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What to Expect at a Community College

by Carly Gerber

During the summer before my sophomore year of college, I knew I wasn't going back to the college I had been attending. It was too late to apply to a four-year university so I decided to attend a community college before entering a new university. From my experience, here's what you can expect while attending a community college:

  • Academics: Many students enter community college thinking it will be academically easier than a four-year college...but that couldn't be further from the truth. Community colleges are academically rigorous and the professors expected to see all your effort in your work. And if you need help, they have the right resources: My community college offered a writing center and a tutoring center, both of which I visited regularly.
  • Personal Life: A few students I met were balancing jobs, school and families. That’s obviously a lot of work but if students attended classes, did their homework and communicated with professors about their circumstances, many instructors were willing to work with the students to help them pass the class.
  • Community: Despite being part of the name, many students don’t think there will be a sense of community at community colleges. But there is! There were a number of sports teams and student organizations with lots of participation at my school. Plus, the college would have events going on during the school day, like a game of Jeopardy! that would bring students together and lighten the mood on a particularly stressful day.

Overall, I enjoyed the community college experience because it helped me grow both as a student and as a person. For those students who have also attended community colleges, how would you rate your experience?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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by Agnes Jasinski

A Capella groups, vocal troupes and pitch-perfect singing clubs are fairly common on college campuses as a diversion from academics and another option among the dozens of extracurricular activities students have to choose from. But show choirs have always been more popular at high schools. That is, until the television show "Glee" came onto screens across the country with aims to popularize glee clubs and add some levity to the mood of the country.

Colleges have taken notice, forming their own glee clubs and show choirs that have students singing, dancing, and performing for their student populations and, in some cases, in competitions across the country. An article in USA Today takes a look at some of the new college programs, and what they've done to not only ride the wave of the popularity of "Glee," which returns from its hiatus tonight, but to make their music programs more current and adapt to the tastes of those who buy tickets to their shows.

At Millsaps College, a group of 15 students came together to form a show choir that now performs songs like the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." The group has its first show in two weeks. The University of North Texas created a new singing group shortly after the first season of the Fox show came to an end; more than 100 students auditioned, according to the USA Today article. That group has 30 student members, and will premiere its first performance next month.

High schools across the country have also revamped their concert choirs and chorus groups, incorporating what some say is more audience-friendly music. (Some choirs that aren't too enthusiastic about the show say "Glee" hurts rather than helps them by giving the impression that all choirs perform top 40 hits and include extensive choreography.) The choir at Hoquiam High School in Washington state still performs the traditional tunes one would expect from a conventional vocal group, but the addition of a show choir at the school has allowed Hoquiam to give students the option of performing classic choral styles with the concert choir, and more mainstream country, rock, and hip hop with the show choir. The school's show choir has even performed a song by Weird Al Yankovic.

Tell us about your college or high school show choir or glee club. What kinds of things does your group do to get more students involved in music on campus? Do you still prefer a traditional concert choir over the more unconventional show choirs? And if you are a performer, don't forget that there are music scholarships out there for those with not only vocal talents, but instrumental abilities as well.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many colleges and universities offer students dorms particular to their fields of study. A future engineer can bunk with others interested in engineering, for example, or future educators may find a place for others interested in becoming teachers. The dorms then become learning communities, and allow students a built-in support network when they're struggling with homework or an upcoming exam.

Some schools, however, have been experimenting with communal living for interests outside of students' majors, perhaps to get more students interested in those colleges, keep students already enrolled happy, or to get students to live in the dorms beyond their first years. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores the kinds of dorm communities that are cropping up on college campuses across the country, and they're as diverse as students' interests come.

At the University of Vermont, students interested in healthy eating, anime or Harry Potter are able to live in dorms set aside for students with those interests. (According to The Chronicle, The Harry Potter dorm caters more to those interested in social justice issues, and how "magic is symbolic for an individual's ability to change the world." It couldn't be all fun.) Students at the school must come with proposals of their own for the special interest dorms to take shape, and find student leaders who will come up with extracurricular activities and collaborate with faculty advisers.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, themed dorms explore the less academic side of science. The 160 or so students who live in the learning communities are able to find dorms based on their interests in humor, robotics, space colonization, and the science of food, according to The Chronicle. Faculty members, who say the students living in the themed dorms are more engaged in their learning able to converse about academic subjects more easily than their peers, meet with the students once a week. At Ball State University, students from all majors interested in film, video, and emerging media, are able to live in a dorm that provides them with all of the technical equipment they would need to shoot projects on their own time. The dorm cost the school about $60,000 to renovate and equip.

What kinds of themed dorms, if any, does your school offer undergraduates? Do you like the idea, or do you think students should live with others who have more varied interests? Let us know what you think about the specialized dorms.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown what many among the older generation may have been saying all along. College students today just don’t study as much as they did.

