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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

August 18, 2011

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!

August 19, 2011

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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Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

August 19, 2011

Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like just yesterday that your kid was, well, just a kid, asking for a ride to the movies and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now your child has walked across their high school stage, tossed that mortarboard in the air and is heading for college in the fall. If this is the first child you’re sending off, it’s normal to be apprehensive about letting go but remember, this is their moment. College is a time for them to discover who they are and figure things out for themselves. That being said, you can help financially prepare your student for college. Check out the four tips from U.S. World and News Report on finding the balance between supplying enough funds and when letting your child struggle is okay:

  • Don’t deposit and dash: Some parents might opt to supply their student with extra spending money for the upcoming school year but it has the potential of backfiring almost instantaneously. If you’re doling out a year’s worth of funds without a framework about budgeting, they’ll be calling for pizza money by October. Take the time to discuss the importance of month-to-month budgeting and understanding the reality of unexpected expenses.
  • Embrace – and limit – financial slip-ups: Once you’ve discussed a budget, step out of the process and leave it up to your child to make it work, recommends clinical psychologist Jerry Weichman. "One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they're adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes."
  • Encourage financial freedom: Having your child work in college is a great way to lower the potential of student loan debt as well as understanding the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Allow your child to allocate earnings, providing them the opportunity to make a connection between money earned and money spent.
  • Utilize web resources: Letting go might be easier said than done, but neither you nor your student need to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. A bevy of financial aid resources is just a click away. Check out Scholarships.com for tips on everything from balancing work and college and where to work on campus to money management skills and tips for going on a budget diet.
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Off-Campus Housing Advice for College Freshmen

August 22, 2011

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

August 22, 2011

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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Campus Transportation Solutions

August 23, 2011

Campus Transportation Solutions

by Radha Jhatakia

Many of you believe that having a car on campus is necessary. The truth is, it’s just more convenient. Since many schools implement parking restrictions for students unless they are resident assistants or until they earn a certain number of credits, many of you won’t even have the option to bring a car to campus. Thankfully, there are other ways to get around.

If you have a car and meet your school’s requirements, go ahead and bring it to campus if you want but keep in mind that it’s another cost you must endure on top of tuition, books and living expenses. Consider if parking permits, gas, maintenance, insurance and potential tickets are worth the expense.

If you don’t have a car or if you can’t afford to bring yours to campus, you’ll still be able to get around just fine. Most schools have bus services – either a private service or public transit – that students can utilize for little to no money. Schools will typically issue an ID card sticker, denoting the student's fee bill has been paid.

Buses are not the only way to go, though. Depending on where you go to school, there’s light rail, cable cars or the subway. These options are not usually free but students can get tickets and monthly passes as discounted prices.

Other ways of getting around on campus are bicycles and scooters. They are very popular modes of transportation in less populous areas but if your campus is a more urban one, take the time to familiarize yourself with the city’s hustle, bustle and traffic rules before taking to the streets on two wheels. Walking, jogging and running are also reliable...and always free!

However you decide to get around campus, do so carefully. You may be running late for class or exam but there’s always time for safety!

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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Could College Culture Facilitate Gender Segregation by Major?

August 23, 2011

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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Building Lasting Relationships with Your Professors

August 24, 2011

Building Lasting Relationships with Your Professors

by Jacquelene Bennett

Lifelong friendships and connections are made in college but some of the most important relationships you will make while attending school are not just with your peers but with your professors, too. Aside from teaching you what you need to know, professors are excellent sources for advice, future job and internship recommendations, and insider information about the bureaucracy of the school; moreover, a professor can be a knowledgeable, sympathetic ear that can help guide you through your college years so forming a beyond-the-classroom relationship and repertoire with some of your professors is crucial. Here are some tips to help you form that bond with your professors.

Speak up in class. One of the quickest ways to grab a professor’s attention and have him or her learn your name is to raise your hand and ask a question. While other students may be going out of their way not to be noticed, your professor will appreciate your input.

