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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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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

Five years after Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, more than one million articles have been contributed to the free-for-all Internet encyclopedia. The open editing format allows for an unlimited amount of information to be shared all over the world but unfortunately, some teachers don’t consider Wikipedia to be a credible source...or they simply want their students to do a little more searching for information. Here’s how to make more informed choices when searching for works to cite.

When you Google your topic, don’t just click on the first link that pops up. Check out the site’s address before you visit. Remember, ANYONE can post ANYTHING on the Internet: An English professor at my community college was known to occasionally log on to Wikipedia and edit articles, just to see if her students were using the site.

College and university websites are reputable. If MIT posts an article about its latest technological breakthrough, take that information and use it. The same holds true for sites belonging to trade journals. A writer for an aviation magazine is talking directly with people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes in order to write articles for other people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes. Their information has to be accurate.

It’s also acceptable to cite articles from credible news sources like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. These are publications everyone is familiar with and they have years of coverage to show for it. The bad apples are few and far between.

Something to keep in mind when doing online research is that if something is true, it’s probably going to be on more than one site. If you come across conflicting pieces of information, be sure to check a number of other sources. And you don’t have to ignore Wikipedia completely: The bibliographies at the end of each article can provide some valuable links!

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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Como Se Dice College?

The Best Languages to Learn in School

September 21, 2011

Como Se Dice College?

by Alexis Mattera

Regardless of how demanding your college class schedule and major requirements are, a foreign language course could be among the most useful credits you accumulate.

According to Dr. Ali Binazir’s recent Huffington Post article, he recommends taking a foreign language to all incoming college students because “universities generally do a fantastic job of teaching them, they're a super-useful lifelong skill, and they're generally an easy 'A'.” But are all languages created academically equal? It depends on your future goals, he says: If you don’t want be treated like an "ugly American" while studying abroad in France, learn French but if you want to get a leg up in business negotiations, opt for Chinese. Here are the rest of the doctor’s orders, broken down by ease of learning, employability enhancement and "cool factor":

Chinese: Ease of learning - 1; Employability enhancement - 10; Cool factor - 10

Japanese: Ease of learning - 2; Employability enhancement - 7; Cool factor - 10

French: Ease of learning - 6; Employability enhancement - 1; Cool factor - 10

Italian: Ease of learning - 10; Employability enhancement - 1; Cool factor - 9

German: Ease of learning - 5; Employability enhancement - 2; Cool factor - 9

Spanish: Ease of learning - 10; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 6

Russian: Ease of learning - 4; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 9

Portuguese: Ease of learning - 9; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 9

Binazir has taken lessons in six of the eight languages listed and his explanations of why each language made the list are entertaining and informative. Are you taking or considering taking a language in college? If so, which one and why?

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A Single Student’s Take on College Relationships

September 22, 2011

A Single Student’s Take on College Relationships

by Darci Miller

It may seem odd to some that a girl who’s been single for her entire 20 years of existence would be writing a blog post about relationships in college. My perpetual singledom, however, gives me a pretty unique perspective on relationships, so hear me out.

Two of my friends are in a relationship. They got together about five seconds after they met freshman year and now, as juniors, they have no lives apart from each other. He has a dorm room but he basically lives at her apartment and they spend every day and night together. I’m fairly certain he’d rather be single – she sort of strong-armed him into the relationship in the first place and somehow got him to change his mind after he broke up with her last year – and while he does care about her, he’s pretty much only still with her for sex. She isn’t any better, as she is completely dependent on him for EVERYTHING. Can you tell that they have the unhealthiest relationship ever?

The misconception seems to be that when we begin attending college, we’re all magically more mature and will all find healthy, successful relationships. Clearly, this is not the case. I’d love to find a boyfriend but seeing what my friends’ horrible relationship looks like, my attitude is that it’ll happen when it happens. And when it does, I have a really good model of what not to do - ever.

Just because we’re young and make mistakes shouldn’t give us a free pass to use other people the way my friend is using his girlfriend and vice versa, but I digress. If you’re interested in sex, just go to eduhookups.com – one night stands may turn my stomach but users of this website are at least upfront about their intentions. In the meantime, if there are any guys looking for a healthy relationship based on more than just the physical stuff, call me.

