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The Perks of Volunteerism

March 26, 2012

The Perks of Volunteerism

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I think about volunteering the same way most of us think about fruits and vegetables – important to your health, good for your future and, every once in a while, the last thing you want added to your day. No one talks about it but I've seen it as both a volunteer supervisor and as a volunteer myself. However great the cause, however much you care, some days you just want to stay in bed. After all, they're not paying you so what does it matter if you miss a day or two?

What professional volunteer coordinators know is that volunteering isn't just good for showing the world you're a good person who cares about others: Choosing to volunteer builds skills you might otherwise not have the opportunity to develop, making you immensely more attractive to future employers and colleges. If you volunteer with young students at a religious school or daycare, for example, you will be better at working with young students than someone with no experience but that commitment also adds to your organizational ability, proves to potential employers that you are responsible and able to do self-directed work and shows your commitment to causes outside your normal purview.

In addition, peer mentoring or tutoring (paid or unpaid) adds to your employability. First, it shows that you are good at working with other people – a requirement for many jobs – and second, many employment opportunities (from consulting to banking to physical therapy) require that employees can clearly and concisely explain their point of view to others. Teaching someone how to do a math problem may be as applicable to your career in management consulting as any classes you took in college: It's a transferable skill that you will use again and again.

Finally, if you are interested in working in the industry that you're volunteering in, there's a good chance that you'll be considered an internal candidate for any job opportunities that come up. That usually means that your application will be read before outside candidates (even if they have more direct experience) and often increases your chances of getting an interview. Besides, if you've done good work, you've effectively gained an extra (positive) reference so think about your time volunteering as an extended job interview.

On that note, go forth and volunteer! As a former volunteer supervisor, I know we welcome the help but you're probably getting as much from it as we are.

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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From the ABCs to a BA: How Childhood Lessons Still Apply Today

by Angela Andaloro

As human beings living in an ever-changing world, we always have something new to learn. Some of us continue our education in pursuit of expanding our knowledge but it’s important to recognize that some of life’s most important lessons are the ones we learned early on as children. They’re also the lessons that can help you learn more, the easier way. Here are some examples:

Have manners. It’s so easy to forget how important it is to throw in a quick “please” or “thank you” but it can make all the difference. As a child, you’re constantly reminded to use your manners but as you get older, it’s up to you to remember. In your adult life, having manners can be important in your job search: Following up and saying “thank you” to someone for an interview can help you stand out from a pile of applications.

Find a way to remember things. Remember how much mnemonic devices helped us learn when we were younger? “PEMDAS” (or “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally”) helped us remember our order of operations in math so make up your own to help you remember things today, whether they’re for an exam or for a job. Giving your memory a boost will save you time in the long run.

Get organized ahead of time. Did anyone else have a homework sheet with a list of assignments that your parents had to sign and return to your teacher? It served its purpose: Writing things down helps us remember we have to do them and checking them off along the way gives us a feeling of accomplishment. Make lists of the things you have to do each day and make sure it’s all done when you’re ready to unwind at night.

Some of the things we learned as children may have seemed tedious at the time we were incorporating them into our everyday lives but they served a bigger purpose and will continue to help us in college and beyond. Have other childhood lessons that are still very important today? 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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March Madness Alternatives

by Darci Miller

They say that April showers bring May flowers but March brings March Madness. This is the time when college basketball fans feverishly compile brackets and glue themselves to their TVs. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all lost someone to March Madness, as the afflicted individual shuts themselves away from society for several weeks, but there’s always the chance that your bracketology wasn’t quite up to scratch this season. If your top seeds were eliminated early on, you may find yourself with a March entirely free from basketball obligations.

So what to do with yourself? Now that it’s officially springtime, you could always venture outdoors. Temperatures are rising and flowers are beginning to bloom, so there’s no better time to sit in a local park and take a break.

On the flip side, isn’t it just about time for midterms? I know it gets harder to study the warmer it gets (as I sit here watching interviews with “The Hunger Games” cast instead of writing a paper) but summer is on the horizon and I know you have some gas left in your tank, right? Hey, if I can write 2,000 words about Brutalist British architecture, you can handle your class assignments, too!

The coming of summer also means that the search for the perfect internship is in full swing. Though it’s fairly late in the season to be getting into the internship game, there are still countless positions looking to be filled. Now’s a great time to brush off your resume, hit up the campus career center and start applying.

Bank account looking a little dry? There’s never a wrong time to be applying for scholarships for next semester! (Though, if you’re reading this on the Scholarships.com blog, I’m sure you already know that!) Trust me: As someone who received a $4,500 stipend for a little extra study abroad wiggle room, I can tell you that it’s worth the effort.

See, just because your basketball team is a lost cause doesn’t mean March has to be!

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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Job Opportunities, Starting Salaries Increase for Class of 2012

by Alexis Mattera

Soon-to-be college grads will have a little more to cheer about as they toss their mortarboards in the air this year, as both job opportunities and starting salaries for new graduates have increased since last year.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported job openings for the class of 2012 are up 10 percent since last. With increased opportunities also come an uptick in starting salaries: The average for 2012 grads is $44,442, a 6.6-percent increase over the reported average salary of the class of 2011.

