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The Dos and Don’ts of Job References

by Kara Coleman

Picture this: You’ve got a brand new diploma in your hand and are applying for your dream job or, if you’re not quite there yet, you’re trying to find a job to help pay your way through school. In addition to your resume, you’ll need references who can vouch for your abilities. Since companies usually check three references for each prospective employee, here’s how to pick the best individuals to speak on your behalf.

Don’t list family members or your best friend as references. Have you ever seen an “American Idol” audition where the contestant sings horribly but their mother argue with the judges and claims their child has the most beautiful voice in the world? The same principle applies here. Your family wants you to succeed so they’re only going to say positive things about you. Your references should be based on professional opinions so instead of listing Mom and Dad, list a professor in your field of study, a previous employer or a board member/faculty advisor for a service organization you are currently involved in.

Do talk with your potential references before you list them. Tell them what you are applying for and why you wish to use them as a reference. This may be stating the obvious but only list them if they give you permission to do so. You should also consider asking them the types of questions you think your prospective employer might ask them; if their feedback isn’t entirely positive, you can always find a different reference.

Don’t list your references on your resume. Rather, have the names and contact information of your references typed out on a separate sheet of paper. Not only will it keep the length of your resume down but you’ll look prepared and confident when you offer up your list without hesitation.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. 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.


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Writing an Effective Personal Statement or Cover Letter

by Aaron Lin

The goal of a personal statement or cover letter is to display personality the way a resume and transcript cannot. You want to show the person receiving your materials that you’re a good candidate, right? Then don’t overlook the importance of this piece of your application.

There are several ways to tackle a personal statement or cover letter. For me, it was the rule of thirds of past, present and future that took my personal statement from good to great.

Past: Set up your statement with a captivating hook, then move into a narrative that informs the audience of something unique that happened to you. Reel the reader in with a story that will incite laughter, emotion or invigorating feelings.

Present: Discuss a few academic or extracurricular achievements that define you today. This may reflect your resume since it’s about your achievements right now but it’s important to note that your personal statement shouldn’t be a repeat of your resume in story form.

Future: Talk about where you want to go and how you can get there as a member of this particular company or graduate school. If you’ve researched the organization – and you should have! – let them know about it and mention any complementary classes, professors or special opportunities you’ve had. Enforce your skills, background, what kind of asset you will be and mention what the company or school has in particular that will benefit you in your career goals or academic pursuits. Lastly, thank the reader for his or her time.

Spellcheck won’t catch everything so read your work aloud, let others read it and edit accordingly. Don’t try to include EVERYTHING you’ve ever done in your personal statement or cover letter – that’s what your resume is for! – and don’t sell out with gimmicky quotes, overused metaphors, cuteness or a thesaurus addiction. The most important thing to do is to let yourself shine through!

Aaron Lin is a chemistry major at Louisiana State University but has plans to transfer to LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to pursue a medical laboratory science degree and further feed his interest in the application of scientific and medical knowledge. In his free time, Aaron likes to eat food, read and write about food, exercise to work off that food and play the occasional computer game. He also enjoys footbiking, running and Frisbee.


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Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

by Mariah Proctor

A good study abroad program is designed to seamlessly integrate the graded classes into the active, living experience so that the two aspects don’t find themselves in conflict. That is the hope but, as my roommate will tell you through frustrated tears, that is not always the way it goes down.

You’ve got to feel for the professors – they are often experts on the place you are visiting and they look into the blank, ignorant and often not properly appreciative eyes of their students and want to tell you everything there is to know to make you see what they see. Your average student, however, cannot synthesize all of that new information while simultaneously managing a new climate, new customs and money that, it turns out, is not Monopoly money and actually does deplete your savings as you spend it. All of this while trying to have a completely carefree, time-of-your-life, otherworldly good time? It can’t be done.

