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by Agnes Jasinski

It's a few months into your freshman year, and the homesickness may be setting in. Or you've found yourself at war with your first college roommate, who sneaks snacks from your cupboard when you're hard at work studying in the library.

So much of what you learn before you head off to college is related to the more rigorous academics you'll be tackling, or all the paperwork you need to fill out to make sure your financial aid application is filed completely and on time. These things are very important, and you will be faced with new adult-like responsibilities once you're on that campus. But what about the things your guidance counselors don't tell you?

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book "The Naked Roommate, and 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College," has been making the rounds the last few weeks to inform college students - and their parents - that a few bumps in the road are normal. He describes the more realistic picture of the first one, even two, years of college as years of "discomfort," and that students will come across situations they may not have been prepared to encounter: that overly-rambunctious roommate that stays up late and keeps you awake, or the fact that you thought it'd be way easier to make friends on a campus of more than 20,000 students, all around your age.

Cohen suggests that getting through those difficult times will only make you stronger. The bad memories you may think you're collecting now will slowly become good memories, as one day we nearly guarantee you'll be talking about the "good old days" of attending college. The uneasiness you feel now will subside, and you'll start finding your niche. Take advantage of what college campuses have to offer, because chances are, there's something for every kind of student, no matter how diverse their interests. Some of Cohen's suggestions have included speaking up to disruptive or inappropriate roommates, taking care of yourself to avoid falling into a physical, mental or emotional slump, and forcing yourself to get our of your comfort zone somethings by joining a new student group or making connections with classmates.

Browse through our site for more tips on transitioning into that first year of a new college lifestyle and dealing with common roommate problems. Chances are the things you're experiencing are pretty universal, and easily remedied with a little faith that things will get better and giving yourself enough time to adapt to a new life on campus.


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by Emily

So, you want to be a teacher? Students pursuing degrees in the liberal arts are all too familiar with this question. It can seem at times like no one around you can fathom a career beyond teaching high school English or history, or some other subject that may have little beyond a name in common with your actual college goals. But the follow-up, "what do you want to do, then?" can also be a cause for uncertainty. The widespread assumption exists that four years of interesting classes inevitably lead to a lifetime of low salaries and limited career prospects.

However, that doesn't have to be the case. In a commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education, author Katharine S. Brooks shares some stories from her 20-some years of experience in career services of liberal arts education leading to career success, which is encouraging for students just beginning to think about how their degree can aid them in the job search. Examples she gives include a philosophy major whose logic class helped him score a perfect 180 on the LSAT, and a student whose knowledge gained in a film class helped him turn an internship into a job offer. Other stories abound. A liberal arts education is remarkably useful in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Her article focuses on encouraging colleges to provide better career services to liberal arts majors, but for students whose schools don't yet offer these services, she also has good advice. Instead of simply taking your English degree and assuming you need to work in writing or publishing because that's what you've learned to do, Brooks urges pausing to think about the skills you've learned and interests you have and trying to find meaningful connections among them. In the end, you'll have a more complete picture of yourself as a student and as a potential worker. In addition to writing, perhaps your major has given you great skills with finding, interpreting, and evaluating vast amounts of information quickly. Skills like those can easily be applied to a wide variety of careers, and you can use your inventoried interests to focus your search.

Evaluating your interests and experiences is a must for students nearing the end of college, especially in majors that aren't clear-cut paths to a particular career. Students in the humanities and social sciences have gained college experiences that can lead them in a number of different directions. In addition to adapting their interests and experiences to the corporate environment, they also have potential to further their knowledge of their field as graduate students, to enter into a public service profession, to earn a teaching certificate and become an educator, or to puruse their interests in whatever ways they find appealing. Which direction you choose depends less on the limitations of your major than on your personal preferences and abilities to seek out and seize opportunities-and based on what your degree has taught you, those should be quite well developed.


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Are You Ready for Finals?