Of course, these numbers depend on the fields graduates plan to enter – starting salaries for those pursuing careers in education and economics increased more and are higher overall, respectively, than those going into health sciences – but it is nice to hear some mostly positive news about the impact of higher education. College seniors, does this information put you more at ease or increase your stress level as graduation day nears?


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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

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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Out-of-Work Professor Turns to Essay Mills for a Paycheck

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a continuous slump, recent college graduates have come to somewhat expect a struggle when it comes to landing a job. But they’re not alone – even those with years of experience are having a hard time and turning to professions they aren’t exactly proud of: After nearly three years of unemployment and no health insurance, a former assistant professor has turned to writing for essay mills in order to earn a paycheck.

Jennifer Sunseri was an assistant professor at Texas Tech University before she was let go in 2009. With two master’s degrees in technical communications and Slavic linguistic and a Ph.D., Sunseri admits that early on that she wasn’t worried. "I thought for sure my skills as an educator and writer would see me through," Sunseri said. "I am still in shock at how many applications for writing instructor at the local community college, for GED tester, for office manager, for adjunct this and that at the local university, even for substitute teacher resulted in naught.” But after not seeing a doctor for almost three years and being behind on her rent, Sunseri decided enough was enough. Since February she’s worked for the essay mill and while she’s not proud of her new found career, Sunseri says there are some perks. She decides what projects she works on and admits writing on deadline keeps her in tip-top writing shape. "Ironically, the paper mill seems to be the only company that understands the value of my extensive education, and, really, two masters and a doctorate, well, I guess I've been training for a job like this all my life." (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think about Sunseri’s new profession? Is it unethical or is she just doing what she needs to in order to get by?


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The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

by Kayla Herrera

Everything is blooming and trees are awakening with widening leaves stretching up toward the sky. The birds are chirping and don’t forget the sound of graduation gowns sweeping across the floor! I should be graduating this year but like so many other college students my age, I have been thrown more than a few curveballs in my time in school and I have another year to go before I can enter into the workforce full-time. I want to assure you that this is okay and completely normal!

Here at Michigan Tech, we have a five-year plan. In order to graduate from Michigan Tech in four years, one must take 18 credits every semester, not including summer semesters. Not a fan of killing yourself with books, papers, exams, labs and a part-time job and would prefer to enjoy your time in college? That mentality is adopted by most students at Michigan Tech, making those who graduate in four years or fewer the minority.

Let’s face it – things happen: You change your major and have some serious catching up to do in prerequisite classes, you have a death in the family, you become seriously ill and take a semester off, or you just want to study abroad for a while. And that’s all more than fine, people! Yes, money is a huge issue (you can combat this by finding as many scholarships and grants as possible!) but at least we didn’t develop serious illnesses because of stress in an overworked educational environment!

My advice? Take it easy and give yourself time to soak in all of the new information you are learning. Remember, don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for needing to stay in school for an extra year or two. There are colleges out there, just like mine, where the majority of students are on five-year plans – you just have to find them.

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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Colleges Announce Commencement Speakers

by Suada Kolovic

With college graduation just a hop, skip and jump away, graduates are filled with incredible hope and fear but whatever they’re feeling on graduation day, there’s the possibility that a celebrated commencement speaker could impart some words of wisdom their way. And while notable politicians, celebrities and artists are usually called upon to speak to a crowd full of fresh-faced 20-somethings embarking on the next chapter of adulthood, we couldn’t help but wonder who made the cut this year. Check out the list below, courtesy of the Huffington Post, of who’s speaking where:

Who’s speaking at your school this year?


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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!


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Is College Right for You?

April 30, 2012

Is College Right for You?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

If you had to guess, what percentage of students start college and actually finish it? According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 46 percent of students who started college earned degrees in 2010. Hefty student loans and interest rates, stress and being academically unprepared are amongst the many reasons college drop-outs cite; some students report being as much as $50,000 in debt before graduation with no viable means of paying it off.

Given this info, it’s really important that you consider if college is right for you before applying, especially if the field you’re thinking about going into doesn’t require a degree. There are still plenty of great job opportunities for people who think college may not be for them, including air traffic control and locomotive engineering. That’s not to say, however, that a college degree is overrated. According to a study conducted by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor’s degree holders earn 84 percent more than high school graduates during their lifetimes. And while there are still plenty of jobs that don’t require a degree, virtually every employer will prefer a college graduate over a high school graduate.

My goal here is not to discourage anyone from attending college; instead, I want to present both sides of the argument so that you can commit 100 percent to furthering your education or, alternatively, seek out a job that doesn’t require a degree. It’s better to recognize now that you won’t be able to commit to college than be forced to drop out and pay back $50,000 in student loans later. No matter which path you choose, one thing’s for sure: You’ll have to work hard if you want to succeed!

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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