Differential Tuition: A Necessary Evil?

Earlier today, I came across an article regarding a heated differential tuition debate at my university and couldn’t help but wonder why any decision makers could think about raising tuition for certain majors. After all, one of the primary stakeholders involved are the students themselves. Since I have a lot of debt to pay off over the next 10 years or so, I cannot imagine having to pay more just because I elected to pursue a certain major. Following my initial assumptions, I read the article and gained a better understanding on why this may be a necessary evil when it comes to certain majors.

What is differential tuition?

Differential tuition is the concept of having students in certain majors or classes pay extra money in addition to their tuition.

Why do some schools decide to implement this?

Many schools implement this in order to support and grow high-demand programs such as business, engineering, computer science, and nursing. These programs often cost more to run because they either require small-group mentoring by faculty and professors in such programs command higher salaries. Other reasons for variable tuition would be to increase faculty retention rates or cover the cost of certain enhancements for the learning experience of students in such programs. These include extra sections of overfull courses, new computers and equipment, and even extra lecturers to teach classes. Due to technological obsolescence, funding is required to provide relevant education that prepares students for entering the workforce. Equipment, laboratories, computers, software, and other advancing technologies constantly need to be updated in institutions in order to provide students with a relevant learning experience.

Another argument that advocates of differential tuition make is that graduates of those programs tend to have higher employment rates and starting salaries. These proponents reason that debt burden should be shared proportionally across all majors. Some see differential tuition strictly as a way to generate additional revenue, which can be used to fund those programs and support other departments’ needs. Others see differential tuition simply as a way to offset higher costs associated with participating programs.

What are the possible implications of implementing differential tuition?

Say an institution does decide to implement differential tuition as a way to attract and maintain talented faculty in certain programs. One implication of this would be that other programs also struggling with this issue, albeit not as heavily, will remain disadvantaged. If an institution decides not to partake in differential tuition and continue offering the same starting salary that they did, say, five years ago, talented faculty prospects may elect to accept an offer from a competing university that offers a more lucrative salary. As a result, the competing institution will offer its students a supposed pool of higher quality professors while the other institution falls behind. On the other hand, a gap in salaries already exists between certain majors at many institutions. As a hypothetical example, an English professor who taught at an institution for 10 years still doesn’t make as much as a new hire at a business school. Putting differential tuition in effect would increase that gap even more and undermine certain subjects over others. By setting the price higher for some majors, institutions are unintentionally conveying to students that some majors are more valuable than others. If an institution’s mission is to maintain the comprehensive quality of all programs, yet some majors are seen as more valuable, the topic of differential tuition becomes all the more controversial. Another option could be to raise tuition for all students and allocate the additional revenue to departments in need. Differential tuition just might be a necessary evil. Nevertheless, it has, and will continue to, cause cynicism and low morale amongst faculty and students.

Students and the Sequester

The sequester has taken effect for over two weeks, and the impact is already being felt across the country. Do you know exactly what this means? If not, don’t fret. I’m here to provide you with the basics surrounding sequestration and briefly discuss potential implications and ways in which it could impact students. Although gauging the sequester’s effects could take some time, higher education is one of the areas affected heavily by the cuts. A further analysis demonstrates why this is the case. But first things first.

What is the sequester?

Sequestration is all over the news and seems to be what everyone (especially in Washington) has been talking about. Initiated on March 1, 2013, the sequester is a group of cuts to federal spending put into law by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This legislation signed by President Obama immediately raised the debt ceiling by $400 billion and sought to apply pressure on Congress to come up with a long term plan for deficit reduction. Furthermore, a supercommittee was formed to come up with a plan to cut the nation’s debt by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. If the supercommittee could not agree on a plan, across-the-board cuts would automatically take effect. The area most impacted by these budget cuts relates to discretionary spending, which includes both defense and nondefense components. According to an Office of Management and Budget report, the federal government must now cut Fiscal Year 2013 spending by $85 billion, resulting in across-the-board reductions of 7.8 percent for non-exempt defense programs and 5.0 percent for non-exempt non-defense programs.

How could the sequester impact students?

1) Jobs

Various government-related positions are at stake with the across-the-board funding cuts. The White House estimated that 750,000 workers will lose their jobs as a result of the sequester, although other projections range from 250,000 jobs to as many as 2 million. Economists forecast that the sequester will shave 0.6 percentage points from Gross Domestic Product for the year, contributing not only to job cuts, but also to reduced consumption and a slowdown in job creation. This could be burdensome to students seeking employment with the Defense Department, Treasury, Transportation and Safety Administration, and other federal agencies. Thousands of current personnel will likely experience unpaid furloughs over the next few months. Reductions have trimmed about $4 billion from intelligence budgets. Students who are interested in working in a small business could be impacted as well. This is especially true for small businesses that provide products or services to defense contractors. Furthermore, the Internal Revenue Service stated that due to sequestration, there will be a reduction to the refundable portion of the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for certain tax-exempt employers with under 25 full-time equivalent employees. This credit was intended to encourage small businesses that paid at least 50% of the cost of single health care coverage to provide health care coverage to their employees. A hit of 8.7% is effective immediately and translates to health care benefits becoming a little more expensive for those employers. Considering that health care costs for employers are increasing at a rate of 8% per year (approximately four times the rate of inflation), this change can definitely negatively impact small businesses.

