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Used Textbooks vs. Campus Bookstores

There’s no argument that college textbooks are one of the pricier expenditures in a college student’s budget. Some services like sell used books, and others like Chegg offer rentals. But are they more or less convenient? And are students willing to pay the extra price to have their books right away?


Legislation May Make it Easier to File a FAFSA

Don’t you just love filling out the FAFSA?  In case you haven’t had the pleasure of filling out this form, it stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it’s the form the federal government uses to determine how much your family (or you, if you’re an independent) can pay for college.  The FAFSA is 11 pages long.  Loads of fun!fafsa

Happily, thanks to new legislation in Congress, it may soon be simpler to file a FAFSA.

Basically, here’s how it works.  The current FAFSA takes an ungodly long time to fill out in part because parents and students have to report all of their tax information. It’s kind of like having to do your taxes twice–and repeat this every single year that someone in the family is in college.  If this new legislation passes, the IRS will be able to share information with the Department of Education, so this info won’t have to be reported twice.  Imagine that.

The advantage of this legislation isn’t just that people will be freed from mountains of paperwork. The real problem is that some students and parents who are eligible for financial aid don’t bother filling out the intimidating form and lose out on money they really need, which, in some cases, means no college.  Does that sound like an uncommon problem?  It’s not.

So please, President Bush, sign the bill. It’s sailed through the House and the Senate, and it’s a no-brainer.

Another College Student Dies of Alcohol Poisoning

It breaks my heart when it happens–and it makes me mad, because it’s such a waste. I’m talking about college students dying of alcohol poisoning due to binge drinking sprees. Here’s the latest of these pointless alcohol deaths, the victim being a 21-year-old Minnesota State University student who was celebrating at his cousin’s 21st birthday party. His name was Peter Sand, and he was from a small town called Zumbrota.

Imagine what this student’s parents must be going through. Imagine how his cousins feels, and how his cousin will feel for the rest of his life on his birthday. And for what?binge drinking

I don’t like to preach to students–but kids, please be smart! There’s a big difference between drinking for fun and drinking so much that your life is in danger. I don’t understand why people feel the need to drink so much that they get violently ill or worse. There’s a point at which more drinks aren’t going to make your night out more fun.

Here’s something you should know: the danger signs of alcohol poisoning.

  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Confusing or stupor
  • Passing out

If you see someone who exhibits these signs, get help. Don’t worry about overreacting. It sounds like Peter Sand was exhibiting some of these behaviors before he died–and if someone had “overreacted,” they may have saved him.

College Students Prey for Credit Card Companies

credit cardsWith the start of the new school year, college campuses will be filling up with doe-eyed freshman, school spirit, pink slips for classes… and credit card companies. Luring students with school t-shirts, backpacks and other goods, they wait outside of classrooms, in the Union and at football games.

Be prepared. Understand your credit score, the ramifications of having credit cards and the debt and let your first college lesson be financial responsibility.

One College Campus is Banning Cars

I recently read an article online discussing how Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine intends on banning the use of cars for its first year students beginning in 2009. Of course, this is the year I will be entering college and this article made me question why exactly a college would decide on such a rule.

bowdoin college

As I read the article, I saw a few reasons the college gave as to why they made this decision. One is because it is one of the college’s decisions that helps to promote ongoing efforts that make the school and its students more environmentally responsible. Going green is a big thing right now and I must tip my hat to Bowdoin for making such efforts to help the environment, but will it make that much of a difference if the school only bans its first year students from using their cars?

I can see although, after one year of not using your car, you get used to relying on other forms of transportation and realize that having a car would be pointless. So starting this with their first year students and making sure that they stick with this ban, hopefully by the time the class that starts in 2009 are starting their senior year, the Bowdoin campus will be almost car free.

Also in the article, I found that Bowdoin will be introducing other forms of transportation such as Yellow Bikes, a Bowdoin Shuttle Service, and Zipcars that will be available for borrowing. So not only is the school implementing the ban, but they are also providing other ways for their students to get around. Of course, there is also the choice of public transportation, but the fact that the college is providing other ways of transportation will make it easier for students to get around without depending on a car.

One point I don’t quite fully agree with though is that the college believes it will cause those who live on campus to have a greater sense of community. While this may hold true to a certain extent, it seems that even though the students don’t have access to their own car, they still have other modes of transportation, allowing for them to get off campus in different ways. I don’t think students having cars or not having cars necessarily will affect the sense of community among the students.

So while this ban has some things I don’t see eye-to-eye with, for the most part I think that this decision will be a great one for the college and it will pave the road for other colleges, especially if the ban works well for the college.

5 College Application Essay Tips

laptopWriting a personal essay for your college application may feel daunting.  After all, you’re being asked to “sell yourself” with your own words, which is probably something you don’t have much experience with.  Here are five tips to help you put together a stellar essay.

