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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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GOP Congressman: Pell Grants are Becoming ‘The Welfare of the 21st Century’

by Suada Kolovic

The GOP is no stranger to controversy and Friday’s interview with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) was no exception. In a radio interview with Blog Talk Radio, Rehberg went on a rant in which he compared the Pell Grant Program – the nation’s largest financial aid program – to the likes of welfare and denounced the fact that students who receive them don’t have a graduation requirement. "You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.” Rehberg added under the federal program, a student could "go to school for nine years on Pell Grants and you don’t even have to get a degree."

Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation, took issue with Rehberg's comments. "I don't know if it's a fair characterization that someone has decided to go through the hoops of applying to college, getting enrolled and showing up every day because it's the welfare lifestyle," he said. "If the issue is people are being lazy and living off the dole, so to speak, I don't think their first step is to enroll in college."

For the 2012 fiscal year, the Pell Grant program is set to exceed $40 billion. Some lawmakers have been exploring ways to reduce the cost of the programs by lowering the maximum grant size – which is currently $5,550 – or restricting eligibility. In Montana, Rehberg recently voted for the House GOP budget resolution, which would reduce the maximum Pell Grant to $4,705 and narrow the eligibility of applicants. If you’re eligible for Pell Grants, what do you think? Are Rehberg’s assumptions out of line?


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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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Campus Safety, Are Guns the Answer?

7 States Considering Legislation to Allow Guns on College Campuses

April 7, 2011

Campus Safety, Are Guns the Answer?

by Suada Kolovic

What comes to mind when you think of guns on college campuses? If you’re like me, you think of the senseless tragedies at Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech, Pima Community College in Arizona and, most recently, Southern Union Community College in Alabama, where students lost their lives at the end of a loaded gun. And yet, despite those events, seven states across the country are considering loosening or changing laws when it comes to firearms on campus:

  • Arizona

    A bill that passed in the state Senate on March 14 would allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
  • Nebraska

    A bill proposed by Nebraska Sen. Mark Christensen would allow professors at public universities to have guns on campus.
  • Nevada

    Nevada legislators are considering a bill that would bar colleges from banning firearms on campus. Amanda Collins, a University of Nevada student who was sexually assaulted on campus in 2007 and testified in favor of passing the bill.
  • New Mexico

    New Mexico officials are considering a law which would allow those with a concealed carry gun license to have guns on public college campuses.
  • Oklahoma

    A bill which would allow those licensed to carry concealed weapons to do so on campus has passed the state Senate, and is now under consideration by the Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee.
  • Tennessee

    Tennessee legislators are considering a bill which would allow professors to have handguns on campus.
  • Texas

    A bill allowing students to carry guns on the campuses of state universities is predicted to be voted into law, to the dismay of a number of Texan students.

According to Armedcampuses.org, an anti-gun site which lists postsecondary institutions that allow firearms on campus, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) said, “There is...a real concern that campus police officers responding to a situation involving an active shooter may not be able to distinguish between the shooter and others with firearms” at colleges that allow guns on their premises. We’ve witnessed the tragic outcomes guns can have on campus, so how do you feel about gun rights activists pushing for legislation in the other direction? And when it comes to students’ safety on campus, do you think guns are the answer?


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Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

Colleges with the Highest Return on Your Investment

April 8, 2011

Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

by Suada Kolovic

With all this talk about possible Pell Grant cuts, acceptance rates plummeting and universities facing serious tuition hikes – Arizona universities could face hikes of up to 22% – which schools are worth the outrageous sticker price of about $200,000? According to PayScale.com’s annual survey of colleges with the highest return on investment rates, the California Institute of Technology tops the list with a 12.2% annual return. PayScale’s data is pulled from 1.4 million pay reports from persons who obtained bachelors degrees in the last 20 years, for more on their methodology click here. Check out who made the cut below:


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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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Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

How Far Would YOU Go to Get Off the Waitlist?

