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"See" It Their Way

Blind Students Sue FSU for Discrimination

July 12, 2011

"See" It Their Way

by Anna Meskishvili

Think of a modern classroom full of tech-savvy whiteboards and a plethora of electronic capabilities. Now think about being in that same classroom but not being able to see. Could you perform and interact like your vision-unimpaired classmates? Two Florida State University students, Christopher Toth and Jamie Principato, could not and are suing the institution for discrimination.

The two blind students were having extensive difficulties performing in the classroom because they were being denied the same resources as those students with vision. One of their complaints was the reliance on the “clicker” system in the classroom, which allows students to select answers to questions during lecture, which are displayed on a screen. Toth and Principato were also denied Braille copies of certain textbooks or accessible copies of lecture material. The students’ lawyer, Daniel Goldstein, comments that this case is very time-sensitive because of all the progressive advancements made in technology. Soon, there will be little for students with disabilities to relate to in a learning environment.

For students in wheelchairs, there are ramps. For students with learning disabilities, there are aides. For students without sight, however, it’s hard to simulate the experience of visual technology. Time and technology seem to be traveling at a supernatural speed but many learning institutions are slowly abandoning traditional, equal-opportunity learning.

It’s a difficult issue to formulate an opinion on since there are no equal-tiered technologically-advanced e-learning systems for the blind. What do you think would be a fair and progressive solution to Toth and Principato’s situation?

Anna Meskishvili is a rising 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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Make Time for Tutoring

July 14, 2011

Make Time for Tutoring

by Brittni Fitzgerald

Though it seems like summer just began, school is almost back in session and students are already preparing for the new semester. They know every class on their schedule will not be an easy “A” and will attempt to keep up with the coursework but sometimes, even the most diligent of students need a little academic assistance. To whom can they turn? To a tutor, of course!

Almost every college and university has tutoring programs available in various fields of study. Despite these excellent resources, however, many students opt to join clubs, Greek organizations or just party their undergraduate years away instead of sitting down with a tutor and learning the facts necessary to pass their classes and graduate. Why is this trend so popular? I think some students – especially the ones that excelled in high school – may be intimidated or embarrassed to ask for help. The truth is, honor society member or not, you’ll never pass Calculus II if you don’t learn the material!

In addition to school-sponsored tutoring programs, you can also form study groups with classmates (you know you’ve been wanting an excuse to talk to that smart, hot guy in the back row!) where you can all voice your concerns and help each other work through issues. Professors and TAs are also ready and willing to assist you – they hold office hours for that exact reason. There’s no sense in failing when you have the resources to succeed!

Though she moved from Fremont, Calif., to Chicago at the age of 5, Brittni Fitzgerald will always remember the sun and fun of California life. She is the youngest of six children and is currently attending Chicago State University. There, Brittni is an accounting major and an active member of the Student Government Association but also a published poet (in 8th grade, her work was published with the Illinois’s 2004 “Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out”). Brittni enjoys running, swimming, dancing, singing and shopping. Her motto is “Live Life Loud.”


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Dealt the Roommate from Hell? Here’s How to Deal

by Radha Jhatakia

There’s one thing about living on campus that everyone always worries about and that is the roommate situation. Unfortunately, unless you have a friend that you plan on living with, you will have very little control over who your roommate will be. Sorry!

When it comes time to sign up for housing for the first time, most colleges will have incoming freshmen fill out a survey of roommate preferences. You’ll answer questions including sleeping habits and visitor preferences and be matched with someone who has similar answers so honesty is the best policy here. You could get lucky and have a fantastic roommate who you’ll become best friends with...or be unlucky and get stuck with someone who’s a nightmare. If you’re faced with the latter, you have limited options but one trick I’ve found is to make friends with your resident advisor early – he or she will help you get any issues resolved quickly and efficiently or act as a mediator to help negotiate differences.

