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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

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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What Teaching Style Works Best for You?

by Jacquelene Bennett

We all know that good study habits can make or break your college career but how a professor teaches and conducts a class will also shape your college experience. Large lectures, small classroom discussions or workshop-like environments are all different types of teaching styles that professors employ in their classrooms.

I go to a very small school where there are never more than 25 people in a class so I am used to discussions being an integral part of almost every class I take. My sister, however, goes to Cal State San Bernardino; large lecture halls are the norm here and her classes have anywhere from 30 to 300 people depending on the subject and level.

Classroom discussions are intense: They ensure that every person has done the homework and reading because at any moment, your professor could call on you to discuss the assignment. Larger lecture halls allow for more leeway because there is often very little interaction between the professor and individual students so how hard you prepare for each class depends on your own motivation.

So, what type of teaching style works for you? For me at least, small classroom discussions help me learn best but for my trouble subjects (anything science or math related), lectures tend to be better. What I would recommend for any new college student is to test the educational waters; regardless of where you go to school, you can always find small classes with no more than 25 students that will allow for discussions or classes that are nothing but weekly lectures. Find what works for you and stick to it...your GPA will thank you!

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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Sprint Sues Blackboard

September 2, 2011

Sprint Sues Blackboard

by Anna Meskishvili

If you haven’t heard of Blackboard yet, you soon will – whether it’s from your professor to check the due date for your first paper, or whether it’s because of Blackboard’s recent scandal with Sprint.

A background on Blackboard: It’s a software tool used by professors to upload documents and reading materials, lead discussions, post grades and much more. It’s easier than email or other look-alike programs because it keeps all correspondence and important information about the course in one place. It’s a program that makes organization a breeze for students and professors alike.

Sounds great, right? So what’s the problem? Well, Mobile Learn is an application of Blackboard, which was planned to be only accessed by Sprint customers. Sprint believed that this exclusivity would increase their appeal to millions of college students looking for a mobile application for the popular college tool. This premonition went awry when students were able to download the app on their iPhones and iPads through university Wi-Fi connections. Blackboard stands by that students using Wi-Fi to access Mobile Learn does not break their contractual agreement with Sprint. Whichever way this lawsuit unfolds, changes and regulations are bound to arise for Mobile Learn.

Although an avid fan of Blackboard and its Mobile Learn app, I do see Sprint’s side of the story; however, I do not believe their hopes for this application are realistic. Through this lawsuit, Sprint is trying to “enjoin Blackboard from making Mobile Learn available over Wi-Fi at no cost to schools.” Campuses run on Wi-Fi and many more applications are accessed that way, which makes policing apps by contracts virtually impossible. For example, one won’t switch to Sprint simply for the Mobile Learn app (although it may be appealing), especially after being able to access it through Wi-Fi in the past.

What do you think of Sprint's actions toward Blackboard and vice versa? Who's in the right and who's in the wrong?

Anna Meskishvili is a senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.


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Expecting the Unexpected in College

by Angela Andaloro

We’re always reminded that we don’t know what will happen next in life. College is no exception; in fact, I’ve found that in college, I’ve probably dealt with more unexpected happenings than ever before. There are problems that arise without warning that will directly affect your education so here are a few unexpected issues I’ve found many college students have dealt with.

Financial aid snafus: If your school is anything like mine, you might find that many of those working in the financial aid office are students doing work-study. While I don’t doubt they've had training and know what they’re talking about on some level, they don’t have all the answers. Financial aid is super important so if you’ve received some information you’re unsure of, be sure to follow up with someone higher up in the ranks.

Technical meltdowns: Technology is as important as air to a college student and the security blankets of yesterday have been replaced with equally precious laptops and other gadgets. Still, we have to remember that they are machines and they do malfunction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a frantic call from a friend (or been frantic myself) about a computer breakdown. They usually occur at the worst possible times, like during midterms or finals week. My advice? Back up everything. Save that 10-page paper you’re writing every 10 words. Really. I’ve been there. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

While there are some issues that we can anticipate, others really do come from out of nowhere. It’s ok to freak out for a minute when one pops up – it’s only natural! – but then relax and use that level head of yours (and maybe that “emergencies only” credit card) to remedy the problem.

