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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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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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Handy Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids with SAT Stress

by Suada Kolovic

Upperclassmen across the country are stressed in every sense of the word. And it would come to no surprise that said students are currently walking around in oversized tees and sweats, with mangled hair and dark circles under their eyes, which can only mean one thing: The SATs are just around the corner. For years, the SATs have long been synonymous with intense anxiety and while that is considered the norm (unfortunately), U.S. News and World Report and psychologist Ben Bernstein, author of “Test Success! How to Be Calm, Confident and Focused on Any Test,” have complied a few handy tips for parents to help ease their kids’ stress:

  • Remain calm: It’s important that parents don’t get roped into their child’s nervousness, which Bernstein refers to as an “induced reaction.” He suggests that parents can help curb anxiety by staying calm themselves. Parents should remind their child to breathe and even suggest writing “breathe” as a reminder on their test booklet.
  • Be confident: Parents should listen for negative statements from their child, such as "I can't handle this," or "I'm not smart enough," says Bernstein. He suggests parents accept their kid's feelings but recommends saying something along the lines of, "'I know you feel that way right now, but I remember when you handled a really difficult situation. Do you remember that?'" In turn, he notes, "Of course the kid will remember that. They're forgetting that part of themselves, which has been successful."
  • Stay focused: Many students today simply have shorter attention spans than they did in previous generations. Why? Because they've become accustomed to the instant gratification of sending a text message or beating a video game level, says Bernstein. Parents can help their students focus by having them study continuously, without interruption, for several minutes at a time.

Do you find these tips helpful? Did your parents play such an active role in helping you stay calm and focused before you took the SATs? Let us know in the comments section.


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Take Advantage of Tutoring

February 29, 2012

Take Advantage of Tutoring

by Jessica Seals

Most college campuses offer tutoring centers where students can have classmates help them with any academic issues. Unfortunately, some students are either too embarrassed or proud to utilize these study services but they should know there are other students out there (like me!) who are willing to assist them outside a formal tutoring environment.

I found private tutoring to be a wise choice for several reasons. If you tutor classmates for free, you may be able to document these instances as community service, which employers and admissions committees for graduate and professional schools love to see. If you charge a fee for your services, however, it also allows you to make some extra money on the side while reviewing material you need for your own classes. Tutoring also allows you to make connections across campus by meeting new people who could eventually become good friends with; you may also encounter someone who might return the favor by tutoring you if you ever need help in their area of expertise. You are not limited to tutoring your fellow college students, either: You can also sign up to tutor at a local high school, middle school or elementary school – a move that allows you to make connections in the community and help you when you look for employment in the future.

Tutoring is a win-win situation and I would encourage all college students to try it if you have the chance – you never know where it could lead!

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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I Escaped High School...or Did I?

Dealing with Cliques in College

March 5, 2012

I Escaped High School...or Did I?

by Kayla Herrera

Through the awkward, frustrating years of high school, we all look ahead to college where the themes and mores of high school are nonexistent. Is this always the case, though? I’ve come to realize that it’s not at Michigan Tech.

I was pretty excited coming to this school – freshman year was a blast and I lived in the moment, just as you are supposed to do – but as I matured and progressed through my college career, I found a familiar pattern I had so strongly tried to escape. There are cliques here at Michigan Tech...and mighty odd cliques at that. I did not notice it until my fourth year but the group overtaking the university is the engineers, to whom the university caters with special events, opportunities and entire career fairs dedicated to them. Then, you have the Lit-Heads and the WMTU Kids, aka the literature buffs and radio station dedicatees. The Lit-Heads and WMTU Kids usually blend together, attending concerts and small literary gatherings. The Lit-Heads are elitists about literature in rebellion to the oppression they receive from the school and the engineers. They radicalized with the creation of the national literary magazine, Pank, which is even more superior and thus near impossible for the everyday writing student to get published in. The WMTU Kids run the local concerts and fight back against the conservative society here in the Upper Peninsula. With such a successful program, it’s a wonder why record labels and music enthusiasts aren’t up here recruiting them.

I have only noticed these trends because I find I don’t fit in any of these. I am on the outside and I see these groups as they are. Some of my friends are engineers, some are Lit-Heads and others are WMTU Kids and while I may not completely identify with any of them, I think it’s a good thing I am not intensely wound in any of these cliques. I am my own person, still strutting along in school to just make it out alive and with a decent job. Regardless of the high school scene around me, my heart is not in high school anymore and I intend to keep it that way: Never be afraid of who you are, even if you aren’t a part of anything but yourself.

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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Why Ungraded Skills Are Still Important

by Katie Askew

Some may think that grades are everything but fast forward a few years and picture yourself in the professional world. Your boss will quiz you but you won’t be graded A through F: This is where life skills will come in much handier than book smarts.

Sure, college admissions counselors will look at your GPA as a primary factor regarding your admissions fate but your GPA isn’t everything. There are many more important lessons you learn in high school that won’t be calculated into your GPA. Here are just a few:

So even if you don’t have a stellar GPA, high school still taught you important skills that aren’t graded but will help you throughout your 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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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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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who 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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Bracketology 101

Math Prof Explains the Odds of a Perfect Bracket

March 9, 2012

Bracketology 101

by Alexis Mattera

March is one of my favorite months of the year: Not does it include the start of spring, my birthday and a seemingly endless amount of scholarship deadlines but it’s also chockfull of college basketball. With Selection Sunday right around the corner, pools are starting to form with all participants aiming for the same goal – the creation of a perfect bracket. What’s the likelihood you’ll be the one to achieve this feat? Pretty dang slim, says Jeff Bergen.

According to the DePaul University professor of mathematics, you technically could select the correct outcome of every single game but before you get too excited, the odds of picking that perfect bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion. “You basically have no chance,” he says as he calculates, but does note that if you have a solid knowledge of NCAA tournament history, your odds increase to 1 in 128 billion. Score!

So to those planning brackets, be sure to have your favorite rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover or horseshoe handy...and just have fun! Remember, says Bergen, “When your bracket goes down the tubes, don’t worry: so is everybody else’s.” Will you be creating a NCAA tournament bracket this year? If so, how will you go about making your selections?


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Three Tips to Ease Your Mind on Test Day

by Jacquelene Bennett

SAT, ACT and AP these are all acronyms for the tests that many high school juniors and seniors are gearing up to take in the next few weeks. While these tests may not be fun, they are important because they help determine which universities and colleges you get into and whether or not you’ll receive credit for intro classes. So to help ease the pressure of taking these tests, I am here to offer a few helpful pieces of advice.

  • Go over the basics. This tip applies to any and all tests regardless of subject. There are always fundamental terms and concepts that will be part of any test, such as certain grammar and punctuation rules or simple math concepts. Reviewing these basic elements beforehand will help you on the test.
  • Practice your timing. These tests are timed and since you know about how many minutes you have for each section ahead of time, use that info to your advantage: If you are taking the SAT or AP English test, practice writing as essay in 25 minutes or fewer. Timing yourself when you are studying or taking practice tests will also help you when you are taking the real test.
  • Don’t freak out. I know that this isn’t an actual test prep strategy but being relaxed while you take the test will result in a higher score. Making sure you get a good night’s sleep and eating a substantial meal beforehand will also help you out when you go to take these tests. This may seem like common sense but so many students still pull all-nighters and skip breakfast on test day. Don’t be one of them.

In addition to these tips, don’t forget to be confident and easy on yourself. I know it may seem like these tests are be all and end all factors when you’re trying to get into college but they’re not. There are other factors that determine admission and you can always take some of these tests again for better scores!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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