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by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that you've had some time to spend some time with your family, eat all those holiday delicacies or just unwind, it's just about time for another semester! Since starting a new semester can be daunting, here are several tips you can follow:

First, make sure you order your books at least a week before the semester starts, preferably sooner if you're ordering them online. While Amazon's two-day shipping for college students is great for procrastinators, your books may not be in stock if you wait too long.

Next, make sure you're not taking too many credits. While taking 18 credits a semester may seem like a great idea when you think about how quickly you'll finish your degree, you’ll burn out fast (especially if you have a job...or two). As we've heard a million times, slow and steady wins the race and your GPA will almost certainly be a lot stronger and college will be more enjoyable if you adopt a more moderate pace.

Finally, take advantage of campus resources. As overwhelming as college can feel at times, it's easy to forget that there are all kinds of people who are more than willing to help. From math lab to writing lab to academic counselors, there's no shortage of people who understand what you're going through and can offer great advice. Besides, you're paying top dollar for your tuition so you might as well get your money's worth and use these resources!

If you still feel crazed after reading these tips, remember that you won't be in college for the rest of your life. Sometimes we forget about the eventual rewards of hard work. It may take more time than we'd like but hard work will pay off in the end.

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Pomp and Circumstance

Early Graduation and the Road Ahead

Jan 4, 2012

by Jessica Seals

After experiencing another Thanksgiving filled with laughter, tons of delicious food and family gatherings, I realized that graduation was right around the corner. Each morning, I hoped that the date would magically jump to December 17th so that I could walk across the stage and receive my bachelor’s degree; with all of my wishing, that day did arrive and all of my emotions hit me full blast.

I was excited to be done with my undergraduate work, I was nervous about potentially falling as I accepted my diploma in front of thousands of people, I was anxious to see what the future held for me and I was sad when I realized that I would no longer get to experience campus life anymore. Despite the fact that I was overcome with emotion, I sported the biggest smile as I proudly stood in line waiting for the graduation ceremony to begin.

Leading up to the commencement exercises, all of the soon-to-be graduates lined up backstage and I saw just how many students were aboard the same emotional rollercoaster as me. Some were so excited they could not stand still, some appeared sick to their stomachs and some tried to remain calm while clearly fighting back tears. When my name was called and I headed toward Memphis’ president to receive my diploma, my goal of obtaining a degree in less than four years – with several different honors, too! – became a reality. It was everything I’d imagined, plus so much more.

What happened next? I walked down the stairs (without falling!) and breathed a big sigh of relief. As I passed my seat, I felt extremely accomplished and wanted to keep the success I had as an undergraduate going for the rest of my life. With law school and internships on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before the world sees just what I am capable of.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Angela Andaloro

There are lots of 2011 recap lists circulating the Internet but the one you are about to read comes from a different perspective: a college student's! There were many interesting events that occurred this year that involved colleges – here’s to the lessons we’ve learned this year...and the lessons ahead of us!

Occupy Wall Street: This nationwide protest had great appeal to college students, who have expressed their frustrations at rising tuition costs and the amount of debt students are accruing. Students participated in walkouts in November to express their unity with the movement and also faced off with police. (I’m sure no one will forget the UC Davis pepper spraying photo and its viral impact any time soon.)

Controversy: Controversy has swept colleges by storm in the latter half of this year with scandals occurring at both Penn State and Syracuse University. While these stories raised many concerns amongst parents and students, it also increased the sense of community and unity amongst the students at these schools and beyond. This was illustrated best by a building on the Penn State campus sporting an adaptation of their classic “We are Penn State!” chant: Following the controversy surrounding the football program, the building now reads “We are still Penn State!” showing that despite recent incidents, students are still proud to be Nittany Lions.

Achievements: College students around the country - including you! - have been accomplishing great things all year long. Whether it was passing a tough class, being awarded a scholarship or scoring an amazing internship, the things you’ve achieved this year contributed to the overall scope of college life in 2011. Surely, your accomplishments will continue on and play a role in making 2012 a happy, healthy, successful year for us all.

Have something to add? Let us know which events were important on your campus this year!

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Kayla Herrera

Once that last Scantron sheet is bubbled and that last paper is submitted, the freedom of winter break beckons us happily. Suddenly, the stress is gone and we have all the time in the world (aside from work and family obligations) so what kinds of fun things can you do during hours you’d otherwise be studying?

I made a promise to myself to read all of winter break and I’ve found Amazon’s Kindle app to be a fantastic way to do so. It works on your smartphone, iPad, iPod or computer – I had to get it for my netbook for school – and have access to countless free or 99-cent Kindle books! I want to recommend Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter. If you have ever seen the show on SyFy, it is worth checking out. For those who haven’t, author Josh Gates is witty, sarcastic and adventurous – a modern Indiana Jones! All of the paranormal shows are coming out with their own books and though I have yet to check out Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures, this one just drew me in.

If you are into video games, you cannot go wrong with Skyrim. Hundreds of hours can be poured into this game, where you create a character to battle dragons and complete quests in an entirely different world. This is one sure way to survive your winter break...if you can defeat the dragons, of course.

And finally, The Adventures of Tintin looks like an incredible movie for all ages. The story is courageous, mysterious and unexpected – out of all the movies coming out over break (yes, even including Spielberg’s other film, War Horse), I would say this looks like the most thrilling and worth my 10 dollars.

Whatever you choose to do, may your winter break be as adventurous as you can make it!

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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Radha Jhatakia

It’s that time of the year again where we see festive decorations, cheerful people...and empty wallets. The holiday season can definitely take a toll on our bank accounts – not only do you have to buy gifts but you have to get formal wear for fun holiday events! Can it be done on a college budget? Hard to believe but it can!

