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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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The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

by Kayla Herrera

Everything is blooming and trees are awakening with widening leaves stretching up toward the sky. The birds are chirping and don’t forget the sound of graduation gowns sweeping across the floor! I should be graduating this year but like so many other college students my age, I have been thrown more than a few curveballs in my time in school and I have another year to go before I can enter into the workforce full-time. I want to assure you that this is okay and completely normal!

Here at Michigan Tech, we have a five-year plan. In order to graduate from Michigan Tech in four years, one must take 18 credits every semester, not including summer semesters. Not a fan of killing yourself with books, papers, exams, labs and a part-time job and would prefer to enjoy your time in college? That mentality is adopted by most students at Michigan Tech, making those who graduate in four years or fewer the minority.

Let’s face it – things happen: You change your major and have some serious catching up to do in prerequisite classes, you have a death in the family, you become seriously ill and take a semester off, or you just want to study abroad for a while. And that’s all more than fine, people! Yes, money is a huge issue (you can combat this by finding as many scholarships and grants as possible!) but at least we didn’t develop serious illnesses because of stress in an overworked educational environment!

My advice? Take it easy and give yourself time to soak in all of the new information you are learning. Remember, don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for needing to stay in school for an extra year or two. There are colleges out there, just like mine, where the majority of students are on five-year plans – you just have to find them.

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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Required Classes, Your Way

by Angela Andaloro

Class registration time is upon us! For many of us, that means looking through course catalogs and trying to find the perfect schedule that gets us closer to our degree and still gives us time to sleep and have a good time. Many of us will be looking to cross some required classes off of our lists this fall but what about the classes you have to take...for yourself? Here are some types of classes you should consider adding to your own personal required list!

Something creative. I do not have an artistically, musically or similarly inclined bone in my body but I ignored that fact and decided to take a painting class during my freshman year. This turned out to be one of the best ideas I had because it forced me to slow things down and focus on what’s in front of me. Classes that make you flex your creative muscles can take you out of your everyday college stresses and force you to have a little fun.

An interesting history class. If you’re like me, you know plenty of college students who hate history. History classes make everyone reminiscent of high school (seriously, how many times did we learn about the American Revolution?) but college history classes are way different. Find an interesting history class that isn’t on your average topics: I took a class on the history of American women and came out with a lot of interesting info that I’ve actually pulled out in average conversation.

Something to help you get ready for life after college. Many colleges and universities offer classes to seniors on getting into the job market, interview skills, writing résumés and more. There are also classes that can help you figure out what you’d like to major in and help give you direction going forward. These classes can provide you with a wealth of useful information that will help you once your formal education has ended.

What classes are on your required list? Let us know in the comments!

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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The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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What Makes a Professor Great?

by Kara Coleman

Earlier this month, The Princeton Review released its annual list of the best 300 professors in the nation. The teachers were chosen because of the impact they have made on the lives of their students and that got me thinking: What exactly makes a professor good...and, conversely, what makes you not want to go to certain professors' classes?

First, the good stuff. Teachers who seem to genuinely care about their students always get high marks in my book. The teacher I had for English 101 and 102 seemed every bit as interested in what I wrote outside of the classroom as the essays I wrote for class. He even invited me to read some of my poetry at his community poetry club meeting (an event not affiliated with the school) and he even met my family at the bookstore one night, saying he always enjoys getting to meet the families of his students.

Next are the teachers who have a passion for and connection with their work. My Spanish teacher was not Hispanic but she and her husband had served as missionaries in Buenos Aires for 20-something years. She would often share her personal stories with us about living in a different culture with a different language than what she had grown up with. That experience proved just as valuable as being a native speaker.

Now what causes students to give their teachers bad reviews to their peers and on sites like RateMyProfessors.com? The bottom line is respect. It’s not about how difficult their tests are or whether they’ll let you cite online sources in your research papers – how professors treat their students makes all the difference. Teachers who talk down to or argue with their students or the ones who seem indifferent and treat their work like it’s just a job are ineffective.

What do you think? On your personal list of the best professors you’ve ever had, who makes the grade and why? Comment below and let us know!

