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Should You Commute to College?

February 24, 2012

Should You Commute to College?

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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


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Get an A in Organization 101

January 10, 2012

Get an A in Organization 101

by Kara Coleman

Is your dorm room or car always a mess? Do you have trouble remembering when assignments are due? If so, here are some ways to start the spring semester with less clutter and a more organized outlook.

Go mobile. I once had a boss who said that if she didn’t put something in her phone, it wasn’t going to get done. That’s true for a lot of college students, too, especially since we always have our phones with us. Put test dates and project due dates in your cellphone and set your phone’s alarm for those days. That way, you’ll have your schedule with you at all times.

Check your schedule every day. Rather than keeping up with dates on their phone, some students prefer flipping the pages of a calendar or planner. If this describes you, make a habit of writing everything down and try to make a habit of checking your planner every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep.

Keep it together. A friend of mine started keeping notes from all of her classes in the same binder, with each class separated by a color-coded divider. Now, none of her notes get mixed up or misplaced and when she heads to campus every morning, she only has to grab one notebook on her way out the door.

Have a routine. It’s a million times easier to keep track of everything if you have a set day to do certain things. For example, Wednesday night is my laundry night. If there’s something specific I want to wear for the weekend, I don’t have to worry about it being clean because I know that all my laundry is washed and folded on Wednesday. Have days or times planned each week to balance your checkbook, go grocery shopping, etc. to make your time more manageable and your college life more organized.

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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Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

by Kara Coleman

What does the average college student’s wardrobe consist of? Most people probably think of hoodies, sweatpants and tennis shoes, or guys on game day wearing white dress shirts with striped ties featuring their school colors. That’s true to some extent but fashions differ from campus to campus and many people use their college years as a time for self-expression.

When I went to a community college, I noticed there wasn’t really a dominant style of dress that students shared. Because it was commuter school, people got ready for the day and headed to their jobs after class. Some people wore their work uniforms, then there were preps who wore Abercrombie clothes, skaters with skinny jeans and long hair, and basketball players in track suits. It was like a big high school. When I transferred to a four-year university in August, however, I was surprised at how many people came to class each day in their pajamas. (I’m pretty sure I was the only one wearing a sundress and matching earrings on the first day!) Why the difference is fashion trends between colleges? The majority of students at the school I currently attend live on campus in dorms or apartments. They roll out of bed, grab their books and walk across the street to class.

Though sweats and tees are comfortable and convenient, college students are increasingly ditching these options in order to reflect current styles. The reason? Since most students have smartphones or tablets and can access the web from anywhere, they can see something they like, buy it online instantly and instruct that it’s shipped directly to their door...all while walking down the hallway or across campus between classes.

So what about you? Do you go to class in your pajamas or plan out your outfits for the entire week? What fashions are currently trending on your campus and what will be the next big thing?

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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Fighting Holiday Weight Gain Without a Gym Membership

by Kara Coleman

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and for many of us college students, that means gaining a little bit of weight from eating holiday treats...and, of course, vowing to drop said weight in January. If you don’t want the additional cost of a gym membership, don’t sweat it: You can do a complete workout in your dorm room – no equipment required!

Stretching. It’s always good to begin your workout by stretching. Lock your fingers together, inhale and raise your arms as high as they will go. Release and exhale as you lower your arms. Bend down and stretch to touch your toes then return to standing. Bending at the waist this time, lean over towards your right side, then your left.

Cardio. The goal here is to get your heart rate up. Jog in place, then run in place. Do jumping jacks. Repeat.

Strengthening/Toning. Sit-ups work your back and abs. Push-ups work your arms. Try tabletops: Lay on the floor as if you were preparing to do push-ups, but rather than palm the floor, support yourself with your forearms. Push up, then hold yourself in that position as long as you can. Slowly lower yourself to the floor, lay on your back and begin bicycle pedaling in the air. Raise your legs straight up, stretch for your toes and hold that that position as long as you can.

Cool down. Sit up with your legs extended straight in front of you and stretch forward to touch your toes. Repeat any or all of the stretches you did at the beginning of your workout.

Remember, this is just a basic workout routine to help you get started. Look online for more equipment-free exercises and switch up your workouts from day to day so you don’t plateau. If you want to exercise using weights, consider using some of those heavy textbooks!

