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MTV’s New Groove

Music Channel and College Board Launch Financial Aid Contest

September 17, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Current high school and college students are probably too young to remember when MTV actually played music videos. It was a glorious time for sure but after hearing this next announcement, I think they will like the network’s new direction just fine.

The NYT’s The Choice blog revealed that instead of launching another mind-numbing reality show, the music channel and the College Board have joined forces for the Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge. The contest – which is being underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is open to current and potential college students interested in creating an innovative digital tool that will help more students obtain funds for school. The prize for the winning individual or team? A cool $10,000, as well as a $100,000 budget to bring their idea to life.

A statement released yesterday stated the contest was created to make it easier for students “to navigate what can be a confusing financial aid maze.” This metaphorical roadmap will definitely be a useful one: Each year, countless students are forced to postpone or abandon their dreams of higher education because they cannot pay for school but the Get Schooled creators hope their program will play a role in raising college completion rates.

The contest will run through December 17th so if you think you have what it takes to win, submit your idea here. Best of luck to all who enter!

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Teachers Who Tweet

Professors Microblog to Share Info and Get News, Not Teach

October 5, 2010

Teachers Who Tweet

by Alexis Mattera

Remember how weird it was when your mom friended you on Facebook? It’s probably the same way you’d feel if your calculus professor retweeted your weekend escapades at an off-campus party. That’s an unlikely scenario but more professors are using Twitter for purposed outside the classroom, reveals research by Faculty Focus.

The report, detailed yesterday in the Chronicle of Higher Education, says 35.2 percent of 1,372 individuals surveyed – a 5 percent increase from last year – have an account on the popular microblogging site and use it to share information with colleagues and get news in real time. Though some use it for this purpose, most professors do not communicate with students via Twitter or use the site as a classroom learning tool but perhaps they should, says Reynol Junco. Junco, an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, is studying social media and found that Twitter can improve student engagement because they are more likely to continue discussion outside the classroom.

Twitter wasn’t around when I was in college but since creating an account in 2008, I have seen the ease and efficiency of sharing information and couldn’t help but wonder if the site could have impacted my academic endeavors. Sometimes I had questions even after going to my professors’ office hours, posting on class message boards and studying the material; perhaps Twitter could have provided the answers I needed in a more timely fashion.

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Proofing College Applications: More Than Just Spell Check

October 19, 2010

Proofing College Applications: More Than Just Spell Check

by Alexis Mattera

After hours at the computer, you add the last punctuation to your admissions essay with great flourish. You scan the document for any red or green squiggles and, noting nary a mark, you hit the send button. But before you can pump your fists in victory, you notice something out of the corner of your eye. Is it? It CAN’T be. But it is: You wrote that being “excepted” to Ivy U. has been a lifelong dream of yours. Well, that dream just became a nightmare.

The NYT’s The Choice blog has been running an excellent series of posts this month as the college application process kicks into high gear. One of the most valuable pieces thus far is today’s about proofreading. The author, Dave Marcus, spoke to members from a variety of admissions staffs and they all have seen their fair share of application snafus. The main culprit? Students’ dependence on technology. Here are some of the most memorable misses:

  • An applicant to Oberlin College wrote about her admiration for Julie Taymor, an Oberlin graduate who created the “The Lion King” on Broadway. The essay was passionate…but also inaccurate: The writer kept referring to “The Loin King.”
  • An admissions officer came across an essay that said, “It’s my dream to go to Boston University.” That’s fantastic…except the essay was being reviewed at Cornell.
  • An applicant to Molloy College wrote "Steve" in the field asking her expected graduation date. Um, what? The applicant later explained she was in a relationship with a man named Steve and hoped he’d be her date at graduation.

The moral of the story? Technology is helpful, but not magical. Instead of immediately taking Word’s suggestions, print copies of your application and essay and review the hard copies with a real or metaphorical red pen in hand; giving it to a friend or parent to review is beneficial, too, as a fresh set of eyes can catch something you as the writer missed. A few typos won’t necessarily kill your chances of acceptance but its inn sane to think you’re spell check is all ways write.

Yep, I’ll be here all week.

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Harvey Mudd Grads Get Paid

Science and Engineering College Has Highest Salary Potential

December 29, 2010

Harvey Mudd Grads Get Paid

by Alexis Mattera

I met many people during my undergraduate years that, upon hearing my major, had a good chuckle before informing me I was never going to make any money doing what I loved – writing. Their majors? Usually something involving business. I still giggle a little thinking of that irony: They not only picked the wrong field but the wrong school if they were concerned with raking in a hefty salary.