2) Financial Assistance

Federal Pell grants and loans are protected from the discretionary funding sequester for one year (FY13); however, federal student loan origination fees will be raised by 5.1% to offset that protection. The sequester-related loan fee comes at a time when student loan debt has become a burden to many family households. Tens of thousands of students will soon face cuts to federal work study hours along with the overall money available to them. A 5% cut on funding for federal work study and supplemental education programs will also take effect. Megan McClean, Director of Policy and Federal Relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators stated that “The cuts will come from the overall pool of funding, so many schools will receive less funding and many of them are going to be given a smaller piece of the pot.”


3) Military Personnel

There is a wave of cuts being announced for tuition assistance along with a program that helps homeless veterans get back on their feet. Two branches of the military, the Army and the Marines, have recently decided that they’re not taking any new applications for a program that offers tuition assistance to active duty service members. Although this will not affect service members who are currently receiving tuition benefits, it will surely impact many of the schools they are enrolled in, especially for-profit colleges and universities. The Secretary of Defense’s Budget Advisor provided this recommendation to freeze tuition benefits. Senators are now pushing to reinstate tuition assistance for members of the U.S. military, but the results have yet to be determined. The implications of these budget cuts seem to be detrimental toward the military as a whole. It could possibly hurt retention and the ability to enlist in the future since tuition assistance is a huge motivator.


4) Research

So much news regarding the sequester has focused in on its current consequences — furloughs, layoffs, and cancelled White House tours in the weeks ahead. However, something to take into further consideration are the long-term effects that the sequester imposes on scientific research. Under 1% of the federal budget is allocated to fund basic science research. To put this into perspective, that is $30.2 billion out of the $3.8 trillion that was requested during FY 12. By cutting this fraction down even further, the government will achieve short-term savings in the millions this year. On the other side of that same coin, this could result in gaps in the innovation pipeline, costing us billions of dollars and ultimately hurting the economy for decades to come. The nation could face a reduced number of researchers willing to pioneer cutting-edge innovations, solutions, and technologies. These brilliant minds could decide to take their talents overseas in order to prosper in an environment that provides the financial backing that is necessary.


Bottom Line

A hedonistic mindset may result in a short-term band-aid effect for the economy; however, one should think of the implications of implementing such decisions.

The Exclusive World of Microsoft

There are plenty of ways in which Microsoft provides value to its customers. By designing products and services that are both innovative and functional, Microsoft gains a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Here is a list of 10 of the most interesting areas where Microsoft provides exclusivity for its customers.


1) Xbox 360

Every console has its own exclusive titles, which other consoles never get their hands on. There are many popular Xbox-exclusive games such as Halo 4, Gears of War 3, Forza Motorsport 4, Fable, along with any Kinect game. With its ergonomic design, the Xbox 360 controller nicely complements the Xbox by providing users with ease and comfort for long-term gaming. To top it off, the glowing, centralized Xbox 360 Guide button provides quick access to digital movies, music, and games libraries.


2) Xbox Kinect

Speaking of which, Kinect for Xbox 360 is changing the way students play games, watch tv, listen to music, and connect with friends without any controllers or remotes. Not to mention, controller-free games via Kinect give students a fun workout and can help with losing that “freshman 15”. Dance Central 3 is definitely a fun way to burn some calories! Kinect gives users the personalization they deserve. With the simple wave of a hand, the sensor is activated and the Kinect will be able to recognize the individual and access his or her Avatar.


3) Windows Phone 8

In addition to having a plethora of exclusive apps such as the People app and Local Scout, the Windows Phone 8 has unique features such as Live Tiles, Kid’s Corner, and Bing. Local Scout is an app that allows users to help find nearby restaurants, shops, and things to do while pulling relevant information about the places to help decide where to go. Kid’s Corner is primarily built for Windows Phone 8 users to allow for their children to use the phone without the risk of changing settings or accidentally sending messages or emails to coworkers. With this feature, children can play with games, apps, and videos that are specifically added there. But the name can be misleading. This feature can also be used for users to have two logins, one that is personal and the other that is generic. Bing will be explained in the next section!


4) Windows 8

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s newest operating system and takes personalization to a whole new level. With touch-friendly capabilities, this OS is primarily focused on user experience and has a Windows Store that includes many Windows-exclusive apps. The People app is a contacts management system that can connect students to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It also integrates with the Mail, Messaging, and Calendar apps to provide its users with the ultimate social networking experience. Live Tiles are so much more than simple icons that allow users to quickly launch apps. These colorful blocks provide users with at-a-glance views of useful information, such as real-time weather, sports, news, email, and social media updates. Users can even change the size of the Live Tiles and rearrange their locations on the start screen. Live Tiles are especially fun to use on a Windows-based tablet.


