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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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Why I Love My School Newspaper

Helpful Hints for Would-Be Campus Correspondents

January 27, 2012

Why I Love My School Newspaper

by Kara Coleman

Are you thinking about joining your school’s newspaper staff? If you’re planning for a career in writing, photography or any kind of journalism, you should be!

The obvious benefit of writing for your university’s newspaper is that it will help you in building your professional portfolio. My school’s newspaper is issued weekly so each week during the academic year, I am able to add at least one more article to the portfolio I am building. Listing the paper as an employer/extracurricular activity will look good on your resume as well.

A perk of being part of student media is that reporters can get admission into school events for free and have unlimited access to interviews with coaches, directors and event organizers. But for me, the most enjoyable part of writing for my university’s paper is getting to meet people and do things that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Last semester, I met with members of our robotics team (who knew we had a robotics team?) after they placed second at their national convention and I got to drive the robot around. I also got to interview a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and an English lord who visited our school. As a frequent writer for the arts and entertainment page, I have met many students in the drama and music departments – two places I never set foot before.

While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, students must understand that working for the paper is a huge commitment. Sometimes covering stories interferes with class time, homework time or hanging out with friends. Before signing up to become a reporter, make sure you are dedicated to itl you must treat it like a job and meet deadlines, even if you aren’t getting paid...but really, no value can be placed on the experience you will gain as a member of student media at your school!

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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How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

August 29, 2012

How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

by Kara Coleman

For my final Scholarships.com article, I was supposed to write about things homeschooled students can to do adjust to college whether they are living at home and commuting or moving to campus. As I sat holding my pen and staring at a blank piece of paper, however, all I could think about was how homeschooling actually helped better prepare me for college!

Homeschooling taught me how to study and pursue knowledge for myself. One of the top complaints I heard from my peers when I tutored at community college was that they didn’t really know how to study. I was not fed information via lecture when I was growing up – as a kid, my mom and I spent a lot of time reading and learning together and by the time I was in high school, Mom would give me my assignments and I would research and write about them myself.

This approach to education also helped me to think for myself and form my own opinions. My parents taught me to hold my beliefs and convictions to everything my professors tell me and to not be swayed by popular opinion. This sort of critical thinking led me to pursue and accept leadership positions when I began attending college, including editor-in-chief of my school paper and a member of the SGA Cabinet.

Time management is an important lesson that many students learn for the first time in college but I was able to learn how to juggle studying, extracurricular activities and a part-time job during my senior year of high school. In short, homeschooling more than prepared me for college life. If you were homeschooled and are preparing to attend college for the first time this semester, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can take what you’ve learned at home and apply it to your college experience. Let me know if I’m right!

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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Staying Sharp Over the Summer

May 24, 2012

Staying Sharp Over the Summer

by Kara Coleman

Thousands of college students across the country have been making their way home from school to spend the summer relaxing and taking a break from studying. But how do you keep from forgetting everything you’ve learned throughout the academic year? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Rack up the credit hours. The most obvious way to keep your study skills sharp over summer break is to not take a break at all. Most schools offer summer classes – some full-term, some mini-mesters and some online. Even just taking one class during the summer can be good for your brain.
  • Hit the books. While lounging poolside this summer, why not do a little reading? You don’t necessarily have to tackle War and Peace, but try for something a little deeper than Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly. Visit GoodReads.com to browse books in any genre and find something that will keep you turning pages all summer long!
  • Help someone else. I spent last summer tutoring two eighth-grade girls. Even though we just worked through pre-algebra books together, it really helped the girls to remember all that they had learned and it was a great brain booster for me, too!
  • Just play. Whether you're right-brained or left-brained, puzzle games are a fun way to keep your mind active. Sudoku – a wordless crossword puzzle that involves the numbers 1-9 – is available in book form as well as via download on Kindle. Also available for free via Kindle is Grid Detective, a game where players unscramble words.

How do you choose to keep those brain juices flowing over the summer? Let us know what works for you!

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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Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

Not-Your-Average College Majors and the Schools That Offer Them

June 11, 2012

Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

by Kara Coleman

What are you majoring in? Business? Nursing? Psychology? I’ve been scouring the Internet for some cool and crazy college majors so if you’re having second thoughts about your curriculum of choice, consider switching to one of these:

  • Home Economics. Yep, you can actually attend college and get a degree in home economics. Idaho State University offers this degree, with courses in interior design, nutrition and meal management.
  • Comic Book Art. The ultimate nerd degree can be obtained from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. To get this BFA, students focus not only on actually drawing comics but on plot and character development, publishing in both print and web forms and, the coup de grâce – an advanced comic art seminar.
  • Motorsports Management. You can travel to the heart of NASCAR country to pursue this degree. Winston-Salem State University’s website states that “WSSU is the only four-year university in the country and the only Historically Black College and University to offer a Bachelor of Science degree program in motorsports management.” Classes include sponsorship, public relations and mass media, and operational logistics; an internship in the field of motorsports is required before graduation.
  • Folklore and Mythology. If you are an honor student at Harvard and have always dreamed of attending Hogwarts, you can get pretty close. This Ivy offers a degree in Folklore and Mythology from a wide variety of cultures including Celtic, Scandinavian, Japanese and African. One featured class is “Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature,” where students read books by Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm and, yes, J.K. Rowling.

