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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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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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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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Dual Enrollment Program Doubled in Chicago

by Alexis Mattera

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into making the transition from high school to college. While some students figure this out after they set foot on campus and are overwhelmed by a litany of new responsibilities, others begin laying the groundwork even before they apply. In Chicago, public school students will have more opportunities to pursue the latter route thanks to a change in the dual enrollment plan.

Yesterday, Chicago City Colleges announced its dual enrollment program will double as of the spring semester, giving up to 2,100 qualifying Chicago Public School juniors and seniors the ability to take free college classes at seven schools – Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College. This is excellent news not only for students who have exhausted the course offerings at their high schools but also for cash-strapped students – roughly 85 percent of all CPS students come from low-income families – aiming to earn college credit while keeping their expenses in check.

CPS students, will you be taking advantage of the expanded dual enrollment program? Other public school students, is there a program like this in place in your city?


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An Update on Early Admissions

November 15, 2011

An Update on Early Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Teens may be excited about "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" and "The Hunger Games" but it appears applying to college early is just as trendy.

Though the numbers are still being tallied, Duke, Brown, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins are all estimating sizeable increases in the amount of early applications received but they aren’t alone: The University of Virginia and Princeton – two schools which reinstated their early admissions programs this year – have their respective hands full with applicants as well. Also of note is the heightened availability of ED II, a second round of early decision with a January deadline, for students who applied to one school using the binding application option and were rejected or deferred. And with these elevated application numbers comes an expected increase in both acceptance rates and financial aid offerings, something students and their parents will both appreciate.

What do you think of these application trends? Did you apply early or do you plan to apply during regular admission and why?


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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

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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It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

NSSE Shows Students Study Less Than Expected

November 18, 2011

It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

by Alexis Mattera

Study styles vary greatly from student to student – you find it most effective to study alone in the library while your roommate prefers to orchestrate conversation-filled study groups in your dorm’s common room – so it should come as no surprise that the amount of time spent hitting the books also fluctuates depending on students’ majors.

But just how much of a disparity is there? According to the National Survey on Student Engagement, engineering majors studied the most with 19 hours of preparation per week while students focusing on business and the social sciences studied the least, putting in 14 hours per week. Here’s the complete list:

Though some students may feel like this is enough preparation to earn their desired grades, the numbers didn’t match up exactly with faculty expectations: An Inside Higher Ed article explains the majority of professors reported they expected students to spend one or two hours more studying per week than they actually did except for in the social sciences, where students studied an average of four hours less than faculty predicted. What do you think of NSSE’s findings? If one of the majors above represents your field of study, do you feel the numbers are accurate? Between all of your other commitments (work, extracurriculars, etc.), is it even possible to study as much as professors expect you to?


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The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

by Jessica Seals

When I first began attending college, my agenda included getting good grades and making new friends. No one told me how important it is to establish relationships with my professors and up until my junior year, I did not put a great deal of effort toward creating and maintaining these connections. It was only when I began looking into law school admissions requirements that I noticed I would need multiple letters of recommendation from professors to complete my applications.

So what did I do? I began by taking more challenging classes with professors I already had so they could get to know me, my work ethic and future goals. Now that the law school application process is in full swing, I am fortunate enough to say that I have already designated which teachers will write my letters of recommendation. Though our relationships are now quite strong, I am also providing my resume so they can easily reference my past accomplishments as they write.

I have seen classmates struggle to get good letters of recommendation because they only did what they had to do to get by. If you plan on going to graduate or professional school, you will need letters of recommendation and it’s never too early to begin the process. Believe me, the law school application process is taxing but my stress level was cut down significantly because I made the right connections with my professors.

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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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

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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Starting a Class Discussion

November 30, 2011

Starting a Class Discussion

by Jacquelene Bennett

Few things are worse than sitting in a boring class with a professor droning on and on. The good news is that unless you are in a lecture hall with hundreds of other college students, you can almost always change a dull lecture into an informative and exciting class discussion.

How do you do this? First and foremost, be sure you've done the homework and assigned reading. If you are prepared, you can properly discuss topics covered in your assignments that are interesting to you but include information your professor might overlook. Some professors may not like that you are interrupting their planned lectures but others will welcome a fresh opinion that supplements the course material and engages a less-than-captive audience.

Next – and really this applies to any discussion you have in life – you have to ask questions. Again, you have to have done the homework in order to ask the right questions but asking questions WILL start a discussion. I am taking a class that I absolutely hate but I’ve discovered that it’s tolerable if I ask a lot of questions. It forces the professor to expand on certain topics and allows your classmates to think about the subject or reading in a way that they wouldn’t have on their own. The key is to not ask your question directly to your professor but to frame it in a way that allows anyone in class to answer.

Don’t want to jump right in during the lecture? Approach your professor before class, tell them that you found a certain aspect of the homework interesting and would like to get the whole class’s view or interpretation of it. Rarely will a professor say no so go for it!

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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