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Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

Not-Your-Average College Majors and the Schools That Offer Them

June 11, 2012

Wait, You Can Major in THAT?!

by Kara Coleman

What are you majoring in? Business? Nursing? Psychology? I’ve been scouring the Internet for some cool and crazy college majors so if you’re having second thoughts about your curriculum of choice, consider switching to one of these:

  • Home Economics. Yep, you can actually attend college and get a degree in home economics. Idaho State University offers this degree, with courses in interior design, nutrition and meal management.
  • Comic Book Art. The ultimate nerd degree can be obtained from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. To get this BFA, students focus not only on actually drawing comics but on plot and character development, publishing in both print and web forms and, the coup de grâce – an advanced comic art seminar.
  • Motorsports Management. You can travel to the heart of NASCAR country to pursue this degree. Winston-Salem State University’s website states that “WSSU is the only four-year university in the country and the only Historically Black College and University to offer a Bachelor of Science degree program in motorsports management.” Classes include sponsorship, public relations and mass media, and operational logistics; an internship in the field of motorsports is required before graduation.
  • Folklore and Mythology. If you are an honor student at Harvard and have always dreamed of attending Hogwarts, you can get pretty close. This Ivy offers a degree in Folklore and Mythology from a wide variety of cultures including Celtic, Scandinavian, Japanese and African. One featured class is “Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature,” where students read books by Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm and, yes, J.K. Rowling.

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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So You Want To Go To Grad School, Eh? Here’s How to Prepare

by Kayla Herrera


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R.I.P., Application Essay?

Counselors Weigh Usefulness, Debate Future

June 21, 2012

R.I.P., Application Essay?

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the college application essay: where a student can give admissions officers insight into the person they really are (in about 500 words) that the standard transcript can’t provide. While some schools rely heavily on the document in their admissions processes, others don’t require it at all – a discrepancy that has experts debating its future.

Admissions officers and college counselors discussed application essays and personal statements at length yesterday at the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions and according to an article in The Chronicle, counselors are citing essays as burdens on overworked admissions staffs as often as they are questioning their authenticity. Gone (or disappearing) are the days where a great essay can help a borderline student gain admission to their dream schools: Top institutions like Brown are giving them less weight than it has in past admissions cycles – “A spectacular essay can raise more questions than it answers,” said dean of admission Jim Miller – and some schools are requiring applicants to submit copies of graded written work to use as a barometer. What do the students think? Sure, crafting compelling prose comes as naturally to some college applicants as breathing or blinking but Martin Bonilla, director of college counseling at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, Calif., has found that the essays cause his students more stress than any other part of the application.

Do you believe the essay component of the college application is on its way out or here to stay?


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Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

Ed Sec Says Comparing More Schools Will Lead to More Informed College Choices

July 3, 2012

Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

by Alexis Mattera

In the epic battle between quality versus quantity, it's the former that usually prevails but Arne Duncan has a slightly different proposal for soon-to-be college students: increase the quantity of schools you consider in order to find the best quality fit.

Though the annual Higher Education Research Institute survey reported that students are already employing that approach (just 12 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen applied to only one college in 2011), Education Secretary Duncan believes that too many students are making their college choices based on distance from home rather than price, majors and other factors vital to college completion and future success. He feels that if students apply to more schools and compare financial aid packages, they'll find the school and program that's right for them. But not everyone is buying into his "shop around" proposal. Lloyd Thacker, director of the admissions reform group Education Conservancy, said, "The problem with the admissions process is it's become too much like a transaction or consumer process, and less like an investment in education ... I'm not saying what he's doing is necessarily wrong but you need to be very thoughtful that good intentions are tied to sound research.”

Check out the full Inside Higher Ed article here and let us know what you think. Are you ready to go shopping with Duncan or will you be taking a different approach when applying to college?


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Unique Liberal Arts Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Liberal arts students have a reputation for being a bit quirky and colleges catering specifically to these majors are no exception. Carleton College, Naropa University, Grinnell College and Deep Springs College are four such institutions renowned for their unique extracurricular activities, majors and more.

Besides being ranked the sixth-best liberal arts college by U.S. News and World Report, Carleton College is also famous for its unique extracurricular activities. For instance, students have organized multiple scavenger hunts for the bust of German playwright Friedrich Schiller since 1957 and the college is also famous for its Assassins Guild, whose members try to “kill” each other with Nerf guns, “poisonous” Tabasco sauce and “explosive” alarm clocks.

Naropa University is a private liberal arts college in Colorado which integrates meditation into the curriculum and offers a unique blend of Eastern and Western educational practices. Majors include Peace Studies, Contemplative Psychology and Traditional Eastern Arts...interesting, right?

Grinnell College is another private institution known for its independent majors. After their first year, students can tailor their majors to suit their preferences instead of following a rigid degree path. Also of note are the school's post-graduation "Grinnell Corps" programs, which allow students to help others in places ranging from Namibia to China. In addition, Grinnell has the highest per capita Peace Corp volunteer rate of any college, despite only having 1,500 students.

Deep Springs College is an exclusively male liberal arts college famous for its method of selecting 26 students and giving them all full scholarships. The professors knit, stargaze and have ping pong tournaments with their students and they also live within walking distance of the students’ dorms on a cattle ranch/alfalfa farm.

If you decide to attend one of these colleges, it’s safe to say you’ll be in for a college experience unlike any other!

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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Ready. Set. Apply!

