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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Brittni Fitzgerald

by Brittni Fitzgerald

I began my college career at Kentucky State University but after visiting Chicago State University and meeting the friendly, helpful faculty and students, I elected to transfer. Once I was settled in, I set out to find a major that actually attracted me and quickly found that in accounting. It’s a numbers game with a lot of statistics and critical thinking and I am supplementing the knowledge I’m gaining through these classes with a minor in entrepreneurship.

When I am not in class, I’m an outdoorsy person who loves to run or swim because it refreshes the body and the mind. I go the beach and barbeque a lot (well, weather-permitting in Chicago!) and enjoy reading, listening to new music, dancing, singing and – because I am such a girly girl – shopping. I am also an active member in the Student Government Association at Chicago State and spend a lot time planning campus events and activities for students. Students come to me and the organization every day with ideas, comments and questions and a major complaint that I get from many students is that they are not receiving information.

How can I get them the news they need? Glad you asked! As a virtual intern for Scholarships.com, I want to help students get more involved and aware of their campus activities. As someone who’s already a voice for students attending Chicago State, I’m excited about the opportunity to help students at other schools get the most out of their college experiences!


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Why You Should Love Your Library

by Allison Rowe

My name is Allison and I am addicted to public libraries. Call me a nerd, call me a geek, but my beloved King County Library System is ranked among the best in the nation and I plan to take full advantage of that.

According to the Seattle Times, the average citizen in King County pays about $84 in taxes each year to support library resources. That tax money is only spent in vain if you fail to cash in! Public libraries offer so many incredible resources for college students, making it possible to double or even triple your tax dollar investment.

There is the diverse array of items available for checkout. At my library (and most others), that includes books, music, movies, magazine and newspapers – and not just old dusty ones! Not everything will be physically at your library all at once, so you’ll need to place some holds but some libraries allow you to do this online. It’s like a public Netflix! Another bonus: According to an expert at KCLS, the government permits reproduction of library materials for PERSONAL USE ONLY. Nice.

Here are some more public library benefits:

  • Log on to computers with high-speed Internet, in case your apartment has shoddy wireless or your parents won’t upgrade from dial-up.
  • Classes provided to community members to develop valuable skills (speed typing, financial planning, tech basics, academic tutoring, etc.) are usually free or inexpensive. You can also offer to teach/assist and put it on your resume!
  • Use it as a quiet, comfortable place to study, read or get work done away from the distractions of your home (or Facebook).

So next time you need to feel like you’ve accomplished something productive this summer, check in to your local library and check out what services they offer!

Allison Rowe is a senior at Washington State University majoring in English and psychology. For the last two years, she has worked for her student newspaper, achieved the status of President’s honor roll every semester and academically excelled to acquire a handful of scholarships and writing awards. She dreams of moving to New York after her May 2012 graduation to dive head first into the publishing industry. In her free time, Allison enjoys cooking, game nights and psychologically thrilling movies. As a Scholarship.com virtual intern, Allison hopes to assist students in maximizing the gains of the college experience.


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A Major Decision

Choosing Your Field of Study in Three Easy Steps

May 20, 2011

A Major Decision

by Mariah Proctor

So I’m sitting there, my entire head engulfed in paste so that they can make a plaster replica of my face for use in molding masks even when I’m not on campus for the summer. It was while sitting there – staving off bouts of panic and claustrophobia and completely unable to move – that I had another “what am I doing with my college career?” moment. These moments happen fairly often (like when a teacher requires us to roll down a grassy hill or play scream tag) that I take a step back and realize what unusual learning experiences my tuition money gets me.

Majoring in theatre was a no-brainer for me because in no other field have I ever felt more alive, more myself or more enthused by the idea of attending classes. I know, however, that the choice isn’t quite so obvious for others, so have a couple of pieces of advice to help in the choosing:

  • If you’re starting from scratch, get a copy of your university’s course catalog and just let your eyes scroll down the list and see where they naturally linger. There are probably a few areas of study that already appeal to you; get the course requirement sheets for those majors and when you’re getting an idea of the shape of your college career, be sensitive to what gets you excited.
  • Even majors that have glamorous-sounding names can be made up of classes that are awful fillers and not at all what you thought they’d be. Ask students in those majors how they like them and what they really think they’re learning.
  • Take note of what you think about when you aren’t thinking about anything. Chances are, there’s a major for whatever it is that occupies your unsupervised thoughts and that’s the one you should go for.

