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Comparing and Saving on Textbooks Just Got Easier

August 22, 2011

Comparing and Saving on Textbooks Just Got Easier

by Alexis Mattera

If you think college textbooks have been in the news more than usual lately, you’re right: Classes are starting up again at many college campuses and students are looking for any ways they can to keep their college costs in check. When it comes to books, there are plenty of options to do so without skimping...but between work, interning and moving in, do you have the time to research each individual option to find the best deal? Yes, actually, you do.

The amount of textbook options available to students today is staggering – new, used, rent, digital, rent digital – but students trying to get the most bang for their educational buck now have some much-needed assistance, the Chronicle reports. For example, Amazon (which recently launched its own digital textbook rental service) has created Amazon Student, a free iPhone application designed to help students compare book prices on Amazon as a whole via barcode snapshots. There’s also BookSavr.com, a site formed by two Yalies in the vein of Kayak and Orbitz: The site shows prices from a variety of retailers – online, the campus bookstore and other physical booksellers close to the school's New Haven campus – all in one place.

Not to be outdone, nearly 100 campus bookstores have added research features to their sites through the Harvard graduate-created Verba. Similar to BookSavr.com, Verba displays prices for books at the store, on Amazon, on Half.com, through rental programs, etc. Some campus stores even include signs on each shelf reminding smartphone-wielding customers about the online comparison tool.

Have you had the opportunity to try any of these options when buying your textbooks? We’d love to hear firsthand feedback!

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Campus Transportation Solutions

August 23, 2011

Campus Transportation Solutions

by Radha Jhatakia

Many of you believe that having a car on campus is necessary. The truth is, it’s just more convenient. Since many schools implement parking restrictions for students unless they are resident assistants or until they earn a certain number of credits, many of you won’t even have the option to bring a car to campus. Thankfully, there are other ways to get around.

If you have a car and meet your school’s requirements, go ahead and bring it to campus if you want but keep in mind that it’s another cost you must endure on top of tuition, books and living expenses. Consider if parking permits, gas, maintenance, insurance and potential tickets are worth the expense.

If you don’t have a car or if you can’t afford to bring yours to campus, you’ll still be able to get around just fine. Most schools have bus services – either a private service or public transit – that students can utilize for little to no money. Schools will typically issue an ID card sticker, denoting the student's fee bill has been paid.

Buses are not the only way to go, though. Depending on where you go to school, there’s light rail, cable cars or the subway. These options are not usually free but students can get tickets and monthly passes as discounted prices.

Other ways of getting around on campus are bicycles and scooters. They are very popular modes of transportation in less populous areas but if your campus is a more urban one, take the time to familiarize yourself with the city’s hustle, bustle and traffic rules before taking to the streets on two wheels. Walking, jogging and running are also reliable...and always free!

However you decide to get around campus, do so carefully. You may be running late for class or exam but there’s always time for safety!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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College Costs Continue to Outpace Savings

August 24, 2011

College Costs Continue to Outpace Savings

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of ways students and their parents can pay for college – at Scholarships.com, we’re familiar with nearly 3 million options – and many begin socking away funds early on. As admirable as this timely planning is, a new study shows it won’t come close to covering the ever-rising cost of higher education.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments has revealed that while 67 percent of parents surveyed have put money into some sort of college fund this year, current and expected savings project the typical American family will only be able to pay for 16 percent of college costs when the time comes. Why? Many factors contribute, like the less-than-stellar economy and existing student loan payments (more than half of parents with children under five still have outstanding balances) but perhaps the hardest-hitting element is the colleges' steep price tags: Over the past five years alone, college costs have jumped 26 percent.

This news may sound bleak but families are still finding ways to afford school without going into debt...or having their children graduate with a mountain of it. More parents are asking their kids to work part-time, commute to save on room and board, opt for state schools over private ones and take additional credits - all to keep costs in check. These are all excellent options to defray ballooning education costs but don’t forget scholarships and grants – aka free money for college! Just like saving, it’s important to start searching for scholarships early and often. No time’s better than the present – complete a free scholarship search today!

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Alternative Ways to Get Traditional Textbooks

No Internet Connection Required!

