Today I would like to welcome guest blogger, Kenneth Waldman, freelance writer and content creator at essay writing service EssayMama.com. He is here to give some tips on essay writing.
Writing an essay is extremely difficult if you do not have a good knowledge on the topic. Writing is also very challenging if you don’t know how to properly structure your essay, how to add annotations, bibliography or how to perform editing. It takes quite some preparations until you can finally sit down and write your essay.
If you want to get a good grade, then you need to spend quality time on preparations before even writing anything. So let’s check out a few quintessential factors to remember regarding how to write a really good essay.
Brainstorming for the perfect topic
If you are allowed to write on any topic, you need to choose something that you are really knowledgeable about. Sit down and start your brainstorming session. Think about your hobbies, your favorite books, things you are most interested in, news you like to read about the most. Something will ultimately come to you mind, and from there you can narrow down your brainstorming and come up with the perfect title.
Brainstorming often times starts with a single word. Then, from that word you will come up with a sentence, and that sentence will take you towards a story. Brainstorming is the technique used by the most creative ad makers out there, so use it because it will help. The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers some really interesting resources pertaining to essay writing.
Plenty of research
Before you sit down to write anything, you need to spend long hours on research. Only this way will you be able to concentrate all your knowledge and come up with a nice essay. If you don’t have enough knowledge on the topic, you cannot possibly write 500 words about that topic. However, if you will read enough information, you will assimilate the basics that should be developed in your essay.
Get online and start reading magazine articles, peer reviewed journals, and even a few novels that are relevant to your topic. As a source of entertainment, you can also watch relevant documentaries and movies that will add to your knowledge base. Find out more on how to do research for an excellent essay here.
Drafting is essential
Drafting, or prewriting is indeed important. Before you start writing your essay, you should add on paper important sentences, phrases and notes that will help contouring your main essay. Scribble on paper, draw if you have to, and be creative- make a draft that represents the rough sketch of your main essay. When you sit down to writing, you just need to use this draft, and it will guide you to write brilliant essay, quite effortlessly. More information on drafting an essay can be found at this resource.
Planning the general outline
If you have a rough outline for your essay before you start writing it, you will write it much easier. How many paragraphs will the introduction have? How many different topics you will talk about in the body of the essay? How many subheadings you plan to have? What about the conclusion? Is this a persuasive or open-ended conclusion?
You really need to answer all these questions in order to write a well-structured essay and respect the number of words in the directions. Otherwise, you risk writing an essay that is not proportional- too long introduction, short body of essay and so on. Always plan the general outline on paper, with approximate number of words for each section/subsection. Check out this helpful pdf on essay outlines – by the University of Washington Tacoma.
Grammar & style
You need to write a very grammatically correct essay. For this you need to spend some time on checking a few English grammar rules first. Use he available online applications, tools and grammar tests as part preparing to write your essay. Spend some time on revising carefully your grammar, and ensure you will hand in an essay that has good sentences, correct grammar and no stylistic mistakes.
There are many free spellcheckers and grammar tools online. Within minutes you can download them to your laptop, and use them as you write your essay. When you are done, remember to edit and proofread your essay, put it aside for a day…and read it again the next day with fresh eyes. For more tips on grammar, punctuation & style read this.
Practicing before the final version
If this is an extremely important essay you need to write for your college class, you should practice enough. For example you could write 2 or 3 test essays before writing the final version. Such practicing will help make your writing skills more powerful. With practicing, you will be able to write great sentences and paragraphs for your final version, and you will already know what you need to be careful about (such as too many run on sentences, certain grammar mistakes, bad structuring, etc.)
Read out loud your final work
This is the rule of thumb. Many poets, essay writers, screen writers, will use this trick. When you have finished your essay, don’t just hand it in. As a final step, read out loud your essay. How does it sound? Is it interesting? Are the sentences too long? Does the entire piece sound boring? Do you like what you hear? How would you grade it if you were a teacher? Be extremely analytic and objective when reading your own essay. Change the things you do not like about it, and the read it again. Now your essay should be perfect!
It may sound like you need to do a thousand things before you can finally sit down and write. In fact, all these preparations will help you write your essay quite fast and quite well. Don’t struggle on writing an essay of 500 words without having enough knowledge on the topic. Don’t struggle to come up with the sentences, when you have problems with certain grammar rules. Study first and get down to writing only afterwards.
Writing an essay should not be complicated, if you will pay attention to these tasks that you need to perform besides writing proper. Spend enough time on research, and choose research sources that are truly trustworthy and quality sources. You will be able to write an essay that will impress your teacher or even your application assistant in college!
For today’s post, I want to welcome guest blogger Jessie Agarwal. She writes for Univariety, which provides career counseling advice for college students. Be sure to check the site out sometime!
Since humans started inhabiting the world after the extinction of dinosaurs, there always has been a need for people who can advise and help others in matters related to health, the most valuable treasure of every living being. With the passage of time, the knowledge of helping others in maintaining their health and aiding them in overcoming health related problems became a science and its practitioners became more revered and respected in the society.
Contrary to the belief that a career in medicine always leads to becoming a doctor, there are many other professions and careers in the medical field which have gained much importance in this age. Following are some options which can be pursued by those who study medicine.
Undeniably, the most sought after and famous career in medicine is that of a medical doctor. Although it’s a rather long career to pursue, doctors not only command respect in the society but are always in demand. The satisfaction it gives is also combined with the fact that even developed countries like USA is facing shortage of doctors and physicians. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the country will face a shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by the year 2025.
An MBBS followed by a master’s degree is the minimum requirement if one wants to become a doctor.
Hospitals are great places, literally as well as metaphorically. From heavy and complex machinery to an equally complex and tough system, hospitals need strong administrators who possess medical knowledge and also have administrative insights.
The US Bureau of Labour has projected a 23% growth in hospital administration jobs by the year 2022. It requires a bachelors degree in hospital administration followed by a masters degree and an experience in assistant position.
Ever seen a medic running over to an injured sportsperson in the play ground? These are highly trained medics in sports medicine, another one of the most lucrative professions in the medicinal field.
The US Bureau of Labour has stated that sports physicians get an average salary of $205,573 per annum. Not to say the chance to interact with sports celebrities.
Physiotherapy is a science which deals with physical fitness and rehabilitation in cases of injuries and body impairments. In India, many universities offer diploma as well as degree courses in physiotherapy. However, in USA (where the current average salary in this stream is $82,390) a doctorate degree is required.
Many people don’t consider it a profession serious enough to be pursued., However, the truth is that this stream is a rage in European countries and also US where the current average salary of a veterinarian is $87,590.
Apart from the fact that animals also deserve care, veterinary science is vital in preventing diseases among animals which can harm humans too.
Career in medicine has branched out into a number of careers in the current era. However, even with the diversification of career options, the competition remains as high as it ever was. The top medical colleges in India still witness massive applications at the time of admissions. Apart from the challenges in enrolment, medicine is a career which is considered the longest of all careers and requires considerable patience and hardwork.
Jessie Agarwal is a passionate blogger from India. She writes articles on various topics such as Education, gadgets, travel…etc. As of now she is focusing on Univariety, which provides career counselling for college students. The organization also helps school students in career exploration and planning.
It’s the night before that big paper is due. An unfortunate combination of technical failures, insufficient sources, and good old fashion procrastination has you pulling your hair out as you take a bite out of your day-old Taco Bell and down your fourth cup of coffee. Sure, you can try to pull yet another all-nighter and try to concoct something barely readable. Maybe you’ll get a sudden 5am rush that will turn you into a writing genius and finish those last five pages like you were coloring by the numbers.
But then again, that bed over there is seducing you with its cozy comforter and plump pillows. Perhaps it’s easier to just show up early to class tomorrow, dressed in your best brown-nosing attire, and sweet-talk your professor into extending your deadline. But what can you tell your professor that they haven’t already heard? The good old days of “My dog ate my homework” just won’t cut it anymore. You have to evolve with the times. Get ahead of the curve. Come to your professor with a story that will bring her to tears. She’ll have no other choice than to gift your troubled soul with an extra day to turn in your paper. Right?