Setting ground rules on the first day is also a must. It sounds strict and uncool but important to plan out study times, lights out, clean up schedules, etc. so you won’t step on each other’s toes later down the line. If your roommate still makes sharing a room difficult, you can try to switch rooms by contacting the housing office to file a formal complaint. Most schools will only let you change rooms if your roommate is hostile (think: stealing your things, displaying abnormal/aggressive behavior, drinking or doing drugs). If you are fortunate enough to get a new room assignment, remember to set those guidelines from the get-go...and pray to the housing gods that your new roommate is better than your old one!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Managing Pre-Freshman Jitters

by Julius Clayborn

Lately, I’ve been searching far and wide for Neverland – a place where I don’t have to grow older, a place where I can evade responsibility, a place where I can avoid the looming anxiety of college, a place in which to find solace from the fear of independence.

Having never been away from home for such an extended period of time, there are a few qualms I have with starting college, a pivotal chapter in my life. The first one is, well, being away! There will be tons of new people in a totally new setting. Will I be able to manage? Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many people about this issue and they assure me that it’s not as horrid as it may seem. The feelings between me and the rest of the incoming freshmen will be completely mutual. That’s actually the beauty of the situation: Everyone’s just as afraid as you are, therefore just as vulnerable. This vulnerability will, in fact, make meeting people a much easier process because everyone will be wide-eyed, open-minded and ready to build relationships.

Another thing that concerns me is the workload. The sheer thought of being bombarded with 20-page papers and getting no sleep gives me nightmares! Though, the advice I’ve been given in regards to this problem assures me that I am being much too dramatic. My uncle eased this fear by telling me that though multiple page papers are an inevitable part of being a college student, unreasonable demands will not be put upon college freshmen right away as they're still trying to maneuver their way through a college campus.

After discussing my college concerns with a few different people, I’m glad that much of my anxiety is starting to dissipate. I think I’ll put that trip to Neverland on hold and fly to my college campus instead. The growth I experience there won’t be something I have to fear and in the end, I’ll be happy that I made the decision to grow up.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Rationing Your Refund Check

by Jessica Seals

The first day of classes means new professors, new classmates and a completely new routine. It is also about the time that universities distribute refund checks to students. Refund checks are extra funds that are left over after all school fees have been paid. These funds are the result of excess scholarships, grants and loans. Refund checks can come in handy, as students can use the extra money to buy a laptop, food, books or to pay off another loan. Some students, however, are not wise with their money and are left scrounging for pennies before the end of the semester.

I always hear students complaining about how they do not have any money left from their refund check long before finals roll around. They chose to splurge on clothes, the newest Droid phone, expensive restaurants or they spent money on friends. Buying a few extra “fun” items is not something that should necessarily be avoided but you should maintain a budget and be conscious about how much money you are spending. I have taken money from my refund check and separated it into two separate bank accounts. The money in my savings account rarely gets touched unless it is an emergency and the money in my checking account is what I use on a daily basis. I keep less money in the checking account so I am not tempted to spend more than I intend to.

While in college, it is especially important to learn how to manage your money. If you get a refund check back from the school, this could be your chance to start learning how to do so. You will feel great knowing that you will not be labeled a broke college student!

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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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

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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Pell Grants, the Debt Ceiling and You

by Kara Coleman

If you’re one of the more than nine million undergrads who depend on Pell Grants to pay for school, you have probably been pretty anxious over the past few weeks.

This past February, the United States House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution which would slice the federal budget drastically. One of the programs to be affected by the cut is the Pell Grant program. The maximum amount of funds available to college students would be lowered from $5,550 to $4,705 and the changes were set to take effect for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Students were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the Pell Grant program, which has long received bipartisan support from the Senate, was able to avoid major cuts after all. The debt-ceiling bill passed earlier this week will limit overall discretionary spending to $1.043 trillion in the 2012 fiscal year. Since that’s about $7 billion below the current level of spending, how will students be able to receive their maximum Pell Grants? Grad students will be the ones taking the hit. At the moment, graduate students with federally subsidized student loans don’t have to be concerned with interest until after graduation but under the new plan, interest on these loans will begin to accrue while they are still working towards their degrees.

National Economic Council director Gene Spurling says of the bill, “This is a compromise budget, but one that we believe makes the necessary room for the most important investments in winning the future in innovation and research and education.”

