5 Questions to Ask on College Campus Tours July 22nd, 2014
College Tour

5 Questions to Ask During a Campus Visit

Last year, we brought you information on three questions to ask during a college campus tour. This year, we’re bringing five more questions to ask, so you can get more out of your college campus tours and make sure you choose the right college for you.

1. Will I take any classes in my college major during my freshman year?

At many colleges, your first year of school will include taking mostly general education classes. However, at some colleges, you’ll get to take courses in your college major, such as Engineering 101 or Psychology 101, right away. The earlier you can take courses in your major, the earlier you can know if you made the right choice or if you want to change your major.

2. How easy or difficult is it to get into classes I’ll need to graduate?

At college, some courses aren’t offered every semester. Some courses are extremely popular and are hard to get into. Some entry-level courses in certain popular majors may fill up quickly. On your campus visit, you may be able to meet with an academic advisor in your intended major. Ask which courses fill up quickly, and how they’ll help you get into classes you need to graduate if a course is full by the time you register.

3. Do most students stay on campus or leave campus on weekends?

The answer to this question will tell you a lot of about what campus life is like. If most students live nearby and go home on weekends, your options for weekend fun on campus may be limited. If students tend to stick around, it likely means there’s lots to do on campus and in the town where your university is located.

4. Who can get into the residence halls?

Your safety is important, and each school handles access to residence halls differently. At some colleges, any visitors in the residence halls need to check in with security or a Resident Assistant (RA) at a hall desk. Some colleges lock external residence hall doors after certain hours so only residents can get in with a key (or key card). Other colleges may have more relaxed policies. Make sure you know what to expect so you can feel comfortable living on campus.

5. What will the career services offices do to help me get a job or internship?

Internships during college are increasingly important to help you land your first job. But to land an internship or a job, you may need help or advice from your university’s career services office. Ask what resources are available to help you find jobs: Does the school have a job search board or connections with employers in the community? Where have they helped students find internships or jobs in the past? What workshops or one-on-one training are offered to help you craft your resume, write cover letters or prepare for interviews?

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6 Cool College Classes You’ll Want to Take July 17th, 2014
College Classes

Cool College Classes

English. Calculus. Physics. These may be some of the classes you would expect to take at college, and they probably don’t sound too exciting. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting classes to take.

Check out these unique college courses, and look in your own college’s course catalog for similarly interesting courses you could take.

Circus Arts: At Triton College (IL), you can learn skills such as juggling, swinging trapeze, web rope, unicycling, clowning, and more. The class meets twice a week in the evenings during the spring semester and performs at the end of the semester in the Triton Trouper Circus. This course is considered a continuing education course (which means it won’t count toward degree requirements) and it’s sponsored by the school’s Office of Student Life.

Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyoncé: If you’re a Beyoncé fan, you’ll love this undergraduate course at Rutgers University (NJ). According to the course description, “the course will attempt to think about our contemporary U.S. society and its current classes, racial, gender and sexual politics through the music and career of Beyoncé.”

Golf Course Management: Love to golf? This undergraduate course at Tarleton State University (TX) may be just for you! Study turfgrass, greens management, water conservation, course setup, personnel management and budgeting. We hear there are field trips, too. The course is part of the university’s Environmental and Agricultural Management bachelor’s degree program.

The Hunger Games: Young Adult Dystopia in Popular Culture: Mount Holyoke College (MA) is offering this online course on The Hunger Games this summer. The course focuses on how this book “… understands, interrogates, and shapes young adulthood for a contemporary audience,” and teaches you important critical reading and effective writing skills.

Introduction to Wines: Become a wine snob (or at least learn what to order at a business meeting after college). Cornell University’s (NY) School of Hotel Administration offers this popular two-credit course each semester to juniors and seniors. You can learn what all the terms on a wine label mean, as well as about wine-producing regions of the world, wine evaluation techniques, factors that influence production, food and wine pairing, wine etiquette, and responsible consumption.

Zombies: Can’t miss an episode of “The Walking Dead”? This class at San Diego State University (CA) may be just the right course for you. During the course, you can discuss zombie films, video games and texts. But don’t think this is an easy A: a midterm, final research paper and a multimedia presentation are just a few of the course requirements.

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How to Graduate College in Four Years July 10th, 2014
Graduate

How to Graduate College in Four Years

Did you know that only 59 percent of students graduate college with a bachelor’s degree within six years? For each additional semester it takes to graduate, the more money you’ll spend on tuition, room and board, and other fees (like textbooks).

