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The Benefits of College Campus Tours

One of the essentials when deciding on a college is visiting the campus. Visiting a campus can ultimately help you make the decision on whether or not you want to go to a particular college.

One factor that can really be decided upon when visiting a campus is whether or not you want a small, medium, or large school. Try to plan your visit during the school year when there are students on campus, so you can get a true feel for what life is like on a typical day. You can get a feel for the layout of the campus, how far classes are from dorms, and just how crazy the campus can be! A great option for when you narrow your schools down is to do an overnight visit where you can stay with a student and get a feel for the other activities on campus besides just the classes!

I just reTrinity Bell Towercently went on a family vacation and visited Trinity down in San Antonio, Texas, one of the colleges to which I plan on applying. The visit consisted of a campus tour that lasted approximately an hour with a student who stayed for part of the summer to give tours; and then we got to meet with an admissions counselor.

With the counselor, me and another girl on the tour sat down and got to have a very relaxed question and answer session that helped us understand more about Trinity, their application process, and how exactly our school year (particularly focusing on the freshman year) would look. This visit not only sold me on Trinity, but also the fact that I wanted to attend a smaller school because of their personal attention it appeared I would receive.

So if you are having a hard decision deciding on particular colleges, or better yet the size of the college you wish to attend, then pay some campuses a visit! By visiting, can you really begin to decide which schools are right for you!




Liberal Arts Colleges: More Affordable than you Thought?

Liberal arts colleges have a great deal to offer, like small class sizes, great teaching, personal attention, a strong sense of community. But with a yearly price tag of anywhere between $25,000 and $45,000, is a liberal arts college education something beyond your reach?

Maybe. But maybe not. Here’s the secret many students don’t know about liberal arts colleges: many of them offer very generous financial aid packages. These come in the form of both needs-based and merit-based scholarships, both of which are awarded in addition to student loans, work study, outside scholarships, and other forms of outside financial aid. In many cases, the price of a liberal arts college can actually be comparable or even cheaper to the price of a state school!

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: Allegheny College, a terrific liberal arts college located in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Tuition, room, board, and fees run students a whopping $40,000 a year. Eek! However, very few students actually pay that much to attend Allegheny. About a third of all students receive a merit-based scholarship of $12,500 a year. In addition, the average need-based award for freshmen is about $18,000 a year. So if a student is eligible for the merit-based scholarship and the average need based one, suddenly Allegheny College costs less than $10,000 a year. Not cheap, but the student can make up some of the rest of that with loans and other kinds of financial aid.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone who attends Allegheny—and you may not get such a sweet deal at the liberal arts college of your choice. But if you’re interested in this type of school, don’t rule it out—especially if you’re a strong student and/or a student with a good deal of financial need. Apply to a number of small colleges, and take the time to visit them, as these schools often want to meet with you to see if you’re a good fit. When those fat envelopes come in the mail, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the price tag.




Balancing School and Extra Curricular Activities

Having such a busy school schedule such as mine, many find it hard to balance school work and time to fit other activities into their busy schedule. While many claim (who have much less to do school wise) they have no time for extra curricular activities, I know many students (especially IB) who are fairly involved in their communities and organizations outside of school.

Those who say that they cannot find any activities to do probably aren’t searching hard enough or in the right places! Many schools have bulletin boards that display certain organizations or communities that need some sort of volunteer work done, and these boards (especially for IB students since we have to get a certain amount of community service hours) can be very helpful in providing a variety of service opportunities for all students.

Another great way to get involved is through an organization such as the United Way. I am in a student-based group called YOUnited Teens that meets once monthly, and provides different volunteer activities and ways to meet other students/youth in your area! It’s a great group because while you are helping others out, you also get to have a great time with people who are your age.

Of course, extra curricular activities may not only include volunteer work. It can also include scouts, youth group, sports, or a variety of other activities that keep you busy outside of school and make you a well-rounded individual, someone who doesn’t spend their free time stuck at home or with their nose always in their school work!

college admissionsInspiration for this blog comes from a book that all the IB Juniors at my school had to read this past spring titled “Winning the Heart of the College Admissions Dean” by Joyce Slayton Mitchell. In her book, Mitchell discusses how colleges look for students who are diverse, or in other words, students that do a variety of activities, not just one or two things. Showing that not only does your acceptance depend on numbers, but also the ability for you to fit into the community, and colleges can tell whether or not you will fit in by your extra curricular activities.

So, if you are afraid of the numbers, then get involved! There are many different ways to get involved and adding volunteer work and other activities will make a resume look even better to a college admissions dean!




Wordless Wednesday: Prepare for the Dorms

Prepare for the dorms this summer.




20 Easy Campus Life Health Tips

A college education isn’t necessarily good for your health. Between stress, deadlines, easy access to junk food, and lots of alcohol, students don’t always take care of themselves. For a healthier lifestyle, here are some simple tips to incorporate into your everyday life on campus. Don’t worry—you don’t have to do all of these—but by mixing some of these ideas into your routine, you’ll improve your health little by little.

