Debt for a Worthy Cause: Your Future

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In a recent Time Magazine article called Only Rich Kids Should Go To College, columnist Dan Kadlec talks about how there is mounting evidence that college loans are holding back Americas youth. As inflammatory as the title of his article suggests, he does not believe college is for the rich since the title “smacks of elitism and runs counter to the income inequality concerns” that have made other authors famous. What Kadlec sites is that a growing number of college students don’t think their education was worth it.

Kadlec states that “evidence keeps mounting that, financially speaking, if you must borrow to pay for college you might be just as well off skipping higher education and going straight to work” furthermore, he sites statistics that say 37% of households headed by someone under 40 have on average 13,000 worth of debt and struggle to pay the debt.

While Kadlec makes a strong case that there are a growing number of people who skip out on college and go straight to the workforce, skipping out on a College, or any sort of higher education, does not work for everyone.

College is rather expensive and the events you’ll experience are well worth the price. College provides you with the unique opportunity to surround yourself with people who have the same drive as you do and at the same time think vastly different than yourself.

What is the benefit of that?

Disparity among Millennials Ages 25-32 By Education Level in Terms of Annual Earnings …

Pew Statistics

The benefits are that it forces you to learn how to collaborate with others, learn about different view points, and prepare you for the real world. No matter what occupation you go into, you will be forced to work with people who come from diverse backgrounds. At the same time you can create network connections for future job opportunities, learn from some of the top educators in your field, and utilize campus resources to your advantage.

Some may argue that in the case of working with different people you should just skip out on college and go straight for the real world. In reality you would be making a mistake. In a PewResearch article called The Rising Cost of Not Going To College, Pew analysts create a series of graphs that highlights the effect of not going to college will have on ones life in regards to cost.

It is a known fact that  going to college greatly increases your chances of achieving a higher income in the long run. But going back to Kadlec’s point that student debt is a viable excuse to not go to college: The rising costs of college has been a huge topic of debate. At the same time. there has been an increase in methods to pay for college and reduce debt. Many students do not take full advantage of scholarships, federal student aid, and other notable ways to reduce their tuition every year.

Scholarships

Now at this point, I know you’re probably rolling your eyes thinking  that with the sheer volume of students applying for scholarships that you will not obtain one. That is not the case. The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you will obtain one. Scholarships are not limited to “scholar athletes” and 4.0 students. There are hundreds of thousands of scholarship available for students of all social and academic backgrounds to receive. You do not have to wait to be a senior to apply for scholarships either. The earlier you start the better you will increase your chances of obtaining some to use later.

Federal Aid and Payment Plans

One of my closest friends is classified as a “low income” college student. Her mother is unemployed with a disability, she is the sole income for the house, and yet she has still been able to attend college. Why? Because of State Aid and Pell grants. By commuting from home, the State of Maryland has provided her with enough Pell grants to cover her full in state tuition. At the same time, she is still able to experience all that college has to offer debt free. Similarly, I have quite a few friends who have established payment plans with their respctive colleges so they do not have pay a “lump sum”. Before fully ruling out college, have an indepth conversation with your schools financial aid office for more information.

Two-Year College Track

If the cost of a four year college is too expensive, going to community college for two years and transferring has quite a few benefits. At the University of Maryland for example, if you transfer from one of four community colleges in the state of Maryland, and are a high achieving student, you may qualify for the Transfer Academic Excellence Scholarship.This scholarship covers four consecutive semesters at UMD once you transfer. Many colleges in other states have similar programs in order to offset the cost of attending a college for four years.

These options, along with many others CAN make college affordable and accessible to almost anyone. Do not be detered by the cost or the notion that “only the rich” can go to college. Each college student has their own story and at the end of the day, you need to create your own and utilize your resources to go to the college of your choosing for your future.

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Tour De Farce: How To Make The Most of a College Visit

As a Student Coordinator for Maryland Images Campus Tour Guides at UMD I am continually looking for ways to improve our organization. Last week we received an email from a parent in which they sent us an op-ed article called College tour de farce: 5 ways not to sell your school. As someone who has been a tour guide for 4 years this article really spoke to me and made me question the ways Maryland Images trains our guides. I know in my previous post, The Importance of A Campus Visit , I talked about why it is imperative that a student experience a college first hand, at the end of the day it is even MORE important to visit a select number of colleges and look for what you want.