Your ability to graduate from college in four years depends largely on the requirements of your college major, the size of your school (and how difficult or easy it is to get in the classes you need), your own motivation, and whether you decide to participate in a study abroad or other extra programs.

If you’ve always envisioned yourself graduating in four years (or if your college budget requires it), use these tips to get to your college graduation on time (or sooner).

1. Earn college credit in high school. There are lots of ways to earn college credit in high school, from taking (and passing) AP tests to enrolling in approved courses that count for both high school and college credit.

In addition, some colleges let you “test out” of taking certain general education courses (such as English, math or a foreign language) based on your college entrance exam test scores or through taking proficiency or placement exams once you’re on campus.

Ask your academic advisor (after you arrive at college) or admission counselor (before you go to college) for details.

2. Avoid changing your major. Changing your major once or twice early in your freshman or sophomore years shouldn’t set you back too far, but changing your major once you’re a junior or senior (or changing your major multiple times), can start impacting your time to graduation.

The reason? Each major has different requirements and prerequisite courses. So, if you change your major from say English to engineering, chances are not too many major-specific credits will count toward meeting your new major’s degree requirements. And that means it’ll take you more time to complete your degree.

3. Avoid transferring to a new college. Sometimes it takes attending a college for a semester to figure out it’s just not the right place for you. And that’s okay. But if you’re going to transfer colleges, check in advance with the new college you want to attend to confirm which credits from your current school will transfer and count toward your degree requirements. In many cases, not all credits will transfer, so it’s best not to transfer more than once, if you can help it.

4. Check for a four-year guarantee. Some colleges offer a four-year guarantee to students. If yours offers this, take advantage of it. You’ll likely need to create a four-year course plan during your freshman year and may need to fill out paperwork to make the guarantee official.

Be sure to read all the fine print so you can fulfill your end of the agreement. Talk to your academic advisor or an admission counselor to learn more.

5. Take a full course load. A full-time course load typically includes a minimum of 12 credits and a maximum of 18 credits. Once you reach full-time status, there’s no additional tuition charge to take more courses. To stay on track to graduate, try to take as many credits as you can handle each semester. In fact, many states and universities are now implementing “15 to Finish” campaigns, which encourage students to take at least 15 credits each semester in order to graduate in four years.

Keep in mind, the more courses you take, the more homework you’ll have and more tests you’ll need to study for. So, start out with 12 or 15 credits your first semester to give yourself time to adjust to college life and learn how to balance your time for work, studying and fun.

6. Choose extra programs wisely. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, while still going to college. Many colleges encourage (or require) you to participate in study abroad or other experiential learning programs. Before you decide which program to participate in, though, make sure the credits you’ll earn during the experience will count toward your major’s degree requirements. If not, look for a different program that has more compatible courses.

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How to Make the Most of Your College Freshman Orientation July 8th, 2014
Students Bowling

Make the Most of Your College Freshman Orientation

Attending your college’s freshman orientation is a big step toward becoming a college student. While each college does things differently during orientation, you can most likely expect to get your student ID card and university e-mail address, learn about campus policies and resources, become familiar with where things (like the dining center) are on campus, meet other new students, and even register for classes.

How can you make the most of this experience? Use these four tips to maximize your college freshman orientation experience.

1. Plan ahead. Check out your school’s orientation website so you know what to expect at orientation (such as where you’ll be staying, what activities are planned, what paperwork you need to bring, and if you need to register in order to attend). Many colleges also have you register for classes during orientation, so check out the school’s Web page for your major, as well as the course catalog or fall semester course schedule to learn about degree requirements and courses offered in the fall.

2. Participate in activities. Keep an open mind at orientation and play along with the activities the college has planned. Participate in getting-to-know-you games, movie nights, field trips and more. These activities will help you bond with your new classmates. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet your new college BFF.

3. Take notes. You’re going to get a lot of info about rules and policies, resources on campus, registering for classes and more at orientation (sometimes in a boring lecture-style format), but the information colleges provide during orientation will be helpful throughout your entire college career. Pay attention and bring a pen and paper (or a laptop or tablet) to take notes on the important stuff.

4. Get out of your comfort zone. Orientation may seem a little awkward at first, since you’re in a new place with people you don’t know. But guess what? Everyone else is in the same boat as you. Make an effort to get to know your new classmates and try new activities that you may not normally try, perhaps things like climbing the rock wall at the rec center.

Get more tips on getting started at college.

