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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Thomas Lee

by Thomas Lee

My name is Thomas Lee and I am a recent graduate of Methodist University with a BA in political science and journalism. I chose Methodist because it had the distinction of being both a university and a private school. When I first arrived at Methodist for the campus tour, I found the atmosphere very inviting. The campus was located next to a golf course near a tranquil river and most of the classrooms and dorms were within reasonable walking distance.

I chose political science as my focus because of my passion for political debate and the inner workings of government. I selected journalism as a second major so that I could write for a newspaper in case a career in politics didn’t work out. I plan to attend law school in the fall and am leaning strongly toward becoming a civil attorney. Eventually, I plan to run for political office.

During college, much of my spare time was spent participating in weekly Bible studies as part of Campus Crusade for Christ, serving as one of the Founding Fathers of Methodist’s Kappa Sigma chapter and performing in theatrical productions. I have also been writing a series of adventure novels which I hope to finish in the near future. All in all, I had a captivating and worthwhile experience at Methodist and enjoyed college life as a whole.

As a virtual intern for Scholarships.com, I feel that I am partially fulfilling the purposes of my journalism degree and also contributing useful information to future college students. I hope that my articles will be beneficial to those who visit Scholarships.com and also give voice to the concerns of fellow students. As a Christian, I feel that God wants me to play an ethical role in the somewhat infamous fields of law and politics and writing for Scholarships.com may help accomplish this.


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The Benefits of Community Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

For many students fresh out of high school, the idea of going to a community college is not appealing. After all, one of the most exciting aspects of attending college is living on campus away from home, right? Well, living on campus may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Although few people would argue that universities' clubs, fraternities and parties are superior to anything offered at a community college, the stress of being away from home for the first time, learning to live with one or more roommates and being forced to make new friends can be quite an adjustment. Community colleges help students ease into the transition between high school and college more gradually.

Then there’s the cost: Tuition at a community college per year costs $2,713 per year, whereas four-year universities cost $7,605 per year on average. This second figure assumes you're living in-state but if you're living out-of-state, expect to be set back about $11,990 your first year. If cost is the major deciding factor, your decision is easy: Go to a community college for your first two years, then transfer. With all the extra money you're saving, you can throw your own parties, buy that new car you've been wanting or just save up for when you do go to a university.

Even if you're not going to your dream school for your first two years, you'll still have the opportunity to experience campus life after you get your associate degree at a community college. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find out community colleges aren't as bad as they're made out to be!

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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The Learning Curve: Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes

by Jessica Seals

College classes, whether taken online or in person, may all seem to be the same. Both types require you to read, write papers, take tests and participate in some way but there is a big difference in the lifestyle that you can lead when you take online classes instead of taking traditional classes on campus.

I have personally taken both online and traditional classes, experienced the differences between the two and quickly learned that my learning style needed to be adjusted on a class-by-class basis. With traditional classes, you have a set time to go to class, turn in work and take tests. Your other daily activities have to be planned around your class schedule. Online classes allow you to be more flexible with your time – the ones I’ve taken allowed me to base my school activities on my daily schedule and do the work when it was convenient for me – while still studying and adhering to deadlines set by the instructor. But with this increased flexibility comes more responsibility, as you have to learn how to make a schedule you can stick to. This schedule should list all of your assignments along with their due dates so that you don’t miss turning anything in. (When I first started taking online classes, I missed two assignments because I hadn’t adjusted to this new type of learning. Ouch!)

Online classes are very convenient for those who have busy schedules that don’t allow them to sit in traditional classes. Taking classes online makes it easier to push your work to the side until the last minute, so be prepared to manage your time more closely if you want to stay on track.

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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Face It: In-Person Communication is Important

by Casandra Pagn

So many of us (myself included) feel safe behind the veil of technology. Whether it's a Facebook profile, ultra-organized email or Twitter, let’s face it: It’s much easier to be the person you want to be when you carefully craft it out and spell check it twice. You can appear any way you want to...as long as you don’t have to think on the spot. I'm not trying to say that having a solid grasp on social media isn't beneficial (it certainly is!) but even in a technology-driven world, face-to-face conversational skills are still important.

