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When Choosing College Extracurriculars, Remember Your Passions

by Katie Askew

It’s the last few weeks of high school and you’re already feeling nostalgic. Your final band concert has been performed, your final basketball game has been played, your last student council meeting has been attended and you may be feeling sentimental because your intended major doesn’t fit the things you were passionate about in high school. Fear not: You don’t need to leave your extracurricular activities behind just because you’re heading to college!

I was in the same place you were last year. My final decision to major in journalism and English felt like an abrupt end to my music career...but boy, was I wrong. It’s important to keep involved in your passions through extracurriculars while also pursuing your major, especially if your passions span a wide range of interests. For example, I attended the Society of Professional Journalists meetings through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication while also performing with the University Concert Band (a performance group for non-music majors) and working as a drumline instructor at a suburban high school. I made time for the things I love outside of my major and I can honestly say that my music groups kept me sane during stressful school times.

The most important lesson is to not feel defined by your major. Simply because you are a biomedical engineering major doesn’t mean you can’t be an ambitious thespian or star volleyball player. Student groups are just the place to meet your needs – the University of Minnesota has over 700 student groups to choose from! – and if you can’t find a group that matches your passions, you can join another interesting one (like the Campus People Watchers) or create your own!

So in terms of extracurricular activities in college, the sky is the limit...unless you join the skydiving club.

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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Cars on Campus: Are They Necessary?

by Katie Askew

Public transportation: Some fear it, some embrace it. Ten months ago, I was the former but I’m now proud to say I am the latter.

Cars are the main mode of transport where I’m from in South Dakota – even 14-year-olds can have their licenses here! – but moving to the “big city” to attend the University of Minnesota meant giving up my car. I left it dead and dust-covered for nine months and, in a way, also left a piece of me back home. I was petrified at the thought of climbing onto a...a...public bus. Yuck, but I had no other option if I wanted to go to Target or to downtown Minneapolis for concerts and clubs. I even rode the light rail during a shopping spree with friends at the Mall of America (it goes right to the basement of the mall!).

I will never regret learning the bus and light rail routes of Minneapolis because it saves me tons of time, money and public transportation really wasn’t as creepy or dirty as I thought it was going to be. As time passed, the more thankful I became for not having to pay expensive parking fees, car insurance and all the parking tickets I surely would have received. I won’t even mention the loads of money I saved on gas...$4 a gallon, anyone?

The University of Minnesota has extremely discounted bus and light rail passes for students. Your school probably does, too, but if you REALLY can’t bring yourself to take public transportation and are contemplating bringing your car to campus, consider bicycles, rollerblades, longboards and good old-fashioned walking – all of which are cheaper for you and better for the environment. Things may be different if you attend college in a more rural setting but going to a metropolitan school without a car is possible!

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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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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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

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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Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

by Katie Askew

Fall in Minnesota conjures images of apple orchards, sweaters, falling leaves and pumpkin patches. The ravishing yellows, browns, reds and greens of the leaves perfectly accent the serious brick buildings and stately campus architecture at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Students take advantage of the pleasant weather patterns by spending as much time as possible outside. There is only one thing that ruins that distinct fall feeling: tobacco smoke.

Even though it’s well-known that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious disease and even death, few colleges have actually made changes to protect the health and safety of their students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 126 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In addition, secondhand smoke in the United States causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. Colleges have been hearing the pleas for tobacco-free campus proposals for years but only a handful have listened – for example, all of Arkansas’ and Iowa’s state-supported college and university campuses have been smoke-free since last year – and it’s time for the rest of the nation follow suit.

Thankfully, a Minnesota school – Minnesota State University – is. MSU in Mankato will implement a tobacco-free campus program starting January 1, 2012. Sadly, the protocol change is not free of complaints from the student body but, if the Facebook page is any indication, the majority is in support of this change. There’s no doubt that not only will campus air be cleaner to breathe but cigarette butt litter will also be vastly reduced. I only hope the same kinds of changes are made at the U of M – I HATE dodging smoke clouds on the way to class!

Is your campus smoke-filled, smoke-free or somewhere in the middle thanks to new initiatives? (Find out your school's status here.) Do you think administrators should address the campus smoking issue more or should it be up to students to take action?

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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Exploring the History of Your College Town

by Katie Askew

Recently, a few friends and I took advantage of some rare balmy Midwest weather and went on a historical adventure. We didn’t have money or a plan, but we stumbled upon a little piece of Minnesota history right in downtown Minneapolis!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a famous American poet, lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts but in 1885, a Minneapolis fish market owner named Robert Jones built a 2/3-scale replica of Longfellow’s home in Minneapolis. Longfellow never lived in the house because he died in 1882 but the city of Minneapolis now owns the house and after years of being used as a haunted mansion, it’s now basically a museum and information center. For an English major like me, this was a fantasy!

This is just one of the many historical sites and national parks in Minnesota and it’s pretty easy to find many types of free museums, historical locations and ancient legends right in your college’s town as well. You can use the National Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places to find sites like this in your area and most states also have a Historical Society that boasts free or inexpensive history-centered events near you. Even better, check out your dream school’s personal history! It’s always interesting to find out who the buildings are named after or other random facts your campus tour guide can’t tell you. (For example, the University of Minnesota has a heritage trail with markers that describe everything from the history of the campus architecture to university icons and famous alumni.)

Learning about the history of your city not only helps you to feel connected to the past but also helps you to be better informed about interesting occurrences that happened where you live, work, study and play. History is everywhere – you just have to actively seek it out!

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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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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Admissions Decisions: What to Do While You Wait to Hear

by Katie Askew

By now, most of the priority deadlines for college applications have passed. You have filled out your last application, written your final essay and everything is under review...so what’s left for you to do?

During the period between submitting your application and getting an admissions decision, there is a lot you can do besides just sitting around waiting. Although patience is a virtue, why don’t you take a look at what I did and see if you can keep busy!

Visit or revisit. If you haven’t already visited your choice colleges, now is the time. Take a tour, meet with an admissions counselor and talk to students you see about campus life. If you have already visited, go again because the second visit is almost always more informative than the first: Now that you have seen a few different types of schools, you can go back to your top choices and get more pertinent information because you’ll know exactly what types of questions to ask.

Volunteer. If you are deferred or waitlisted to your top college (knock on wood!), volunteer hours are great additions to your application and make you a more promising candidate. It shows that you are really doing everything you can to be a well-rounded student. If you were accepted to your top college, those volunteer hours didn’t go to waste – it’s humbling to give your time and maybe volunteering at the local hospital has given you a potential new career path as a doctor or nurse!

Job shadow. Shadowing someone working a job you’re interested in is a great way to acquire lots of information directly from those in the industry. After the job shadow, maybe you’ll realize becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t right for someone as squeamish as you are or maybe you’ll realize how much you love healing others. You won’t know until you job shadow!

Sure, the couch is comfortable but get up and get out – there is a lot more you can do to prepare for those admissions decision letters!

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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