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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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Computer Programs Every College Student Needs

by Radha Jhatakia

As college students, we are dependent upon computers when working on papers, presentations and other class assignments. Many times, we are required to have certain technology to complete these tasks and whether you use a Mac or PC, these programs can help you.

For document reading and creation: Adobe Reader is a program used to read PDF files which are often used as virtual documents you can fill out using a computer. CutePDF Writer is a program used to create PDF files. You can write documents or turn JPEGs (picture files) into PDFs by selecting to print files as PDF. (Doing so turns them into virtual documents.)

For word processing: Microsoft Word is essential to anyone who has or will ever need to write a paper. Macs have a different version that comes pre-installed in the computers; however, these files are only compatible with Macs, thus professors often require that students use Microsoft Word when emailing and writing documents.

For presentations: PowerPoint is another Microsoft program designed to create presentations and it's filled with different formats, backgrounds, charts and smart objects you can utilize to customize your projects. PowerPoint is also very popular in the workplace so learning how to use it while attending college is a big plus.

For data analysis: Microsoft Excel is necessary during and after college. The software can be used to input data to be calculated much easier and also to analyze with efficiency. Excel can be tricky but there are classes you can take (and tech-savvy classmates you can ask) to learn how to use the program.

For all the rest: A few various programs that you can keep on hand which may or may not come in handy depending on your personal interests or major are iTunes and Adobe Photoshop. These programs are more artistic and provide access to music and photo editing. Purchase these programs legally, as they will last for a while and provide free updates.

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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To Pin or Not to Pin?

Colleges Weigh the Pros and Cons of Pinterest

April 25, 2012

To Pin or Not to Pin?

by Alexis Mattera

Does your college have a Facebook page? Has your university retweeted one of your Twitter posts? At this stage in the social media game, both scenarios are pretty common so it’s not too surprising that many institutions are also turning to Pinterest to interact with and engage their students as much as possible. Is it the best move for every school? An answer has yet to be pinned down.

Pinterest’s growth over the last year is hard to ignore(Modea reports the number of users jumped from less than 500,000 last May to 11.7 million in January) and while some schools (Drake, the University of Minnesota, UPenn, Oberlin) have already started building their Pinterest presences, others aren’t as gung-ho about the concept. Drake’s digital media specialist Aaron Jaco was an early Pinterest proponent, tasking his student interns with creating multiple boards (17, according to this Inside Higher Ed article) that were whimsical, human and fostered engagement. Jaco’s goal for Drake on Pinterest seems pretty simple – “The more we can engage in a friendly, non-sales way, the better,” he said – but other schools are still on the virtual fence. Bill Keller, a new media specialist at Muhlenberg College, would rather wait until an effective marketing strategy is more clearly defined. “When we do jump in [to Pinterest], I want to make sure it’s a strong footprint with solid intent behind it,” he said.

What do you think of colleges using Pinterest to connect with students? Is their presence on the site necessary or do you think their messages would be better received via other social media platforms?


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Fastest Growing Jobs for College Grads

by Suada Kolovic

Today is National Decision Day for college applicants and while determining where you’ll be headed in the fall is huge, knowing what you’ll be studying once you get there is just as imperative. With the economy the way it is, pursuing a growing job field would be ideal. With that in mind, check out some of the fastest growing jobs in America below:

Would you consider pursing any of the positions listed above? Will the current labor market impact your decision on what you’ll major in? Let us know in the comments section.


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Internships That Pay (and Pay Well!)

by Suada Kolovic

For college students, internships are viewed as a rite of passage, a box that has to be checked and a prerequisite for future ambitions. While attaining an internship is a success in its own right, finding one where you’ll be compensated in something other than experience is a challenge…but not necessarily impossible. A new report from Glassdoor lists the highest-rated companies that not only pay their interns but pay them insanely well. Check out some companies that made the cut below (for the full list, click here):


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Win $1,000 in the Scholarship of the Week!

