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Planning Your Final Semester

January 18, 2012

Planning Your Final Semester

by Jacquelene Bennett

It is a new year, which means new classes, new professors, new people and new adventures but for some of us, this January marks the beginning of the end: It is our last semester of college before we go out into the real world.

That day isn’t here quite yet, though, and we soon-to-be graduates still have classes, homework and the responsibilities of extracurricular activities on top of applying for jobs or grad schools and taking care of last minute graduation stuff. In addition to all the work, we still want to spend time with our friends, go on spring break, relax and just have fun. So how do you do it all without going crazy?

I'm not an expert but I am quickly learning that the key is to prioritize. Make a list of all the things that you need to do – think: class assignments, preparing for tests, etc.) – and schedule when to do those things. With this method, you will know when you have to be serious about your school work and when you have time to kick back a little.

I personally have come to adopt a "work hard, play hard" strategy: I work hard by getting all my school work and studying done before and after classes, applying for jobs and taking care of any administrative stuff during the week and then I have the weekend to hang out with friends and have fun.

Just because this method works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you - we all have different goals and there really is no “right way” to handle your last semester. Take the first few weeks to determine your path but I recommend organizing, prioritizing and scheduling your commitments and leisure activities. You may not have time to do every single thing you want to do exactly when you want to do it but you’ll come pretty close!

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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Meet New Friends, Share Interests Beyond Campus Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even though there are all kinds of clubs and extracurriculars to get involved with in college (just take a look at all the unusual ones available), sometimes your school may not have the one you're looking for. When this happens, sites like MeetUp, MEETin and Twitter are perfect for meeting people in your area who share your interests.

MeetUp is extremely user-friendly: Simply type in an activity you're interested in along with your city or zip code and watch as all the clubs near you come up! There are clubs for people who want to learn foreign languages, go rock climbing, try new restaurants, learn martial arts, combat social anxiety and much more. Most clubs do not require membership fees, but the ones that do will let you know right up front.

MEETin is similar to MeetUp and is well-known for being the "largest friends social group [site] in the world." MEETin is specifically designed for people who want to meet others without the stress of business networking, so rest assured that you'll be in good company if you just want to make new friends. Just like MeetUp, there's no membership fee and anyone is free to suggest an event.

For all you Twitter fans out there, "tweetups" are an option as well. Due to Twitter's 140-character limit (disregarding the Stories function), the microblogging service may seem like the least formal and structured option of the three but tweetups are great for those times when you just want to meet up at the spur of the moment.

Regardless of what option you choose, know that there are people out there who like the same things you do and want to meet others that share those interests. I know firsthand how scary it can be going to a meetup with people you've never met but once you do it a few times, it gets easier – I promise. And who knows? You may end up making new friends you never would have met otherwise!

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 Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

by Radha Jhatakia

Much of the time, college students who are able to get the classes they need and have an education plan are able to graduate early. Graduating early can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it; it worked for my fellow virtual intern Jessica but how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you have job offers lined up after graduation?

2. Did you go to college close to home?

  • If you said yes, then graduating early wouldn’t be a tough transition but if you attended college further away, graduating early may be more difficult. Many if not all of your friends were will still be in school and you’ll also miss out on the senior graduation programs.

3. Did you take out loans to pay for college?

After you answer these questions, you should be able to determine if you should graduate early or not. Just remember there are pros and cons to both and you should choose the path that’s right for you.

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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Winter Driving? S’no Easy Task!

by Kayla Herrera

My first experience driving in inclement winter weather was in Missouri, where we got a lot of ice storms and I spent most winter days beating the layers of ice off of my car. When I moved to Wisconsin, I drove in my first blizzard but it certainly would not be my last: Up here at Michigan Tech, we get pummeled by snow all winter.

I’m used to it but a lot of students here are not from the area or from places that get a lot of snow; when the snow does hit, they panic and create danger for themselves and other drivers. Regardless of where you’re from, here’s a quick refresher course on preparing for and maneuvering your vehicle in less-than-favorable conditions:

  • Keep a tub of cat litter or sand in your car. This will come in handy if you can’t get up that hill or get stuck in a parking spot – it happens!
  • Do not tailgate. Stay a decent distance away from the car in front of you to avoid an accident.
  • You don’t have to drive the speed limit if you’re uncomfortable doing so. Go slow enough that you can control your vehicle but not so slow that it’s dangerous.
  • Turn on your headlights – I cannot stress this enough! Other cars need to be able to see you, especially in whiteout conditions.
  • Watch for students crossing the streets on campus. Many wear headphones to and from class so they may not hear your car approaching.
  • If it’s a true blizzard, don’t go anywhere if you can help it. Stay inside, have some tea and cozy up to a late-night program or movie.

Don’t learn how to drive in the snow the hard way and make sure to pass these tips on to your friends!