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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Make Yourself Marketable This Summer

by Casandra Pagn

While a summer home from college should be relaxing, fun and regenerative, the three or so months away from school can also be the perfect time to bulk up the ever-elusive skills section of a resume or job application.

I totally understand that many college students need to take any ol’ job during the summer to save some cash for the school months. Whether you are waitressing, painting houses or mowing lawns, there are still a multitude of ways to continue to make yourself (and your resume) marketable during the summer.

First and foremost, internships (paid or unpaid) can often be tailored to the hours and schedule that you’d like to work. But, if an internship seems too time consuming, have no fear. Here are some other ways to make your summer count:

  • Contact local professionals to set up appointments to shadow them. This will give you some insight into that career and it’s something that you can bring up during future interviews to show you’re being proactive in that field.
  • Browse through your local park district or community college catalog and see what affordable, useful classes they offer. An introductory language course is a low time commitment and is a great asset to any resume, as are computer courses in a program that you’re not familiar with. At the end of the class, you will have learned the keys to a program that employers find valuable, such as Microsoft Excel or InDesign.
  • Borrow some how-to books from the library and teach yourself something! There are a ton of books on building websites and using graphic design programs, so why not take check one out and give it a try? It can’t hurt to learn those skills and the library membership is usually free.

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.


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The Unique Challenges Facing Online Students

by Alexis Mattera

For the past two years, I have attended college entirely online. For some people, the idea of going to school online is like wading into a swamp – terrifying even to contemplate – but for me, online learning has been a dream.

This doesn't mean, however, that online classes are for everyone. Quite frankly, those of us who are not self-starters are not suited for online schooling. E-learning has deadlines, exams and papers just like traditional learning but teachers don't always remind students when assignments are due as they would in a traditional classroom, since they assume students who choose to take classes online are responsible enough to keep up with the coursework. In addition, e-learning is difficult for students who learn by listening to lectures; for online classes, lectures are provided in a visual format and some people find the fairly lengthy notes difficult to read through. Finally, although most teachers are willing and able to address any concerns online students have, students are largely expected to overcome obstacles themselves. Consequently, online students are encouraged to be much more independent than traditional students.

For me, this sense of independence is both liberating and empowering. I have been forced to adapt to an environment where I have minimal supervision and am required to make my own decisions. My achievements as a self-motivated individual have transcended to other areas of my life, such as my interpersonal relationships. I have grown as a person and as a thinker as a result of being an online student and I am proud to say I have completed my entire associate degree online. Although online learning may not be for everyone, the rewards of being a self-motivated individual have far exceeded the costs of online learning for me.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a soon-to-be published author, an avid video gamer and an artist. Her first novel is a murder mystery for young adults set in the future. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa completed her Associate of Arts degree entirely online and is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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College Freedom: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by Jessica Seals

Starting college is nerve racking enough without all of the added pressure from the newfound freedom that college freshmen receive every year. Besides getting used to the college atmosphere, students also have to make their own decisions about how they will conduct themselves because technically their behavior no longer requires parental approval.

Some students let the excitement of staying out all night and partying ruin their chances of having any academic success. They abuse their newfound freedom by not being responsible enough to limit the amount of socializing that they do. Excessive partying can lead to flunking out of school or a poor transcript/resume to pass on to future employers or grad school admission committees. Personally, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to explain to my parents that I flunked out of school because I got caught up in the party life that affects hundreds of students every year.

On the other end of the spectrum, some students use their newfound freedom to improve their lives. They gain their own independence and choose to discipline themselves by going to class each day, turning in all assignments and immersing themselves in positive college activities. These students make meaningful connections and use their networking skills to meet their future employers and others who will help them become successful.