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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College Major of the Month: Criminal Justice July 3rd, 2014
Criminal Justice Major

College Major of the Month: Criminal Justice

A college major in criminal justice can lead to a number of career paths, from a police officer to a lawyer to a victim’s advocate. With all the career possibilities, we’re spotlighting criminal justice as this month’s My College Guide College Major of the Month.

What is criminal justice? Criminal justice is a wide-ranging major and career field. A degree in criminal justice can prepare you for a career as a judge, law enforcement officer, lawyer, mediator, police detective, paralegal or legal assistant, probation officer/corrections specialist, security guard or victim’s advocate.

For all criminal justice jobs, you’ll need strong communication, critical thinking and decision making skills, as well as an ability to cope emotionally with difficult or upsetting circumstances.

What education and experience is required for criminal justice majors? A bachelor’s degree is typically required for entry-level positions in criminal justice careers. You’ll take courses on the law, criminal procedures, ethics, theories on criminal behavior and other social sciences and humanities topics. Some fields may require additional education or training beyond a bachelor’s degree. For example, to become a police officer, you’ll need to go through a police agency’s training academy. To become a lawyer, you’ll need to attend graduate school and earn a Juris Doctor degree.

When choosing a university, consider the focus of the school’s curriculum and how it fits with your career aspirations. Some programs focus primarily on training for law enforcement careers, while other programs focus more broadly on the issues of justice. For example, Mount Mary University’s (WI) justice program focuses on a survivor’s perspective of justice.

How much money do criminal justice majors make? The average starting salary for a criminal justice graduate with a bachelor’s degree is $34,800, according to the September 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey. Salaries vary depending on your career path, specific job, employer and location. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median annual salary was:

  • $46,990 for paralegals
  • $48,190 for probation officers
  • $56,980 for police officers and detectives
  • $61,280 for mediators
  • $113,530 for lawyers

How should I prepare in high school to major in criminal justice? Take courses in social sciences and humanities (such as sociology and psychology), as well as government and political science in high school. In addition, some jobs (such as police officers) may require certain physical qualifications, so it’s important to begin an exercise routine to become or remain physically fit. It’s also important to follow the laws and stay drug free, since a felony or other conviction (even for something minor) could impact your career opportunities.

What college scholarships are available for criminal justice majors? There are many local college scholarships for students seeking a criminal justice degree. For example, the Constitutional Officers’ Association of Georgia (COAG) offers three scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,500 for Georgia high school graduates, while the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association awards scholarships to Indiana students each year. National police and law associations may also offer scholarships. The U.S. government offers scholarships, too, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Scholarship Program.

Get more advice and information on choosing a major.

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College Scholarships Ending in July 2014 June 26th, 2014
Scholarship Money

Apply for College Scholarships

Summer is a time for friends, fun and finding college scholarships! My College Guide has rounded up 10 college scholarships with deadlines coming up soon in July 2014. Most of the scholarships this month require an essay, and some are for students in 9th through 12th graders, so get your laptop out and start typing! It could earn you anywhere from $250 to $20,000 to help pay for college.

Scholarships with deadlines in July 2014

Brian White Academic Scholarship: A Texas-based attorney offers a $1,000 scholarship to students from anywhere in the United States. Applicants must write an essay that explains if you think DUI/DWI offenders should be imprisoned on the first offense, and how the offender’s decision to drive drunk resulting in the injury of an innocent person may impact your point of view. Deadline: July 1

Spokeo Connections Scholarship: Recently graduated high school seniors and current college freshmen can apply for this $1,000 scholarship. Write an essay on one of three topics. Deadline: July 1

The Donna Foss Independence Day Essay Scholarship Contest: Write an essay on the theme “Happy Birthday, America” to participate in this scholarship contest. The top award is $5,000, followed by second and third place awards of $2,500 and $1,000. Deadline: July 13

Movers Corp Moving Scholarship: Share your moving stories to win this $500 scholarship. Deadline: July 15

Women in Defense HORIZONS Scholarship: Female college juniors and seniors pursuing careers in national security or defense can apply for this scholarship. Past awards have ranged between $4,000 and $20,000. Deadline: July 15

Sharps Compliance, Inc., Scholarships: If you’re pursuing a career in the health care industry, you can apply for this scholarship. An essay is required. Prizes are $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Deadline: July 18

