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When and How to Start Preparing for Grad School

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.


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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

December 13, 2011

College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

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?


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Create a College-Friendly Holiday Budget...and Stick to It!

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.


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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Conquering the Grocery Store

December 16, 2011

Conquering the Grocery Store

by Katie Askew

Graduating from freshman dorm life to sophomore apartment living has had its pros and cons. Although I gained more freedom, I lost luxuries like free laundry, a professionally-cleaned bathroom and meals made by a chef. My housing choice meant more financial responsibility – something I realized when I stepped into the grocery store for the first time as an apartment dweller. To keep my spending (and yours!) in check, I created a short list of tips for a college student’s first few trips to the grocery store.

Don’t shop hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s true: When I’m full, I focus only on the foods that are only on my list and I save a ton of money by avoiding impulse buys like giant jars of Nutella.

Plan a weekly menu and take a list. Decide what you’re going to eat on a weekly basis and create a grocery list that reflects this. Keep staples like bread, eggs, cereal and milk in mind but if you want to maintain a budget, it’s important to not stray from your list. If you need recipes for quick dinners, check out sites like Kraft or All Recipes: Just type in what ingredients you have and a meal will be generated for you!

Set a time limit. Saying you only have X minutes to shop will keep you focused on what you need, not what you want. This will also save time for homework or something fun later.

Find coupons. Purchasing a real Sunday newspaper is an excellent investment: Not only can you catch up on the news but you also gain access to lots of great coupons from local grocery stores. Dedicated coupon sites like CoolSavings or SmartSource are also helpful because they find deals based on your zip code.

I’m not saying you can’t splurge every now and then – after a rough week, ice cream is a necessity! – but by living like a student now, you won’t have to later in life!

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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Pell Maximum Maintained, Eligibility Tightened

by Alexis Mattera

The Federal Pell Grant program as we know it has been in jeopardy in recent years but an agreement reached last night will keep its funding intact. While college students will still receive the maximum award amount per year, the number of eligible recipients is a quite different (and unfortunate) story.

The Chronicle reported congressional leaders agreed on a spending bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by 1 percent, thereby maintaining the maximum Pell Grant amount of $5,550. To make this $300 million increase possible, however, eligibility for the award has been restricted. Under the bill, Pell Grant funding will only be available to each student for six years instead of nine, high school diplomas or GEDs will be required (no more ability-to-benefit tests) and the income cap for receiving an "automatic zero" expected family contribution will be lowered from $30,000 to $23,000. The interest subsidy on undergraduate student loans during the six-month grace period after a student graduates would also temporarily end.

Yes, the changes are significant but they are far less severe than an earlier bill which would have lowered the income cap to $15,000 and reduced the amount of income working students could exclude when applying for financial aid – changes that would have negatively impacted thousands of college students, especially those attending community colleges. We want to know what you think about the news. Is there a way to maintain federal funding without decreasing eligibility or do you think this bill is the best option?


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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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Is College Still Worthwhile?

December 30, 2011

Is College Still Worthwhile?

by Alexis Mattera

There’s been much debate about the true value of a college degree. This isn’t surprising given rising tuition costs and lower employment rates but a new study by a 2011 Trinity College graduate reveals spending the time and money to obtain a college degree is still very much worthwhile.

That graduate – Sarah Millar – came to this conclusion by examining data from government and private sources as well as her own personal experience as a college student. She found that although college costs have climbed an average of 6.4 percent each year since 1981 and annual income has only risen 0.4 percent in that time, the average take-home pay of college graduates is $38,950 versus $21,500 of students who only graduated high school. Unemployment rates of the two groups are also in favor or college degree holders – as of last month, 4.4 percent to 9.6 percent – and earnings of college grads exceed high school grads by more than $1 million over 40 years. Millar does note that all colleges and majors are not created equal, though, as average starting salaries of recent grads in specific fields of study from well-known or prestigious schools are more than those from state universities or smaller private colleges.

Check out more information from the study here then tell us: What do you think of Millar’s findings?


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Pomp and Circumstance

Early Graduation and the Road Ahead

January 4, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

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.


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