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Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Recently, The New York Times revealed that two studies have shown that many community colleges wrongly place students in remedial classes. The main reason why this happens is because students are placed according to their standardized test scores, rather than their cumulative GPAs – in other words, students are forced to pay for classes they don't receive college credit for and, if not for one less-than-hoped-for standardized test score, wouldn't even have to take otherwise! Consequently, students forced to take these remedial classes may experience lower self-esteem than their peers, fail to graduate on time and have to work significantly harder (both at work and at school) to afford these additional classes. In short, having to take unnecessary remedial classes has the potential to make college much more difficult than it needs to be.

All of these problems could be alleviated if community colleges (and state and private universities, for that matter) placed students based on their cumulative high school GPAs. After all, GPA is determined by years of hard work, whereas standardized tests are based on (at most) several months of preparation. And while we obviously can't use the excuse, "I don't test well" every time our test scores leave something to be desired, we should also keep in mind that one test does not (and should not) determine our academic futures.

If you or someone you know is having to take unnecessary remedial classes (e.g., you earned a B in high school calculus but didn't do as well on the standardized test), don't be afraid to talk to someone in admissions about your concerns. While changes rarely go into effect right away, faculty will listen if more students question the emphasis on standardized tests over cumulative GPA. Just make sure you're polite and discuss your concerns logically and calmly!

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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I Escaped High School...or Did I?

Dealing with Cliques in College

March 5, 2012

I Escaped High School...or Did I?

by Kayla Herrera

Through the awkward, frustrating years of high school, we all look ahead to college where the themes and mores of high school are nonexistent. Is this always the case, though? I’ve come to realize that it’s not at Michigan Tech.

I was pretty excited coming to this school – freshman year was a blast and I lived in the moment, just as you are supposed to do – but as I matured and progressed through my college career, I found a familiar pattern I had so strongly tried to escape. There are cliques here at Michigan Tech...and mighty odd cliques at that. I did not notice it until my fourth year but the group overtaking the university is the engineers, to whom the university caters with special events, opportunities and entire career fairs dedicated to them. Then, you have the Lit-Heads and the WMTU Kids, aka the literature buffs and radio station dedicatees. The Lit-Heads and WMTU Kids usually blend together, attending concerts and small literary gatherings. The Lit-Heads are elitists about literature in rebellion to the oppression they receive from the school and the engineers. They radicalized with the creation of the national literary magazine, Pank, which is even more superior and thus near impossible for the everyday writing student to get published in. The WMTU Kids run the local concerts and fight back against the conservative society here in the Upper Peninsula. With such a successful program, it’s a wonder why record labels and music enthusiasts aren’t up here recruiting them.

I have only noticed these trends because I find I don’t fit in any of these. I am on the outside and I see these groups as they are. Some of my friends are engineers, some are Lit-Heads and others are WMTU Kids and while I may not completely identify with any of them, I think it’s a good thing I am not intensely wound in any of these cliques. I am my own person, still strutting along in school to just make it out alive and with a decent job. Regardless of the high school scene around me, my heart is not in high school anymore and I intend to keep it that way: Never be afraid of who you are, even if you aren’t a part of anything but yourself.

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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Romney on College Costs

GOP Candidate Offers Little Comfort to Current and Hopeful College Students

March 6, 2012

Romney on College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

If you want to go to college but can’t completely afford it, don’t expect Mitt Romney to help you bridge the financial gap.

During yesterday’s town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, Romney made it clear that he would not promise to give students government money to cover higher ed costs. The advice he did offer regarding colleges was blunt – pick an affordable option, get scholarships, join the military and graduate early – and very different than the words of President Obama during his third State of the Union address, which discouraged tuition increases and aimed to double the amount of federal work-study jobs. Though this is a man who pushed for state-funded four-year tuition scholarships while serving as the governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s mantra is now firmly “don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on”...or protect you from it, for that matter: He supports the House Republican budget which would cut Pell Grants by at least 25 percent.

What do you think of Romney’s position regarding higher ed funding?


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Make Yourself More Marketable with an Extra Major or Minor

by Jessica Seals

When I was growing up, I was always told that attending college was a necessity if I wanted to be successful; however, I was not told that the economy in the future would be so unstable that competition for jobs would be tough. Now, students are looking for any way to make themselves more marketable to graduate/professional schools and employers and not only are they participating in student organizations, they’re picking up one, two or even three extra majors or minors.