Wrong. For every unique excuse you can come up with, your professor has heard three variations of it. So save yourself the embarrassment and read the below 10 excuses that professors heard a million times, with reasons why they aren’t willing to accept them.
1. “My computer crashed!” (and other technology problems)
In an era where digital papers and electronic submissions are the norm, a plethora of problematic possibilities have opened up for the already-stressed college student. You’re working on a paper, forget to save, and right as you’re about to hit that little disk icon on the top left of your screen, your screen freezes and your mouse stops working. Or the power goes out at your house. Or your internet gives out the night you have a huge research project to do. Or your DVD drive fails right when you’re about to watch a video for class. Or your printer fails to print that 30 page pdf. I could go on and on.
The point is, surely your professor can’t fault you for that. After all, you can’t control any of the above-mentioned situations. While that is true, any professor who’s been around the block will tell you that such a problem only happens if you’d waited until the last minute to work on your assignment. Procrastination is your biggest enemy with this excuse, because it tells the professor you waited until the last minute to start an assignment.
Had you started the assignment earlier on, you would have had time to get that situation fixed when the university’s IT department is actually opened. Even if the problem set you back a few days, your professor would be more likely to accept the excuse the day before the assignment is due, rather than the day of.
2. “I slept through my alarm”
It happens, I know. I’ve slept through a few alarms in my day. This is especially ruthless for those dreaded 8am classes, where you’re not likely to wake up on your own due to the late nights you’ve pulled. This excuse may work once towards the beginning of the semester, especially if you’re a freshman and getting used to living independently.
But any time after that and a professor will just see you as someone who is irresponsible. First of all, there are several types of alarm rings on your alarm clock or phone. Experiment until you find one that works. If you really are sleeping through every single alarm you can put up, then you are probably not getting enough sleep. If that’s the case, then you need to work on your time management. Get things done more efficiently so you don’t have to sleep so late.
The thing is, sleeping through your alarm won’t work when you get into the working world. Your boss doesn’t care that you can sleep through a foghorn. If your sleeping patterns are that abnormal, then you probably need to get that checked by a doctor. College is a wonderful place to make these types of mistakes, as the repercussions are not as bad as in the real world. But still, spare your professor the excuse and just acknowledge that you won’t be late again.
3. “There’s a lot going on in my life right now”
Ahh yes. The “woe is me” approach. I hear this one all the time when a student misses a deadline for something I assigned them to do. Not only is this excuse vague and of little value, but this excuse tells me that you are self-centered enough to believe that you are the only person in the world with a lot going on in your life right now.
Wake up, please. We all have “a lot going on in our lives right now”. That’s just the way our modern society works. We are over-worked and over-stressed and life constantly gets in the way. A part of growing up involves learning to adapt to these situations and make them fit into our busy lives. Breaking up with your girlfriend or losing your childhood pets are emotionally distressing, sure, but such is life. It has its ups and downs, but anything short of death in the family or something equally devastating could be worked around. Could you imagine if everyone used that excuse when things got too tough? We’d be a mess!
4. “My other class is taking up all of my time”
This one is a major no-no! I’m telling you this one from experience. I tried this once on a professor, and I didn’t hear the end of it. Let’s just say that professors are proud of the classes that they teach, and in their own little world, they are the only ones in our lives and all our allegiance belongs to them. They don’t want to hear that not only is there another professor in your life, but that you clearly prioritize your time with their assignments over this one. It’s like telling your significant other that you missed your anniversary date because you had to help your mother with the dishes.
It’s quite the catch 22. All your professors seemingly schedule all their tests and all their assignments due on the same week, then get upset when you have a hard time balancing them all out. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the harsh reality of college. Proper time management and controlling your procrastination can help you escape this conundrum.
5. “I forgot this was due today”
It’s pretty obvious to see why this excuse won’t work. “I forgot” didn’t work in elementary school, and it won’t work now. But what makes this excuse even worse is that in most of your classes, due dates are typically listed on the syllabus! You know that piece of paper you’re given on the first day of class that you doodle on while the professor goes over it? Yeah, you’d best not lose that. Professors tend to put test dates and due dates for assignments on their syllabi, making that a handy tool when trying to keep track of all your assignments.
Plus, this excuse is so lazy and unoriginal, you’ll be insulting your professor more than anything. So please, just avoid it and take the late grade.
6. “I didn’t know it’s considered plagiarism”
This one can be tricky, because it’s most likely true and it’s most likely an innocent mistake that can happen to anyone. In fact, it happened to me in college one time. I had to write a paper for a business class. I took this class before my first college writing class, and I kinda breezed through my high school writing classes without much thought, so I didn’t know much about citing your sources. There were plenty of paragraphs that had no sources, and could be considered plagiarism.
When confronted about it by my professor, I told him I didn’t know it was plagiarism. What he told me was a life lesson I still remember clearly to his day. “Ignorance of the law does not allow you to break it”. Plus, every college has a student handbook with a conduct policy that discusses plagiarism rules and what you could get in trouble for. Student handbooks are long and rather dry reads, but it wouldn’t hurt to look at their plagiarism section and see how to avoid it.
In the end, my professor gave me a chance to redo the paper, and many professors will probably do the same for you if you’re a freshman and it’s a first offense. But still, try to steer clear of this excuse, as there are only very few situations where such an excuse would work and not make you look like a fool.
7. “I didn’t know this would be on the test”
One rule I quickly learned in college is that, with very few exceptions, everything ever taught in a class has the potential to be on the test. You never know when an off-topic subject told by a professor during his incessant ramblings ends up as a bonus question on the final. Even in classes where they offer study guides, don’t get too cozy. It’s possible that they can change their mind and add something in there. Many syllabi even state that everything from class discussions, to assignments, to study guides are testable material.
So the lesson here is that unless your professor specifically states that it won’t be on the test, it has a chance of being on the test. So for you to show up and tell them you didn’t think it would be just makes you seem silly and amateurish.
8. “They called me in to work”
This one is tough because I know many very responsible students who work because they have to, not just because they want some extra cash. Many of them are paying their way through college themselves, or have to support their families with their supplemental income. And many off-campus jobs are not flexible with work schedules. Sometimes they will schedule you at the worst time, and there’s very little you can do about it.
Unfortunately, it is very rare that a professor will accept work as an excuse for not completing an assignment, studying for a test, or especially for not showing up to class. College is expected to be a priority above all else, and if an off-campus job won’t allow you to do that, you are expected to find a different job or to work on campus.
This is easier said than done, I know. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this type of situation. Unless you’re willing to pull an all-nighter after a long evening shift, your best bet is to talk to your boss way in advance to see if he or she is willing to work with you on a particular assignment or test. I’ve found that employers are more flexible if you talk to them early.
9. “You weren’t in your office when I looked for you.”
I get this one a lot, which is especially frustrating for both parties involved since I am out of the office very often. Let me once again refer you to the syllabus. Every syllabus I’ve ever seen has every available method to contact your professors. Office hours, location of office, phone number, cell phone number (for those brave souls), and email address are listed, as well as their preferred method of contact. Telling them that they weren’t in their office tells them that not only did you not look at the syllabus, but that you didn’t attempt to contact them any other way.
And don’t even think about using this excuse if you didn’t actually stop by their office. There’s nothing more embarrassing than telling them you stopped by at a time that they were actually there.
10. “You never said that”
This one should be a no-brainer. How else do you think a conversation would go where you are essentially telling a professor exactly what he or she said or didn’t say? Ordinarily, I wouldn’t put this excuse on here, but I’ve seen it used enough times that I felt it was worth mentioning.
