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Text at Your Own Risk

July 13, 2011

Text at Your Own Risk

by Jessica Seals

It's happened to all of us. We feel the vibration of our phones in our pockets or notice them light up on our desks, informing us that we've just received text messages. We instantly feel inclined to read the message; while some students read and respond in a discreet way so that they appear to still be paying attention in class, others choose to reply while sitting on the front row or get up to answer a call that is not an emergency.

There are a select number of professors who do not care if you text in class. They figure if you want to miss out on something important to respond to a text that only read LOL then you will have to suffer the consequences alone. However, texting during class is a major pet peeve of many professors and they are taking note of how much you text even if they do not say anything about it to you personally. When it comes time to discuss your grade or any problems that you have been having in class, your professor may be unwilling to help if you spend most of their class texting than learning.

All professors understand that students have emergencies in which they must keep their phone on or even answer it during class but doing so excessively can earn you negative attention. You also run the risk of missing out on important facts that will only be mentioned once during the lecture. It is next to impossible to prevent texting 100 percent but students should try to cut back - you never know when you will run into a teacher who will ask you to leave the class because of excessive texting. Doubt that will make you ROTFL!

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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Dealing with College Stressors

by Katie Askew

Stress is unavoidable, especially in college. At times, it seems like there is a never-ending list of homework to complete, reading assignments to study and laundry to do – not to mention maintaining a healthy social life! It’s important to remember that although you can’t avoid stress, you can learn to manage it. Here are some ways how:

Make time for yourself, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Living in a residence hall can be stressful in itself because you are constantly surrounded by friends and roommates inviting you out and pulling you away from study time. Assignments pile up quickly and just like that, you’re behind in three classes. It’s sometimes hard to find alone time when living with a roommate – and 20 neighbors who also happen to be your best friends – but if you are feeling overwhelmed, chilling out by yourself helps to relax, revive and cross some things off your to-do list! Taking a nap, listening to music, reading a few pages from a non-required book or going on a short walk can help to clear your head and refocus your efforts.

Schedule time in your week for doing something you love – and stick to it as if it were a class. For me, music is my stress outlet. I make sure that I play marimba or piano regularly during the school week to not only keep me sane but also to keep me going through my homework. I always have my music time to look forward to and it helps to keep me focused on my assignments, not distracted from them. I know that the sooner I accomplish my work, the sooner I can pound out some music.

Whether it’s taking part in a favorite activity or just sitting quietly by yourself, make time for it in your week and you will feel much less stressed.

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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And the Most Common College Grade is...

by Suada Kolovic

Contrary to popular belief, earning an A in college may not be as much of a challenge as it seems. According to a new study, 43 percent of all grades at four-year colleges and universities is an A while Ds and Fs are few and far between.

The study, published in Teachers College Record, was conducted by Stuart Rojstaczar, a retired professor of geology, civil engineering and the environment at Duke University, and Christopher Healy, an associate professor of computer science at Furman University. For the study, they collected historical data from 200 four-year colleges and universities and contemporary data from 135. They found that across the board college students earning A grades are widespread in every sector and region of the country. Private colleges tend to be more generous on grades than do public institutions and by comparing historical data, they found that there had been an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988 in the percentage of A grades awarded in higher education.

According to the authors, the abundance of A-level grades is a serious problem. "When A is ordinary, college grades cross a significant threshold. Over a period of roughly 50 years, with a slight reversal from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, America’s institutions of higher learning gradually created a fiction that excellence was common and that failure was virtually nonexistent," they write.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Do you think grade inflation is a serious problem on college campuses today?


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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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The Best Educational Apps

September 6, 2011

The Best Educational Apps

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all seen the iPhone commercials and heard the now-common phrase “There's an app for that.” It’s true, though: There's even an application to help you study — dozens in fact! Here are a few that can make your life as a student easier:

Grades 2. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what you need to score on an upcoming test in order to maintain your A. This app lets you do just that. It even lets you determine your new GPA will be based on what grades you expect to earn in your current classes.

Dictionary.com Flashcards. This app is great for English and science classes where you have to learn a wide variety of complicated terms. It even has multiple choice quizzes where you have to pick the right definition from a list of options. Plus, it's great having a dictionary in your pocket for whenever you need to look up words instead of lugging one around on top of all your other school books.

Star and Planet Finder. Astronomy buffs will love this one because it makes finding stars, planets, constellations and satellites a snap. Equipped with compass and GPS, this app lets you know whether or not you can see Orion from your current location – perfect for astronomy classes which ask you to chart the position of the constellations.

While not every college student can afford an iPhone or similar app-friendly device, all these educational apps make it a very tempting purchase indeed. And let's face it: You can't really put a price on something that makes a less-than-favorite activity less painful.

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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All-Nighters Are Not for Everyone

by Jessica Seals

We’ve all done it - waited until the night before a test or paper due date to do any work. I have heard several classmates say they wait until the last minute because that is when they do their best work – I can honestly say I’ve waited until the eleventh hour and have gotten an excellent grade on a test or assignment – but unfortunately, this study method doesn’t work for everyone. The problem in this situation is that some people do not know their own learning style.

Not everyone can read a passage for the first time and be able to remember all its important details. For those that can, staying up all night to study or write a paper does not seem to be a problem because of how quickly they can retain information. For others, focus is lost halfway through the study guide or they’ve run out of things to write about on page three of an eight-page paper. These are the people who should avoid all-nighters and start assignments or test prep early. Early preparation will help them remember the material because they are looking over it each day and do not have to rush and put unnecessary information in a paper because they ran out of time to do proper research.