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


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As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

by Alexis Mattera

Enrollment deposits are due at many colleges around the country in 11 days and while some students committed to colleges within hours of receiving their acceptance letters, others are still weighing their higher ed options. As the deadline draws closer, don’t choose a college by tossing a dart at a map or playing eeny meeny with your admissions offers – consider these tips from U.S. News:

Plan another visit. Sure you went on the traditional tour last time you visited Big State U or Fancy Private College but this time, skip the campus-sponsored activities to get the true experience of what it’s like to attend that particular school.

Contact former classmates. If you know a few students who matriculated to the school you’re considering, get in touch with them. It’s never been easier to do via the myriad social networking sites out there and they’ll provide insight you won’t find in the brochures!

Don’t forget costs. You may have been accepted to your first-choice school but you didn’t receive the grants, scholarships and merit-based aid you were hoping for. Minimize the amount of debt you’ll accrue from taking out hefty student loans by reconsidering your second- or third-choice school...and its more-than-generous financial aid package.

You can read the rest of U.S. News' tips here but we’re curious as to how our readers made their college decisions. Did you employ any of the strategies listed above? Are you still trying to choose your school? Let us know what worked for you!


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Computer Programs Every College Student Needs

by Radha Jhatakia

As college students, we are dependent upon computers when working on papers, presentations and other class assignments. Many times, we are required to have certain technology to complete these tasks and whether you use a Mac or PC, these programs can help you.

For document reading and creation: Adobe Reader is a program used to read PDF files which are often used as virtual documents you can fill out using a computer. CutePDF Writer is a program used to create PDF files. You can write documents or turn JPEGs (picture files) into PDFs by selecting to print files as PDF. (Doing so turns them into virtual documents.)

For word processing: Microsoft Word is essential to anyone who has or will ever need to write a paper. Macs have a different version that comes pre-installed in the computers; however, these files are only compatible with Macs, thus professors often require that students use Microsoft Word when emailing and writing documents.

For presentations: PowerPoint is another Microsoft program designed to create presentations and it's filled with different formats, backgrounds, charts and smart objects you can utilize to customize your projects. PowerPoint is also very popular in the workplace so learning how to use it while attending college is a big plus.

For data analysis: Microsoft Excel is necessary during and after college. The software can be used to input data to be calculated much easier and also to analyze with efficiency. Excel can be tricky but there are classes you can take (and tech-savvy classmates you can ask) to learn how to use the program.

For all the rest: A few various programs that you can keep on hand which may or may not come in handy depending on your personal interests or major are iTunes and Adobe Photoshop. These programs are more artistic and provide access to music and photo editing. Purchase these programs legally, as they will last for a while and provide free updates.

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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To Pin or Not to Pin?

Colleges Weigh the Pros and Cons of Pinterest

April 25, 2012

To Pin or Not to Pin?

by Alexis Mattera

Does your college have a Facebook page? Has your university retweeted one of your Twitter posts? At this stage in the social media game, both scenarios are pretty common so it’s not too surprising that many institutions are also turning to Pinterest to interact with and engage their students as much as possible. Is it the best move for every school? An answer has yet to be pinned down.

Pinterest’s growth over the last year is hard to ignore(Modea reports the number of users jumped from less than 500,000 last May to 11.7 million in January) and while some schools (Drake, the University of Minnesota, UPenn, Oberlin) have already started building their Pinterest presences, others aren’t as gung-ho about the concept. Drake’s digital media specialist Aaron Jaco was an early Pinterest proponent, tasking his student interns with creating multiple boards (17, according to this Inside Higher Ed article) that were whimsical, human and fostered engagement. Jaco’s goal for Drake on Pinterest seems pretty simple – “The more we can engage in a friendly, non-sales way, the better,” he said – but other schools are still on the virtual fence. Bill Keller, a new media specialist at Muhlenberg College, would rather wait until an effective marketing strategy is more clearly defined. “When we do jump in [to Pinterest], I want to make sure it’s a strong footprint with solid intent behind it,” he said.

What do you think of colleges using Pinterest to connect with students? Is their presence on the site necessary or do you think their messages would be better received via other social media platforms?


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