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The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

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 just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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Non-Resident Admission Doubles at UC

by Alexis Mattera

When I moved into my freshman dorm at UConn, I was one of the few out-of-state students on my floor. It wasn’t a bad thing by any means – I made a lot of friends through conversations that began with someone asking "Hey, can you say [any word ending in R]?" because they wanted to hear my thick Boston accent in action – but it was certainly foreshadowing for today’s abundance of non-residents at state schools.

According to an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the number of non-Californians accepted as freshmen to the UC system has nearly doubled in just two years. Twenty-three percent of all students admitted for this fall hail from other states or nations, partly because non-residents pay nearly three times the tuition and fees of in-state students – a huge boon for UC, which has had its budget cut by about $1 billion during the last few years. In-state students’ college costs are heavily subsidized with public funds and the nine undergraduate campuses simply don’t have the money to cover the cost of educating them, though UC officials insist that no eligible Californian is denied admission because of non-resident students.) In addition to funding woes, applicants also had to contend with increasing selectivity: UC admitted just 64 percent of the students who applied...and just 21 percent at Berkeley and UCLA.

There were some positive aspects to UC’s announcement (the Merced campus accepted 75 percent of applicants, more students of color were admitted systemwide and an additional 2,100 California graduates gained admission over last year) but what do you think of the influx of non-residents at state colleges and universities?


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What Makes a Professor Great?

by Kara Coleman

Earlier this month, The Princeton Review released its annual list of the best 300 professors in the nation. The teachers were chosen because of the impact they have made on the lives of their students and that got me thinking: What exactly makes a professor good...and, conversely, what makes you not want to go to certain professors' classes?

First, the good stuff. Teachers who seem to genuinely care about their students always get high marks in my book. The teacher I had for English 101 and 102 seemed every bit as interested in what I wrote outside of the classroom as the essays I wrote for class. He even invited me to read some of my poetry at his community poetry club meeting (an event not affiliated with the school) and he even met my family at the bookstore one night, saying he always enjoys getting to meet the families of his students.

Next are the teachers who have a passion for and connection with their work. My Spanish teacher was not Hispanic but she and her husband had served as missionaries in Buenos Aires for 20-something years. She would often share her personal stories with us about living in a different culture with a different language than what she had grown up with. That experience proved just as valuable as being a native speaker.

Now what causes students to give their teachers bad reviews to their peers and on sites like RateMyProfessors.com? The bottom line is respect. It’s not about how difficult their tests are or whether they’ll let you cite online sources in your research papers – how professors treat their students makes all the difference. Teachers who talk down to or argue with their students or the ones who seem indifferent and treat their work like it’s just a job are ineffective.

What do you think? On your personal list of the best professors you’ve ever had, who makes the grade and why? Comment below and let us know!

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

by Alexis Mattera

Enrollment deposits are due at many colleges around the country in 11 days and while some students committed to colleges within hours of receiving their acceptance letters, others are still weighing their higher ed options. As the deadline draws closer, don’t choose a college by tossing a dart at a map or playing eeny meeny with your admissions offers – consider these tips from U.S. News:

Plan another visit. Sure you went on the traditional tour last time you visited Big State U or Fancy Private College but this time, skip the campus-sponsored activities to get the true experience of what it’s like to attend that particular school.

Contact former classmates. If you know a few students who matriculated to the school you’re considering, get in touch with them. It’s never been easier to do via the myriad social networking sites out there and they’ll provide insight you won’t find in the brochures!

Don’t forget costs. You may have been accepted to your first-choice school but you didn’t receive the grants, scholarships and merit-based aid you were hoping for. Minimize the amount of debt you’ll accrue from taking out hefty student loans by reconsidering your second- or third-choice school...and its more-than-generous financial aid package.

You can read the rest of U.S. News' tips here but we’re curious as to how our readers made their college decisions. Did you employ any of the strategies listed above? Are you still trying to choose your school? Let us know what worked for you!


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Computer Programs Every College Student Needs

by Radha Jhatakia

As college students, we are dependent upon computers when working on papers, presentations and other class assignments. Many times, we are required to have certain technology to complete these tasks and whether you use a Mac or PC, these programs can help you.

For document reading and creation: Adobe Reader is a program used to read PDF files which are often used as virtual documents you can fill out using a computer. CutePDF Writer is a program used to create PDF files. You can write documents or turn JPEGs (picture files) into PDFs by selecting to print files as PDF. (Doing so turns them into virtual documents.)

For word processing: Microsoft Word is essential to anyone who has or will ever need to write a paper. Macs have a different version that comes pre-installed in the computers; however, these files are only compatible with Macs, thus professors often require that students use Microsoft Word when emailing and writing documents.

For presentations: PowerPoint is another Microsoft program designed to create presentations and it's filled with different formats, backgrounds, charts and smart objects you can utilize to customize your projects. PowerPoint is also very popular in the workplace so learning how to use it while attending college is a big plus.

For data analysis: Microsoft Excel is necessary during and after college. The software can be used to input data to be calculated much easier and also to analyze with efficiency. Excel can be tricky but there are classes you can take (and tech-savvy classmates you can ask) to learn how to use the program.

For all the rest: A few various programs that you can keep on hand which may or may not come in handy depending on your personal interests or major are iTunes and Adobe Photoshop. These programs are more artistic and provide access to music and photo editing. Purchase these programs legally, as they will last for a while and provide free updates.

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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To Pin or Not to Pin?

