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How to Make Friends in College

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

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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There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question on a Campus Tour

by Katie Askew

Visiting a college campus for the first time can be overwhelming so it’s important to do a little research both before and during your visit.

Most colleges will show you a residence hall during your visit but before you get to campus, check out their housing site online. Take a look at the different options you have for housing (dorms, apartments, etc.) so you have a little background on the types of amenities offered. Also, don’t be fooled by the residence hall you are shown on your tour because it may be the best of the best...and potentially unreachable for you. Ask your tour guide what this hall is like in comparison to others and if it’s only available to certain students (freshmen, upperclassmen, graduate students, athletes, etc.).

With that in mind, ask your tour guide any questions you have about the school you may call your alma mater one day! It makes the visit more personal and relaxes the tour guide (trust me, we’re more nervous than we look!). The guides have lived in the residence halls, they have taken classes and they obviously know what campus life is like. Ask them what they do on the weekends and what their schedules are like during the semester. Getting an idea of what real campus life is like first-hand from a student can help you decide if this is the school for you.

My work behind the scenes in UM's Office of Admissions has shown me all the wrong things I did while touring college campuses as a high school senior but what I regret most is not asking questions. I don’t know if I was too shy or if I thought I was too cool but either way, I was silent during my visits. In hindsight, I realize that I could have learned so much more if I just opened my mouth! Learn from my mistakes and make the most out of your campus visits.

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 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

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!

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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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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Katie Askew

by Katie Askew

Hi! My name is Katie Askew...one of Scholarships.com’s newest virtual interns!

I’m originally from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but escaped the tedious suburban life for Minneapolis, Minnesota – in fact, I just finished my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities last week! I chose the U of M not only because it’s a Big Ten school with a fantastic reputation, but also because it has an enormous campus spread across two major cities and a selective admission process. Life in the Twin Cities is never dull, that’s for sure: The 60,000 other undergrads and myself thrive in the vibrant center of museums, theaters, concerts, clubs and mouthwatering local restaurants...not to mention the plethora of other eventful happenings on campus.

As a double major in journalism and English, being part of the high-ranking and highly-selective School of Journalism and Mass Communication is also a key part to attending the U of M for me. I chose these majors because I devour books like candy but also have a passion for writing. I debated majoring in music performance as well, but settled on the fact that I can still teach and perform music without the degree.

To feed my musical hunger, I instruct an indoor high school winter drumline in a nearby suburb. It’s quite the time commitment but the rewards pay off in the end – and it’s something I love! Percussion is my passion and I never want to give that up.

On campus, I work as an assistant to the Director of Admissions, a position that gives me the opportunity to connect with high school students looking to come to the U of M. This is why I am so excited to be a virtual intern for Scholarships.com: It mixes my love of writing and my love for the University of Minnesota all in one. I can’t wait to share my knowledge of the college experience with you!


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Friends and the College Search: How They Can Help or Hinder Your Decision

by Katie Askew

There are many factors that one should consider while searching for the perfect college. While cost, location and student life are all very important, where your friends are or aren’t attending school could play an unexpectedly vital role in your decision.

During college search time, my best friend and I were both focused on out-of-state schools. We both knew we wanted to get out of South Dakota but our interests were different – she was focusing on music and I was looking into English – and in the end, we had one college we both loved in our top three choices: Colorado State University. After much debate, I ended up at the University of Minnesota, while my best friend chose to go to CSU. My decision to not go to CSU was (along with a slew of other minor factors) mostly due to my friend, as I wanted to forge my own path and start fresh in a new city. Two years later, I have no regrets and our friendship is just as strong as ever.

Some students base their college decisions on where a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend or relative is attending school without really considering what they themselves want and need out of their own college experience. Yes, these relationships are important but it’s more important to decide for yourself: I know I made the right choice because I thrive in the big city and my friend loves the picturesque views of the Rocky Mountains outside her apartment window. Would our friendship have survived the turmoil of change college students go through if we were at the same school? We’ll never know for sure but it certainly has stayed intact across the miles...not to mention that I get an amazing spring break in Colorado and she gets a week-long summer vacation in the Twin Cities!

Some friendships may survive the chaotic transformation every college student goes through but some will not and you should not base your college choice on just this one factor. Distance from your high school friends, whether it’s thousands of miles apart or a couple blocks across campus, will impact your college life – just don’t let it dictate your decision for the wrong reasons.

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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All Students CAN Have Access to Success!

by Katie Askew

If you’re the type of student that struggled through your more difficult high school classes, doesn’t have an outstanding GPA or ACT score and are worried you won’t get admitted to a normal four-year college program, fear no more! Many schools around the country are implementing programs for students who may be below the normal admission averages or require extra help in the first few years of college.

The University of Minnesota’s program is called Access to Success (ATS) and is specifically within the College of Liberal Arts, one of seven freshman-admitting colleges at the U. ATS is a student community that bases selection from your admission application but the community includes high school students who appear as if they will succeed in the college atmosphere and just weren’t fully prepared through high school. The benefits of the program include a small learning community with special classes, tutoring support and student-to-student mentoring all while experiencing everything a college student can experience.

All students in the ATS community are assigned an ATS academic adviser who helps them explore majors and opportunities, a career counselor who helps them research and find careers that interest them and a peer mentor who helps them adjust to college life. In addition, ATS participants will have a major or college adviser who helps them declare their majors and plan their courses. The staff in the program wants its mentees to succeed and will do everything in their power to make that happen.

College really can be a good fit for everyone with programs like ATS in place. If you’re interested, check out your top school’s website or ask your admissions counselor for more information. Even if you’re not eligible for an ATS-style program, tutoring and study tips never hurt. Every school has tutoring sessions or mentoring programs available to students – all you have to do is find them!

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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