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Rationing Your Refund Check

by Jessica Seals

The first day of classes means new professors, new classmates and a completely new routine. It is also about the time that universities distribute refund checks to students. Refund checks are extra funds that are left over after all school fees have been paid. These funds are the result of excess scholarships, grants and loans. Refund checks can come in handy, as students can use the extra money to buy a laptop, food, books or to pay off another loan. Some students, however, are not wise with their money and are left scrounging for pennies before the end of the semester.

I always hear students complaining about how they do not have any money left from their refund check long before finals roll around. They chose to splurge on clothes, the newest Droid phone, expensive restaurants or they spent money on friends. Buying a few extra “fun” items is not something that should necessarily be avoided but you should maintain a budget and be conscious about how much money you are spending. I have taken money from my refund check and separated it into two separate bank accounts. The money in my savings account rarely gets touched unless it is an emergency and the money in my checking account is what I use on a daily basis. I keep less money in the checking account so I am not tempted to spend more than I intend to.

While in college, it is especially important to learn how to manage your money. If you get a refund check back from the school, this could be your chance to start learning how to do so. You will feel great knowing that you will not be labeled a broke college student!

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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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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Discounts to Take Advantage of While in College

by Aaron Lin

Being a college student has a lot of perks in terms of accessible facilities, discounts and resources. Here are a few tips on what to take advantage of while you’re a student:

I hope some of you have ideas to add, too. Feel free to comment!

Aaron Lin is a chemistry major at Louisiana State University but has plans to transfer to LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to pursue a medical laboratory science degree and further feed his interest in the application of scientific and medical knowledge. In his free time, Aaron likes to eat food, read and write about food, exercise to work off that food and play the occasional computer game. He also enjoys footbiking, running and Frisbee.


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Movie Making Isn’t Just for Film Students

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Making videos is something just about everyone I know has tried. And it's no wonder: Programs available today make it so easy...just look at YouTube's content! Whether you have aspirations of becoming a professional filmmaker, receive an unconventional class assignment or just want to film your college graduation, expressing yourself and preserving your most treasured memories can be done without much effort while having lots of fun.

If you're a PC user like me, you can use Windows Movie Maker for all your video editing needs. Of course, you can't have a video without some footage (or at least some pictures). Click "Import Media" to find your clips and drag them to where you want them to appear on your timeline. Next, peruse the effects and transitions you can use by clicking on "Tools." Effects such as blur, speed up, slow down and even watercolor all can give your video a more stylized look and transitions let your video flow instead of looking like it was just cut and pasted together. If you're having issues with sound quality, consider downloading the free audio editor Audacity. It lets you alter the pitch, speed and volume of your recording and easily import it into WMM the same way you would your video clips.

Of course, WMM isn't the only movie-making option available. Sony Vegas and Apple iMovie are two other types of movie-making software you can choose from. I know some people who bought a Mac specifically for iMovie's advanced movie-making abilities and others who use Sony Vegas on their PCs for its advanced audio capabilities. While some people say iMovie and Sony Vegas are more advanced than WMM, keep in mind WMM is free while iMovie and Sony Vegas are not.

If you realize you have a real passion for film, consider checking out film-making programs offered by Full Sail University, the New York Film Academy and the Los Angeles Film School, among others. Maybe someday we'll even see your name in lights!

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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Learning to Live Off Campus

by Thomas Lee

Sometimes on-campus living is not an option. Dorms are too expensive or overfilled, or housing may not be provided to transfer students. Well, off-campus housing it is!

One of most efficient ways to live off campus is to find a friend, relative or even a parent’s friend who lives near the campus to see if they would allow you to stay with them. If you choose this option, make sure the person you’re renting from writes up a signed agreement that lists the duration of your stay, the set fee per week or month and the conditions to stay. A verbal agreement isn’t set in stone and may leave you without housing if something should go wrong.

Another option is finding an apartment but this may be even more expensive than a dorm. Apartment and condominium rates vary wildly, as so do their living conditions. If you find an apartment that fits your budget, make sure it’s in a reasonably safe part of town and read your lease or contract so you won’t be cheated by the landlord.

Off-campus living also may have stipulations not necessarily found in an on-campus dormitory. Make sure you fully understand the terms and agreements your friend or landlord and don’t assume you can do things you may have normally done at home. Loud music, wild parties and maybe even leaving the toilet seat up are grounds for eviction. If you’re living with a friend, he or she may also expect you to help out with buying groceries or cooking.

One way to cut down on the costs of off-campus living is find a group of friends or roommates and share rent in a large apartment or leased house. Again, a written contract signed by all members is the best way to protect your and your friends’ interests. Be sure to keep your dreams of finally being away from your parents from turning into nightmares!

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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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

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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How Do YOU Study?

July 29, 2011

How Do YOU Study?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever thought about how to make studying less painful or have you just resigned yourself to pulling all-nighters? If you're like me, the idea of all-nighters makes you cringe – how can you expect to ace your test when you're exhausted, let alone absorb pages of complicated course material?

I've had friends, though, who claim that being under pressure motivates them to study like nothing else. If you've honestly found that pulling all-nighters is more effective than studying during the day, then more power to you; for the rest of us, here are some strange but effective study habits to consider next time you have an exam approaching.

