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New Semester, New Goals

January 5, 2012

New Semester, New Goals

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that you've had some time to spend some time with your family, eat all those holiday delicacies or just unwind, it's just about time for another semester! Since starting a new semester can be daunting, here are several tips you can follow:

First, make sure you order your books at least a week before the semester starts, preferably sooner if you're ordering them online. While Amazon's two-day shipping for college students is great for procrastinators, your books may not be in stock if you wait too long.

Next, make sure you're not taking too many credits. While taking 18 credits a semester may seem like a great idea when you think about how quickly you'll finish your degree, you’ll burn out fast (especially if you have a job...or two). As we've heard a million times, slow and steady wins the race and your GPA will almost certainly be a lot stronger and college will be more enjoyable if you adopt a more moderate pace.

Finally, take advantage of campus resources. As overwhelming as college can feel at times, it's easy to forget that there are all kinds of people who are more than willing to help. From math lab to writing lab to academic counselors, there's no shortage of people who understand what you're going through and can offer great advice. Besides, you're paying top dollar for your tuition so you might as well get your money's worth and use these resources!

If you still feel crazed after reading these tips, remember that you won't be in college for the rest of your life. Sometimes we forget about the eventual rewards of hard work. It may take more time than we'd like but hard work will pay off in the end.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Meningitis and the College Student

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With the holidays just around the corner, the last thing you want to think about is getting sick. But with kissletoe (err...I mean mistletoe) in the hallways of the dorms and the impending threat of cold season, it's important that you do everything you can to stay healthy. Specifically, let's talk about meningitis – one of the biggest threats to college students' health today – and what you can to prevent it.

Meningitis is a serious illness which can cause headaches, fever, vomiting, sensitivity to light and more and if not properly treated, meningitis can lead to seizures, amputation, coma and even death. The way meningitis is spread varies depending on the type of meningitis (i.e. bacterial, viral, fungal, non-infectious, etc.). While not as contagious as the flu, bacterial meningitis is spread by coughing, sharing drinks or kissing.

Several things you can do to prevent meningitis include washing your hands properly, getting plenty of rest, not sharing drinks and getting vaccinated, though bacterial meningitis is the only type of meningitis which can be prevented with a vaccine. Because it's the most common type to afflict college students (as well as the most deadly), it's extremely important to get vaccinated before attending college. With that said, if you're already in college and haven't been vaccinated, now is the time to do so! In fact, beginning January 1st, Texas is requiring all incoming college students to get vaccinated prior to attending.

If you think you or someone you know might have symptoms of meningitis, see a doctor right away. Meningitis is treatable with antibiotics but only if you act in time!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Meet New Friends, Share Interests Beyond Campus Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even though there are all kinds of clubs and extracurriculars to get involved with in college (just take a look at all the unusual ones available), sometimes your school may not have the one you're looking for. When this happens, sites like MeetUp, MEETin and Twitter are perfect for meeting people in your area who share your interests.

MeetUp is extremely user-friendly: Simply type in an activity you're interested in along with your city or zip code and watch as all the clubs near you come up! There are clubs for people who want to learn foreign languages, go rock climbing, try new restaurants, learn martial arts, combat social anxiety and much more. Most clubs do not require membership fees, but the ones that do will let you know right up front.

MEETin is similar to MeetUp and is well-known for being the "largest friends social group [site] in the world." MEETin is specifically designed for people who want to meet others without the stress of business networking, so rest assured that you'll be in good company if you just want to make new friends. Just like MeetUp, there's no membership fee and anyone is free to suggest an event.

For all you Twitter fans out there, "tweetups" are an option as well. Due to Twitter's 140-character limit (disregarding the Stories function), the microblogging service may seem like the least formal and structured option of the three but tweetups are great for those times when you just want to meet up at the spur of the moment.

Regardless of what option you choose, know that there are people out there who like the same things you do and want to meet others that share those interests. I know firsthand how scary it can be going to a meetup with people you've never met but once you do it a few times, it gets easier – I promise. And who knows? You may end up making new friends you never would have met otherwise!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Not-Your-Average Application Essay Prompts

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you have your heart set on one college and you're about to write your application essay. The prompt is “If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk?” Wait...what? Believe it or not, this really is a prompt from the University of Chicago, an institution famous for strange essay prompts designed to make the process of applying to college less painful.