In College Tour De Farce the author discussed five ways that various colleges have had their tour guides “sell” their school that were not effective. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I will say that I do not agree with many of her complaints. After going on 20 college visits, the author came up with five ways a college should not sell their school:

  1. The deserted campus: The Bennington College tour guide stated that their school had little to no diversity on campus, resident halls were always cold, that students sleep all the time.
  2. The WTMI tour guide: The tour guide at the University of California at San Diego spoke only about herself and her party-life style.
  3. The Over privileged dorm life: Apparently Santa Clara University offers room service to their dorms which is a bad thing…?
  4. The Big Brother Vibe: University of Wisconsin at Madison apparently has signs saying “Badger eyes are on you” which proved to be “creepy”. Basically they have too much campus surveillance.
  5. The Bait-and Switch: After going on a college visit to Grinnell College, the authors daughter received a phone call from someone in the admissions office encouraging her daughter to apply and when she did she was rejected.

As a higher ed blogger, if there’s one thing I do not like to do is bad talk a University. While it is unfornate the author did not have a good experience at these schools, publically shaming them based on one experience is not fair. From an admissions and tour guide prospective there are a multitude of things that are wrong and misunderstood in this article.

The first is the fact that the author stated her and her daughter visited 20 schools. While I have stated that going on a college visit is important in the college admissions process, traveling from school to school is incredibly expensive. After a while, you (and your parents) will start to grow tired of the same college rhetoric. Each school has their own tour guide organization and unique way of marketing their university. At the same time however, it can get repetitive especially if you go to similar schools (like most ACC schools have the same size and feel: University of Maryland, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for example).  At the end of the day, it would be better to select 4-5 of your top choices and visit those instead of all of them.

The author stated that Grinnell College should not have told her daughter to apply and then reject her since “it’s not cool to mess with young people’s minds at a time that’s already so fraught”. She also stated that the college encouraged her daughter to apply as a means to “boost their rejection numbers”. I agree that the College admissions process is stressful for young people but saying that a rejection mess’ with young people’s mind is not entirely true. From an admissions standpoint no one is guaranteed admission. Rejection is a part of life and though I am not familiar with Grinnell College, I can assume that they called her daughter and encouraged her daughter to apply BUT did not say she was guaranteed admission.

Colleges strive to have as many people apply not to boost their rejection numbers, but to make sure they have the most diverse freshman class they can possibly attain. Colleges have their own criteria and requirements to adhere too and each student has their own story to tell and bring to a University. At the end of the day, they cannot accept everyone and while they will encourage students to apply you, as the applicant, must accept the fact that you may not be accepted. Its not because you are not smart enough or unworthy but given the applicant pool you may not be the most competitive applicant. Grinnell College has a 30-35% acceptance rate making it a pretty competitive school. In essence, the authors daughter had a 70% chance of being rejected.

Third. While I am sure there were other things the autor did not like about the University of Wisconsin, discrediting them as a choice because they have too much campus safety options is not a valid excuse. Again, this stems from my belief that visiting 20 colleges without doing research will waste your time. If she were to look at the University’s website prior to visiting she would see that they have a very intensive campus security and neighborhood watch program. Most colleges do, UMD for example has 350 blue lights all over campus that monitor the surrounding area. Do I think that’s big brother-ish? Not at all. In this day and age of campus crimes and violence it would be better to have a solid surveillance system to deter crime then none at all. As I have stated before, do in depth research before you actively visit a campus.

Fourth. The author’s complaints about the WTMI Tour Guide and the overly honest  non-diverse tour guide. At the end of the day, the point of a college tour is for a student to get a visual of the campus, interact with a current student, and see if it’s the right fit for them. Each tour guide is unique to each school and while it is the schools hope that each individual guide will convince every student to apply and come to the school that is not the case. Each guide has their own story and experience at their school as will each student. It is unfortunate that the tour guide at UCSD mostly talked about themselves on the tour. But that does NOT mean that would have been the authors’ daughter’s experience. The point of college is to make your own memories. Even if you do not like your guide itself, if you love the campus and the programs it offers go to that school and create your own memories.

The author of Tour De Farce is a widely known journalist but I do believe that they did not put their best foot forward by visiting over 20 schools. Narrow your choices down to 4-5 schools,  make sure they have the programs you’re interested in, be assertive,  and if your guide is not part of the program you want get in contact with the department. Do not discredit a school based off a bad visit or nitpicky details.

Be smart. Do your research. This process is intense but it does not have to be tedious.