Family Travel Forum Teen Travel Writing Scholarship: Do you love to travel? Then this scholarship, which is open to students in grades 8 through 12, may be for you. Applicants must write a blog post (with at least one photo or video) about a trip you’ve taken. Award amounts range from $250 to $1,000. Additional scholarship opportunities are available for entries about travel in New York State or the New York City metro region. Deadline: July 27

Flavor of the Month Scholarship: In honor of National Ice Cream Month in July, submit a brief (250 words or less) essay about what ice cream flavor you would be and why for a chance to win a $1,500 scholarship. This scholarship is open to all students, ages 13 and up. Deadline: July 31

NursesLink.org Nursing Program Scholarship: If you’re currently enrolled in (or plan to enroll in) an undergraduate nursing program, you can apply for this $1,000 scholarship. The application requires an essay on how you’d present yourself in a job interview situation where you’re competing against several other qualified nursing candidates. Deadline: July 31

Storage.com Scholarship Contest: Current high school seniors, current college students or parents of a student going to college can submit an essay to apply for this $2,500 scholarship. If your essay is selected to move to the second round of competition, you’ll have to get creative and promote it using social media. Deadline: July 31

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How to Google for College Scholarships June 24th, 2014
Online Scholarships

Steps for Googling College Scholarships

There are tons of websites you can use to look for college scholarships, but one of the most powerful online tools for finding college scholarships is Google. We’ll show you how you can make the most of Google’s search engine to find scholarships to help you pay for college.

Step 1. Choose search terms wisely. You can start a Google search for scholarships by simply typing in college scholarships. This may come up with too many results for you to look through, so narrow your search by adding in additional terms such as your intended college major (e.g., biology scholarships, engineering scholarships), your college’s name, or the name of organizations you’re involved with (e.g., Key Club, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts).

Step 2. Narrow your search with “and” or quotation marks. Once you determine the best general search terms to use (see Step 1), you can narrow results even further by adding the word “and,” as well as quotation marks in your search (e.g., biology and “college scholarships”). When you use quotation marks, Google will return results that exactly match the terms within the quotation marks. Using the word “and” tells Google you want it to find pages with all the terms you’ve typed in, not just some of them. This should help you get more relevant search results.

Step 3. Narrow further by location. Many local organizations in your community may offer college scholarships. Try adding in your city, state, or county (e.g., business college scholarships in California) to find local scholarships in your area.

Step 4. Search a specific website using Google. Many professional organizations in your field of study and nonprofit organizations in your community may also offer scholarships. If you find their website, but can’t find scholarship information on it, try searching the site using Google. Simply type site: and then the website’s URL, along with the word scholarship (e.g., for marketing scholarships, you might search site:www.ama.org scholarships). You could do this same type of search on your high school’s website to see if your guidance office posts college scholarship information and deadlines online. (e.g., site:milwaukee.k12.wi.us scholarships).

Learn more about finding college scholarships.

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Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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3 Ways to Get the Most From Your College Experience June 19th, 2014
Student Experience

Make the Most of Your College Experience

Where to go to college is a huge decision for high school students, but a recent Gallup poll, conducted with Purdue University and the Lumina Foundation, shows that how you go to college is more important than where you go to college.

According to the Gallup-Purdue Index, which polled 30,000 college graduates nationwide, there’s no difference in workplace engagement or a college graduate’s well-being if they attended a public or private not-for-profit institution, a highly selective institution or a top 100-ranked school in U.S. News  & World Report. A student’s workplace engagement and well-being is better determined by what the student did while he or she was in college.

So what can you do to get the most out of college and have better opportunities in your career and in life?

1. Engage with faculty.

Get to know your professors. Find a professor who can serve as your mentor, challenge you and support you. In the Gallup-Purdue Index, graduates who had at least one professor who made them excited about learning, cared about them as a person and was a mentor, had more than double the odds of being engaged at work and thriving in terms of their well-being.

2. Participate in an internship.

The Gallup-Purdue Index found that students who participated in an internship-type program were also more likely to be engaged at work and have a high well-being. You can start looking for internships or co-ops as early as your freshman year. Visit your college’s career center as early as possible to learn about job and internship finding resources as well as to get help writing your resume and cover letters and preparing for interviews.

3. Keep your debt as low as possible.

According to the Gallup-Purdue Index, a relationship exists between the level of student debt and a graduate’s well-being and entrepreneurial experience. Three times fewer graduates who took out between $20,000 and $40,000 in undergraduate student loan debt are thriving in their well-being compared with those with no school loan debt. Twenty-six percent of graduates with no debt have started their own business, compared with 16 percent for those with $40,000 or more.

