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Adios, First-Day Jitters - Start Preparing for School NOW!

by Kayla Herrera

Back-to-school season is in the air and whether you’re a transfer student or incoming freshman looking forward to entering a new environment, you don’t want to be without these must-have items for the school year:

  • Planner: I know smartphones have fancy scheduling apps but nothing can compare to writing your to-dos into a paper planner. I actually got reprimanded once for pulling my phone out to schedule a speech as we signed up for it so stay out of trouble by going with the old-fashioned method.
  • Ballpoint pens: Pens are crisp, bold and perfect for taking smudge-free notes. Pick up an economy-sized pack for backup and sharing with classmates or roommates – someone will ALWAYS need one.
  • Mechanical pencils: These are great (and necessary) for Scantron exams and math problems. Bonus? No sharpener needed!
  • Folders: I have found that folders help me keep everything in order by class. Color-coding them will help further organize your college life.
  • Pictures from home: Looking at the faces of those you love will help you get through those lonely off-days.
  • A journal: The best therapy is sometimes writing and when no one is available for you to talk to, a journal can be a great sounding board.
  • Music: Whatever genre that appeases your soul, music has the power to change lives, fix what’s broken and turn any bad day into a slightly better one. I never would have survived my freshman year without music from my iPod or at a campus concert.

All of these items got me through my first year of college...and I didn’t know about the folders until second semester! I hope they will aid you in the best way possible as you tackle your first year at a new school.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done and that is what she is here to do.


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What to Do About a Negligent Landlord

by Kayla Herrera

I have tons of horror stories about roommates and housing but the one connective thread is an unprofessional landlord. While I can’t tell you why this problem is so prominent in many college towns, I can guide you on how to deal with it.

First, know your rights. Look up your state’s tenant laws and make note of them. In Michigan, a tenant has the right to withhold all or part of rent depending on the problem until the apartment is fixed. We’re not talking broken lights or chipped paint, though – think more along the lines of pests, unusable plumbing and no electricity.

Next, reread your lease. Whenever you sign a lease, make sure to 1. read it thoroughly and 1. get a copy. (My landlord didn’t even give me a copy of my lease and I had to email him several times to get it.) If the lease does not say anything about apartment fixes (it should), do not sign it until it’s amended. If the landlord complains, cite the tenant laws to support your case.

Lastly, be confident and remain firm in all dealings with your landlord, especially if the issue is detrimental to your health or living. For example, my neighbor has had bad plumbing since July but even after multiple complaints, the landlord hadn’t remedied the issue by October. She knew her rights, though, and together we sent the landlord an email stating she was moving out and he would be responsible for finding a replacement tenant...but not until the apartment was fixed. We also said if immediate action was not taken, we would call a health inspector (also due to persistent flying squirrel incidents in several apartments). Needless to say, the landlord agreed in a panic and we were able to avoid going to court over the matter – a mess we definitely didn’t need during midterm time.

If you follow these tips, even the worst landlord ever can be dealt with. Good luck, renters!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Will You Go Out With Us?

Couple Dating in College

October 7, 2011

Will You Go Out With Us?

by Kayla Herrera

When college students couple up, they sometimes become hermits and for couples that live together, this behavior is even more prevalent. It doesn’t have to be your way of life, though! Break free from the monotony and try this rising trend among students here at Michigan Tech: couple dating.

Girls need girl time and boys need boy time so in addition to spending time with the friends you had before you were in a relationship, find another couple you’d like to get to know better and plan a night out. Go bowling, go out to eat or see a movie. Any time I’ve been on a couple date, the other girl and I kind of have our own conversation going while the guys talk about their things. This is a great way to have that girl time or boy time without having to completely move around a jam-packed schedule.

I know you’re thinking couple dating sounds like something only people in their 30s and older do but it really isn’t. I speak from experience: Couple dating made my own relationship more exciting and resilient! After a successful couple date, all parties are generally happy and refreshed. You can hang out with your loved one – which can be hard if you have opposite class and work schedules – and socialize with others at the same time. Don’t ever feel like you are becoming “that old couple” – you’re just making new friends and having fun in a more convenient way!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Moving in the Middle of the Semester

by Kayla Herrera

Whether the rent is too high, the landlord is negligent or there is an army of flying squirrels gnawing away at your apartment, your housing situation may need to change. This usually happens at a most inopportune time, like in the middle of the semester; it’s is a stressful, horrible and distracting experience but if your current place is bad enough (remember my last post?), the move will benefit you in the end.

Packing is a nightmare – not only is your place going to look like a tornado ripped through but if you do not keep your school stuff together, it will get lost in the mess – but you can maintain some sense of order. Keep a designated space for school work, books and any other college necessities or put everything in a labeled box so you will know exactly where to search when you need something for school.