Do you have a specific study spot or can you study anywhere? If you're the former, try to pay attention to what characteristics you need in order to be successful. Does soaking up the sun's rays kick your brain into gear like a plant undergoing photosynthesis or does the sunshine just make you daydream? Do you need to constantly change the location of where you study to keep yourself motivated? I have a friend who never studies in the same place for more than an hour because her attention span starts waning.

It seems everyone has an opinion about background noise while studying. Another friend of mine claims she cannot study unless the news is on the background, as it bores her to tears. The news is so boring to her, in fact, that she claims it actually forces her to focus on her course material! Apparently, if she doesn't have the news on, she'll constantly think about other things like what she wants for dinner, what she wants to do on the weekend, etc.

Regardless of whether you can't sit still for more than an hour or need some white noise to get your brain in sync with your textbooks, one thing's for sure: You can't get through college without studying so you might as well make it as tolerable as possible.

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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Could Foursquare Be the Next Big Thing on College Campuses?

by Alexis Mattera

It should come as no surprise that the number of higher education institutions with social media presences has skyrocketed over the last few years. Today, 98 percent of colleges are on Facebook, 84 percent are on Twitter and some of these savvy schools are beginning to complement the information shared through these platforms with the geo-social site, Foursquare.

According to a recent study, just 20 percent of campuses have an institutional presence on Foursquare. Though the usage is limited by comparison, officials at the schools using the site are finding it is an effective tool for engaging with students. How? First, a quick breakdown for the uninitiated: Foursquare uses the geo-locator technology built into smartphones and encourages users to “check in” virtually at places they’re visiting in real life, leave notes for future visitors and possibly earn perks (discounts, badges, etc.) for doing so.

While Liz Gross, director of university marketing and communications at the University of Wisconsin at Waukesha, says, “You can’t say ‘10 percent off tuition for checking in,’ or ‘free tuition for the mayor,’” she does believe foursquare allows administrators a direct way “to tap in to student engagement.” Texas A&M is doing it right – the winner of a recent Foursquare scavenger hunt throughout campus earned a 30-percent discount at the school bookstore – and Syracuse University will soon offer a special badge to users checking in at campus venues and could eventually allow students to redeem badges for campus bucks.

Do you think incentivizing students is the best way to engage them or is organic involvement more effective?


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Got Passion?

July 29, 2011

Got Passion?

by Darci Miller

“What is something that you’re passionate about?” Think about it. Come up with an answer.

It was a getting-to-know-you question asked of the participants on my Israel trip at one of our group meetings before our departure. I knew my answer as soon as it was asked – the Olympics, of course – so I settled into my seat and waited for my turn. But the rest of the room was abuzz with worried muttering. The girl next to me leaned over and whispered, “I have no idea what to say.”

I was floored. How could a person not know what they’re passionate about?! But evidently, this is a common problem. As we went around the circle, people’s answers ranged from “my dog” to “having fun” and other – to be frank – lame answers. (Sorry if that’s what you came up with!)

As I’m sure you’re all aware, the “Harry Potter” series just ended with the final movie. Living just outside New York City provided several friends and me with the great opportunity to attend the red carpet premiere. So we decided to do it big, and camped out at Lincoln Center Plaza for four nights leading up to it. I know, it was crazy. And a number of passers-by on the street were sure to tell us that. But not everyone did.

In truth, we had more supporters than people who scoffed at us. Though initially taken aback, people would grin and say something to the effect of “Good for you!” or “Now that’s dedication!” We even had a group of guys sit down with us, rave about how awesome we were and openly wish they were that passionate about anything. Those supportive strangers put things in an interesting perspective for me. I love being so passionate about some of my interests, and really, why would anyone have reason to scorn that? There’s nothing wrong with passion!

To those of you that couldn’t come up with an answer to my initial question, take the time in college discover your passion. Please. It’s amazingly fulfilling. I can only hope that you’re all as lucky as I am and find something you’re willing to camp on the streets for, through rain and oppressive heat.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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What’s In Your Suitcase?

by Jessica Seals

It’s August and most college students realize that summer vacation is coming to an end. This means that we must say adios to sleeping in and hello to 8:00 a.m. classes and afternoon club meetings. Many students are preparing to go back to school now by either buying items for their dorm for the first time or by packing up the things they have taken to college in the past. With three years of collegiate experience under my belt, I have definitely learned the dos and don’ts of packing for college and have witnessed the mistakes students continue to make. Here are a few:

Do not pack your entire wardrobe (especially if you are not going to a school that is far away from home). I made the mistake of bringing all of my clothes even though I already knew that my side of the dorm room could barely hold half of them. Instead of having a closet stuffed with items you’ll seldom wear, switch out your summer and fall clothes for your winter clothes when you go home for a break.

Make sure to have some organization to your packing strategy. Another mistake that I have made is throwing things in boxes without labeling them. My logic was that it’s all going to the same place so why bother organizing? Packing items neatly will help you in the long run because you will know where everything is and you’ll waste less time searching for items you need once you’re on campus.

Start packing early. Don’t wait until the night before move-in day to fill your suitcases and load them up in the car...it’s too stressful! Getting a little bit done at a time will not only leave you more relaxed but will also help ensure you bring only what you need and keep your stuff better organized.

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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