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Smile...You’re on Camera: WGU Uses Webcams to Monitor Online Test Takers

by Alexis Mattera

For students seeking more flexibility in their college schedules, online classes are often an excellent alternative. Coursework can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection but when it comes to test taking, how do instructors know the person answering the questions is doing so honestly? Western Governors University has come up with a solution: Say cheese!

Up until a few years ago, WGU online students had to take their exams at one of the school’s 6,000 on-site assessment centers. This proved to be a burden for the majority of the student body – the average student is 36 years old, has a family and takes a full course load while working full-time – so WGU began allowing students to take exams off-site if monitored by webcams. The cameras show the student, his or her computer screen, their hands and profile and a 180-degree view of the room to ensure the student isn’t obtaining information from another source during the test. And just in case something goes awry, there is support available to assist with any technical issues.

While some students still opt to take their exams on-site, most have adopted the program with open arms: There are 30,000 WGU webcams in use and about 80 percent of the 10,000 exams per month are taken via webcam. Do you think WGU’s webcam program is beneficial to busy students as well as the school’s reputation? If given the option, would you smile for the camera or take your tests on-site?


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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

November 4, 2011

Stepping Up and Standing Out

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Stanford Receives $150 Million Gift to Fight World Poverty

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a slump, debt-ridden college students aren’t alone in their financial struggles. Colleges and universities nationwide – who’ve had a fair share in creating insurmountable amounts of debt for the majority of students – have struggled to attract potential donors as concerns about volatile markets remain. Stanford University, however, may be the exception: A local philanthropist and his wife have donated $150 million to establish an institute aimed at alleviating global poverty.

The gift from Robert and Dorothy King includes a $100 million grant to start the Stanford Institute on Innovation in Developing Economies, which will be known as Seed. The new center will be housed in the business school and will conduct research, coordinate courses in social entrepreneurship and design, and oversee projects worldwide to alleviate poverty. "We know there are people out there who can make this world a better place, and we want to get behind them," Mr. King, a venture investor and philanthropist in Menlo Park, Calif., said in a YouTube video about the institute. The remaining $50 million will be set aside to encourage donations to Stanford programs that tackle poverty and, if all funds are matched, the total could reach $200 million.

What do you think of Mr. and Mrs. King’s donation to Stanford and not those in need directly? Is this a step in the right direction or not?


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Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

by Kara Coleman

What does the average college student’s wardrobe consist of? Most people probably think of hoodies, sweatpants and tennis shoes, or guys on game day wearing white dress shirts with striped ties featuring their school colors. That’s true to some extent but fashions differ from campus to campus and many people use their college years as a time for self-expression.

When I went to a community college, I noticed there wasn’t really a dominant style of dress that students shared. Because it was commuter school, people got ready for the day and headed to their jobs after class. Some people wore their work uniforms, then there were preps who wore Abercrombie clothes, skaters with skinny jeans and long hair, and basketball players in track suits. It was like a big high school. When I transferred to a four-year university in August, however, I was surprised at how many people came to class each day in their pajamas. (I’m pretty sure I was the only one wearing a sundress and matching earrings on the first day!) Why the difference is fashion trends between colleges? The majority of students at the school I currently attend live on campus in dorms or apartments. They roll out of bed, grab their books and walk across the street to class.

Though sweats and tees are comfortable and convenient, college students are increasingly ditching these options in order to reflect current styles. The reason? Since most students have smartphones or tablets and can access the web from anywhere, they can see something they like, buy it online instantly and instruct that it’s shipped directly to their door...all while walking down the hallway or across campus between classes.

So what about you? Do you go to class in your pajamas or plan out your outfits for the entire week? What fashions are currently trending on your campus and what will be the next big thing?

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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Facial Piercings, Visible Tattoos and Your Future

by Radha Jhatakia

Tattoos and facial piercings have become part of modern day society and college culture. There is nothing wrong with this – I myself have seven piercings (three in each ear and one in my nose) and a tattoo – but with these artistic choices can come consequences that we may not think of when we are younger and attempting to fit in.

Many members of older generations do not view tattoos and piercings the same way we do. To them, they are forms of rebellion, disrespect and, most importantly, decisions that make it increasingly difficult to build favorable professional reputations. If you have a facial piercing, interviewing with a professional organization is risky: Unless you have an exceptional resume and amazing skills, most employers won't take you seriously.