The truth of the matter is that a professor is most likely to know what they did and didn’t say. Even in the rare occurrence that they are mistaken, who do you think they are going to believe: their own memory or yours? Unless you have evidence to back it up, don’t attempt to get into an argument with a professor regarding what he or she didn’t say. You will lose.
College is a great environment to be in, full of supporting faculty and staff and offering great opportunities to become a responsible adult. What you don’t know, however, is what goes on behind-the-scenes in colleges. Things they don’t want you, as a student, to know about. It’s not that they’re illegal, or necessarily immoral, but that by knowing them, they’d ruin the positive image universities try to maintain.
1. College entrance requirements aren’t as strict as they appear
I once talked to an admissions counselor when I was searching for colleges. She was very friendly, but the pamphlet she gave me was pretty intimidating. “I have to have THAT high of an SAT score?” I thought to myself as I kissed my dreams of being a whatever-it-was-at-the-time goodbye. Reading further, I saw that I had to be involved in a certain number of organizations, had to have this high of a GPA, and had to have so many volunteer hours, among letters of recommendations, full transcripts, and job experience.
The admission counselor smiled, surely relishing in my worried facial expressions caused by my ignorant innocence, and told me not to worry about too much about the requirements. “There’s always exceptions,” she said confidently. She then went on to tell me that as long as I could write an essay explaining why I wasn’t involved in organizations, or getting an adequate score on the SAT or ACT, the university would consider my application.
I’ve learned that this is true of many colleges, save for the Ivy Leagues and the sort. Colleges like to put down rigorous entrance requirements so they can tout that they have the smartest and the brightest, but if you read the fine print, there are many ways to get around the published requirements. See, if universities truly stuck with what they advertised as their requirements, enrollment would be horrible! The funding systems for universities are based on enrollments, so universities strive to get as many students as they can. For this reason, they implement certain “loopholes” to their own policies to be able to admit students who do not meet their requirements.
Go to any university website that you are interested in and take a look at its admission criteria. You’ll see that it is worded in such a way that allows for flexibility in admissions standards. For example, take Oklahoma State University’s admissions page.
First of all, they preface the requirements by mentioning that all students are encouraged to apply, as they take many factors into consideration and individually review each application. Likewise, if you meet one of their listed criteria, you are assured admission. That’s where the wording is tricky. Colleges often make is sound like all their students meet those requirements as a minimum, and they are partially correct. Sure, those are minimums, but only for guaranteed admission. You can still be considered even if you don’t meet their listed requirements. And even then, of the several “minimums” they state, they usually publish the strictest one to make them seem more selective (as was the case at my undergraduate university).
Florida State University’s admissions page is another great example. In this one, they don’t even give you a minimum requirements list. The list they show you is the academic profile of the middle 50% of freshmen they accepted in 2013. So really, all it does is give you an idea of their overall average of the students they admit, which doesn’t really tell you how well your chances are, since the bottom 50% could fall anywhere below that average. Plus, they make sure to include careful wording to say that “applicants who bring other important attributes to the University community may also receive additional consideration.” These may include, but are not limited to skilled artists, musicians, and athletes.
Why do colleges do this? For publicity reasons, mostly. This way, they can state in their advertisements, pamphlets, and national publications that they accept students with these amazing criteria in an effort to attract other students with these criteria. And if you have 5 colleges in one area that accept students with a 24 ACT as a minimum, you don’t want to be the college that publishes your minimum as 18 ACT. It’s just not good for business.
So what does this all mean to you as a prospective student? This means that you should not be discouraged to apply to a college if the requirements seem to strict. If you weren’t involved in extra-curricular activities in high school because you worked full time in the evenings to support your family, that’s fine! Be sure to include an essay with your application that states that. Admission departments in colleges don’t just go down a checklist and pull your application if you don’t meet them all. They look at your application to see how you are as a whole person. The more information you provide with your application, the easier it will be for them to paint a better picture of you as a student.
If they see that you worked to provide for your family in high school, they may see that as responsibility and maturity and would take that in place of your extracurriculars. If you didn’t have very good grades, as long as you can provide a good reason for it and assure them that you will do much better in college, they may give you consideration they may not have otherwise. Now, I’m not saying that you can BS your way through an application and get into college. It doesn’t work that way.
What I’m saying is that you have nothing to lose by applying to the college that you want, even though you may not fit the “ideal” criteria.
Let me tell you that when I started college, all I had going for me was my GPA. Being a first generation student, I had no idea how important extra-curricular activities, volunteer hours, and letters of recommendations from teachers who knew you well were. Plus, I am a horrible test taker and didn’t do very well on my SAT. Still, I made a strong enough case on my application, got accepted, and not only did I graduate from my university, but I was senior class president and gave the commencement speech in front of ten thousand people. All because they decided to take a chance on me.
2. You DON’T have to go to college
I can already hear my fellow colleagues and college administrators yelling at me for this one, but the truth is, you really don’t have to go to college like society makes you believe. I’m sure you’ve heard in high school, in the college you already attend, in TV shows, commercials, and speakers that jobs won’t hire you without a college degree. That it’s not like it used to be where anyone could get a job with a good work ethic and a smile. And yes, it’s true that it’s becoming more difficult for companies to even consider you if you don’t have that degree on hand. Even jobs that didn’t previously required formal education experience are requiring Associate or Bachelor degrees. And that is why you are told very often that you need to go to college to get those lucrative jobs.
But do you see the problem with this? Students everywhere are being told that they need a college degree to get a job that requires college degrees. As a result, more and more students are going to college each year. Over the last 15 years, enrollment in U.S. institutions of higher education at all levels rose from 14.5 million students in fall 1994 to 20.7 million in fall 2009, with most of the growth occurring in the last 10 years (source: NSF ). And what’s worse, over the past decade, the U.S. private-sector has lost 203,000 jobs (source here ).
What this means is that more and more graduates are finishing colleges with degrees, but the jobs aren’t growing with them. As a result, we have tons of people out there with useless degrees working jobs that don’t require anything more than a high school diploma. But colleges won’t tell you all of this, because their goal is to get more students.
As a Student Affairs Professional, I will say that college does a lot more for you than just get you a degree, as I listed on my blog post detailing how college can get you a job without a degree. But still, I stand by the fact that there are some people who do not need to go to college. Are you one of these people?
Let me explain. I’ve seen many students, both as a university staff member and as a student myself, that go to college despite the fact that they are not ready for it. They either do not know what they want to do with their life, or are just not emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility of college life. Yet, these students will start college, get into lots of debt, then drop out their first year having no way to pay back that said debt.
Other people are just not good classroom learners. Regardless of college, it is reasonable to assume a lot of classroom work will be in your future, and some students just don’t do well with that. A friend of mine just could not grasp anything from a classroom, and left college within two months. Yet, he was a masterful electrician and could rewire an entire house with no problem.
Students like these would be better off going to trade schools, where there is more practical learning and they could put their talents to good use. I’ve known many mechanics, plumbers, and carpenters that make a lot of money, and never had to go to college to do it.
What about those students who are not ready for college? Students who don’t know what to do with their lives but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for an education they may not even get use out of? As someone who went to a university with a strong military focus, I would say that the military may be a viable option. Don’t know what to do with your life? If you meet the health requirements and don’t mind some discipline in your life, the military may be a better option for you. I’ve known a few high school students that would gain a lot from joining the army for a few years before going to college. It can be an eye-opening experience, and what’s more, they may have the option of paying for your college once you complete your years of service.
For other students, maybe college is best if you just wait. Work a full time job for a little bit, get a sense of what the real world is like, paying bills, paying your own rent, just generally living on your own. Start college when you feel ready. My sister followed this path, and now she’s in college and loving it.
I don’t believe that college is always the right answer. But not enough people are willing to say that. And why would they? It makes sense that a college recruiter would feel guilty telling you that college isn’t for you. And that’s because they cannot make that decision, nor can I. Only you can. You need to take a good look at yourself and wonder if it’s worth getting into all that debt for the next few years before you dive right in.