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A Social Point of View

Over the past ten years or so, the usage of social media has drastically increased. No longer do people use their blogs or myspace as personal journals, but more as a tool to broadcast their interest to a wider audience. Now, more than ever, people and Universities utilize Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in order to engage their audience. Recent studies show that the average social media user is between the ages of 18-29. With that age group in mind, it is no surprise that Colleges and Universities frequently go on social media site to showcase their University. Not only do institutions themselves utilize social media, but various clubs and organizations will use it to show current and prospecitive students why they should join a particular club.

Using The University of Maryland- College Park as an example, people throughout the campus use Instagram, twitter, and blogs to showcase the University. At UMD Fraterntity and Sorority life make up about 15-20% of the student population. With an undergraduate student body of about 27,000 students, each Fraternity and Sorority1897919_10202359610364383_8377634710869703180_n strives to make themselves stand out from the ground. Though I am not involved in Greek Life I still have quite a number of friends who are. The Sisters of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority utilize their Instagram account to  show potential new members and the general public what they do as an organization. In this pic stitch we see a picture of the inside of their Chapter house where some of the members live and we see a description of a philanthropy event they did for one of the fraternities on campus. By highlighting different aspects of their sorority, AOPI is able to dispel notion that all sorority girls do is “drink and party”.  Their Instagram account reflects the positive aspects of their sorority and provides and inside look into their chapter.

Similarly, Hidden UMD strives to show the general public the hidden beauty of campus. Each picture is sent to the site coordinator who then creates a caption describing which of campus is shown. Since the sites first post, students, facility, and even the general public have been amazed by the pictures posted. Though people walk throughout campus on a regular basis, seeing these pictures shows a hidden and mysterious side of campus that many people find alluring.

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Finally, the University of Maryland Confessions twitter account is a widely popular page in which students anonymously post confessions about concepts related to UMD. The tweets range from satirical, serious, funny, emotional or even down right disturbing. What this twitter accoun1520746_10202359611764418_4885054832205867257_nt attempts to do is provide a voice and outlet for UMD students to voice their opinions.  As a tour guide, I have done tours where students have come up to me
saying they wanted to visit UMD after seeing our confession page on twitter. This account is run by a student who is isn’t inhibited by faculty or staff to be “politically correct”. The confessions are raw and real which is what draws students and strangers a like to the page.

 

While AOPI, Hidden UMD, and UMD Confessions are all available on different mediums of social media, they each have the same goal: to present the University of Maryland in a positive light and show what we have to offer.  UMD has over 800 clubs and organizations campus each fighting to show why they are relevant and how they can have a positive impact on the UMD community. Through social media, they are able to show the world how they are unique while providing unique insight into the University as a whole.

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Learning In College: Triple Post (3)

My third and final guest blogger is Jenn! (aka medievaltourist)

She wrote a fantastic piece on being a medieval studies major at the University of Maryland. Maryland is unique in the sense that you can create your own majors so check out her piece and find out what it’s like to create  your own major :).

 

“As I mention on my About page, I created my Medieval Studies major through the Individual Studies Program (IVSP) at UMDCP. Now, while being the only Medieval Studies at a university of 26.708 full-time undergraduate students is pretty awesome (if I do say so myself), it doesn’t come without its challenges.

Let me start from the beginning.

For anyone to create a major at UMD, they have to come to the IVSP office with some idea. In other words, no, you can’t major in Underwater Basket Weaving (unless, of course, the appropriate classes are offered). From there, you start building your major: you have to decide what kinds of classes you want to take and be able to justify why they are necessary for the major, you have to define your major, you have to think of a Capstone project, etc. etc. After all that, you propose your major to a board and it’s up to them whether you get to declare a major in the degree you built.

My point? You have to be really dedicated to your idea. Of course, if you’re going to IVSP to create a major, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’ve made the commitment.

If the board approves your major, you’re set and take the courses you prescribed for your major. For the most part, the majors consist of pretty standard courses in various departments. Mine isn’t an exception. My Medieval Studies major consists of the following concentrations:

  • History

  • Society & Culture

  • Religion & the Foundation of Church Latin

  • Modern Language Study

Now these seem like pretty straightforward concentrations, right? They are for the most part (i.e. anything related to language and basic history), but medieval stuff isn’t really popular at UMD, which means that courses frequently are not offered or get cancelled. This means I sometimes have to get creative with replacing classes. Other times I just have to pray really hard that it works out (like I did for next semester, and, lo and behold, it worked out!).

Despite the difficulties of being the only Medieval Studies major, it’s such a rewarding experience. I get so much great feedback and encouragement from professors and other students, and whenever I get to talk about my major I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Not to mention that taking the initiative to build your own major looks pretty great on your CV.