As with your school supplies, separate your items into well-marked boxes to make unpacking easier and then begin transporting the boxes. Try to schedule moving day for a weekend or day you do not have class or work; unfortunately, I only had one day and had to skip all of my classes to get the job done but I did let my professors know ahead of time. When you arrive at your new place, make sure everything appears as promised in your lease before you start unpacking.

Moving in the middle of the semester is awful, I know. Things will get crazy, messy and even unmanageable but the best thing you can do is to stay organized. The hustle and bustle of a move has been known throw wrenches in otherwise perfectly timed schedules so use a planner or cell phone calendar to remember important dates and appointments while you are relocating. Good luck and enjoy your new abode!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Should You Take a Semester Off?

by Kayla Herrera

I have been attending college for about four years now and have never taken a semester off. The thought used to make me shudder – how could someone even think of taking time off from school?! – but after this semester, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Some of my friends took semesters off to travel and learn more about themselves, while others were lost and not sure what they wanted to do in life. Some have experienced the loss of a family member or friend and others fell so ill that it interfered with their everyday lives. But me? My situation has been a combination of flying squirrels, bad landlords, health issues and money problems. Stress from school has skyrocketed to its worst level ever and I am planning to take the summer off, since I cannot afford to withdraw from spring classes if I want to stay on track. (I did consider attending part-time but found it could create problems with financial aid.)

If you’re considering taking a semester off, do NOT just drop off the face of the Earth. Let your adviser know your plans and keep the lines of communication open so that the process of coming back to school is easier when you are ready to do so. You may be taking time off from school to destress but I’d also recommend doing something related to your major – picking up an internship/job, volunteering or studying for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE – to stay somewhat involved in your field.

Lots of college students take time off for one reason or another; if external factors are competing with school to the point where your grades are suffering, take a break – you’ll return to school more motivated to succeed.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Apartment Hunting? Follow These Rules

by Kayla Herrera

The start of a new year marks the time to seek an apartment for the fall semester. I know that’s the case at my school: Once the calendar turns to January in Houghton, Mich., students start climbing all over housing advertisements and residences are gone in no time. It really is a race here because in this rural town, affordable quality housing is limited. No matter where you attend college, there are some key things you should keep an eye out for when you tour a place you could potentially call home.

Noise. Ask about street noise or neighbor noise then take a listen for yourself to determine whether it’s too loud or too quiet for you. I lived on a main street once and when I moved to a quieter one, I could not sleep for a week because of the silence!

Mold or water damage. If there is a basement, look/smell for mold and search for wet spots or signs of flooding. Mold can bother allergies or make you sick and flooding could ruin your belongings; basements are prime locations for both to occur.

Pests. Keep your eyes peeled for chewed corners or holes in ceilings or walls. As I noted in a previous post, pests such as mice and squirrels can poop all over the place, eat your food, damage your apartment's structure and scare the daylights out of you. Do not move into a place with these warning signs unless the landlord promises to make repairs before you move in.

Maintenance. Make sure your landlord has a maintenance man or has offered you a phone number to reach him or her in case they handle the repairs. Trust me, no hot water plus hair covered in conditioner at 11 p.m. equals a not-so-fun extracurricular activity.

Be wary of everything from cleanliness to the neighborhood (nearby bars and hot spots mean there WILL be drunken singing at 2 a.m.). The race is on – good luck!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Handling Pests in Off-Campus Housing

by Kayla Herrera

When the campus dormitories have run their course and you are ready to have a room bigger than a closet, living in off-campus housing can be an exciting experience. Be forewarned, however, that you may have to deal with pests. No, I’m not talking about rude, unkempt roommates but insects, rodents and other undomesticated animals.

As a college student, you may have never dealt with a pest on your own before. I sure hadn't...until recently. During finals week, I heard scratching in my ceiling. I ignored it but after returning from a week-long trip, the source of the scratching revealed itself. I screamed, “it” crawled into the ceiling and I covered the holes with duct tape, still not knowing what the creature was. I called my landlord but he was out of town and said he'd take care of it on Monday. That weekend, a friend and I heard the scratching again, this time from the kitchen. “There it is!” screamed my friend as I tried to chase “it” out the door. “It” jumped behind the couch then flew back into the kitchen (I had no idea that “it” could fly!). My friend held a pot so we could capture “it” but when “it” ran toward her, she panicked and dropped the pot on top of the creature, paralyzing it. “It” – what we later found out was a flying squirrel – died soon after.

So off-campus dwellers, if you hear animal noises or have a large amount of insects inside your rental unit, call your landlord immediately. It’s their responsibility to get rid of the problem for you and if he or she doesn't or refuses to help, he or she is breaking the law.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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The Benefits of Community Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

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

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

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

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

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


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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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Meningitis and the College Student

by Lisa Lowdermilk

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

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

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

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

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


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