My advice is to forget the classes. Don’t misinterpret my meaning: Be the person who goes to class, is present in body and mind, takes in everything they can, inhales knowledge the way they inhale gelato and fancy pasta outside of class. It truly will add depth to the place. If you’re the person who is a perfect GPA, point-pinching, anxiety-ridden, stress cadet that thinks that excelling in the classroom will make you excellent as a person, studying abroad will break you.

Do as well as you can and keep up on your classwork but if you have to choose between an evening in studying or going to the opening event of the world’s largest international dance festival downtown, choose the dancing. If you can either finish some back reading for class or go to a procession celebrating Corpus Christi, don’t let a textbook literally rain on your parade. I know it will be hard but please when you prioritize, remember not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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My College Graduation Checklist

by Jessica Seals

After four long years of taking history or biology classes you dreaded, the psychology classes that counted towards your major and quirky electives to reach the required number of credit hours to graduate, it’s finally time to walk across the stage and become a college graduate. As I am now entering the second semester of my senior year, I have learned that there are several steps that you must take in order to successfully graduate.

While attending school, you will more than likely have an advisor that will help you graduate with your desired major as quickly as you can. Of course, these advisors are human and they are bound to make a few mistakes so check the university general education requirements for graduation at the start of each semester to keep track of the classes you still need. This is what I did and because of it, I was never hit with the surprise that I would not be graduating when I thought I would. An advisor will definitely help you avoid this problem but it is always good to double check to make sure nothing is missed.

The other important thing that I learned is that graduating from college is very different from graduating from high school. In high school, you have guidance counselors and teachers who get everything together for you and constantly remind you to turn in any forms. In college, however, you are the one who has to submit your intent to graduate form to the registrar on time, make sure you don’t owe any money, complete exit counseling and turn in any extra documentation required by your school.

Graduating from college will be one of the happiest times of your life. Despite all the excitement, take some time to make sure that everything is in order so that no surprises keep your diploma out of reach.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is 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. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Student Soldiers: Attending College While Serving in the Military

by Thomas Lee

With its proximity to Fort Bragg and its extensive ROTC program, Methodist University could be considered in many ways an “army school.” Because of this, a number of Methodist students were non-traditional – soldiers who were stationed on base or local residents who attended classes at night.

I certainly respect but do not envy the life of a soldier. Not only must many of them balance classes and family life, but a military career is considerably more difficult than an office job. They must be in peak physical condition and reliably meet the demands of their commanding officers, as well as other supervisors both on and off base. Their usual days can be exhaustive, with schedules consisting of morning training and exercises, day classes, personal errands, night classes and then family duties. Since my time at Methodist, I have gained a greater respect for soldiers and military families and all they manage to accomplish.

There are practical benefits to being a student soldier. Depending on one’s status, the U.S. government may pay most – if not all – tuition costs. Soldiers and their families also have medical and dental care provided by the military. Attaining a degree while in the service may mean a pay increase or advance in rank. Despite experiencing difficulties the average college student will not face – imagine being in class one morning and receiving deployment orders that night – all of the student soldiers I met had one thing in common: They were deeply proud to be part of the military and of having been able to faithfully serve their country.

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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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I'm getting ready to start a new semester, one of my first thoughts is “What should I expect from my teachers?” Are they going to be nitpicky or are they going to grade most of my assignments on effort?

Obviously, most teachers are somewhere in between these extremes. Regardless, sites like RateMyProfessors.com and ProfessorPerformance.com can be helpful in determining what your teachers will be like. RateMyProfessors.com, for example, lets students rank teachers in several categories, including easiness, clarity and helpfulness. Unsurprisingly, teachers who are more lenient when it comes to grading tend to rank higher than those who dock you for forgetting to dot your i’s and cross your t's. After all, most students prefer classes where they get an A without much effort to ones where they barely scrape by with a C.

That's why it's crucial to take everything you read on professor rating sites with a grain of salt. Remember, these reviews are just other students' opinions. At the same time, though, I do think students should be allowed to express their opinions if (and only if) their comments are informative and provide constructive criticism rather than outright flaming. It's not surprising that many professors are against these sites – some students criticize irrelevant details, such as the way their professor dressed – but fortunately, off-topic or hurtful comments are few and far between and the majority of ratings on RateMyProfessors.com are positive. As such, these sites can be a valuable tool for prospective students if used in the way they were intended: to provide an informed opinion.