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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Ways to Decrease Your Fear of Public Speaking

September 26, 2011

Ways to Decrease Your Fear of Public Speaking

by Jessica Seals

Public speaking is one fear that gets the best of many college students. Students cringe at the thought of having to give a presentation alone in front of their peers or at the thought of having to take a speech-centric course, despite the fact that some universities require such classes for graduation. A fear of public speaking can put a damper on a college experience – students may shy away from classes they really want to take because they are too afraid to speak in front of the class – and while not everyone will become the world’s greatest public speaker, there are ways to ease your mind and become better at speaking in front of a crowd.

Shift your focus. If making eye contact with people is your problem, find an inanimate object to focus on. I’ve found looking at the wall or space in between two people helps a lot because it makes it seem like you are making eye contact when you really are not. The crowd will be none the wiser and you will be far less flustered.

Practice makes perfect. Rehearse your speech or presentation in front of a mirror before it is time to speak in front of your classmates. Practicing will make you more confident in what you have to say and instead of fumbling with your note cards, the words will just flow right out of your mouth.

Perform for friends and family. Once you’re comfortable delivering your speech or presentation to your reflection, try it out on family, friends or roommates. This will ease you into presenting in front of a live audience like the one you’ll speak to in class.

Some people never get rid of their public speaking phobia no matter how often they have to perform in front of a crowd. Once you realize that you are not the only one afraid to speak in public and the most effective ways to practice, your nerves will calm and you’ll ace that presentation.

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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Building Your Network in College

September 27, 2011

Building Your Network in College

by Shari Williams

It’s the beginning of the semester, meaning there is still plenty of time to get involved on campus. If your school is offering some sort of “Meet the Clubs” fair, find some time between classes to stop in. Why, you may ask? In addition to allowing you to meet people that share the same interests as you, clubs are great networking tools.

As a college student, you may hear some variation of the word “network” just about every day. From social networking to networking events put on by various organizations, making connections is vital. Depending on the type of club you join, members often share the same majors. Knowing the people within your major will give you a good support system especially during exam and course selection time. It’s easier to set up study sessions or discuss requirements for a class you are planning to take with someone who's already taken it.

You will find that the people who join clubs that are major-related are very serious about their future careers. For example, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a student offshoot of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) that provides equal access and networking for student members and professional members. If you’re looking for a mentor or internship opportunity, a club like this is an excellent place to start your search.

No matter what year in college you are, it isn't too late to join a club and start networking. Take the time out to check out the clubs offered at your school – major-related or not – and get to know those around you. You’ll make friends, be better prepared for your classes and even get a leg up in your job search after college – you never know when and where you’ll see your fellow club members again!

Shari Williams is a senior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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How to Make It as a Humanities Major at a Tech School

September 28, 2011

How to Make It as a Humanities Major at a Tech School

by Kayla Herrera

Sometimes the location of a college or university can draw you in more than the school itself. This can be said for someone who wants to attend college in a big city or someone who wants more of a college town setting. Me? I wanted to go home again. I went to a technological school in the place where I once moved away from. Even though my major of choice was not technical in nature, I told myself I could make it work.

At my school, the humanities department is not taken care of very well. The curriculum seldom expands and many professors are not quite sure what they are doing. There is a career fair every semester but companies mainly come for engineers, leaving us humanities majors left out and forced to try harder to find jobs and make connections without the school’s assistance.

How did I do it? I focused on extracurricular activities. I searched for internships and small writing jobs on my own or through professors at my school. That is how I scored my first internship and first freelance writing job – just by asking around and putting myself out there. Also, get involved in a club or organization that relates to your career interests. If one is not available, create one; chances are, there are other students who share your goals.

If your field is the minority at your school, you’ve got to stick your neck out there and really make yourself known. Classes at my school are limited so I rely on outside experience to round me out. You cannot be shy: Send your resume around even if positions haven’t been advertised and contact potential employers to introduce yourself. Putting forth that extra effort will only get you that much more ahead outside the classroom.

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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If the College Fits...