Just because your roommates or classmates can pull all-nighters and get good grades does not mean that you can, too. If you try an all-nighter and do not succeed, know you’ll need to begin your work earlier next time because you have a different learning style. You will not feel rushed to do several assignments at once and you might notice better grades because you had the time to put in more effort!

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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Starting a New School Year Successfully

by Angela Andaloro

September is the perfect time for a new academic start. There are so many opportunities ahead of you, regardless of what may have happened the year before. Many of us have felt the fear of what looms ahead and discouragement that goes along with having a bad semester. It can be very hard to succeed when you feel like you’ve already failed but with the right strategies and, more importantly, the right mindset, you’re closer to a stellar GPA than you think.

Start strong. Remember when you were in elementary school and the first day of school meant all new notebooks, pens and pencils? You were actually excited to jump right in! College shouldn’t be any different: You might be trading those notebooks for a MacBook but you can still get excited about a new year!

Get organized. We all know how it feels for midterm week to hit and have to search through mountains of papers to find your notes from the first month of class. Don’t be that student! Keep everything organized in the way which works best for you and keep up with it as the semester goes along. This makes studying a little easier (you’ll always know where everything is) and can help give your grades a boost.

Ask questions. Professors have email addresses and office hours for a reason: If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions in class, take the time to do so outside of class. Your grades reflect the amount of effort you put into them, so be sure to do your part – before, during and after class.

A college workload can be a stressful thing to deal with without a good work ethic and the right attitude. You can’t throw these traits in your cart along with your school supplies, though...and they don’t come cheap either! Do the best you can do and if you find something isn't working, it’s never too late to make a change.

Angela Andaloro is a 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 part


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Como Se Dice College?

The Best Languages to Learn in School

September 21, 2011

Como Se Dice College?

by Alexis Mattera

Regardless of how demanding your college class schedule and major requirements are, a foreign language course could be among the most useful credits you accumulate.

According to Dr. Ali Binazir’s recent Huffington Post article, he recommends taking a foreign language to all incoming college students because “universities generally do a fantastic job of teaching them, they're a super-useful lifelong skill, and they're generally an easy 'A'.” But are all languages created academically equal? It depends on your future goals, he says: If you don’t want be treated like an "ugly American" while studying abroad in France, learn French but if you want to get a leg up in business negotiations, opt for Chinese. Here are the rest of the doctor’s orders, broken down by ease of learning, employability enhancement and "cool factor":

Chinese: Ease of learning - 1; Employability enhancement - 10; Cool factor - 10

Japanese: Ease of learning - 2; Employability enhancement - 7; Cool factor - 10

French: Ease of learning - 6; Employability enhancement - 1; Cool factor - 10

Italian: Ease of learning - 10; Employability enhancement - 1; Cool factor - 9

German: Ease of learning - 5; Employability enhancement - 2; Cool factor - 9

Spanish: Ease of learning - 10; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 6

Russian: Ease of learning - 4; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 9

Portuguese: Ease of learning - 9; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 9

Binazir has taken lessons in six of the eight languages listed and his explanations of why each language made the list are entertaining and informative. Are you taking or considering taking a language in college? If so, which one and why?


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Tackling Test Time

October 25, 2011

Tackling Test Time

by Angela Andaloro

If you’re like many college students out there, midterms are on your mind right about now. It feels like classes just started yesterday and you’re already being tested on what you know! While you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin studying, here are some tips that’ll help you breeze through those exams – whether it’s the first or final time you’ll be taking them.

Recall what your professors said. It’s easy to zone out during class, especially when you think the same points are being repeated over and over again. Those points, however, are the most important and likely to pop up on the exam. Make sure to pay extra attention to that information and indicate its importance in your notes.

Look back at your syllabus. They may seem like they’re full of the same old stuff for each class but if you're looking for an outline of what topics you’re tackling from week to week, your syllabus can serve as a great starting point for studying. Use those topics to build yourself a study guide and fill in specific details based on your class notes.

Ask questions. As much as we may think otherwise, professors are trying to help us learn...not hold us back. Drop in on their office hours and ask questions – you’d be surprised at just how much exam insight your professor is willing to give up! – and realize the more information you have, the less guessing you’ll have to do. Your studying will be that much more productive.

These tips may seem like common sense but you’d be surprised how quickly these skills can escape you when it comes time to study. Just focus, keep a level head and you’ll be sure to get through midterm time in one piece.

Angela Andaloro is a 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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Dealing with an Uncooperative Group Member

by Radha Jhatakia

Group projects are inevitable in college and at some point, you’ve probably been stuck with a group member who is uncooperative. This person doesn’t do their fair share of work, doesn’t show up to meetings or argues and causes tension in the group. While it’s not fun to deal with, here’s how to make the situation bearable for all members. After all, your grades depend on it!

Set up guidelines when you form the group. Create requirements and state the consequences of not completing the tasks assigned. Also, make sure to state at what point you will drop a member from the group; this is important to avoid carrying dead weight for the whole length of the course.

Approach the problematic member in a friendly manner: They may not realize that they’re being uncooperative and it will prevent him or her from getting defensive. Ask them if they need help getting their assignments done or if the work is too much for them. In subtle manner, let them know that they need to participate more in the group to be fair to all the group members. People will be more willing to cooperate if they don’t feel like they’re being attacked.

If the person is still uncooperative, speak to your professor to avoid jeopardizing your grade and dealing with the stress of a hostile environment. Just be sure it’s a group consensus and you’ve exhausted the other options because your professor will ask you about both before deciding on a course of action.

We’ll encounter uncooperative individuals in college and beyond but instead of stressing out about it, remain calm and try to work the situation out. There is a solution out there – you may just need to come together as a group to find it!

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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