According to the paper, compared to their campus counterparts in 1961, the average full-time college student in 2003 spent at least 10 fewer hours per week on academic work (attending classes, studying, and completing assignments). The paper, titled The Falling Time Cost of College: Evidence from Half a Century of Time Use Date, included analysis from two California researchers of data from both 1961 and the more recent National Survey of Student Engagement. <

The paper showed that there has been a decline in the number of hours spent on academic work since that first study in the 1960s. Students in 1961 spent about 40 hours per week in class and studying; about 24 hours of that was spent hitting the books specifically. Students today spend about 27 hours per week on academic work; 13 hours of that was spent studying and working on homework.

So are college students just lazier? The research doesn’t really point to an answer, but they did describe which factors probably weren’t the behind the decrease in study time. The declines can’t be explained by any one reason alone, like work or choice of college major, according to the paper, or "compositional changes" in the students themselves or the colleges they’re attending. The paper also showed that study times declined across all student groups and populations, meaning one group didn’t account for the decline more over another, skewing the data. The paper did suggest the way students study may be different.

Why do you think students are studying less? Articles on the paper since have suggested that college students simply have less time for school than in previous generations. They work more, spread themselves thin, and engage in more extracurricular activities to make themselves more competitive on the job market after graduation. Or it could be a technology issue. The Internet and social media may have made completing assignments easier, or, in a more negative light, have become such a distraction to students that it is  much easier to spend time online (and procrastinate, pull all-nighters) than open up a textbook. You’ve already heard about the hard time students have unplugging from their phones, computers, and social networking sites. What do you think?


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Oh, How The Small Things Add Up

Tips For Saving Money In College

July 6, 2010

by Derrius Quarles

Your checking account is low. "I'll just call home," you say, but you soon learn that your parents refuse to send you any more money. "What about my savings?" Depleted, and you won’t be receiving your work study check for another two weeks. "Okay," you tell yourself, "I can make it through this." Then you open your mini-fridge to find it has become a vacant box except for the ice cubes in the freezer. "I can make it though this" quickly becomes "How am I going to make it through this?"

Unfortunately, this is a position many college students find themselves in at some point due to the many expenses that come with paying for college and surviving while there. There is no plan that can absolutely guarantee this will never happen to you, however, there is one concept that, if put into practice, can help you make sure this hypothetical story does not become your reality. That concept is money management. For many college students this is a concept that is not understood until after a freshman year crisis like the one above, or even worse, an after graduation crisis. This does not have to happen to you, though. You do not have to face an empty bank account or refrigerator to learn how to manage your money. Rather, by learning how to mange your money early, you can avoid the behaviors and habits that lead to such crises while in college. The three things that all college students should understand when it comes to managing their money in college are:

  1. Frequent Purchases
  2. Infrequent Purchases
  3. Budgeting

Frequent purchases are ironic little things. Ironic because most people constantly buy them and do not believe they make a big difference in their budget. Truth is, these small, frequent purchases are what most college students spend most of their money (not including financial aid) on. Small things like gas, take-out, groceries, flying home, clothing, and entertainment. The reason these small things trick many students is because they do not seem like much at the time of purchase. $40 dollars spent on clothes once every day of the week, is easily perceived as less than $280 spent on clothes one day out of the week. When you take into account all of the purchases where this effect can occur, the small things quickly add up to a large amount of money. For example, if a student buys take-out two times a week at $20, that adds up to $200 a month. Then add entertainment (movies, clubs, restaurants, bowling, etc) at $30 a week and you have $150 for the month. If this were your budget, you would have just spent $350 on take-out and entertainment for the month! In order to alleviate spending large amounts of money on small things over time, you have to keep track of all your purchases, no matter how small they are. Another way of spending less on small purchases is to find discounts and by shopping smart. If you have a roommate, then you could buy food for the dorm with them and you could split the costs of dorm items such as TV’s, mini-fridges, irons, ironing boards, etc. Another way of saving money is to utilize your meal plan as much as possible. Your school is going to get paid whether you choose to eat their food or not, so it is best to eat the food available in the dining hall rather than ordering take out. When buying clothing find places that offer college students discounts, or that have good sales. There are also stores that will buy your used clothes and give you cash for them. If you are buying things online, no matter what it is, always search for online coupon codes before purchasing because it could save you 15-50% on your purchase. The last frequent purchase where you could save a ton of money is airline tickets. Even if you only fly home two times out of the year, it could be ridiculously expensive. Buy your tickets as early as possible because it will be cheaper, pack light because baggage fees are steep, and check out AirTran U, which offers students between the ages of 18-22 huge discounts on flights all across America.

