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AP Becomes the Norm in College Prep

by Alexis Mattera

This year's Academy Award nominees were announced this morning, representing the crème de la crème of the film industry. There are several parallels to this honor in the world of academia like getting accepted to a top college, making the Dean’s List or earning a prestigious scholarship but one long-held distinction – completing an Advanced Placement course – is becoming anything but elite.

According to an article in the Republican Herald, AP classes have become commonplace for most high school students in college prep programs across the nation. Jennifer Topiel, the College Board’s executive director of communications, revealed that more than 50,000 high school students in Pennsylvania alone were enrolled in at least one AP class last year. The number of Pennsylvania AP students participating in the optional subject tests at the end of the courses, however, have not been quite as high as the trend seen throughout the rest of the country, where there has been about a 50-percent increase in AP test completion in the past five years. The program has become so popular that it’s being revamped for the 2012-2013 school year to "clear students’ minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking."

It may not make sense to do all the homework, study for all the quizzes, earn exemplary marks and not reap the potential reward of college credit the subject tests can provide but some students purposely opt out of the exams, like North Schuylkill Superintendent Andrew Smarkanic’s daughter, Lauren, who took AP Biology in high school. "They don't take the test because they don't want to miss making the connection with professors in their program they may have in that first year or missing some subject matter because each school has its own unique curriculum," Smarkanic said. "You can miss the building blocks in that first year and struggle later in your program."

If you took an Advanced Placement course, would you forego the chance to jumpstart your college career or would you take the test, get the credits and have more room in your freshman year schedule for electives and nontraditional classes?


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Community College Students Struggle to Get Into Required Classes

by Suada Kolovic

Have you ever tried to sign up for a class that was full? Maybe it was a class that sparked your interest or one you heard was life altering. What about a class that you needed to graduate, one that you’ve attempted to register for, for the third time no less, and are consistently met with: class is full! Well, you’re not alone. And community colleges are dealing with overcrowding more often than universities. According to a national survey released Wednesday, one in five community college students had a difficult time getting into at least one course that they needed and almost a third, especially Hispanic students, could not get into a class that they wanted.

The national “Community College Student Survey,” which the Pearson Foundation calls the first-ever of its kind, asked 1,434 community college students about what they identified as factors that impede success, as well as the supports needed to help foster success. The respondents noted that problems with the professor or the course topped the list of reasons for dropping a class (61 percent). About 5 percent of students had dropped out during the first few weeks of the semester and 10 percent had seriously considered doing so. The students who considered dropping out – a whopping 20 percent – said they could not get the help they needed, while 66 percent of students surveyed said it is "extremely or very important to have access to academic advisors and to establish relationships with professors" in order to succeed in college. Do you agree with the survey’s findings?


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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?


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University Study: Students Feel Guilty for Texting in Class

by Suada Kolovic

Over the years, students have mastered the art of distraction during class, from daydreaming to doodling to note-passing to sleeping to the quintessential distraction these days: texting. And while texting has revolutionized the way in which we communicate, does it have a place in the classroom? A survey of students at the University of New Hampshire found high rates of texting during class and a great deal of guilt about that behavior to go along with it. The majority of students surveyed admitted they felt guilty for sending text messages in class when they were not supposed to but despite those sentiments, a whopping 80 percent said they normally send at least one text message in each of their classes.

According to the survey, which was conducted by student researchers at the UNH Whittemore School of Business and Economics, many students don’t believe that texting should be allowed in class, 49 percent felt guilty in class when it’s not allowed, 51 percent are distracted from class material when they text and 51 percent said they are prohibited from texting in up to half of their classes. The survey also showed that women were more likely to send text messages than men. "I wasn't surprised by the results, but I was surprised to see that some teachers didn't prohibit texting in their classes," said Gretchen Eastman, one of the lead student researchers on the study.

The survey looked at the texting behavior of students and researchers will present their findings at the university’s undergraduate research conference in late April. Let us know what you think. Do you feel bad about texting in class? Do u think txting in class can b distracting 4 u?


