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Challenging Yourself in High School Has Vast Future Rewards

by Julius Clayborn

I began my high school career at EXCEL-Orr High School but quickly realized the school was not doing enough to prepare me for post-secondary success. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to Urban Prep Academy and though my collegiate dreams were now within reach, the transition was not easy. I was met with much opposition and had multiple run-ins with many of the students. I was torn: Here I had this great opportunity but these external factors were taking an academic and emotional toll on me. I began to regret transferring and eventually regret school altogether.

Luckily, I found solace in my extracurricular activities such as debate and youth activism club. These things helped me realize my full potential and made me believe that there was something greater in store for me. Transferring quickly went from the worst decision I had ever made to the best, especially when it came time to start applying to colleges. Initially, I saw more challenges – Will I get in? Can I afford tuition? – but my worries were put to rest just as fast: We had an entire class period dedicated to college preparation and the application process, which is where I found out about the site you’re reading right now. Not only did I get accepted to a fantastic school, I also received enough scholarships and grants to pay for it.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with your high school’s curriculum, don’t sit idly by: Challenge yourself by taking harder courses or transfer, like I did. It may be difficult at first but any struggle will be well worth it in the future.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Faith Trumps Graduation Speech for One H.S. Valedictorian

by Alexis Mattera

Imagine studying hard, taking AP classes and earning a stellar GPA for four years and having that hard work pay off by being named the valedictorian of your class. Sounds like a dream, right? Not necessarily. Just ask Carolyn Fine.

Fine received the news that she'd been selected as Vacaville High School's valedictorian and but her heart sank when she found out the date of the graduation ceremony: It was scheduled to take place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a day prohibiting the use of anything requiring electricity until after sunset. This meant she would not be able to use a microphone during her speech, drive to the ceremony or pose for pictures in her cap and gown after receiving her diploma. Fine spent the next few weeks struggling to decide between honoring her faith and delivering her valedictory address and ultimately decided the former was more important. Admiring her choice, school administrators offered a solution to satisfy all parties. “They prerecorded my speech and they are going to play that while I’m standing up there,” Fine said. “It was a tremendous relief. It seemed like I had reached a compromise where I could keep to my faith and accept this, because it’s a huge honor.”

What would you have done in Fine’s situation – honored your faith or given the speech using a device powered by electricity?


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Should You Go Greek?

June 16, 2011

Should You Go Greek?

by Thomas Lee

When I first arrived at college, joining a fraternity – or getting involved with anything remotely connected with Greek life – was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know that by the end of 2007, I would be one of the founding pledge members of the Methodist University chapter of Kappa Sigma. The first members at a new school are known as Founding Fathers, of which I was one, and our training is known as pledging. My new fraternity brothers and I were pledges for a full academic year until our induction in 2008.

If you are considering joining a Greek organization, fraternity or sorority, there are multiple things you must consider. First is how much being involved will affect your schoolwork. I was able to maintain a high GPA while still being scholarship coordinator for the chapter until the summer I lived with some of my brothers.

Second, determine how much Greek life will affect your personal life. I didn’t really start partying until that summer and it negatively impacted my academics and social life. You should determine whether or not joining a Greek society will subject you to peer pressure or negatively influence your values.

Third, price is a major factor and you should not rush if you cannot afford to pay dues. My fees became more expensive with each year and I could only afford them with the money I made doing a paid internship.

Going Greek does have many benefits, such as gaining friends and valuable networking contacts that you might not have encountered otherwise. I spent time with golf students and athletes that I would have otherwise never met. Greek life may also help you overcome personal biases. All in all, while fraternity life was both a blessing and a curse, I do not regret my decision to join and have made some lifelong friends and brothers along the way.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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The Adderall Effect

"Study Drug" Creates Issues for Users and Non-Users

June 21, 2011

The Adderall Effect

by Alexis Mattera

It’s the night before your final in a particularly challenging class and though you’ve been studying for weeks, you decide to turn this evening into an all-night cram session. You feel your eyelids starting to droop at around 2 a.m. and to prevent your GPA from doing the same, do you run to the vending machine for a soda or down the hall to buy some Adderall from your floormate with ADHD?