Infrequent purchases usually costs a lot more up front, which is the main reason they are infrequent. For college students these purchases usually include books, computers, printers, and summer storage for items too big to bring home. The best way to save on these items is pretty simple. Do your research on which stores or companies have the best price for what you need. When it comes to books, remember this one thing: Your campus bookstore will almost always inflate the prices of textbooks 40% or more, and they give small amounts of money if you want to sell your books back. Even the used textbooks at your campus bookstore will be expensive when compared to online resources. When shopping for a computer, price may not always be the thing you want to look at. If the computer is cheap, but it will break in a year, then it may not be the best buy. You should look for a computer that is in your budget but will also last all of your college years. Another way to save on computers is to look for online discounts, discounts specifically for students, and to buy your computer and printer as a bundle package. Summer storage can also be very expensive so it is best to do your research and find the best price.

The most important step in the process of saving money while in college is creating a budget and sticking to it. Create a spreadsheet that lists all of your income and expenses by category. Then set a cap for each expense so that you do not deplete your funds. Create on online sign in for your bank accounts so you can always stay abreast on what you have spent. Also, try to avoid overdraft fees by making sure your account never becomes negative and by only going to ATM machines that do not charge you fees for withdrawals. Remember that the small things add up to a lot of money when you are in college, so monitor and limit your frequent purchases, find ways to save on your infrequent purchases, and create a budget so that you always know where your money is and where it is going.

Derrius L Quarles is a 19-year-old freshman at Morehouse College. He hopes to go to medical school after he graduates with a degree in psychology and biology and a minor in public health, and to one day work on the public health policies of his hometown, Chicago, and beyond. To help him achieve those academic and career ambitions, Derrius has won more than $1.1 million in scholarships, including a full scholarship to attend Morehouse, since graduating from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy High School with a 4.2 GPA. Derrius was awarded a Gates Millennium scholarship and won a number of other highly competitive awards, many of which he found while searching for scholarships at Scholarships.com. He is the first in his family to attend college, and spent his childhood in the foster care system before becoming the “Million Dollar Scholar.” This is the sixth in a series of posts Derrius is writing for Scholarships.com on how he was able to fund his education, along with advice about the scholarship application process.


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Daytona State Employing E-Book Program

Students Could Save Hundreds of Dollars Each Semester

September 3, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Daytona State is going to do it beginning in January 2011; they will actually purchase a license from publishers to allow their students access to electronic versions of the texts they would otherwise go out and try to locate in print form at the best price they can find. For this service, the student s will be charged a “digital materials” fee. For it’s part the college will require publishers to make the e-books readable in multiple types of e-reader, regular computers included. After all, not everybody has a Kindle or an iPad.

Since they can pretty much guarantee one e-book sale per student per class per semester, Dayton State will be able to get a pretty sizeable discount from the publishers. When you consider there are no printing costs, etc. for the publishers, you would think it would be even less, but the estimated fee as it stands is about $30 per e-book. That said, this is still a huge savings off regular e-book pricing and only about a quarter of what they would be paying for standard, new, print textbooks.

Funnily enough, this practice actually originated with one of the oft-maligned “for-profit” institutions, University of Phoenix, where e-books have been in use for some time. At many schools the cost of books, while considerable, is not much in comparison to tuition, room and board at around $1,100 per student at a four year school. However, at Daytona State, a former community college that now offers some four-year degrees, textbooks can make up nearly a third of a student’s total cost of attendance. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why such a school might give this approach a try. And it’s not like the students won’t still have a choice, either. If a student prefers a printed book they can either print the book themselves or purchase a regular print textbook and apply the digital materials fee to the purchase. Would you rather save up to $1,100 or have traditional, print textbooks? Do you think/hope your school will try a similar program? Let us know what you think about Daytona’s upcoming e-book program.


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An Apple a Day...

Students and Staff Receive More Than the Daily Fruit Requirement

September 9, 2010

An Apple a Day...

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in early April, the iPad has had quite the effect on consumers – even the most PC-loyal ones – around the world. The student population is no exception and just as they use the iPad and other Apple products every day on and around campus – this year, all Seton Hall undergrads received an iPad, while Stanford is bestowing the device on its incoming medical students – many colleges are even integrating the device beyond their curricula.

Eric Stoller of Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U. posted a piece last night where he followed up on a recent tweet from UNCP’s Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Becca Fick. In 140 characters or less, Fick said her office was getting – her words – a fleet of iPads…and while that particular fleet turned out to be just four (cuatro, quatre, vier, etc.), the department is making good use of its new quartet in conferences, student voice assessment and social media management, among other fields.

Have you noticed iPads popping up more around your school and, if so, how and by whom are they being used? If not, do you think wider usage would be a benefit or a burden?


