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Majoring in an "Endangered" Field? You Still Have Options!

February 3, 2012

Majoring in an "Endangered" Field? You Still Have Options!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all read those articles that tell you what NOT to major in but what do you do if you're already majoring in one of the fields mentioned? Do you continue along the path you’ve chosen or start working toward a new goal that will cost more time and money to complete?

This is the dilemma facing architecture majors and the New York Times recently posted an article discussing how architecture majors are facing the highest unemployment rate in the nation (13.9%). Unsurprisingly, the housing market collapse has a lot to do with this and until our economy starts improving, the housing market (and the unemployment rate for those commissioned to design those houses) will likely stay where it's at.

But before all you architecture majors despair, remember that we will always need buildings. There may not be as great of a demand as there used to be but there are still plenty of job opportunities available, especially if you're willing to work in another country. From China to London and plenty of countries in between, there are lots of great options for up-and-coming architects abroad. China alone has dozens of positions available and some of them don't even require you to know Mandarin. Of course, if you've always wanted to learn Mandarin (or any other foreign language for that matter), what better way to do so than to live and work abroad? Of course, living abroad isn't for everyone and there are still employment options in the U.S. And the median salary for an architect is $55,248, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Whether you're an architecture major or a student trying to find a summer job, securing employment can be a daunting task. But as clichéd as it sounds, you will eventually find something if you keep looking. You may need to relocate in order to find what you're looking for but your hard work toward that college degree 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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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

April 9, 2012

Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

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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Will You Be a Perpetual Student?

August 1, 2012

Will You Be a Perpetual Student?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I first started attending college in 2009, there was nothing I wanted more than to graduate...fast. But now that I’m about to receive my B.A. in English Professional Writing in December, the idea of graduating terrifies me. What if I can’t find a job? What if the so-called “real world” isn’t as glorious as I imagined it? And what if I do find a job but I don’t get to use my writing skills?

But even in my darkest moments, I’ve never considered being a perpetual student like Michael Nicholson, a 71-year-old man from Michigan who is working on his 30th college degree – a master’s in criminal justice. While I admire his extreme dedication and patience, I personally don’t want to spend the rest of my life paying for college or facing the dreaded “Sorry, you’re overqualified for this job.”

With that said, I think that if going to school makes Michael happy, then he should continue to do just that. After working numerous menial jobs, going to college probably makes him feel more productive...and there’s no doubt that he’s more broadly educated than most of us will ever be. His degrees range from home economics to psychology, and an astounding 22 of them are master’s degrees! So, while I can understand why some people feel that perpetual students are determined to avoid responsibility, I think that as a retired septuagenarian who has worked his whole life, Michael has more than earned the right to do as he pleases. And having talked with classmates who are even more terrified of graduating than I am, I think that there are more people who would prefer to remain students than face the “real world” than we’d like to admit.

So, what’s the answer? Like everything in life, I think the key is balance. Most of us (due to financial and time constraints) can’t afford to pursue 30 degrees but we can make the most of our time in college by doing internships, maintaining high GPAs and going to graduate school if our dream job requires it. What path will YOU take?

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 Importance of Experience

April 18, 2012

The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.

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The Perks of Volunteerism

March 26, 2012

The Perks of Volunteerism

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I think about volunteering the same way most of us think about fruits and vegetables – important to your health, good for your future and, every once in a while, the last thing you want added to your day. No one talks about it but I've seen it as both a volunteer supervisor and as a volunteer myself. However great the cause, however much you care, some days you just want to stay in bed. After all, they're not paying you so what does it matter if you miss a day or two?

What professional volunteer coordinators know is that volunteering isn't just good for showing the world you're a good person who cares about others: Choosing to volunteer builds skills you might otherwise not have the opportunity to develop, making you immensely more attractive to future employers and colleges. If you volunteer with young students at a religious school or daycare, for example, you will be better at working with young students than someone with no experience but that commitment also adds to your organizational ability, proves to potential employers that you are responsible and able to do self-directed work and shows your commitment to causes outside your normal purview.