November 18, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Although you're probably ready to sit down and enjoy a big Thanksgiving meal, you may be feeling some dread about what you'll be facing once you return to college after that turkey coma. Finals Week Many of you will have been procrastinating up to this point, falling behind on the study skills you honed in your high school AP classes to prepare for this moment. Luckily, it's not too late.

If you're really behind, chances are you may need to pull an all-nighter or two to catch up with your studies. Do it.  Even if you're just a freshman getting used to your first year on campus, you should still focus on making your grades the best they can be. There are still a ton of scholarships out there if you're a sophomore, junior, even a graduate student, so don't assume the loot you won to pay for your first year is out of your reach once you complete your freshman year.

If you're in better shape than I was in college, you haven't fallen too far behind and actually have notes from most of your lectures. Make a list and check it twice of all that you need to do before finishing off the semester. Talk to your professors if things aren't clear before final exam time to feel more prepared and more confident going in to those testing sessions. If you've been fairly responsible up to this point, you probably don't need to be reminded not to cram, but don't catch the procrastination bug now.

Here are some of our other favorite tips on improving your study skills in time for college exams:

  • Stay focused. If you're less distracted at the library, go to the library. Dorm rooms and apartments are full of potential time-wasters - TV, video games, snacks, chatty roommates. If you can't study in silence, bring your books and headphones to a less distracting place.
  • Figure out your learning style. What may have worked for you in high school may not be relevant anymore. You probably have more work to do, with more opportunities for distraction and non-academic related activities. Figure out how you manage your time best and what makes you the most successful learner, because the study method that works for your friend down the hall may not be the one that will work best for you.
  • Keep everything. That syllabus you used as a coaster the first week of class? It could have some important information about final exam week buried in between the professor's introduction and the required textbooks. File away every handout you get from every class, because they could be useful later. Toss them once the course is over and you've turned in that exam.
  • Don't panic. If this is your first experience with finals week, put things in perspective. Yes, you'll need to do well so that you're around for finals next semester, but panic will only stress you out and potentially cause you procrastinate even more. Focus, breathe, and take care of yourself. You want to be feeling healthy and alert when you're staring down at that college exam, and, as prepared as you're able to be.

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by Agnes Jasinski

Two Chicago-area community colleges are using zombies to urge students to consider their options before applying solely to four-year schools. Harper College and Elgin Community College, with some help from email provider Abeedle.com, are using a cartoon short featuring fictional high school seniors Lynette and Theo in a common predicament among the college-bound: to save money, or not to save?

In the short, Lynette goes to community college, is free of student loan debt, and uses the money she saved to become a filmmaker and purchase a sporty convertible. Theo, on the other hand, chooses the four-year university, and is depicted wandering around with the other "college zombies," saddled with a large amount of debt.

This isn't the first time the zombie hype has hit college campuses. The University of Florida recently posted a zombie preparedness plan on its e-Learning website, alongside more likely disaster scenarios. But this is a unique way to address the high costs of higher education and invite students to examine all of their options when considering where to go to school.

Enrollments at community colleges have increased by about 25 percent over the last year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. The big decisions aren't only about filling out those college applications, but figuring out how you're going to pay for tuition at your intended school. If you're concerned about how you're going to cover the costs, consider a community college where you'd be able to complete your general education requirements and then transfer to a four-year college if you want that traditional college experience. Many community colleges and trade schools specialize in certain fields, so narrow down your college choices by your intended field of study, as well.

If you know community college isn't for you, there are other ways to save. Compare the costs of in-state versus out-of-state tuition. Depending on your home state, you could still go to a state university that is far enough away that you get that "away at college" experience, while still enjoying the perks of in-state tuition. (In-state tuition is often half that of out-of-state tuition. Do the numbers!) Whatever you do, don't assume that college is out of your reach because of the costs. While paying for college can take some creativity and persistence, it can be done, especially if you have some scholarship money padding that financial aid package.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

It's the day before Thanksgiving. As the day progresses, your college campus will increasingly take on the look and feel of a ghost town-it may already be one if you're one of those lucky students whose school didn't even hold classes today.