For a great illustration of how college may not always be right for you, check out my post on how the movie Monsters University accurately depicts college life.
3. A lot of faculty aren’t trained to teach
At some point during my college career, I decided that I wanted to be a professor. Part of the decision came from the amazing professors that inspired me to follow in their footsteps. Another part came from the horrible professors who made me want to become one to correct their mistakes. Upon looking for grad schools and trying to decide what I wanted to teach, I came to one horrible realization: professors are not trained to teach!
Teachers, specifically for elementary school and secondary school, have to go through an intense program, that includes not only a Bachelor degree, but teacher certification, and in some cases, even a Master degree. They have to learn about classroom management, implementing curriculums, special education, and then student teach for hours and hours while maintaining a teacher’s portfolio assuring future employers that this person knows what he or she is doing.
I was pretty shocked to find out that this is not true with college professors. There is no “professors 101” class or a degree specifically to teach college courses. The way a person becomes a professor is to get a Master degree in a field, and then get a doctorate in that field as well (or a related field). At that point, the person is considered an “expert” in the field and is then qualified to teach a course in that field. However, none of those courses prepare those students to teach what they have learned. This is especially evident in STEM fields, where students constantly complain about engineering professors who don’t know how to teach a concept in a way students can understand, or a science professor who just reads from a slideshow. Sure, they know everything they need to know about their field, but that does not mean they know how to teach it.
When colleges look for new faculty, they look for several factors, with the primary ones being teaching experience and research/publications. A professor is worth more if he or she is a published researcher, holding some clout in the field, and has the ability to receive grants from several institutions. It shocked me to find out that in many universities, teaching ability isn’t at the top of the list. Now this isn’t true of all colleges. Community colleges and liberal arts colleges put more priority to teaching skills, whereas research and land grant universities will put more weight on research and publications. I actually had a professor tell me that if I didn’t have some decent published research by the time I finished my PhD, I will have a hard time getting any college to consider me.
But what about all those great professors that have a passion for teaching, those that just seem to get it? Typically, it’s a result of experience. Experience is a wonderful teacher, and professors who learn from their mistakes and research effective teaching methods on their own time will likely be better at it than others. Mentoring is also very helpful. Many doctorate students find advisors and mentors that are willing to work with them and teach them the practice of the trade, even sometimes offering teaching assistantships where they get practice before they graduate. This is, however, very dependent on the teaching quality of the mentors.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed that universities are now offering certificates for college teaching. Usually these programs consist of a few courses specifically suited for teaching in a college environment. As far as I know, I don’t know of any doctorate program that requires these to be a college professor, but the resource is there and more and more universities are encouraging professors and would-be professors to get it.
4. Beware of the “weeding out” classes
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I went to a university that was very engineering-focused. Even though I wasn’t an engineering major, I had to take an occasional basic engineering class or two each year. As a non-engineer, I noticed that I was having a very hard time with these classes. At first, I thought I just sucked at engineering. But upon discussing it with other classmates, we came to the realization that it wasn’t that we didn’t understand the work, but that the work was made hard on purpose.
First of all, those engineering 101 classes were huge. Lots of students and only one professor to teach us all. Our professor covered a lot of material in a very short amount of time. Tons. Concepts that, individually, would result in hours of work. Even if I did figure out how to solve the homework assignments, there was no way I could finish it all and do all the work in my other non-engineering classes. At some point, I had to call it quits and settle for the lower grade for that assignment. It made me wonder how those students with four engineering classes in a row got anything done.
What I learned later on was that these classes had an ulterior motive. In addition to providing a “general view” of engineering, they were designed to overwhelm students with varying different concepts to “weed out” the students who were not the best of the best at the craft. Even though I had a hard time excelling at the class, my wife, who was and engineering major at the time, got through those assignments with no problem. Sure enough, she got an A in the class and moved on to the higher level classes.
What surprised me about this the most was that I was generally good at math. I was studying meteorology and we dealt with all sorts of equations and concepts. But for some reason engineering work frustrated the hell out of me, and there was just so much of it. I, like many others, was the victim of a student not worthy to go to the higher level engineering classes, where professors worked at a better pace and were more willing to help you learn the material (as opposed to my class, where I would go to my professor to help me with assignments and he refused to help me in favor of the upper-level students).
Now that I’ve graduated college and have worked in colleges, I notice this for many fields. STEM fields are notorious for this, but I’ve seen this in other fields as well.
Weeding out classes are generally seen as classes where they are designed for students to fail. Large classes where professors throw a lot of information at you in a “101” style class, hoping to scare away all but the most dedicated to the craft, those who will stick through until the end. They offer minimal support to test you to see how well you can take the heat.
It makes sense in the long run, since professors don’t want students who don’t have a chance at being successful in the field. But this is still important information for students who have a passion in a field, but don’t necessarily have the skills to get through those “weeding out classes”. If that’s you, you either need to find another major or prepare for an uphill battle getting that degree.
5. Politics… politics everywhere!
I had a discussion with a friend of mine the other day, who talked about a program at a university that required EMT classes and certification in the curriculum, even though in wasn’t related to the field they were studying. The department head had been struggling for several years trying to remove that requirement from the curriculum. It seems that the requirement was put in there erroneously many years ago, since the beginning of the program, but no one had bothered to take it out. After many attempts, the department head was unable to get the requirement removed. Why? We still don’t know. I don’t think even he really knows.
The truth is, universities are filled with politics, just like any other business. I’ve heard from many people mistakenly believe that academia is a peaceful environment where learning takes place through curious minds exchanging ideas while sipping tea. I’ll tell you that this isn’t the case at all. Faculty and staff at universities can be just as catty and political as any other industry. Grudges among administrators can delay proposals and university changes for months, or even years, as they argue semantics and try to get things their way.
Just like our own US government, implementing changes at the university level can take a really long time as committees meet about this and that, amending the changes and involving others both inside and outside the university. They try their best to keep things objective and professional, but I’ve seen situations where things can get personal, and the personal beliefs of those in power can interfere from any real change happening on the campus. Professors who don’t like other professors will fight for favored courses, or timeslots for courses, or even office hours. Staff members may want to work independently or have more freedom in how they allocate their budgets. A lot of the time it involves administrators implementing new policies which adds responsibilities to departments that do not have the capacity to accept those added responsibilities, resulting in angry and resentful staff.
“So what?” you may ask. “This happens everywhere.” Well, yes, but the difference here is that oftentimes, college students will see the effects of these situations in a much greater magnitude. Political battles in university administration can result in tuition increases, removal of pivotal classes for degrees, removal of faculty, removal of amenities, more regulation to make simple tasks more complicated, and generally a lower quality of life at the campus.
The moral of the story here is that everyone is human, and no one is above making mistakes. Students get screwed over all the time regarding classes they need to take for graduation, grades on courses, residence hall charges, and other issues that may be the result of university politics. Sometimes, there may be no way to avoid them. The best you can do is understand that no one is perfect and mistakes can happen. Choose your battles wisely and fight for the things that matter the most to you.
For today’s post I just want to share with you a neat little tool I found online for comparing different colleges. It is especially helpful for those of you still in high school who are trying to choose the right college or university. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are many different types of colleges available, and choosing the correct one can make a big difference on whether or not you finish with your degree or end up quitting/transferring out.
The website is called Big Future and is a college planning tool with a variety of functions. It offers SAT prep (as well as a bunch of other tests), general college info, as well as financial aid resources and scholarship links. However, the most useful tool I see on there is a pretty neat college comparison tool where you can see up to three colleges side by side in a variety of categories, such as type of college, cost, campus life, financial aid available, and location.
I played around with it for a while, and it’s pretty accurate, so definitely give it a try. This is also helpful for those of you already in college but are looking to transfer or just want a college experience that better fits your needs.
