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New Semester, New Goals

January 5, 2012

New Semester, New Goals

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that you've had some time to spend some time with your family, eat all those holiday delicacies or just unwind, it's just about time for another semester! Since starting a new semester can be daunting, here are several tips you can follow:

First, make sure you order your books at least a week before the semester starts, preferably sooner if you're ordering them online. While Amazon's two-day shipping for college students is great for procrastinators, your books may not be in stock if you wait too long.

Next, make sure you're not taking too many credits. While taking 18 credits a semester may seem like a great idea when you think about how quickly you'll finish your degree, you’ll burn out fast (especially if you have a job...or two). As we've heard a million times, slow and steady wins the race and your GPA will almost certainly be a lot stronger and college will be more enjoyable if you adopt a more moderate pace.

Finally, take advantage of campus resources. As overwhelming as college can feel at times, it's easy to forget that there are all kinds of people who are more than willing to help. From math lab to writing lab to academic counselors, there's no shortage of people who understand what you're going through and can offer great advice. Besides, you're paying top dollar for your tuition so you might as well get your money's worth and use these resources!

If you still feel crazed after reading these tips, remember that you won't be in college for the rest of your life. Sometimes we forget about the eventual rewards of hard work. It may take more time than we'd like but hard work will pay off in the end.

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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My Final Study Abroad Checklist

by Darci Miller

In preparing to study abroad, I’ve been alternately packing and scouring the Internet for lists of important things to pack. When it comes down to it, there are several things that I will not – and cannot – leave the U.S. without!

  • 1. Power adapters. Voltage and wattage are different across the pond and all of my American electronics will be rendered moot if I don’t come prepared – it would be a sad day if I couldn’t charge my computer or straighten my bangs! If you’re going abroad, check to see what adapters you’ll need, as they vary from country to country.
  • 2. Clothes to layer. I’m heading to London and the weather there can be all over the map, so everything I’ve read advises dressing in layers. This would be a smart choice for anyone studying abroad in a country in which temperature varies between seasons. T-shirts and a handful of cardigans will carry you through winter and spring, while long-sleeved shirts are useless as it gets warmer.
  • 3. Familiar, comfort items. Photos of friends and family are obvious but since I’m a sap, this really includes anything that’ll remind me of home or people that love me. Though I may rarely wear my headband made out of a t-shirt hem, seeing it on my desk will remind me of the night my friends and I made them.
  • 4. My GPS. I’ll have limited data on my phone while I’m study abroad and going over my limit isn’t an option. For those days I plan on exploring the city, I’ll throw my trusty TomTom named Peter into my bag and be good to go. I’ll only get lost in the culture, not because I made a wrong turn!
  • 5. An across-the-body bag. A definite necessity, especially for the ladies. They’re much harder for muggers to steal and you have the added bonus of keeping your belongings right next to your hand.
  • 6. Important documents. This may sound like a huge “duh” but I definitely need to remember to print out whatever I’ll need for my first few days – visa, confirmation of enrollment, orientation notes, etc. Anything to make the transition a little less stressful!

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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An App for Apps

Matchbox Streamlines Admissions Processes

January 11, 2012

An App for Apps

by Alexis Mattera

As soon as high school students drop their college applications in the mail or send them hurtling through cyberspace, they breathe sighs of relief thinking the hardest part of the application process is over. Not so much for college admissions officers, whose challenges are just beginning: They must review each and every transcript, essay, standardized test score and extracurricular to select the right mix of students to attend their institutions. It can take a lot of resources – there are quite literally thousands of applications to evaluate – so it’s about time an app was created to streamline the process.

Matchbox has developed an iPad app to speed up the review of college applications without compromising the savvy judgment admissions officers are known for. Founder and CEO Stephen Marcus created the first incarnation of the Matchbox app as a member of the admissions committee at the MIT Sloan School of Management. At that time, Marcus said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to read one application but with the Matchbox app, that same process is two to three times faster. "I'm able to save a lot of time when I'm reading applications now," said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at the Sloan School. "Before I would have to write out all of that evidence on the handwritten scorecard. Now I can just tap it with my finger, highlight it, assign a category, and it's done."

Do you think this kind of technology is good or bad for the college application evaluation process? Let us know why in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter!


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How to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s a new year and we are all making resolutions to be healthy, not procrastinate, to do better in school or even get more sleep...but after a month or two, no one pays attention to their resolutions anymore. To really stick with your resolutions, slow lifestyle changes are the way to go. This way, you’re able to fit the resolution into your existing schedule without a great deal of effort. Here are a couple of ways to I plan to make good on my resolutions.

