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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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Your Guide to College Finals

April 12, 2013

Your Guide to College Finals

by Katlyn Clark

It’s finally April and summer is just around the corner but there is one thing holding us back from enjoying some time off...FINALS! They can seem so excruciating when all we can think about is going home, interning or studying abroad but here are some tips to help you get through this often dreaded time:

  • Manage your time. Confirm your finals schedule with your professors so you can prepare appropriately, ensuring you have enough time to both study and sleep. Input alerts on your computer and phone and set a few alarms the night before tests so you don’t oversleep.
  • Don’t stress. Don’t overwhelm yourself to the point that you feel miserable. Be calm, take some deep breaths and make sure you get plenty of rest. Try to end your day thinking about something other than your finals; if not, you may have a sleepless night and that will not help.
  • Treat yourself. If you aren’t one to study or find yourself having difficulty focusing, set a goal to reach a certain section of your material and then treat yourself. It could be to 30 minutes of watching TV or going online – meeting your goals deserves some credit and will help you return to your work refreshed.
  • Study groups. If you are able to study with others, form a study group. You may be able to learn more from your peers than you thought: I have studied with classmates before and it helped me A LOT when I took the final. I strongly suggest this method if you need help in a specific class because perhaps one of your study partners will explain the course information in a way that’s easier to understand and retain.

I wish you good luck during finals season and hope you finish the academic year strong. You may be surprised in all the work that goes into finals but it will pay off in the end!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.

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The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

April 12, 2012

The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

by Kayla Herrera

Everything is blooming and trees are awakening with widening leaves stretching up toward the sky. The birds are chirping and don’t forget the sound of graduation gowns sweeping across the floor! I should be graduating this year but like so many other college students my age, I have been thrown more than a few curveballs in my time in school and I have another year to go before I can enter into the workforce full-time. I want to assure you that this is okay and completely normal!

Here at Michigan Tech, we have a five-year plan. In order to graduate from Michigan Tech in four years, one must take 18 credits every semester, not including summer semesters. Not a fan of killing yourself with books, papers, exams, labs and a part-time job and would prefer to enjoy your time in college? That mentality is adopted by most students at Michigan Tech, making those who graduate in four years or fewer the minority.

Let’s face it – things happen: You change your major and have some serious catching up to do in prerequisite classes, you have a death in the family, you become seriously ill and take a semester off, or you just want to study abroad for a while. And that’s all more than fine, people! Yes, money is a huge issue (you can combat this by finding as many scholarships and grants as possible!) but at least we didn’t develop serious illnesses because of stress in an overworked educational environment!

My advice? Take it easy and give yourself time to soak in all of the new information you are learning. Remember, don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for needing to stay in school for an extra year or two. There are colleges out there, just like mine, where the majority of students are on five-year plans – you just have to find them.

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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Non-Traditional College Majors

July 18, 2011

Non-Traditional College Majors

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Do you feel restricted by more traditional college majors such as business, education and nursing? If so, a non-traditional major may be for you! Many colleges offer majors you may not even have known about including decision making, Egyptology and marine biology.

You may be wondering how there could possibly be a major devoted to decision making but the coursework is surprisingly difficult! There's actually a real science to making decisions, meaning you'll have to apply your mathematical reasoning skills to everything from information technology to artificial intelligence. The end result, though, is highly rewarding: You'll be able to use your decision making skills to produce soaring business profits.

The University of Pennsylvania offers a major in Egyptology, which is exactly what it sounds like: the study of ancient Egyptian culture. If you choose this major, you'll learn how the ancient Egyptians measured time without clocks, studied astronomy without telescopes and much more. Should you decide you want to pursue a Ph.D. in Egyptology, you'll even learn to read and write in Demotic and Coptic, two of the phases of the ancient Egyptian script. If you've grown up fascinated by pharaohs and mummies, consider turning your passion into a career. You might even discover an artifact that becomes as famous as the Rosetta Stone!

Marine biology, though not unheard of, is still not a very common major. UCLA even gives its students the opportunity to go snorkeling as part of the major! Past diving sites include Hawaii, Tahiti and Catalina Island (a friend of mine will be studying coral reefs in Hawaii next year). Just think: while your classmates are busy studying for finals, you could be out swimming with dolphins! Keep in mind, though, that physics, chemistry, biology, calculus and statistics are all subjects you should be proficient or above average in if you're even considering this major.

If you decide to major in any of these fields, one thing's for sure: You'll have a college experience like no other.

