November 25, 2009
Not everyone will be saying grace and sitting down to football and multiple helpings of turkey and pie on Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Some of you will be spending the holiday in the dorms, or elsewhere on campus. Perhaps you're an international student who doesn't celebrate the holiday. Or maybe home is too far away to justify the costs of flying back for both the turkey dinner and winter break. You may then be wondering how you can make the most of your time off from class. Well, don't fret. You won't be the only one seemingly stranded, and there are on-campus alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.
If you know of others sticking around for the holiday, consider getting together. Your college could be hosting Thanksgiving Day-related events for students like you who are staying in town. Or, if you feel like you'll be missing out on that home-cooked meal, consider a potluck with those other students to eat on a budget. You don't need to break the bank for a Thanksgiving meal, especially if you're sharing the duties, so look for tips on Thanksgiving on a budget. Pick up the boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce rather than making things from scratch like Mom might. If you're in the dorms, consider checking out the Thanksgiving meal deals on campus. If you're really lucky, you've made a good enough friend who wouldn't mind having you over to their family's Thanksgiving. Don't be shy about taking leftovers back to the dorm, which you'll surely be offered if you play the "I miss home" card.
Take the time to get acquainted with your college. You've probably been in too much of a rush balancing work and college or getting used to larger loads of homework to appreciate what the student center has to offer, or that new walking path on the outskirts of campus. Explore your surroundings, so that you have plenty to share when your friends come back from their long weekends home.
Study at your own pace. You'll probably have finals week on your heels shortly after this mini-break is over, so take advantage of a quieter campus and emptier student lounges to get the bulk of your studying done before everyone comes back and the chances of procrastination and distraction are greater. Enjoy the time off, but try your best to be productive, too. You'll feel a lot less stressed than everyone else when they're cramming and pulling all-nighters before their big exams.
Don't forget about your family. If Thanksgiving is typically a big deal at home, but you just couldn't swing the costs of the trip, make sure you check in once in a while over the next few days. Chances are your family will be missing you just as much as you're missing them, and while you don't want to be moping around or hiding away in your dorm room the entire weekend, you want to make sure everyone knows you're thinking of them. Talk about how excited you are about the upcoming winter break, and your plans for your own alternative Thanksgiving Day on campus. It could be a pretty good time if you're a little creative.
December 4, 2009
Stressed about finals? Pet a puppy. That's what one college is urging students to do to relieve their stress over finals week.
A student group at Chapman University will station a group of puppies outside the school's main library next week as part of operation "Furry Friends for Finals," inviting studious students passing by to take a minute to pet the pooches. The group, the Active Minds Club, promotes mental health, and believes that the "puppy therapy" will help their worried peers relax a bit, and maybe even smile.
In an article in the Los Angeles Times today, Jennifer Heinz, an organizer of the event and a Chapman University sophomore, described the way her poodle-Maltese mix helped her keep things in perspective, even during the most stressful times of her college experience. "Dogs are always so happy and want to play, and that helps make you happier," she said in the article.
Using animals to relieve stress isn't a new idea. There's a lot of research out there showing that therapy dogs in particular have a marked positive effect on the people in hospitals, nursing homes, or in crisis situations they're "hired" to comfort. Dogs have also been used in motivating children to read, improving the communication skills of the disabled, and generally improving the quality of life of the sick and depressed. The dogs providing Chapman's student population with some much-needed puppy love include 10 Malteses, Yorkies, pugs and dachshunds, and will be provided by a pet group based in Torrance.
What kinds of things is your college doing to help you de-stress during finals? Many schools have events set up post-finals as a motivator for students once they reach the finish line, or host special meals outside of the usual cafeteria fare for those too busy studying to make decisions on what they'll be having for dinner. If you're worried about the studying getting the best of you, look through our site for tips on beating the finals week frenzy. It may seem right like you'll never get everything done that you need to, but winter break is just around the corner, so take a breather, get yourself organized, and pet a puppy if you have to.