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Credit Card Crack Down

SUNY Adopts Credit Card Reform Agreement

September 10, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the emergencies only credit card. Sounds great in theory but when a student’s cash flow is low, the term “emergency” can take on an entirely new meaning (some sweet new sneakers or a floor dinner at Chez Fancypants, perhaps?). If Mom and Dad aren’t too keen on the idea – maybe they’ve been there, done that and have the credit score to prove it – there hasn’t been much they could do to prevent their child from stopping by the student union during the first week of classes and signing up for myriad cards and repercussions…until Andrew Cuomo stepped into their corner.

Reuters recently posted an article detailing the State University of New York’s agreement with the New York Attorney General to adopt practices to protect students from unnecessary debt. SUNY, with 465,000 students on 64 campuses throughout the state, is the first university in the country to adopt this sort of reform, which calls for mandatory financial literacy programs to educate students on loans, credit cards and finances in general to minimize the nearly $4,100 in credit card debt and $20,000 in loans that most four-year college students graduate with. Letters have also been sent to the state’s approximately 300 higher educational facilities insisting that they evaluate any existing contracts with credit and debit card companies, prohibit the sharing of students’ personal information with card companies without authorization, limit on-campus marketing and never accept percentages of charges imposed on students.

When I began my freshman year at UConn in 2001, I made the decision not to sign up for a credit card for one simple reason: I knew that when I tired of my wardrobe or dining hall food, it would have been all too easy to bust out the plastic. That being said, I knew plenty of people who were tempted by the free t-shirts and bottle openers and they would have surely benefited from Cuomo’s reform and tips like these. Now to our readers: Have any financial wins or woes from your college days you'd care to share? Would you have made different choices if more information was available? Were the sneakers worth it?


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Credit-Card Companies Paid Colleges Almost $84-Million

Payment Based on Cards Issued to Students and Alumni

October 27, 2010

Credit-Card Companies Paid Colleges Almost $84-Million

by Suada Kolovic

As a college student, I must admit I was duped into opening a credit card my freshman year. I was lured in by the fact that all my friends were rockin’ their free TCF sweaters and, of course, the concept they pushed of “buy now, pay later.” But credit-card companies marketing themselves heavily on college campuses isn’t new: It’s the perfect place to find new customers who are low on cash and looking for a sweet deal. But have you ever wondered why some colleges allow TCF on campus as opposed to Bank of America- they pay to be there. That may not be the shock of the century but with payments hovering at almost $84 million, you have to question the ethics of it. According to a report released by the Federal Reserve Board, credit-card companies paid $83.5 million to colleges, their foundations and alumni organizations last year under agreements that allow them to market credit cards to students and alumni. Under the agreements, schools and affiliated groups were generally paid for each account opened.

Why were credit-card companies willing to disclose such details? Under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, credit-card issuers are required to submit their agreements with colleges and related organizations to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; they must also disclose the total number of opened accounts. Of the agreements reported, about 40 percent were with colleges and 33 percent were with alumni associations. The agreements resulted in the opening of 53,000 accounts in 2009.

The college with the most accounts was Penn State Alumni Association at 1,600 and they were paid $2.8 million by the card issuer FIA Card Services, a subsidiary of Bank of America. The University of Illinois Alumni Association received the most money at about $3.3 million. If you’re interested about your school’s agreement with credit card issuers, check out the Federal Reserve database.

The agreements, certainly ones that involve marketing credit cards to students, can be considered predatory in nature. An examination of this year’s contracts found that they required colleges to provide personal information about their students and, in some cases, even paid the institutions extra when students carried a balance on their cards. And with what sounds like colleges profiting from student debt, it would seem that “free sweater” doesn’t seem like such a sweet deal after all.


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Unemployed Boston College Law Student Wants a Refund

by Suada Kolovic

Recent college graduates entered one of the worse job markets in history. And while some have opted to stick it out busing tables to pay the debt caused by their college education, a third-year Boston College Law School student decided he wasn’t willing to bear the cost of an education that did not guarantee a job upon completion. In an open letter posted on EagleiOnline — an online student-run newspaper at BC’s law school — the anonymous student made a proposition to the school’s dean: Refund his tuition and he’ll leave school without a degree.

The student explained that the lackluster job market, a massive student loan debt load and his wife's pregnancy were all causing him undue stress. And he went on to say, “This will benefit both of us: on the one hand, I will be free to return to the teaching career I left to come here. I'll be able to provide for my family without the crushing weight of my law school loans. On the other hand, this will help BC Law go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News.”

How did the school respond? Shockingly enough, BC did not meet the student’s request. According to the Boston Herald, the law school said in a statement that while it is "deeply concerned" about its students' job prospects no institution of higher education can guarantee a job after graduation. "What we can do is provide the best education possible, and work together to provide as many career opportunities as possible," the statement said.

What do you think? Should tuition be conditional?


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