How do you feel about these changes? For those with dreams of advanced degrees, are you already researching alternate funding options for graduate school?

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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Not-Your-Average Application Essay Prompts

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you have your heart set on one college and you're about to write your application essay. The prompt is “If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk?” Wait...what? Believe it or not, this really is a prompt from the University of Chicago, an institution famous for strange essay prompts designed to make the process of applying to college less painful.

Of course, strange questions like UChicago's may have the opposite effect – a more stressful application process – on some people. C’mon, how many of us have really given thought to what landscape we'd like to walk over when balancing on a tightrope? I know I haven't and I doubt anyone who’s afraid of heights has ever or will ever consider the answer, either, but the point of this question is to show just how unique you really are. Colleges receive thousands of applications from hopeful students each year and it stands to reason that reading that many essays on a less interesting topic gets pretty tedious.

That's why questions like UChicago’s are so useful: They force applicants to come up with a unique answer. Are you thinking about majoring in oceanography? If so, you might say that nothing would calm your nerves like walking over the coastline and hearing the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. Are you more of a bookworm considering a major in library science? Maybe walking over stacks of books and thinking about how your favorite characters had to face trials even worse than walking a tightrope would help you keep your balance.

Since no two essays on such weird prompts as the one listed above will be the same – and if they are, you’ve got some explaining to do! – you might as well take advantage of your opportunity to shine!

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 Dos and Don’ts of Job References

by Kara Coleman

Picture this: You’ve got a brand new diploma in your hand and are applying for your dream job or, if you’re not quite there yet, you’re trying to find a job to help pay your way through school. In addition to your resume, you’ll need references who can vouch for your abilities. Since companies usually check three references for each prospective employee, here’s how to pick the best individuals to speak on your behalf.

Don’t list family members or your best friend as references. Have you ever seen an “American Idol” audition where the contestant sings horribly but their mother argue with the judges and claims their child has the most beautiful voice in the world? The same principle applies here. Your family wants you to succeed so they’re only going to say positive things about you. Your references should be based on professional opinions so instead of listing Mom and Dad, list a professor in your field of study, a previous employer or a board member/faculty advisor for a service organization you are currently involved in.

Do talk with your potential references before you list them. Tell them what you are applying for and why you wish to use them as a reference. This may be stating the obvious but only list them if they give you permission to do so. You should also consider asking them the types of questions you think your prospective employer might ask them; if their feedback isn’t entirely positive, you can always find a different reference.

Don’t list your references on your resume. Rather, have the names and contact information of your references typed out on a separate sheet of paper. Not only will it keep the length of your resume down but you’ll look prepared and confident when you offer up your list without hesitation.

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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What I Wish I Knew When I Was a College Freshman

by Darci Miller

When I was preparing for my freshman year, I talked to people, read books and generally tried to learn everything I could about what awaited me in this next phase of my life. That being said, there are some things that no book, blog or person mentioned to me, leaving me blistered, hungry and short on tissues. Here's what I discovered through much trial and error:

  • Comfy shoes are a godsend. You don’t realize how much more walking college involves until you’re hobbling back to your dorm, desperate to take off the shoes currently eating your feet. Make sure to invest in a pair of comfortable sneakers for when your cute sandals aren't feeling so cute.
  • Being sick is even worse at school than at home. Mom won’t be there to bring you juice, make you soup or buy you tissues when you're sick at school – you have to do it on your own. And then there’s stress from work and class and the nagging guilt about potentially infecting your roommate. My advice? Vitamin C.
  • You may or may not have an eating schedule. In my first semester, I couldn’t figure out Tuesdays and Thursdays. Breakfast before or after my 9:30 class? Lunch before or after my 12:15 class? I never knew and I was always a little hungry. It’s good to carry a healthy snack with you, just in case.
  • You might not be the only freshman in your classes. It was quite a shock to me to walk into my first-ever college class and find myself sitting next to a man. Not a college-aged boy, a full-grown man who had a wife and kids at home. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy: Classes put you together with people of similar expertise, not age. Keep this in mind especially if AP credits exempt you from intro classes.

You can now go into your freshman year much wiser than I was when I began mine!

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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