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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Conquering the Grocery Store

December 16, 2011

Conquering the Grocery Store

by Katie Askew

Graduating from freshman dorm life to sophomore apartment living has had its pros and cons. Although I gained more freedom, I lost luxuries like free laundry, a professionally-cleaned bathroom and meals made by a chef. My housing choice meant more financial responsibility – something I realized when I stepped into the grocery store for the first time as an apartment dweller. To keep my spending (and yours!) in check, I created a short list of tips for a college student’s first few trips to the grocery store.

Don’t shop hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s true: When I’m full, I focus only on the foods that are only on my list and I save a ton of money by avoiding impulse buys like giant jars of Nutella.

Plan a weekly menu and take a list. Decide what you’re going to eat on a weekly basis and create a grocery list that reflects this. Keep staples like bread, eggs, cereal and milk in mind but if you want to maintain a budget, it’s important to not stray from your list. If you need recipes for quick dinners, check out sites like Kraft or All Recipes: Just type in what ingredients you have and a meal will be generated for you!

Set a time limit. Saying you only have X minutes to shop will keep you focused on what you need, not what you want. This will also save time for homework or something fun later.

Find coupons. Purchasing a real Sunday newspaper is an excellent investment: Not only can you catch up on the news but you also gain access to lots of great coupons from local grocery stores. Dedicated coupon sites like CoolSavings or SmartSource are also helpful because they find deals based on your zip code.

I’m not saying you can’t splurge every now and then – after a rough week, ice cream is a necessity! – but by living like a student now, you won’t have to later in 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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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

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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Out with the Old, In with the New

Leaving Campus Activities to Go Abroad is Hard but Worth It

December 20, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

by Darci Miller

Earlier in the semester, I ran into an acquaintance in the study abroad office. We were both waiting to meet with the same adviser, so we went in to ask our questions together to save time. During the course of our chat, she mentioned her hesitancy to go abroad. Her reasoning? Not wanting to leave her activities at Miami. Specifically, she’d have to withdraw from a prestigious e-board position with her sorority.

I totally got where she was coming from. I had to leave my position as opinion editor of the newspaper, finding a replacement wasn’t easy and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get back onto the editorial staff when I return. I also have to take a semester away from my campus job and opt out of a journalism field experience program I’m in. It was a difficult decision but now I can let you in on a little secret: The world won’t stop, clubs and organizations will stagger on without you and you will still be you even without a laundry list of responsibilities to your name. These accomplishments are already on your resume so stepping away won’t be a massive blow – in actuality, employers like seeing international experience so going abroad will make you a more appealing candidate!

As someone eagerly awaiting her departure date (January 4th!), I can’t say from experience that studying abroad will be worth it but I have no doubt that it will be. (Hey, when else will I have the chance to live, play and work in a foreign country with the knowledge that my parents won’t let me go hungry?) While you may not be able to get back onto that e-board, everything will still be there when you get back. If you’re studying abroad with a program sponsored by your school, on-campus jobs and organizations can’t hold one semester away against you. If you’re enrolled with the school abroad, you’re allowed to come right back like you’d never even left. So email your bosses, apologize to your sorority sisters and hire those replacements – the world awaits!

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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All I Want for College is...

Gifts to Help You Through the Rest of the School Year

December 21, 2011

All I Want for College is...

by Angela Andaloro

Winter break is top of mind for many college students right now and although it’s tough to imagine as we pack up our dorm rooms for a month away from campus, we’ll be back in class before we know it. We’re all aware of the expenses that go into being a college student – both in terms of academics and how we spend our time outside of school – and the holiday season is a perfect way to get some assistance on that front. Here are some items you can consider putting on your holiday wish list to make sure the second half of this school year goes smoothly!

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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Goodbye, Textbooks - Hello, Money!

The Best Places to Sell Back Your Books

December 23, 2011

Goodbye, Textbooks - Hello, Money!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the end of the semester again and I’m sure as many of you are packing to go home, you’re wondering what you’re going to do with all those textbooks. Although there are some books you may want to keep, you’re going to want to sell most of them back and there are several ways to go about recouping some of the money you invested.

Many campus bookstores will buy back the book for 40 to 50 percent of the price you paid for it – used or new. If the edition is being updated, however, you might want to consider selling it elsewhere because your return will be much lower.

Online book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will buy textbooks back from you directly. Just recently, Amazon was offering $35 for a book I paid $45 for so I’d say it’s a very good deal. (They give you a free shipping label, too.) Amazon also lets you sell your books through their site to other students. The downside here is you will have to ship the book yourself, which will usually run more than the $3.99 fee Amazon charges, and Amazon takes 10 to 20 percent profit of what you make, including applicable tax and shipping fees.

You can list books on Craigslist or even around your campus. Put up a posting online or in your dorm and have students contact you if they need those textbooks.

There are ways to get money back for your textbooks but make sure to do it as soon as you can after the semester ends. You’ll get a better return this way – funds you can put toward next semester’s books!

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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Fun Activities for Winter Break

by Kayla Herrera

Once that last Scantron sheet is bubbled and that last paper is submitted, the freedom of winter break beckons us happily. Suddenly, the stress is gone and we have all the time in the world (aside from work and family obligations) so what kinds of fun things can you do during hours you’d otherwise be studying?

