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What to Do When You Hate a College Class

by Jacquelene Bennett

When you are preparing to graduate high school and are excited that you’ll be attending college in the fall, no one really tells you that there are going to be aspects of college life that you are going to absolutely hate, like classes: Sometimes you are going to really enjoy the classes you are taking, most of the time you are going to be indifferent about the classes you have and occasionally you are going to absolutely loathe a class you are taking. I currently find myself in this predicament and am here to share some advice on how to handle these types of classes.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the class! I know I said missing class is ok in moderation in my last article but avoiding a class you’re already down on never helps. Some professors record attendance every day and factor it into your grade so your absence will be noted.

Talk to the professor. Send him or her an email with your concerns or go talk to them during their office hours; most of the time, they will take your concerns into consideration – particularly if these concerns are echoed by other students. This approach is most effective if you can have a two-way conversation without sounding like you are complaining.

Grin and bear it. The class isn’t going to last forever; sometimes the best thing you can do is get your work done while reminding yourself you just need to make it to the end of the semester.

If you really can’t imagine attending the class all semester, you can always drop it or withdraw and try to take it with another professor next semester. You can also talk to your adviser about your other options: If the class is a gen ed, there may be similar but more enjoyable class that would fill the same requirement.

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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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

by Alexis Mattera

Students applying to college have a lot on their plates. There are applications and essays to complete, campus visits to schedule and FAFSAs to navigate of course but college hopefuls are taking an additional step to up their admissions chances by participating in serious social media scrub downs.

With admissions officers looking beyond traditional application materials to select their students – the latest survey from Kaplan Test Prep found that 24 percent had visited applicants’ Facebook pages while 20 percent used Google searches – college applicants are creating alternate identities to disguise less-than-savory photos or comments on a number of social media sites. "Ask any senior in high school what his or her Facebook name is and you will find that they have morphed their FB identity into something slightly peculiar and mysterious that only their ‘friends’ can figure out," says Naomi Steinberg, owner of Apply Yourself Educational Consulting. And though students’ original online identities often reappear after admissions decisions have been made, Steinberg says the trend of social media expurgation will continue into the next phase of students’ lives as well, like when they begin applying for jobs.

College applicants, do you plan to tweak your social media persona as soon as your applications go out? Current college students, do you think online editing played a role in your acceptance?


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Federal Mandate Will Standardize High School Graduation Rates

by Alexis Mattera

High school graduation rates have been on the rise across the nation but are the numbers of mortarboard-tossing students truly accurate? Experts say a new approach to data calculation will reveal the truth.

A new federal mandate scheduled to take effect next year will standardize graduation rates by calculating the number of students who graduate high school in four years divided by the number of students who entered the school four years prior. This means states will no longer be able to count students who complete special education programs, night school, the GED and virtual high school programs along with those who earn a traditional high school diploma; when these students are removed from the equation, Chris West of Johns Hopkins University's Everyone Graduates Center estimates official national graduation rates will likely decrease between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Parents may be alarmed when they see the numbers fall but the standardization will do far more good than harm: West says it will level the playing field for high schools vying for federal money through the Race to the Top program – funds that will allow these schools to better prepare their students and further increase graduation rates. Do you think the graduation rate standardization will have a positive or negative impact? Is this a change that should have happened a long time ago or was the old way of reporting just fine?


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White House Announces Summer Youth Employment Initiative

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school student, you’re probably still enjoying winter break. But with that two-week treat shortly coming to a close, I’m sure there are at least a few of you already looking forward to the warm, lazy months of summer. (I know I always did!) Then again, summer may not be the carefree paradise it once was. Whether you’d like to admit it or not, it’s the perfect opportunity to gain some work experience and this summer, you’re in luck: President Barack Obama is looking to boost summer job prospects for kids.

The White House recently announced that with help from the private sector, it has nearly 180,000 youth employment opportunities for the summer and aims to add tens of thousands more. With unemployment rates still relatively high for adults nationwide, young people are finding it almost impossible to find any employment opportunities. President Obama insisted that with the economy in a rut, the government needs to step in to make sure kids are provided with opportunities to learn skills and a work ethic. One downside of the plan for kids trying to save money for college, cars and other expenses is that many of the positions would be unpaid training opportunities.

Are you already thinking about where you’ll be working this summer? Are you more interested in a paying position or one that would be a killer reference on your resume?


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The AP Debate

January 10, 2012

The AP Debate

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, students: How many of you have previously taken, are currently enrolled in or are considering signing up for an Advanced Placement course? That's a lot of you...but how many of you chose the AP path because you felt as though you had to in order to remain competitive in the college admissions process? Iiiiiinteresting...

With college hopefuls taking on so many AP classes that they have barely any time for non-academics, some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are pushing for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses a student can take or even eliminating them entirely. Though some teachers and administrators feel it would be a welcome change that would allow more freedom in the curriculum, parents and students do not share this mindset: They view any AP limits or bans as disadvantages when college application time rolls around, despite competitive schools like Stanford assuring applicants "We want to be clear that this is not a case of 'whoever has the most APs wins.'" Other educators think the caps are a bad idea, stating that not only will students feel less challenged but that limiting the number of AP classes could result in staffing cuts, as schools offering more APs are able to hire more teachers.