How to Find the Right School for You

October 4, 2011

If the College Fits...

by Katie Askew

Finding the right college for you may seem daunting but it’s actually easier than ever before. (Thanks, Internet!) For those new to the process, here are a few tips to get you started on your quest to find your perfect school:

The easiest way to find colleges is to let them find you. A major part of a college admissions counselors’ jobs is to recruit prospective students so keep a close eye on your snail mailbox, your email inbox, your phone and even sites like Scholarships.com because you’ll most likely be contacted by a college via one of those paths. (Side note: Create a more professional email address for college communications – the admissions office WILL laugh at your 2hawt2trot@whatever.com address so keep it simple and classy with some variation of your.name@whatever.com.)

Don’t turn away any one type of school just because you think it’s not for you. Generic college brochures and pamphlets you receive in the mail are just that: generic. It’s impossible to get the big picture from a few glossy pages; it takes some personal research to find the parts of the school that pertain to you.

Just because a school was perfect for your parents, best friend or significant other doesn’t mean it’ll be the right fit for you. College Board and Scholarships.com both have great college search tools that allow you to narrow your search based on location, majors, cost, activities and housing. Just pick from your personal list and you’ll get links to colleges’ admissions pages.

Virtual tours are helpful but try to physically visit the schools you’re most interested in. I can’t stress enough that the campus visit can be the most important factor in a student’s decision. Visiting various kinds of schools can help to narrow your search as well; tech schools, public institutions, private institutions, rural colleges, Big 10 universities, Ivy League universities, community colleges, small schools and even beachfront colleges all have something unique to offer and you may not know what that is until you step foot on campus!

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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It’s OK to Just Say No!

October 4, 2011

It’s OK to Just Say No!

by Kara Coleman

Regardless of whether they’re children or adults, Americans are busier now than ever before. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That’s like saying that the Earth is round. Everyone knows that,” and that may be true but college is the perfect time to learn the power of two little letters: N-O.

Over the course of this semester, I’ve found myself saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that,” more times than I ever thought I would. I live and work in a town that’s about a 30-minute drive from where I go to school, so I do a lot of driving back and forth for classes, newspaper staff meetings and school events. I spend a few hours each week tutoring eighth grade math and I babysit one night a week, on top of the 25 or so hours I spend at my regular part-time job. This puts a severe time limit on the time I have available to spend with family and friends so I decided that I had to learn to say no.

When a parent called and asked if I could tutor her daughter two nights each week, I asked if we could do it on an assignment-by-assignment basis instead. When I received a text asking if I could help paint sets for an upcoming theater production one night after work, I declined because it was the only night that week that I didn’t have to go anywhere after work.

It’s hard to say no when we are asked to do something because we think we’ll be letting somebody down if we say anything less. But you know what? If you don’t say yes, someone else will. Know your limits and how much you can commit to without going crazy and learn to just say no!

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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Interviewing as a College Student

October 6, 2011

Interviewing as a College Student

by Radha Jhatakia

Having a job offer before you graduate is ideal but doesn’t always happen. The truth is it’s slightly easier to get a job in college than after because you are on a different playing field than recent grads. When applying for a job in college, you go through university relations but after you swing your tassel from right to left, you become a candidate for human resources like everyone else applying for the position.

Applying starts with the resume. An impressive college resume doesn’t mean multiple pages of volunteer experiences and jobs – it’s about quality, not quantity. Highlight your most important jobs, internships and community service organizations and focus on how the skills you’ve gained would add to the job you’re interested in. Be prepared to talk about these attributes in more detail in your cover letter and during your interview.

If you get an interview, remember to relax. Employers look for students who are confident and collected during the interview – if you can’t handle the pressure of the interview, how will you handle the responsibilities of the job? Bring extra copies of your resume and be sure to dress appropriately: Employers already have certain standards in mind for college applicants and arriving prepared and dressing professionally will show them you are mature and willing to take on responsibilities and tasks that graduates can. In the days leading up to your interview, practice answers to basic questions. Remember, you’ll be having a conversation so try not to sound too rehearsed.

After interviewing, take it upon yourself to follow up with a thank you note to your interviewer, preferably a handwritten one and never one sent from your cell phone. This seemingly small gesture will go a long way in employers’ books; you’ll stand out from the crowd in a positive way and land the job – or at least some interview experience – as a result!

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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