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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Colleges to Extinguish Smoking on Campus

July 12, 2012

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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See the World in the Summertime!

Exploring the Many Benefits of Summer Abroad Programs

August 10, 2012

See the World in the Summertime!

by Kara Coleman

Many universities across the country offer study abroad programs for students who wish to spend a semester in another country. Every student that I know of who has ever participated in one of these programs hails it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience...but what if you can’t afford to spend an entire semester overseas or you don’t want to interfere with your planned graduation date or schoolwork? Consider seeing the world on shorter-term trips during the summer! You’ll still get the experience of traveling and seeing what life is like in other countries without taking a lot of time off from work or school.

This past May, my university sent 10 students from its honors program to China for two weeks. Though they did do a few touristy things, they spent most of their time learning at Taizhou University. Because the Chinese academic year is different than ours in the U.S., the Chinese students were still in classes and the American students were able to jump in and study alongside them after their final exams had been completed at home. The best part? The trip was completely paid for by JSU!

You can also use the summer months to explore the world on a trip not associated with your college. Last month, I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip, where I volunteered in a shelter for homeless children. I was able to experience firsthand what life is like in a third-world country and have plenty to tell my friends about when school starts back up later this month.

So where will you be at this time next year? Studying kung fu in a Chinese university? Playing soccer with kids in Central America? Or maybe something completely different? A whole world of opportunities awaits you – literally!

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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The Dos and Don’ts of Job References

August 11, 2011

The Dos and Don’ts of Job References

by Kara Coleman

Picture this: You’ve got a brand new diploma in your hand and are applying for your dream job or, if you’re not quite there yet, you’re trying to find a job to help pay your way through school. In addition to your resume, you’ll need references who can vouch for your abilities. Since companies usually check three references for each prospective employee, here’s how to pick the best individuals to speak on your behalf.

Don’t list family members or your best friend as references. Have you ever seen an “American Idol” audition where the contestant sings horribly but their mother argue with the judges and claims their child has the most beautiful voice in the world? The same principle applies here. Your family wants you to succeed so they’re only going to say positive things about you. Your references should be based on professional opinions so instead of listing Mom and Dad, list a professor in your field of study, a previous employer or a board member/faculty advisor for a service organization you are currently involved in.

Do talk with your potential references before you list them. Tell them what you are applying for and why you wish to use them as a reference. This may be stating the obvious but only list them if they give you permission to do so. You should also consider asking them the types of questions you think your prospective employer might ask them; if their feedback isn’t entirely positive, you can always find a different reference.

Don’t list your references on your resume. Rather, have the names and contact information of your references typed out on a separate sheet of paper. Not only will it keep the length of your resume down but you’ll look prepared and confident when you offer up your list without hesitation.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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The Unofficial Mini Transfer Guide

July 11, 2011

The Unofficial Mini Transfer Guide

by Kara Coleman

Sometimes transferring can be tricky. If you attend the same four-year university from the get-go, you can pretty much follow a checklist of all the classes you need to earn your degree. If you transfer from a two-year school to a four-year school or from a public school to a private school, however, what happens then?

In Alabama, I am able to use the STARS (Statewide Transfer and Articulation Reporting System) guide. From the STARS site, students can search their major and find all of the basic courses required for their major by all schools in the state. Then they can view degree requirements specific to the school they plan to earn their degree from. Certain courses required to earn an associate degree from a community college may not necessarily be required to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a public or private four-year university, so let your advisor know as early as possible if you want to graduate from your community college or just transfer.

Try to have a transfer plan from your first semester. Life can be unpredictable – I have a friend who attended a four-year university, got married over the summer and is now transferring to a different school closer to her new home – but if you have a plan from the beginning of your college experience, you’ll have a better chance of all your credit hours counting toward your degree. Most college students change their major at least once (I started as an English major but now plan to graduate as a communications major) so if this applies to you, consider changing your original major to your minor. All of those extra lit classes that I took will apply towards my English minor so I didn’t waste any time or money.

Find out if your state offers a STARS-like guide and, above all, talk to your advisors! Let your field advisor and a transfer advisor know of your plans; they’ll help you make the best decisions for what classes you should take to achieve your goals.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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Helpful Study Sites

July 26, 2011

Helpful Study Sites

by Kara Coleman

In this age of technology, we have access to nearly unlimited resources to help us learn. You might want to add these URLs to your favorites list:

Google Scholar. This site is like the original Google, only smarter! You can search for articles on a topic and narrow your search to articles written during a specific time period, or even limit exclusively to federal or state court documents pertaining to your topic. The best part? The links for all articles include citations!

Cool Math.. From math games for kids, to calculus and trig, to money management, there’s a Cool Math page dedicated to almost everything. The site also features handy graphing and scientific calculators and a math dictionary to refresh your memory on terminology you may have forgotten.

Khan Academy.. This free library puts more than 2,400 online videos at your fingertips! Video topics include physics, currency exchange and the French Revolution and there are also practice exercises to help you apply what you’ve learned.

Spark Notes.. Search Spark Notes’ extensive literary database to read summaries of classic books and Shakespearean dramas, including character lists and their roles in the stories. While reading summaries does not replace actually reading the books themselves, reading the summary before you tackle the real thing can help you to better understand the material you’re learning.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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