First, know where and when to shop. Stores will sometimes offer seemingly large discounts on Black Friday but drop prices even more as the holidays draw closer. How do you know which sales you will save the most on? Well take a look at retailers’ websites to determine the prices and sales they usually have. If you see the percentage of the sales on "special shopping days" are the same as their usual Saturday sales, it’s not a deal! I know what stores I need to go to by doing a little research ahead of time, targeting what items I want and finding additional discounts online and in catalogs: Last year, I found a $99 jacket on sale for $19!

Also, think about making gifts – it’s the thought that counts after all! This year, I’m on a tighter budget so I’m going to make customized stockings. People love gifts that are handmade over something store-bought that might be exchanged. You can even fill the stockings will homemade treats; there are so many recipes for easy-to-make desserts online!

Just remember that the holidays are not about how much you spend. Shop only for what you need and give the rest from the heart. Enjoy the season, amazing food and great friends without going broke!

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Kayla Herrera

I have been looking at graduate schools for a while now to better prepare myself for a career in my profession of choice. If you are interested in graduate school as well, you probably had the same question I once did: When and how do I start preparing?

We recently had a graduate school seminar here at Michigan Tech that talked about when to start applying, what to expect, taking the GRE, etc. Here are the points I found most important for one’s journey to graduate school:

If you want more information on graduate school, my school has the seminar online for viewing and other resources used in the seminar can be found here. Do your research , stay organized and your acceptance letter will follow!

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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

Dec 13, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Lisa Lowdermilk

With the holidays just around the corner, the last thing you want to think about is getting sick. But with kissletoe (err...I mean mistletoe) in the hallways of the dorms and the impending threat of cold season, it's important that you do everything you can to stay healthy. Specifically, let's talk about meningitis – one of the biggest threats to college students' health today – and what you can to prevent it.

Meningitis is a serious illness which can cause headaches, fever, vomiting, sensitivity to light and more and if not properly treated, meningitis can lead to seizures, amputation, coma and even death. The way meningitis is spread varies depending on the type of meningitis (i.e. bacterial, viral, fungal, non-infectious, etc.). While not as contagious as the flu, bacterial meningitis is spread by coughing, sharing drinks or kissing.

Several things you can do to prevent meningitis include washing your hands properly, getting plenty of rest, not sharing drinks and getting vaccinated, though bacterial meningitis is the only type of meningitis which can be prevented with a vaccine. Because it's the most common type to afflict college students (as well as the most deadly), it's extremely important to get vaccinated before attending college. With that said, if you're already in college and haven't been vaccinated, now is the time to do so! In fact, beginning January 1st, Texas is requiring all incoming college students to get vaccinated prior to attending.

If you think you or someone you know might have symptoms of meningitis, see a doctor right away. Meningitis is treatable with antibiotics but only if you act in time!

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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Katie Askew

Recently, a few friends and I took advantage of some rare balmy Midwest weather and went on a historical adventure. We didn’t have money or a plan, but we stumbled upon a little piece of Minnesota history right in downtown Minneapolis!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a famous American poet, lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts but in 1885, a Minneapolis fish market owner named Robert Jones built a 2/3-scale replica of Longfellow’s home in Minneapolis. Longfellow never lived in the house because he died in 1882 but the city of Minneapolis now owns the house and after years of being used as a haunted mansion, it’s now basically a museum and information center. For an English major like me, this was a fantasy!

This is just one of the many historical sites and national parks in Minnesota and it’s pretty easy to find many types of free museums, historical locations and ancient legends right in your college’s town as well. You can use the National Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places to find sites like this in your area and most states also have a Historical Society that boasts free or inexpensive history-centered events near you. Even better, check out your dream school’s personal history! It’s always interesting to find out who the buildings are named after or other random facts your campus tour guide can’t tell you. (For example, the University of Minnesota has a heritage trail with markers that describe everything from the history of the campus architecture to university icons and famous alumni.)

Learning about the history of your city not only helps you to feel connected to the past but also helps you to be better informed about interesting occurrences that happened where you live, work, study and play. History is everywhere – you just have to actively seek it out!

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Kara Coleman

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and for many of us college students, that means gaining a little bit of weight from eating holiday treats...and, of course, vowing to drop said weight in January. If you don’t want the additional cost of a gym membership, don’t sweat it: You can do a complete workout in your dorm room – no equipment required!

Stretching. It’s always good to begin your workout by stretching. Lock your fingers together, inhale and raise your arms as high as they will go. Release and exhale as you lower your arms. Bend down and stretch to touch your toes then return to standing. Bending at the waist this time, lean over towards your right side, then your left.

Cardio. The goal here is to get your heart rate up. Jog in place, then run in place. Do jumping jacks. Repeat.

Strengthening/Toning. Sit-ups work your back and abs. Push-ups work your arms. Try tabletops: Lay on the floor as if you were preparing to do push-ups, but rather than palm the floor, support yourself with your forearms. Push up, then hold yourself in that position as long as you can. Slowly lower yourself to the floor, lay on your back and begin bicycle pedaling in the air. Raise your legs straight up, stretch for your toes and hold that that position as long as you can.

Cool down. Sit up with your legs extended straight in front of you and stretch forward to touch your toes. Repeat any or all of the stretches you did at the beginning of your workout.

Remember, this is just a basic workout routine to help you get started. Look online for more equipment-free exercises and switch up your workouts from day to day so you don’t plateau. If you want to exercise using weights, consider using some of those heavy textbooks!

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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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