I do have a confession to make, though: I am extremely possessive of my major. I want nothing more than to have a fellow baby-medievalist follow in my footsteps and create a Medieval Studies major, but I cannot stand it when just plain History students claim to be Medieval Studies majors. Just no.

This normally happens at the beginning of the semester when we go around the class and introduce ourselves to our professor and fellow classmates by stating our names, majors, and interesting facts. I feel so accomplished when I introduce myself as a Medieval Studies major. But for some reason there are always a few History students doing concentrations in the Middle Ages who feel that it’s OK for them to copy me and say they’re Medieval Studies majors, too. This usually results in me giving them a half glare that tries to tell them You know nothing.

So, my tactic has changed, and instead of making my interesting fact that I grew up in a foreign country or have studied seven languages or that I can touch my nose with my tongue, my interesting fact now is that I am the only Medieval Studies major in the history of the University of Maryland. BAM.

But if you get as excited as I do about something, please come talk to me about creating your own major! It’s so rewarding and a great experience. Not to mention all the other awesome people you meet along the way!”

 

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Learning In College: Triple Blog Post (2).

In this post Rob offers a brilliant perspective on how college isn’t structured for those with a high affinity for learning new concepts and ideas. If you enjoy this post, feel free to check out  Rob’s blog

Feminist theory, public health, statistics, real estate, cooking, current affairs – I have learned lots of things in my time in college. But, although the university offers classes in each of these domains, all I know about these diverse subjects I learned outside of the lecture hall.

I have blogged before about learning outside the normal systems of education – if I were to sum up the point of the blog, it might be ‘a how-to guide for learning in and out of the classroom’. Today I want to take time to focus on the curricular and extracurricular learning that happens in places of “higher learning.”

I have learned in my classes – mostly the learning takes place as I am doing the reading and homework, but sometimes the lectures are good and I learn there too. Nevertheless, in terms of raw learning, the formation of my identity and development of skills and acquisition of knowledge – I have done more of that outside of my classes than in them.

Granted, I have taken advantage of a great number of opportunities for extracurricular development – I studied abroad, I write for the school paper, I volunteer at a crisis hotline and a youth leadership program, I was in an entrepreneurship living and learning program as well as a multidisciplinary program focused on project-based learning, systems, and quality. I also work at a technology summer camp and bought and rented out my house.

Naturally, I have learned in all of those experiences, and it shouldn’t be too surprising that who I am and what I know comes more from those things than it does from listening to professors talk. Colleges are aware that learning about the world goes on outside the classes we take – faculty and administrators do their darndest to get us to do things – internships, contests, research – that enrich our learning.

Despite all that effort, college remains poorly designed for the curious! It is designed for specialization, but hacks like Gen Ed requirements and extracurriculars do not make higher ed good for those who want to generalize. The fourteen or fifteen week course is not my idea of an introduction to a subject, thank you very much, and there is a limit of ~10 or so classes you can take outside your major. (If you are very clever, you can do what Jenn and I did and make your own major out of the courses you want, but even that limits you to 40 or 50 courses total, which isn’t enough for me, at least!).

I am interested in diverse subjects, and want to learn about them. While I believe that I ought to know some subjects in depth, I do not have the chance to do minor exploration with the plentiful experts that surround me. That stinks! Instead, I have to learn about these cool things from wikipedia and talking with my friends. Not that those aren’t great things to do, but why is college designed so that engineers never speak with public health professors who in turn never see business professors who never interact with art students?

Interacting with just one type of professor and one type of student is boring.

Why not have a week or two a year for each professor to give open lectures on their subject? Why not offer short courses that allow for shallower but broader learning, fostering interaction across disciplines?

If we look for an answer, it’s probably not going to make anyone happy. No one in the administration seriously gives thought to changing the way our semester works, or ‘fostering interaction across disciplines.’ Our bureaucracy is too tightly bound to the 14- or 15-week semester and making things run smoothly the way they always have to experiment with different types of teaching and learning.

At least officially. I know from taking classes in many departments that outside perspectives are valued in the classroom. I know from meeting students and professors of many disciplines that each discipline is, without exception, highly interesting, and filled with exciting and interesting people doing great work. While I can’t yet say that the way courses are arranged and administered makes any sense, colleges are still hubs where the smart and the brilliant congregate.

