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GPA, SAT, and a Great Sense of Humor Walk into a Bar

November 12, 2010

GPA, SAT, and a Great Sense of Humor Walk into a Bar

by Suada Kolovic

When you envisioned what your college application process would be like, I’m sure you anticipated stress and anxiety but I doubt you expected a joke could get you in. This was the moment you were told to draw on your strengths and articulate every achievement – countless community service hours, stellar GPA, and the fact that you were senior class president. Every sentence would be so perfectly and meticulously thought-out that who you were just leapt right off the page. You prepared your answer on why you belonged at your dream college and pinpointed what you had to offer…until you opened the actual application and found a serious curveball.

In addition to common essay prompts, more and more institutions are jumping on the unconventional question bandwagon and are interested knowing not only in why students want to gain admission but just how creative they can be when challenged. Here are the far-from-average questions schools are asking this year:

California Institute of Technology

Caltech asks applicants to not overanalyze:

  • “What are three adjectives your friends would use to describe you?”
  • “Caltech students have long been known for their quirky sense of humor and creative pranks and for finding unusual ways to have fun. What is something that you find fun or humorous?”

University of Chicago

Each year the University of Chicago asks newly admitted and current students for essay topics:

  • “Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?”

Yale University

Yale asks applicants to write essays, plus answer the following questions in 25 words or less:

  • “If you could witness one moment in history, what would it be and why?”
  • “Recall a compliment you received that you especially value. What was it? From whom did it come?”

University of Dallas

Along with three conventional questions, including “What influenced you most to apply to the University of Dallas?” the school also asks:

  • “Tell us your favorite joke or humorous anecdote.”

Soon-to-be college applicants, what do you think of this technique? Are you a fan of the challenge or frustrated by the fact that not only are you expected to impress them with your achievements and extracurricular activities but now you’re expected to be witty, too?

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You’re Hired…Maybe

College Grads Get Good News on Employment

November 18, 2010

You’re Hired…Maybe

by Alexis Mattera

Finding a job has never been easy but over the past few years, that same task has become even more nerve-wracking and downright disheartening. This situation is all too familiar to recent college graduates, who – save for an internship or two – have very little experience outside the classroom but the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University just revealed the hiring of new bachelor's-degree graduates expected to increase by 10 percent this academic year.

Institute director Phil Gardner describes this news as the first step out of a deep hole – this year’s increase is over last year's hiring, which held steady after it tumbled 35 to 40 percent in 2008. The report, "Recruiting Trends 2010-2011," says hiring will not increase across the board but will instead be seen in certain industries, for specific majors and in isolated areas of the country:

  • More recent graduates will be hired by manufacturers, professional-services companies, large commercial banks and the federal government; smaller banks, state governments and colleges and universities project drops.
  • Grads with majors and experience in business, technology, e-commerce, entrepreneurism and public relations will have better luck than those in the fields of health sciences and social services; companies also plan to increase hiring 21 percent among liberal-arts majors.
  • The Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions will see the highest increases in recent graduate hiring, while the Northwest will see a 10-percent decline.

If these findings don’t relate to your situation, there’s still a chance you could snag the job of your dreams: Thirty-six percent of employers say they will consider applicants regardless of major. So, recent and soon-to-be college graduates, breathe those sighs of relief and start updating those resumes!

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Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

Northeastern Grad Starts Website to Help Make Payments

November 23, 2010

Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how to pay for a college education can be complicated, but what happens once you’ve graduated and your loans become so overbearing that even with a full-time job, monthly payment are implausible? A few weeks ago, we blogged that the average college student leaves school with $24,000 in debt, but what about the student who’s debt is about eight times that amount? Northeastern alum Kelli Space, 23, found herself in that exact predicament: With $200,000 in debt, Space was unable to pay her stifling student loans – her monthly payments to Sallie Mae are $891 and by next November that figure will nearly double – so she started a website, Two Hundred Thou, in order to solicit donations from the public.

The site is devoted to sharing her story about the naivety of an 18- year-old, who was the first in her family to attend college and her reliance on readers to foot the bill. Space explains, “At the moment, I like to think I have great things going for me! A job, an accommodating family, loyal friends, etc... but these loans are crippling my ability to enjoy these things – or pay rent. Can I live?” She goes on to explain that by donating to her cause, you’ll also be helping the country as a whole.

Two Hundred Thou also tracks Space’s progress and so far she’s raised $1,726.50, leaving a mere $198,273.50 to go. Space ends with the notion that once her student loans are paid off she’ll spend her money elsewhere, “probably single-handedly spurring the economy.” To think you’re just a click away from cleaning up the mess of a recent college graduate, while fixing the economy and helping the country as a whole – and at $200,000, that’s a bargain.

However, we should point out – before you lend a helping hand – that we really don’t know who this person is or even whether this story is embellished or even entirely fabricated. The domain is registered privately, hiding the identity of the registrant, and the email address is just a gmail account anybody could have created. Sure, maybe this is on the up-and-up, but there’s really no way of knowing. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a bunch of these sites spring-up if this idea gains traction and exposure.