In addition, peer mentoring or tutoring (paid or unpaid) adds to your employability. First, it shows that you are good at working with other people – a requirement for many jobs – and second, many employment opportunities (from consulting to banking to physical therapy) require that employees can clearly and concisely explain their point of view to others. Teaching someone how to do a math problem may be as applicable to your career in management consulting as any classes you took in college: It's a transferable skill that you will use again and again.

Finally, if you are interested in working in the industry that you're volunteering in, there's a good chance that you'll be considered an internal candidate for any job opportunities that come up. That usually means that your application will be read before outside candidates (even if they have more direct experience) and often increases your chances of getting an interview. Besides, if you've done good work, you've effectively gained an extra (positive) reference so think about your time volunteering as an extended job interview.

On that note, go forth and volunteer! As a former volunteer supervisor, I know we welcome the help but you're probably getting as much from it as we are.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.

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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

May 26, 2011

Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Proper Planning Breeds College Success

July 19, 2011

Proper Planning Breeds College Success

by Radha Jhatakia

In life, keeping things in order, having a set schedule and planning ahead will truly save you time and keep you on track. In college, staying organized is even more important.

When making your shopping list for college, put a planner at the top. I have been using one since I was in elementary school and it has always helped me stay on top of my stuff. It came in handy most in college, though, and helped me to stay organized from the very beginning. The best kind to buy is one that has slots for individual days as well as a monthly calendar. This will allow you to keep track of all your classes, assignments, meetings, work schedules, extracurriculars and will prevent you from forgetting about something important. As soon as you get an assignment, write it down and remember to check your planner every day. You will have far fewer scheduling conflicts and will become adept at managing your time and keeping a healthy balance between work and play. You can also incorporate Post-its to keep track of tentative times and dates while keeping your schedule looking neat.

There are also other tools you can use like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar, which help sync media from different sources to keep track of all appointments. If you have a cell phone – and these days, who doesn’t? – use its alarm feature and tack a calendar up on your bulletin board as a backup (maybe even share it with your roommate and color coordinate your to-dos). Whatever your choice, make sure it’s something you are comfortable using and will remember to continuously check so that you don’t forget anything.

By staying organized all throughout college, you’ll be well-prepared to enter graduate school or the job market. College professors and potential employers appreciate organization: You will be a perfect TA candidate or employee if your superiors know they can depend on you. Be smart, be organized, be successful. It’s as simple as that!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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Should Colleges with Large Endowments go Shopping?

October 11, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s been a long year for colleges across the nation. Aside from the student lender and college study abroad fiascos, investigators are looking more closely at the handling of endowments by colleges.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, many schools have accumulated large endowment funds, some in excess of $1 billion. This is tax-free money, and if investments are well-planned, interest will lead to annual gains.

Despite this, college tuition rates have soared across the country, and students are increasingly left with debts that sometimes mirror mortgages. A proposal that could allay this problem involves forcing schools with large endowments to spend about 5 percent of their money each year, or be subject to taxes. After all, endowments are meant to aid, not hoard.

But some schools say that this is not as easy as it may seem. People who donate often leave specific instructions for endowment spending. Money may be set aside, for example, for students who are financially needy and epileptic, or for those who conduct research in the hearing sciences.

Based on the written testimony of four higher education associations, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, proposed legislation is based on inaccurate college endowment information.

According to the testimony, an average of 80 percent of endowment assets were restricted at public institutions in 2006, and 55 percent were restricted at private ones. That, of course, still leaves plenty of unrestricted funds that could be used to greatly relieve student needs. This, by the way, is what higher education associations already claim to do.

The issue is a bit of a slippery slope. Endowments could diminish if expenditure choices were left up to college officials. Plus, available money doesn’t necessarily translate into swimming pools of cash for directors to dive into. 

Then again, tuition is getting out of hand, and storing large amounts of money when students have little choice but to take out excessive loans seems a bit immoral. Perhaps additional information is needed on unrestricted money expenditures and on how much is needed to maintain interest that would keep funds afloat.