Colleges Weigh the Pros and Cons of Pinterest

April 25, 2012

To Pin or Not to Pin?

by Alexis Mattera

Does your college have a Facebook page? Has your university retweeted one of your Twitter posts? At this stage in the social media game, both scenarios are pretty common so it’s not too surprising that many institutions are also turning to Pinterest to interact with and engage their students as much as possible. Is it the best move for every school? An answer has yet to be pinned down.

Pinterest’s growth over the last year is hard to ignore(Modea reports the number of users jumped from less than 500,000 last May to 11.7 million in January) and while some schools (Drake, the University of Minnesota, UPenn, Oberlin) have already started building their Pinterest presences, others aren’t as gung-ho about the concept. Drake’s digital media specialist Aaron Jaco was an early Pinterest proponent, tasking his student interns with creating multiple boards (17, according to this Inside Higher Ed article) that were whimsical, human and fostered engagement. Jaco’s goal for Drake on Pinterest seems pretty simple – “The more we can engage in a friendly, non-sales way, the better,” he said – but other schools are still on the virtual fence. Bill Keller, a new media specialist at Muhlenberg College, would rather wait until an effective marketing strategy is more clearly defined. “When we do jump in [to Pinterest], I want to make sure it’s a strong footprint with solid intent behind it,” he said.

What do you think of colleges using Pinterest to connect with students? Is their presence on the site necessary or do you think their messages would be better received via other social media platforms?


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Five Things to Do Before You Graduate

by Kayla Herrera

As a soon-to-be college graduate, you are probably stoked to get the heck out of school but also a little scared to enter the sneering, looming workforce that will launch you into the rest of your life. This is it - the final draw before your life is dictated by 40-hour work weeks and mortgage payments - and there are some things I highly recommend you do before leaving your campus life behind:

What are some other experiences you think you should have before you graduate from college?

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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Keeping Up with Interests and Studies Over the Summer

by Mike Sheffey

The summer is a crazy time. For most, it means one thing – work – but it doesn’t have to: Aside from internships and summer classes, there are many ways to keep up with the things you are interested in over the summer.

  • Studies: You know you have those leftover flash cards or notes from your classes and some of you might even keep textbooks. USE THEM. I know a big issue with summer time is motivation but get motivated! Allocate an hour a day to review things from the previous semester – it will help you when you get back, I promise! For example, I know that Spanish (one of my majors) is something that needs to be practiced (and practiced and practiced). If you don’t keep up with it, you lose it and your future classes will only be more difficult. So find those books, notes, etc. and review; it never hurts and could help you ease back into the groove of classes when the new academic year begins.
  • Interests: This is a bit hazier of a topic. Because interests have such a vast range, there are thousands of ways to stay involved. Volunteer during the school year? Try help with a summer school. Work with music and the arts? Get more involved by interning, working or volunteering your time or just exploring art-related things in your area. But the list of benefits goes on: Keeping up with your interests helps you stay motivated in and out of the classroom, helps improve your focus and keeps you grounded in the free time-filled summer.

The point to take from all of this? Don’t waste your summer. There is always something you can be doing to better your resume, your passion, your focus, your knowledge or your wallet. Don’t let opportunities slip away and don’t let summer pass you by – it’s short enough as it is!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

by Kara Coleman

You probably saw the title of this blog post and thought, “Oh, I know what this is going to say. Take AP classes, get involved in extracurriculars, etc.” But there are a few other not-so-obvious things that you can do to increase the chances of getting into your dream school:

Update your resume. Each time you win an award, get elected to an office in a club/organization or get any sort of recognition, let your potential college(s) know about it. That way, they have a full list of your accomplishments when you graduate from high school.

Hook up with the college community online. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow your dream school(s), their sports teams, drama department or anything else that might interest you to keep up with what goes on there during the school year.

Send a handwritten thank you note. After you go for your official campus visit, send a handwritten (not typed!) thank you note to your tour guide or, if you had an interview, your admissions counselor. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the attention they showed you that day.

Show them that you’re genuinely interested. College admissions can sort of be like dating: Admissions officers want to make sure that you are interested in them before they commit to you. Imagine yourself as a student at that school and express a sincere interest in the goings-on there: If you don’t have a 100-percent interest in a particular school, take it off your list of potential colleges.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Handy Phone Apps for College Students

by Radha Jhatakia

The majority of college students today own smartphones and use these devices more for apps, browsing the web, checking email and texting than actually making phone calls. Here are a few that will benefit most students...and most are available for both Android devices and iPhones.

My top most recommended apps are Amazon Student and Kindle for iPhone or Android. Amazon Student has deals for students on books, electronics and much more and if you are a member of Amazon Student, you only have to pay half price ($39) for Prime membership, which gives you access to movies, TV shows and music online plus free two-day shipping anytime. The Kindle app allows you to access e-textbooks on your phone for those few minutes before class when you remember you had a reading assignment to do.

Students also have schedules filled with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, jobs and more. How do they keep it all straight? Some apps to make things convenient include The Weather Channel, Wells Fargo, Discover and Evernote. A weather app allows you to check the weather outside so you can dress accordingly, a bank or credit card app will make it convenient for you to pay your bills on the go (some even have ways for you to make check deposits without setting a foot in the bank) and note apps allow you make to-do lists and take notes which you can sync with your calendar.

Other convenient apps include translators, dictionaries and games for stress relieving. As long as you don’t mind some ads, these apps are available for free (but you can purchase ad-free versions for about $.99). What are your favorite apps?

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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