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A Major Decision

Choosing Your Field of Study in Three Easy Steps

May 20, 2011

A Major Decision

by Mariah Proctor

So I’m sitting there, my entire head engulfed in paste so that they can make a plaster replica of my face for use in molding masks even when I’m not on campus for the summer. It was while sitting there – staving off bouts of panic and claustrophobia and completely unable to move – that I had another “what am I doing with my college career?” moment. These moments happen fairly often (like when a teacher requires us to roll down a grassy hill or play scream tag) that I take a step back and realize what unusual learning experiences my tuition money gets me.

Majoring in theatre was a no-brainer for me because in no other field have I ever felt more alive, more myself or more enthused by the idea of attending classes. I know, however, that the choice isn’t quite so obvious for others, so have a couple of pieces of advice to help in the choosing:

  • If you’re starting from scratch, get a copy of your university’s course catalog and just let your eyes scroll down the list and see where they naturally linger. There are probably a few areas of study that already appeal to you; get the course requirement sheets for those majors and when you’re getting an idea of the shape of your college career, be sensitive to what gets you excited.
  • Even majors that have glamorous-sounding names can be made up of classes that are awful fillers and not at all what you thought they’d be. Ask students in those majors how they like them and what they really think they’re learning.
  • Take note of what you think about when you aren’t thinking about anything. Chances are, there’s a major for whatever it is that occupies your unsupervised thoughts and that’s the one you should go for.

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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How to Move Out Without Getting Stressed Out

May 20, 2011

How to Move Out Without Getting Stressed Out

by Jacquelene Bennett

It’s that time of the year again – summertime...and moving time for many college students. Here are a few simple tips for moving out of your doom or apartment:

  • Donate your stuff rather than throw it away. It’s the end of the year and you are realizing how much stuff you have accumulated over the last nine months. Rather than throwing away those jeans that don’t fit or that lamp you never use, donate them. At the end of every school year, Goodwill sets up a donation center on my campus where they will take everything from used clothing to electronics. See if your school does the same!
  • Utilize your school’s on-campus storage spaces. If your residence hall offers temporary summer storage for students, take advantage of it! Space is usually limited but this is a great option for storing things that you won't need during the summer months (think: mini-fridge and cooking utensils). If your school doesn’t have storage on campus, get some friends to split the cost of renting a storage locker somewhere near campus. Bonus: Many facilities offer discounts to college students.
  • Make sure to clean. It might be a hassle to vacuum the floors and take out the trash but it will cost you less in the long run. Schools often charge fees for unclean rooms (at my school, it’s $25 for every bag they fill with trash from a room) so if you don’t want to be billed, make sure it’s clean!
  • Keep it organized. Don’t just throw items in random boxes and suitcases; take the time to label them and make sure everything is secure. This will help when physically moving all your stuff and when you unpack later on at home.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising 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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MythBusters: The College Edition

May 24, 2011

MythBusters: The College Edition

by Darci Miller

Have you ever watched “MythBusters,” the show that scientifically tests myths and urban legends, like are elephants really afraid of mice or is it possible to walk on water? Now, I may not have a crash test dummy named Buster, but I do have two years of dorm life, on- and off-campus adventures and brutal assignments under my belt. Therefore, I bring to you "MythBusters: The College Edition."

Myth 1 – College is a constant party. Thirsty Thursday is a very real phenomenon. There are people that go out partying on Mondays. Some students come to class still drunk from the night before. But if you venture into the library on Friday evening, there are people there. College is hard work, it’s not all “Animal House.”

Myth 2 – Dorm life is disgusting. Yes, the toilets and sinks may clog occasionally and your roommate could be a vile person who steals your food and leaves garbage on your bed. But if everyone’s respectful, bathrooms are honestly fine and you may end up loving your freshman roommate and living together for multiple years...like me and mine!

Myth 3 – Professors don’t care. High school teachers beat this one into your brain, right? College professors may not remind you about daily readings but they will let you know when a test or big assignment is coming up and are happy to answer questions about them.

Myth 4 – You’ll gain weight. Eat normal-sized portions, throw in a vegetable here and there and hit the gym. This very simple recipe will ensure the Freshman 15 doesn’t even cross your mind...or waistline.

Myth 5 – You’re going to change your major numerous times. It’s fine if you do but if you know what you want to study and still love it after taking a few classes, you probably won’t. Don’t feel weird about not changing your major: Some people are just focused...you’re lucky if you’re one of them!

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!

