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by Agnes Jasinski

What motivates you to study for your exams? Is it the potential for a good grade or high GPA? Is it the guilt of paying thousands of dollars for that college education? What if you could score some cash—and not in the form of scholarships and grants, as we hope you’re doing already—for doing well in your courses?

A site that has been making the rounds in the media lately offers just that. Ultrinsic.com is based on the premise that students should be rewarded for doing well academically and for meeting their own high expectations. The site allows students at 36 colleges so far to place bets on how well they think they’ll do in their college classes. If they make the grade, they win money based on a calculated “handicap”; if they don’t, they lose whatever they wagered. The starting limit on what students will earn is $25, and the better the students do, the more they win. (The higher the risk, the higher the payoff, as in most gambling situations.)

College officials are understandably concerned. In an article posted on eCampus News this week, the CEO of the site Steven Wolf says it isn’t about gambling but about providing students with an incentive to do well. Furthermore, it doesn’t fit the criteria for online gambling, he says, because students have control over what they win and how they do in their courses.

There are studies out there that show that students do better on tests if they’re promised payment in return for a good score. An Inside Higher Ed article yesterday points to several. One Stanford University professor found that paying elementary- and middle-school aged students to do well on standardized tests had as positive an effect as other proven strategies. Ultrinsic hasn’t seen widespread support for its methods among academics, though, despite Wolf’s insistence that they’re out there. A Harvard University professor says in the Inside Higher Ed article that the idea would be “better left in the hands of colleges” rather than a business. A business’ purpose is, after all, to make money.

What do you think about betting on your grades? Would you try harder in your classes, knowing that there was some money to win or lose on the line? Let us know if you have experience using this site or others like it.


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Self-Testing Boosts Info Retention

Retrieval Bests Traditional Concept Mapping as a Study Method

January 24, 2011

Self-Testing Boosts Info Retention

by Alexis Mattera

Did you spend your Sunday distraught over Jay Cutler and the Bears or horrified by the atrocity that was Mean Girls 2? I know I’m not completely alone here but, being the diligent students you are, many of you were probably holed up in the library preparing for your first exam of the spring semester and quizzing yourself on key pieces of information. Good thing, as a new study says self-testing while studying is the best way to retain facts and figures.

The study, "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping," was conducted by Purdue’s Jeffrey Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt and found that since learning is fundamentally about retrieving, practicing retrieval while studying is crucial to learning. The study focused on two groups of students (200 altogether) who were asked to read several paragraphs about differing scientific topics but one group was instructed to use the information to create a concept map and the other was told to put away their articles and spend 10 minutes writing what they recalled. When the students were tested on the same material one week later, the group that practiced retrieval retained 50 percent more information than those who engaged in concept mapping. Strangely, researchers also found that despite learning less, the students who engaged in concept mapping were more confident that they would remember the material than those who practiced retrieval while studying.

What’s your preferred study method? Is it producing the results you want? Will you employ the retrieval method given this study’s findings?


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Why Students Drop Out of College

New MSU Study Cites Key Risk Factors

February 17, 2011

Why Students Drop Out of College

by Alexis Mattera

It may seem counterintuitive to work hard throughout high school, score well on your standardized tests, get accepted to your first-choice college and wrangle enough financial aid to pay for your education only to drop out before graduation but it does happen. What causes this academic 180? That’s what researchers at Michigan State University revealed in a new study.

The team, led by MSU assistant professor of psychology Tim Pleskac, used a mathematical model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 "critical events" and students were asked whether any of the events happened to them in the previous semester; later, the students surveyed were asked whether or not they planned to drop out. Among the top risk factors reported were depression, loss of financial aid, tuition increases, unexpected poor marks and roommate issues. Other "critical events" like family deaths, failure to get into a specific program of study, significant bodily injury and addiction, however, were less likely to impact a student’s decision to leave school. "Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac said. "We are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues."

Would any of the factors listed above effect your choice to drop out of college? If they did, do you think you would eventually return to obtain your degree?