Research does show students who take AP courses do better in college than students who don't but is it worth the stress placed upon students by parents, teachers, colleges and even their peers to take and excel in these courses? Do you think students should be able to decide what their own workload should be if it means the AP credits earned will help them graduate from college early and save thousands on tuition? What side are you on in the AP debate?


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An App for Apps

Matchbox Streamlines Admissions Processes

January 11, 2012

An App for Apps

by Alexis Mattera

As soon as high school students drop their college applications in the mail or send them hurtling through cyberspace, they breathe sighs of relief thinking the hardest part of the application process is over. Not so much for college admissions officers, whose challenges are just beginning: They must review each and every transcript, essay, standardized test score and extracurricular to select the right mix of students to attend their institutions. It can take a lot of resources – there are quite literally thousands of applications to evaluate – so it’s about time an app was created to streamline the process.

Matchbox has developed an iPad app to speed up the review of college applications without compromising the savvy judgment admissions officers are known for. Founder and CEO Stephen Marcus created the first incarnation of the Matchbox app as a member of the admissions committee at the MIT Sloan School of Management. At that time, Marcus said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to read one application but with the Matchbox app, that same process is two to three times faster. "I'm able to save a lot of time when I'm reading applications now," said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at the Sloan School. "Before I would have to write out all of that evidence on the handwritten scorecard. Now I can just tap it with my finger, highlight it, assign a category, and it's done."

Do you think this kind of technology is good or bad for the college application evaluation process? Let us know why in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter!


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Admissions Decisions: What to Do While You Wait to Hear

by Katie Askew

By now, most of the priority deadlines for college applications have passed. You have filled out your last application, written your final essay and everything is under review...so what’s left for you to do?

During the period between submitting your application and getting an admissions decision, there is a lot you can do besides just sitting around waiting. Although patience is a virtue, why don’t you take a look at what I did and see if you can keep busy!

Visit or revisit. If you haven’t already visited your choice colleges, now is the time. Take a tour, meet with an admissions counselor and talk to students you see about campus life. If you have already visited, go again because the second visit is almost always more informative than the first: Now that you have seen a few different types of schools, you can go back to your top choices and get more pertinent information because you’ll know exactly what types of questions to ask.

Volunteer. If you are deferred or waitlisted to your top college (knock on wood!), volunteer hours are great additions to your application and make you a more promising candidate. It shows that you are really doing everything you can to be a well-rounded student. If you were accepted to your top college, those volunteer hours didn’t go to waste – it’s humbling to give your time and maybe volunteering at the local hospital has given you a potential new career path as a doctor or nurse!

Job shadow. Shadowing someone working a job you’re interested in is a great way to acquire lots of information directly from those in the industry. After the job shadow, maybe you’ll realize becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t right for someone as squeamish as you are or maybe you’ll realize how much you love healing others. You won’t know until you job shadow!

Sure, the couch is comfortable but get up and get out – there is a lot more you can do to prepare for those admissions decision letters!

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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Change the World with This Scholarship of the Week!

Microsoft Imagine Cup Deadline Approaching

February 20, 2012

Change the World with This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

The world’s toughest problems will be addressed one solution at a time. But who will lead the change? Compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup and you’ll join thousands of high school juniors and seniors from around the world who are stepping up to the challenge of global change...and the chance to earn $25,000 for college.

For the Imagine Cup, students can choose from three team competitions — Software Design, Game Design: Xbox/Windows, and Game Design: Phone. If you are already signed up to compete in one of the three competitions, you can increase your chances to share your world-changing ideas by signing up to compete in the Kinect Fun Labs, Windows Metro Style App, Windows Azure or Windows Phone challenges.

There are multiple deadlines approaching so be sure to check out the Imagine Cup website for more details. Get involved, stand out, raise your skills and find additional scholarship opportunities through our free scholarship search!


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Take Advantage of Tutoring

February 29, 2012

Take Advantage of Tutoring

by Jessica Seals

Most college campuses offer tutoring centers where students can have classmates help them with any academic issues. Unfortunately, some students are either too embarrassed or proud to utilize these study services but they should know there are other students out there (like me!) who are willing to assist them outside a formal tutoring environment.

I found private tutoring to be a wise choice for several reasons. If you tutor classmates for free, you may be able to document these instances as community service, which employers and admissions committees for graduate and professional schools love to see. If you charge a fee for your services, however, it also allows you to make some extra money on the side while reviewing material you need for your own classes. Tutoring also allows you to make connections across campus by meeting new people who could eventually become good friends with; you may also encounter someone who might return the favor by tutoring you if you ever need help in their area of expertise. You are not limited to tutoring your fellow college students, either: You can also sign up to tutor at a local high school, middle school or elementary school – a move that allows you to make connections in the community and help you when you look for employment in the future.

Tutoring is a win-win situation and I would encourage all college students to try it if you have the chance – you never know where it could lead!

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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