April 15, 2011

Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

by Alexis Mattera

By this time of year, most high school seniors know where they will and will not be heading for the Fall 2011 term but others are stuck in college admissions purgatory as one name on a very long waitlist. While some are doing what the term suggests and waiting for these schools to decide their fates, others – like Harvard hopeful Grace Oberhofer – are refusing to sit idly by: The Washington State resident took matters into her own hands, logged on to YouTube and pled for acceptance to the school...in song.

Though the Tacoma School of the Arts senior has already received acceptance letters from six schools (Duke, Brandeis, Oberlin, Tufts, Tulane and Sarah Lawrence), Oberhofer has her heart set on spending the next four years in Harvard’s hallowed halls. She elected to make her case for admission on YouTube, where she performed an original song expressing her love for the school. Oberhofer’s not relying on comic relief alone to earn her the fat envelope; she supplemented the video with a serious letter. Smart move.

The video, which has amassed more than 36,000 views, proves Oberhofer is capable of composing a catchy tune with some pretty amusing lyrics but the jury’s still out on whether the video will help or harm her chances of admission. Waitlists are especially formidable this year; would you take that extra step to stand out if it meant getting in?


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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Guns on Campus

by Suada Kolovic

The Arizona Republic reports Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would permit guns to be carried on “public rights of way” at public universities and college campuses. The bill, which would have applied to both concealed and openly carried weapons, originally required that weapons be permitted inside campus buildings, but it was eventually scaled back through the legislative process in the Senate.

Brewer, typically a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights, called the bill “poorly written” and said it lacked clarity. In her veto letter, she also questioned the use of “educational institution,” which she argued could be interpreted as applying to K-12 schools and would conflict with existing state and federal laws that do not permit weapons on those school grounds. "Bills impacting our Second Amendment rights have to be crystal clear so that gun owners don't become lawbreakers by accident," Brewer said.

With all the talk about allowing guns on campus and our constitutional right to bear arms, what do you think of Governor Brewer’s decision?


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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Guns on Campus

by Suada Kolovic

The Arizona Republic reports Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would permit guns to be carried on “public rights of way” at public universities and college campuses. The bill, which would have applied to both concealed and openly carried weapons, originally required that weapons be permitted inside campus buildings, but it was eventually scaled back through the legislative process in the Senate.

Brewer, typically a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights, called the bill “poorly written” and said it lacked clarity. In her veto letter, she also questioned the use of “educational institution,” which she argued could be interpreted as applying to K-12 schools and would conflict with existing state and federal laws that do not permit weapons on those school grounds. "Bills impacting our Second Amendment rights have to be crystal clear so that gun owners don't become lawbreakers by accident," Brewer said.

With all the talk about allowing guns on campus and our constitutional right to bear arms, what do you think of Governor Brewer’s decision?


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Penn Student’s Plea to Minority Applicants: Don’t Go Here

by Suada Kolovic

After a run-in with racism, a University of Pennsylvania student wrote an open letter to future minority applicants discouraging their attendance at the elite university. African American undergraduate Christopher Abreu said that his time at Penn has been filled with harassment, racism and an overwhelming sense of not belonging. “Ever since I came here, I have been self-conscious...I grew up in the projects, surrounded by crime and drugs. I came from there to here without much help, and in May I will graduate cum laude. But that isn't good enough. I've always felt like an outsider here,” he wrote.

Abreu elaborates that for the most part, racism at Penn was usually subtle and something that most minorities came to accept as a way of life. But two “blatantly” racist encounters with students led to his open plea to minorities. In one incident, he claims four white students spoke to him in mock slang and asked him repeatedly, “You belong here or what?” while in another, Abreu claims that a white student called him a racial slur and asked him where he could, “get some fried chicken.” “I'm lucky that I only have a month left here. The social atmosphere and unwelcoming environment for minorities at Penn is more draining than any class you could ever take,” he said.

Future college applicants, what are your thoughts on Abreu’s personal encounters with racism at the University of Pennsylvania? Do you think that directing blame towards the university is misguided and his solution problematic?


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