Bike around campus whenever possible.

  1. Walk or bike whenever possible. (This saves money on gas too!)
  2. Avoid eating pizza and other goodies in the middle of the night.
  3. Work in exercise by taking a physical education class.
  4. Carry around a water bottle.
  5. Eat breakfast every day, even if it’s just a piece of a fruit or a quick bowl of cereal.
  6. Make time to schedule in regular doctor and dentist appointments.
  7. Try to keep exams and other stress in perspective–the consequences of failure probably aren’t as dire as you think!
  8. As much as possible, stick to a regular sleep schedule. Remember, sleep needs to be a priority, no matter what.
  9. Carry healthy snacks in your backpack, like fruit or healthful snack bars.
  10. If you eat at a campus dining hall, limit consumption of soda. Drink lots of water, along with moderate servings of milk and juice.
  11. Keep in mind that binge drinking is as bad for your waistline as it is for the rest of your body.
  12. Don’t use exams and other stressful academic times as an excuse to pig out– at least not too much!
  13. Limit fast food consumption. It’s quick, easy, and cheap when you’re a student, but don’t overdo it.
  14. Look for healthier fast food alternatives around campus, like a snack cart that sells hummus and pita, or a sub shop that sells healthier sandwiches.
  15. Deal with stress with brisk walks or jogs.
  16. As much as possible, try to stick to regular meal times.
  17. Don’t be shy about using the campus mental health center if you need someone to talk to, or need more serious help.
  18. Get a flu shot, as college campuses are full of people in close proximity and all of their germs.
  19. If you use dorm showers, be sure to wear flip flops to protect your feet.
  20. Never cut down on calories so you can consume more alcohol.



Top 5 Studying Tips For the High School Student

There is only one way to feel prepared for a test. I’m sure you all know that the best way to prepare yourself for a test is to study. Of course, studying can often be a very daunting or boring task, but I have thought of 5 tips in hopes to make studying a little less daunting/boring.

1. Know what will be on the test- One of the best things for you to do is to talk to your teacher about what will be on the test. Most of my teachers take a day (normally the day before) to go over a test and everything the test will cover. If your teacher does not do this, or if you want it before the actual review you will get in class, then go in and talk to your teacher before or after class or during a convenient time for both of you to get all the materials you need.

Study materials

2. Have all materials- Make sure when you finally sit down to study to have all your materials with you. Any books or notes you will need be sure to have them so you won’t have to stop in the middle of your study session to search for a book or a random page of notes you have seem to misplaced.

3. Don’t Cram- This is probably the most important tip I have. For some that have an amazing short term memory, cramming either right before the test or the night before the test works. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for us all. Starting a few days before the test and going over a little bit each night (while covering what you did the night before) will allow you to better learn the materials and with a better understanding of the materials you are more likely to do better on the test. Also, not cramming allows for the information to be stored better in the long term memory and will allow for you to later access the information rather than sticking it in your short term and forgetting it as soon as you are done with the test.

4. Go somewhere comfortable- Being comfortable is key when studying. Go somewhere that you will be comfortable but also that will place you in conditions much like the conditions you will be in on the test day. Placing yourself in such conditions (that are similar to test day) will better allow for recall of information you studied while taking the test.

5. Get a group together- If you find it difficult to study alone, or just hate studying alone, then get a group together! Studying in a group has its benefits. If there are questions you have, then there will be other students available for you to discuss and answer your questions. While the problem with groups is that being with friends can lead to distractions and even not studying. So be sure you choose your group wisely, picking those you know will study and not cause distractions.

I hope these tips allow for more successful study time that will make you a better test taker!





College Freshmen Choose New Orleans Schools in Record Numbers

Tule University in New Orleans

Looking for an incredible college town with world class nightlife, an unbelievable music scene, incredible food, and all kinds of amazing things to see and do? And do you mind if that incredible college town is a bit of a fixer-upper? Despite the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, record numbers of incoming freshmen are choosing New Orleans as their college town. There are three main colleges and universities in New Orleans– Tulane, Loyola, and Xavier— and applications and admission to all of these schools are up since pre-Katrina days.

In fact, interest in Tulane was so high that the school had to shut down its online application process, and had to stop accepting applications altogether in January. Newsweek put Tulane on it’s 25 hottest schools list– and dubbed it the “Hottest Rebound School” because of its recovery after Katrina.

A city building its way back from Katrina may not be the best choice for anyone. But many students are choosing New Orleans because it’s in transition. The rebuilding of a city is a big deal, and students can be a part of this. For students who are interested in community service, of course, post-Katrina New Orleans has countless opportunities to pitch in and make a real difference in people’s lives.