The majority of interviews – especially selective or final ones – are still conducted in person. For a successful in-person interview, communicating well with a prospective employer while still showing some of your personality is critical. That's the benefit of face-to-face communication: You can show that you are unique, relatable and ready to be hired all through the way you talk. It’s important to convey confidence in your abilities at an interview and much of that confidence can be exuded through clear, thoughtful speech. Even phone interviews require these skills, as employers won't be as responsive to someone who has a robotic voice or is reading from a script.

Strong conversational skills are key in networking, too. Your ability to schmooze with someone in your field of interest may be the way to meet someone else who can put in a good word for you for a job or recommend another contact who can help. When it comes to getting a job, any connections could lead to potential employment.

Don't think you're a skilled conversationalist? Don't worry...just put your down your BlackBerry and talk! Practice makes perfect so instead of texting today, try making a phone call. I know it sounds crazy, but a confident, articulate voice might help land you a job down the road.

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.


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Cars on Campus: Are They Necessary?

by Katie Askew

Public transportation: Some fear it, some embrace it. Ten months ago, I was the former but I’m now proud to say I am the latter.

Cars are the main mode of transport where I’m from in South Dakota – even 14-year-olds can have their licenses here! – but moving to the “big city” to attend the University of Minnesota meant giving up my car. I left it dead and dust-covered for nine months and, in a way, also left a piece of me back home. I was petrified at the thought of climbing onto a...a...public bus. Yuck, but I had no other option if I wanted to go to Target or to downtown Minneapolis for concerts and clubs. I even rode the light rail during a shopping spree with friends at the Mall of America (it goes right to the basement of the mall!).

I will never regret learning the bus and light rail routes of Minneapolis because it saves me tons of time, money and public transportation really wasn’t as creepy or dirty as I thought it was going to be. As time passed, the more thankful I became for not having to pay expensive parking fees, car insurance and all the parking tickets I surely would have received. I won’t even mention the loads of money I saved on gas...$4 a gallon, anyone?

The University of Minnesota has extremely discounted bus and light rail passes for students. Your school probably does, too, but if you REALLY can’t bring yourself to take public transportation and are contemplating bringing your car to campus, consider bicycles, rollerblades, longboards and good old-fashioned walking – all of which are cheaper for you and better for the environment. Things may be different if you attend college in a more rural setting but going to a metropolitan school without a car is possible!

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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Shari Williams

by Shari Williams

Hi everyone! Just a few days ago, I landed back in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland after a long, adventurous school year in Los Angeles. I was at California State University, Northridge as a participant in the National Student Exchange program and now that the program is over, I will be returning to my school, Towson University.

Originally, I didn't want to go to Towson. My choice school was Temple University but after acceptance, I was discouraged to go because of the costly out-of-state expenses. Thankfully, I came across the National Student Exchange program, which gave me the chance to venture out-of-state for a year while still paying in-state tuition.

Choosing my major was a challenge for me because I never wanted to be placed in one box or one category. Choosing only one field to pursue was extremely hard for me. I also had to take into consideration my future finances versus my passion. My freshman year, I was a combined major in speech pathology and deaf studies but after that year, I realized that my heart was in broadcast journalism. Venturing to California sealed the deal and I am now double majoring in broadcast journalism and deaf studies with a minor in entertainment, media and film. Why? Because communicating with people is what I love to do, whether it is through speech, writing or body movement.

Now that it is summer break, I can finally relax! I look forward to hanging with friends, looking for new artists to add to my iTunes, tweeting, randomly dancing (much like the girl in the Sun Drop commercial) and, of course, writing. As a Scholarships.com virtual intern, I plan to share the “secrets” of college life that I truly wish someone would have shared with me during my years of college.


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Where to Buy and Sell Textbooks

by Kara Coleman

It’s important to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your money as far as it will go when putting yourself through college and one way to do this is by exploring your options for buying and selling textbooks.

Your campus bookstore is the most obvious option but it's also the most expensive. One good thing about campus bookstores is that some will allow books and other school-related items like notebooks and calculators to be covered by grants and scholarships. Some bookstores sell both new and used textbooks and allow students to sell their books back to the store for cash at the end of each semester...but you only get back a fraction of the amount you actually paid.

Since your fellow students are in the same boat you’re in, ask around for a specific book that you need. One guy sold his $200 Spanish book to me for $100 and a girl I know let me have her $70 math book for $30. It’s also a good idea to swap books with friends if they are taking a class that you took last semester and vice versa. That way, everyone saves money.

