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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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Financial Aid Change Has Many UB Students Struggling

by Alexis Mattera

The fall semester is in full swing at universities around the country and college students are trying to stretch their funds for tuition, books, housing and other college costs as far as they can go. It’s never easy but students at the University at Buffalo are having a more difficult time than usual.

In the past, UB sent out financial aid to coincide with the start of the academic year but pushed disbursement for roughly 18,000 students back three weeks this year – a 21-day difference that left many UB students unable to buy books, pay rent or pay for classes. Though UB’s Vice Provost A. Scott Weber said the change was made to “protect students” by making sure they would receive the exact amount of money they are eligible for, the student newspaper previously quoted interim financial aid director Jennifer Pollard as stating the policy change was a response to fraudulent activities by students.

UB officials did admit they should have done a better job getting the word out about the financial aid change but students and educators alike are still not happy: One professor called the situation “chaos in the classroom” and a “stupid disaster” and a graduate student said the ordeal “draws to question some bigger problems with the administration.” (We’re sure these are among the tamer reactions.) Any UB students out there? Has the funding disbursement delay negatively impacted your semester? College students in general, how would you react if this financial aid fiasco happened at your school?


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Librarians: The Ultimate Research Aid

by Lisa Lowdermilk

I was working on a research paper recently and spent hours scouring the web for the answer to a question one of my teachers had asked. I didn't know about “Ask a Librarian” then but if I did, I would have saved myself a lot of time and frustration.

What is “Ask a Librarian” you wonder? Basically, it's a site hosted by Florida State University where a live person – a real-life librarian, in fact! – answers your questions. In today's world of automated answering services, it's great to have access to a resource like this one...plus, it's free!

You start off by typing in your name, email address, subject (they include psychology, business, music, politics and many more) and the question you want an answer to. So far, so good? Next, you must provide some background information regarding your question so that the librarian understands the context of your question and how you will use the information. For example, telling the librarian that you need to know how photosynthesis works for a specific experiment you're conducting (and explaining the experiment in detail) is more effective than just telling the librarian that you need to more about photosynthesis. You also have the option of telling the librarian which sources you've already consulted so that he/she doesn't waste his/her time and yours by returning the same results. Just make sure you don't wait until the night before your paper is due, as it typically takes three days for a librarian to get back to you through this service.

Waited until the last minute, did you? It happens to all of us now and again so in this case, ask your school librarian for help. Discussing your issue much easier in person and eliminates the back and forth (and potential misunderstandings) of email as well. Even if you’re not pressed for time, find a librarian and pick their brain – most will be more than willing to help you out!

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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Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

Your Scariest College-Related Experience Could Earn You $1,000 or a Kindle

October 5, 2011

Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

by Alexis Mattera

Applying to and attending college can be the best time of your life but it can also be the scariest! Did your guidance counselor forget to include your transcript in your application packet? Were you matched with a freshman roommate who had an aversion to soap? We want to know: Tell us your scariest college-related experience in 140 characters for a chance to win $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship!

Don’t be scared – entering is easy! Simply log on to Twitter (or create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in your tweet detailing your scariest college-related experience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to apply:

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What is your scariest college-related moment?” Once you do this, you are entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to five per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the October 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which comments are most deserving of the awards.

  • Starts: October 5th
  • Ends: October 31st
  • Number Available: 3
  • Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle each for second- and third-place winners

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.


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R.I.P (Almost) Laptops

October 5, 2011

R.I.P (Almost) Laptops

by Jessica Seals

Once upon a time, college students spent hours in the library researching information for their papers before sitting down to handwrite (or manually type out) their findings. Fast forward to the ‘90s, when computers appeared in classrooms everywhere and the Internet gained popularity as a research tool. Students have since opted for laptops to take with them to class and to study but although new models with better features are introduced each year, tablets may soon take laptops’ places on campus.

While doing group work in class recently, I noticed I was the only person in my group using a laptop while the other members were comparing the features of their tablets. After that day, I started paying more attention to the technologies people were using and I became aware of the fact that more and more college students are choosing tablets over laptops – or at least to supplement them.

Although many of the tablets currently on the market are expensive, people – even college students on limited budgets – are buying them. HP TouchPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Motorola Xooms, the brand new Kindle Fire and, of course, iPads, are flying off of shelves and into the hands of college students. Why? They are smaller and weigh less than traditional laptops, can serve as eReaders for digital textbooks and are far more discreet when being transported in a backpack (or on your person).

Like all technology, the price of these tablets will go down with time once more tablets are competing in the market but do you think they will eventually replace laptops completely?

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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Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

by Katie Askew

Fall in Minnesota conjures images of apple orchards, sweaters, falling leaves and pumpkin patches. The ravishing yellows, browns, reds and greens of the leaves perfectly accent the serious brick buildings and stately campus architecture at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Students take advantage of the pleasant weather patterns by spending as much time as possible outside. There is only one thing that ruins that distinct fall feeling: tobacco smoke.

