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Quirky Course Offerings

June 17, 2011

Quirky Course Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever been sitting through a lecture and been on the verge of falling asleep? Do you find yourself wishing your classes were more interesting? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, grab your course catalog and discover your school’s quirky class offerings.

The Science of Harry Potter” is an honors course offered by Frostburg State University in Maryland. As the name suggests, it involves analyzing topics from J.K. Rowling's best-selling novels from a scientific perspective. For instance, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans help students understand how our taste buds function and flying broomsticks are viewed through the lens of anti-gravity research.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is offered at Occidental College in California. Its main topic of study is the concept of race and how Barbie has inadvertently encouraged societal racism; it also offers surprisingly deep insights on gender roles, capitalism and more.

Some people are skeptical about the usefulness of these classes, with the more extreme critics denouncing them as a waste of money. While they are unorthodox, keep in mind these classes still require a significant amount of work. Students taking “The Science of Harry Potter,” for example, must take daily quizzes, complete scientific projects and read textbooks. Speaking of books, “The Science of Harry Potter” only requires two textbooks but the reading list for “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is surprisingly extensive and includes works by social class analysts Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin.

So, if you're tired of more traditional course offerings like physics or sociology, consider finding out if your college offers any unique classes like the ones mentioned above. Just don't expect to do less homework!

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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To Attend or Not to Attend: That is the ($100,000) Question

by Angela Andaloro

The decision to attend college is one that everyone arrives at differently. For some, not going to school isn’t an option, be it by their own standards or their parents’; for others, taking the next step in their educational career may have required a little more convincing. I have even heard stories of parents who bribe their kids to go to college with promises of apartments or cars.

While a new ride or a place to call your own might sound tempting, there’s an even more tempting offer out there from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel – the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, which, in exchange for a commitment to not attending college for two years and dedicating themselves entirely to their inventions, Thiel offered each fellow $100,000. The response was overwhelming, as are the opinions floating around the controversial award.

One of the lucky 20 fellows, Dale Stephens, wrote an article for CNN discussing his own feelings toward the idea that real world experience could prove to be more beneficial than a formal education. He discusses his disappointment in the values that are promoted by the college system – a disappointment that resounds on college campuses around the country. He goes on to discuss the possibilities out there for our generation beyond a traditional education, which, as Stephens puts it, are beyond the extremes of “Becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or mastering the phrase ‘Would you like fries with that?’”

Stephens’ call to seek opportunities beyond the formal educational system may be influenced by his experience as a Thiel Fellow but is an idea that is considered by many current and soon-to-be college students. I myself have heard students complain about feeling as though they aren’t really getting anything out of college. The phrase “I’m never going to use this in real life” is one that’s uttered frequently, but how much truth is there to that? Do you feel that there’s something to be learned in college or is it a societal expectation we’ve come to accept?

Angela Andaloro is a rising 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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Wikipedia Gaining Classroom Approval

by Alexis Mattera

“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”

Though those words were spoken by a bumbling television character, there is some truth to his musings: The website is slowly gaining legitimacy...and not just within the walls of a fictional paper company – in college classrooms.

While many professors have banned students from citing information from the free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project, Wikipedia is gaining some academic traction. "I do encourage [my students] to use it as one of many launch points for pursuing original source material," said Karl Kehm, associate professor of physics at Washington College. Peter Shulman, assistant professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, agrees it's ok for basic facts but tells his students they shouldn't be referencing the site for anything further. "Saying it's off-limits won't stop students from using it, so I've switched to helping students understand when it's useful and when it's not," he said.

Strides are being taken to further legitimize Wikipedia – faculty members and students from more than 20 colleges are helping site editors clean up errors and broaden articles directly applicable to specific college classes – but its status as a 100-percent trusted source is still a long way off. Do you use Wikipedia in your classes? If so, is it frowned upon or somewhat accepted?


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Do AP Classes Really Prepare You for College?

by Darci Miller

I was ambitious in high school, taking nine Advanced Placement classes in three years (five during my senior year). And if I heard it from one teacher, I heard it from them all: “This is what college is like! So get used to this amount and caliber of work!”

In my APs, I never had a free second. I was always doing homework and had to cut back on other activities because I was always drowning in my studies for one class or another. My parents would tell me it was good preparation and that it’d make college seem easy. My response? “There’s no way it could be harder!”

