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First Contact of the Roommate Kind

by Jacquelene Bennett

Starting college can be exciting and intimidating all at the same time for myriad reasons but one thing that doesn’t have to be stressful is getting to know your future roommate. Schools generally reveal room assignments a couple of weeks before the start of the term, giving you plenty of time to get acquainted and prevent any possible problems.

As a freshman, I lived in a room with three other girls. Yes, you read that right: There were four of us in one room. Luckily, we all got along really well and respected each other’s lifestyles and schedules but there was still an adjustment period – this will always happen when living with someone new.

One way to help ease the shock is to make contact before school starts. My roommates and I called each before freshman orientation and though it was a bit awkward, talking to a stranger it was helpful. We discussed each other’s cleaning habits, sleep schedules, class schedules and music preferences so when we finally moved in, we already knew what to expect.

Not only does calling, emailing or Facebooking your new roommate ease the awkwardness of living with an unfamiliar person and setting standards for your room but it gives you a chance to cut costs as well. You can plan ahead of time which person is going to bring the mini-fridge and who is going to bring the television so you don’t need to buy both. The same should go for all shared items: My freshman roommates and I would take turns buying water bottles for everyone.

Living with someone you never met before is going to be awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning but you can help the situation by simply picking up the phone and calling them. Who knows, they could end up being your best friend!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising 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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How to Not Kill Your Roommate

by Darci Miller

Before college, the only time I’d ever shared a room with someone was at sleep-away camp. Living in a bunk with a dozen other girls was certainly an experience but I was still nervous about moving in with my freshman roommate. We’d talked on Facebook but never met in person and all of a sudden we were supposed to live together harmoniously.

Not only did we survive that first year without killing each other but we successfully lived together sophomore year and will be moving back in together in August for year number three. Pretty good for a first roommate experience! While I lucked out in finding someone I’m totally compatible with, I think our trick was abiding by several unwritten rules.

First and foremost is respect. We never touch each other’s things (including food) unless we get permission to. At the same time, there are certain things we share: Her printer is mine to use as I need it (as long as I help pay for ink), she has full privileges with my television and then there was the time we bought a jar of Nutella together. Respect also involves being quiet when you come in at 3 a.m. and keeping sexiling to a bare minimum (no pun intended).

Compromising is important as well. You’ll have to learn to go to sleep with the lights on now and then (I did) or plug in your headphones if your roommate wants to turn in early. If you both go in knowing that you’ll have to give a little, you’ll make each other’s transition much easier.

In my opinion, the most important aspect of living together is liking each other! You don’t have to be BFFs but spend some time together and find something to bond over. Do you both hate the Yankees? Are you both huge OneRepublic fans? Heck, do you both like Nutella? It can be the littlest things that form a great relationship and make living together a pleasure.

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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Easy Ways to Afford Your Dream School

by Brittni Fitzgerald

Whether it is gas, food or tuition, prices are rising on everything. Everyone wants to attend their dream college without having to end up in debt at the end. College tuition will, depending on your university, have a small increase in price every academic year but if you plan ahead and follow these helpful tips, you can ease that financial burden.

First, open a savings account at your local bank to learn how to manage your money. Banks such as Fifth Third offer students goal setter savings accounts, which allow students to put money into the bank to gain interest as well as receive a 10-percent bonus when they reach their goal. A goal can be $500 and up and you cannot make withdrawal until the goal is met. This feature allows the money to grow without allowing you to give in to temptation and drain the account.

Another way to save is by adjusting your meal plan each semester. Most colleges and universities require that all freshmen have a meal plan each semester and upperclassmen usually have some sort of meal plan whether they live on campus or off. Meal plans are packaged with room and board and can become very expensive. Instead of choosing the meal plan with the most meals per day, choose a meal plan that works for your appetite.

Finally, consider applying to be a resident assistant, or RA, in the university dorms. RAs have to take on a lot of responsibilities like mentoring students and enforcing residence hall policies in addition to a full class schedule but the tradeoff is well worth it: Room and board is free.

Though she moved from Fremont, Calif., to Chicago at the age of 5, Brittni Fitzgerald will always remember the sun and fun of California life. She is the youngest of six children and is currently attending Chicago State University. There, Brittni is an accounting major and an active member of the Student Government Association but also a published poet (in 8th grade, her work was published with the Illinois’s 2004 “Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out”). Brittni enjoys running, swimming, dancing, singing and shopping. Her motto is “Live Life Loud.”