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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Stress-Free Study Time? It DOES Exist!

by Kara Coleman

Does it ever seem to you like each one of your professors thinks that theirs is the only class you have to do homework for? How do you give each subject the attention that it needs? These tips may help you out:

Set study goals for each day. Set a schedule based on amount of work and not on time. Don’t say, “Today I’m working on my essay for an hour and a half,” because an hour can quickly get away from you. Instead, say, “Today I’m writing the rough draft for my essay.”

Don’t skip the intros. Reading the chapter introductions in each of your textbooks can help speed up the note-taking process. Since intros tend to hit the highlights of each chapter, go ahead and write down anything that looks like it may be important. Also, having a basic understanding of a chapter’s overall content will help you when you dig deeper into the material.

Pay attention in class. You’re probably thinking, “I already know that!” but sometimes teachers will tell you when certain material is going to be on a test. If your teacher says that a piece of information is important, be sure to make a note of it or highlight it.

Don’t beat yourself up if you forget something. Obviously, there’s no way you can remember everything you hear. But that’s okay! Every time you forget something, your brain has to re-learn it. This reinforcement will actually help you retain information for longer periods of time.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. 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.


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Off-Campus Housing Advice for College Freshmen

by Jessica Seals

College freshmen have several things to be excited about. They have finally gotten out of high school and now have the chance to go off to college where they will feel more independent. One of the most exciting things about going off to college is getting to live in the dorms. Living in the dorms is somewhat similar to having your own apartment but most dorms still have rules that you must live by. Although dorm life excludes parental supervision, some freshmen still opt for an off-campus apartment. They feel as though they cannot share a tiny space with a stranger or that a dorm still has just as many restrictions as living at home. While there can be perks to having your own apartment (more personal space and not having to worry about sharing your belongings, for example), there are still issues you may encounter.

While living on campus, it’s much easier to be on time to class because the only travelling you have to do is walking. When living off campus, you will have to wake up and leave your apartment much earlier in order to beat traffic, find a parking space and walk to class. This can be overwhelming to someone who is not used to going to college classes and has limited time management experience.

Another problem that freshmen who have to pay their own rent run into is working obsessively to pay for their apartments. If you do this, your grades will begin to slip and you run the risk of being too tired to go to class because you have to work long hours – not a great way to begin your college career!

Although living off campus can help you become more independent, some freshmen enter the situation without a good plan. If you’ll be living off campus as a freshman, make sure your plan includes ways to manage time so that you are not constantly late to or absent from class, and can balance your work and school schedules. You can be successful in having your own apartment during your freshman year if you are mentally prepared for the challenge!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is 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. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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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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Could College Culture Facilitate Gender Segregation by Major?

by Alexis Mattera

Next time you sit down in your favorite major class, take a look around. Are your classmates primarily male or female...and why? That depends: According to a new study, the culture of your school could be fostering gender segregation by major.

Authored by Ann L. Mullen and Jayne Baker, an associate professor of sociology and a doctoral student in sociology, respectively, at the University of Toronto, the study found that while college promoting liberal arts study have more students majoring in fields traditionally associated with majors of the opposite sex, “highly gendered” colleges – those with few tenured female faculty members, exceptionally small numbers of male undergraduates, and NCAA Division III football teams, for example – generally have higher levels of male and female segregation by major. The study also revealed it’s possible that culture of these schools influence "the options that become more thinkable and unthinkable for students as they choose their field of study" and that "gender segregation cuts across all types of institutions" and does not vary based on institutional selectivity.

While there are certainly other factors to consider (read more about Mullen and Baker’s study here), their findings are something to think about. Does your school sound like one of those described in the study? If so, have you noticed gender segregation by major?


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