Of course, strange questions like UChicago's may have the opposite effect – a more stressful application process – on some people. C’mon, how many of us have really given thought to what landscape we'd like to walk over when balancing on a tightrope? I know I haven't and I doubt anyone who’s afraid of heights has ever or will ever consider the answer, either, but the point of this question is to show just how unique you really are. Colleges receive thousands of applications from hopeful students each year and it stands to reason that reading that many essays on a less interesting topic gets pretty tedious.

That's why questions like UChicago’s are so useful: They force applicants to come up with a unique answer. Are you thinking about majoring in oceanography? If so, you might say that nothing would calm your nerves like walking over the coastline and hearing the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. Are you more of a bookworm considering a major in library science? Maybe walking over stacks of books and thinking about how your favorite characters had to face trials even worse than walking a tightrope would help you keep your balance.

Since no two essays on such weird prompts as the one listed above will be the same – and if they are, you’ve got some explaining to do! – you might as well take advantage of your opportunity to shine!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I'm getting ready to start a new semester, one of my first thoughts is “What should I expect from my teachers?” Are they going to be nitpicky or are they going to grade most of my assignments on effort?

Obviously, most teachers are somewhere in between these extremes. Regardless, sites like RateMyProfessors.com and ProfessorPerformance.com can be helpful in determining what your teachers will be like. RateMyProfessors.com, for example, lets students rank teachers in several categories, including easiness, clarity and helpfulness. Unsurprisingly, teachers who are more lenient when it comes to grading tend to rank higher than those who dock you for forgetting to dot your i’s and cross your t's. After all, most students prefer classes where they get an A without much effort to ones where they barely scrape by with a C.

That's why it's crucial to take everything you read on professor rating sites with a grain of salt. Remember, these reviews are just other students' opinions. At the same time, though, I do think students should be allowed to express their opinions if (and only if) their comments are informative and provide constructive criticism rather than outright flaming. It's not surprising that many professors are against these sites – some students criticize irrelevant details, such as the way their professor dressed – but fortunately, off-topic or hurtful comments are few and far between and the majority of ratings on RateMyProfessors.com are positive. As such, these sites can be a valuable tool for prospective students if used in the way they were intended: to provide an informed opinion.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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The Best Educational Apps

September 6, 2011

The Best Educational Apps

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all seen the iPhone commercials and heard the now-common phrase “There's an app for that.” It’s true, though: There's even an application to help you study — dozens in fact! Here are a few that can make your life as a student easier:

Grades 2. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what you need to score on an upcoming test in order to maintain your A. This app lets you do just that. It even lets you determine your new GPA will be based on what grades you expect to earn in your current classes.

Dictionary.com Flashcards. This app is great for English and science classes where you have to learn a wide variety of complicated terms. It even has multiple choice quizzes where you have to pick the right definition from a list of options. Plus, it's great having a dictionary in your pocket for whenever you need to look up words instead of lugging one around on top of all your other school books.

Star and Planet Finder. Astronomy buffs will love this one because it makes finding stars, planets, constellations and satellites a snap. Equipped with compass and GPS, this app lets you know whether or not you can see Orion from your current location – perfect for astronomy classes which ask you to chart the position of the constellations.

While not every college student can afford an iPhone or similar app-friendly device, all these educational apps make it a very tempting purchase indeed. And let's face it: You can't really put a price on something that makes a less-than-favorite activity less painful.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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How to Get Your Dream Job

by Lisa Lowdermilk

What is your dream job? Do you want to win the war against cancer as an oncologist? Or would you rather spend your time in the classroom teaching students who will eventually become the backbone of our society?

Regardless of what your answer is, it's crucial that you ask yourself a couple of questions. Where do you want to work? Would you rather work in an office setting or out in the field? Do you want to work with people or would you rather work alone? The answers to these questions not only will help make your dream job more real to you, they can also help you if you are undecided about what field you'd like to major in. The key here is to be as specific as possible: You can't make your dreams a reality if you don't know what your dreams are yet!

