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New Semester, New Goals

January 5, 2012

New Semester, New Goals

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that you've had some time to spend some time with your family, eat all those holiday delicacies or just unwind, it's just about time for another semester! Since starting a new semester can be daunting, here are several tips you can follow:

First, make sure you order your books at least a week before the semester starts, preferably sooner if you're ordering them online. While Amazon's two-day shipping for college students is great for procrastinators, your books may not be in stock if you wait too long.

Next, make sure you're not taking too many credits. While taking 18 credits a semester may seem like a great idea when you think about how quickly you'll finish your degree, you’ll burn out fast (especially if you have a job...or two). As we've heard a million times, slow and steady wins the race and your GPA will almost certainly be a lot stronger and college will be more enjoyable if you adopt a more moderate pace.

Finally, take advantage of campus resources. As overwhelming as college can feel at times, it's easy to forget that there are all kinds of people who are more than willing to help. From math lab to writing lab to academic counselors, there's no shortage of people who understand what you're going through and can offer great advice. Besides, you're paying top dollar for your tuition so you might as well get your money's worth and use these resources!

If you still feel crazed after reading these tips, remember that you won't be in college for the rest of your life. Sometimes we forget about the eventual rewards of hard work. It may take more time than we'd like but hard work will pay off in the end.

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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My Final Study Abroad Checklist

by Darci Miller

In preparing to study abroad, I’ve been alternately packing and scouring the Internet for lists of important things to pack. When it comes down to it, there are several things that I will not – and cannot – leave the U.S. without!

  • 1. Power adapters. Voltage and wattage are different across the pond and all of my American electronics will be rendered moot if I don’t come prepared – it would be a sad day if I couldn’t charge my computer or straighten my bangs! If you’re going abroad, check to see what adapters you’ll need, as they vary from country to country.
  • 2. Clothes to layer. I’m heading to London and the weather there can be all over the map, so everything I’ve read advises dressing in layers. This would be a smart choice for anyone studying abroad in a country in which temperature varies between seasons. T-shirts and a handful of cardigans will carry you through winter and spring, while long-sleeved shirts are useless as it gets warmer.
  • 3. Familiar, comfort items. Photos of friends and family are obvious but since I’m a sap, this really includes anything that’ll remind me of home or people that love me. Though I may rarely wear my headband made out of a t-shirt hem, seeing it on my desk will remind me of the night my friends and I made them.
  • 4. My GPS. I’ll have limited data on my phone while I’m study abroad and going over my limit isn’t an option. For those days I plan on exploring the city, I’ll throw my trusty TomTom named Peter into my bag and be good to go. I’ll only get lost in the culture, not because I made a wrong turn!
  • 5. An across-the-body bag. A definite necessity, especially for the ladies. They’re much harder for muggers to steal and you have the added bonus of keeping your belongings right next to your hand.
  • 6. Important documents. This may sound like a huge “duh” but I definitely need to remember to print out whatever I’ll need for my first few days – visa, confirmation of enrollment, orientation notes, etc. Anything to make the transition a little less stressful!

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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The AP Debate

January 10, 2012

The AP Debate

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, students: How many of you have previously taken, are currently enrolled in or are considering signing up for an Advanced Placement course? That's a lot of you...but how many of you chose the AP path because you felt as though you had to in order to remain competitive in the college admissions process? Iiiiiinteresting...

With college hopefuls taking on so many AP classes that they have barely any time for non-academics, some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are pushing for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses a student can take or even eliminating them entirely. Though some teachers and administrators feel it would be a welcome change that would allow more freedom in the curriculum, parents and students do not share this mindset: They view any AP limits or bans as disadvantages when college application time rolls around, despite competitive schools like Stanford assuring applicants "We want to be clear that this is not a case of 'whoever has the most APs wins.'" Other educators think the caps are a bad idea, stating that not only will students feel less challenged but that limiting the number of AP classes could result in staffing cuts, as schools offering more APs are able to hire more teachers.

Research does show students who take AP courses do better in college than students who don't but is it worth the stress placed upon students by parents, teachers, colleges and even their peers to take and excel in these courses? Do you think students should be able to decide what their own workload should be if it means the AP credits earned will help them graduate from college early and save thousands on tuition? What side are you on in the AP debate?


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Good Samaritan Pays Student’s Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

It’s Friday the 13th and instead of posting some bad, unlucky or just plain weird news, we thought we’d share a story that’s downright feel-good.