I made a promise to myself to read all of winter break and I’ve found Amazon’s Kindle app to be a fantastic way to do so. It works on your smartphone, iPad, iPod or computer – I had to get it for my netbook for school – and have access to countless free or 99-cent Kindle books! I want to recommend Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter. If you have ever seen the show on SyFy, it is worth checking out. For those who haven’t, author Josh Gates is witty, sarcastic and adventurous – a modern Indiana Jones! All of the paranormal shows are coming out with their own books and though I have yet to check out Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures, this one just drew me in.

If you are into video games, you cannot go wrong with Skyrim. Hundreds of hours can be poured into this game, where you create a character to battle dragons and complete quests in an entirely different world. This is one sure way to survive your winter break...if you can defeat the dragons, of course.

And finally, The Adventures of Tintin looks like an incredible movie for all ages. The story is courageous, mysterious and unexpected – out of all the movies coming out over break (yes, even including Spielberg’s other film, War Horse), I would say this looks like the most thrilling and worth my 10 dollars.

Whatever you choose to do, may your winter break be as adventurous as you can make it!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. 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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2011: The College Edition

January 3, 2012

2011: The College Edition

by Angela Andaloro

There are lots of 2011 recap lists circulating the Internet but the one you are about to read comes from a different perspective: a college student's! There were many interesting events that occurred this year that involved colleges – here’s to the lessons we’ve learned this year...and the lessons ahead of us!

Occupy Wall Street: This nationwide protest had great appeal to college students, who have expressed their frustrations at rising tuition costs and the amount of debt students are accruing. Students participated in walkouts in November to express their unity with the movement and also faced off with police. (I’m sure no one will forget the UC Davis pepper spraying photo and its viral impact any time soon.)

Controversy: Controversy has swept colleges by storm in the latter half of this year with scandals occurring at both Penn State and Syracuse University. While these stories raised many concerns amongst parents and students, it also increased the sense of community and unity amongst the students at these schools and beyond. This was illustrated best by a building on the Penn State campus sporting an adaptation of their classic “We are Penn State!” chant: Following the controversy surrounding the football program, the building now reads “We are still Penn State!” showing that despite recent incidents, students are still proud to be Nittany Lions.

Achievements: College students around the country - including you! - have been accomplishing great things all year long. Whether it was passing a tough class, being awarded a scholarship or scoring an amazing internship, the things you’ve achieved this year contributed to the overall scope of college life in 2011. Surely, your accomplishments will continue on and play a role in making 2012 a happy, healthy, successful year for us all.

Have something to add? Let us know which events were important on your campus this year!

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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Pomp and Circumstance

Early Graduation and the Road Ahead

January 4, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

by Jessica Seals

After experiencing another Thanksgiving filled with laughter, tons of delicious food and family gatherings, I realized that graduation was right around the corner. Each morning, I hoped that the date would magically jump to December 17th so that I could walk across the stage and receive my bachelor’s degree; with all of my wishing, that day did arrive and all of my emotions hit me full blast.

I was excited to be done with my undergraduate work, I was nervous about potentially falling as I accepted my diploma in front of thousands of people, I was anxious to see what the future held for me and I was sad when I realized that I would no longer get to experience campus life anymore. Despite the fact that I was overcome with emotion, I sported the biggest smile as I proudly stood in line waiting for the graduation ceremony to begin.

Leading up to the commencement exercises, all of the soon-to-be graduates lined up backstage and I saw just how many students were aboard the same emotional rollercoaster as me. Some were so excited they could not stand still, some appeared sick to their stomachs and some tried to remain calm while clearly fighting back tears. When my name was called and I headed toward Memphis’ president to receive my diploma, my goal of obtaining a degree in less than four years – with several different honors, too! – became a reality. It was everything I’d imagined, plus so much more.

What happened next? I walked down the stairs (without falling!) and breathed a big sigh of relief. As I passed my seat, I felt extremely accomplished and wanted to keep the success I had as an undergraduate going for the rest of my life. With law school and internships on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before the world sees just what I am capable of.

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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New Semester, New Goals

January 5, 2012

New Semester, New Goals

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that you've had some time to spend some time with your family, eat all those holiday delicacies or just unwind, it's just about time for another semester! Since starting a new semester can be daunting, here are several tips you can follow:

First, make sure you order your books at least a week before the semester starts, preferably sooner if you're ordering them online. While Amazon's two-day shipping for college students is great for procrastinators, your books may not be in stock if you wait too long.

Next, make sure you're not taking too many credits. While taking 18 credits a semester may seem like a great idea when you think about how quickly you'll finish your degree, you’ll burn out fast (especially if you have a job...or two). As we've heard a million times, slow and steady wins the race and your GPA will almost certainly be a lot stronger and college will be more enjoyable if you adopt a more moderate pace.

Finally, take advantage of campus resources. As overwhelming as college can feel at times, it's easy to forget that there are all kinds of people who are more than willing to help. From math lab to writing lab to academic counselors, there's no shortage of people who understand what you're going through and can offer great advice. Besides, you're paying top dollar for your tuition so you might as well get your money's worth and use these resources!

If you still feel crazed after reading these tips, remember that you won't be in college for the rest of your life. Sometimes we forget about the eventual rewards of hard work. It may take more time than we'd like but hard work will pay off in the end.

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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