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Should You Take a Semester Off?

by Kayla Herrera

I have been attending college for about four years now and have never taken a semester off. The thought used to make me shudder – how could someone even think of taking time off from school?! – but after this semester, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Some of my friends took semesters off to travel and learn more about themselves, while others were lost and not sure what they wanted to do in life. Some have experienced the loss of a family member or friend and others fell so ill that it interfered with their everyday lives. But me? My situation has been a combination of flying squirrels, bad landlords, health issues and money problems. Stress from school has skyrocketed to its worst level ever and I am planning to take the summer off, since I cannot afford to withdraw from spring classes if I want to stay on track. (I did consider attending part-time but found it could create problems with financial aid.)

If you’re considering taking a semester off, do NOT just drop off the face of the Earth. Let your adviser know your plans and keep the lines of communication open so that the process of coming back to school is easier when you are ready to do so. You may be taking time off from school to destress but I’d also recommend doing something related to your major – picking up an internship/job, volunteering or studying for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE – to stay somewhat involved in your field.

Lots of college students take time off for one reason or another; if external factors are competing with school to the point where your grades are suffering, take a break – you’ll return to school more motivated to succeed.

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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Study Reveals College Graduates Are Ill-Prepared for the Workforce

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re like most college students, you might revel in the fact that you are now the authority when it comes to course selection. Students tend to take advantage of this new found freedom and pick classes they’ll enjoy like “Philosophy and Existential Themes” or “Psychology: Sensation vs. Perception” instead of something as uninspiring as “Introduction to Professional Writing” but employers warn that they may not adequately prepare them for the workforce.

According to a recent study conducted by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, less than 10 percent of employers thought colleges did an “excellent” job preparing students for work. The group surveyed more than 1,000 employers in various industries and found that more than half said finding qualified applicants was difficult and agreed that students should receive specific workplace training rather than broad-based education.

Following the announcement of the study’s finding, Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican and chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives higher education subcommittee, urged institutions to heed employers’ calls. "Colleges and universities are pandering to the students and giving them what they want, instead of what the employers want," she said. "I don't think you have to make a distinction between getting skills and getting an education. We need to do both."

Do you agree with the Rep. Virginia Foxx? Are colleges and universities pandering to students wants verses needs?


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Show Your Finals Who’s Boss!

by Darci Miller

It’s basically a fact that finals week is terrible for everyone. Even I, with only one final (and a take-home at that!), am stressed with last-minute story edits, hours upon hours of shifts at work and thoughts of moving home for a month. But the end of the semester doesn’t have to mean all-nighters and misery if you play your cards right. Here are some of my favorite ways to destress when it all starts feeling like too much.

This time of year may be stressful but just remind yourself that no matter what happens, these tests and papers are not the end-all, be-all. Life will go on - I promise!

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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Is an Independent Study Right for You?

by Jacquelene Bennett

Going to college means that you have the freedom to study whatever you want. Universities offer a variety of classes for students to take in a multitude of different subjects but what they will rarely tell you is that you can create your own class – it’s called independent study.

Independent studies allow college students to work one-on-one with professors and basically create their own classes for the semester. You decide what you study, what books to read and what sort of projects and papers you will do. I have a friend who created an independent study course around her study abroad experience. She wrote poems about the places she visited while abroad using pictures she took and the journal she kept while traveling. Her independent study course was not only four credits but it was applied towards her creative writing degree as well. I have another friend who created an independent study course that was basically just one big research project: She picked a topic in conference with a professor and spent the entire semester researching and writing a paper.

One huge positive about independent study courses is that if you have the right faculty support, you can create a class that will satisfy certain requirements and go towards your degree. The best part about an independent study course, though, is the fact that you get to choose what you study and how you spend your time – you don’t have to go to class every other day but instead you meet with a professor every other week. This is an excellent option for students taking more than the average course load to graduate early, satisfy double major requirements or work toward an individualized major.

Of course. there are down sides to independent study courses. You have to be able to manage your time and the projects you do for the course, as your final project will often determine your grade. If you can handle this responsibility, I would definitely recommend looking into designing an independent study course.

Jacquelene Bennett is a 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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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Out with the Old, In with the New

Leaving Campus Activities to Go Abroad is Hard but Worth It

December 20, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

by Darci Miller

Earlier in the semester, I ran into an acquaintance in the study abroad office. We were both waiting to meet with the same adviser, so we went in to ask our questions together to save time. During the course of our chat, she mentioned her hesitancy to go abroad. Her reasoning? Not wanting to leave her activities at Miami. Specifically, she’d have to withdraw from a prestigious e-board position with her sorority.