This blog post was created as a result of an interesting conversation I had with a gentleman who firmly believed that college is a waste of time and money. He said, to paraphrase: “You go to school where they don’t teach you anything that will help you in the real world. You finish 4 years and you start from scratch. You have no experience, you’re stuck with absurd amount of debt which you’re getting charged and there’s little chance you’ll get a job in your field.”
The conversation got me thinking about the usefulness of college other than that piece of paper saying that you finished.
My thought is that college is only as useful as you make it while you’re there. Many people go to college under the wrong impression that it’s high school plus. In high school, you merely go to school, your teachers teach you, and you go home. You are mostly a passive learner.
In college, it is a completely different ballgame. You are expected to be an active learner. What this means is that going to class is not enough. It is rare for a student who just goes to class and graduates really gets much out of the college experience, and in that case, I do believe they wasted their money going to college. Even if they get a job, they only got the bare minimums of what college can offer.
Research agrees that most of the learning in college happens outside of the classroom. There are tons of things you can do while in college to make yourself more marketable to employers. Here are a list of suggestions that will increase your skill set and make college a more valuable experience:
Career Development workshops
I’d say around 95% of universities have these. They include resume workshops to teach you how to write an attractive resume, interviewing workshops to practice your interview skills, dress for success for proper business attire for interviews, job hunting techniques, networking techniques, business etiquette, and much more. And best of all, you’ve already paid for them with your student fees. Go to every single one you can. I went to these, and it did wonders in building up my confidence for job hunting. I don’t even fear interviews anymore. I come in to interviews and just chat with the employer with ease, person to person. It’s all the practice I’ve had beforehand.
The truth is, you need experience for employers to take you seriously. Internships are the perfect way to get that experience, whether paid or unpaid. The thing is, government has been cracking down on the ability for companies to provide internships. Nowadays, you can only get an internship if it’s for class credit towards your college degree. This is to keep companies from using “internships” as a way for free/cheap labor. But the opportunities are there. Look online, talk to your professors or career services department for internship opportunities in your field. You can theoretically get an internship each summer you’re in college, or even fall/spring semesters if you want. Imagine graduating college with already one or two years of experience in your field? But internships don’t just come to you. You have to work for them to find them and then apply for them.
On-campus organizations are really valuable tools. Most colleges have them, and they range in topics. The trick is joining the right ones. Are you a theater major? Join the Drama Club? A female biology major? Join Women in Science? An education major? Try the Student National Education Association. Just about every major has an organization that relates to it. Become an officer in it. Engage in projects with the community or even the organizations you hope to work with that way. Organizations help you meet others in your field with similar goals, and thus networking opportunities. They teach you how to work with a team in a practical setting. You learn leadership skills, things that employers like to see. Projects you complete in the organization are great for resumes. Employers want to see what you do with your free time while in college. They want to make sure you can take a project from beginning to end.
Research projects with professors
The best part about college is that professors aren’t just there to teach. Behind the scenes, they work on numerous research projects, presentations, case studies, and even consulting gigs with firms. Professors generally love to be asked about their work. Talk to them, find out what they are working on. Then ask them if you can work on a project with them. It could either be a project they’ve already started or come up with a new one. This is another great way to gain experience in your field. Your professor more than likely has connections in the industry. If you work with them, there is a high chance they can get you in touch with people that have the power to hire you, especially if you have good work ethic. Thing is, professors don’t just advertise that they’re willing to work with you on these projects, as there are too many students for them to split their time with. They expect you to go to them, and offer up something of value. They want to help you, but they also want to advance their own Curriculum Vitae through completion of these projects.
Life Skills and civic engagement
This one doesn’t directly get you a job after college, but I feel it is an important part of attending college. College provides you a safety net for learning a bunch of life skills. College is the only time in your life when you can make huge mistakes and recover from them relatively easily. Get fired from a job while in college? You can generally bounce back from that once you graduate. Horrible at managing your time when living on your own? Fail that one class and it’ll snap you into reality. You also just learn how to be an adult in a safer environment. You have resources available, such as a free fitness center (usually), counseling center, health/wellness center, career counseling center, minority services center (if you need it), cooking classes, money management tips, parenting classes, Real Estate 101, and all sorts of other things that colleges get funding for to help you learn to live on your own as an adult. College is in part about becoming an adult who contributes to society, and lives interdependently with the community he or she resides in.
My best years were in college. It’s where I met my wife. It’s where I truly grew up and matured. It’s where I got opportunities I would have never had, such as flying a plane, being a television weatherman, and giving a speech to an audience of 10,000 people. My resume is packed to the margins with skills, expertise, experiences, and projects that happened while I was in college, giving me a leg up on the competition.
It’s true, that college isn’t for everyone. But to say it’s a waste of time and money is a stretch. You just need to invest your time into it to reap the rewards.
Moving into a dorm or residence hall isn’t easy. In addition to leaving your comfy room at home, missing your family, and living with a person you’ve never met, you have to deal with the smaller space you have to work with when moving on campus. Here is a list of items that can make your years in college more bearable, if you can scrape up enough money to buy them, that is.
1. Light-up umbrella
Travelling alone at night through a storm? Rain never fails to appear when you have the longest walk around campus. Prepare yourself with this light-up umbrella for only $22.82. Buy it here.
2. Credit card utility set
I have one of these myself, and it works really handy in many situations. Armed with a pocket knife, tweezers, toothpick, can opener, and more, it is a great tool for any college student. Get it here.
3. Bubble-wrap calendar
Who doesn’t like playing with bubble wrap? With a college student’s limited time, this calendar provides you the opportunity to be productive while having fun puncturing those little suckers every day of the year. Get it here.
4. Glow in the dark toilet paper
You aren’t a college student if you don’t go for those 3am trips to the bathroom after the 4 cans of soda you drank right before bedtime. To prevent unnecessary wiping mishaps, might I suggest this glow-in-the-dark toilet paper to aid you? Get it here.
5. Grocery bag grip
If you are unlucky enough to live on a higher floor in your dorm, getting groceries from your car to your room must be a pain. Living in the third floor while I was in college meant several trips back outside to the car, and the parking lot was quite a ways away. This handy tool allows you to carry all your bags at one time so only one trip is needed. You’re welcome.
6. USB charging batteries
Most everything uses a power outlet these days, whether to get it to work or to charge its internal battery. But every now and then you’ll come across a pesky item that requires good old batteries, like flashlights, remotes, and digital guitar tuners (for all you musicians out there). These batteries hook up to a usb slot in your computer so that buying new batteries are a thing of the past.
7. Mirror wiper
You’re running late this morning. You get up, grab your clothes, and run to the bathroom, only to find that your roommate just got out of the shower and fogged up your mirror. Not to worry! This uber expensive mirror wiper clears up your mirror in one simple motion. For those who just refuse to wipe it any other way, the mirror wiper is there for you.
8. Poor man’s Ipad
Jealous of all the other college students with an Ipad? Upset that it’s apparently a college rite-of-passage that you missed out on somehow? If you’re tight on cash but want to show off, be sure to try out this poor man’s Ipad. Looks just like the real thing, but less likely to break if you stare at it too hard.
9. Bedtime reading glasses
It’s inevitable that you will spend many hours studying for your next exam long into the night. Or, perhaps you like to get some light reading before bedtime. In any case, these really cool glasses allow you to read while laying down, without having to lift your head! It’s the ultimate tool for the lazy. I wonder how many people have fallen asleep using these?
10. Tabletop aquarium
Universities typically don’t allow pets in the dorms, so say goodbye to Spike or Mr. Whiskers when you head off to the big U. However, most colleges do allow a fish aquarium in your dorm. If you want an awesome-looking aquarium without sacrificing the space, check out this sweet tabletop aquarium. It really works! Though be careful, as it is made of pure glass and with a price tag of almost $600, you’d better have a really trustworthy roommate not to break it and flood the room.
I could probably publish a book of all the blunders and faux pas I experienced throughout my years of college. There’s just no escaping it. In order to truly learn in any environment, mistakes need to be made.
