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Starting a New School Year Successfully

by Angela Andaloro

September is the perfect time for a new academic start. There are so many opportunities ahead of you, regardless of what may have happened the year before. Many of us have felt the fear of what looms ahead and discouragement that goes along with having a bad semester. It can be very hard to succeed when you feel like you’ve already failed but with the right strategies and, more importantly, the right mindset, you’re closer to a stellar GPA than you think.

Start strong. Remember when you were in elementary school and the first day of school meant all new notebooks, pens and pencils? You were actually excited to jump right in! College shouldn’t be any different: You might be trading those notebooks for a MacBook but you can still get excited about a new year!

Get organized. We all know how it feels for midterm week to hit and have to search through mountains of papers to find your notes from the first month of class. Don’t be that student! Keep everything organized in the way which works best for you and keep up with it as the semester goes along. This makes studying a little easier (you’ll always know where everything is) and can help give your grades a boost.

Ask questions. Professors have email addresses and office hours for a reason: If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions in class, take the time to do so outside of class. Your grades reflect the amount of effort you put into them, so be sure to do your part – before, during and after class.

A college workload can be a stressful thing to deal with without a good work ethic and the right attitude. You can’t throw these traits in your cart along with your school supplies, though...and they don’t come cheap either! Do the best you can do and if you find something isn't working, it’s never too late to make a change.

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 part


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Sleep 101

September 19, 2011

Sleep 101

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Insomnia is the bane of so many college students' existences. In a world filled with late nights and early classes, catching enough Zzz’s can be difficult...but it doesn't have to be. So breathe deep, avoid caffeine and try these other tips to make falling asleep easier:

Don't use electronic devices before bedtime. This tip is by far the most difficult one for me to follow. I love playing video games before bed and while I don't pay for it every time, I know I've had plenty of sleepless nights because I’ve been too revved up from trying to beat one high score or another. In addition to increasing your heart rate, using electronic devices before bedtime inhibits melatonin production, which makes it more difficult to get to sleep.

Turn your brain off. Again, following this tip is easier said than done but it's arguably the most important. As much as I love reading thrillers before bedtime, I regret it when it comes time to turn the lights off. (*creak*...Was that a burglar I just heard?) And it's not just thriller novels that will make sleeping difficult: Mentally running through lists of assignments, worrying about exams and thinking about the argument you just had with your best friend are equally detrimental to catching 40 (or more) winks.

Head to bed around the same time every night. This tip may be difficult if you have roommates who throw parties until 4 a.m. but try your hardest to go to sleep on a schedule. It takes time for your body to adapt to a new schedule so don't make matters more difficult by going to bed at 8 p.m. one night and 3 a.m. the next unless it really can't be avoided. (And if you do have roommates who throw parties all night long, the best solution is to voice your concerns and come to some sort of compromise.)

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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Have a Question? Ask It!

September 20, 2011

Have a Question? Ask It!

by Jessica Seals

Most college students are afraid to ask questions in class because they are afraid other students will judge them. They are also afraid to query a professor outside of class because they’re nervous the instructor will get angry if they deem the question’s answer as obvious based on the course material covered. My advice: GET OVER IT!

The material a professor will teach at the beginning of a course serves as the foundation for the rest of the semester. If something puzzles you early on, you run the risk of not understanding the rest of the material that is related to it. If you do not ask for clarification, you will not score as well on exams and papers that reflect your knowledge of the topic and your final grade for the class will be lower than what you wanted because you spent the entire semester in a state of confusion.

I have seen students flourish after they have asked for help because they finally understand the material but I have also seen students give up after a few topics did not make sense to them. I personally do not care if other students feel a question I ask is obvious – if I’m not understanding something, I’m going to figure it out any way I can! – and after the professor has answered, I feel like I can do better in the course. An added bonus is that the professor (a.k.a. the person who calculates my final grade) has a favorable opinion of me because I expressed a genuine interest in what he or she was teaching.

In the long run, asking questions and getting help will get you much further than remaining silent and confused all semester. You can either ask questions in class or get help from the professor privately but you should never be too intimidated to ask for help.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. 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. Jessica also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Application Essays Take Center Stage at Middlebury

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again so we have to ask: College students, do you remember what your application essay was about? For a document that takes hours – and, likely, gallons of blood, sweat and tears – to create, very few students give it a second thought after sending their application packets to their colleges of choice. This isn’t the case if that college is Middlebury, however, where students revisit those essays not long after they arrive on campus...and in front of an audience, reports The Choice.