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Fed Law Requires College Net Price Calculators, Experts Question Accuracy

by Alexis Mattera

How much will it cost to attend the school of your dreams? The federal government hopes its new law will make that question easier to answer but higher education experts have their doubts where accuracy is concerned.

By this October, the federal government will require all U.S. higher education institutions to offer net price calculators on their websites so prospective college students can easily compare attendance costs earlier in their college searches. Users will be asked questions about their financial and academic backgrounds and their answers – and the calculator’s tallies of tuition, fees, books, housing and food, minus scholarships and grants – will reveal the net price to attend that particular school. Though many experts are glad students will have access to this information, accuracy is a concern. Certain factors won’t be taken into consideration because direct student-to-school contact has been eliminated; for example, Washington University is willing to adjust financial aid packages if a parent loses their job and this might not be reflected in the calculators’ answers.

It’s likely the law will be revised to make side-by-side comparison more accurate before the calculators are implemented - read more about the net price calculators in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch - but would you use this new technology or do you think it’s still too early to glean accurate information?


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Making Yourself Feel at Home at a Big School

by Angela Andaloro

Going to a big school can be intimidating. It’s essentially uncharted territory and most of the time you have no idea what to expect. At Pace University, I share my NYC campus with over 7,000 other undergraduate students — talk about big! Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Many people ask me if I feel like I’m missing out on the college experience by going to a big school in the city. My answer is always a firm “Absolutely not.” While your college experience is undoubtedly influenced by where you go to school and the environment you’re in, there’s one more important factor: what you decide to make of it. So how can you make your big campus feel smaller? It’s simple!

Get to know your surroundings. You’ll learn where your classes are and where to grab a bite to eat as the year goes on but get to know your surroundings beyond those staples. Where can you go if you need a minute of peace and quiet? What’s going on during common hour? Are there any activities that go on every week? When you’re in the know, you’ll feel comfortable.

Get to know people. Don’t be afraid to meet new people! The best way to make your big campus feel smaller is to fill it with familiar faces. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone in one of your classes or to join an organization. There’s so many ways to make new friends and all they require is your willingness!

College is your home away from home for two, four or more years. It’s important to feel as comfortable as possible during this time and there’s no better way to control your school experience than by taking all the steps to making your big campus feel just like home.

Angela Andaloro is a rising 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 parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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College Students Cut from Michigan Food Stamp Program

by Alexis Mattera

Some college students joke that tuition is so high, the only food they can afford is instant ramen. In Michigan, it’s no longer a laughing matter.

The Detroit News reported the state has removed roughly 30,000 college students from its food stamp program. Human Services Director Maura Corrigan revealed that while the cuts will save an estimated $75 million per year, they also represent an effort to “change the culture of the state's welfare department and slash tens of millions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse.” Corrigan suggested students get part-time jobs like she did while attending Marygrove College and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in the ‘60s and ‘70s but critics are quick to point out that state funding has shrunk and tuition has skyrocketed since then and Michigan's economic situation makes finding any kind of employment difficult. What do the students think? Obviously, they are none too pleased. "Students should be focusing on their education, not whether or not they'll be able to eat dinner or whether they can manage to find a job and balance it on top of their studies," said Kayla Neff, a Spanish and computer science major at Central Michigan University.

Do you think the cuts to Michigan's food stamp program will be beneficial or detrimental overall? Students, if you’ll be impacted by these changes, how do you plan to compensate for the loss of funding?


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Healthy Eating on a College Budget

by Darci Miller

The fall semester is coming up fast and for many of us, it means leaving home in favor of dorm or apartment life. Whether you’ll be eating in the dining halls or fending for yourself, making healthy food choices falls fully on your own shoulders. The good news is you don’t have to go into debt shopping at Whole Foods to keep the Freshman 15 at bay.

For those of you who will be relying on the dining halls for most of your meals, money is less of an issue than healthy options are. It’s all too easy to opt for a hamburger and fries or a slice of sub-par pizza but trust me, healthier options are there. Most meals come with a vegetable and fruits like apples, bananas and pears are available for the taking so take them back to your room for a snack later in the day. Opt for oatmeal instead of Lucky Charms, whole wheat bread instead of white and water instead of soda. It may not be easy but I promise it can be done!

If you live in an apartment or house and cook your own meals, money does become a limiting factor. Healthy foods do cost more than junk, so coupons and sales should become your best friends. Keep your eye on prices and buy when items are most affordable. And eat what you buy: Splitting a Costco membership with your roommates is great but letting that food go bad is like throwing away money.

