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Smile...You’re on Camera: WGU Uses Webcams to Monitor Online Test Takers

by Alexis Mattera

For students seeking more flexibility in their college schedules, online classes are often an excellent alternative. Coursework can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection but when it comes to test taking, how do instructors know the person answering the questions is doing so honestly? Western Governors University has come up with a solution: Say cheese!

Up until a few years ago, WGU online students had to take their exams at one of the school’s 6,000 on-site assessment centers. This proved to be a burden for the majority of the student body – the average student is 36 years old, has a family and takes a full course load while working full-time – so WGU began allowing students to take exams off-site if monitored by webcams. The cameras show the student, his or her computer screen, their hands and profile and a 180-degree view of the room to ensure the student isn’t obtaining information from another source during the test. And just in case something goes awry, there is support available to assist with any technical issues.

While some students still opt to take their exams on-site, most have adopted the program with open arms: There are 30,000 WGU webcams in use and about 80 percent of the 10,000 exams per month are taken via webcam. Do you think WGU’s webcam program is beneficial to busy students as well as the school’s reputation? If given the option, would you smile for the camera or take your tests on-site?


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Missing Classes in College

November 4, 2011

Missing Classes in College

by Jacquelene Bennett

Being sick, waking up late, doctors’ appointments and myriad other reasons prevent us from going to class some days but I am here to tell you not to worry. That’s right: It’s okay to miss class...as long as you do so responsibly (aka not every day)!

One perk of being a college student is that unlike high school, you can miss class without a reason or consequence. Not to sound too harsh but professors don’t really care why you missed class but they will notice when you aren’t there, even more so in a smaller, discussion-style class. If you have to miss class for any reason, however, your professors do want you to be responsible about it so if you know that you are going to miss class on a day when an assignment is due, you have to let your instructor know, even if it means calling them the day of if you’re sick or if there’s an emergency.

Another way to be responsible when missing a class is to still get your assignments turned in even though you are absent. Ask one of your classmates to turn in your homework for you and grab any new handouts or see if your roommate has time to drop by your professor’s office hours. Just don’t take advantage: They aren’t going to hunt you down to give you your work – that’s your job.

Like most things in college, missing class is ok – sometimes getting some sleep after 20 straight hours of cramming IS more important! – but only in moderation. It’s tempting to opt out of a lecture, especially for underclassmen still getting acclimated to the college lifestyle, but your grades will reflect it. Choose wisely!

Jacquelene Bennett is a 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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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

November 4, 2011

Stepping Up and Standing Out

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

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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University of Charleston Slashes Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

Between announcements of Cooper Union possibly charging tuition and the average student debt topping $25,000, news about the cost of college haven’t been too positive as of late. But lo, the University of Charleston has broken the bad news cycle: The West Virginia school has announced it will reduce tuition by 22 percent for all new students and provide additional aid for continuing students.

UC has guaranteed that no undergraduate student will pay more than $19,500 for tuition in the fall of 2012. This will be the base price for freshmen and transfer students while the figure returning students will see is $25,500 with a promise of at least $6,000 in university aid. The tuition reduction is part of a broad system redesign which the University of Charleston hopes will allow greater innovation and cost-effectiveness without compromising the quality of its education. According to a release on UC's website, these changes include “a five-year plan that emphasizes fast-track learning, achieving athletic prominence, championing innovation and expanding access.”

In a time where every dollar makes a difference, did the University of Charleston just move up on your college wish list?


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Adventures in Visa Acquisition

by Darci Miller

You may think your study abroad experience is going to be all fun and games but in its early stages, I’ve found that it’s anything but. While I know it’ll be more than worth it in the end, it’s a lot to handle: Not only is there paperwork for your home university but sometimes there’s also the added benefit (note the sarcasm) of applying for a visa. Here are some things I’ve learned about the process so far:

Most importantly, though, remember the stress will pay off. In a few months, you’ll be abroad and having the time of your life!

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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Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

by Kara Coleman

What does the average college student’s wardrobe consist of? Most people probably think of hoodies, sweatpants and tennis shoes, or guys on game day wearing white dress shirts with striped ties featuring their school colors. That’s true to some extent but fashions differ from campus to campus and many people use their college years as a time for self-expression.

When I went to a community college, I noticed there wasn’t really a dominant style of dress that students shared. Because it was commuter school, people got ready for the day and headed to their jobs after class. Some people wore their work uniforms, then there were preps who wore Abercrombie clothes, skaters with skinny jeans and long hair, and basketball players in track suits. It was like a big high school. When I transferred to a four-year university in August, however, I was surprised at how many people came to class each day in their pajamas. (I’m pretty sure I was the only one wearing a sundress and matching earrings on the first day!) Why the difference is fashion trends between colleges? The majority of students at the school I currently attend live on campus in dorms or apartments. They roll out of bed, grab their books and walk across the street to class.

Though sweats and tees are comfortable and convenient, college students are increasingly ditching these options in order to reflect current styles. The reason? Since most students have smartphones or tablets and can access the web from anywhere, they can see something they like, buy it online instantly and instruct that it’s shipped directly to their door...all while walking down the hallway or across campus between classes.

So what about you? Do you go to class in your pajamas or plan out your outfits for the entire week? What fashions are currently trending on your campus and what will be the next big thing?