And besides, New Orleans is amazing. The biggest problem with going to school there may be that there are too many fun distractions to keep students from their work.




Student Loan Consolidation Explained With Play-Doh

Do you need some basic information about how student loan consolidation works? And do you like to make things out of green Play-Doh? From FinancialAidPodcast.com, here’s a video that uses Play-Doh to demonstrate the basics of student loan consolidation:

Overall, I’d say this is pretty useful– and a pretty smart way– to use something as simple as Play-Doh to describe an idea that can confuse students quite a bit.

However, there’s one part of the loan consolidation picture the video more or less ignores– interest payments over the long term. The thing is, if you stretch out your Play-Doh (i.e. loan payments) over a longer period of time, you pay a lot more interest. The overall pile of green Play-Doh magically oozes to a larger and larger size, even as you slice off bit by bit at that compounding green Play-Doh pond thing once a month.

In other words, if it all possible, don’t spread your student loans out over longer periods of time, even if you consolidate your loans (which you can do without extending the payback period). Remember, when it comes to your green Real-Dough, you want to keep as much as possible.




Good News About Student Loans

Here’s a welcome change—some good news about student loans. In response to the worsening economy and the credit crunch, the U.S. federal government has enacted some recent policy changes that will make it easier to get student loans, and a little less painful for both students and parents to pay them back.student loans

Here’s a summary of the recent changes:

  • The Stafford loan program has been expanded. Most undergraduates will now be eligible to borrow up to $5500 per year, and most upperclassmen will now be eligible for $7500. Virtually all students will be eligible to receive Stafford loans as long as they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who are 24 years old and above, or who are independent of their parents, will be able to borrow an additional $6000. These Stafford loans will come with an interest rate of no more than 7.25%.
  • Needy students will be eligible for a lower Stafford loan interest rate of 6%– and further cuts are in the works.
  • Interest rates will drop to 4.21% on all unconsolidated student loans issued before July 1, 2006. This includes loans that are currently being paid back, as well as loans that are not.
  • Parents who take out a new PLUS loan can now defer payments until six months after their child has graduated from school. In addition, it’s become easier for parents to qualify for PLUS loans. And if a parent is denied a PLUS loan because of credit problems, the child is then eligible for additional Stafford Loan funds.

Loans are still a burden, of course, and these actions don’t solve the problem that a college education has become overwhelmingly expensive for students and families. But perhaps this is a move in the right direction.




The Dreaded Number Game

Unfortunately, one of the biggest parts of a college’s application and acceptance process is something known to many of my friends as “The Number Game,” and I’m sure that many of you can take a guess that this refers to the ever-so-exciting standardized tests. For some, standardized test refers to only the ACT or the SAT, but for other it’s also means SAT IIs, AP tests, and IB tests.

Quite a few students wait until the beginning of their senior year to take there ACTs/SATs while IB tests are junior and senior year and the SAT IIs and AP tests can take place any year you elect to take them. For me, I decided to get a head start on my ACTs/SATs.

I decided to take a practice round of each test at the beginning of my second semester of junior year (I believe in February). While I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my SAT score of 1760 (out of 2400) I was very pleased with my 30 (out of 36) on my ACT! After giving it some thought, I decided to retake both. June 7th was the test day for the SAT and only a week later, on the 14th, I had to take my ACT. I studied for both, mostly the SAT, hoping that my studying would pay off. After the grueling 4 week wait to receive my scores I was pleased to see my SAT score go up to an 1850, but even more excited about the fact I got a 31 on my ACT!

TSAT Study Bookhis improvement in both my scores show that proper preparation for standardized tests does pay off. So for those of you that are worried or stressing over standardized testing, don’t! Just be sure, that if you are nervous, to prepare yourself properly. The best way to study for these types of tests is to familiarize yourself with the format of the tests by using practice tests. You can find all types of study aids at any book store and most are in the $20-$30 range (depending on how much study material is in the aid).

A great way to prepare for the SAT is to take the PSAT if your school offers it. The PSAT is the Pre-SAT, a much shorter version that familiarizes you with the format of the SAT and also gives an accurate score as to what you will receive on your SAT. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors are eligible for taking this test. I was forced to take it, but taking it definately helped me in the long run!

SAT IIs are much similar to AP tests. Both test only in a certain subject area and can help with placement during your freshman year of college. While AP is more likely to earn you credits, the SAT IIs are more so used for placement. I took the Literature SAT II and scored 610 (out of 800) and Mathematics level 2, scoring 690 (out of 800).

There are also many study aids available for these tests. But know that while the SAT tests your reasoning ability, the SAT IIs are more like the ACT in the sense that they test your knowledge of a certain subject. SAT IIs are not required, but most colleges, but some do require you to take them. Or if you are looking at a school that “recommends” them, that’s just saying that you should take them, only in a much nicer way!

So don’t let the numbers game scare you! With proper preparation, you can beat any test that comes your way!




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