According to a new survey from PayScale.com, Harvey Mudd College's 2011 graduates are have the highest salary potential, beating out Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard and Caltech. The college's potential starting median salary is $68,900 while its midcareer median salary is $126,000 yet a campus official said the school does not plan its curriculum based on salary potential. Thyra L. Briggs, vice president of admissions and financial aid, said Harvey Mudd students receive a strong math and science education wrapped in a liberal arts context, meaning students can “solve even the most demanding technical problems, but they also know how to work collaboratively, present their ideas to a broad range of audiences, and write well - traits that may distinguish them from other high-level math and science graduates." Instead of being pigeonholed into only one discipline, she said, Harvey Mudd grads leave school with an adaptability that's an asset in the working world or graduate study. Not bad!

Briggs agrees that the number one ranking is impressive but she’s more excited that more people are looking at Harvey Mudd – especially prospective students and their parents. Future college students, does this news change your opinion about Harvey Mudd? What’s more attractive to you about a college – higher earning potential upon graduation or a higher quality of education as a whole?

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A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

New Facility Combines Winemaking, Wi-Fi

February 7, 2011

A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

by Alexis Mattera

The last thing many people want to think about the day after the Super Bowl (beside Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem flub or the overall lack of enjoyable advertisements) is alcohol but this next story won’t add to a hangover. We promise.

The University of California at Davis, long known for its winemaking program, has unveiled new technology at the school’s Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science to fine-tune the fermentation process. Custom-built probes embedded with microchips measure the sugar density and temperature of fermenting wines every 15 minutes; the readings are then wirelessly transferred to a server at the facility and displayed on a large monitor. The use of Wi-Fi to monitor the process is certainly a big step but enology professor Roger B. Boulton says the footprint will be even larger as the measurements will soon be viewable on the Web and via smartphones. Students and researchers will be able to compare their results with expected outcomes and adjust as necessary to determine how different fermenting conditions affect different grape varieties.

Boulton continued to say that the measurement technology puts the university years ahead of commercial operations because it will ultimately reduce the number of failed batches. How green! What do you think of these developments at UC-Davis? Would having access to this new technology get you to consider a major in winemaking?

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University Study: Students Feel Guilty for Texting in Class

February 24, 2011

University Study: Students Feel Guilty for Texting in Class

by Suada Kolovic

Over the years, students have mastered the art of distraction during class, from daydreaming to doodling to note-passing to sleeping to the quintessential distraction these days: texting. And while texting has revolutionized the way in which we communicate, does it have a place in the classroom? A survey of students at the University of New Hampshire found high rates of texting during class and a great deal of guilt about that behavior to go along with it. The majority of students surveyed admitted they felt guilty for sending text messages in class when they were not supposed to but despite those sentiments, a whopping 80 percent said they normally send at least one text message in each of their classes.

According to the survey, which was conducted by student researchers at the UNH Whittemore School of Business and Economics, many students don’t believe that texting should be allowed in class, 49 percent felt guilty in class when it’s not allowed, 51 percent are distracted from class material when they text and 51 percent said they are prohibited from texting in up to half of their classes. The survey also showed that women were more likely to send text messages than men. "I wasn't surprised by the results, but I was surprised to see that some teachers didn't prohibit texting in their classes," said Gretchen Eastman, one of the lead student researchers on the study.

The survey looked at the texting behavior of students and researchers will present their findings at the university’s undergraduate research conference in late April. Let us know what you think. Do you feel bad about texting in class? Do u think txting in class can b distracting 4 u?

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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Kayla Herrera

May 3, 2011

Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Kayla Herrera

by Kayla Herrera

My name is Kayla Herrera and I am a third-year English major at Michigan Technological University. I grew up in Houghton, Michigan (where Michigan Tech is located) and my parents attended Michigan Tech as non-traditional students. When I moved away, it made quite an impact on me and I decided to attend school in the place I loved so much. There is something charming about the area and students I knew who transferred missed it as well.

I chose English as my major because it was the closest I could get to a journalism or writing major, which is why I chose to minor in journalism. Being an English major here is challenging because the school is mostly tech-based and the English classes aren't always what they should be. But outside of the classroom, I have become involved in numerous activities that have propelled my learning in writing and journalism.