December 21, 2007
Wind, rain or shine, college tuition bills always safely make it to your mailbox, or the inbox. Even if you’re struggling financially, there’s no need to give up. Whether you’re having trouble keeping your spending in check or are hindered by college bills, things can be better. The new year is coming up, and you deserve a new chance, a minty fresh start. Students looking for a way to save should follow this advice to get things right in '08.
1. Look for scholarships. Applying for scholarships is a great way to save for college. It doesn’t cost to apply—don’t listen to anyone who suggests you should pay—and the rewards tend to be large. Try conducting a free scholarship search to find scholarships and grants you may be eligible to receive.
2. Avoid magazines and websites with appealing products. Oftentimes students will be unaware they’re in need of something until they see it in a magazine. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Marketers have a way of making whatever it is that catches your eye look more amazing and necessary than it really is. The best way to avoid their evil traps is to stay out of their way.
3. Skip the details at restaurants. I can’t tell you to skip the restaurant thing. Going out for dinner is just part of the student culture, and if you can’t eliminate it, be smart about it. If you skip the appetizers, lose the dessert and trade in water for a soft drink, you can cut your bill in half. Those that go out to eat for the company more than the food can also go straight for the appetizer and stop there. They tend to be oversized anyway.
4. Watch your phone plans. For some reason, students always seem shocked when an insane phone bill comes in the mail. If you know you’re a chatterbox, you should plan accordingly. Get the same plan as the people you chat with most, start a family plan and watch the texting.
January 30, 2008
Students who sign up for classes don’t always know what they’re getting into. Boring teachers aside, the work may be both overwhelming and useless. If that's the case, it may be time to get out before it’s too late. Here are some things to remember before making the final decision.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst Dropping classes may be the best way to avoid unnecessary work or burnout, but it sure is a pain. It takes time, sometimes money, and it nearly always causes stress. That’s why it’s best to ask around before choosing classes. Find out if any of your friends have taken the class. Is it difficult? Is it interesting? Is the teacher effective in helping students develop critical skills?
Most importantly, figure out if the class coincides with your future goals and current interests. During high school, I signed up for an accounting class thinking it would provide me with practical insight into the business world. Though business was not in my future, I thought that everyone could benefit from some business basics. After a few weeks of scribbling numbers into a never-ending stream of credit and debit columns, I raised my hand and asked the teacher if this class would prepare me for something other than accounting. Turns out, it wouldn’t. It’s too bad I didn’t know that sooner.
Give Yourself a Reality Check Difficulty is a commonly cited reason for dropping classes, and it's a perfectly good reason. It’s important to be realistic about your abilities and your schedule. When a class is just adding to your already full workload, rethink it. Being able to drop a class doesn’t make you a quitter; it makes you a realistic and mature decision maker, one that values their sanity and health.
Consider Class Importance Before dropping a class, be sure that you can afford to do so. If you’re in college, dropping a class may put you below full-time status subsequently decreasing your eligibility for a full financial aid package (both scholarships and federal student aid).
Dropping required college classes may also be troublesome. When students decide to get rid of a requisite, they may be forced to take on a heavier workload in future semesters. A heavier workload may in turn lead to scheduling difficulties caused by core courses that overlap in time.
Sometimes, a class may simply be unavoidable. Once again, be realistic when you judge. If you think you can do without the class, let it go. If you know that dropping the class will only lead to future troubles, just grin and bear it for a while.
Be Cost Conscious If you’re in high school, dropping a class will probably save you money (unless you're paying for AP classes ). Once you graduate high school, it’s a different story. Most colleges and universities fine students who drop their classes too late into the semester. That’s why it’s important for students to be aware of the costs involved in taking on classes and dropping them. If you plan to drop a class, do so before the fee deadline. If you’re worried about the costs of taking on additional classes, stick with the basics and take enrichment courses once you can afford them.
October 24, 2008
So you've finally hit your senior year of college and you're anxiously awaiting the day when nobody will ever force you to write another 8-page paper about James Joyce or take another three-hour-long college exam. You're about to be on your own, earning real money and living the high life (Goodbye, roommates! Goodbye, budget diet!). All you have to do now, aside from completing those 21 required credits you need to cram into your spring semester, is find a job.