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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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Liz Coffin-Karlin

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Hi all! I’m Liz, the newest virtual intern here at Scholarships.com. I’m from Sarasota, Florida originally, and then moved way up to Chicago to attend college. I picked Northwestern University for a lot of reasons – it was in a whole new part of the country, it had great academics and it had a lot of student involvement – and I wound up with double majors in Spanish and history and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

While academics were important to me, I always felt I expressed myself best through student activities. I worked on our newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, for four years, was an executive board member on the Global Engagement Summit and participated in NU’s huge Dance Marathon. Along the way, I also volunteered at a Chicago soup kitchen, worked as a lifeguard for our sports center and once even sold hot dogs at a football game to raise money for a student group. (It is COLD in those stands!) I also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, where I fell in love with empanadas, tango music and backpacking in the Andes.

I loved my time at NU but most of all, I loved the connections I made and the friends I met. I took a public service fellowship in Chicago right after graduating from college in 2010 and ran a teen internship program last summer at the Adler Planetarium. When that ended, I felt it was time to use my Spanish skills and after studying abroad in Buenos Aires and then getting a research grant to come back before my senior year, I had the language skills and the connections to get an internship at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Now, I’m excited to be with Scholarships.com, where I'll be sharing travel tips, college tips (make sure you set the microwave timer for two minutes not 20 minutes...unless you want to burn your dorm down) and professional tips for getting that internship or job you wanted. Nice to meet you guys – can’t wait to start writing!


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University of Maine Freezes Tuition at All Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

The weather in Maine is far from balmy this time of year but did the chilly temps inspire the University of Maine’s approach to college costs? Probably not but it’s kind of fun to think so.

For the first time in 25 years, undergraduate tuition has been frozen at all seven campuses: Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland and Presque Isle. Vice Chancellor Rebecca Wyke said the decision was not an easy one for the University of Maine System Trustees and though the implementation will be equally difficult, the tuition freeze was necessary. "It's going to challenge the campuses because they're already facing a budget gap that they're going to have to close," Wyke said, but explained, "The board’s action is very consistent with where Maine family income is and it reflects their understanding of the difficult financial times that we're in."

UMaine students in the audience, what do you think of the news? Are you glad to be getting a tuition reprieve or do you think tuition increases – even slight ones – are necessary to maintain campus resources, course quality and the college experience overall?


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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

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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Why I Love My School Newspaper

Helpful Hints for Would-Be Campus Correspondents

January 27, 2012

Why I Love My School Newspaper

by Kara Coleman

Are you thinking about joining your school’s newspaper staff? If you’re planning for a career in writing, photography or any kind of journalism, you should be!

The obvious benefit of writing for your university’s newspaper is that it will help you in building your professional portfolio. My school’s newspaper is issued weekly so each week during the academic year, I am able to add at least one more article to the portfolio I am building. Listing the paper as an employer/extracurricular activity will look good on your resume as well.

A perk of being part of student media is that reporters can get admission into school events for free and have unlimited access to interviews with coaches, directors and event organizers. But for me, the most enjoyable part of writing for my university’s paper is getting to meet people and do things that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Last semester, I met with members of our robotics team (who knew we had a robotics team?) after they placed second at their national convention and I got to drive the robot around. I also got to interview a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and an English lord who visited our school. As a frequent writer for the arts and entertainment page, I have met many students in the drama and music departments – two places I never set foot before.

While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, students must understand that working for the paper is a huge commitment. Sometimes covering stories interferes with class time, homework time or hanging out with friends. Before signing up to become a reporter, make sure you are dedicated to itl you must treat it like a job and meet deadlines, even if you aren’t getting paid...but really, no value can be placed on the experience you will gain as a member of student media at your school!

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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Taking Your Own Senior Portraits

by Jacquelene Bennett

Whether you are a college or high school senior, you are undoubtedly starting to prepare for graduation and all the pomp and circumstance it entails. One of the many elements to graduation is senior portraits. While these pictures can be elegant and traditional, they can also be boring and unmemorable...or unflattering and downright horrible if they’re not done well.

Unfortunately, my roommate had the latter experience with her senior portraits. Her photos with the university-sanctioned photographer featured poor lighting, unnatural and uncomfortable looking poses and overall bad image quality. Did she want these images in the yearbook? Of course not, so we’re exploring an alternative course of action: taking our own senior portraits.

My roommate, some friends and I are going to take our digital cameras and go around campus taking pictures of ourselves. We plan on taking pictures on the school quad, in the library and at the admin building, among many other places. While these photos may not be traditional, taking our own pictures allows us to get creative and capture fun memories and places that influenced our time at college.

Wouldn’t YOU want your senior portraits to be taken in a place on campus that holds meaning for you, rather than in front of an ugly backdrop in a room that you’ve never been to before? Taking your own senior portraits allows you to do just that. Plus, it’s a great way to have fun and spend time with friends – something you may not get to do much of as graduation draws closer!

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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