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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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College Presidents Personally Welcome Students to Campus

September 7, 2011

College Presidents Personally Welcome Students to Campus

by Alexis Mattera

The past few weeks have been busy ones on college campuses. Students have been moving in, starting classes and getting to know the lay of the land at their new homes away from home and at some schools, the welcome wagons have been driven by none other than the institutions’ presidents.

Gone are the days of college presidents making official speeches and heading straight back to their offices: Sure, they still spend plenty of time behind their desks (some even Facebooking and tweeting!) but today, presidents are opting to get more involved. Just how immersed are they in campus life? Well, the nice man recently spotted bagging textbooks at the University of Maryland was President Wallace D. Loh and the gent playing a few games of knock-out on Catholic University’s new outdoor basketball court was President John Garvey. Presidents at the University of Kentucky, UPenn and GWU were also seen around their respective campuses doing everything from lugging boxes up residence hall stairs to spending time with student volunteers.

College students, has your president become equally accessible? High schoolers, would you be more inclined to attend a college where the president and other administrators resembled friends rather than figureheads?

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Dealing with Helicopter Parents in College

September 8, 2011

Dealing with Helicopter Parents in College

by Kayla Herrera

When I first left for college, my mother called me every single day for the entire fall semester and half of spring semester. I understood why (I was the first child to ever leave) but when I had issues with the campus newspaper, my parents tried to butt in and fight my arguments for me...from six hours away. Now, as a fourth-year college student, I’m still hearing that I need to get my life together, to stop living day to day and plan the future, to date someone else, to move to a different apartment, et cetera. In the course of four years, nothing has changed.

How do you even begin to deal with helicopter parents like these? The first thing I would recommend is sit them down and talk to them in person. If you can’t find a time over break, do it over Skype. It’s the next best thing to a phone call – even better, actually, because they will be able to see the seriousness in your eyes and body language.

You want to ease into this discussion gently, so start with the positives. Tell them how much you appreciate everything they’ve done for you and how great it is to have them as parents before telling them some changes need to be made. Explain your concerns using clear examples and ask that they do not interrupt you until you’ve stated your case. Then, a discussion can be had. Just stay calm and positive...and don’t get lippy! If your parents are unwilling to bend, then settle for a compromise. Surprise them by suggesting a mature settlement – even then they can't ignore that maybe you have grown up a little.

Unfortunately, I am still trying to make my parents realize I am 21 years old with two jobs, a 15-credit load and a life of my own. The progress is slow but hopefully these tips will help you make your parents realize their little boy or girl is all grown up and they no longer need to hover overhead.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. 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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In College? Get Tuned In!

September 8, 2011

In College? Get Tuned In!

by Kara Coleman

Last week, my Intro to Mass Communications teacher told my class that if we want to make a good grade, we need to fully submerge ourselves in the media over the course of the semester. I nodded in agreement but secretly wondered how our generation could possibly be more submerged in the media than we already are!

We were children during the Internet boom of the 1990’s and now, the technology that we grew up with in our homes fits in our pockets. For the majority of our waking hours, we are bombarded with media messages. We have news updates pop up on our computer screens and phones as soon as they happen. We wear t-shirts advertising our favorite brands of clothing. We sing along with song lyrics that are blasted at us over radio airwaves. Candidates in the 2008 presidential election reached out to us through MySpace and Facebook and rebels in Egypt and Libya used Twitter as their primary means of communication earlier this year.

College can be a confusing time, especially for students straight out of high school. Of the thousands of messages we receive each day, how do we decide which ones are worth listening to? I’ve heard people say that college is a time for you to explore all of your options and find yourself but it’s also true that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Head into college knowing what you believe and what’s important to you. As one writer put it, “By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”

Be receptive to the messages that come your way. Know whether or not you agree with them and why. Perhaps the most important lesson you will learn in college is how to think for yourself!

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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New School Year, New School Activities

Easy Ways to Get Involved on Campus

September 9, 2011

New School Year, New School Activities

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the first day of school and you go to your classes. You look around at the unfamiliar faces and wish you knew someone. After class, you use a map to navigate your way back to your dorm, where you sit by yourself. College life doesn’t have to be this lonely - it’s time to get involved on your campus and here’s how:

Don’t be anti-social. The only way you will make friends is if you are social. How do you meet people? Go to campus fairs – anything from a career fair to a student organization fair. There are multicultural clubs, academic clubs, clubs focused on a single activity, and sororities and fraternities to name a few.

Use your dorm as a resource. Prop your dorm door open when you’re not studying. People will stop by and say hello. Don’t trust leaving your door open? Talk to your RA: He or she will know of many campus activities going on such as socials and mixers where you can meet more people.

Make time. If you make the time, there is no reason for you to not be involved or not meet people. Colleges understand that you are away from the familiar and have many organizations, offices and people who are there to make your campus a home away from home.

Most of all, don’t be afraid – just put your best foot forward and you’ll be having fun in no time. And if you’re not interested in campus life, go to the website of the city you are now living in and see what there is to do around town. There’s always a way to get involved!

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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Bradley Adds Interactive App to Customize Campus Tour Experience

September 9, 2011

Bradley Adds Interactive App to Customize Campus Tour Experience

by Alexis Mattera

It can be difficult for prospective college students and their parents to visit the campuses they’re interested in when classes are in session so instead, tours are often scheduled on weekends or between semesters. Though this may be more convenient, it’s harder for the tour takers to get a true feel for the school they may one day call their alma mater...unless their tour is taking place at Bradley University.