Survey says you'd better start looking now.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers polled 146 employers in a range of industries this month and calculated a projected hiring increase of just 1.3 percent for 2009. Anything under 6 percent is considered pretty bad news, according to an article on the subject appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Campus career centers are advocating that students who plan to graduate in May or August start their job hunt now, rather than waiting until closer to graduation. Another idea is to look into nonprofit organizations, government jobs, and other fields where demand remains steady in a recession. Of course, many of them offer lower pay than a college graduate might need to live comfortably while repaying student loans.
Of course, you could also go to graduate school. It's not too late to register to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), put together a personal statement and some letters of recommendation, and throw yourself into application process. Some master's programs accept applications into March or April, and possibly even later. Graduate students gain more knowledge and experience in their field, including valuable teaching and research skills, and can continue to rely on financial aid (including scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships) for two or more years while the economy hopefully stabilizes and job prospects improve.
November 6, 2008
U.S. News had an interesting piece in their education section last week about the monetary benefits of a college degree. Citing government statistics and several recent studies, the author related that students who complete a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $300,000 more in today's dollars over the course of their working lives than students who just complete high school. Students who earn a professional degree, go to law school, or complete business school can expect to earn even more.
A full-time worker with a bachelor's degree makes about $20,000 more a year than a student with a high school diploma, and a student with, say, an MBA can expect to make about $100,000 more than a high school grad each year. While such annual income disparities add up to more than $300,000 over a lifetime of work, studies citing that figure also adjusted for inflation, the extra money high school grads earn in those first four or five years, and the average cost of attending college for four years.
Another benefit of a college degree is a better chance of landing and keeping a job: the unemployment rate for college grads is half what it is for those who don't go to college. Students from low-income backgrounds also reap more benefits from receiving a degree, as they're able to land not only higher-paying, but also more stable jobs and better-benefited jobs, and to have opportunities that would not have been available to them otherwise. Going to college can also provide significant academic advantages for your future children.
So if college costs are daunting and you're considering whether your education is going to be worth the price you pay for school, do some research. You're statistically more likely to live a better life in a lot of ways if you go ahead and earn that degree. There are tons of reasons to go to college, and also tons of ways to help with funding your education. Do a thorough college search to find the best and most affordable fit for your educational goals, and then search for available scholarships and other financial aid to help you pay the bill.
November 7, 2008
College students who receive generous scholarship opportunities are relieved of some of the financial burden of paying for school. But to what extent does this benefit translate into other positive outcomes? How, specifically, does winning scholarships help students achieve their college goals? Four studies being presented this week at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's annual conference seek to answer these questions.
Two studies focused on recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an extremely generous scholarship for minorities offered by Bill and Melinda Gates. A third tracked recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise, the first in a series of large-scale full-tuition local scholarship programs, which provides scholarship funding to all qualifying Kalamazoo, Michigan residents who choose to attend one of Michigan's state colleges. The fourth looks at University of Iowa applicants' responses to financial aid offers.
The study of University of Iowa students reinforces the idea that scholarship money steers students' college plans, especially among certain minority groups. African American and Hispanic students were less likely to attend the university, presumably choosing a more affordable or more generous institution, if they did not receive the amount of financial assistance they had hoped for. These results reinforce the importance of college affordability and will hopefully encourage universities to offer more generous awards to student populations they wish to attract.
While institutional financial aid influences students' college choices, so do other scholarships. Studies showed that Gates Millennium Scholars and Kalamazoo Promise recipients appear more inclined than their peers of similar backgrounds towards applying to and ultimately choosing colleges that are pricier or more competitive.
Gates Millennium Scholars are also more likely to graduate--matching graduation rates of higher-income students--as well as to graduate on time. In fact, 90 percent of these students finished a four-year degree in four years, which is proving to be an increasingly rare accomplishment among students currently attending college.
In some ways, these studies reinforce things many students already knew. Scholarships influence students' college choices. Scholarship winners go to better schools, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to graduate sooner--and the studies suggest this because they won a scholarship, not just because they're smart and motivated. Even if none of this is news to you, it should still be a powerful motivator for you to start your own scholarship search. It does appear to be the formula for college success.