I’d like to have a healthier lifestyle this year which means changing my diet and my exercise plan. I will start by evaluating items in my diet like junk foods; I won't eliminate them completely but I will begin incorporating healthier foods into my meals as sides. I’ll also start with 15 minutes of exercise per day and increase that time by five minutes every other week. This will help me get into a good routine without going overboard.

Moderation will also help me with another resolution of mine: to do better in school. For example, I hardly ever watch T.V. as it is but I will make sure that I tune in only when I’ve finished all my studying and assignments. Take that, procrastination!

Lastly, I plan to set more deadlines for myself this year. By better managing my schedule, I’ll be able to finish my schoolwork in an appropriate amount of time instead of waiting until the last minute to complete assignments. There are always unexpected circumstances popping up and my deadlines will allow time in my schedule to deal with them without sacrificing my studies.

Here’s to a new year filled with positive, continuous change and even some college funding: Be sure to share your resolution with Scholarships.com through the latest Short & Tweet Scholarship!

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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Additional Tips for Spring Semester Success

by Jessica Seals

Thousands of college students are currently preparing to return to school for the spring semester. While some head back confident with a positive attitude, others will set foot on campus feeling down because their grades were not where they wanted them during the fall. My fellow intern Lisa came up with some great tips to start the semester off on the right foot so I’ve provided a few more:

Don’t go into the new semester feeling defeated. Going into a new semester feeling depressed is not the way to go. Even if your grades were not as good as you wanted them to be in the fall, spring semester gives you the chance to start fresh and turn things around. Remember, no one is perfect and every student is prone to having at least one bad semester due to unforeseen circumstances. Let last fall be your only one.

Find out what works for you. If you noticed that you got low grades on your papers when you waited until the last minute to do them, you should work on making time to work on bits of your paper in advance. You’ll have more time to perfect it and get a better grade. Also, if you find making flashcards or studying with music helps you retain information better, stick with these study habits to continue past success.

Realize this is a new semester with new teachers and different standards. Unless you take another class with a teacher that you’ve already had, this semester will be filled with new teachers, different rules and unfamiliar teaching styles. If you were able to do certain things and get by with one teacher, do not automatically assume the same will apply this semester. Each teacher is different and you’ll have to make slight adjustments to your behavior depending on the professor.

With these tips, you can eliminate a defeated attitude and go into the spring semester with a more optimistic outlook. Every college student has the potential to make a complete turnaround and boost their GPA this semester with these tips!

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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Admissions Decisions: What to Do While You Wait to Hear

by Katie Askew

By now, most of the priority deadlines for college applications have passed. You have filled out your last application, written your final essay and everything is under review...so what’s left for you to do?

During the period between submitting your application and getting an admissions decision, there is a lot you can do besides just sitting around waiting. Although patience is a virtue, why don’t you take a look at what I did and see if you can keep busy!

Visit or revisit. If you haven’t already visited your choice colleges, now is the time. Take a tour, meet with an admissions counselor and talk to students you see about campus life. If you have already visited, go again because the second visit is almost always more informative than the first: Now that you have seen a few different types of schools, you can go back to your top choices and get more pertinent information because you’ll know exactly what types of questions to ask.

Volunteer. If you are deferred or waitlisted to your top college (knock on wood!), volunteer hours are great additions to your application and make you a more promising candidate. It shows that you are really doing everything you can to be a well-rounded student. If you were accepted to your top college, those volunteer hours didn’t go to waste – it’s humbling to give your time and maybe volunteering at the local hospital has given you a potential new career path as a doctor or nurse!

Job shadow. Shadowing someone working a job you’re interested in is a great way to acquire lots of information directly from those in the industry. After the job shadow, maybe you’ll realize becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t right for someone as squeamish as you are or maybe you’ll realize how much you love healing others. You won’t know until you job shadow!

Sure, the couch is comfortable but get up and get out – there is a lot more you can do to prepare for those admissions decision letters!

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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This Scholarship of the Week? You're Lovin’ It

Ronald McDonald House Charities U.S. Scholarship Program Deadline is This Friday

January 23, 2012

This Scholarship of the Week? You're Lovin’ It

by Alexis Mattera

Next time you pass a McDonald’s restaurant and begin playing one of the chain’s many jingles in your head, remember this: Behind the all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and sesame seed buns is some serious scholarship money.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities U.S. Scholarship Program offers offer aid to students in financial need who have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership and community involvement. Scholarships are for students in the United States living in areas where there are participating local RMHC Chapters. (To view a complete list of participating RMHC Chapters, their respective counties and the scholarships they offer, please click here.) Graduating high school seniors may only apply for one of the four scholarships available and applicants will be notified of scholarship award status in May or June.