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 Best Educational Apps

September 6, 2011

The Best Educational Apps

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all seen the iPhone commercials and heard the now-common phrase “There's an app for that.” It’s true, though: There's even an application to help you study — dozens in fact! Here are a few that can make your life as a student easier:

Grades 2. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what you need to score on an upcoming test in order to maintain your A. This app lets you do just that. It even lets you determine your new GPA will be based on what grades you expect to earn in your current classes.

Dictionary.com Flashcards. This app is great for English and science classes where you have to learn a wide variety of complicated terms. It even has multiple choice quizzes where you have to pick the right definition from a list of options. Plus, it's great having a dictionary in your pocket for whenever you need to look up words instead of lugging one around on top of all your other school books.

Star and Planet Finder. Astronomy buffs will love this one because it makes finding stars, planets, constellations and satellites a snap. Equipped with compass and GPS, this app lets you know whether or not you can see Orion from your current location – perfect for astronomy classes which ask you to chart the position of the constellations.

While not every college student can afford an iPhone or similar app-friendly device, all these educational apps make it a very tempting purchase indeed. And let's face it: You can't really put a price on something that makes a less-than-favorite activity less painful.

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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All-Nighters Are Not for Everyone

by Jessica Seals

We’ve all done it - waited until the night before a test or paper due date to do any work. I have heard several classmates say they wait until the last minute because that is when they do their best work – I can honestly say I’ve waited until the eleventh hour and have gotten an excellent grade on a test or assignment – but unfortunately, this study method doesn’t work for everyone. The problem in this situation is that some people do not know their own learning style.

Not everyone can read a passage for the first time and be able to remember all its important details. For those that can, staying up all night to study or write a paper does not seem to be a problem because of how quickly they can retain information. For others, focus is lost halfway through the study guide or they’ve run out of things to write about on page three of an eight-page paper. These are the people who should avoid all-nighters and start assignments or test prep early. Early preparation will help them remember the material because they are looking over it each day and do not have to rush and put unnecessary information in a paper because they ran out of time to do proper research.

Just because your roommates or classmates can pull all-nighters and get good grades does not mean that you can, too. If you try an all-nighter and do not succeed, know you’ll need to begin your work earlier next time because you have a different learning style. You will not feel rushed to do several assignments at once and you might notice better grades because you had the time to put in more effort!

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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New School Year, New School Activities

Easy Ways to Get Involved on Campus

September 9, 2011

New School Year, New School Activities

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the first day of school and you go to your classes. You look around at the unfamiliar faces and wish you knew someone. After class, you use a map to navigate your way back to your dorm, where you sit by yourself. College life doesn’t have to be this lonely - it’s time to get involved on your campus and here’s how:

Don’t be anti-social. The only way you will make friends is if you are social. How do you meet people? Go to campus fairs – anything from a career fair to a student organization fair. There are multicultural clubs, academic clubs, clubs focused on a single activity, and sororities and fraternities to name a few.

Use your dorm as a resource. Prop your dorm door open when you’re not studying. People will stop by and say hello. Don’t trust leaving your door open? Talk to your RA: He or she will know of many campus activities going on such as socials and mixers where you can meet more people.

Make time. If you make the time, there is no reason for you to not be involved or not meet people. Colleges understand that you are away from the familiar and have many organizations, offices and people who are there to make your campus a home away from home.

Most of all, don’t be afraid – just put your best foot forward and you’ll be having fun in no time. And if you’re not interested in campus life, go to the website of the city you are now living in and see what there is to do around town. There’s always a way to get involved!