November 25, 2008
It's hard to believe, but next week it will be December. While it's tempting to train your eyes on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the accompanying problem of consuming enough homecooked food to sustain you through finals, the next few months will be busy, especially if you're planning to apply for any sort of financial aid. Between your high school or college coursework and adjusting your schedule and budget to accommodate winter holidays, December and January tend to fly by. Since many scholarship application deadlines happen in December and January, now is the perfect time to do a quick scholarship search and double check that you don't miss out on applying for scholarships while you're in Thursday night's turkey-induced coma.
A Thanksgiving week scholarship application checklist:
December 24, 2008
Continuing on the college admissions theme from yesterday, there's a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about the dreaded college application process. If you're still struggling with those application essays or the thought of the college interview has you panicked, you might want to check out their tips from admissions officers at several competitive private colleges. Two things struck me when reading their tips. First, most of this sounds a lot like what I told my students as a college composition teaching assistant. Second, this advice can easily extend to writing effective scholarship essays.
Most of the advice falls into the category of "be yourself." Colleges aren't necessarily looking to admit the most indisputably brilliant students in the country, but rather individuals who will contribute to the campus community. The best tips the Wall Street Journal article offers, at least as far as admissions essays and writing scholarships go, are to choose essay topics that are meaningful to you (even unconventional ones) and to avoid polishing essays to death.
While it's tempting to go straight for the most impressive or altruistic thing you've done if you're asked to describe an experience, admission officials say it's better to go with a topic that actually reveals something about your character. This definitely goes for scholarship applications, too. In a stack of essays about volunteering in South America, your story about convincing your peers in the rural Midwest to walk the 12 blocks to school rather than drive may stand out more than you think. A seemingly mundane essay topic can be interesting if it's written well and it has a clear purpose.
As far as writing well goes, proofread (at the very least, check spelling and grammar and take out notes to yourself or your parents before submitting) but don't adopt such a formal style that all personality is lost. As long as an essay is written well and isn't way too informal (avoid slang, cursing, and stories of sex, drugs, and bodily functions), your essay is probably professional enough for most admission offices and scholarship essay contests. Even when you're applying for a law scholarship, writing like a lawyer isn't necessarily the recipe for success.
For more essay-writing tips, check out our resources section. To find somewhere to use this advice, you may want to use our college search and our scholarship search.
January 13, 2009
While the focus for many students right now is planning for and paying for the next year of college, some students are still struggling with bills from the current or previous semester. An e-mail survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reports a perceived increase in unpaid tuition bills in the 2008-2009 academic year. While being caught short on one semester's tuition can seem stressful enough, it can carry serious consequences for college students.
For students with the funds to easily cover tuition, either through family income, college savings plans, or financial aid awards, the figure on their bursar bill may be unpleasant, but it is soon forgotten. However, carrying a bursar balance--in some cases, even a small one--can cut off your ability to register for classes, request transcripts, and even graduate, among other consequences. Students who are unable to pay for a semester by the school's deadline may even find themselves dropped from their classes and kicked off campus. These consequences can essentially derail your education, and many students who take a semester off from college to save money and pay off bills never go back to finish.
Luckily, as Kim Clark stresses in an article on the subject in U.S. News and World Report, universities are willing to work with students to keep them enrolled and get their bills paid, especially in the current economic climate. Many schools are establishing or adding to emergency loan and grant funds to help students stay in school. Federal student financial aid is also still available mid-term. You can still complete the FAFSA for 2008-2009 anytime before June 30. Even if you've already applied for the current year, talking to the financial aid office could still come through big time, especially if your circumstances have changed. Federal grants, as well as some campus-based programs may be available to students whose family contributions have significantly dipped. While Clark's article emphasizes the surprising success networking and asking family for donations can bring, conducting a scholarship search may be a safer bet. Most importantly, be sure to stay in communication with your school. You may have to deal with three different offices on campus, but don't get discouraged. The process may be more streamlined than you'd expect. It is possible to stay enrolled regardless of the financial troubles you're facing.
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