Whether or not your college career takes a good or bad turn depends on how you decide to use your freedom. You can use it as a way to make yourself more independent from your parents and prepare yourself for the future...or you can treat life like one big party, neglect your studies and end up either on academic probation or not having things go the way you planned. It takes self-discipline to balance your schoolwork and social life so that it will benefit you in the future.

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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Which Learning Style is Right for You?

by Kara Coleman

As a tutor, the question that I hear most from my students is “How do I study?” The answer depends on which learning style suits you best because there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all learning.

The majority of people are visual learners. They benefit from recopying or making their own notes, tend to be good at spelling and can remember where certain text is located on a page. It’s a good idea for visual learners to sit in the front of the classroom, within sight of the board or projector.

Auditory learners remember things well when they are sung or spoken to out loud. If you benefitted more from Schoolhouse Rock! (Conjunction Junction, anyone?) than you did from textbooks, try reading your notes out loud, or set them to a tune. Ask your professors if they permit voice recorders in their classes; if they do, record their lectures and replay them when you get home.

My orientation teacher at Gadsden State once said, “Some people are content to sit in the driver’s ed classroom and watch a DVD on traffic accidents. Others want to get in cars and go have accidents.” That’s not a pleasant analogy but it describes the difference between visual learners and auditory learners and kinesthetic/tactile learners. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. They like field trips and science experiments and can easily pick up dance choreography and martial arts. These learners will probably benefit from writing notes by hand so that they can form the words rather than just read them or – better yet – engaging in an active discussion about the topic they are studying.

What learning style works best for you and why?

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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When Choosing College Extracurriculars, Remember Your Passions

by Katie Askew

It’s the last few weeks of high school and you’re already feeling nostalgic. Your final band concert has been performed, your final basketball game has been played, your last student council meeting has been attended and you may be feeling sentimental because your intended major doesn’t fit the things you were passionate about in high school. Fear not: You don’t need to leave your extracurricular activities behind just because you’re heading to college!

I was in the same place you were last year. My final decision to major in journalism and English felt like an abrupt end to my music career...but boy, was I wrong. It’s important to keep involved in your passions through extracurriculars while also pursuing your major, especially if your passions span a wide range of interests. For example, I attended the Society of Professional Journalists meetings through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication while also performing with the University Concert Band (a performance group for non-music majors) and working as a drumline instructor at a suburban high school. I made time for the things I love outside of my major and I can honestly say that my music groups kept me sane during stressful school times.

The most important lesson is to not feel defined by your major. Simply because you are a biomedical engineering major doesn’t mean you can’t be an ambitious thespian or star volleyball player. Student groups are just the place to meet your needs – the University of Minnesota has over 700 student groups to choose from! – and if you can’t find a group that matches your passions, you can join another interesting one (like the Campus People Watchers) or create your own!

So in terms of extracurricular activities in college, the sky is the limit...unless you join the skydiving club.

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many factors that affect where, when and if students attend college, the most important being financial aid. So what can a student do when he or she hasn’t received enough funding?

If you need financial aid to make college a reality, contact the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering before applying. Find out the costs of tuition, room and board, and other college living expenses and defray these costs by applying for as many scholarships and grants as you can. The college will be more likely to help fill any financial gaps if you’ve shown initiative and determination.

Another method is writing formal letters to financial aid administrators. Describe your financial aid situation (including hard numbers), your home life, factors affecting your ability to pay for college and things that you could not put on the FAFSA such as a home mortgage or other payments that your parents need to make. Fax this letter, mail it by certified mail and email a copy to each school as well. If the school cannot offer you free money, they can sometimes offer an additional loan of some sort.

If all else fails, call the colleges and schedule appointments with the deans or heads of the financial aid offices. Some colleges have tuition waivers which allow students with special conditions to be exempt from paying tuition. If the school does not offer this option, you can still seek out non-school loans through banks or private companies. These loans often have higher interest rates, require co-signers or do not have grace period to pay off loans after graduating; in my opinion, however, the cost of not getting a college education is much higher than amount of these loans.

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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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

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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