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Data Spill at University of Hawaii

Former Student Sues Over Privacy Breaches

November 22, 2010

Data Spill at University of Hawaii

by Suada Kolovic

Every day, you’re prompted to enter personal information on the web. Whether you’re buying a Kindle from Amazon, filling out a college application or applying for a job, you’re asked for a credit card number, your social security number and, in some cases, even your mother’s maiden name. And sure, in the back of your mind you know there’s the slightest possibility that your personal information could be disclosed, but I doubt that fear was a serious concern on your university’s website. Former University of Hawaii-Manoa student Philippe Gross was no different but on Thursday, Gross filed a class-action suit against the university after the system allowed a series of privacy breaches. It was only last month that the system discovered that a retired professor had posted social security numbers and other personal information about more than 40,000 alumni on a public web server. That wasn’t the first incident either: Back in July, the system acknowledged that hackers gained access to records of 53,000 students and employees at its Manoa campus.

Mr. Gross’s lawyer, Thomas R. Grande, said the University of Hawaii had violated the constitutional right to privacy of the students and employees who were affected. “For those with access to private security information comes a heavy responsibility to protect that information,” Mr. Grande said. The University of Hawaii-Manoa has acknowledged that they are working on improving its data security and, as of right now, their approach was inadequate. Though I doubt the thousands affected by the breaches take comfort in knowing that only now, after two incidents, has the university taken action.

Do you think the University of Hawaii – or any institution for that matter – should be liable for data breaches?

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Pew Reports Students Borrowing More than Ever

November 24, 2010

Pew Reports Students Borrowing More than Ever

by Suada Kolovic

On the heels of our latest post – a story about a Northeastern grad who accumulated $200,000 in student loans – the Pew Research Center released a report that members of the class of 2008 borrowed 50 percent more than their counterparts who graduated 12 years earlier. According to the report, increased borrowing by college students has been driven by three trends: more college students are borrowing, college students are borrowing more, and more college students are attending private for-profit schools. The report reveals that the number of undergraduates borrowing rose from 52 percent in 1996 to 60 percent in 2008 and among those who borrowed, the average undergraduate loan increased from $17,000 in 1996 to $23,000 in 2008. The rise in attendance at private, for-profit colleges also resulted in the increase of student borrowing; the report states, “Students who attend for-profit colleges are more likely than other students to borrow, and they typically borrow larger amounts.”

This isn’t the shock of the century by any means. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time in history, student-loan debt surpassed credit card debt. The figures are staggering: According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owe $826.5 billion in revolving credit, while students owe an estimated $829.785 billion in loans. In fact, so many college graduates are plagued by massive amounts of debt that the Huffington Post has provided an outlet for college graduates to share their stories - almost as a cautionary tale – through an ongoing project, Majoring in Debt.

What do you think? With recent college graduates facing debt in the hundreds of thousands, what are you doing to ensure you don’t end up in the same situation?

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Boston University Student Wins ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship

Will Use Winnings to Pay Student Loans, Graduate Debt Free

November 26, 2010

Boston University Student Wins ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship

by Suada Kolovic

Competing against some of the brightest young minds in the country, Boston University sophomore Erin McLean became the 2010 “Jeopardy!” college champion on Saturday. The 2009 Danvers High School graduate beat out 14 competitors for the coveted title. Taking on challengers from Yale University and Southern Adventist University in Tennessee in the final round, McLean won the grand prize of $100,000. Aware of the current economic climate, McLean shared how she planned on spending her winnings: "The first thing I'll do is payoff my student loans. I'm really looking forward to graduating debt-free; that will be amazing." Any money remaining will go towards a new MacBook and a spring break trip with friends. (She is in college, after all!)

McLean, a lifelong “Jeopardy!” fanatic, explained that after missing the Final Jeopardy question, she was unsure of her fate – “If you watch the show, it looks like I didn't know whether I won or not," she revealed – but after a few gut-wrenching seconds, host Alex Trebek announced her the winner. As she made her way out to center stage, she stood beside Trebek clutching the championship trophy, giggling all the while. “It was unreal and one of the best moments of my life," McLean said. "I got to actually live my childhood dream. I never thought I'd even get called to be on the show, so to win ... Words can't even describe it."

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Meet Your New Floormate: Your Professor

University of Houston Encourages Interaction Between Students and Faculty

November 29, 2010

Meet Your New Floormate: Your Professor

by Alexis Mattera

Now that the tryptophan has worn off (we hope!), it’s time to get back to work and start preparing for finals. But would doing so be easier or more difficult if your professor lived down the hall?

University of Houston freshmen have been testing these waters since move-in day when associate professor of history Raul Ramos, his wife, their two sons and their dogs started calling the new Cougar Village dormitory “home.” Their relocation is part of the university's efforts to engage students by encouraging more informal interactions with faculty. Ramos and his family aren't alone, either: Two other faculty members – Catherine Horn and Carroll Parrott Blue – have also taken advantage of on-campus housing.