Created in the early ‘90s by residential dean and Middlebury alumn Matt Longman, “Voices of the Class” is a program featuring upperclassmen acting out freshmen admissions essays during new student orientation. Typically 10 to 20 essays are incorporated into the performance, as well as short student-life vignettes written and directed by upperclassmen. Given the subject matter – which Longman said ranges from “how to do your laundry to how to be on guard from date rape” – authors remain anonymous and students can opt out of having their essays performed. The live-action essays have become so popular that Middlebury has started soliciting responses to additional prompts, such as “Tell us something about yourself that people would never guess just by looking at you.”

Would you participate in this kind of program if it were offered at your college? To the past and present Middlebury students in the audience, did “Voices of the Class” feature your application essay?


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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

Five years after Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, more than one million articles have been contributed to the free-for-all Internet encyclopedia. The open editing format allows for an unlimited amount of information to be shared all over the world but unfortunately, some teachers don’t consider Wikipedia to be a credible source...or they simply want their students to do a little more searching for information. Here’s how to make more informed choices when searching for works to cite.

When you Google your topic, don’t just click on the first link that pops up. Check out the site’s address before you visit. Remember, ANYONE can post ANYTHING on the Internet: An English professor at my community college was known to occasionally log on to Wikipedia and edit articles, just to see if her students were using the site.

College and university websites are reputable. If MIT posts an article about its latest technological breakthrough, take that information and use it. The same holds true for sites belonging to trade journals. A writer for an aviation magazine is talking directly with people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes in order to write articles for other people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes. Their information has to be accurate.

It’s also acceptable to cite articles from credible news sources like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. These are publications everyone is familiar with and they have years of coverage to show for it. The bad apples are few and far between.

Something to keep in mind when doing online research is that if something is true, it’s probably going to be on more than one site. If you come across conflicting pieces of information, be sure to check a number of other sources. And you don’t have to ignore Wikipedia completely: The bibliographies at the end of each article can provide some valuable links!

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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A Single Student’s Take on College Relationships

by Darci Miller

It may seem odd to some that a girl who’s been single for her entire 20 years of existence would be writing a blog post about relationships in college. My perpetual singledom, however, gives me a pretty unique perspective on relationships, so hear me out.

Two of my friends are in a relationship. They got together about five seconds after they met freshman year and now, as juniors, they have no lives apart from each other. He has a dorm room but he basically lives at her apartment and they spend every day and night together. I’m fairly certain he’d rather be single – she sort of strong-armed him into the relationship in the first place and somehow got him to change his mind after he broke up with her last year – and while he does care about her, he’s pretty much only still with her for sex. She isn’t any better, as she is completely dependent on him for EVERYTHING. Can you tell that they have the unhealthiest relationship ever?

The misconception seems to be that when we begin attending college, we’re all magically more mature and will all find healthy, successful relationships. Clearly, this is not the case. I’d love to find a boyfriend but seeing what my friends’ horrible relationship looks like, my attitude is that it’ll happen when it happens. And when it does, I have a really good model of what not to do - ever.

Just because we’re young and make mistakes shouldn’t give us a free pass to use other people the way my friend is using his girlfriend and vice versa, but I digress. If you’re interested in sex, just go to eduhookups.com – one night stands may turn my stomach but users of this website are at least upfront about their intentions. In the meantime, if there are any guys looking for a healthy relationship based on more than just the physical stuff, call me.

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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Should You Write an Honors Thesis?

by Jacquelene Bennett

To write an honors thesis or to not write an honors thesis? That is the question. If you are a senior in college, you know the dilemma that I am talking about.

At the beginning of their last year as undergrads, college seniors are presented with the option of doing an honors thesis - typically a 25- to 30-page research paper or paper that concentrates on a single subject within your declared major; you must not only demonstrate what you have learned while attending school but you will have to defend your work to a committee. Being a senior in college comes with a lot of stress and pressure – finding a job, filling out grad school applications, and completing capstone projects and papers are just a few of the things on a college senior’s to-do list – so why would anyone think of taking on another anxiety-filled task?

The pros of undertaking this type of project is that you will not only have a substantial piece of writing to present to grad schools and future employers but the work you’ve done will be reflected on your university diploma and resume. The cons of this project are the massive amount of work and time you have to devote to it. Honors thesis requirements differ from school to school but you’d be hard pressed to find a college where the experience is an easy one.