However, gorging themselves on home cooking is not the only thing college students are anticipating this weekend. Right on the heels of Thanksgiving comes finals week for most college students in the country. So while you're packing for the weekend with your family and rushing to join the mass exodus from the dorm, you may find yourself throwing in some homework along with the laundry you plan to do at home and you may find yourself hurrying to finish a paper before you run out the door.

Balancing school and the rest of your life is hard enough, and it becomes even harder when holidays with the folks are involved. Here's this four-day stretch of no classes, and unless you're stuck working retail or food service, no work, and a sense that you can do anything you want with it. It can be tempting to put off your homework in the preceding days, telling yourself that you've got all weekend to get caught up-and even ahead-on what's been assigned before finals are due. Equally tempting, however, is the impulse to take the weekend as a vacation you've earned, focusing on football and catching up with friends and family, and spending most of the weekend in a food coma.

So how do you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend and get your homework done?

Know your environment.

When I started college, I didn't yet have a laptop and the family computer was in the living room, right next to where my relatives would congregate for Thanksgiving. We still had dial-up and ancient word-processing software that effectively made completing a paper at home impossible. Yet I'd still schedule not only writing but research for Thanksgiving weekend. If your home environment is difficult to work in, don't plan on working at home. If there are things you absolutely need to get done, think of a place you can go to do them, and a time you can make that trip (the coffee shop next to the mall on Black Friday? Not a good work environment, either).

Know your schedule.

Will you spend Thursday at a relative's house hours from home? Does your mom insist on dragging you along for the 4 AM stampede at stores on Friday? Do you have high school friends clamoring for a piece of your time on Saturday or Sunday? If you have other scheduling obligations to contend with, planning to pencil in a 10-page paper or an intensive cramming session might not be a good idea. If your homework needs to be done, and needs to be done now, you may need to see who you can put on hold. An unfortunate part of the college lifestyle is the realization that you may need to disappoint someone to make time to pass your classes. Accept this reality, but be smart about it and don't burn bridges.

Look ahead.

So you have all this homework to do and not a lot of time to do it in. What do you do? Look at the due dates for your assignments you'd scheduled for the weekend, as well as your school obligations when you return next week. Is there time to work this stuff in before it's due and still enjoy your holiday weekend? Are there other, less important tasks you can potentially rearrange? I won't advocate neglecting homework or skipping class to spend quality time with friends and family, but I won't be so naïve as to say it doesn't happen. Be smart about your decisions and be aware of their long-range impact. If the class you plan to skip on Tuesday to write your paper is one more than you're allowed to skip without dropping a letter grade or failing the class, then it might be wiser to attend it, and get your paper done this weekend--even if it means pulling an all-nighter or two.

Finally, if you're nervous about all the work you have to do, take some time today and make a plan, possibly while you're stuck in a car, a train, or the airport. Having a plan of action can keep you from freaking out about your homework while you should be enjoying a meal with your family and a well-deserved break from school.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

On Monday, a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was greeted by campus police when she arrived on campus. The reason: faculty members had felt threatened by her Facebook status updates.

Amanda Tatro, a student in the university's mortuary science program, had made a series of Facebook status updates over the weekend that made references to violence and her embalming lab class. Some of her professors were concerned by these updates and called the police. Tatro was escorted off campus Monday and barred from her classes for the first half of the week, finally being reinstated and allowed to make up missed work yesterday after police and the university's Office of Student Conduct deemed her posts non-threatening.

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Tatro posted to Facebook that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" because "lots of aggression can be taken out" with a sharp embalming tool. She later added she wanted to "stab a certain someone in the throat" and followed that up with an oblique reference to the movie Kill Bill and "making friends with the crematory guy."

To many, this was just blowing off steam to her friends after receiving some bad news. But to professors being bombarded with last minute pleas and thinly veiled threats from stressed students during the finals week frenzy, Tatro's threats could easily refer to them, rather than an ex-boyfriend they knew nothing about. Given recent violent acts and threats on other college campuses, instructors chose to share their concerns with police.