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Schools That Set the High Score for Gaming

by Alexis Mattera

Have you ever gotten yelled at by your parents for playing video games when you should have been doing your homework? Gotten your Xbox unplugged just before breaking your kill record in "Call of Duty" because dinner was on the table? Had your internet – and, in turn, "World of Warcraft" – privileges revoked for not keeping up with your chores? If so, take solace in the fact that those punishments will never occur if you attend college at one of the following schools. In fact, they would say the more gaming the better: According to the Princeton Review and GamePro Media, they are the top colleges for video game design!

  1. University of Southern California
  2. University of Utah
  3. DigiPen Institute of Technology
  4. The Art Institute of Vancouver
  5. Michigan State University
  6. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  7. Drexel University
  8. Champlain College
  9. Rochester Institute of Technology
  10. Becker College

The list was compiled from the survey results of administrators at 150 colleges and universities offering video game design courses and degrees. Though they did not make the top 10, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institution, Savannah College of Art and Design and Shawnee State University were given honorable mentions. Everyone has to be Luigi sometimes...better luck next year!


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University Photo Class Teaches More Than Just Point and Shoot

New Course Takes Aim at Camera Phone Composition, Ethics

March 3, 2011

University Photo Class Teaches More Than Just Point and Shoot

by Alexis Mattera

Cameras are standard features on most cell phones nowadays and for every user that emulates Ansel Adams, there’s another that channels Peeping Tom. Though this outlook has caused more than a few scandals, many people still play fast and loose with the shutter button...and associated photo-sharing apps like Flickr and Facebook that make posting images all too simple. When will they learn? Sooner than later if Immaculata University has its way.

The suburban Philadelphia school is offering a new cell phone photography class focusing on both the quality of the images and the ethical responsibilities that come with taking and publishing them. Communications professor Sean Flannery and professional photographer Hunter Martin will split teaching duties; the latter will handle topics like composition, lighting and editing while the former will cover voyeurism, ethics, citizen journalism and the difference between public and private spaces in hopes that students will realize "the full gravity of what's at their fingertips and the power they can have."

The idea for such a college course isn’t novel – NYU has been offering a cell phone video class every fall since 2009 – but Immaculata officials believe their offering is different because of its ethical angle. "I think it's part of our responsibility ... to teach kids how to use this tool," Flannery said, adding that it's no different from teaching proper use of a video camera in a broadcast news class.

If there are any Immaculata students reading that are enrolled in this class, we’d love to hear about your experiences thus far. Other students, would you take a class like this if your school offered it? Why or why not?


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The Great Homework Debate

Cornell Could Ban Surprise Assignments to Improve Mental Health

March 4, 2011

The Great Homework Debate

by Alexis Mattera

You have just one class left until a full week off from textbooks, Scantron sheets and yawn-loathing instructors. Then, it happens: Your professor goes off the syllabus and announces a new project – a lengthy research paper, to be precise – to be handed in during the first class after break. That thought bubble above your head filled with notions of sleeping until noon and emptying your DVR goes kerplewy and your waning stress level takes a leap into finals week territory. Ouch...but that scenario may no longer occur at Cornell because of a call for change from the faculty. Is it the right choice?

Cornell’s Faculty Senate is expected to vote this month on a resolution that would "strongly discourage" surprise assignments to improve the mental health of students. The resolution, said theatre professor and chair of the Faculty Senate's education-policies committee Bruce A. Levitt, would encourage faculty members to stick to their syllabi so students can better pace themselves. "The idea was not to forbid homework over break, but to make academic work over break the choice of the student," Levitt explained.

If my school had implemented this kind of resolution when I was an undergrad, I probably would have rejoiced but having been a member of a deadline-driven profession for almost six years now, it would have been a detriment. With the advent of cell phones and on-the-go e-mail access, many bosses expect their employees to remain in constant contact even when they are off the clock – something students may not realize until they begin their first job out of college. I’m not saying students shouldn’t be able to enjoy their nights, weekends and breaks but they should be aware that after college, the work needs to get done regardless of the hour.