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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Colleges to Extinguish Smoking on Campus

by Kara Coleman

As many as one-half of America’s college campuses are preparing to become smoke-free. Though some schools currently ban indoor smoking or smoking within a certain number of feet from a dorm or academic building, new regulations would discourage students from lighting up even in open air on campus.

As would be expected, students are divided on the issue. Some feel that since college students are adults and smoking tobacco is legal, schools are overreaching their boundaries. Smoking is a stress reliever to many students, is less addictive than chewing tobacco and less dangerous than smoking spice or illegal drugs. Advocates of the no-smoking-on-campus rule cite secondhand smoke exposure as a big reason to bring about this change; they also say it is the responsibility of colleges and universities to encourage healthy habits.

As a non-smoker myself, I am very much in favor of not allowing students to light up on campus. I am not bothered so much by secondhand smoke at the university I attend now as I was at my community college, however: All the buildings were so close together on that campus that there really weren’t very many places to go outside and not inhale smoke. Some people (students AND faculty) would even light up as they walked down the sidewalk, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke wherever they went.

Some campuses are set to become smoke-free as soon as this fall, while other schools don’t plan to enact the rule until the 2013-2014 academic year. Is your school thinking about becoming smoke-free? If so, how do you feel about it? Do you think not permitting students to light up on campus will discourage them from doing it elsewhere...or are schools just blowing smoke?

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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Is Not Struggling a Struggle?

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 22-year-old Taylor Cotter published an article on The Huffington Post about her success since she graduated from college in May. The odd thing about Cotter’s piece is that she doesn’t take the angle of a success story in a struggling economy – she feels that she should be struggling more!

Cotter talks about how many of her friends are working part-time jobs, living at home with their parents and/or having diets consisting mostly of Ramen; she feels that she is missing out on the post-college twentysomething life by having a ‘real job’ and a 401(k). Some readers – including myself – are appalled by Cotter’s tone. It seems to me that it would be the dream of every college student to find a full-time job directly after graduation but Cotter almost seems remorseful that she made herself marketable to companies who would hire her.

I have been living at home with my parents and working part-time jobs ranging from lifeguarding to tutoring to retail over the past few years to supplement educational costs. Now that I am preparing to move into an apartment with my friends next month, I know full well that I’ll be eating my fair share of peanut butter sandwiches and cereal; while I’m excited to begin this next phase of my life, I’m more so look forward to the day when I have a full-time job – the same situation Cotter is essentially complaining about.

Isn’t that what college is for? Teaching us how to go from being dependent children to self-supporting adults? Or I could be wrong: Maybe it’s a time to either live with your parents or eat Ramen noodles. What do YOU think?

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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Selecting the Right Roommate

The Right Choice Could Make a Friend, Not a Foe

November 3, 2011

Selecting the Right Roommate

by Katie Askew

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

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

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

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

So, which roommate route are you considering?

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


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Conquering the Grocery Store

December 16, 2011

Conquering the Grocery Store

by Katie Askew

Graduating from freshman dorm life to sophomore apartment living has had its pros and cons. Although I gained more freedom, I lost luxuries like free laundry, a professionally-cleaned bathroom and meals made by a chef. My housing choice meant more financial responsibility – something I realized when I stepped into the grocery store for the first time as an apartment dweller. To keep my spending (and yours!) in check, I created a short list of tips for a college student’s first few trips to the grocery store.

Don’t shop hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s true: When I’m full, I focus only on the foods that are only on my list and I save a ton of money by avoiding impulse buys like giant jars of Nutella.

Plan a weekly menu and take a list. Decide what you’re going to eat on a weekly basis and create a grocery list that reflects this. Keep staples like bread, eggs, cereal and milk in mind but if you want to maintain a budget, it’s important to not stray from your list. If you need recipes for quick dinners, check out sites like Kraft or All Recipes: Just type in what ingredients you have and a meal will be generated for you!

Set a time limit. Saying you only have X minutes to shop will keep you focused on what you need, not what you want. This will also save time for homework or something fun later.

Find coupons. Purchasing a real Sunday newspaper is an excellent investment: Not only can you catch up on the news but you also gain access to lots of great coupons from local grocery stores. Dedicated coupon sites like CoolSavings or SmartSource are also helpful because they find deals based on your zip code.

I’m not saying you can’t splurge every now and then – after a rough week, ice cream is a necessity! – but by living like a student now, you won’t have to later in life!

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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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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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

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

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

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

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

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


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