Visible tattoos are deal breakers for many employers as well, especially for those who work alongside customers and are constantly representing the company. Professional workplaces will not tolerate visible tattoos; if you have any but also have your heart set on a career with this kind of organization, you should cover them up. Though many offices have adopted more casual dress codes, visible tattoos are still a long way from being accepted and could hurt your chances of getting hired: If there’s one position available and the other applicant has a cleaner cut appearance, you could lose out.

If you just have to get a tattoo or piercing, I am not going to try to stop you. Just remember that the choices you make now will affect you in the future.

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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Electronics in the Classroom: Supplementing Studies or Sidetracking Students?

by Angela Andaloro

I always have about 150 things on my mind and like any other college student, I’d kill for some extra time in the day so that I could get things done the way I’d like to. Unfortunately, that can’t really happen but some students are improvising by bringing tablets and laptops with them to class. While it might work for some people to take notes, search the web and tweet at the same time, it doesn’t work for me.

Despite my best intentions, I get easily distracted. If I really want to focus on something, I try to isolate myself as much as possible. This is the reason why I don’t bring my laptop to class because I’d end up using that time to write papers, go on Facebook or check my email. I consider myself an excellent multitasker but I know for a fact that once I have my laptop in front of me, I’ll start trying to tackle my to-do list instead of paying attention to what my professors have to say. If the person sitting in front of me has a laptop and I see them watching a video or playing a game, I get so mesmerized that I stop paying attention!

That’s not to say there isn’t a benefit to having electronics in the classroom. Technology has been wonderful to college students over the past decade: It makes it easier to take notes, look up information regarding what the professor is discussing, remember assignments and manage time. It really comes in handy regarding the hustle and bustle of college life but I’m just not sure of its presence in the classroom.

As I see it, using electronics in the classroom should be a personal decision, not one a professor mandates in their syllabus. Some people genuinely function better with their laptops in tow while others (like me) might not be able to handle the sensory overload. Part of being a responsible college student is making those decisions for yourself – what’s your choice?

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

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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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

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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This Thursday, Be Thankful for Your Options

by Angela Andaloro

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and many college students are planning to head home to celebrate. It’s no easy feat, either: With the cost of travel and the chaos attached to traveling during one of the busiest weeks of the year, it’s not always possible for students to get home for the break. That doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving has to go out the window; in fact, there are tons of alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving for college students staying on campus.

See what’s going on at your campus. You’re not alone if you’re staying at school for Thanksgiving. Many students find themselves too far from home to return for a few short days so find out what your campus is doing for students sticking around. Some schools offer a Thanksgiving-style meal in their cafeterias or nearby eateries.

Volunteer your time. While not being able to be with your family might be upsetting, there are many others who have it worse. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Doing so can really strengthen your gratitude and teach you to show your appreciation for what you do have.

Skype with your family. It might not be the same as being there in the flesh but you can still partake in your family’s holiday thanks to technology. It could very well be your Thanksgiving tradition for four years!

Whatever you decide to do for Thanksgiving, make sure you stop and give thanks for all the great things in your life. And remember, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are just a few short weeks away! Have you ever spent your Thanksgiving on campus? How did you celebrate? Let us know in the comments.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Making Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Dorm

by Radha Jhatakia

Not all college students are able to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. If this sounds like you, don’t worry: You can still get into the holiday spirit in your dorm. Many of you are probably wondering how to pull off a Thanksgiving feast when you don’t have a kitchen and/or cooking skills but here’s a little guide to help you:

  • You can find ready-made mashed potatoes in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or buy raw potatoes and cook them in the microwave (some even have a button for this). For gravy, buy a powdered packet and add the requirement of heated water. Voilà!
  • If you don’t want canned cranberry sauce, heat fresh cranberries in the microwave until the juices are released. Add sugar to taste and mix while slightly mashing them with a spoon.
  • Candied yams would be difficult to make from scratch in a dorm so buy canned pre-cut and peeled ones. Heat the yams in the microwave with butter then add some cinnamon and sugar (granulated white and brown). When the sugar melts, you’re done!
  • Boxed stuffing can taste just as good as the homemade kind. Get the Stove Top brand – all you need to do is mix it with hot water.
  • For the bird, most grocery stores have cooked rotisserie turkey and chicken. You can add your own seasoning or eat it as is.
  • Get a bottle of sparkling apple cider or grape juice for delicious mocktails.
  • Pick up a ready-made pecan or pumpkin pie from your grocery store for a treat...or maybe even some seasonal cupcakes.

Bon appétit, 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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