The Internet is your friend so check around online to see what sites have the best prices on what you need. I have friends who routinely order their textbooks from Amazon.com, Half.com and Betterworld.com. (These are great places to sell your used textbooks as well.)

If you don’t want to buy, consider renting your textbooks for a semester from Chegg.com. I did this last year and I think it’s a great idea. At the end of the semester, Chegg emailed return address labels to me and there was no charge to ship my books back to them.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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Meet Scholarships.com Virtual Interns: Cameron Pybus

by Cameron Pybus

My name is Cameron Pybus and I’m privileged to be one of Scholarship.com’s newest virtual interns. I’ve just finished my junior year at Texas A&M and have also just returned from my study abroad semester in Italy. I am majoring in environmental design or architecture and plan to attend graduate school in the fall of 2012.

Architecture and Texas A&M go hand in hand for me because they are both goals I have imagined achieving for some time now. My two sisters and I value our dad’s artistic traits that he passed down to us; this is a big reason why I pursued architecture, as creativity has fueled much of my life. Through high school, I enjoyed various art studios and competitions that really opened my eyes to creative thinking. Being able to harness this creativity and design environments that invoke different visual responses is thrilling and I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to apply this creativity. Texas A&M has been a tradition in my family and I’m proud to attend the same school that my great-grandfather, grandfathers and parents all did. Being a part of this legacy made A&M so much more special to me and an easy choice when selecting what school to attend.

I’m excited to be a virtual intern for Scholarships.com. I was also attracted to this internship because it’s a great way for future and current college students to gain different perspectives. Each virtual intern has a unique story and experience, allowing each reader to see these different possibilities in a college or university setting is important. It’s a unique opportunity to express things I’ve learned through my college years and hopefully you can find some of them useful. College is what you make it - learn from others and keep an open mind!


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Save Your Standardized Test Scores!

by Jacquelene Bennett

Here is a bit of advice for all you graduating high school seniors: Save your test scores!

All that time and money you spent on the SATs, ACTs and APs and all those other acronymonous tests are not for naught! Besides being a tool for college admittance, these tests will actually benefit you later on in your college career. I know...crazy, right? All that time spent studying vocabulary, major historical dates and algebraic equations was actually worth it in the long run!

I know from personal experience: My SAT I scores on the writing and reading comprehension sections (good but not great scores, mind you) exempted me from a general requirement writing class. While your SAT scores are generally used for assessing your placement within a university, these scores can sometimes aid your college in placing you in the proper introductory classes or can waive your gen eds entirely (though every school is different so check with the registrar).

For those of you who took AP classes and did well on the final AP tests, scores of three or higher usually exempt you from certain college courses. I have a friend who didn’t have to take any history, science or foreign language gen eds because her AP scores were accepted in lieu of taking these classes. Pretty cool!

So, like I said before, save those scores! And for those you who are still undergoing this standardized testing process, do your best on them – they could save you from the headache of having to take a 100-level English class later on.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising 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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The Cure for Homesickness

by Radha Jhatakia

Regardless of whether you enjoyed living at home or how excited you are to move out, you will be homesick in some capacity your first time living away at school. I had never been more excited in my life than when I was going to finally be able to leave home – I had strict parents and although I was very independent, I did not have the freedom I wanted – but once I did and found myself going back to a room that wasn’t really mine in a place I didn’t really know, it was difficult. Sure I received the freedom I wanted but also the consequences that came with it. Basically, I was alone and missed home.

The good news is that there’s a cure for homesickness...multiple ones, actually! Start by making your environment comfortable by improving your surroundings. Buy or make decorations like picture frames, posters or sports memorabilia and the concrete walls of your dormitory will be much more welcoming. Next, find all the good hangout spots and the best places to eat for when you miss home-cooked food. The best way to do this is by talking with other students and consulting sites like Yelp to find places with good reviews and prices that fit within your budget.

Continue fighting off homesickness by keeping in touch with family and friends. Do this by emailing loved ones regularly and downloading Skype to video chat and call (for free!). Lastly, every school has something to offer its students but it’s impossible to find out what that is if you never leave your dorm room! Make friends, go to campus events, join clubs or teams based on your interests or rush a fraternity or sorority. Chances are, the people who said their years in college were the best in their lives were probably homesick at one point but they recovered...and you can too!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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