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When Choosing College Extracurriculars, Remember Your Passions

May 24, 2011

When Choosing College Extracurriculars, Remember Your Passions

by Katie Askew

It’s the last few weeks of high school and you’re already feeling nostalgic. Your final band concert has been performed, your final basketball game has been played, your last student council meeting has been attended and you may be feeling sentimental because your intended major doesn’t fit the things you were passionate about in high school. Fear not: You don’t need to leave your extracurricular activities behind just because you’re heading to college!

I was in the same place you were last year. My final decision to major in journalism and English felt like an abrupt end to my music career...but boy, was I wrong. It’s important to keep involved in your passions through extracurriculars while also pursuing your major, especially if your passions span a wide range of interests. For example, I attended the Society of Professional Journalists meetings through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication while also performing with the University Concert Band (a performance group for non-music majors) and working as a drumline instructor at a suburban high school. I made time for the things I love outside of my major and I can honestly say that my music groups kept me sane during stressful school times.

The most important lesson is to not feel defined by your major. Simply because you are a biomedical engineering major doesn’t mean you can’t be an ambitious thespian or star volleyball player. Student groups are just the place to meet your needs – the University of Minnesota has over 700 student groups to choose from! – and if you can’t find a group that matches your passions, you can join another interesting one (like the Campus People Watchers) or create your own!

So in terms of extracurricular activities in college, the sky is the limit...unless you join the skydiving club.

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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The Learning Curve: Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes

May 31, 2011

The Learning Curve: Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes

by Jessica Seals

College classes, whether taken online or in person, may all seem to be the same. Both types require you to read, write papers, take tests and participate in some way but there is a big difference in the lifestyle that you can lead when you take online classes instead of taking traditional classes on campus.

I have personally taken both online and traditional classes, experienced the differences between the two and quickly learned that my learning style needed to be adjusted on a class-by-class basis. With traditional classes, you have a set time to go to class, turn in work and take tests. Your other daily activities have to be planned around your class schedule. Online classes allow you to be more flexible with your time – the ones I’ve taken allowed me to base my school activities on my daily schedule and do the work when it was convenient for me – while still studying and adhering to deadlines set by the instructor. But with this increased flexibility comes more responsibility, as you have to learn how to make a schedule you can stick to. This schedule should list all of your assignments along with their due dates so that you don’t miss turning anything in. (When I first started taking online classes, I missed two assignments because I hadn’t adjusted to this new type of learning. Ouch!)

Online classes are very convenient for those who have busy schedules that don’t allow them to sit in traditional classes. Taking classes online makes it easier to push your work to the side until the last minute, so be prepared to manage your time more closely if you want to stay on track.

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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Cars on Campus: Are They Necessary?

May 31, 2011

Cars on Campus: Are They Necessary?

by Katie Askew

Public transportation: Some fear it, some embrace it. Ten months ago, I was the former but I’m now proud to say I am the latter.

Cars are the main mode of transport where I’m from in South Dakota – even 14-year-olds can have their licenses here! – but moving to the “big city” to attend the University of Minnesota meant giving up my car. I left it dead and dust-covered for nine months and, in a way, also left a piece of me back home. I was petrified at the thought of climbing onto a...a...public bus. Yuck, but I had no other option if I wanted to go to Target or to downtown Minneapolis for concerts and clubs. I even rode the light rail during a shopping spree with friends at the Mall of America (it goes right to the basement of the mall!).

I will never regret learning the bus and light rail routes of Minneapolis because it saves me tons of time, money and public transportation really wasn’t as creepy or dirty as I thought it was going to be. As time passed, the more thankful I became for not having to pay expensive parking fees, car insurance and all the parking tickets I surely would have received. I won’t even mention the loads of money I saved on gas...$4 a gallon, anyone?

The University of Minnesota has extremely discounted bus and light rail passes for students. Your school probably does, too, but if you REALLY can’t bring yourself to take public transportation and are contemplating bringing your car to campus, consider bicycles, rollerblades, longboards and good old-fashioned walking – all of which are cheaper for you and better for the environment. Things may be different if you attend college in a more rural setting but going to a metropolitan school without a car is possible!

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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Where to Buy and Sell Textbooks

June 1, 2011

Where to Buy and Sell Textbooks

by Kara Coleman

It’s important to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your money as far as it will go when putting yourself through college and one way to do this is by exploring your options for buying and selling textbooks.

Your campus bookstore is the most obvious option but it's also the most expensive. One good thing about campus bookstores is that some will allow books and other school-related items like notebooks and calculators to be covered by grants and scholarships. Some bookstores sell both new and used textbooks and allow students to sell their books back to the store for cash at the end of each semester...but you only get back a fraction of the amount you actually paid.