And guess what? It’s not. Yes, there’s a lot of work (depending on the class), tests can be hard and require a lot of studying and honors classes require more of you than regular classes (let me tell you – college honors classes are no joke!) but you don’t have every class every day. You don’t come home with calculus, government, biology, Italian and art homework every night, only to complete it and repeat the cycle the next day.

Most of the time, college homework is due a week after it’s assigned; even when it’s not, you have at least 48 hours until you have that class again. It’s a glorious thing! It was a bit of a shock to my system to have chunks of my day left open for whatever but if I plan it well, I can finish all my work by Wednesday and (gasp!) coast a little bit at the end of the week.

The bottom line is that college is probably the same amount of work as a high school schedule full of AP classes – it’s just different. So if you’re in APs now, breathe easy: You won’t be drowning in homework forever!

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 Adderall Effect

"Study Drug" Creates Issues for Users and Non-Users

June 21, 2011

The Adderall Effect

by Alexis Mattera

It’s the night before your final in a particularly challenging class and though you’ve been studying for weeks, you decide to turn this evening into an all-night cram session. You feel your eyelids starting to droop at around 2 a.m. and to prevent your GPA from doing the same, do you run to the vending machine for a soda or down the hall to buy some Adderall from your floormate with ADHD?

The latter scenario is playing out far more than the former on college campuses across the nation as students turn to Adderall to gain an academic edge. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported full-time students are twice as likely to illegally use Adderall as individuals their age who are not in school or only enrolled part-time. But how are students getting their hands on the drug? Usually from other students whose ADHD or narcolepsy warrants a prescription. While some students are happy to act as their dormitory’s resident pharmacists – a UC Davis sophomore said they make about $200 per week selling Adderall but a whopping $1,200 the last two weeks of the quarter from students studying for finals – others are less than willing: A student at Christopher Newport University said she has to deadbolt her door and carry prescriptions in her purse to ensure her Adderall pills (which she actually needs) aren’t pilfered.

Does your school have an Adderall addiction? Do you think students who take it are cheating in a way and that those who don’t are at an academic disadvantage? If you have an Adderall prescription, are other students constantly asking you to sell it?


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Don't Stress: There ARE Enough Hours in the Day!

Time Management Tips for College Students

June 21, 2011

Don't Stress: There ARE Enough Hours in the Day!

by Kara Coleman

Classes. Homework. Chores. Family. Friends. Jobs. Clubs. Sports. Eating. Sleeping. Lots of things are demanding your attention right now so how can you give everyone and everything the attention they need without getting completely overwhelmed? Try a few simple time management tips:

Write everything down. This may sound pretty obvious but buy a student planner. Write down your work and class schedules and things like dentist appointments and assignment deadlines as far in advance as you can. Then fill in the gaps in between with everything from doing laundry to having lunch with friends.

Find your peak hours. Does your brain function best early in the morning or late at night? This is when you should tackle your most difficult projects. You’ll accomplish more in a shorter amount of time!

Set goals. Every Sunday night, decide what you need/want to accomplish during the upcoming week. If you want to wash your car or get to a certain chapter in a book you’re reading, put a Post-it on your dashboard or make a note in the margin, respectively.

Nix timewasters. A short study break to play Angry Birds is okay but if you play for 10 minutes three times a day, that adds up to half an hour! Check your Facebook only once a day; it may be difficult to resist but the time you save can add up to equal watching a movie or playing soccer with pals.

Avoid over-commitment. Learn to just say no! Prioritize everything you want to do and choose what is most important to you. Saying no can be hard but not as hard as having an overbooked schedule.

Kara Coleman attends Gadsden State Community College, where she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism.