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GPAs, Course Difficulty Increase for High School Students

by Alexis Mattera

It’s April and a few things are on the rise: temperatures (yay!), gas prices (boooo!) and high school students’ GPAs and success in difficult courses (yay again!).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress released its findings of typical high school students’ grade point averages from 1990 to 2009. During that time, the average grade point average increased from 2.68 to 3.0 and the average number of credits also saw an uptick from 26.8 in 2005 to 27.2 credits in 2009. The reason? Researchers cite the importance of rigorous curriculum – highlighting upper-level math and science courses – as a key to greater achievement in high school.

Also included in the study is that 59 percent of students are graduating with accelerated classes on their transcripts and amped-up credits in the core courses of English, mathematics, science and social studies as well as electives like foreign languages, fine arts and computer-related classes. The students with earlier exposure to advanced curricula – specifically those who took algebra I in middle school and began high school with geometry – scored 31 points higher on the study’s math assessment; that being said, male students generally scored higher average mathematics and science than their female counterparts but females had higher overall grade point averages – 3.10 versus 2.90.

With the increasingly competitive college application process and President Obama’s call for an emphasis on education to keep America competitive with the rest of the world, these numbers are promising. High school students, are you taking more difficult courses to give colleges another reason to consider offering you admission? College students, did this method help you get into the college of your choice? Does anyone disagree completely based on personal experience?


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Interning During the Semester: It's a Balancing Act

by Thomas Lee

I first was involved in an internship my junior year. I heard about positions open in the Special Operations department at Fort Bragg and since much of the base was near my campus in Fayetteville, I applied and did a series of interviews. After a lengthy security clearance, I was hired at USASOC Public Affairs. I was assigned to post news footage relevant to Army Special Operations on the Public Affairs web database as well as answer phones and set up equipment.

At first, I was highly disciplined and could easily balance arriving at work and class on time but as the weeks went on, my classwork became more difficult and I started coming to class late. It was a nearly 30-minute drive from campus to work and back and my grades did suffer that semester due to a lack of balance.

My internship went on into the summer so I stayed at a house with some of friends. I also began drinking, which negatively affected my performance. My internship ended in March after a full year and I graduated in May.

I did learn about the day-to-day operations and inner workings of the military but I regret some of the decisions I made, like failing to plan properly. I give this advice to any student seeking an internship: Make sure you don’t overwork yourself and neglect academics and don’t slack off because it will reflect poorly on your future career.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Faith Trumps Graduation Speech for One H.S. Valedictorian

by Alexis Mattera

Imagine studying hard, taking AP classes and earning a stellar GPA for four years and having that hard work pay off by being named the valedictorian of your class. Sounds like a dream, right? Not necessarily. Just ask Carolyn Fine.

Fine received the news that she'd been selected as Vacaville High School's valedictorian and but her heart sank when she found out the date of the graduation ceremony: It was scheduled to take place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a day prohibiting the use of anything requiring electricity until after sunset. This meant she would not be able to use a microphone during her speech, drive to the ceremony or pose for pictures in her cap and gown after receiving her diploma. Fine spent the next few weeks struggling to decide between honoring her faith and delivering her valedictory address and ultimately decided the former was more important. Admiring her choice, school administrators offered a solution to satisfy all parties. “They prerecorded my speech and they are going to play that while I’m standing up there,” Fine said. “It was a tremendous relief. It seemed like I had reached a compromise where I could keep to my faith and accept this, because it’s a huge honor.”

What would you have done in Fine’s situation – honored your faith or given the speech using a device powered by electricity?


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Should You Go Greek?

June 16, 2011

Should You Go Greek?

by Thomas Lee

When I first arrived at college, joining a fraternity – or getting involved with anything remotely connected with Greek life – was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know that by the end of 2007, I would be one of the founding pledge members of the Methodist University chapter of Kappa Sigma. The first members at a new school are known as Founding Fathers, of which I was one, and our training is known as pledging. My new fraternity brothers and I were pledges for a full academic year until our induction in 2008.

If you are considering joining a Greek organization, fraternity or sorority, there are multiple things you must consider. First is how much being involved will affect your schoolwork. I was able to maintain a high GPA while still being scholarship coordinator for the chapter until the summer I lived with some of my brothers.