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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Graduation: A Time of Celebration or Stress?

by Jessica Seals

As I type this blog entry, I have less than two months of college left before I get my bachelor’s degree...and I am on an emotional rollercoaster.

When I first found out that I would be able to graduate a semester early, I was overcome with joy and during the summer, I could not wait to begin the fall semester and kept having visions of walking across the stage and smiling proudly as I realized all of my hard work had paid off. Although my excitement grows more and more each day, so does my stress level. Graduation is a wonderful time because family and friends gather to watch you close one chapter of your life and hear your plans of starting a new one. I am elated to know that everyone I care about will soon get to see how hard I have been working in school when they see all of the honors I’ve earned but since that day isn’t here just yet, there’s still much work to be done.

Although I am graduating, my workload has actually increased. I have to take the LSAT to get into law school and put together things such as my letters of recommendation and personal statements for my law school applications. I am very satisfied with the grades that I have made so far but the law school admissions process is pretty daunting and I often find myself frazzled when I think about how close the application deadlines are! I kind of wish I could hop in a time machine and go to May 2012 see how things worked out.

Behind all the stress, however, I know one thing is certain: I will make it through and when I do, the smile on my face will be even bigger and wider than it was at my high school graduation because of everything I’ve accomplished. Soon-to-be graduates, what are you looking forward to the most?

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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Facial Piercings, Visible Tattoos and Your Future

by Radha Jhatakia

Tattoos and facial piercings have become part of modern day society and college culture. There is nothing wrong with this – I myself have seven piercings (three in each ear and one in my nose) and a tattoo – but with these artistic choices can come consequences that we may not think of when we are younger and attempting to fit in.

Many members of older generations do not view tattoos and piercings the same way we do. To them, they are forms of rebellion, disrespect and, most importantly, decisions that make it increasingly difficult to build favorable professional reputations. If you have a facial piercing, interviewing with a professional organization is risky: Unless you have an exceptional resume and amazing skills, most employers won't take you seriously.

Visible tattoos are deal breakers for many employers as well, especially for those who work alongside customers and are constantly representing the company. Professional workplaces will not tolerate visible tattoos; if you have any but also have your heart set on a career with this kind of organization, you should cover them up. Though many offices have adopted more casual dress codes, visible tattoos are still a long way from being accepted and could hurt your chances of getting hired: If there’s one position available and the other applicant has a cleaner cut appearance, you could lose out.

If you just have to get a tattoo or piercing, I am not going to try to stop you. Just remember that the choices you make now will affect you in the future.

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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What to Do When You Hate a College Class

by Jacquelene Bennett

When you are preparing to graduate high school and are excited that you’ll be attending college in the fall, no one really tells you that there are going to be aspects of college life that you are going to absolutely hate, like classes: Sometimes you are going to really enjoy the classes you are taking, most of the time you are going to be indifferent about the classes you have and occasionally you are going to absolutely loathe a class you are taking. I currently find myself in this predicament and am here to share some advice on how to handle these types of classes.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the class! I know I said missing class is ok in moderation in my last article but avoiding a class you’re already down on never helps. Some professors record attendance every day and factor it into your grade so your absence will be noted.

Talk to the professor. Send him or her an email with your concerns or go talk to them during their office hours; most of the time, they will take your concerns into consideration – particularly if these concerns are echoed by other students. This approach is most effective if you can have a two-way conversation without sounding like you are complaining.

Grin and bear it. The class isn’t going to last forever; sometimes the best thing you can do is get your work done while reminding yourself you just need to make it to the end of the semester.

If you really can’t imagine attending the class all semester, you can always drop it or withdraw and try to take it with another professor next semester. You can also talk to your adviser about your other options: If the class is a gen ed, there may be similar but more enjoyable class that would fill the same requirement.

Jacquelene Bennett is a 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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Electronics in the Classroom: Supplementing Studies or Sidetracking Students?

by Angela Andaloro

I always have about 150 things on my mind and like any other college student, I’d kill for some extra time in the day so that I could get things done the way I’d like to. Unfortunately, that can’t really happen but some students are improvising by bringing tablets and laptops with them to class. While it might work for some people to take notes, search the web and tweet at the same time, it doesn’t work for me.

Despite my best intentions, I get easily distracted. If I really want to focus on something, I try to isolate myself as much as possible. This is the reason why I don’t bring my laptop to class because I’d end up using that time to write papers, go on Facebook or check my email. I consider myself an excellent multitasker but I know for a fact that once I have my laptop in front of me, I’ll start trying to tackle my to-do list instead of paying attention to what my professors have to say. If the person sitting in front of me has a laptop and I see them watching a video or playing a game, I get so mesmerized that I stop paying attention!

That’s not to say there isn’t a benefit to having electronics in the classroom. Technology has been wonderful to college students over the past decade: It makes it easier to take notes, look up information regarding what the professor is discussing, remember assignments and manage time. It really comes in handy regarding the hustle and bustle of college life but I’m just not sure of its presence in the classroom.

As I see it, using electronics in the classroom should be a personal decision, not one a professor mandates in their syllabus. Some people genuinely function better with their laptops in tow while others (like me) might not be able to handle the sensory overload. Part of being a responsible college student is making those decisions for yourself – what’s your choice?

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.


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