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The Perks of Volunteerism

March 26, 2012

The Perks of Volunteerism

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I think about volunteering the same way most of us think about fruits and vegetables – important to your health, good for your future and, every once in a while, the last thing you want added to your day. No one talks about it but I've seen it as both a volunteer supervisor and as a volunteer myself. However great the cause, however much you care, some days you just want to stay in bed. After all, they're not paying you so what does it matter if you miss a day or two?

What professional volunteer coordinators know is that volunteering isn't just good for showing the world you're a good person who cares about others: Choosing to volunteer builds skills you might otherwise not have the opportunity to develop, making you immensely more attractive to future employers and colleges. If you volunteer with young students at a religious school or daycare, for example, you will be better at working with young students than someone with no experience but that commitment also adds to your organizational ability, proves to potential employers that you are responsible and able to do self-directed work and shows your commitment to causes outside your normal purview.

In addition, peer mentoring or tutoring (paid or unpaid) adds to your employability. First, it shows that you are good at working with other people – a requirement for many jobs – and second, many employment opportunities (from consulting to banking to physical therapy) require that employees can clearly and concisely explain their point of view to others. Teaching someone how to do a math problem may be as applicable to your career in management consulting as any classes you took in college: It's a transferable skill that you will use again and again.

Finally, if you are interested in working in the industry that you're volunteering in, there's a good chance that you'll be considered an internal candidate for any job opportunities that come up. That usually means that your application will be read before outside candidates (even if they have more direct experience) and often increases your chances of getting an interview. Besides, if you've done good work, you've effectively gained an extra (positive) reference so think about your time volunteering as an extended job interview.

On that note, go forth and volunteer! As a former volunteer supervisor, I know we welcome the help but you're probably getting as much from it as we are.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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The Benefits of Summer Classes

by Kayla Herrera

The last thing college students want to think about at the end of the school year is summer classes but they aren't as bad of an idea as you may think. For example, I am a fourth-year student and I graduate next spring but if I wanted, I could graduate this coming fall if I took classes in the summer. Forget about the fact that they’ll take you away from beach days and midday picnicssummer classes can benefit students in many ways:

1. You'll graduate sooner. As a full-time student during the school year and at least a half-time student during the summer, you are guaranteed to graduate faster than if you did not take summer classes.

2. You'll keep your skills sharp. Taking summer classes keeps your brain pumped. For knowledge-hungry students, summer courses are just what you need to exercise your mind.

3. You'll get more attention. The lower number of students on campus during the summer means classes are smaller, allowing for more one-on-one time with professors and closer interaction between students.

4. You'll be able to learn leisurely. Your school days may be longer but doing homework under a breezy tree or studying next to the lake is way better than freezing to death in the back of the school library.

No matter your plans, consider summer classes. From my experience, taking a harder class during the summer tends to be a little easier than it would be during the traditional academic year. Cut you brain some slack and treat it to some pleasant schooling!

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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Job Opportunities, Starting Salaries Increase for Class of 2012

by Alexis Mattera

Soon-to-be college grads will have a little more to cheer about as they toss their mortarboards in the air this year, as both job opportunities and starting salaries for new graduates have increased since last year.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported job openings for the class of 2012 are up 10 percent since last. With increased opportunities also come an uptick in starting salaries: The average for 2012 grads is $44,442, a 6.6-percent increase over the reported average salary of the class of 2011.

Of course, these numbers depend on the fields graduates plan to enter – starting salaries for those pursuing careers in education and economics increased more and are higher overall, respectively, than those going into health sciences – but it is nice to hear some mostly positive news about the impact of higher education. College seniors, does this information put you more at ease or increase your stress level as graduation day nears?


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Tuition Discounts Lack Effectiveness

by Alexis Mattera

When making your final college choice, would you choose the school touting generous tuition discounts or the institution offering the standard financial aid package? The choice may seem obvious but according to a new study, things aren’t always what they seem.

A survey of 400 private institutions conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers revealed tuition discounting could be losing its effectiveness as a way of luring students to colleges. Data show that though the rate of institutional discounts in the form of scholarships, grants and fellowships continues to rise – the average is predicted to hit 42.8 percent this year – 45 percent of the schools surveyed saw overall enrollment remain flat or drop and 53.2 percent saw a decline or no change in the number of freshmen they enrolled.

What do you think of the tuition discounting trend? Is it playing a role in your college decision or are other factors (location, reputation, programs of study, etc.) more important to you?


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The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

by Kayla Herrera

Everything is blooming and trees are awakening with widening leaves stretching up toward the sky. The birds are chirping and don’t forget the sound of graduation gowns sweeping across the floor! I should be graduating this year but like so many other college students my age, I have been thrown more than a few curveballs in my time in school and I have another year to go before I can enter into the workforce full-time. I want to assure you that this is okay and completely normal!

Here at Michigan Tech, we have a five-year plan. In order to graduate from Michigan Tech in four years, one must take 18 credits every semester, not including summer semesters. Not a fan of killing yourself with books, papers, exams, labs and a part-time job and would prefer to enjoy your time in college? That mentality is adopted by most students at Michigan Tech, making those who graduate in four years or fewer the minority.

