly accent the serious brick buildings and stately campus architecture at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Students take advantage of the pleasant weather patterns by spending as much time as possible outside. There is only one thing that ruins that distinct fall feeling: tobacco smoke.

Even though it’s well-known that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious disease and even death, few colleges have actually made changes to protect the health and safety of their students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 126 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In addition, secondhand smoke in the United States causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. Colleges have been hearing the pleas for tobacco-free campus proposals for years but only a handful have listened – for example, all of Arkansas’ and Iowa’s state-supported college and university campuses have been smoke-free since last year – and it’s time for the rest of the nation follow suit.

Thankfully, a Minnesota school – Minnesota State University – is. MSU in Mankato will implement a tobacco-free campus program starting January 1, 2012. Sadly, the protocol change is not free of complaints from the student body but, if the Facebook page is any indication, the majority is in support of this change. There’s no doubt that not only will campus air be cleaner to breathe but cigarette butt litter will also be vastly reduced. I only hope the same kinds of changes are made at the U of M – I HATE dodging smoke clouds on the way to class!

Is your campus smoke-filled, smoke-free or somewhere in the middle thanks to new initiatives? (Find out your school's status here.) Do you think administrators should address the campus smoking issue more or should it be up to students to take action?

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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