Even though it’s well-known that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious disease and even death, few colleges have actually made changes to protect the health and safety of their students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 126 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In addition, secondhand smoke in the United States causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. Colleges have been hearing the pleas for tobacco-free campus proposals for years but only a handful have listened – for example, all of Arkansas’ and Iowa’s state-supported college and university campuses have been smoke-free since last year – and it’s time for the rest of the nation follow suit.

Thankfully, a Minnesota school – Minnesota State University – is. MSU in Mankato will implement a tobacco-free campus program starting January 1, 2012. Sadly, the protocol change is not free of complaints from the student body but, if the Facebook page is any indication, the majority is in support of this change. There’s no doubt that not only will campus air be cleaner to breathe but cigarette butt litter will also be vastly reduced. I only hope the same kinds of changes are made at the U of M – I HATE dodging smoke clouds on the way to class!

Is your campus smoke-filled, smoke-free or somewhere in the middle thanks to new initiatives? (Find out your school's status here.) Do you think administrators should address the campus smoking issue more or should it be up to students to take action?

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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Creating Cultural Change at Your School

by Kayla Herrera

We are not happy with the way things are at our schools on occasion. Something feels off, something does not seem fair, processes get complicated and emotions get stirred. Sometimes a school can benefit from a little cultural change and you can help get it started!

My school is basically an engineering school. Engineers are viewed and treated as royalty while other majors are left out in the dust and not provided with nearly as many opportunities. This has been a problem for the longest time and I am tired of complaining...so I’m changing things up. I intend to create a career fair for those who are not engineering students. As I mentioned in a recent article, companies mainly participate in our career fair to snag a good engineer and students with other majors (like me) do not participate because of this.

So what do you do if you want to change the way things are at your school? First, you need to get in contact with the right people. Interview faculty. Talk to students. Get your facts straight and get allies. From there, advertise your plan and goals. If you are passionate enough and have a great support group, it is possible that what you are trying to accomplish could be a success. Keep at it, learn from any mistakes and continue to pursue your goal. It only takes one person to start a wave of change – and how amazing would it be to be that one person?

Take note that campus culture does not change overnight, especially in my case. It could be years before my idea becomes a reality but this shift has to start somewhere!

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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How Steve Jobs Changed the Lives of College Students Everywhere

by Angela Andaloro

On October 5th, the world lost Steve Jobs – a visionary and technology pioneer – to pancreatic cancer at just 56 years of age. The former Apple CEO is without question one of the most inspirational figures of our generation. He created a line of products that many a college student claims they can’t live without but the products are just the beginning. Here are a few ways Jobs changed the lives of college students everywhere.

  • iEverything. While the products he created aren’t the only way our lives have been touched by Jobs, they are definitely one of the major ones. From the Macintosh (which changed the way college students of ‘80s and ‘90s worked) to the MacBook Pro (a staple on college campuses throughout the world today) to the iPod, iPad and iPhone (which have impacted how students communicate and share media), Jobs created products that made students’ lives much easier and more enjoyable.
  • Pixar. In 1986, Jobs bought the company that would become Pixar and collaborated with Disney to create animated films. These films – Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc., to name a few – enriched our childhoods in so many ways; I dare you to find a college student who didn’t love Toy Story, which Jobs executive produced.
  • In Life. As I mentioned earlier, Jobs was a true inspiration. He showed an entire generation the impact thinking differently could have...and he also showed us that this process is far from easy and not everyone will love you along the way.

The commencement speech Jobs delivered at Stanford University in 2005 was a beautiful summary of the legacy he would leave. He reminded students to “trust in something,” “don’t settle,” and to “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” With these last thoughts in mind, I thank Steve Jobs on behalf of the generations whose lives he changed – mine included.

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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Fairness in College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.


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Communal Living Illness Etiquette

by Jacquelene Bennett

Ah, October: Not only is it the beginning of the fall season but it’s the beginning of cold and flu season as well. No matter how amazing you think your immune system is, everybody gets sick and if you live a dorm room and have a roommate, illnesses get a little more complicated.

When I get sick, all I want to do is lie in bed all day with the lights off and sleep but you can’t do that when living with a roommate or with roommates. Here are some tips on how to behave when you’re sick and sharing a living space:

  • If you think you are getting sick, tell your roommate. This information allows your roommate to take preventative measures against getting sick themselves and if you do actually come down with something, it won’t be a complete surprise.
  • Despite how bad you are feeling, your roommate still has a schedule and shouldn’t have to tip-toe around you. Set rules about noise levels and if it’s okay to turn the lights on when they come in and out of the room, if you are bedridden.
  • Your roommate isn’t your mother so don’t expect him or her to take care of you. Though some will offer to help you out, don’t depend on them to get your food, make you take your medicine or to talk to your professors if you are absent from class. That’s all on you – handle your responsibilities like an adult.
  • Grab the Lysol and disinfect like there is no tomorrow. Open the window, wash your sheets and wipe down all surfaces you and your roommate both come in contact with (doorknobs, light switches, mini-fridge handles, etc.) to limit the spread of germs.

It may be more work than you’re used to but your actions will not go unnoticed: If your roommate falls ill, they will remember your courtesy and return the favor.

Jacquelene Bennett is a 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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