If you can figure out how to talk to lots of those smart people, you might just become smart yourself! Until then, keep using the internet for getting smart. I’ll leave you with a powerful mental tool that I had to pick up outside the classroom, because there are no classes on useful mental tricks.

Fermi estimation lets you make good guesses and back of the envelope type calculations. It’s most useful if you practice with it, so first link is a more detailed explanation of what and why, and the second is a link for practicing!

About Fermi Estimates: http://lesswrong.com/lw/h5e/fermi_estimates/

Practice: http://www.fermiquestions.com/

 

 

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Learning in College: Blog Class Triple Post

Hello everyone!

So one of the main reasons I am writing this blog is to not only offer my input on higher ed, but I am exploring the blogging world as part of my class at UMD. I am going to post three posts about different aspects of learning in college. This post will be the first and written by myself. The other two will be written by Robert Cobb and Jennifer Wivell, two of my awesome classmates :). This post will focus on why students struggle with the transition of learning in college from high school.

From my experience and the experiences of my friends,  students tend to struggle with learning in college for different reasons.  I have seen students come from high schools where they were the class Valedictorian and once they come into college they struggle to find their niche and excel at the same level. These struggles seem to stem from the following factors:

1.   The Level of Difficulty of their High School

2.   Inability to adjust to different teaching methods

3.   Time management

While these are only three of the possible problems, the overall theme is that with each grade sequence in one’s life (elementary, middle, high school, college), you need to make an appropriate adjustment to understand how to learn at that level.

 Each grade level in elementary and secondary school increases in difficulty but the there is a drastic shift from high school to college.  Once you enter college you no longer have the confines of your home to protect you, your parents, or anyone else to influence you .

The Level of Difficulty of their High School

It is a known fact that there are differences in teaching methods between high schools across America. Some schools offer AP and IB classes while others do not. Some schools use a 4.0 grading scale while others use a 5.0 or even a point system out of 1000. Some schools have Rhodes scholars and Ivy League graduates teaching students while others have volunteers.

 With so much variation in high schools it can be expected that students will be coming in with different levels and experience learning. This is why colleges typically require that students submit a “Secondary School Report” which details every aspect of their school. Admissions Representatives will then compare the student to their high school. Depending on a school, a particular student could have been in the top of their class at a not so competitive high school, come to college and not do as well since their school did not adequately prepare them.

 Inability to Adjust to Different Teaching Methods

As stated in the previous section, many students struggle learning in college due to the level of difficulty of their high school. This struggle continues when students are forced to adhere to different teaching styles. In high school, many teachers will spoon feed their students the information they teach in order to make things easier for them.  In high school there are make up exams, your teachers will contact you if you’re failing a test, and they generally hold your hand through everything.

 Once you enter college, you are faced with different professors who each have varying ways of teaching. Some professors teach solely out of a textbook [which means going to class isn’t necessary]. Some professors talk the entire time during a lecture without stopping for questions.  Some professors will teach one concept in class and put a different concept on the exam which creates confusion for students.

 Each professor you encounter in college has a different teaching method which can make learning a bit difficult. With that in mind, students [particularly freshmen] struggle with figuring out how their professor teaches and how they can utilize their teaching method to learn accordingly.

 In order to overcome this, students should meet with their professors and teaching assistants in order to get to know them on a personal level and learn their teaching style.

 Time Management

Out of all the reasons why students struggle with learning in college, time management is the most important.  When students enter college they are given a new sense of freedom: they are no longer confined to their homes, no parents, no supervision, new friends, and endless experiences.

 With that being said, some students struggle to balance their new found social life, sleeping, and studying.  Deadlines start to creep up on them and, as the picture to the left illustrates, there is pressure to keep up with extra curriculars, family, work etc in order to be a “successful student”.

In order to overcome these problems, time management is VERY important. The University of Maryland for example gives students agenda books once they move onto campus. This allows students to write down dates and deadlines and help them manage their school and study time. Along with the agenda book, UMD offers learning assistance services to help students work on basic study skills, techniques, and ways they can effectively manage their time.

Overall, each student learns at a different level and pace. It is imperative that as students enter college, they are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and the fact that college is an entirely new chapter of their life that they must plan for accordingly.

 

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EveRy University

haha so one of the tour guides on campus sent me this video called EveRy University: a parody of College commercials and their expectations.

This video is part of the “Honest Commercial” trend on youtube. This trend is quite popular and videographers will attempt to parody popular products and concepts in order to show the “true side” of them.

Please keep in mind that everyone is able to create their own unique experience in college regardless of where they go 🙂

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