Go to office hours. Professors have office hours for a reason but they are not just for answering questions about homework, tests or lectures. Office hours are designed to allow students and professors to interact beyond classroom walls; stop in to discuss an interesting article you read outside of class and go from there.

Say hi! For some reason, we students think professors are confined to their offices so it can be awkward when we see them walking around campus or eating in the dining hall...but it doesn’t have to be! When you see your prof, say hi and strike up a conversation. They’re people, too!

Doing these simple things everyday will create lasting personal relationships with your professors. Start making those connections as early as you can – that intro professor you reach out to freshman year could help you get a teaching assistant position with a notoriously difficult colleague when you’re a senior!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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Alternative Ways to Get Traditional Textbooks

No Internet Connection Required!

August 25, 2011

Alternative Ways to Get Traditional Textbooks

by Anna Meskishvili

When I began college three very short years ago, I only had one option for my class materials: the heavy, wildly expensive hardcover books from my school’s bookstore. Now entering my senior year at BU, it’s incredible to see all the different alternatives students have to textbooks. While the classrooms across the country are now flooded with downloadable e-books on Kindles and Nooks, there are several other ways to attain traditional versions of your required class materials.

A great way to get your books without using the Internet or bookstore is to just ask around. That’s right – talk to your fellow students! Networking through clubs or organizations that you are a part of is a surprisingly simple way to check books off your list. For example, my sorority sisters set up a book swap at the end of every semester. We have a database of all the sisters’ classes and required material and use the information to match up who needs what.

If you aren’t directly involved in Greek life, try networking with student organizations pertaining to your major. Because these organizations have a varied grade level and age range, someone is bound to have taken the class you are embarking on. If no dedicated organization exists, buddy up with other students in your major classes. Say you’re a biology major: Your lab partner may have a book you need or know someone willing to part with it for a nominal fee. An added bonus of interacting with these students is that you can also gain study materials and inside information on the course in general.

So as the academic year approaches, don’t limit your scholastic shopping to the campus bookstore or Amazon because it’s very likely someone close to you will be able to lend you the book you need.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.

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Dealing with a Serious Illness at School

August 26, 2011

Dealing with a Serious Illness at School

by Kayla Herrera

Summer typically has college students working, taking internships or heading home and those who stay on campus become a little more isolated, especially in a small town like Houghton, Michigan. So when a serious illness strikes, what do you do? I was fortunate to have my grandparents just across the canal but others are not as lucky.

It started for me about a month ago. I had pressure and pain in my upper middle abdomen and I was kept up that night by nausea. I thought it was just something I ate but when the pain worsened the next night, I went to the emergency room. They did an ultrasound, took blood tests, gave me a shot in my buttocks – the worst shot I've received in my entire life – and began a weeks-long waiting period. Until a doctor surmised I likely had GERD (aka acid reflux disease), I took meds at night to sleep and lost about 20 pounds because I could barely eat without feeling ill.

This experience was extremely difficult for me emotionally. Daily calls home helped but I had a hard time not eating the foods I wanted to eat. I was already on a restricted medical diet for phenylketonuria (PKU) so having to further limit my dining options definitely took a toll. Now that I’m finally on the mend, I’m getting my food intake back on track and readjusting to the real world slowly but surely. The good news is I am feeling positive – about my health and the upcoming school year.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, all you can do is try to stay calm. Dealing with an unexpected illness away from home is hard – especially a serious one like mine. Don't be afraid to go to the ER if you experience pain; if you can't drive, hail a cab, wake up a trusty friend or call an ambulance. As you’re waiting for your results, keep your mind off your illness by doing artsy projects, Skyping with friends and reading. Keeping busy helps keep the mind off the discomfort and I also found that taking short walks outside helped in more ways than one. Dealing with a health issue by yourself at school can be frightening but all we can do is take a breath and know that this too shall pass.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. 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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