While Tatro's situation was resolved relatively quickly and peacefully, others have faced serious consequences for threatening posts online. If you use Facebook or other social networking sites casually, be aware of who might be able to read what you write. Think about possible interpretations of what you say before you say it, especially if it could be in any way construed as a threat of violence against or a malicious attack on someone you know. If you put something on the Internet, always assume that it's public, and that your professors, peers, prospective employers, high school nemeses, and parents are able to stumble across it. Though public venting can be nice and can help you blow off steam when you're stressed, it can potentially lead to trouble and Internet drama that could last much longer than the original cause of your stress.


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by Emily

To make up for budget cuts and other difficulties caused by the recession, many state colleges, including some prestigious research universities, have begun admitting more out-of-state students, who typically pay more in tuition than in-state students. While this could make getting into a top school in your own state more challenging, this shift does present some unique opportunities. If you're starting your college search, you may want to consider applying to state colleges in neighboring states. You can get a bargain on tuition compared to private colleges, and there may even be tuition discounts and scholarship opportunities to further help you further bring down costs.

University systems and state higher education agencies offer tuition discounts for certain out-of-state students, bringing down your tuition costs to anywhere from 100% to 150% of in-state tuition: as much as a 50-75% discount on the regular out-of-state rate. High-achieving students, children of alumni, and residents of neighboring towns or states may qualify for programs at specific universities or for certain state scholarships.

If you have specific schools in mind, look to see if they offer discounts for students in your situation. Many large public universities will have some program in place to offset costs for out-of-state students. State colleges and universities near borders may also offer a discounted rate to students living just across a state line.

State-wide tuition discounts also exist. Students in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin can take advantage of a wide-ranging tuition reciprocity agreement: Minnesota's public colleges and universities charge in-state tuition for students from the Dakotas and Wisconsin, and schools in those states return the favor for Minnesota residents. Minnesota also has similar agreements with Manitoba and some community colleges in Iowa.

The Southern Regional Educational Board offers the Academic Common Market for students in the southeastern United States pursuing specialized degrees at schools out-of-state. Students who qualify to participate in ACM are able to pay in-state tuition at the school they attend, provided their degree program is not offered by any colleges in their home state.

Other regional tuition exchange programs offer students a chance to go to school out-of-state at a special discounted rate. The two largest of these programs are the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Midwest Student Exchange Program. Both allow students to attend participating state colleges for 150% of in-state tuition, and MSEP also allows students to receive a 10% discount on tuition at participating private colleges.

If you want to attend school out-of-state, you may also be able to qualify for in-state tuition by becoming a resident of the state. Check the residency requirements of the state and the school where you want to attend college--while some will not allow college students to apply for resident tuition, others happily grant residency to students. A recent article by Kim Clark in U.S. News gives some other tips for how to get in-state tuition at out-of-state schools.


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by Emily

Next time your grandparents bust out that “walked to school uphill in the snow” line, you can let them know that your generation has its problems too—and there’s a growing body of research to back that up. A new study released this week shows that students today are more stressed and depressed than students surveyed during the Great Depression.

A professor of psychology at San Diego State University, Jean Twenge, is the lead author of a new study that analyzes the responses of high school and college students who took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a popular psychological questionnaire, between 1938 and 2007. The analysis finds a sharp uptick in anxiety and depression among young people in 2007, compared to 1938. A full 31 percent of students experience “hypomania,” which is defined as a mix of anxiety and unrealistic optimism, compared to 5% in 1938, and 6% of high school and college students taking the survey could be classed as suffering from depression, compared to only 1% in 1938. More students also report trouble with authority or feeling like rules don’t apply to them.

While the study doesn’t conclusively show the cause of these increases, mounting evidence points to increased anxiety about finances and social status as a likely culprit. An Associated Press report on Twenge’s findings cites a national survey of college freshmen that found that 77% of 2008’s incoming college students considered financial success either “essential” or “very important” in their lives. Part of this anxiety could be due to increased concern about keeping up appearances and earning the admiration of peers, while some of it could also reflect much more concrete concerns about earning enough to be financially secure.