August 25, 2011

Alternative Ways to Get Traditional Textbooks

by Anna Meskishvili

When I began college three very short years ago, I only had one option for my class materials: the heavy, wildly expensive hardcover books from my school’s bookstore. Now entering my senior year at BU, it’s incredible to see all the different alternatives students have to textbooks. While the classrooms across the country are now flooded with downloadable e-books on Kindles and Nooks, there are several other ways to attain traditional versions of your required class materials.

A great way to get your books without using the Internet or bookstore is to just ask around. That’s right – talk to your fellow students! Networking through clubs or organizations that you are a part of is a surprisingly simple way to check books off your list. For example, my sorority sisters set up a book swap at the end of every semester. We have a database of all the sisters’ classes and required material and use the information to match up who needs what.

If you aren’t directly involved in Greek life, try networking with student organizations pertaining to your major. Because these organizations have a varied grade level and age range, someone is bound to have taken the class you are embarking on. If no dedicated organization exists, buddy up with other students in your major classes. Say you’re a biology major: Your lab partner may have a book you need or know someone willing to part with it for a nominal fee. An added bonus of interacting with these students is that you can also gain study materials and inside information on the course in general.

So as the academic year approaches, don’t limit your scholastic shopping to the campus bookstore or Amazon because it’s very likely someone close to you will be able to lend you the book you need.

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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Apple’s Impact on Higher Ed

Will It Flourish or Falter Without Steve Jobs?

August 26, 2011

Apple’s Impact on Higher Ed

by Alexis Mattera

You may be pro-PC or a Linux lover but you have to give Steve Jobs some credit for not only the projects he’s helped spearhead during his time at Apple but also the personal emphasis he’s put on higher education initiatives. Now that Jobs has resigned as Apple’s CEO, many are wondering if and how the company will keep its collegiate focus.

Apple has been involved in higher education since the company’s early days with what’s now called the University Executive Forum, an advisory panel of top college officials who get early looks at products and a chance to influence design. For example, prior to the iPod’s debut, several schools experimented with the devices and their feedback prompted Apple to create iTunesU, a free service designed to store and stream audio and video files for university courses. The company also offers many incentives to college students, like sizeable discounts on computers and bonus iTunes gift cards...but will it all continue?

Despite new CEO Tim Cook’s responsiveness to and interest in higher ed, some college officials are concerned about what a Jobs-less Apple may mean. (Perhaps they're remembering when Apple forced Jobs out in 1985 and the company paid less attention to colleges.) Do you share in these concerns or do you think the culture Jobs has fostered will withstand the test of time?

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No Need to Wait - Start Your Scholarship Search NOW!

August 29, 2011

No Need to Wait - Start Your Scholarship Search NOW!

by Shari Williams

I am your average student. I got decent grades in high school, applied to college, got accepted to college, and paid for my education with multiple student loans. I have taken classes I loved (and didn’t love), been involved in extracurricular activities and clubs, and have truly grown as a person during my time in college. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive prestigious grants or scholarships to limit the debt I’ll surely incur after graduation.

There are many college students who are in the same boat...so what can we do? How can we afford the education we deserve? How can we make sure we have enough funds for books and food? How can we buy those super trendy shoes Kim Kardashian was just spotted wearing when we have loan payments looming? Okay, maybe the last question isn't as important but if you want to avoid student loan debt, start searching for scholarships.

And don’t just search – search early! There are plenty of scholarships out there and the more you apply to, the better your chances are of winning one. All awards are different but many scholarship providers begin their application processes at the beginning of the fall semester so start looking now to avoid missing important deadlines. I learned this the hard way: I found lots of perfect scholarships...after the deadlines had passed.

Whether you’re still in high school or a super senior in college, do me – and yourself! – a huge favor: Make scholarships a priority. You can do this easily by creating a Scholarships.com account; not only will you have access to an entire database of awards but you’ll also receive regular email reminders about new awards and due dates. With the college costs showing no signs of decreasing, every penny counts – just make sure they come without interest if you can!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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Cool (and Helpful) Study Gadgets

August 29, 2011

Cool (and Helpful) Study Gadgets

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that summer is coming to an end and the fall semester is underway, you might be wondering if there's anything you can do to make studying for your classes easier. While money can't buy everything, it can buy you a couple of cool study-related gadgets.

