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Should You Commute to College?

February 24, 2012

Should You Commute to College?

by Kara Coleman

Traditionally, most college students live in dorms or apartments on or near their campuses to get the full “college experience.” But before you sign that rental agreement, you might want to consider living at home and commuting to school.

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical college student – eating Ramen noodles for every meal and taking out student loans to pay for books and tuition – but that doesn’t have to be you! My goal is to graduate from college debt-free so I live at home with my parents and commute to a university about 30 minutes away. Because I live at home, I am able to save myself rent and utility expenses and use the money I earn from my job to pay cash for my tuition and books. Some students prefer the feeling of independence that comes with living on your own (I mean, if you live in your parents’ house, you live by their rules!) but not taking out student loans will mean financial freedom after I graduate and get a real job.

The downside to living so far off-campus is that I’m not as connected to events and happenings at school as the students who live there are. It’s not always easy to make it to meetings and events when commuting from the next county but by no means does it deprive me of the college experience: I still attend football games, plays and seminars at my university, and hang out with friends between classes.

Is living home and commuting right for you? While it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s definitely an option that I encourage students to consider while making housing plans for the upcoming school year.

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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The Day I Discovered the Library

by Julius Clayborn

With my bed, refrigerator and everything else I could imagine within my reach, I thought my dorm room was the perfect study environment and I never explored other places on campus to review course material because I valued the comfort that my own space provided. As soon as I would begin my study sessions, however, I quickly became distracted by the very things that put me at ease. I would always conveniently end up sleeping the afternoon away for what I told myself would be only an hour-long nap.

I soon realized that my room was acting as a big hindrance to my academic performance and I knew I had to do something about it...fast. I had heard other students talk about this mystical place – a place on Cornell's campus that held all sorts of things like books, encyclopedias and, most importantly, quiet study spaces. I became curious as to where this place was and finally found my way there. Lo and behold, it was...the library! Once I sat down and studied, I saw the benefits immediately. The low volume really helped me to concentrate and the overall mellowness of the space worked in my favor. I covered so much more material and I was that much more prepared for class the next day. After I changed my study habits up and became more acquainted with the library, I saw a boost in my academic performance and had fewer stressful nights.

Convenience can come in all sorts of places so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Now, I make more of an effort to tap into all of the things that I have been missing out on on campus; I'm so glad the library was one of them.

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 into books during his spare time. He is a freshman at Cornell University, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Admitted Students Groups on Facebook Foster Connections, Put Freshmen at Ease

by Jacquelene Bennett

Starting college, meeting new people and living on your own for the first time can be both an exciting and terrifying experience for freshmen. Universities are trying to help quell concerns and ease the transition through the use of social media – specifically, colleges create Facebook groups for newly-admitted students that allow incoming freshmen and transfer students to join and interact with one another.

Every year, my school starts a group for in the incoming fall class and allows RAs, freshmen orientation leaders and current college students to join as well so that fall freshmen can get to know each other and current students before the academic year starts. New students ask current students about what kind of classes they should take, get advice on professors and find out what they should and shouldn’t bring with them for their dorm rooms.

Unlike your average campus tour, these groups allow students to ask questions about anything and everything. Students can use these groups to find out who will be living in their dorm hall, what to expect during freshmen orientation week, find people who have similar interests (intramural sports, dance company, etc.), voice concerns about class registration and ask questions that they can’t get answered anywhere else.

So if you are a newly-admitted college freshman, I suggest you join one of these groups and take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Use this medium to meet people, ask questions and to try to get a feel for how student life is going to be at the school.

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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Traveling While Abroad

April 5, 2012

Traveling While Abroad

by Darci Miller

My backpack is packed, my tickets are printed, my passport is at the ready and my camera is fully charged. My train to Paris leaves in exactly three hours and one minute and from there, a few friends and I begin a three-week backpacking tour across Europe. Our stops include a city I’ve wanted to visit since the fourth grade (Copenhagen), the world center of the Olympic movement (Lausanne), one of my favorite cities in the world (Venice) and two cities in which I was considering studying abroad (Munich and Berlin). Am I excited? You could say so.

Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to achieve any travel dreams you may have. Money is, of course, an obstacle but there are ways to travel on the cheap, especially in the European Union. For an extended trip like mine, the Eurail pass is a great option, letting you choose your number of travel days and countries. There are also Megabus deals between countries starting at next to nothing, plus discount airlines.

Airlines can charge an arm and a leg for checked baggage so it’s smart to fit everything you need into a carry-on or backpack. Invest in a sturdy one and remember to pack light! Bring clothes that can easily be mixed and matched (and ladies, a great space-saving option that gives you tons of outfit choices while traveling is bringing shorts and tights instead of pants if it’s warm enough!).

It’s also important to remember to book travel as early as you can to save on transportation and hostel costs. When it comes to hostels, try to stay in places that your friends have stayed in before you; personal recommendations are always a plus. Don’t be too worried about sharing rooms with strangers, either: Most places have lockers where you can keep your stuff safe and most people staying in hostels are in the exact same boat as you.

As for an itinerary, my friends and I don’t have one. We know when we have to be at the train station and we have a list of things to do in each city but that’s it. We’ve discovered that part of the fun is wandering around and seeing what we stumble across – don’t be afraid to leave some things to chance!

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. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

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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Selling/Buying Items for School

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the end of the academic year which means summer vacation, summer school and, for many students, moving home until the fall. Moving out is never a simple process but for the items and supplies that you do not want to keep, selling them or giving them away for free are some options. This is also the best time for students to purchase furniture and other household items especially if they are living off campus – they might be second hand but it will save you quite a bit of money!

College students who want to sell items have a variety of outlets to consider. Create a free Craigslist posting – all you need to do is take a picture of the item you’re selling, give a brief description and list a price and some contact information so interested buyers can reach you. Advertising on campus through flyers in the student union and dorms is also an option; student buyers might be more willing to meet with you if they know you are another student. Lastly, if you are moving or graduating and taking items with you isn’t an option or storing them is too inconvenient, you can donate the items or give them away for free – believe me, students trying to furnish their abodes will thank you.

The dorms at SJSU did something innovative this year to help students get rid of things they didn’t need in a convenient manner and for students to find something they might need: We used a spare lounge in the dorms to pile up items including mini-fridges, TVs, game consoles, bookshelves, clothing, books and so much more. Many students found it useful and were able to take whatever they wanted for free; everything that was left at the end was donated. Success all around!

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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Plagiarism - Avoid it Like the Plague!

by Jessica Seals

After giving up a night out with your roommates so that you can write a research paper worth one-third of your grade, you would probably be devastated if your teacher flagged your work for plagiarism. Punishment for plagiarism ranges from a warning or receiving a 0 on the paper to failing the course or being expelled from the college. Your chances at graduating from college should never be put in jeopardy because of plagiarism and here are a few tips to help you avoid it.

  • 1. Make sure to cite all phrases and sentences that do not belong to you. Even the smallest phrase can get you into trouble if you do not provide a proper citation for it. Make sure to check with your teacher on what format they prefer their students to use (APA, MLA, etc.) for citations so there is no confusion.
  • 2. Ask questions if you do not know how to properly cite something. You can also get reprimanded if you cite your work incorrectly. There are several resources available online that give you step-by-step instructions on how to make citations in different formats.
  • 3. Always make sure that your citations are accurate. I learned this lesson the hard way: I was in a rush to finish a paper and mixed up two of my sources. While I did not get into trouble for plagiarizing, I did lose several points because my teacher discovered that I had improperly labeled some of my information when she checked the citations.
  • 4.Never put off an important paper until the last minute. A few hours before your paper is due, you realize that there is no way that you will finish in time so you decide to “borrow” the work of another person that you found online. Bad idea: Today, teachers have access to plagiarism software that will highlight any information that came from another paper and give the teacher access to that work. If you give yourself enough time to complete your assignment, you won’t be tempted to copy.

I have seen fellow classmates get into trouble because of plagiarism – depending on the severity of it, even one instance of plagiarism can potentially ruin an otherwise stellar academic career – and they realized it is never worth the risk to cheat when you can easily be caught.

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. Jessica will be back at Memphis this fall to begin working toward her master’s degree in political science this fall; she ultimately hopes to attend law school.