The recent recession has highlighted the uncertainty and instability of job prospects in many careers and it is increasingly difficult for students to game the system and find a “safe bet” at a high-paying career. Jobs in law and finance are down, and even students who majored in computer science, one of the go-to degrees of the last decade, can face difficulties finding good jobs. College costs have skyrocketed, admission has gotten more competitive at top schools, and research has shown that lower-income students lag behind richer students in completing degrees. Based on these very real concerns, it’s easy to see why high school and college students are stressed about money.

If you want to minimize stress and anxiety in your life, there are some concrete steps you can take. First, do what you love. If you don’t know what that is, spend some time exploring majors and careers that interest you through internships, volunteering, and taking a variety of classes. Find a college where you fit in and can excel—research shows the effort you put in is the biggest factor in determining what you get out of college. Take some time to look for scholarships to help you reduce the stress associated with debt and also reap some of the benefits of college success that have been associated with winning scholarships.  Finally, if you're feeling stressed out about life and money, take some solace in knowing that you're not alone and that your school has resources, including counseling, that can help you cope.


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Grace Period for Student Loans Coming to an End

Simple Tips to Managing Your Loans

November 11, 2010

Grace Period for Student Loans Coming to an End

by Suada Kolovic

With the typical six-month grace period on student loans right around the corner, recent college graduates across the country will start making monthly payments whether they’re ready to or not . If you’re one of those students, or just starting your college career, here are a few suggestions from the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit independent research and policy organization, on how to manage your loans.

  • Know where you stand.

    A great way to get the exact amount you owe is to visit your lender – in some cases, lenders – or you can find details of your student loans, including balances, by visiting the National Student Loan Data System, the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. If you have non-federal loans, there is a possibility they won’t be listed so contact your institution for that information.
  • When’s the first payment?

    The grace period for student loans is the time after graduation before having to make your first payment. But the length of grace periods can vary; for Federal Stafford loans it’s six months, nine months for Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Plus Loans depend of when they were issued. To find out the grace period attached to private loans contact your lender.
  • Keep in touch with your lender.

    It’s important to remember to keep your contact information updated with your lender. Whether you’re moving or changing your phone number, an updated contact sheet could save you from unnecessary fees.
  • Consider what repayment option works best for you.

    One option is the Income-Based Repayment Program (IBR), which is not available on private loans, that sets a reasonable monthly payment based on a borrower’s income and family size. Under IBR, after 25 years of qualifying payments, your remaining debt, including interest, will be forgiven.
  • Prepare for life and the unexpected.

    Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. If you can’t make payments due to unemployment, health issues or other unexpected financial challenges, you have options for managing your federal student loans. There are options to temporarily postpone your payments, such as deferments and forbearance. Contact your lender for more information and the interest attached to those options.
  • Never ignore your financial responsibilities.

    Ignoring your student loans – or any loan for that matter – can result in serious consequences that can last a lifetime. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined and the total amount you owe increases dramatically. If you default on a federal loan, the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds.

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Top Majors for College Class of 2011 Announced

by Suada Kolovic

Unfortunately, only two winners walked away with the $355 Mega Millions jackpot and if you weren’t one of them, instant fame and fortune may not be in the cards for you, but a lucrative career that is in high demand could be four short years away. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for possible majors and post-collegiate careers, looking at majors that are sought after may not be a bad place to start.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), organizations are most interested in hiring new college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in the business, engineering and computer science fields. Nearly 62 percent of the organizations participating in NACE’s Job Outlook 2011 survey said they plan to hire accounting graduates, followed by finance (57 percent) and electrical engineering (53.5 percent). Here are the top six degrees according to NACE’s findings:

  1. Accounting
  2. Finance
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Mechanical Engineering
  5. Computer Science
  6. Business Administration/Management

Each year, through the Job Outlook survey, NACE surveys its employer members about their hiring plans in order to project the job market for new college graduates. Do you agree with this list? Let us know what you think.


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