First off are smartpens like the Livescribe Echo. These babies let you record entire lectures and go straight to a specific portion just by tapping a word from your notes! Just think how much easier your life would be if you could actually focus on listening to the lecture the first time around instead of frantically scribbling notes to make sure you don't miss anything.

If you're like me and find music helps you concentrate while studying, consider buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. How many times have you been forced to study in a crowded room and don't have access to somewhere quieter? If the answer is “Too many,” invest in a pair immediately. Even if you don't listen to music while studying, you can use the device to replay a lecture or listen to a study aid you found online.

Finally, if you've ever copied a passage from a book word-for-word into your notes and ended up with a cramped hand, the portable wand scanner is for you. Not only does this snazzy gadget prevent you from having to lug a scanner to class, it's pretty easy to use: All you do is wave it over the page you want and hook it up to your computer using a USB cable. Just like magic, everything you scanned is now on your computer! The VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand is even compatible with SD cards – ta da!

So, while the Studybot has yet to be invented to do all your studying for you, these gadgets can make studying a lot less painful.

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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Get Some School Spirit, Would You?

August 30, 2011

Get Some School Spirit, Would You?

by Darci Miller

Here at the University of Miami, there’s an odd sort of lack of spirit. We all claim to bleed orange and green but when it comes down to it, few of us actually do. We bail on even our most well-known sports teams if they have a losing record. Getting people to go to campus events is like pulling teeth. A miniscule percentage of our student body votes in student government elections. Many students are content to forgo participation on campus for nights of partying on South Beach.

It kind of boggles my mind that such a passionate university could be so apathetic.

But then the NCAA scandal hit. In case you haven’t been reading the news or watching ESPN, Miami is currently embroiled in some serious stuff: Based on testimony and reports, one of our athletic department’s boosters was illegally paying off athletes for almost 10 years. Not only does it sully Miami’s name and reputation but it drags dozens of athletes (past, present and pro) through the mud.

Even though we ‘Canes often feel like a fairly fractured community, there was an impressive amount of unity in the aftermath. “IStandWithTheU” is perpetually trending on Twitter in Miami and there was recently a spirit day on campus. Hundreds of people wore orange in support of our school. It was truly amazing walking across campus and seeing waves of orange as far as the eye could see.

This event showed me that spirit can be shown in lots of different ways. Maybe joining a thousand different clubs is your thing...or maybe it’s not. For me, I like having some free time and it’s enough to throw myself into what I do and bleed orange and green all over my wardrobe.

No matter what your personality is, whether you’re loud and proud or more reserved, I sincerely hope you’re spirited about your school. It’s just more fun that way!

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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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Decorating Your Dorm Room or Apartment Without Getting Charged

September 1, 2011

Decorating Your Dorm Room or Apartment Without Getting Charged

by Radha Jhatakia

Decorations make new places feel more like home and for college students living away at school, decorating is practically a necessity to adapting to this new environment. However, dorm and apartment restrictions like no holes in the walls or no tape to avoid chipping paint, you may think you’re doomed to bare cinderblock walls...but you’re not! These tips will help you create an amazing room without losing your security deposit or incurring any fees.

I think the best products out there right now are those from 3M. They make Post-its, Command Hooks and reusable tape. Command Hooks can be easily removed and will not peel any paint off the wall – I can personally attest to this! – and the reusable tape is double sided and excellent for hanging up posters. You can also use both products them to put up white boards, cork boards and pictures.

Perhaps you have broken blinds or a closet with no door. Want to hang a curtain up somewhere? Adjustable pressure rods don’t damage the wall and you will have some privacy, too!

If you want to put up stickers or wall decorations of some sort, make sure they’re made of silicone. The rubber material will prevent the sticker from peeling paint and will allow you to adjust the decorations as much as you want. I know thumbtacks are cheaper but you have to consider what you will benefit from in the long run. Would you rather use thumbtacks and lose your security deposit or would you rather spend a bit for the above products and get your deposit back. Just remember your new abode will only be as homey as you are willing to make it!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She’s 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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