Common App Now Live, Students Already Registering for Accounts

August 3, 2012

Ready. Set. Apply!

by Alexis Mattera

Sure, most high schools won’t be back in session for another month but some rising seniors aren’t wasting any time getting back into the academic swing of things: As of Tuesday evening, admissions season officially began with the launch of this year’s Common Application. According to the not-for-profit’s website, 300 individuals registered for Common Application accounts within the initial 30 minutes they were available this admissions cycle, with the first one coming in less than 60 seconds after the launch!

So should you use the Common Application? Seeing as though some of the most selective schools in the country (think UChicago and Columbia) have adopted it, we think it’s definitely worth it if you are applying to more than one school. The online system makes it very easy to complete and submit applications to multiple schools but some colleges and programs do require Common Appers to complete supplemental questions to gauge applicants’ knowledge of and interest in that specific school; these are NOT optional and neglecting to submit supplements means your application will be viewed as incomplete and will not be considered for admission.

Ready to get the application process started? Register for your own Common Application account today!


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College to Offer Course Credit to Gap Year Takers

by Alexis Mattera

Though taking a gap year has yet to win mass societal approval, it is getting a pretty big endorsement from one NYC school: Admitted students who opt to take time off between high school and college will now earn a full year of academic credit.

Eugene Lang College for Liberal Arts and Global Citizen Year have partnered to offer incoming students who have been admitted to both programs the opportunity to earn 30 college credits as they support development projects in other countries. Participating students will spend their seven-month "bridge year" living with local families and bettering their host communities by teaching English and working as peer mentors; instead of being one year behind students who started traditional classes the previous fall, they’ll enter Lang as full-fledged sophomores. "There are a lot of worthy learning experiences in life but we don’t give academic credit for them," said Stephanie Browner, the Lang dean overseeing participating students. "I think this is the right way to launch yourself into college."

Lang is the first school to join forces with Global Citizen Year but founder Abby Falik is eagerly anticipating the impact her program will have on college campuses across the country. Would you take advantage of this opportunity at your school? Why or why not?


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Your College Application Guide

by Radha Jhatakia

For seniors in high school, it’s about that time to dive into your college applications. The process is rather involved and has the potential to become very stressful but here’s how you can go about it while retaining your sanity.

First, you likely already have a list of colleges you are considering but start narrowing down your top contenders. Look at the majors they offer and see if they have the programs you’re interested in. Check the cost – financial aid may play a key role in what college you attend – and also see if they have activities that interest you (a sport you want to play, a specific student organization, a Greek system, an honors program, etc.). What’s the on-campus housing situation and could you see yourself living in the dorms? Consider these questions and more when deciding whether or not to apply to a college.

Second, check all the application deadlines. Remember, besides the actual application, you must submit test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters and personal statements and you need adequate time to procure all of these items. Also, review the fees associated with each application; some schools let you apply for free or a discounted rate online but you should also consider requesting application fee waivers if money is tight.

Third, the personal statement is the biggest part of the college application because it represents your personality. You may have a high GPA, AP classes and extracurricular activities but so do many other students – what will set you apart from the rest of the application pool is how you present yourself in the personal statement. Have a teacher or parent review your personal statement and edit it for you before submitting it to your college of choice.

Fourth – and although this is fourth on this list, you still want to get it done early – request recommendation letters. Ask teachers you’ve worked with and trust well in advance if they can write on your behalf. Have two or three for each college that requires one. Along with your personal information/resume/school involvement list, give the teacher an envelope that is stamped and addressed to the college(s) to which you’re applying so they can submit their letters directly.

Last but not least, take all your tests on time. If you haven’t taken the ACT, SAT or SAT II tests, register for the next available date; check which tests your colleges require and sign up for those ASAP!

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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The Common App Announces Big Changes

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, people: Who has ever applied to college or is considering applying to college by using the Common Application? As the list of schools accepting this document grows (there are currently 488 members), so will the number of college hopefuls opting to use it. It’s incredibly convenient for students looking to apply to multiple schools but future applicants should know that big changes are afoot for the next admissions cycle.

According to representatives from the Common Application, changes – which will take effect on August 1, 2013 – include web-only submission and the removal of the popular "topic of your choice" essay option. Rules regarding the essays will also become more rigid: Students will be required to write at least 250 words but those who exceed the 500-word maximum will face an error message. Lastly, the ability to upload resumes will be eliminated unless specifically requested by a particular college.

What do you think of the Common App’s new approach? Will you welcome the changes or will they deter you from using this application method altogether?


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by Suada Kolovic

Today's high school students have to face some serious obstacles when applying to college. With ballooning numbers of applications and fierce competition, educators and college counselors have long sung the praises of AP courses to stand out but for those students looking for an even bigger leg up on the competition, some high schools are allowing students to skip lunch in order to take additional classes.

According to several news reports, there are currently a handful of districts across the country are allowing students (with parental consent, of course) to forgo lunch to take another class. Translation: Participating students would typically have nine 42-minute periods without a break. Students in favor of skipping lunch say that the extra time allows them to pursue subjects they are passionate about – think: art or music – that they may not otherwise be able to fit in their schedules. But not everyone agrees with the option: School Nutrition Association spokeswoman Diane Pratt-Heavner insisted that students who don’t sit down to eat a healthy midday meal will not have the attention span and level of detail they need to succeed in school. "Wolfing down a meal between classes is not promoting a healthy lifestyle," she added. (For more on this story, click here.)

If this was an option at your school, would you opt out of lunch to fit in an extra class? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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