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Additional Tips for Spring Semester Success

by Jessica Seals

Thousands of college students are currently preparing to return to school for the spring semester. While some head back confident with a positive attitude, others will set foot on campus feeling down because their grades were not where they wanted them during the fall. My fellow intern Lisa came up with some great tips to start the semester off on the right foot so I’ve provided a few more:

Don’t go into the new semester feeling defeated. Going into a new semester feeling depressed is not the way to go. Even if your grades were not as good as you wanted them to be in the fall, spring semester gives you the chance to start fresh and turn things around. Remember, no one is perfect and every student is prone to having at least one bad semester due to unforeseen circumstances. Let last fall be your only one.

Find out what works for you. If you noticed that you got low grades on your papers when you waited until the last minute to do them, you should work on making time to work on bits of your paper in advance. You’ll have more time to perfect it and get a better grade. Also, if you find making flashcards or studying with music helps you retain information better, stick with these study habits to continue past success.

Realize this is a new semester with new teachers and different standards. Unless you take another class with a teacher that you’ve already had, this semester will be filled with new teachers, different rules and unfamiliar teaching styles. If you were able to do certain things and get by with one teacher, do not automatically assume the same will apply this semester. Each teacher is different and you’ll have to make slight adjustments to your behavior depending on the professor.

With these tips, you can eliminate a defeated attitude and go into the spring semester with a more optimistic outlook. Every college student has the potential to make a complete turnaround and boost their GPA this semester with these tips!

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

by Alexis Mattera

For any student thinking about transferring, there’s always the worry that the credits they’ve worked so hard to achieve will be worth nothing at their new school...any student except those transferring to DePaul University, that is.

According to Lois Bishop, DePaul’s director of community college partnerships, transfer students at DePaul have great grades and high graduation rates but many have failed to take prerequisite courses or accumulated credits at their previous institutions that won’t count toward their bachelor’s degrees. In order to make transferring as educationally- and cost-effective as it can be, the school created the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program to help transfer students earn their two-year credentials and bachelor’s degrees on time. Students in the program are guaranteed a spot at DePaul if they finish community college with a 2.0 GPA and receive $2,000 a year after transferring if they achieve a 3.0. They also lock in bachelor’s degree requirements if they enroll within three years of starting the program, have access to DePaul advisers while at the community college to ensure they take the right classes for their eventual majors and can earn reverse credits toward associate degrees. (Check out additional details from Inside Higher Ed here.)

Since the program’s launch last year, DePaul has partnered with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harold Washington College, Truman College, Wright College, College of DuPage, Harper College, Moraine Valley Community College and Oakton Community College but hopes to expand the opportunity to more schools and students. What do you think of the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program? Would a program like this appeal to you if you were thinking about transferring?


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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

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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Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Recently, The New York Times revealed that two studies have shown that many community colleges wrongly place students in remedial classes. The main reason why this happens is because students are placed according to their standardized test scores, rather than their cumulative GPAs – in other words, students are forced to pay for classes they don't receive college credit for and, if not for one less-than-hoped-for standardized test score, wouldn't even have to take otherwise! Consequently, students forced to take these remedial classes may experience lower self-esteem than their peers, fail to graduate on time and have to work significantly harder (both at work and at school) to afford these additional classes. In short, having to take unnecessary remedial classes has the potential to make college much more difficult than it needs to be.

All of these problems could be alleviated if community colleges (and state and private universities, for that matter) placed students based on their cumulative high school GPAs. After all, GPA is determined by years of hard work, whereas standardized tests are based on (at most) several months of preparation. And while we obviously can't use the excuse, "I don't test well" every time our test scores leave something to be desired, we should also keep in mind that one test does not (and should not) determine our academic futures.

If you or someone you know is having to take unnecessary remedial classes (e.g., you earned a B in high school calculus but didn't do as well on the standardized test), don't be afraid to talk to someone in admissions about your concerns. While changes rarely go into effect right away, faculty will listen if more students question the emphasis on standardized tests over cumulative GPA. Just make sure you're polite and discuss your concerns logically and calmly!

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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Make Yourself More Marketable with an Extra Major or Minor

by Jessica Seals

When I was growing up, I was always told that attending college was a necessity if I wanted to be successful; however, I was not told that the economy in the future would be so unstable that competition for jobs would be tough. Now, students are looking for any way to make themselves more marketable to graduate/professional schools and employers and not only are they participating in student organizations, they’re picking up one, two or even three extra majors or minors.

During my freshman year, picking up an additional major or a minor never crossed my mind until I saw more of my fellow classmates doing so. Now when I mention that my major was political science and my minor was English, people automatically realize that I hope to attend law school in the future. They are even more impressed when they realize that I had a very high cumulative GPA for my major and minor. (Although it is impressive to have more than one major or minor, you can lose credibility if you take on the responsibility and your grades are barely average.) Having extra majors or minors allows you to explore more subjects while adding more diversity to your resume. Employers and admissions officials are always impressed with students who take classes across a wide variety of subjects instead of taking the bare minimum.