However, some mistakes are avoidable. Through talks with students I’ve worked with, friends I’ve confided with, and my own experiences, I’ve compiled the top ten mistakes students make in college, and how you can be a step ahead and avoid them. Below are the top 10 mistakes students make while at college.
10. Joining too many clubs or organizations
It’s very easy to get involved in college. From the moment you step foot on campus, everyone’s telling you about the amazing organizations on campus and the wonderful opportunities to get involved and meet new people. You hear the same thing at orientation, sometimes with representatives of those organizations coming to talk to you. Then, you have the activities fair once classes start, where every organization attempt to recruit you with cookies, goodies, prizes, raffles, and free pizza. And it doesn’t end there. The rest of the year, no matter where you go, you will be inundated with emails, fliers, and handbills about their meetings, events, trips, and fundraisers.
Now don’t get me wrong, getting involved is amazing. I would not be where I am today if not for all the relationships I formed through my organizations. But it can be very easy to sign up for every interesting organization to see and say “yes” to every opportunity. They make it seem so easy. Just sign your name here to be on their email list, come to a weekly or bi-weekly meeting, and voila! You’re involved!
What many freshmen don’t know, however, is that organizations take a lot of work to maintain. What starts off as a simple meeting quickly evolves into many responsibilities to function. An organization that does nothing but meets serves no purpose. There will be more events and they will expect you to help out. So here you are, joining three, four, or five organizations, and all of a sudden they convince you to sign up to work the bake sale fundraiser, help with their homecoming float, put up fliers, hand out pamphlets, and go shopping for supplies. And typically, this will all happen when you are drowning in homework and midterms are right around the corner.
I’ve seen many a student stressed out from too much responsibility. At this point, one of two things tends to happen. The first is that you try to do it all. You follow through with your commitments, and the quality of your work suffers as a result. You struggle to finish your assignments and study adequately for tests, and you do the absolute minimum to get by with your organizational responsibilities. Your GPA then takes a hit and you have to reconsider your priorities next semester. The second possibility is that you just quit the organizations. Easy, right? One thing you must consider when you do this is the organizations you have committed yourselves to. Organizations struggle constantly getting a keeping members, mostly because they experience this situation all the time. They have students sign up and then quit when they realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. Every student that quits hurts the organization, as that’s one set of hands that they counted on that suddenly disappears. This then makes you look bad in their eyes.
To avoid all of this hassle, just think it through what organizations you want to join when you start college. Pick one or two and stick with them, at least towards the end of the semester. If they aren’t for you, you can start fresh. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to get involved in college, so don’t feel rushed to do everything at once.
9. Living off campus if you have the means to live on campus
I want to start this off by being clear as to which students I am and am not referencing with this statement. I am NOT referring to students who live off campus because they are part time, nontraditional, or otherwise are paying their way through college themselves and cannot afford to stay on campus. I am referring to students who do have the means to stay on campus, but choose not to.
There are many out there, and I have seen time and time again those same students drop out from lack of involvement. They don’t really feel included, like a part of the campus, and they end up withdrawing. And even if they do not withdraw, they graduate missing a lot of what employers look for when hiring an employee. Studies have overwhelmingly shown that students who live off campus are less likely to get involved in on-campus organizations, leadership workshops and experiences, use on-campus resources such as tutoring labs, and apply for (and get) internships.
This is true for all students, but it’s doubly true for freshmen. If you are a freshman, I recommend that you do all that you can to live on campus, at least your first year. Many colleges require freshmen to live on campus their first year. However, if you live within a certain distance from the campus (usually around 30-40 miles), you are exempt for this. My suggestion is that, if you are already taking financial aid or student loans to pay for school, take in that extra aid to live on campus, at least that first year. Make connections, meet people, and get involved. It will pay off big time later on.
Living on campus is what gave me the opportunities to apply for a program which, following a chain of events, paid for my entire graduate school education. That extra amount of money I paid for my residence hall my first year saved me tens of thousands of dollars as I got my master’s degree. I speak this from experience.
8. Treating college classes like high school classes
This one is mostly aimed at my high school readers, but I know of many college students who can use this reminder. One of the first things you’ll notice getting to college is that college classes are nothing like high school classes. Professors have certain expectations from you and assume you will meet them. In many classes, attendance isn’t mandatory. Tests are much fewer and far between, sometimes just consisting of a midterm and final. A professor won’t say anything if you have to leave class to answer your phone or use the bathroom. You can just get up and go. You are much more independent, and you will find that they will let you get away with a lot more.
But as a result, you are responsible for the consequences of your actions, and your professor won’t hesitate to fail you if you’re not trying. When they give you an assignment to read a chapter, they will expect you to read the chapter. Many will discuss the chapter in the next class with the assumption that you read it. Be prepared to answer a question from the readings or take a pop quiz. Even if they don’t check on you with a pop quiz or discuss it at the next class, nothing is stopping them from putting it on the test.
A lot of time, professors will give you a study guide for exams, but that is not always the case. They will expect you to take the appropriate notes and develop a studying technique that will work for you. If you have any questions about an assignment, they will expect you to attend their office hours and ask them. You can’t show up the day the assignment is due and say you had a question about it, because you had your chance.
The lesson here is that you are not in high school anymore. Professors will treat you like an adult, but they also expect you to act like an adult. Show up to class, come prepared, and take responsibility for your actions. And whatever you do, do not cheat. It is cheap, tasteless, and an insult to you or a professor. I’ve noticed that college professors are a lot more understanding and flexible than high school teachers, so when you cheat, it is understandable that they will punish you to the fullest extent that they can. They are putting their trust that you will act honestly, and breaking that trust can have harsh consequences.
7. Partying on Sundays
This one was given to me by a student who fell prey to this exact situation. In college, there are parties. And more likely than not, you will go to at least one of them. However, while you’re out at that friend’s house or the club certainly not drinking underage or doing other illegal things, do not do so on Sundays. I am not sure why this is even a thing, as I don’t remember many Sunday parties while I was in college.
But for some reason, this trend is growing, and students are staying out late on Sundays past midnight. The next morning, the college campus looks like a zombie apocalypse, with students dragging their feet over to class, many drunk beyond belief, but others just lacking much-needed rest. If you’re going to party, please party responsibly. This message was brought to you by College For The Win.
6. Slacking off
This one is a no-brainer, but it happens very often so I have to include it. Procrastination is a big part of this. Students will wait until the last minute to do their homework or finish a project. Then, all of a sudden, the internet is down, or their computer malfunctions and deletes their paper, or an emergency sends someone to the hospital. Aside from that last one, you’ll have a difficult time getting a professor to extend their deadline for your assignment if you waited until the last minute to start it. In college, you’ll learn very quickly that you need to develop a timeline for your projects so that you don’t start working on them the night before they’re due.
Slacking off also means just lounging around. This is increasingly popular with college freshmen nowadays. When not in class, they will just loaf around. They’ll loaf around on their bed. They’ll loaf around on their couch. They’ll loaf around on someone else’s bed or someone else’s couch. Don’t fall under this trap. Loafing around will make you lazy and will suck the energy right out of you. You will quickly realize you have no will to do anything and will further promote procrastination. Make it a habit to throw in some study time between classes, while your brain is still active. Keep yourself going throughout the day, being productive in some way. By the end of the day, you will feel much better and much more accomplished. Once you do loaf around during the weekend, you will feel like you’ve earned it.
5. Carelessly using your meal plans
I’ve seen meal plans misused two ways: students will either be careless and use them all up before the semester is over, or they will stockpile them and have too many left over.
The first group are the types that not only use their meal plans to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but will also treat their roommate to a meal, their friend, their visiting family, their dog, and that man down the street they just met. They will use the point system in that plan to buy snacks at the convenience store, and to buy stuff in businesses outside the campus that support meal plans. These students will suddenly realize they’ve used up or are about to use up their meal plans by November, and will have to be eating Ramen Noodles for the rest of the semester.