Like many college students today, John Jay College criminology major Angy Rivera was having a difficult time making her tuition payments. While she was eligible for in-state tuition rates as an undocumented student, Rivera could not qualify for state and federal aid so she began selling what she called handmade education bracelets on Chipin.com to bridge the financial gap. When her tale was recently featured in the New York Daily News, retired MTA conductor Luis Hernandez took note – and action: He donated $2,500 to cover the remainder of Rivera’s tuition, even though she was a complete stranger. “I’m retired and I’ve got a little money to spend,” said Hernandez. “I like helping out kids...especially if it’s somebody trying to get an education.” Naturally, Rivera shed tears of joy and told Hernandez, “This just made my next six months – you don’t know how big this is!” She also said she will use the money generated from her bracelets sales to pay for books and fees.

Times may be tough but if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t too proud to ask for help, good things can happen.


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Planning Your Final Semester

January 18, 2012

Planning Your Final Semester

by Jacquelene Bennett

It is a new year, which means new classes, new professors, new people and new adventures but for some of us, this January marks the beginning of the end: It is our last semester of college before we go out into the real world.

That day isn’t here quite yet, though, and we soon-to-be graduates still have classes, homework and the responsibilities of extracurricular activities on top of applying for jobs or grad schools and taking care of last minute graduation stuff. In addition to all the work, we still want to spend time with our friends, go on spring break, relax and just have fun. So how do you do it all without going crazy?

I'm not an expert but I am quickly learning that the key is to prioritize. Make a list of all the things that you need to do – think: class assignments, preparing for tests, etc.) – and schedule when to do those things. With this method, you will know when you have to be serious about your school work and when you have time to kick back a little.

I personally have come to adopt a "work hard, play hard" strategy: I work hard by getting all my school work and studying done before and after classes, applying for jobs and taking care of any administrative stuff during the week and then I have the weekend to hang out with friends and have fun.

Just because this method works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you - we all have different goals and there really is no “right way” to handle your last semester. Take the first few weeks to determine your path but I recommend organizing, prioritizing and scheduling your commitments and leisure activities. You may not have time to do every single thing you want to do exactly when you want to do it but you’ll come pretty close!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Meet New Friends, Share Interests Beyond Campus Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even though there are all kinds of clubs and extracurriculars to get involved with in college (just take a look at all the unusual ones available), sometimes your school may not have the one you're looking for. When this happens, sites like MeetUp, MEETin and Twitter are perfect for meeting people in your area who share your interests.

MeetUp is extremely user-friendly: Simply type in an activity you're interested in along with your city or zip code and watch as all the clubs near you come up! There are clubs for people who want to learn foreign languages, go rock climbing, try new restaurants, learn martial arts, combat social anxiety and much more. Most clubs do not require membership fees, but the ones that do will let you know right up front.

MEETin is similar to MeetUp and is well-known for being the "largest friends social group [site] in the world." MEETin is specifically designed for people who want to meet others without the stress of business networking, so rest assured that you'll be in good company if you just want to make new friends. Just like MeetUp, there's no membership fee and anyone is free to suggest an event.

For all you Twitter fans out there, "tweetups" are an option as well. Due to Twitter's 140-character limit (disregarding the Stories function), the microblogging service may seem like the least formal and structured option of the three but tweetups are great for those times when you just want to meet up at the spur of the moment.

Regardless of what option you choose, know that there are people out there who like the same things you do and want to meet others that share those interests. I know firsthand how scary it can be going to a meetup with people you've never met but once you do it a few times, it gets easier – I promise. And who knows? You may end up making new friends you never would have met otherwise!

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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The Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

by Radha Jhatakia

Much of the time, college students who are able to get the classes they need and have an education plan are able to graduate early. Graduating early can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it; it worked for my fellow virtual intern Jessica but how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you have job offers lined up after graduation?

2. Did you go to college close to home?

  • If you said yes, then graduating early wouldn’t be a tough transition but if you attended college further away, graduating early may be more difficult. Many if not all of your friends were will still be in school and you’ll also miss out on the senior graduation programs.

3. Did you take out loans to pay for college?

After you answer these questions, you should be able to determine if you should graduate early or not. Just remember there are pros and cons to both and you should choose the path that’s right for you.

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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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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The President on Education

Obama Talks Higher Ed in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

The President on Education

by Alexis Mattera

In addition to talk of the economy and spilled milk, President Obama shared his thoughts on higher education during his third State of the Union address last night. On his to-do list: reduce student loan interest rates, extend a tax credit and continue supporting community colleges.

Ideally, the president would prevent the interest rate increase on federal student loans currently set for July, double the amount of federal work-study jobs in the next five years (moves that would cost $5 billion and $1 billion per year, respectively) and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. Obama praised community colleges as he has in the past for their links to job training and their contributions to keeping college affordable but had some harsher words for other institutions: Colleges that continued to hike tuition were put "on notice" and a document accompanying the speech said the president would propose to shift some federal aid away from colleges that don’t provide good value. "It’s not enough for us to increase student aid," Obama said. "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

Did you watch the State of the Union? What did you think of what President Obama had to say?


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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

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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