Let's say you've completed a few semesters and have decided you want to become a radiologist. You can tell by the coursework that you will enjoy the field but you don't really know what the actual job will be like. Visit your local hospital and talk with some of the people who work in the radiology department. Ask if you can shadow them to see what they do on a daily basis. Not only will you gain valuable learning experience, you will also feel like your college experience is actually preparing you for a job.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Quirky Course Offerings

June 17, 2011

Quirky Course Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever been sitting through a lecture and been on the verge of falling asleep? Do you find yourself wishing your classes were more interesting? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, grab your course catalog and discover your school’s quirky class offerings.

The Science of Harry Potter” is an honors course offered by Frostburg State University in Maryland. As the name suggests, it involves analyzing topics from J.K. Rowling's best-selling novels from a scientific perspective. For instance, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans help students understand how our taste buds function and flying broomsticks are viewed through the lens of anti-gravity research.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is offered at Occidental College in California. Its main topic of study is the concept of race and how Barbie has inadvertently encouraged societal racism; it also offers surprisingly deep insights on gender roles, capitalism and more.

Some people are skeptical about the usefulness of these classes, with the more extreme critics denouncing them as a waste of money. While they are unorthodox, keep in mind these classes still require a significant amount of work. Students taking “The Science of Harry Potter,” for example, must take daily quizzes, complete scientific projects and read textbooks. Speaking of books, “The Science of Harry Potter” only requires two textbooks but the reading list for “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is surprisingly extensive and includes works by social class analysts Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin.

So, if you're tired of more traditional course offerings like physics or sociology, consider finding out if your college offers any unique classes like the ones mentioned above. Just don't expect to do less homework!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Why Liberal Arts Degrees ARE Useful

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With majors like engineering, computer science and nursing, there may not seem to be a whole lot of room for generalized majors like liberal arts. All of the aforementioned majors train you for a very specific field, whereas liberal arts degrees (which include philosophy, literature and history) don’t, making “What are you going to do with your degree?” one of the most common questions liberal arts majors are asked.

While it's true that the broadness of liberal arts degrees can make finding a job difficult, this broadness also presents more opportunities than many other degrees. According to the University of California at Davis, the skill most valued by employers is the ability to communicate effectively. This is to a liberal arts major's advantage, as their classes require a lot of writing, critical thinking and listening – all of which are crucial to effective communication. Along this same line, technologically-driven communication like texting and IMing has made our society increasingly reliant on “chat speak” and its disregard for grammar, punctuation, etc. Some people worry decent writers are becoming scarce but liberal arts degree holders lay these fears to rest.

Additionally, liberal arts majors are creative individuals. They’ve been forced to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and translate abstract information into concrete, easily understandable ideas. In today's ever-changing business world, problem solvers and innovators – two traits often held by liberal arts majors – are extremely valuable.

In sum, if you decide to major in a liberal arts field and worry you’ll lack the training for more specialized jobs, you can make up for it in your ability to think outside the box.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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The Benefits of Community Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

For many students fresh out of high school, the idea of going to a community college is not appealing. After all, one of the most exciting aspects of attending college is living on campus away from home, right? Well, living on campus may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Although few people would argue that universities' clubs, fraternities and parties are superior to anything offered at a community college, the stress of being away from home for the first time, learning to live with one or more roommates and being forced to make new friends can be quite an adjustment. Community colleges help students ease into the transition between high school and college more gradually.

Then there’s the cost: Tuition at a community college per year costs $2,713 per year, whereas four-year universities cost $7,605 per year on average. This second figure assumes you're living in-state but if you're living out-of-state, expect to be set back about $11,990 your first year. If cost is the major deciding factor, your decision is easy: Go to a community college for your first two years, then transfer. With all the extra money you're saving, you can throw your own parties, buy that new car you've been wanting or just save up for when you do go to a university.

Even if you're not going to your dream school for your first two years, you'll still have the opportunity to experience campus life after you get your associate degree at a community college. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find out community colleges aren't as bad as they're made out to be!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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