The latter scenario is playing out far more than the former on college campuses across the nation as students turn to Adderall to gain an academic edge. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported full-time students are twice as likely to illegally use Adderall as individuals their age who are not in school or only enrolled part-time. But how are students getting their hands on the drug? Usually from other students whose ADHD or narcolepsy warrants a prescription. While some students are happy to act as their dormitory’s resident pharmacists – a UC Davis sophomore said they make about $200 per week selling Adderall but a whopping $1,200 the last two weeks of the quarter from students studying for finals – others are less than willing: A student at Christopher Newport University said she has to deadbolt her door and carry prescriptions in her purse to ensure her Adderall pills (which she actually needs) aren’t pilfered.

Does your school have an Adderall addiction? Do you think students who take it are cheating in a way and that those who don’t are at an academic disadvantage? If you have an Adderall prescription, are other students constantly asking you to sell it?


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Why You Should Include Office Hours in Your Schedule

by Jessica Seals

On the first day of class, professors usually pass out detailed syllabi that provide valuable information such as grading scales, what materials will be needed and what topics will be covered during the semester. There is one more piece of helpful information that most students overlook despite the fact that it’s normally displayed at the very top of the page: the location of the professor’s office and what days and times they will have office hours.

Although professors have office hours, most students do not take advantage of them. I just completed my third year of college and I have lost track of the number of emails that I have received from professors practically begging students to stop by during their office hours with any type of question. Most professors are also willing to accommodate students if their class and extracurricular schedules do not allow them to come during regular office hours but only a handful of students seize this opportunity by the end of the semester.

I have always taken advantage of office hours to make sure that I understand every assignment clearly. I have often noticed that professors tend to be more favorable towards students who come to their office hours because they seem to be the ones that care about their performance in class the most. I also get the one-on-one help I need and always do extremely well on assignments I ask questions about.

My advice to any college student is to take advantage of office hours. The professor gets to know you personally and notices that you care about your grade. Also, don’t wait until the end of the semester to show up with concerns; there’s not much that can be done by you or the professor if issues are being addressed this late in the game.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Cheating in College: Don't Do It!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s 6 a.m. and you just can’t conquer the writer’s block for your 20-page term paper. You didn’t procrastinate on purpose – that party was too good to pass up or the homework for all your other classes was overwhelming – but no matter what the reason, it is never acceptable to cheat. Cheating undermines the effort of your hard-working classmates who complete their work honestly and on time. Cheating also strips the cheater of his or her integrity and whether others can put their trust in said person again.

Unfortunately, there are many people who cheat in the world but you should not be one of them. You should want to get by on your own merit, not that of others. That is why there are such harsh penalties for cheaters: When a person plagiarizes in college or is caught cheating, punishments can include being given a GPA-tanking “F” in the class, being stripped of high honors, losing scholarships or even being expelled from the university. These are minor punishments compared to what happens in the real world for cheating, which could include multi-million dollar lawsuits and jail time.

I think I’ve been pretty clear here but I haven’t, just heed these two words: NEVER CHEAT. It’s not ethical and is looked down upon by almost everyone. Hold your head high and remember that doing your best and failing is better than cheating and passing. A professor would have more respect in you if you are honest and ask for help rather than if they catch you cheating. Professors were once college students, too; if you need an extension or are truly struggling, they will most likely remember their own college days and show you some compassion if you are truthful.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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History Proficiency Low in America

by Alexis Mattera

Do you know who becomes our nation’s leader if the current president and vice president should both die? Who said “Give me liberty or give me death?” Not sure of the answers? Neither are American students.

According to the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress test – an exam that measures proficiency in mathematics, reading, history, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics and geography – American students just aren’t “getting” American History. The results revealed high school seniors have the worst grasp on the subject with an 87-percent failure rate, followed by eighth graders (82 percent) and fourth graders (78 percent). These marks should be cause for parent-teacher conferences...except when the CBS affiliate in Boiling Springs, South Carolina asked locals some sample exam questions, not one person could answer how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court or name the Chief Justice and only one person could name South Carolina's two U.S. Senators and who American patriots fought against in the Revolutionary War.