Since your fellow students are in the same boat you’re in, ask around for a specific book that you need. One guy sold his $200 Spanish book to me for $100 and a girl I know let me have her $70 math book for $30. It’s also a good idea to swap books with friends if they are taking a class that you took last semester and vice versa. That way, everyone saves money.

The Internet is your friend so check around online to see what sites have the best prices on what you need. I have friends who routinely order their textbooks from Amazon.com, Half.com and Betterworld.com. (These are great places to sell your used textbooks as well.)

If you don’t want to buy, consider renting your textbooks for a semester from Chegg.com. I did this last year and I think it’s a great idea. At the end of the semester, Chegg emailed return address labels to me and there was no charge to ship my books back to them.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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Save Your Standardized Test Scores!

June 2, 2011

Save Your Standardized Test Scores!

by Jacquelene Bennett

Here is a bit of advice for all you graduating high school seniors: Save your test scores!

All that time and money you spent on the SATs, ACTs and APs and all those other acronymonous tests are not for naught! Besides being a tool for college admittance, these tests will actually benefit you later on in your college career. I know...crazy, right? All that time spent studying vocabulary, major historical dates and algebraic equations was actually worth it in the long run!

I know from personal experience: My SAT I scores on the writing and reading comprehension sections (good but not great scores, mind you) exempted me from a general requirement writing class. While your SAT scores are generally used for assessing your placement within a university, these scores can sometimes aid your college in placing you in the proper introductory classes or can waive your gen eds entirely (though every school is different so check with the registrar).

For those of you who took AP classes and did well on the final AP tests, scores of three or higher usually exempt you from certain college courses. I have a friend who didn’t have to take any history, science or foreign language gen eds because her AP scores were accepted in lieu of taking these classes. Pretty cool!

So, like I said before, save those scores! And for those you who are still undergoing this standardized testing process, do your best on them – they could save you from the headache of having to take a 100-level English class later on.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising 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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Orientation: The Survival Guide

June 3, 2011

Orientation: The Survival Guide

by Anna Meskishvili

For the short time you’ll be at orientation, you’ll come away with one million impressions. Here are some things I wish I knew before my orientation:

  • Don’t over pack. Most orientations are only a few days so there is no need to bring anything more than a backpack with shorts and a few t-shirts. You’ll probably be snagging some school attire, too, so save room!
  • Don’t expect to meet your best friend, roommate or significant other. You’ll likely only meet 10 percent of your class during orientation, which is only 25 percent of your school’s population. I met some awesome people during my BU orientation – I still meet up with a few for lunch! Try to make the most of everyone you meet...and don’t leave orientation engaged.
  • Come with questions. Most schools do their freshman class registration during orientation so have a rough idea about which gen eds and electives you would be interested in. For example, if a science is required, you can either take a challenging biology course or a fun, easy geology course for non-majors. (We call it “Rocks for Jocks.”)
  • Sleep when you can. I don’t remember one minute of my orientation weekend where I was not scheduled to be somewhere but do yourself the favor and sleep when you can. Although it’s fun to stay up all night gossiping, keep in mind you have four more years of this! Orientation is exhausting, overwhelming and awesome...make sure you have enough energy to take it all in, unlike my friend who stayed up all night and ended up missing registration and ID pictures.

All schools take great pride in their orientation programs so be ready to be entertained. As long as you take it all in stride, make the best of it and come prepared, you’ll leave orientation counting down the minutes until move-in day!

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations at the College of 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 hopes to someday work in Healthcare Administration Communication. She loves to travel, run and learn.

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Books on the House!

National Academies Press Puts All 4,000 Books Online for Free

June 3, 2011

Books on the House!

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a college student on a budget, everything’s coming up roses for you today. Not only is it National Doughnut Day, where you can snag a complimentary tasty treat at Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme (I did!) but the National Academies Press announced it will offer its entire PDF catalog of books for free. You read that right! The press, which is the publishing arm of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, will offer files that can be downloaded by anyone absolutely free of charge.

Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for the press, said it had previously offered 65 percent of its titles – ones that were narrow in scope – for free. “The 35 percent that we are adding today will reach a wider audience, and we are doing it because it’s central to our mission to get this information to everyone,” she said. What can students, educators or anyone for that matter look forward to? A wide array of titles including “Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards,” which costs $99.95 in hardcover. (Woah!)

“Eight years ago, if we did this, we would have lost substantial amounts of money,” Pope said. “But our costs have come down a lot, and our institution says they will stand behind us even if we do lose money.” Let’s hope this trend catches on and others jump on the freebie bandwagon!

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