With the increasing competition for jobs and admission into post-graduate programs, it might be worth your while to look into an extra major or minor. It gives you a better chance of proving others that you can handle extra work and that they would not regret selecting you as a student or for a job.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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Why Ungraded Skills Are Still Important

by Katie Askew

Some may think that grades are everything but fast forward a few years and picture yourself in the professional world. Your boss will quiz you but you won’t be graded A through F: This is where life skills will come in much handier than book smarts.

Sure, college admissions counselors will look at your GPA as a primary factor regarding your admissions fate but your GPA isn’t everything. There are many more important lessons you learn in high school that won’t be calculated into your GPA. Here are just a few:

So even if you don’t have a stellar GPA, high school still taught you important skills that aren’t graded but will help you throughout your life.

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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Communicating with Authority Figures

by Radha Jhatakia

Whether it’s a parent, professor or employer, communicating with authority figures can be a challenge, as a certain level of respect and acknowledgement must be given. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your superiors but these tips will help you to keep the lines of communication as open and effective as possible.

One of the most important aspects of communicating with authority figures is having an appropriate attitude. No one will want to speak to you if you have a displeased look or closed-off body language. Knowing your surroundings and having a welcoming demeanor will make you appear more approachable; displaying confidence in what you have to say will win you points as well.

The method you use to communicate is also important. Email is a very convenient in that it allows us to get a message to someone quickly but with the convenience of this technology, many people do not practice proper “netiquette,” which means using proper spelling, grammar and formal language rather than texting language. Being appropriate in your emails means not using emoticons and having a signature with your contact information. Communicating effectively with authority figures often relies on your level of maturity and this will help demonstrate it.

However expedient emails may be, sometimes phone calls or in-person meetings are necessary. Often when employers are considering candidates, someone who has sent an email may not seem as appealing as someone who has sent an email and followed up with a phone call. In-person conversations work better when the matter is important and is something that may be misconstrued in an email or phone conversation. An example would be if you need to speak to a professor about a grade you felt was unfair. Approach them as a concerned student who wants to know how to improve from the mistakes they cited, then explain why the errors don’t seem wrong to you. A positive attitude will go a long way; you may be angry but verbally attacking the professor will make them far less likely to help you out.

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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Forget "The Hunger Games" - Try These Study Games!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you've been studying for three hours straight for your chemistry exam and you haven’t even cracked your calculus, history and geography books yet. Besides envisioning that much sought-after 4.0 GPA, how do you stay motivated? You play study games, of course!

While study games aren't quite as addicting as the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft varieties, they're still much more engaging than reading over your study guide for the hundredth time. Websites like Quizlet – aka "the world's largest flash cards and study games website" – are perfect for helping you memorize vocabulary whether you're studying biology or business and another option, Quia, offers Hangman, Battleship, scavenger hunts and more. If you're looking for resources to help you prepare for standardized tests like the SAT, ACT or GRE, on the other hand, sites like Grockit have got you covered...but access to these games, study plans, written and video study aids can cost $29.99 a month.

In addition to being more fun than your average study session, study games increase your chances of remembering the material for your test. Research has shown that if you try to encode information in as many ways as possible (e.g., via sight and sound), you're more likely to remember that information. And because many study games make use of both visual and auditory features, your odds of doing well on your test increase. If you can't find a game to help you study, consider visiting your textbook's website: Many publishers offer animations, study guides and quizzes.

Regardless of how you study, remember to encode the information in as many ways as possible, take breaks and reward yourself when you're done. Let the games begin!

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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Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

It may feel like we’ve skipped winter but federal aid is about to be put on ice for college hopefuls lacking high school diplomas or GEDs.

As of July 1st, newly-enrolled students will no longer be allowed to take an "ability to benefit" test or complete a set amount of credits without aid; instead, college students will be required to have high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive federal financial aid. How will these students – many of whom are older, seeking training to find a new job, immigrants and students in states like California where the basic adult education budget has been cut – pay for school? College administrators anticipate they will turn to private loans...or give up on their degrees entirely.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, says the change “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” as these schools view enrolling students without high school credentials as a key part of providing access to higher education: There are currently about 836,000 students without high school diplomas or GEDs enrolled at two-year public colleges nationwide and according to a limited 2006-2007 Education Department study, students without high school diplomas and GEDs were ultimately more successful in college and had higher GPAs than their classmates with high school diplomas, even if they failed the "ability to benefit" test. If would-be students have to get a GED before going to college and receive zero financial assistance while they prepare, Baime says many will opt out altogether.

What do you think of the new rule regarding federal aid? Do you think a high school diploma or GED is necessary to succeed in college?


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