  1. Be yourself. The folks at the college admissions office have read more than their share of student essays.  They know what sounds genuine, and they know what sounds phony.  When writing an essay, never try to sound like what you think you should sound like.  Be yourself– you best self, of course, but always yourself.
  2. Be original. The people reading these essays have read an awful lot of essays about Spirit Week, student volunteer work, and typical student experiences.  To make your essay stand out from the crowd, write about an experience or two that is unique to your own experiences.   Did you overcome some kind of difficult experience in your life?  Did you visit someplace not everybody goes?  Be creative.  And yes, even if you feel like you’ve led a perfectly average existence, if you think hard enough you’ll realize that you’ve done something unique and noteworthy.
  3. Be specific.  When writing any kind of essay (including an essay for a class), it’s important to talk about specific experiences instead of general ones.  Otherwise, your essay could be writing by anyone, as opposed to you.  Instead of writing, “My parents are immigrants, and I learned a lot about hard work from them,” explain in detail specifically what you learned about hard work from them.  Tell stories of things they did that demonstrated their work ethic and what you learned from these.
  4. Be a good match. If you are filling out the Common App, obviously you can’t specifically explain why you’re a good fit for each specific college.  But if you’re applying to a specific school that doesn’t use the Common App, be sure to explain why you are a good match specifically for that school.  This requires a little basic research, as you need to know the school, their values, and what they offer.  There’s two ways to demonstrate that you’re a good match. First, explain why the school is right for you. You do that through statements such as, “I want to study marine biology, and I know you have one of the top ranked programs in the country.”  Second, explain what you could personally contribute to the school.  This is much harder, but if you can do this, it really helps!
  5. Proofread and polish. Would you go to a job interview with a big stain on your shirt, or with dirt all over your face?  Of course not.  And typos and grammatical errors in your essay make an equally bad impression.  To make sure your essay is flawless, get someone (or several someones) to look it over carefully–a parent, a guidance counselor, a brainy older sister, or anyone with a good sense of language.  Don’t just rely on spell check–it’s a good start, but it isn’t enough.

For other tips see

Parents Who Refuse to Help Kids Pay for College

Here’s something that makes me hopping mad: parents who refuse to help their children pay for college–and a financial aid system that’s set up in such a way that if parents don’t pay, students fall through the cracks.parents pay for college

And no, I’m not talking about parents who really can’t afford to pay–as the children of these parents will probably be eligible for financial aid.  I’m talking about parents who can afford to pay for college–or who can do so with some sacrifice–but refuse to because they don’t feel it is their obligation.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the federal government, for all practical purposes, didn’t consider parents responsible for a student’s education.  If parents don’t consider it their responsibility to pay, then a student has limited ability to pay his or her way.  The government’s position is basically this: if the parents won’t pay, why should this be the government’s responsibility?  Read about the difficulties students face if their parents won’t pay for college.

And the thing is, it’s gotten so much harder.  Before 1992, if a student could demonstrate financial independence and was off his or her parents’ taxes for two years, then this student could be declared a dependent by the financial aid system–and could therefore be eligible for much more financial aid, regardless of his or her parents’ involvement.  Currently, you can only be declared an independent if you’re 24, in the military, a ward of the court, or married.

What really makes me angry is when parents refuse to fill out the FAFSA. By refusing to do so, students aren’t eligible for government grants or loans–which can help a student get through college even if the parent won’t pay for what the government says they should.  Filling out the FAFSA doesn’t obligate parents to pay a penny–so by not doing so, all they are doing is hurting their kid.

Of course, parents aren’t the only ones to blame here.  The fact that education has become so expensive that it’s really difficult for a student to pay his or her own way is a serious problem.  Students shouldn’t have to rely on their parents to get a college education, and the government really needs to make education truly affordable for everyone who is qualified.  The way things are now, students who aren’t lucky enough to have good family situations are falling through the cracks.  That is an injustice that shouldn’t be happening in the United States.

10 Ways Your Guidance Counselor Can Help You Get Into College

When applying for college, many high school students don’t realize what an important resource their guidance counselor can be.  guidance counselorHelping students get into college is a major part of what high school guidance counselors do–so make sure you use this free and helpful resource! Some students and their parents pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for private college counseling.  While in some cases this can be quite helpful and a wise investment, especially if your school offers less than par guidance counseling, a good guidance counselor can do everything people pay private counselors to accomplish.

Here are 10 ways your guidance counselor can help you get into college.

  1. A letter of recommendation (which means it’s worth your while to forge a strong relationship with your guidance counselor)
  2. Information for how the financial aid and college application processes work, and a go-to person for any questions you have
  3. Information about where to find scholarships
  4. Information about colleges and universities you should consider, including ones you’ve never heard of that might be a good fit.
  5. A sounding board to help you figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a college or university–an important first step before you seriously consider where to go.
  6. Advice about how to fill out applications.
  7. Advice on how to write a personal essay– and a set of eyes to read it and offer you tips on how to improve it.
  8. Help filling out the FAFSA , or if the guidance counselor doesn’t do this, information on where you can go to get free help with the FAFSA.
  9. Advice on what classes to take and extracurricular and other activities to participate in, to help make you a strong candidate.
  10. A confidence booster to help get you through this difficult process.

Wordless Wednesday: College Textbooks

college textbooks

Why do college textbooks have to be so expensive?

Just How Involved Should Parents be in College Decisions?

One of the biggest decisions to make during one’s senior year is where an individual plans on attending college once finished with high school. This is a very big decision since it will play a big impact on shaping your future and what you will do with the rest of your life.

college parentsFortunately, I have been lucky enough to have parents that realize where I want to go and end up going is completely up to me, since I will be the one experiencing everything. A few of my friends and people I have talked to more recently are not quite as lucky. Their parents are constantly badgering them about the schools they have picked and constantly give suggestions where they feel their child will ‘fit in’. While parents should be allowed a say in where their child goes for college (especially if they plan on supporting their child throughout their college years) there should be a line drawn that parents shouldn’t be allowed to cross and they need to realize this.

Picking a college is up to the student because they know best what size school they want, geographically where they want to go, and what they want to study in college. If the student does enough research on schools they are considering, and finds them fitting to his or her requirements, then it should be their choice if they want to continue on and apply to that college.

Of course, this does not mean that the students should ignore a parent’s advice/opinions completely. Taking their thoughts into consideration may actually help in choosing a college. Listen to what your parents have to say and then decide whether or not you wish to take their advice/opinion to heart.

When picking your schools to apply to and then finally choosing which college you will be attending, watch your parents and be sure you are picking the school you want to go to. Not the school your parents pick out for you.


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