The second group are the types that are too careful for their meal plan. Fully afraid of falling into group one, group two will be as stingy with their meal plans as possible. They refuse to eat breakfast, eat free meals whenever possible, and don’t even think about asking them to let you use their card. By the end of the semester, they have tons of leftover meal plans that they don’t know what to do with. Since meal plans do not roll over from semester to semester, they are forced to cash them out with more snacks and treats than they know what to do with.
You don’t need to fall into either of these groups. The key word here is moderation. Just do some simple math with the amount of meals you get every semester and ration them off. Make a plan and stick to them. That might help you from making the next mistake on the list:
4. Eating terribly
At some point in your life, you’ve heard of the Freshman 15. For those who haven’t, it’s as simple as it sounds. Once you have the freedom to eat whatever you want in college, it’s very easy to gain fifteen pounds your first year as you learn how to eat correctly.
This isn’t just limited to freshmen, though. You can be susceptible to unhealthy eating any year you are in college. I’ve noticed that many juniors and seniors will fall victim to terrible eating habits. They become so busy with managing their time between school, work, and other outside commitments, that they barely leave time to eat. They typically take quick “to-go” foods that are low on the nutritional meter and don’t typically have time to exercise properly.
The food pyramid does not disappear when you’re in college. Be sure to provide fruits and vegetables in your diets, and balance out your proteins and your carbs. Most universities have at least one type of buffet-type eating establishment. Use that to get as many fruits and vegetables as you want.
It’s very easy in college to eat out a lot. Almost every evening, I had a different group of friends invite me out to eat to hang out, one night at Panera’s, and the next at Ihop. In addition to eating unhealthy, it will take quite a chunk of your change to keep up that lifestyle. Watch what you eat and exercise regularly. The habits you develop in college will follow you for the rest of your life, so be sure to lay down the roots early.
3. Verbal diarrhea on facebook
This one holds a special place in my heart, because I am constantly amazed at the amount of things I see online from people I know, students and nonstudents alike. Verbal diarrhea is what I call posts and status updates that were obviously not thought through before posted. And this isn’t just limited to facebook. Twitter, instagram, flickr, photobucket, any social website with an opportunity to implicate yourself.
In college, it is very common for students to friend their professors and university staff on facebook. Likewise, it’s not unusual for them to follow you on twitter. With that in mind, let me leave you a word of advice: do not talk about that crazy party you went to last night and how drunk you were if you’re under 21 and are friends with the conduct officer at your university. Likewise, do not post pictures of you with a case of Miller lite in your dorm if you’re friends with your resident director. And please, oh please, do not put a facebook status about your boring class when not only are you friends with that professor, BUT YOU’RE POSTING THAT STATUS WHILE YOU’RE IN THEIR CLASSROOM!
All of these have indeed happened, and all of those students have indeed been caught. Look, I understand that we’re all human, and I’d be naïve to think that everyone is a perfect little angel that does no wrong. But please, I don’t need to read about it. I’ve run an orientation program at a university before, and I don’t need to know how drunk you got after your first night on campus. I’m not going to call you out on it, but it’s kind of hard to take you seriously when I see you the next day at orientation when I see how carelessly you post things.
What you post online creates an image of you. Just as professors and staff see you facebook profile, employers will see your facebook profile to find out more about you. Go ahead and do a little test. Pretend you are your potential employer in your dream job. Now go to your facebook (or twitter) profile and scroll through it, knowing nothing but what’s on that profile. What does it currently say about you? What can you gather from the status updates and pictures you’ve posted? I understand the notion of freedom of expression and all of that, but a little tact has never hurt anyone.
2. Bad money management
This is something not only college students are victims of, but people of all ages. Heck, I’m struggling with this as I type this! When you start college, you are going to have a new set of experiences that will challenge you financially. For many of you, you will get your first job. For others, your first bank account. In college, many students get their first credit card, their first major loan (student loans), their first car, and will have to file their own taxes for the first time. Yet, not learning how to manage all of these properly can really screw your credit over, credit that you will need for when you plan to buy a house or make any large purchases once you graduate college. Even if you don’t worry about getting any of those things, simply not building credit can hurt you. Banks and credit companies want to see a strong credit history. They want to know you can manage debt. College is the best place to practice these skills. Many times, they will offer workshops on building credit, or managing your money, or opening a bank account. Keep an eye out for these workshops, as they are free and very valuable tools for you to use.
Be careful with any money you earn from refund checks from your university. Refund checks typically are a result of an overpayment from your financial aid or from a loan. When requesting a loan for the year, only get enough to cover your school expenses. Even though many student loans allow for using the loans for “indirect” college expenses such as a car, a laptop, groceries, and clothes, try to resist the temptation to do so. Student loans add up very quickly. If you get a refund check, put it back towards more direct school expenses. Or put it in a savings account to use later to pay back your loans. It never hurts to have a financial cushion.
1. Not getting to know your professor
I listed this mistake as the number one not because it’s the one with the most to lose, but because it’s the one with the most to gain. In college, it’s okay to befriend a professor. It’s not weird to see them at Wal-mart or at the movie theater. Unlike high school and elementary school teachers, they do live outside the school! (I kid, I kid teachers!)
Your professor is an amazing resource that many students don’t take advantage of. The professor in any given field is likely to have contacts and networks in that field. If you want to be an accountant, and your accountant professor used to work in an accounting firm, don’t you think it would be a good idea to get to know that person better? Now, I’m not saying to brown nose your professor to get in good favor. It’s more about visiting them in their office hours when you have a question about an assignment versus going to the tutoring lab. It’s about genuinely asking them a question about their research after class ends.
Through my professors, I have made many connections for jobs, research opportunities, scholarships, and graduate school recommendations. Moreso, by building a relationship with your professor, they are more likely to give you a glowing, detailed recommendation when you apply for a job or scholarship. Graduate schools look more favorable at students who are known by their professors. It suggests that they are really there to learn and make the most of their college experience.
Professors are often the experts in their field, with most of them holding PHDs in work that they are passionate about. They love to talk about their work, and there is a lot to gain by listening to them. Professors make great mentors, people who you can stay in contact with for the rest of your life. I’ve had friends who had their professors attend their weddings, as well as their baby showers. By just going to class, doing your homework, passing your tests, and graduating, you are missing out on a lot of what makes college such an amazing experience.
So there you have it. The top 10 mistakes made by college students. Learn from the others who went through it before you. Feel free to leave a comment below on any mistakes you’ve seen or experienced in college.
College applications have been filled out, transcripts submitted, and campus tours scheduled. Only one problem: there are so many colleges to choose from! Considering you are going to spend the next four years there (or five, or six… it happens), this isn’t a decision you can take lightly. And even worse, obsessing over making the “correct” decision could wear you out easily, and could even cause you to delay the decision (I’ve had many friends to whom this happened). However, choosing the right college or university does not have to be a stressful task. The key to choosing the right college or university is to come up with a structured plan. The first step of that plan is to decide what you value most in a college. Everyone has different priorities, so you shouldn’t make your college decision just because that’s where your friend or significant other is going.
To find out what you value most in college, take a look at the below primary and secondary college traits many of my students have looked at in the past. Rank your top five primary traits and focus on those. Once you find a few colleges that meet your top five requirements, take a look at the rest of the traits to pick the one that best fits your needs.
Type of college
A good starting point would be to decide the type of college you want to go to. You’ll be surprised to find that there are many types of colleges, some that you may have never even heard of. Do you want to go to a large state university with a well-known football team? A private liberal arts college in a small college town? A two-year community college in a big city? Take a look at my earlier post on the different types of colleges for more information on which type of college would best fit your needs.