So is writing an honors thesis right for you? Well, that is a decision that you (and your advisor) have to make. After much debate, I found I do not have the time or enthusiasm to write an honors thesis...but if you do, good luck!

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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Changes Coming for the Common App

by Alexis Mattera

Change can be a good thing (hybrid vehicles versus gas guzzlers) or a bad thing (most Facebook tweaks in recent memory) but it sounds like what’s up the Common Application’s sleeve is decidedly the former for all involved.

The Common Application served 575,000 unique applicants during the past admissions cycle and processed 2.4 million applications and these numbers – substantially higher than the previous admissions cycle with 18-percent and 24-percent upticks, respectively – have prompted the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit to upgrade its existing offerings to better serve users. There will be a new interface with “cool” and “intuitive” portals for students, admissions officers and counselors, a more “scalable” system and an increase in staffers from eight to approximately 50. This growth is necessary given usage projections: Executive director Rob Killion anticipates that 750,000 students will use the Common Application to file about three million applications during the current admissions cycle. “All indications are that this rapid growth ... is not only continuing, but accelerating,” he said. The changes should be implemented by August of 2013.

College students, did you use the Common App? What did you think of the system at the time? High schoolers, do the impending changes make you more or less likely to take advantage of the Common App when you apply to college?


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Ways to Decrease Your Fear of Public Speaking

by Jessica Seals

Public speaking is one fear that gets the best of many college students. Students cringe at the thought of having to give a presentation alone in front of their peers or at the thought of having to take a speech-centric course, despite the fact that some universities require such classes for graduation. A fear of public speaking can put a damper on a college experience – students may shy away from classes they really want to take because they are too afraid to speak in front of the class – and while not everyone will become the world’s greatest public speaker, there are ways to ease your mind and become better at speaking in front of a crowd.

Shift your focus. If making eye contact with people is your problem, find an inanimate object to focus on. I’ve found looking at the wall or space in between two people helps a lot because it makes it seem like you are making eye contact when you really are not. The crowd will be none the wiser and you will be far less flustered.

Practice makes perfect. Rehearse your speech or presentation in front of a mirror before it is time to speak in front of your classmates. Practicing will make you more confident in what you have to say and instead of fumbling with your note cards, the words will just flow right out of your mouth.

Perform for friends and family. Once you’re comfortable delivering your speech or presentation to your reflection, try it out on family, friends or roommates. This will ease you into presenting in front of a live audience like the one you’ll speak to in class.

Some people never get rid of their public speaking phobia no matter how often they have to perform in front of a crowd. Once you realize that you are not the only one afraid to speak in public and the most effective ways to practice, your nerves will calm and you’ll ace that presentation.

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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If the College Fits...

How to Find the Right School for You

October 4, 2011

If the College Fits...

by Katie Askew

Finding the right college for you may seem daunting but it’s actually easier than ever before. (Thanks, Internet!) For those new to the process, here are a few tips to get you started on your quest to find your perfect school:

The easiest way to find colleges is to let them find you. A major part of a college admissions counselors’ jobs is to recruit prospective students so keep a close eye on your snail mailbox, your email inbox, your phone and even sites like Scholarships.com because you’ll most likely be contacted by a college via one of those paths. (Side note: Create a more professional email address for college communications – the admissions office WILL laugh at your 2hawt2trot@whatever.com address so keep it simple and classy with some variation of your.name@whatever.com.)

Don’t turn away any one type of school just because you think it’s not for you. Generic college brochures and pamphlets you receive in the mail are just that: generic. It’s impossible to get the big picture from a few glossy pages; it takes some personal research to find the parts of the school that pertain to you.

Just because a school was perfect for your parents, best friend or significant other doesn’t mean it’ll be the right fit for you. College Board and Scholarships.com both have great college search tools that allow you to narrow your search based on location, majors, cost, activities and housing. Just pick from your personal list and you’ll get links to colleges’ admissions pages.

Virtual tours are helpful but try to physically visit the schools you’re most interested in. I can’t stress enough that the campus visit can be the most important factor in a student’s decision. Visiting various kinds of schools can help to narrow your search as well; tech schools, public institutions, private institutions, rural colleges, Big 10 universities, Ivy League universities, community colleges, small schools and even beachfront colleges all have something unique to offer and you may not know what that is until you step foot on campus!

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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