The deadline for the current academic year is January 27th – that’s this Friday so hurry and get those application materials together! For more information on this award and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today.


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Do Students Care About College Rankings?

by Alexis Mattera

In the wake of the recent scandal at Claremont McKenna College, one has to wonder if college rankings are all they’re cracked up to be. Colleges seem to think so – some administrators are willing to fudge standardized testing data in order to move up even one slot and bonuses have been offered to the presidents of schools that increase their positions – but what about the students? Do they care about the number associated with their school of choice? Meh.

The trend, discussed in a new Associated Press article, is that students typically use the rankings as a source of data and pay little attention to a school's number. The latest version of the national survey of college freshmen conducted annually by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute revealed that rankings in national magazines were number 11 on the list of factors affecting college choices behind factors such as cost, size and location; the number one factor, however, was academic reputation, which is a bit confusing as reputation is taken into consideration when determining rankings. "As someone who is asked every year to comment on the rankings, it seems to me that who cares most is the media," John Pryor, who directs the UCLA survey, wrote in a blog post last year. "Second would be college presidents and development officers. Way down the list seem to be those who are actually trying to decide where to go to college."

Are college rankings a bigger deal to students or colleges? Did you or do you plan to use college rankings in making your college choices or do you think other factors are more important to consider?


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All Students CAN Have Access to Success!

by Katie Askew

If you’re the type of student that struggled through your more difficult high school classes, doesn’t have an outstanding GPA or ACT score and are worried you won’t get admitted to a normal four-year college program, fear no more! Many schools around the country are implementing programs for students who may be below the normal admission averages or require extra help in the first few years of college.

The University of Minnesota’s program is called Access to Success (ATS) and is specifically within the College of Liberal Arts, one of seven freshman-admitting colleges at the U. ATS is a student community that bases selection from your admission application but the community includes high school students who appear as if they will succeed in the college atmosphere and just weren’t fully prepared through high school. The benefits of the program include a small learning community with special classes, tutoring support and student-to-student mentoring all while experiencing everything a college student can experience.

All students in the ATS community are assigned an ATS academic adviser who helps them explore majors and opportunities, a career counselor who helps them research and find careers that interest them and a peer mentor who helps them adjust to college life. In addition, ATS participants will have a major or college adviser who helps them declare their majors and plan their courses. The staff in the program wants its mentees to succeed and will do everything in their power to make that happen.

College really can be a good fit for everyone with programs like ATS in place. If you’re interested, check out your top school’s website or ask your admissions counselor for more information. Even if you’re not eligible for an ATS-style program, tutoring and study tips never hurt. Every school has tutoring sessions or mentoring programs available to students – all you have to do is find them!

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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Bilingual Benefits at Home and Abroad

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I live in Buenos Aires full time, I was a Spanish major in college and I’m about as obsessive about Latin pop music as any actual Latina I know so naturally, people laugh when I tell them I almost didn’t take AP Spanish my senior year of high school. Once upon a time, I thought foreign language classes were good for silly skits and fluffing up your college resume but looking back, I can honestly say that even if I had no idea at the time, my high school Spanish classes were probably the most important classes I took in those four years.

Most colleges require language classes to graduate and have varying levels of language requirements for different study abroad programs. The thing about really trying to learn that tricky foreign language is that it lets you become part of whatever culture you’re visiting, whether you flew to another continent or just visited a part of your own college city that you’d never been. Instead of being just a tourist, you can become an observer – an anthropologist of that new and exciting land – but if you don’t know the language (or your basic cultural history), that task becomes impossible and you’re just a tourist with a resident visa. Think about practicing your French in a New York Haitian neighborhood, your Cantonese in San Francisco Chinatown or your Arabic in Dearborn, Michigan. You don’t have to fly a thousand miles away to get out of your comfort zone or expand your horizons.

Now I’m not advocating walking into Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and expecting your six words of Spanish to make you a whole bunch of new friends. Just like when you’re a visitor in someone’s home, be polite and know that your presence can easily become a burden rather than a novelty. If you work at understanding the people around you, finding out about their lives and listening to their opinions and goals, your limited language skills might rapidly expand.

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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