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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Liz Coffin-Karlin

January 25, 2012

Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Liz Coffin-Karlin

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Hi all! I’m Liz, the newest virtual intern here at Scholarships.com. I’m from Sarasota, Florida originally, and then moved way up to Chicago to attend college. I picked Northwestern University for a lot of reasons – it was in a whole new part of the country, it had great academics and it had a lot of student involvement – and I wound up with double majors in Spanish and history and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

While academics were important to me, I always felt I expressed myself best through student activities. I worked on our newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, for four years, was an executive board member on the Global Engagement Summit and participated in NU’s huge Dance Marathon. Along the way, I also volunteered at a Chicago soup kitchen, worked as a lifeguard for our sports center and once even sold hot dogs at a football game to raise money for a student group. (It is COLD in those stands!) I also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, where I fell in love with empanadas, tango music and backpacking in the Andes.

I loved my time at NU but most of all, I loved the connections I made and the friends I met. I took a public service fellowship in Chicago right after graduating from college in 2010 and ran a teen internship program last summer at the Adler Planetarium. When that ended, I felt it was time to use my Spanish skills and after studying abroad in Buenos Aires and then getting a research grant to come back before my senior year, I had the language skills and the connections to get an internship at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Now, I’m excited to be with Scholarships.com, where I'll be sharing travel tips, college tips (make sure you set the microwave timer for two minutes not 20 minutes...unless you want to burn your dorm down) and professional tips for getting that internship or job you wanted. Nice to meet you guys – can’t wait to start writing!

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Bilingual Benefits at Home and Abroad

February 7, 2012

Bilingual Benefits at Home and Abroad

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I live in Buenos Aires full time, I was a Spanish major in college and I’m about as obsessive about Latin pop music as any actual Latina I know so naturally, people laugh when I tell them I almost didn’t take AP Spanish my senior year of high school. Once upon a time, I thought foreign language classes were good for silly skits and fluffing up your college resume but looking back, I can honestly say that even if I had no idea at the time, my high school Spanish classes were probably the most important classes I took in those four years.

Most colleges require language classes to graduate and have varying levels of language requirements for different study abroad programs. The thing about really trying to learn that tricky foreign language is that it lets you become part of whatever culture you’re visiting, whether you flew to another continent or just visited a part of your own college city that you’d never been. Instead of being just a tourist, you can become an observer – an anthropologist of that new and exciting land – but if you don’t know the language (or your basic cultural history), that task becomes impossible and you’re just a tourist with a resident visa. Think about practicing your French in a New York Haitian neighborhood, your Cantonese in San Francisco Chinatown or your Arabic in Dearborn, Michigan. You don’t have to fly a thousand miles away to get out of your comfort zone or expand your horizons.

Now I’m not advocating walking into Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and expecting your six words of Spanish to make you a whole bunch of new friends. Just like when you’re a visitor in someone’s home, be polite and know that your presence can easily become a burden rather than a novelty. If you work at understanding the people around you, finding out about their lives and listening to their opinions and goals, your limited language skills might rapidly expand.

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

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Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

February 23, 2012

Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

In my last article, I talked a lot about language classes at school and how you can use those skills in your own cities. But honestly the best way to practice a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it so in this column, I’m going to talk about studying abroad – but cost effectively.

Like with real estate, the costs associated with studying abroad depend on location, location, location. While your parents didn’t have a lot of study abroad options outside Europe, the world is changing and becoming more global every day; by changing that dream European vacation into a jaunt to a different continent, you can save a lot of money and have a unique experience. I studied abroad here in Buenos Aires, which at the time was about $10,000 cheaper than an equivalent program I could have done in Barcelona. Plus, my study abroad program was about a month and a half longer, meaning I had a lot more cultural immersion than I would have had with the program in Spain.

Also, think about if you really need the college credits you’ll get abroad. If you can just go for a summer and give up the academic courses or if you’re ahead on credits and can take a semester off, it might be worth it to check out volunteering abroad programs aimed at young people. Generally, the prices are significantly lower for a few months of building houses than for university classes; however, the experience is very different than taking university classes with native students (which is what I did...and loved) so think about what you’re really looking for in an abroad experience before choosing.

Finally, there are ways to actually make money while you’re studying abroad! Many countries are looking for English teachers and it’s worth checking out expatriate websites to see if anyone needs a babysitter who is a native English speaker. Similarly, if your language skills are good enough, there are lots of translation jobs out there – just check Craigslist like I did!

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

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How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

March 8, 2012

How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Baby, it may still be cold outside but summer is on its way – three glorious months to fill with projects, internships and mildly soul-numbing jobs. Hey, high schoolers, I'm talking to you: Colleges care what you do with that time, even if you'd rather just hang out and play water polo...or whatever kids do these days.