Second, determine how much Greek life will affect your personal life. I didn’t really start partying until that summer and it negatively impacted my academics and social life. You should determine whether or not joining a Greek society will subject you to peer pressure or negatively influence your values.

Third, price is a major factor and you should not rush if you cannot afford to pay dues. My fees became more expensive with each year and I could only afford them with the money I made doing a paid internship.

Going Greek does have many benefits, such as gaining friends and valuable networking contacts that you might not have encountered otherwise. I spent time with golf students and athletes that I would have otherwise never met. Greek life may also help you overcome personal biases. All in all, while fraternity life was both a blessing and a curse, I do not regret my decision to join and have made some lifelong friends and brothers along the way.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Why You Should Include Office Hours in Your Schedule

by Jessica Seals

On the first day of class, professors usually pass out detailed syllabi that provide valuable information such as grading scales, what materials will be needed and what topics will be covered during the semester. There is one more piece of helpful information that most students overlook despite the fact that it’s normally displayed at the very top of the page: the location of the professor’s office and what days and times they will have office hours.

Although professors have office hours, most students do not take advantage of them. I just completed my third year of college and I have lost track of the number of emails that I have received from professors practically begging students to stop by during their office hours with any type of question. Most professors are also willing to accommodate students if their class and extracurricular schedules do not allow them to come during regular office hours but only a handful of students seize this opportunity by the end of the semester.

I have always taken advantage of office hours to make sure that I understand every assignment clearly. I have often noticed that professors tend to be more favorable towards students who come to their office hours because they seem to be the ones that care about their performance in class the most. I also get the one-on-one help I need and always do extremely well on assignments I ask questions about.

My advice to any college student is to take advantage of office hours. The professor gets to know you personally and notices that you care about your grade. Also, don’t wait until the end of the semester to show up with concerns; there’s not much that can be done by you or the professor if issues are being addressed this late in the game.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is 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. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Cheating in College: Don't Do It!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s 6 a.m. and you just can’t conquer the writer’s block for your 20-page term paper. You didn’t procrastinate on purpose – that party was too good to pass up or the homework for all your other classes was overwhelming – but no matter what the reason, it is never acceptable to cheat. Cheating undermines the effort of your hard-working classmates who complete their work honestly and on time. Cheating also strips the cheater of his or her integrity and whether others can put their trust in said person again.

Unfortunately, there are many people who cheat in the world but you should not be one of them. You should want to get by on your own merit, not that of others. That is why there are such harsh penalties for cheaters: When a person plagiarizes in college or is caught cheating, punishments can include being given a GPA-tanking “F” in the class, being stripped of high honors, losing scholarships or even being expelled from the university. These are minor punishments compared to what happens in the real world for cheating, which could include multi-million dollar lawsuits and jail time.

I think I’ve been pretty clear here but I haven’t, just heed these two words: NEVER CHEAT. It’s not ethical and is looked down upon by almost everyone. Hold your head high and remember that doing your best and failing is better than cheating and passing. A professor would have more respect in you if you are honest and ask for help rather than if they catch you cheating. Professors were once college students, too; if you need an extension or are truly struggling, they will most likely remember their own college days and show you some compassion if you are truthful.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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History Proficiency Low in America

by Alexis Mattera

Do you know who becomes our nation’s leader if the current president and vice president should both die? Who said “Give me liberty or give me death?” Not sure of the answers? Neither are American students.

According to the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress test – an exam that measures proficiency in mathematics, reading, history, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics and geography – American students just aren’t “getting” American History. The results revealed high school seniors have the worst grasp on the subject with an 87-percent failure rate, followed by eighth graders (82 percent) and fourth graders (78 percent). These marks should be cause for parent-teacher conferences...except when the CBS affiliate in Boiling Springs, South Carolina asked locals some sample exam questions, not one person could answer how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court or name the Chief Justice and only one person could name South Carolina's two U.S. Senators and who American patriots fought against in the Revolutionary War.

Sure, not everyone is a history major and most people don’t have careers requiring the recollection of these facts on a daily basis but being informed about the country you call home is never a bad thing. Check out some of the questions here then tell us what you would do to increase these unsatisfactory scores.


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