Though colleges have long employed virtual tours, Bradley could be the first to provide a complementary iPad application during in-person campus tours. Jim Ferolo, an associate professor and chair of Bradley’s interactive media department who helped come up with the idea, said the app is meant to give students a fuller sense of what campus life is like if they visit during off-peak hours. In addition to supplementary videos, the app suggests particular spots on campus to see depending on the data (intended majors, extracurricular interests, etc.) users input at the beginning of the tour, all of which are routed to the tour guides’ iPads to best customize each tour. Ferolo said the app is not meant to replace the traditional campus tours at Bradley but his department will track how prospective students use the application so it can be improved – possibly with on-the-fly likes and ratings – down the line.

Sounds pretty cool to us but what do you think? Would you be interested in using an app like Bradley's on a campus tour or would you rather get a feel for a school sans technology?

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Volunteering is More Than Just a School Requirement

September 14, 2011

Volunteering is More Than Just a School Requirement

by Jessica Seals

Some students only see volunteer work as a requirement for a class or a scholarship while others embrace it and enjoy helping others without being required to. My fellow virtual intern Thomas recently suggested a variety of community service and volunteer options; in that same vein, here are my personal experiences with community service and why it’s essential to your college experience even if it’s not required.

I started doing volunteer work after my freshman year in high school. I did this every summer at the local hospital until I graduated from high school as well as participated in various other volunteer projects the community through my school. I always liked doing volunteer work because it made me feel good to know that I was actually helping people instead of sitting at home with nothing to do.

Seeing other people smile and finally have something good happen to them is enough satisfaction in itself for those who volunteer but it wasn’t until I graduated from high school that I learned why this work was so important: On my first job interview after high school, the interviewer was so impressed with the number of hours that I had volunteered with no cash incentive that I was hired on the spot.

Volunteer work is not just a school requirement – it’s a way to give back to the community and show potential employers just how well you can dedicate yourself to any task at hand.

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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Financial Aid Change Has Many UB Students Struggling

September 19, 2011

Financial Aid Change Has Many UB Students Struggling

by Alexis Mattera

The fall semester is in full swing at universities around the country and college students are trying to stretch their funds for tuition, books, housing and other college costs as far as they can go. It’s never easy but students at the University at Buffalo are having a more difficult time than usual.

In the past, UB sent out financial aid to coincide with the start of the academic year but pushed disbursement for roughly 18,000 students back three weeks this year – a 21-day difference that left many UB students unable to buy books, pay rent or pay for classes. Though UB’s Vice Provost A. Scott Weber said the change was made to “protect students” by making sure they would receive the exact amount of money they are eligible for, the student newspaper previously quoted interim financial aid director Jennifer Pollard as stating the policy change was a response to fraudulent activities by students.

UB officials did admit they should have done a better job getting the word out about the financial aid change but students and educators alike are still not happy: One professor called the situation “chaos in the classroom” and a “stupid disaster” and a graduate student said the ordeal “draws to question some bigger problems with the administration.” (We’re sure these are among the tamer reactions.) Any UB students out there? Has the funding disbursement delay negatively impacted your semester? College students in general, how would you react if this financial aid fiasco happened at your school?

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If Schools Text It, Students Will Come

September 22, 2011

If Schools Text It, Students Will Come

by Alexis Mattera

You hear the familiar alert from within your pocket and reach for your cell phone. Is the text message you just received from your best friend, parent or...intended college?

For the past two years, St. Mary’s University found the students who signed up to receive text message alerts and individual replies from the Texas school were more likely to apply and attend than students who opted out. According to the initiative’s creator, Mongoose Research, 1,923 students signed up out of the 40,000 who showed interest in the university and 30.8 percent of those who did ended up applying, compared with 10.9 percent of all prospective students. Though many of the students who elected to accept the texts were already interested in St. Mary’s and excellent fits for the institution, Mongoose’s president David Marshall said one of the main reasons for the program’s success is that students don’t feel bothered or harassed.

Texting prospective students isn’t an admissions staple just yet but it’s poised to be in the near future: Jim Miller, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said, “What I’m hearing from the younger folks is that email is so yesterday and texting is where it’s at.” Would you opt to receive texts from the colleges you’re interested in or prefer they contact you via email, Facebook or snail mail?

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Have a Question? Ask It!

September 20, 2011

Have a Question? Ask It!

by Jessica Seals

Most college students are afraid to ask questions in class because they are afraid other students will judge them. They are also afraid to query a professor outside of class because they’re nervous the instructor will get angry if they deem the question’s answer as obvious based on the course material covered. My advice: GET OVER IT!

The material a professor will teach at the beginning of a course serves as the foundation for the rest of the semester. If something puzzles you early on, you run the risk of not understanding the rest of the material that is related to it. If you do not ask for clarification, you will not score as well on exams and papers that reflect your knowledge of the topic and your final grade for the class will be lower than what you wanted because you spent the entire semester in a state of confusion.

I have seen students flourish after they have asked for help because they finally understand the material but I have also seen students give up after a few topics did not make sense to them. I personally do not care if other students feel a question I ask is obvious – if I’m not understanding something, I’m going to figure it out any way I can! – and after the professor has answered, I feel like I can do better in the course. An added bonus is that the professor (a.k.a. the person who calculates my final grade) has a favorable opinion of me because I expressed a genuine interest in what he or she was teaching.

In the long run, asking questions and getting help will get you much further than remaining silent and confused all semester. You can either ask questions in class or get help from the professor privately but you should never be too intimidated to ask for help.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. 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. Jessica also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.

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