During my freshman year, picking up an additional major or a minor never crossed my mind until I saw more of my fellow classmates doing so. Now when I mention that my major was political science and my minor was English, people automatically realize that I hope to attend law school in the future. They are even more impressed when they realize that I had a very high cumulative GPA for my major and minor. (Although it is impressive to have more than one major or minor, you can lose credibility if you take on the responsibility and your grades are barely average.) Having extra majors or minors allows you to explore more subjects while adding more diversity to your resume. Employers and admissions officials are always impressed with students who take classes across a wide variety of subjects instead of taking the bare minimum.

With the increasing competition for jobs and admission into post-graduate programs, it might be worth your while to look into an extra major or minor. It gives you a better chance of proving others that you can handle extra work and that they would not regret selecting you as a student or for a job.

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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How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Baby, it may still be cold outside but summer is on its way – three glorious months to fill with projects, internships and mildly soul-numbing jobs. Hey, high schoolers, I'm talking to you: Colleges care what you do with that time, even if you'd rather just hang out and play water polo...or whatever kids do these days.

For most high schoolers, there are two kinds of summer experiences: you pay them (hang gliding in Costa Rica, French language lessons in France with French people) or they pay you (yeah, I worked at a bagel shop). They both have their places and their benefits so if you can get to some faraway place and have adventures, go for it; however, most people aren't in that financial bracket in high school. The good news is that a first job can be just as interesting an experience, whether it's at a fast food joint or selling t-shirts at the Jersey Shore. Check out your local museums and colleges to see if they have special internship programs for teens over the summer. The application process may be brutal but a competitive internship program looks great on your resume and the money in your pocket will be worth it. Working with those programs will also give you a chance to meet teens from other high schools or outside your normal social circle; remember, college is all about learning to get along with people totally different than you – now's a good time to start.

But don't forget secret option number three: No one pays you but you get to practice something you think you'd like to study or work in. It's like volunteering (except you go every day instead of when you feel like it) but you should think of it as a job, minus the monetary compensation. The summer before my senior year of high school, I called around and became a journalism intern at a small local paper. I pitched and wrote my own articles and even used the amazingly complex 9-megapixel digital SLR camera (hey, it was 2005). While I wasn't exactly producing Pulitzers, I got great articles for my portfolio and the experience of working as an adult. In this economy, everybody wants free labor and by finding a place to volunteer regularly, you may just find a career. Start your search early, though: These opportunities fill up fast!

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 currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Bracketology 101

Math Prof Explains the Odds of a Perfect Bracket

March 9, 2012

Bracketology 101

by Alexis Mattera

March is one of my favorite months of the year: Not does it include the start of spring, my birthday and a seemingly endless amount of scholarship deadlines but it’s also chockfull of college basketball. With Selection Sunday right around the corner, pools are starting to form with all participants aiming for the same goal – the creation of a perfect bracket. What’s the likelihood you’ll be the one to achieve this feat? Pretty dang slim, says Jeff Bergen.

According to the DePaul University professor of mathematics, you technically could select the correct outcome of every single game but before you get too excited, the odds of picking that perfect bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion. “You basically have no chance,” he says as he calculates, but does note that if you have a solid knowledge of NCAA tournament history, your odds increase to 1 in 128 billion. Score!

So to those planning brackets, be sure to have your favorite rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover or horseshoe handy...and just have fun! Remember, says Bergen, “When your bracket goes down the tubes, don’t worry: so is everybody else’s.” Will you be creating a NCAA tournament bracket this year? If so, how will you go about making your selections?


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Billionaire Dropout Advocate to Teach at Stanford

by Suada Kolovic

In an interesting turn of events, Silicon Valley billionaire and college dropout advocate Peter Thiel will teach a course at Stanford. Apparently, taking a college course is still worthwhile…when he’s the professor.

The PayPal co-founder, whose 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship awarded a group of budding entrepreneurs $100,000 each to dropout and develop innovation companies, will teach a course called “Computer Science 183: Startup” at the university this spring. News has since spread like wildfire and the 250-student course is already oversubscribed, according to Reuters. But not everyone is convinced: Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center of Corporate Governance, said “It’s hypocritical, but I’m not surprised. The same people who go around bashing education are the most educated. What's he going to do? Tell students, 'When you graduate from my class, drop out right after that?'" Ironically, that idea isn’t too farfetched: Thiel told Reuters through a spokesman, “If I do my job right, this is the last class you’ll ever have to take.” (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of Thiel’s stance on earning a college degree? Is it wrong of Thiel to argue that the brightest young minds should venture out on their own and start companies rather than pursue a college degree when he himself holds both a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a law degree from Stanford? Let us know in the comments section.