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Unusual (but Useful!) College Majors

by Alexis Mattera

You know the most popular college majors and the majors with the highest earning potential. You are even aware of some of the more unusual classes students can take while attending college...but can unique translate into useful in the real world?

As it turns out, some of the most out-there-sounding majors are producing satisfied graduates making real contributions to their fields of choice after graduation. What are these majors and where can interested students find them? Here’s an abridged guide:

  • Packaging. University of Wisconsin-Stout packaging majors don’t think outside the box. They think about the box, specifically how to create “economically, aesthetically, environmentally and technically sound” packaging. And they’ve got it in the bag: A 2009 survey showed 95 percent of packaging graduates were employed by major companies like Frito-Lay and FedEx, no less!
  • Viticulture and enology. Graduates from Cornell’s program could soon be giving Dionysus a run for his money. Though it only recently became an official major, coordinator Kari Richards said the majority of graduates are involved in the industry. "Some have continued enology-related studies in graduate school, others travel worldwide to gain experience in harvest and crush, [and a] few will or have returned to the home winery/vineyard," she said.
  • Puppetry. UConn’s not just known for basketball but for being one of only two schools in the U.S. offering undergraduate degrees in puppetry arts...and the only one offering a graduate program in the field. It’s selective – enrollment is limited to 22 students – but graduates have gone on to work and perform in theatres, television shows and films. Guess being green isn’t so difficult after all!

The complete list of unusual college majors can be found here. Wondering if the school of your dreams offers them? Check out our college search!


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Professor Arrested for Battery After Closing Student's Laptop Screen

by Suada Kolovic

Laptops are as ubiquitous in lecture halls as pulling all-nighters are during midterms and finals. But students should think twice before surfing the web in class: They might walk away with a bruised ego…as well as a few bruised fingers.

According to the Valdosta State University Spectator, assistant professor of mass media Frank Rybicki was arrested for assault after he shut a student’s laptop screen during class. Why? She was allegedly web surfing as opposed to taking notes. Students told the Spectator that the incident took place following an argument between Rybicki and the student, Krista Bowman, on March 25, during a Law & Ethics of Media lecture. Bowman filed a complaint – claiming she has sustained injuries to her finger or fingers following the incident – and university police arrested Rybicki on a charge of battery. He has since been released on a $2,500 bond and university representative Thressea Boyd released a statement saying the charges are under investigation.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Rybicki confirmed his arrest and suspensions, but insists he had never physically harmed a student. Do you think the professor was out of line when he shut Bowman’s laptop, possibly harming her? What should professors do to combat the problem of students blogging, tweeting and Facebooking instead of paying attention to class? Is it really their responsibility to monitor students that closely?


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Study Shows Students Don’t  "Get" the Materials They Cite

by Alexis Mattera

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Thanks a lot, They: A new study shows that college students are taking those words to heart when it comes to citations rather than actually deciphering the meaning of the subject they’ve been tasked to write about.

The Citation Project, presented by Rebecca Moore Howard (associate professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University) and Sandra Jamieson (professor of English, director of composition and department chair at Drew University) at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication, analyzed research 164 papers written in first-year composition courses at 15 colleges in 12 states and divided the 1,832 citations into four categories: exact copying, patchwriting, paraphrasing and summary. Unfortunately, the type of sourcing that reflects the most comprehension – summary – represented only 9 percent of the citations in the study. “That's the stunning part, I think: 91 percent are citations to material that isn't composing,” said Jamieson. “They don't digest the ideas in the material cited and put it in their own words.”

The explanations for these practices are vast – writing for efficiency as opposed to understanding, finding increasing difficulty of separating legitimate from illegitimate information on the Internet and not knowing what exactly goes into forming a proper citation – and there’s much more to Howard and Jamieson’s research here but the sad truth is that students are just not "getting" the material. Have any of your papers contained the offenses they detail? Given the statistics, it’s likely they have...but why?


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