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Unsure About Your Major? You’re Not Alone

Tips and Tricks for Changing Your Major

June 21, 2011

Unsure About Your Major? You’re Not Alone

by Anna Meskishvili

It’s natural to have concerns about selecting the right major. There may be some trial and error: I personally went from public relations to business to English to economics to business journalism and back to public relations but transferring my tastes (and credits) was easy with BU’s intra-collegiate transfers. Not all switches may be that simple, though, so here are some tips if you aren’t 100-percent sure of your major:

  • Research. If during your second semester you decide that you’d rather pursue a degree in astronomy than business, be educated about what you are committing to. Each school of study has different schedule demands. Can you handle three-hour labs, night classes or morning-only classes?
  • Plan. Switching majors is tricky because you’ll have to fit a four-year program into less time. Map out the classes you need to take and make sure they’re offered during the specific semester you wish to take them. And be careful with prerequisites! “Pre” means before, so know that you can’t take CM 441 before CM 301, or at the same time.
  • Set Goals. All schools have GPA requirements for transfer, so be very aware of that ratio and strive to reach and maintain it. It’s usually different for every school of study (biology’s may be lower than communications', for example).

Remember that changing your mind is okay and your university is there to help and make any transition easy, pleasant and rewarding. As a rising senior in the PR program, I know I’ve finally made the right major choice, yet I don’t know exactly what the future holds. The best advice I can give about picking a major or a career is to imagine doing it for free. If you’d still love it, then your heart and mind are in the right place.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.


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How to Get Your Dream Job

by Lisa Lowdermilk

What is your dream job? Do you want to win the war against cancer as an oncologist? Or would you rather spend your time in the classroom teaching students who will eventually become the backbone of our society?

Regardless of what your answer is, it's crucial that you ask yourself a couple of questions. Where do you want to work? Would you rather work in an office setting or out in the field? Do you want to work with people or would you rather work alone? The answers to these questions not only will help make your dream job more real to you, they can also help you if you are undecided about what field you'd like to major in. The key here is to be as specific as possible: You can't make your dreams a reality if you don't know what your dreams are yet!

Let's say you've completed a few semesters and have decided you want to become a radiologist. You can tell by the coursework that you will enjoy the field but you don't really know what the actual job will be like. Visit your local hospital and talk with some of the people who work in the radiology department. Ask if you can shadow them to see what they do on a daily basis. Not only will you gain valuable learning experience, you will also feel like your college experience is actually preparing you for a job.

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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Don’t Avoid Drama in College – Embrace It!

Why You Should Consider Participating in College Theatre

June 22, 2011

Don’t Avoid Drama in College – Embrace It!

by Thomas Lee

I first began theatre in high school playing the role of Mr. Gibbs in the play “Arsenic and Old Lace” and then I was an extra in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” In college, I did not necessarily plan to perform theatre since I was a political science major but I auditioned my freshman year because I couldn’t resist the allure.

I ended up playing some country hick in a skit play called “Talking With...And Moving On” and appeared on stage again as an extra in the spring musical “The Robber Bridegroom.” In my junior year, I was an extra in a musical about evangelist John Wesley called “Ride! Ride!” This production was particularly time consuming and contributed nothing to my major; after the show ended, so did my college theatre career.

Even though I was a political science major, I had always found the stage interesting and mainly auditioned for roles for the fun of it. I did gain some experience in stage construction, time management skills and, of course, performance. I also received one semester hour of theatre class credit for my first freshman role.

College theatre can be an enthralling experience even if you are not a theatre, performing arts or music major. The key is to know if the time necessary for stage practice will cut too much into class or study time. I learned how to better manage my studying and homework, as I had to schedule it around rehearsal.

If you are considering becoming involved in all that college drama, here are a few guidelines:

  1. Always be early to practice.
  2. Always pay attention to instructions.
  3. Always take part in stage construction and destruction.
  4. If you plan to quit, quit early.
  5. Make sure practice doesn’t ruin your grades.

If you can abide by these simple rules, then maybe you’re ready for the art of the stage!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Three Books Every Student Should Read Before College

by Jacquelene Bennett

Soon-to-be college students, be warned: You’ll be doing a lot of reading and writing during your postsecondary education. From the moment you start to the moment you finish, you will read until your eyes bulge out and write until your fingers are numb. That being said, I can see how the thought of reading during your summer vacation may be unpleasant but you’ll soon realize the most successful and active college students share one thing in common: They are all well-read.

Now it is not necessary for you to read the entire Library of Congress before school starts but I’ve gone and listed three books that I think are important for all students to read before starting college.

These aren’t the only books you should read but they are definitely among the most important ones. Grab copies at your local library or bookstore and enjoy!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising 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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