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Undergraduate Grants and Graduate Grants

September 6, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

A grant is a sum of money that does not have to be paid back. Because, like grants, scholarships are sums of money that do not need to be repaid, some grant providers use the terms interchangeably. Stipulations for both vary greatly, and the lines between the two are frequently blurred. Whether they are awarded by the government or another donor, grants are a very popular source of financial aid for college. Each year, students across the country apply and receive grants that make it possible for them to attend the schools of their choice.

Governments Grants

The government provides grants for many students who submit their FAFSA. Currently,the government offers five types of need-based grants to college students. There are Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Academic Competitive Grants and National SMART Grants, the most popular being the Pell. These grants are considered to be the foundations of financial aid packages, and all other financial aid should be taken advantage of once a student exhausts their grant funds.

Undergraduate Grants

Undergraduate students who, based on their FAFSA, show financial need are the main recipients of need-based government grants. For the 2007-2008 school year, students may receive up to $4,310 in Pell Grant money. Students who show extreme need, graduate from a competitive school or plan to major in the math & sciences may be eligible for additional grant money.

Graduate Grants

Unfortunately, the government reserves most of its need-based grants for undergraduates. However, there are some government-assisted grant opportunities for students who demonstrate merit or who wish to enter a certain sector of the economy.

Outside Grants

Many students go straight to the government to find college grants. Because submitting a FAFSA kills a few birds with one stone—a student can find grants, loans, and federal work study with one form—it makes sense that government grants are popular. But a college grant search does not need to stop at the gates to the white house. Colleges, universities, organizations and personal providers offer numerous grant opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates. Scholarships.com can help you find them.

Undergraduate Grants

Students who search for outside undergraduate grants may have some work to do. Such grants are out there, but many do require students to perform research or internship work. Because many providers prefer to offer such opportunities to graduate students,outside grants are more popular amongst the older crowd. Seeing as many students search for internship opportunities regardless of pay, on-the-job compensation may be an excellent perk. Students who have an interest in wildlife and are willing to work on a project in the New England area, for example, may be eligible for the A.V. Stout Fund grant. With a little work, winners can receive about $1,000-$3,000 in financial aid.

Graduate Grants

Looking to outside organizations and universities for graduate grants is a student’s best bet. Because the government isn’t much help when it comes to need-based grants,it is a good thing that outside grants, scholarships, and government loans are still an option. As is true of much graduate financial aid, many opportunities are merit based. They may also require that recipients conduct research. Organizations who would like to encourage the growth of a certain career sector frequently offer grant opportunities to graduate students.

Undergraduate and graduate grant opportunities are readily available to college students. All it takes is a little searching and, if research or an internship is involved, some dedication. For undergraduates, submitting a FAFSA may be all it takes.

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Posted Under:

Graduate School , Grants



Head First Into Pool of Graduate School Fellowships

September 10, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Any time is a good time to conduct a fellowship search, but the beginning of each school year is particularly good. Many fellowships are awarded on a yearly basis, and applications need to be submitted before the term begins—on time.

For graduate students, free government Pell Grants are no longer an option, and limiting loans should be a top priority. It is irritatingly ironic that many graduate school programs are more expensive than undergraduate ones, but less government aid is available.

Loan burdens may be so dire that, even after studying for years, many cannot enter their chosen careers without defaulting on loans. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the average graduate student ends school $45,000 in debt (compared with $18,000 for undergraduates). A lucrative job is needed to pay off such loans—especially when potential car, home and family expenses are taken into account.

Fortunately, aid in the form of fellowships tends to be pretty lucrative, often numbering in the thousands. Stipends and award renewal opportunities may even be involved.

Students may search for fellowship opportunities by visiting Scholarships.com and by browsing through college financial aid websites. At Scholarships.com, students can find scholarship, grant, and fellowship information on more than 2.7 million awards worth over $19 billion in aid.

Getting a head start will give students additional time to deal with application problems that may arise. Fellowships can be hefty, but so can the competition. Applying early may give students the edge they need to win.

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Posted Under:

Fellowships , Graduate School



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