Zinch’s Weekly Three Sentence Essay Due June 4th

May 29, 2012

Win $1,000 in the Scholarship of the Week!

by Suada Kolovic

What better way is there to kick off summer break than an additional $1,000 to put towards your college education? Zinch’s Weekly Essay Contest will help you do just that and all you have to do is write a two to three sentence essay on the following prompt: If you could time travel to report on the front lines of any war in world history, which would you choose and what would you investigate?

All high school and college students (including international students) are eligible to participate. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Easy Ways to Get the Job You Want

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Students around the country are finishing up finals, breathing the sweet scent of fresh summer air...and figuring out ways to pay for food and “Avengers” tickets this summer. Whether it’s a high-powered investment banking internship or making coffee at your favorite hipster hangout, finding a summer job is incredibly competitive but here are a few simple (though easy to overlook) tips that make you a stronger candidate.

First, do your research before making contact with a potential employer. Know what the company does, what your potential job entails and the names of most major staff members (including everyone you would potentially be working with/under). Now don’t be creepy – just because you recognize someone doesn’t mean you should shout out their high school GPA and prom date’s name (you’d be horrified what people can find on Google) – but use the info to tailor in-person and written responses to be relevant to what they’re interested in adding to the company. I recommend Glassdoor.com for good insider information on popular companies.

Second, take what you learned about Google and search yourself! I guarantee you that many potential employers are doing just that, as well as looking at your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. (You can probably leave your unupdated-since-2005 MySpace alone – even employers don’t care about that anymore.) I know I sound like a parent but I cannot stress enough that you should improve your privacy settings on everything. Worst case scenario, your employer doesn’t use search engines and you’ve frustrated that dude from freshman year algebra who still looks at your pictures. Best case scenario, potential employers won’t see that “awesome” happy hour/prank/streaking incident.

Finally, remember the benefits of networking. I know I’ve always felt embarrassed about using a friend or acquaintance to find a position – it feels like my achievement is less real – but a job is what you put into it, not how you get it. Talk to as many people as possible about your goals, set up informational interviews and even shadow someone for a day. Take friends or family members up on every opportunity – it feels like nepotism but they might be seeing something in you that would be an asset to their company. Don’t turn anything down just because you didn’t apply on Monster.

What’s that? You followed these tips and got the job? Great! Just don’t forget to take a minute to enjoy that feeling of success and achievement before you actually start working.

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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Study U

Five Schools Where Students Still Make Plenty of Time to Study

May 22, 2012

Study U

by Alexis Mattera

The average college student has lots of free time on his or her hands but add in part-time jobs, internships, group work and even commuting and those hours disappear fast. Time spent studying has dipped from 24 hours to 15 hours per week since the 1960s but according to the Washington Post and the National Survey of Student Engagement, students still make ample time and they’ve listed five schools where they’re known to hit the books...hard.

Now how do YOUR study habits compare?


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Selling/Buying Items for School

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the end of the academic year which means summer vacation, summer school and, for many students, moving home until the fall. Moving out is never a simple process but for the items and supplies that you do not want to keep, selling them or giving them away for free are some options. This is also the best time for students to purchase furniture and other household items especially if they are living off campus – they might be second hand but it will save you quite a bit of money!

College students who want to sell items have a variety of outlets to consider. Create a free Craigslist posting – all you need to do is take a picture of the item you’re selling, give a brief description and list a price and some contact information so interested buyers can reach you. Advertising on campus through flyers in the student union and dorms is also an option; student buyers might be more willing to meet with you if they know you are another student. Lastly, if you are moving or graduating and taking items with you isn’t an option or storing them is too inconvenient, you can donate the items or give them away for free – believe me, students trying to furnish their abodes will thank you.

The dorms at SJSU did something innovative this year to help students get rid of things they didn’t need in a convenient manner and for students to find something they might need: We used a spare lounge in the dorms to pile up items including mini-fridges, TVs, game consoles, bookshelves, clothing, books and so much more. Many students found it useful and were able to take whatever they wanted for free; everything that was left at the end was donated. Success all around!

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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