For most high schoolers, there are two kinds of summer experiences: you pay them (hang gliding in Costa Rica, French language lessons in France with French people) or they pay you (yeah, I worked at a bagel shop). They both have their places and their benefits so if you can get to some faraway place and have adventures, go for it; however, most people aren't in that financial bracket in high school. The good news is that a first job can be just as interesting an experience, whether it's at a fast food joint or selling t-shirts at the Jersey Shore. Check out your local museums and colleges to see if they have special internship programs for teens over the summer. The application process may be brutal but a competitive internship program looks great on your resume and the money in your pocket will be worth it. Working with those programs will also give you a chance to meet teens from other high schools or outside your normal social circle; remember, college is all about learning to get along with people totally different than you – now's a good time to start.

But don't forget secret option number three: No one pays you but you get to practice something you think you'd like to study or work in. It's like volunteering (except you go every day instead of when you feel like it) but you should think of it as a job, minus the monetary compensation. The summer before my senior year of high school, I called around and became a journalism intern at a small local paper. I pitched and wrote my own articles and even used the amazingly complex 9-megapixel digital SLR camera (hey, it was 2005). While I wasn't exactly producing Pulitzers, I got great articles for my portfolio and the experience of working as an adult. In this economy, everybody wants free labor and by finding a place to volunteer regularly, you may just find a career. Start your search early, though: These opportunities fill up fast!

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

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Choosing Your Study Abroad Destination

July 6, 2011

Choosing Your Study Abroad Destination

by Mariah Proctor

Most peoples’ perfect study abroad destination is dictated by major. Should you find yourself studying English, you will likely want to go to the land of Shakespeare, Keats and Wordsworth. Ancient Near Eastern Studies will likely send you to the modern Near East. Music may see you joining me here in Vienna. But if you’re undecided, here are some helpful hints in choosing a study abroad destination.

If you want to remain comfortable, have frequent Internet access and see sights you’ve heard about your whole life, go to Europe. In doing so, know you’ll see thrilling sites and learn royal history but also know that the people accompanying you will probably be on their parents’ dime and may be inclined to constant shopping, checking items off their bucket lists and taking countless photos. If you are one of those people, perfect fit.

If you’re ok with a little sweat and dirt in your shoes, explore the Middle East. It will be full of things religiously significant to multiple sects so prepared to be bowled over by devotion and the drama of clashing beliefs. Desert heat is dry but desert dwellers know spices so be prepared for some incredible taste sensations. You’ll be joined by students with specific passions; people that travel to the Middle East aren’t just traveling for the sake of traveling so make sure you aren’t either.

If you want a daily helping of potentially incurable culture shock and an environment that is both stringent about formal propriety and laid back about everything else, head to Southeast Asia. Your travel companions will likely be humanitarians and adventurers. Just avoid getting stepped on by the elephants that will be lumbering down the street.

Every study abroad has a distinct student culture. Thoroughly research not only the place but the kind of people that choose that destination to ensure it is paradise for you. But rest assured, no matter where you choose to go, there will always be plenty of ice cream.

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

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Getting Along With Your Host Family

July 15, 2011

Getting Along With Your Host Family

by Mariah Proctor

A practical stranger just walked into my room in her underwear to tell me not to be so rough with the cold water handle of the kitchen faucet.

Yes, living with host families is an adventure but can also be one of the most rewarding parts of a study abroad. It’s an adjustment to suddenly be sharing personal space with people you hardly know but here are a few rules of thumb that can help make the whole experience a little smoother for all.

Follow their rules, not yours. One of the biggest adjustments of attending college in general is that not everyone grew up with the same sensibilities as you did and the things you thought everyone knew (i.e., obviously mustard should be kept in the fridge) might be a ‘just you’ thing. That gets compounded fourfold when you are in a different family and a different culture so when your host family sets up initial guidelines, follow them. Even if it’s not how you would ever do things, you are in their home and you should respect their rules.

Monkey see, monkey do. For all of those other things that just have a big question mark and for which those new strangers whose , two words: watch and learn. Try to be observant and aware of the way things are done and follow suit.

Communicating isn’t stepping on toes. Don’t assume, ask! If there’s a language barrier, use some clever props or charades; through giggles and victorious discovery, they’ll figure out what you mean. Don’t feel like you’re being silly or an imposition for communicating your issues. Solving those issues will make you a less imposing presence.

Show your gratitude. Most of all, remember to be gracious and courteous! Your host family has opened up their home to you; learn all that you can learn from them because you will have no better opportunity for cultural immersion. Maybe, just maybe, these complete strangers can become like family after all.

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

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