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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Coming Home and Moving On from a Study Abroad Experience

by Mariah Proctor

I arrived back in the U.S. on a Friday and the following Monday was the first day of a whole new semester of classes. One second, I was walking around Paris and soaking up the romance of the city. The next? I’m back with the same pack of people as always, as though the summer never happened. I love my friends in college and I love the life I’ve created for myself, but studying abroad is a life apart and coming back to a reality that seems unchanged when you feel transformed can be taxing.

What’s worse than feeling ever single one of the 5,000 miles between the place you just fell in love with and the place you’ve come back to is that the general public (even good friends) tend to turn off when you start a sentence with “When I was in Europe...” As memories that now boast an additional silver lining spill from your lips, you will undoubtedly be met with rolled eyes and pantomimed hair flipping. It does sound pretty snooty to talk about your summer in [fill in the exotic blank] but conversation and connection with people is built up on sharing ideas and experiences. Just because your experiences involved gelato and fine art doesn’t mean their jealousy or discouraged expressions should get you down on yourself!

At points through the many months of studying abroad, you feel acutely homesick for all things familiar and for people who love you. But that old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is true and the second you’re home, you’ll want to be back. My advice? Don’t let yourself live in a constant state of yearning for what you can’t have, don’t resent your friends for not understanding and be so grateful for all the experiences you’ve had and make that new, stronger, more cultured you the driving force for the exciting next step – whatever it may be.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Starting a New School Year Successfully

by Angela Andaloro

September is the perfect time for a new academic start. There are so many opportunities ahead of you, regardless of what may have happened the year before. Many of us have felt the fear of what looms ahead and discouragement that goes along with having a bad semester. It can be very hard to succeed when you feel like you’ve already failed but with the right strategies and, more importantly, the right mindset, you’re closer to a stellar GPA than you think.

Start strong. Remember when you were in elementary school and the first day of school meant all new notebooks, pens and pencils? You were actually excited to jump right in! College shouldn’t be any different: You might be trading those notebooks for a MacBook but you can still get excited about a new year!

Get organized. We all know how it feels for midterm week to hit and have to search through mountains of papers to find your notes from the first month of class. Don’t be that student! Keep everything organized in the way which works best for you and keep up with it as the semester goes along. This makes studying a little easier (you’ll always know where everything is) and can help give your grades a boost.

Ask questions. Professors have email addresses and office hours for a reason: If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions in class, take the time to do so outside of class. Your grades reflect the amount of effort you put into them, so be sure to do your part – before, during and after class.

A college workload can be a stressful thing to deal with without a good work ethic and the right attitude. You can’t throw these traits in your cart along with your school supplies, though...and they don’t come cheap either! Do the best you can do and if you find something isn't working, it’s never too late to make a change.

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 part


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Have a Question? Ask It!

September 20, 2011

Have a Question? Ask It!

by Jessica Seals

Most college students are afraid to ask questions in class because they are afraid other students will judge them. They are also afraid to query a professor outside of class because they’re nervous the instructor will get angry if they deem the question’s answer as obvious based on the course material covered. My advice: GET OVER IT!

The material a professor will teach at the beginning of a course serves as the foundation for the rest of the semester. If something puzzles you early on, you run the risk of not understanding the rest of the material that is related to it. If you do not ask for clarification, you will not score as well on exams and papers that reflect your knowledge of the topic and your final grade for the class will be lower than what you wanted because you spent the entire semester in a state of confusion.

I have seen students flourish after they have asked for help because they finally understand the material but I have also seen students give up after a few topics did not make sense to them. I personally do not care if other students feel a question I ask is obvious – if I’m not understanding something, I’m going to figure it out any way I can! – and after the professor has answered, I feel like I can do better in the course. An added bonus is that the professor (a.k.a. the person who calculates my final grade) has a favorable opinion of me because I expressed a genuine interest in what he or she was teaching.

In the long run, asking questions and getting help will get you much further than remaining silent and confused all semester. You can either ask questions in class or get help from the professor privately but you should never be too intimidated to ask for help.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. 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. Jessica also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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