Let’s face it – things happen: You change your major and have some serious catching up to do in prerequisite classes, you have a death in the family, you become seriously ill and take a semester off, or you just want to study abroad for a while. And that’s all more than fine, people! Yes, money is a huge issue (you can combat this by finding as many scholarships and grants as possible!) but at least we didn’t develop serious illnesses because of stress in an overworked educational environment!

My advice? Take it easy and give yourself time to soak in all of the new information you are learning. Remember, don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for needing to stay in school for an extra year or two. There are colleges out there, just like mine, where the majority of students are on five-year plans – you just have to find them.

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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Required Classes, Your Way

by Angela Andaloro

Class registration time is upon us! For many of us, that means looking through course catalogs and trying to find the perfect schedule that gets us closer to our degree and still gives us time to sleep and have a good time. Many of us will be looking to cross some required classes off of our lists this fall but what about the classes you have to take...for yourself? Here are some types of classes you should consider adding to your own personal required list!

Something creative. I do not have an artistically, musically or similarly inclined bone in my body but I ignored that fact and decided to take a painting class during my freshman year. This turned out to be one of the best ideas I had because it forced me to slow things down and focus on what’s in front of me. Classes that make you flex your creative muscles can take you out of your everyday college stresses and force you to have a little fun.

An interesting history class. If you’re like me, you know plenty of college students who hate history. History classes make everyone reminiscent of high school (seriously, how many times did we learn about the American Revolution?) but college history classes are way different. Find an interesting history class that isn’t on your average topics: I took a class on the history of American women and came out with a lot of interesting info that I’ve actually pulled out in average conversation.

Something to help you get ready for life after college. Many colleges and universities offer classes to seniors on getting into the job market, interview skills, writing résumés and more. There are also classes that can help you figure out what you’d like to major in and help give you direction going forward. These classes can provide you with a wealth of useful information that will help you once your formal education has ended.

What classes are on your required list? Let us know in the comments!

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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The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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What Makes a Professor Great?

by Kara Coleman

Earlier this month, The Princeton Review released its annual list of the best 300 professors in the nation. The teachers were chosen because of the impact they have made on the lives of their students and that got me thinking: What exactly makes a professor good...and, conversely, what makes you not want to go to certain professors' classes?

First, the good stuff. Teachers who seem to genuinely care about their students always get high marks in my book. The teacher I had for English 101 and 102 seemed every bit as interested in what I wrote outside of the classroom as the essays I wrote for class. He even invited me to read some of my poetry at his community poetry club meeting (an event not affiliated with the school) and he even met my family at the bookstore one night, saying he always enjoys getting to meet the families of his students.

Next are the teachers who have a passion for and connection with their work. My Spanish teacher was not Hispanic but she and her husband had served as missionaries in Buenos Aires for 20-something years. She would often share her personal stories with us about living in a different culture with a different language than what she had grown up with. That experience proved just as valuable as being a native speaker.

Now what causes students to give their teachers bad reviews to their peers and on sites like RateMyProfessors.com? The bottom line is respect. It’s not about how difficult their tests are or whether they’ll let you cite online sources in your research papers – how professors treat their students makes all the difference. Teachers who talk down to or argue with their students or the ones who seem indifferent and treat their work like it’s just a job are ineffective.

What do you think? On your personal list of the best professors you’ve ever had, who makes the grade and why? Comment below and let us know!

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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GRE to Debut ScoreSelect in July

by Alexis Mattera

College students who want to attend graduate school not only need good grades, excellent recommendation letters and related experience in the field they’re planning to enter but also a solid score on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. But what happens if the score you receive isn’t what you (and the schools you’re applying to) were expecting? Starting in July, it’s ScoreSelect to the rescue.

Graduate programs currently receive students’ comprehensive five-year histories of GRE scores but with ScoreSelect, a student will be able to choose to send all scores or just the ones achieved during his or her most recent exam. ScoreSelect also lets students customize their score reports by school: Test takers may send their most recent scores to one batch of schools on test day free of charge and then forward a different set of schools either all of their scores or a specific score from the last five years after the exam for a fee. Why the change, especially so soon after last year’s format overhaul? “What we believe will happen is that students will have more confidence on test day,” said Christine Betaneli, a spokeswoman for GRE administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS).

There are additional details about ScoreSelect on ETS’ website. After getting all the facts, what do you think of ScoreSelect? Is it an option you’ll take advantage of when you take the GRE?


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Why a College Will Rescind Your Acceptance

Follow These Tips to Remain a Member of the Class of 2016

April 27, 2012

Why a College Will Rescind Your Acceptance

by Alexis Mattera

Once students receive those coveted acceptance letters and pay their enrollment deposits, many think it’s smooth sailing until move-in day. Not so: If a student decides to slack off in class or play fast and loose with the law, a college can and will withdraw an admissions offer. Yikes! So how do you keep your spot in the class of 2016? Follow these simple steps:

What are some other ways to ensure you retain your acceptance? Let us know what worked for you in the comments.


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