Provost John Antel believes this initiative will make the campus more personal – "We're a big, urban research university," he said. "It can be intimidating." – and increase the amount of students living on campus: Long known as a commuter school, UH currently has about 6,500 of its 38,750 students living on campus but its target is 8,500. University officials believe it will ultimately improve graduation rates and de-mystify academic life. "As a professor, you know the first year is critical," Ramos said. "Students don't know that one mistake can take two years to fix. One mistake that first year, and you're graduating in six or seven years instead of four."

The idea may seem novel but UH isn’t the first school to promote student-faculty interaction – Rice University places faculty members and their families in each housing complex on campus, as do other universities – yet I’m interested in seeing the long-term results. If there are any UH students in the audience, has having professors living in the residence halls changed the way you study, behave or view your future? We’d love a first-hand account!

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Hummusgate 2010

Princeton Students Say Sabra Spreads Injustice

November 30, 2010

Hummusgate 2010

by Alexis Mattera

While you may not think hummus is as newsworthy as Google buying Groupon, Nina Garcia’s new baby or the death of Leslie Nielsen, a group of Princeton students would beg to differ.

The Princeton Committee on Palestine recently circulated a petition (and collected more than 200 signatures) regarding Sabra hummus, whose owner has been accused of contributing to human rights violations of Palestinians in the West Bank because the company supports the Israeli military. A referendum will appear on this week's Undergraduate Student Government election ballot and if the measure is approved, a formal request will be submitted to Dining Services to provide an alternative hummus option at all university-run outlets. “We think it’s important to allow students to have choice, and if they want to eat hummus, not have to buy a product that’s so morally problematic,” said Yoel Bitran, president of the Princeton Committee on Palestine.

This issue isn’t just isolated inside Princeton’s gates: Students at DePaul, Georgetown and other schools across the country are voicing their support for or against Sabra via – where else these days? – Facebook. Events like “Save the Hummus! -- Vote Against the Sabra Hummus Boycott” and its counterpart, "Boycott Sabra Hummus" have gained substantial followings, more evidence the matter is spreading across campus populations. But even if the measure doesn’t pass at Princeton, Bitran is just glad awareness is being raised. “In the beginning people didn’t really understand why this mattered,” he said. “People thought that it was just about hummus and kind of trivial. I think most people kind of changed their minds…. At this point the referendum itself is a detail.”

What’s your take, readers? Is a chickpea just a chickpea or does it represent much more?

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No One Likes a Cheater…Except the Cheater

Study Shows Narcissists More Likely to Cheat on Tests

December 3, 2010

No One Likes a Cheater…Except the Cheater

by Alexis Mattera

Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the most dishonest of them all? A new study shows that in the collegiate world, narcissistic students are far more likely to cheat on tests while their less self-involved counterparts employ a different tactic – studying.

The Huffington Post (which also recently published a piece about how narcissists also spend the most time on Facebook) featured findings from a Science Blog study that said vainer students were more inclined to cheat for two reasons: 1. they want to show off academically and 2. they are able to bypass feeling guilty for their actions. Amy Brunell, an assistant psychology professor at Ohio State University at Newark and the study’s lead author, elaborates, "Narcissists feel the need to maintain a positive self-image and they will sometimes set aside ethical concerns to get what they want." If she is indeed correct, a number of students attending the University of Central Florida are a morally corrupt (but extremely pretty) bunch.

Given our increasingly celebrity-obsessed society, it’s not surprising that narcissism is on the rise but the increase has been especially prominent in college students say San Diego State University and the University of South Alabama. Cheating on college exams is a serious offense but down the line, when these students graduate, the U.S. could experience more social problems associated with their risky decision making and senses of entitlement.

Students, have you noticed more classmates channeling their inner Kanye Wests and Janice Dickinsons lately?

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Sorority Members Targeted on Facebook

December 6, 2010

Sorority Members Targeted on Facebook

by Suada Kolovic

Following Facebook’s launch of their new profile page, sorority members from Florida State University, Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University have all confirmed reports of harassment by cyberstalkers posing as potential Facebook friends. According to Florida State assistant police chief, Major Jim Russell, the sorority members on his campus received a friend request from an individual claiming to be affiliated with a particular sorority. Once accepted, the new “friend” requested video interviews with the sorority members asking questions pertaining to the members’ interests – ranging from members seeking initiation to active members looking for leadership roles; however, in an effort to conceal their identity, the friend would claim their camera was broken and insisted on conducting a one-way video chat.

That’s when the Facebook conversation escalated into harassment, Mr. Russell said, with Florida State students reporting that in some instances, the “friend” asked them to reveal undergarments or undress entirely. One student, who tried to cease contact with the friend, was told that there were girls outside her door who could “handle her” if she refused to comply with orders.

Officials at Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University did not release details regarding the nature of the harassment on Facebook. However, all four institutions have informed members of their campuses about the incidents and officials at three of the universities have confirmed ongoing investigations. Mr. Russell suggested that all students adjust their privacy settings and deny friend requests from individuals they don’t know. He also warned that any information released on the Internet can stay there forever. “Students now have to understand that the Internet cloaks the bad guys and that basic prevention concepts are key into preventing future incidents,” he said.

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