To keep your debt low, find as many college scholarships and grants as you can, since those funds are “free money” that you don’t have to pay back once you complete your college degree. Also, take advantage of any federal work-study money that you are awarded.

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7 Things NOT to Share With Your College Roommate June 12th, 2014
Dorm Room

What to Bring to College

Earlier this week, we brought you information on items you’ll want to bring to college and share with your college roommate. Today, we’re bringing you the opposite: things you won’t want to share with your roommate. Here’s our list of items you’ll want to bring for your own use at college:

1. Alarm clock—We know you’ve got an alarm clock on your smartphone, but sometimes it’s good to have a back up in case your phone battery dies in the middle of the night.

2. Laptop and/or tablet—You’ll need your laptop and/or tablet to take notes in class and work on homework, so it’s a good idea to have your own. Check with your college’s IT department to find out what specifications to look for if you’re buying a new device just for college.

3. Dishware and food storage containers—Even if you have a dining plan, it’s likely you’ll eat a meal or snack in your room at some point. You won’t need much of this, but you’ll want a couple of microwaveable plates and bowls; a few forks, knives and spoons; a cup or coffee mug; and a couple of food storage containers. Having a few of these items of your own will ensure you’ll have what you need when you want to eat a snack or quick breakfast in your room.

4. Shower supplies—We’re not just talking toiletries like shampoo, conditioner and soap. You’ll want your own shower caddy/basket to haul your shower essentials to and from the bathroom, as well as your own set (or two) or towels and a pair of plastic shower flip flops. And don’t forget a bathrobe so you can cover up while walking down the hall to the shower.

5. Bedding—Obviously, each of you will have your own bed, so each of you will need to bring sheets (usually extra long ones), a blanket, a bedspread and even pillows.

6. Bike—This is something you could possibly share with your roommate, but if you plan to use your bike a lot to go to class across campus, you may want to take your own (as well as a good bike chain and lock) so it’s available for you to use when you need it.

7. Video game console—If you want to play video games and don’t want to start over at level 1, you may want to bring your own console.

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8 Things to Share With Your College Roommate June 10th, 2014
Dorm Life

Things to Share With Your Roommate

Once you get your college roommate assignment, you can start planning who will bring what to college in the fall.

Before you contact your roommate, check your college’s housing office website (or contact the housing office directly) to see what items are already included in the room and learn about rules for items you can and can’t bring. A typical dorm room usually includes a bed/mattress, desk, desk chair and a dresser, along with a cable TV and Internet connection.

Many of the items you’ll want to share with your roommate are big-ticket items. By sharing these with your roommate, you can cut the cost of items you’ll need to bring with you during your freshman year. So you can avoid having two microwaves and no TV, here’s a list of dorm room items to discuss with your future roomie (and hopefully, your future best friend).

1. TV and DVD player—When you’re not studying, a TV and DVD player in your room will come in handy for entertainment. You won’t need a large one, so a small, inexpensive flat screen TV might be a good option. The DVD player will come in handy so you can watch videos rented at the Redbox down the street or via Netflix.

2. Microwave—Some colleges may not allow these in dorms rooms (or may already have them available), so check with your housing office before buying. If microwaves are allowed, check on wattage requirements.

3. Mini-refrigerator—Check with your housing before buying this item. Some colleges may already have these included in the room, while others may have size restrictions on how large your mini-fridge can be.

4. Coffee maker—Whether one or both of you drink coffee, you only need one of these machines taking up space in your dorm room. Some colleges require coffee makers to have an automatic shut-off.

5. Room décor—Talk with your roommate about what he or she plans to bring to decorate your room. This way you can color-coordinate your room, and split up the purchasing of items like rugs and posters.

6. Ironing board and iron—Having two ironing boards and irons just takes up more space, so these two items could be more things you can share. ’Cuz really, how often do you iron your clothes anyway?

7. Extra furniture—Although dorms rooms typically aren’t super huge, many students make room for an extra chair (such as a recliner or a bean bag chair) or even a small futon. Talk with your roommate about what he or she plans to bring, so you don’t both end up bringing a big piece of furniture and end up arguing about who will take theirs back home.

8. Fans—If your dorm room isn’t air conditioned (or even if it is), having a couple of fans to circulate the air and keep it cool (especially in the first few months of school) will help keep your room comfortable. Talk to your roommate about how many fans and what kinds of fans (box fan, circulating fan, etc.) you want to bring.

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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