Sure, not everyone is a history major and most people don’t have careers requiring the recollection of these facts on a daily basis but being informed about the country you call home is never a bad thing. Check out some of the questions here then tell us what you would do to increase these unsatisfactory scores.


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Text at Your Own Risk

July 13, 2011

Text at Your Own Risk

by Jessica Seals

It's happened to all of us. We feel the vibration of our phones in our pockets or notice them light up on our desks, informing us that we've just received text messages. We instantly feel inclined to read the message; while some students read and respond in a discreet way so that they appear to still be paying attention in class, others choose to reply while sitting on the front row or get up to answer a call that is not an emergency.

There are a select number of professors who do not care if you text in class. They figure if you want to miss out on something important to respond to a text that only read LOL then you will have to suffer the consequences alone. However, texting during class is a major pet peeve of many professors and they are taking note of how much you text even if they do not say anything about it to you personally. When it comes time to discuss your grade or any problems that you have been having in class, your professor may be unwilling to help if you spend most of their class texting than learning.

All professors understand that students have emergencies in which they must keep their phone on or even answer it during class but doing so excessively can earn you negative attention. You also run the risk of missing out on important facts that will only be mentioned once during the lecture. It is next to impossible to prevent texting 100 percent but students should try to cut back - you never know when you will run into a teacher who will ask you to leave the class because of excessive texting. Doubt that will make you ROTFL!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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A Word of Caution: Don’t Be TOO Active in College

by Jessica Seals

When you first begin attending college, you may be overwhelmed by the need to participate in as many activities as possible. Doing so is a good idea because it allows you to make new connections throughout the campus and you will more than likely become more comfortable at your school. It is possible, however, to be too enthusiastic when it comes to participating in activities on campus. And that’s not good.

Most schools have an orientation for freshmen where they get tours of the campus while learning about the different organizations they can become members of. Freshmen are encouraged to become active on campus by joining different groups to meet new people. There will be several people, like your orientation leaders, telling you to become very active but there will be others, typically students with older siblings already in college, who will advise you not to be overzealous.

I have heard stories from my fellow classmates of how they joined every organization in which they met the qualifications for when they were freshmen and how that idea quickly backfired. They were so consumed with going to meetings, volunteering and going to events that they ended up pushing their schoolwork to the side. Each person saw an unfavorable drop in their GPA, which took twice as many semesters to bring back up as it did to bring it down.

My advice? Everyone should become active on campus instead of wasting four years alone inside their dorm rooms but I’d say not to become too involved until you are sure that you can handle it. A long list of extracurricular activities is impressive but a low GPA could hurt your chances at getting into graduate school or impressing any future employers.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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The Best Educational Apps

September 6, 2011

The Best Educational Apps

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all seen the iPhone commercials and heard the now-common phrase “There's an app for that.” It’s true, though: There's even an application to help you study — dozens in fact! Here are a few that can make your life as a student easier:

Grades 2. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what you need to score on an upcoming test in order to maintain your A. This app lets you do just that. It even lets you determine your new GPA will be based on what grades you expect to earn in your current classes.

Dictionary.com Flashcards. This app is great for English and science classes where you have to learn a wide variety of complicated terms. It even has multiple choice quizzes where you have to pick the right definition from a list of options. Plus, it's great having a dictionary in your pocket for whenever you need to look up words instead of lugging one around on top of all your other school books.

Star and Planet Finder. Astronomy buffs will love this one because it makes finding stars, planets, constellations and satellites a snap. Equipped with compass and GPS, this app lets you know whether or not you can see Orion from your current location – perfect for astronomy classes which ask you to chart the position of the constellations.

While not every college student can afford an iPhone or similar app-friendly device, all these educational apps make it a very tempting purchase indeed. And let's face it: You can't really put a price on something that makes a less-than-favorite activity less painful.

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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