I am an avid video gamer. It started when I was young, watching my father play his PlayStation and Sega Genesis games, and before long I picked up a controller for myself. It's one of my other passions and I have combined it with writing and found it to be absolutely satisfying. I am a bit of a nerd in the video game aspect but also in the English aspect. And I am proud of it.

I have always been told to write what I know and right now, all I know is college so seeing the advertisement for the virtual intern for Scholarships.com caught my eye. I was an opinion writer for the campus newspaper so I wrote on campus issues all the time. I saw it as another golden opportunity, a life lesson, or maybe an opening door to a whole other lifestyle. One can never know where an opportunity can really take them until they try!

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What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

Narrowing Your Focus is Both Risky and Rewarding

May 11, 2011

What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

by Alexis Mattera

Starting college with a specific idea what you want to do with your life can make choosing a major, selecting classes and finding internships much easier than the decisions facing your undecided roommate. But is that specificity better? The answer is yes...and no. Well, actually, it’s a maybe.

With the increasing demand for expertise in narrow fields, some schools are putting programs in place to produce candidates perfectly suited for these niche jobs. SUNY at Albany, for example, has opened a College of Nanoscale Science to meet what The National Science Foundation estimates will be about 2 million workers with nanotechnology-centric backgrounds needed by 2014. The results so far are promising – even first-year students have already been offered summer internships with companies like Intel and IBM – but is this kind of specialization always wise?

To an extent, but career counselors, hiring consultants and academic officials think it’s more important for students to diversify their undergraduate years. Industry-specific skill sets may get a graduate into their chosen field faster but may severely limit career flexibility down the line. You may think you know your ideal career path but wait until you’ve taken a wide enough variety of classes to be sure...especially when employers report they value soft skills like effective communication, critical thinking and problem solving over precise training.

What do you think? Should you specialize right away or sample what your school has to offer before making a potentially life-changing decision?

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All Media Are Not Created Equal

Tablet, Smartphone Interest Soars While E-books Fail to Gain Traction

May 13, 2011

All Media Are Not Created Equal

by Alexis Mattera

With the popularity of wireless computing devices among college students, it would seem that e-textbooks would be just as attractive for this tech-savvy generation. Not so, according to a new survey: The printed textbook is still the big man on campus.

Student Monitor’s survey of 1,200 full-time students at four-year institutions revealed that although 54 percent of respondents owned smartphones, 87 percent owned laptops and nearly 50 percent reported interest in purchasing a wireless reading device, only 5 percent of respondents purchased access to an e-textbook this spring – and usually only because professors required them to. The proportion of students who rented at least one printed textbook, however, doubled to 24 percent from last spring. With campus bookstores and independent sites like Chegg.com making book rental easier and more available, the trend is only expected to grow: Thirty-six percent of underclassmen said they are either likely or very likely to rent at least one textbook next semester.

The main reason students are renting textbooks instead of buying the electronic versions? The savings, which were reported as about $127. With that kind of money back in the bank, students could splurge on their other "likes" the survey revealed...or maybe get a head start paying off some of those student loans. Which side are you on in the textbook debate – Team E-book or Team Rental – and why?

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Dartmouth’s New Metadata Game Makes Tagging Archives Fun

May 24, 2011

Dartmouth’s New Metadata Game Makes Tagging Archives Fun

by Alexis Mattera

If you have a Facebook account, you have probably been tagged in at least one photo. It could be an image of you participating in an extracurricular activity, attending a sporting event with friends or maybe even elementary school you sporting bangs that Mom cut with kitchen scissors but people looking at the picture will know who it is they are looking at. Many universities, however, haven’t had that same luxury in tagging their archives but a Dartmouth College professor is aiming to change that in order to make years of information more accessible to all.

Mary Flanagan, a professor of digital humanities who’s also an artist and designer, has created Metadata Games, an experiment in harnessing the power of the crowd to create archival metadata. Since many schools don’t have the resources to tag their archives as thoroughly as possible, Flanagan’s program turns what could be a tedious process into a game that invites players to tag images. Interesting, right? What’s more exciting is that this tagging process is working: During the pilot phase, players generated 6,250 tags and more than 90 percent of the metadata was useful. “Games are becoming more and more part of what people want to do,” Flanagan said. “What you’re doing in games matters. Games are meaning-making machines.” Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

You can learn more about Metadata Games here but based on what you’ve read so far, do you think this program is a useful one?

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