I totally got where she was coming from. I had to leave my position as opinion editor of the newspaper, finding a replacement wasn’t easy and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get back onto the editorial staff when I return. I also have to take a semester away from my campus job and opt out of a journalism field experience program I’m in. It was a difficult decision but now I can let you in on a little secret: The world won’t stop, clubs and organizations will stagger on without you and you will still be you even without a laundry list of responsibilities to your name. These accomplishments are already on your resume so stepping away won’t be a massive blow – in actuality, employers like seeing international experience so going abroad will make you a more appealing candidate!

As someone eagerly awaiting her departure date (January 4th!), I can’t say from experience that studying abroad will be worth it but I have no doubt that it will be. (Hey, when else will I have the chance to live, play and work in a foreign country with the knowledge that my parents won’t let me go hungry?) While you may not be able to get back onto that e-board, everything will still be there when you get back. If you’re studying abroad with a program sponsored by your school, on-campus jobs and organizations can’t hold one semester away against you. If you’re enrolled with the school abroad, you’re allowed to come right back like you’d never even left. So email your bosses, apologize to your sorority sisters and hire those replacements – the world awaits!

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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All I Want for College is...

Gifts to Help You Through the Rest of the School Year

December 21, 2011

All I Want for College is...

by Angela Andaloro

Winter break is top of mind for many college students right now and although it’s tough to imagine as we pack up our dorm rooms for a month away from campus, we’ll be back in class before we know it. We’re all aware of the expenses that go into being a college student – both in terms of academics and how we spend our time outside of school – and the holiday season is a perfect way to get some assistance on that front. Here are some items you can consider putting on your holiday wish list to make sure the second half of this school year goes smoothly!

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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Goodbye, Textbooks - Hello, Money!

The Best Places to Sell Back Your Books

December 23, 2011

Goodbye, Textbooks - Hello, Money!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the end of the semester again and I’m sure as many of you are packing to go home, you’re wondering what you’re going to do with all those textbooks. Although there are some books you may want to keep, you’re going to want to sell most of them back and there are several ways to go about recouping some of the money you invested.

Many campus bookstores will buy back the book for 40 to 50 percent of the price you paid for it – used or new. If the edition is being updated, however, you might want to consider selling it elsewhere because your return will be much lower.

Online book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will buy textbooks back from you directly. Just recently, Amazon was offering $35 for a book I paid $45 for so I’d say it’s a very good deal. (They give you a free shipping label, too.) Amazon also lets you sell your books through their site to other students. The downside here is you will have to ship the book yourself, which will usually run more than the $3.99 fee Amazon charges, and Amazon takes 10 to 20 percent profit of what you make, including applicable tax and shipping fees.

You can list books on Craigslist or even around your campus. Put up a posting online or in your dorm and have students contact you if they need those textbooks.

There are ways to get money back for your textbooks but make sure to do it as soon as you can after the semester ends. You’ll get a better return this way – funds you can put toward next semester’s books!

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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MIT to Offer Free Online Courses

by Suada Kolovic

Think you have what it takes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Let’s be honest, few do but if you’re interested in testing the waters, MIT will soon offer free online certification courses to outside students who complete them!

How will the interactive e-learning venture, known as MITx, work? Here’s the breakdown: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students currently enrolled at MIT as well as external learners like high school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, interact with teachers and other students globally, experience stimulated labs, participate in quizzes and take tests. Still have your doubts? MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif assures interested students, "This is not MIT light. This is not an easier version of MIT," he said. "An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does."

One slight catch is that although MITx courses will carry no cost, the institute plans to charge a “modest” fee for the certificates. (The exact amount is still undecided.) The first course will begin around spring of 2012 but MIT has yet to announce the course. Does this opportunity spark your interest? Should other prestigious institutions – Harvard, Stanford, Brown, etc. – offer similar initiatives? Let us know what you think.


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Ohio to Eliminate Remedial Funding in Higher Ed by 2020

by Alexis Mattera

Many colleges across the country offer remedial courses for students in subjects like math, English and science to better prepare them for the curriculum ahead but as budgets continue to tighten, administrators in Ohio are looking to cut funding for these classes completely.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the annual cost for remedial classes in American higher education hovers around $3.6 billion. Though states like Florida, Missouri and South Carolina are making strides to restrict remedial funding to more reasonable levels, Ohio has vowed to eliminate the approximately $130 million it spends annually by 2020. How is this going to happen? Schools appear to be approaching the issue in different ways: University System of Ohio Chancellor Jim Petro is calling for better assessments in grade 10 to ensure enough time for extra help before attending college, the University of Toledo is changing its recruitment tactics by improving outreach to private schools and even guaranteeing scholarships as early as eighth grade to secure better prepared students, and Wright State University is working with nearby community colleges to standardize a remedial education curriculum – a move associate provost Thomas Sudkamp says will best serve students when remediation funding is phased out.

Do you think Ohio’s plan is a step in the right direction or is remedial education funding an integral part of success in college?


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