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The How and Why of Interning and Volunteering Abroad

by Darci Miller

In this day and age, the world is an increasingly small place, as one only has to foray into the world of blogs and forums to make contact with people thousands of miles away. We may not exactly live in the “global village” that Marshall McLuhan predicted back in the day but we’re certainly closer than society has ever been to that point. What does that mean for us college students? Well, I think it goes without saying that the job market is a changing place. It is far from uncommon for a company to be multinational and deal with clients from around the world so this makes a basic knowledge of international relations – as well as knowledge of another language...or two – a definite plus.

Experience abroad can be turned into a marketable quality when you’re on the job or internship search. Most interviewers are more concerned with experience than they are with grades so if you’re abroad, don’t be afraid to skip the occasional class if it means getting out there and immersing yourself in the culture of your new home. Some events only come around once in a lifetime and can often be much more valuable than a perfect attendance record.

Even better? Get work experience abroad! In an international job market, this experience is invaluable and will be looked upon extremely favorably by employers but be sure to do your research ahead of time. For example, college students get “work placement” in England rather than internships, so opportunities are few and far between. Before you leave your home university, email companies in your study abroad destination and tell them you’re interested in working for them...even if they aren’t advertising any positions – that’s what a friend of mine did and she nabbed herself an internship in London for the summer!

Another crucial tip is ensuring that you have the proper work clearance. If your visa is incorrect, you could end up being deported or banned from ever returning to the country. Each country’s border agency or immigration office should have details on its website; the process is a pain (trust me, I’ve been there) but it’s definitely worth it: My Tier 4 student visa has allowed me to volunteer with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and I couldn’t be happier!

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. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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Stuff College Students Say

by Angela Andaloro

The college student population in the United States prides itself on its diversity. While no two students are alike, we have some similarities that bond us together and the common experiences and feelings related to college are the ones that we’ll never forget. Still, sometimes the stereotypes that come along with being a college student are just that: stereotypes. With that in mind, I bring you “Stuff College Students Say.”

  • “I’m so broke.” I can sympathize when this lament is shared over Ramen noodles late night in the dorms but when it’s tweeted from your iPhone 4S while you’re shopping for a new outfit for tonight’s house party, it’s a little harder to accept.
  • “I’m not going to class. It’s way too early.” I love to sleep in as much as the next person, but “early” is a relative term in college life. Remember high school, where you knew you had to be in class by 8 a.m., no excuses? That 12:30 p.m. lecture doesn’t seem so early anymore.
  • “Are you going to that event later?” I’d bet $5 that you can’t tell me what organization the event is for or what it’s about. You’ll be there though because there’s free food and free food tastes so much better than food you have to pay for.
  • “I’m going to take a nap.” Yes, you are...on the quad, in the student union, in the library, etc. Anywhere but your dorm, though, because you have class in an hour.
  • “I’ve got to register for classes.” After making sure that none of your classes start before noon and that the professors all check out on RateMyProfessors.com, then you might schedule an appointment with your adviser to make sure you graduate on time. Maybe. If you have time after your nap.

The great thing about us college students is that we have awesome senses of humor. We know that we can be a little ridiculous sometimes, but we can laugh at that ridiculousness. What kind of stuff are the students on your campus saying? 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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Communicating with Authority Figures

by Radha Jhatakia

Whether it’s a parent, professor or employer, communicating with authority figures can be a challenge, as a certain level of respect and acknowledgement must be given. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your superiors but these tips will help you to keep the lines of communication as open and effective as possible.

One of the most important aspects of communicating with authority figures is having an appropriate attitude. No one will want to speak to you if you have a displeased look or closed-off body language. Knowing your surroundings and having a welcoming demeanor will make you appear more approachable; displaying confidence in what you have to say will win you points as well.

The method you use to communicate is also important. Email is a very convenient in that it allows us to get a message to someone quickly but with the convenience of this technology, many people do not practice proper “netiquette,” which means using proper spelling, grammar and formal language rather than texting language. Being appropriate in your emails means not using emoticons and having a signature with your contact information. Communicating effectively with authority figures often relies on your level of maturity and this will help demonstrate it.

However expedient emails may be, sometimes phone calls or in-person meetings are necessary. Often when employers are considering candidates, someone who has sent an email may not seem as appealing as someone who has sent an email and followed up with a phone call. In-person conversations work better when the matter is important and is something that may be misconstrued in an email or phone conversation. An example would be if you need to speak to a professor about a grade you felt was unfair. Approach them as a concerned student who wants to know how to improve from the mistakes they cited, then explain why the errors don’t seem wrong to you. A positive attitude will go a long way; you may be angry but verbally attacking the professor will make them far less likely to help you out.

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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