Focus of the college
The focus of the college is often related to the type of college, but not always. The focus of the college relates to who they are targeting, as well as what they consider to be most important. The easiest way to do this is through a quick perusal of their website. Go to the college’s home page and take a look at the design. What do you see? The bright university colors with their mascot and logo in the background? A more conservative, business-like background with a listing of academic programs? A welcome from the university president to showcase the close-knit campus community?
Now browse through the website. See what they emphasize. Commuter-friendly colleges will highlight their evening classes and flexible schedules, while state universities will highlight their expansive campuses and list of amenities. Many private universities will list their high rankings and awards, while large, online colleges will focus on their large, established networks of graduates and alumni.
If you live on the east coast, do you think you can stand going to a university located in the dry plains of Arizona? Maybe that’s exactly what you want, experiencing something new in a location you’ve never been to. Geographic location can play a big part in your college experience. It can affect many parts of your life, with factors such as weather, culture, and even landscaping playing a big role.
This was a big deal for me, since I experienced culture shock going from New Jersey to Florida for my undergraduate degree, and then from Florida to Oklahoma for my graduate degree. But they were both amazing experiences I would never take back. It opened my mind in ways that no other experience in my life could compare. Don’t underestimate the power of a college’s location.
Distance from home
I’ll be honest, when I was college hunting, this was on my top three list of priorities. Hispanic families are typically very close, and mine was no exception. I wanted to make sure that I was never too far away from my family, wanting to be at the very least within driving distance from them. Perhaps you are the same way. Or perhaps, you want to get as far away from your family as possible. That’s fine, I won’t judge.
In any case, keep in mind that the distance your college is from your home will affect how often you can go home, as well as how expensive. If you get homesick easily and don’t think you can stay away from the fam, perhaps it’s not the best idea to travel across the country. It’ll cost you your future first born and both your legs for a plane ticket, and you’ll only get to see them twice a year (three if you decide to go home for spring break instead of joining your friends to that road trip across Europe).
Cost of college
Like many things in life, it all comes down to the money. This is typically the first thing your parents will look at before they agree to write you a check or co-sign your student loan for you. There’s not much to say about cost that you don’t already know. The idea here is to find the cheapest college that meets all your needs. However, cost isn’t as important a factor when you consider the next factor:
Let’s be real here, unless your parents work for a university or can print money, you won’t be able to afford college. Fortunately, there are several sources of financial aid such as grants, loans, scholarships, and work study. Grants, such as the federal Pell Grant, are need-based scholarships that aid you based on your (and your parents’) income. Loans are just that: borrowed money. It is fairly easy to qualify for student loans. Just make sure you aim for the subsidized loans instead of unsubsidized. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you’re in college; unsubsidized loans do. Scholarships vary widely, depending on who offers them. They can be offered by university alumni, wealthy individuals, corporations, or non-profit organizations. Some may be need-based, but a lot are based on other factors, such as grade point average, volunteer hours, leadership experience, and essay construction. If you are eligible for work study, you can get an on-campus job to help you pay for books, groceries, and other incidentals.
Different colleges have different amounts and types of aid. Be sure to ask about what is offered at your prospective colleges either by calling their financial aid office or during your campus tour. You can also search online for various independent scholarships.
No university has every possible academic program. And just because a university offers a particular program, it doesn’t mean it’s any good. If the quality of the academic program is high on your priority list, then it would be in your best interest to find out as much as you can about it. How many full time faculty does that program have in a particular college? How many students apply and how many do they accept? What are their entrance requirements? How many of their students graduate and how many are employed afterwards in their desired field? Does the program make any national rankings? Is it well-known nationwide?
Once you’ve narrowed down your colleges to the top two or three, you may find that it can be particularly difficult to choose between them. If you’ve looked at all the primary traits above and still can’t make a decision, be sure to consider these secondary traits. While not as important, they could make enough of a difference for a tie-breaker.
Range of Programs
About 80 percent of college students change their major in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A lot of times it’s a major in a completely different field. If you are undecided on your major or aren’t 100 percent on the one you’ve chosen, you may want to consider a college with a wide range of program options, just in case you decide to switch. That way, you’ll have a good range to choose from. If you go to ITT Tech and then decide to become a Philosophy major, you’ll be out of luck. And changing universities is a lot tougher than changing majors.
The community around the college
Every now and then, you just want to get out of the college environment to get your mind off of things. If you live in a college town, good luck finding that escape. You’ll find students, faculty, and staff everywhere. If you want an out, you’ll have to drive to the city, which could be quite a while away. And outside of a few bars and yogurt shops, there won’t be much in the way of entertainment.
Colleges located in the city have more access to more things. You don’t have to drive far to find just about anything you need. But you do have to deal with the extra traffic and the higher crime rates that are typical for larger cities.
If you’re planning to live on campus, you may want to see what types of dining options they offer. After all, that’s where you will be eating the majority of the year. A quick stop at their dining hall during your campus tour should give you a pretty good preview of what to expect.
This one is really hard to measure. However, you can just feel it in your gut. When you visit a college, be sure to see the students that go there. What’s the campus culture like? Do you see yourself fitting into that world? Would it be too much of a culture shock? I’ve attended two universities and worked at two, and it is amazing just how different the social climates were for all of them.
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Crazy, huh? Do you ever wonder why we need so many? For one thing, colleges can serve a bunch of different needs. As a result, different types of colleges have been created to meet the needs of their particular niche. Below are the types of colleges you may encounter in your college search.
Community colleges are two-year colleges that can serve a variety of functions, such as providing associate degrees, providing general education courses before transferring to a four-year university, and to take non-degree classes for work or just interest. They are typically very large, sometimes with over 30,000 students. Community colleges often get a bad rap, but they serve a very vital purpose in the communities they are located in. They often offer job fairs, health services, libraries, and other services that the community can take advantage of.
Regional colleges typically serve the area where they’re located. They provide a convenient option for students who do not want to travel too far from home. A lot of the time they’re not too expensive, and the added sense of familiarity serves as a plus for many students and families.
Liberal Arts colleges
Liberal arts colleges serve a specific purpose. They focus on interdisciplinary studies for students who want a more well-rounded education. They are typically small and offer generalized degrees. The small faculty-to-student ratios and low cost attract many students, though the higher admission standards makes them more selective than other colleges.
State universities are hard to miss. They are large, have an expansive network of dedicated alumni, and have a football team that your town is either for or against. They offer the largest selection of academic programs and majors, as well as generous in-state tuition costs for residents of the state. They are significant in that they create an entire culture in the town they are located and the towns around them, and many of them focus on research to help advance many fields.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the Black community. A quick search online will tell you that there are 106 HBCUs in the United States. They can come in many different forms, from two-year to four-year, public to private. The mission of HBCUs is state to be to provide education to Black Americans, though in their current state they contain students from all races.
Hispanic Serving Institutions
Similar to BHCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) primarily serve Hispanic students, often hiring Hispanic and bilingual faculty to serve as a resource for the students that attend.
Proprietary Institutions (for-profit)
Proprietary Institutions, also known as for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix, are institutions that are run like businesses. Basically, the owners make a profit out of student fees. At face value, it is easy to see issues with this type of institution, and they indeed have received lots of criticism over the years. Supporters of proprietary institutions claim that universities that operate on a for-profit basis operate more efficiently, with these efficiencies leading to lower fees. Likewise, a profit-motivated university in theory leads to administrators working harder to fit the demands and needs of the students, and they would have the capability to do it much faster than universities running on state funding and endowments.
Independent Institutions (private)
Independent institutions, more commonly referred to as private institutions, operate similarly to public institutions except for the fact that they are less dependent on state and federal funds to operate. Since funding for private universities comes from student fees and tuition and not governing bodies, they are less prone to the limits and restrictions that state governments put on public universities. They are also generally better-funded, as seen by state-of-the-art equipment and campus buildings. The downside to these universities is the cost, as private universities can be quite expensive. Not only that, but private universities can be more controlling of the students they admit and the rules they must follow. For example, private religious universities can require students to attend religious services and to uphold particular practices while they are enrolled there.