Frozen and dried fruits and vegetables are also great, healthy alternatives. They’re cheaper, have longer shelf lives than their fresh counterparts and can sometimes even be denser in nutrients (some are full of sugar, though, so read those labels). Grilled chicken strips also make cooking a healthy dinner quick and easy.

Eating healthy at college may take some extra effort and money but it’s good to adopt healthy habits early. They’ll be second nature in no time!

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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Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

Rising Costs Have Students Skimping on Textbooks

August 12, 2011

Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college student, you’ve probably heard the saying “Friends, school, sleep: Pick two.” If you haven’t, it means you won’t have time to do everything you want...and sometimes need. While there are students who can balance all three, they have another difficult decision to make at the beginning of each semester: tuition, food or books?

According to survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven out of 10 undergraduate students reported not buying one or more textbooks because the cost was too high. How high? The Government Accountability Office estimated textbooks cost a quarter of the average state college tuition (three-fourths at community colleges) and the U.S. PIRG revealed textbook prices have risen faster than overall inflation with a 22-percent uptick in the past four years. For students, this means some serious money management is in order. "Generally what we get from students is 'Yeah, it's only a few dollars, but it could be my dinner,'" said Jessica Bruning, a student at Iowa State University. "It adds up pretty quickly." The survey also revealed four out of five students said new editions prevented them from purchasing cheaper used books and half cited bundles or custom editions as the culprits for increased costs.

The good news – yes, there is some! – is that groups like Textbook Rebellion, Campus Progress and even individual professors are doing their part to keep textbook costs from negatively impacting students’ college experiences. "Better options are out there," said Nicole Allen, textbooks advocate for the Student PIRGs. "Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students." Have you had to choose between tuition, food or books? What are you doing to keep your college costs in check?


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What I Wish I Knew When I Was a College Freshman

by Darci Miller

When I was preparing for my freshman year, I talked to people, read books and generally tried to learn everything I could about what awaited me in this next phase of my life. That being said, there are some things that no book, blog or person mentioned to me, leaving me blistered, hungry and short on tissues. Here's what I discovered through much trial and error:

  • Comfy shoes are a godsend. You don’t realize how much more walking college involves until you’re hobbling back to your dorm, desperate to take off the shoes currently eating your feet. Make sure to invest in a pair of comfortable sneakers for when your cute sandals aren't feeling so cute.
  • Being sick is even worse at school than at home. Mom won’t be there to bring you juice, make you soup or buy you tissues when you're sick at school – you have to do it on your own. And then there’s stress from work and class and the nagging guilt about potentially infecting your roommate. My advice? Vitamin C.
  • You may or may not have an eating schedule. In my first semester, I couldn’t figure out Tuesdays and Thursdays. Breakfast before or after my 9:30 class? Lunch before or after my 12:15 class? I never knew and I was always a little hungry. It’s good to carry a healthy snack with you, just in case.
  • You might not be the only freshman in your classes. It was quite a shock to me to walk into my first-ever college class and find myself sitting next to a man. Not a college-aged boy, a full-grown man who had a wife and kids at home. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy: Classes put you together with people of similar expertise, not age. Keep this in mind especially if AP credits exempt you from intro classes.

You can now go into your freshman year much wiser than I was when I began mine!

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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Will You Go Out With Us?

Couple Dating in College

October 7, 2011

Will You Go Out With Us?

by Kayla Herrera

When college students couple up, they sometimes become hermits and for couples that live together, this behavior is even more prevalent. It doesn’t have to be your way of life, though! Break free from the monotony and try this rising trend among students here at Michigan Tech: couple dating.

Girls need girl time and boys need boy time so in addition to spending time with the friends you had before you were in a relationship, find another couple you’d like to get to know better and plan a night out. Go bowling, go out to eat or see a movie. Any time I’ve been on a couple date, the other girl and I kind of have our own conversation going while the guys talk about their things. This is a great way to have that girl time or boy time without having to completely move around a jam-packed schedule.

I know you’re thinking couple dating sounds like something only people in their 30s and older do but it really isn’t. I speak from experience: Couple dating made my own relationship more exciting and resilient! After a successful couple date, all parties are generally happy and refreshed. You can hang out with your loved one – which can be hard if you have opposite class and work schedules – and socialize with others at the same time. Don’t ever feel like you are becoming “that old couple” – you’re just making new friends and having fun in a more convenient way!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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