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How to Make Friends in College

August 31, 2011

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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Staying Sharp Over the Summer

May 24, 2012

Staying Sharp Over the Summer

by Kara Coleman

Thousands of college students across the country have been making their way home from school to spend the summer relaxing and taking a break from studying. But how do you keep from forgetting everything you’ve learned throughout the academic year? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Rack up the credit hours. The most obvious way to keep your study skills sharp over summer break is to not take a break at all. Most schools offer summer classes – some full-term, some mini-mesters and some online. Even just taking one class during the summer can be good for your brain.
  • Hit the books. While lounging poolside this summer, why not do a little reading? You don’t necessarily have to tackle War and Peace, but try for something a little deeper than Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly. Visit GoodReads.com to browse books in any genre and find something that will keep you turning pages all summer long!
  • Help someone else. I spent last summer tutoring two eighth-grade girls. Even though we just worked through pre-algebra books together, it really helped the girls to remember all that they had learned and it was a great brain booster for me, too!
  • Just play. Whether you're right-brained or left-brained, puzzle games are a fun way to keep your mind active. Sudoku – a wordless crossword puzzle that involves the numbers 1-9 – is available in book form as well as via download on Kindle. Also available for free via Kindle is Grid Detective, a game where players unscramble words.

How do you choose to keep those brain juices flowing over the summer? Let us know what works for you!

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

May 2, 2012

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

by Kara Coleman

You probably saw the title of this blog post and thought, “Oh, I know what this is going to say. Take AP classes, get involved in extracurriculars, etc.” But there are a few other not-so-obvious things that you can do to increase the chances of getting into your dream school:

Update your resume. Each time you win an award, get elected to an office in a club/organization or get any sort of recognition, let your potential college(s) know about it. That way, they have a full list of your accomplishments when you graduate from high school.

Hook up with the college community online. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow your dream school(s), their sports teams, drama department or anything else that might interest you to keep up with what goes on there during the school year.

Send a handwritten thank you note. After you go for your official campus visit, send a handwritten (not typed!) thank you note to your tour guide or, if you had an interview, your admissions counselor. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the attention they showed you that day.

Show them that you’re genuinely interested. College admissions can sort of be like dating: Admissions officers want to make sure that you are interested in them before they commit to you. Imagine yourself as a student at that school and express a sincere interest in the goings-on there: If you don’t have a 100-percent interest in a particular school, take it off your list of potential colleges.

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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How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

August 29, 2012

How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

by Kara Coleman

For my final Scholarships.com article, I was supposed to write about things homeschooled students can to do adjust to college whether they are living at home and commuting or moving to campus. As I sat holding my pen and staring at a blank piece of paper, however, all I could think about was how homeschooling actually helped better prepare me for college!

Homeschooling taught me how to study and pursue knowledge for myself. One of the top complaints I heard from my peers when I tutored at community college was that they didn’t really know how to study. I was not fed information via lecture when I was growing up – as a kid, my mom and I spent a lot of time reading and learning together and by the time I was in high school, Mom would give me my assignments and I would research and write about them myself.

This approach to education also helped me to think for myself and form my own opinions. My parents taught me to hold my beliefs and convictions to everything my professors tell me and to not be swayed by popular opinion. This sort of critical thinking led me to pursue and accept leadership positions when I began attending college, including editor-in-chief of my school paper and a member of the SGA Cabinet.

Time management is an important lesson that many students learn for the first time in college but I was able to learn how to juggle studying, extracurricular activities and a part-time job during my senior year of high school. In short, homeschooling more than prepared me for college life. If you were homeschooled and are preparing to attend college for the first time this semester, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can take what you’ve learned at home and apply it to your college experience. Let me know if I’m right!

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 been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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

April 4, 2012

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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Where to Work on Campus

June 9, 2011

Where to Work on Campus

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

June 15, 2011

Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Graduation Gift Ideas

June 10, 2011

Graduation Gift Ideas

by Katie Askew

Are you still looking for that special graduation gift for a future college student? Here are some foolproof gifts I wish I was given as a graduating senior and they will set you apart from the standard gift of money or towels. (Really, who needs 20 quick-drying towels?!) Your future freshman friend will thank you for it!

Amazon.com and Target gift cards. Sure, buying your books at the student bookstore is easy and convenient but if you know your class schedule and required books before the first day of class, you will save enormous amounts of money buying from Amazon. They even offer free shipping and handling for students! As for Target, it really is a one-stop shop for college students. Can you say economy-sized shampoo and conditioner?

Light-blocking sleep mask. Okay, so maybe the guys won’t enjoy this one as much but once any student has an 8 a.m. exam, he or she will be thanking you – the great gift-giver – for the eye mask that allows them to sleep in a brightly-lit, small room shared with a roommate that likes to stay up until the wee hours of the night with all the lights on. Throw in some earplugs as a cute (and inexpensive) companion gift!

Bicycle lights. Is your friend bringing a bike to school? Bike laws are a concept a lot of students forget about, especially when they aren’t used to riding a bike every day. Let me tell you, bike police are real and they WILL issue you an expensive ticket if you are riding a bike at night with no lights. In addition, a bicycle U-lock is also a great gift and necessary no matter how safe you think your college campus is!

Good luck gift-givers!

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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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

July 28, 2011

Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

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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Sick at School? Feel Better...Fast!

June 16, 2011

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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