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Taming Noisy Summer Neighbors

by Kayla Herrera

If you’re a college student, the following scenario is bound to present itself: You have to work or have a test early in the morning but your neighbors have decided to party until 3 or 4 a.m. You’re not a party pooper (you just don’t want to be a zombie the next day!) so you should know there is absolutely nothing wrong with standing up for yourself – and your health – to better perform at work or summer academics.

Don’t jump out of bed and bang on your neighbor’s door at the first sound of noise. Wait and see if the activity continues either the next night or next week. If it does, say something to your neighbor to let them know you’re below/above/next door to them. They might not realize how loud they are and how thin the walls are.

If the party noise continues for multiple nights, try to gauge why before confronting your neighbors. If they’re clearly intoxicated, just tell them to keep it down because you’re trying to sleep. (It’s no use having a serious conversation with anyone in their condition; sometimes, they realize it’s late anyway and just needed a reminder.) If you happen to talk to someone sober, explain to them that the noise has gone on for a few nights now and it is interfering with your work or school schedule. Suggest a compromise like quieting down after midnight.

If your neighbors ignore you and you still can’t sleep, bang on the ceiling, floor or wall with a broomstick or threaten to call the cops. I’ve done this twice and both times, my neighbors have quieted down...fast. Unless the party is WAY out of control, someone sounds hurt or something illegal is going on, don’t actually get the police involved – saying you will gets the message across that you’re serious about taking action. Sometimes drastic measures have to be taken but they’re effective: I haven’t had problems since and neither will you.

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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Adios, First-Day Jitters - Start Preparing for School NOW!

by Kayla Herrera

Back-to-school season is in the air and whether you’re a transfer student or incoming freshman looking forward to entering a new environment, you don’t want to be without these must-have items for the school year:

  • Planner: I know smartphones have fancy scheduling apps but nothing can compare to writing your to-dos into a paper planner. I actually got reprimanded once for pulling my phone out to schedule a speech as we signed up for it so stay out of trouble by going with the old-fashioned method.
  • Ballpoint pens: Pens are crisp, bold and perfect for taking smudge-free notes. Pick up an economy-sized pack for backup and sharing with classmates or roommates – someone will ALWAYS need one.
  • Mechanical pencils: These are great (and necessary) for Scantron exams and math problems. Bonus? No sharpener needed!
  • Folders: I have found that folders help me keep everything in order by class. Color-coding them will help further organize your college life.
  • Pictures from home: Looking at the faces of those you love will help you get through those lonely off-days.
  • A journal: The best therapy is sometimes writing and when no one is available for you to talk to, a journal can be a great sounding board.
  • Music: Whatever genre that appeases your soul, music has the power to change lives, fix what’s broken and turn any bad day into a slightly better one. I never would have survived my freshman year without music from my iPod or at a campus concert.

All of these items got me through my first year of college...and I didn’t know about the folders until second semester! I hope they will aid you in the best way possible as you tackle your first year at a new school.

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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How to Make the Most of Your Last Year in College

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s already mid-August and I know for many of us, it feels like summer break just started yesterday. For the students entering their last year in college, however, this was the last true summer off they’ll have – if this sounds like you, how are you going to make the most of your final undergraduate year? What will you do differently? Here are my suggestions:

  • Live it up. I kept wondering why people would say enjoy your college years because all I could imagine was midterms, finals and 20-page research papers but after entering the full-time working world through my internship this summer, I can say I’m definitely going to be making the most of my last year (semester, rather, as I graduate in December) in college! I propose that we all “carpe diem” to the fullest.
  • Keep in touch. Being able to see friends and familiar faces every day is something that’s often taken for granted by college students. When you graduate and everyone’s schedules become more hectic, it’s difficult to catch up. Yes, right now many of us are on budgets but at least we have the time to do things that are fun. Whether it’s a campus event or just hanging out in your dorm with your roommates, cherish these times and foster your connections now before it’s too late.
  • Step out of your comfort zone. If you’ve never done something before and want to try it out, now is the time! If there’s a class you’ve always wanted to take, sign up for it. If there’s an event or club that you haven’t explored, get involved! Do everything that you couldn’t do before so that when you graduate, you'll do so with no regrets.

Take the extra time to appreciate your surrounding and that college atmosphere because once you’re done with college, you will only have the memories – do everything in your power to ensure they’re the best ones!

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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