5) Windows RT

Codenamed for Windows on ARM, Windows RT comes pre-installed on PCs and tablets that are powered by ARM processors. From a general standpoint, Windows RT systems such as the Surface RT have a sleek design, extraordinary battery life, and are touch-enabled. While Windows RT shares many of the same features as Windows 8, it also has different features. Such features include enhanced data protection using BitLocker technology to keep information secure and constant updates on Windows Defender. Window RT also comes with Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview Edition, which provides students with touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Features that make Windows RT stand out in the marketplace include the ARM platform’s power efficiency (allowing for longer battery life) along with the system’s utilization of system-on-chips to allow for thinner hardware designs. This provides users of such RT-based devices portability that allows for work on-the-go. Windows RT also has the ability to use a wider variety of USB peripherals and accessories. Furthermore, although there are ways to access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote from other devices, only Microsoft offers local, native access to its popular Office productivity suite for the ARM-based version of Windows.


6) Bing

This is a web search engine that is continually growing as people find out why it is so unique and useful. The Microsoft’s contracts with both Facebook and Twitter, Bing’s social has access to more social data than Google, which must rely on the less popular Google + network. Bing Rewards is a service that allows users to earn points just for searching with Bing. These points can be redeemed for numerous products such as electronics, multimedia, and gift cards. Furthermore, the way Bing integrates social recommendations into its SERPs is also much less cluttered than Google results, providing it with more visual appeal. To find out for yourself, try the “Bing it On” challenge here: http://www.bingiton.com/


7) Microsoft Security Essentials

This is an antivirus software program that provides protection against various types of malware such as computer viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, and rootkits. What makes Microsoft Security Essentials unique is that it is fast, absolutely free of charge, works efficiently and effectively, integrates well with the OS, AND doesn’t take up a lot of ram or processing power while it’s running. These qualities together are difficult to come by and provide Microsoft Security Essentials with a competitive advantage.


8) Microsoft Dreamspark

Free rewards, free (and high-quality) anti-virus software, and now more free stuff? Dreamspark is an innovative Microsoft program that provides students worldwide with professional software design and development tools at no charge. Almost every software vendor out there offers educational discounts but Microsoft took this concept to the next level by offering students around the world with access to a plethora of Microsoft tools for free. One such program is Visual Studio.


9) Visual Studio

Attention Computer Science and IT majors! This unique program is an integrated development environment that is used to develop console and graphical user interface applications along with Windows form applications, web applications, web sites, and other utilities. Visual Studio is unique in how compatible it is by all platforms supported with Microsoft Windows, Windows Mobile, Windows Embedded Compact, and the .NET framework. Differentiators for Visual Studio include the easy acceptance of plug-ins that enhance the functionality in adding new toolsets like editors and visual designers for domain-specific languages along with support for source-control systems. On top of that, this IDE supports different programming languages by means of language services, which allow the code editor and debugger to support nearly any programming language.


10) Microsoft Access

If you’re a business major or have any need for database software, Microsoft Access is the way to go. This information management tool allows users to gather and understand all their information and provides them with a convenient way to enter, navigate, and report data. Exclusively available on the Windows platform, access is ideal for handling hundreds or thousands of records where users need to have “one version of the truth” for something like a customer, contact, or main “category” that users need to track. Many other spreadsheets contain missing data, inconsistencies, lack of controls, duplicate values, and bad overall data. Access conveniently allows users to store related information together and eliminate duplicate content which can create higher productivity, save time, and money.

Time for a SCREAM Session

Whether you have been through numerous interviews for your dream job or just got through submitting your resume, that dreadful email of rejection never fails to disappoint.  It says something along the lines of “We thank you for your interest in joining (insert company name), we have carefully considered your submission, and at this time, we have chosen to move forward with other applicants whose credentials more closely match the position.  We encourage you to regularly check our website for open positions that suit your interests and invite you to apply.”  Of course they try to instill a sense of hope in you to make you feel slightly better about the situation at hand (when really, there is nothing very positive about getting denied).

As someone who has been rejected multiple times throughout my college career, I know how it feels to go through numerous interviews, give my time and energy to a company that I believe I’d be a great fit for, and put myself out there to be evaluated and assessed.  And what’s the ultimate result?  A generic rejection letter that exhausts any sense of motivation left in you.  From experience, the only thing that I suggest you do at this point is SCREAM.  You can interpret this literally.  Or you can follow these simple steps:

1) See
2) Change
3) Relieve
4) Evaluate
5) Apply
6) Maximize

ee why you didn’t get hired.  It’s only in our nature to be confident enough in our own experiences and skill sets that we believe ourselves to be desirable for the jobs we apply to and/or interview for.  However, that rejection letter sitting in our inboxes seems to convey otherwise.  If you did not get the interview in the first place, it could be that the company used an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  This is a program that many large employers use to screen, qualify, and accept job seeker applications.  In other words, it is possible that a real person did not even read your resume, but rather, a computer scored and sorted your resume according to keywords relating to the job requirement and description.  If you’d like the ATS ranking to be in your favor, frequently use keywords that match with the particular job ad of the company you are applying for.  Of course we’d all prefer to think that it really was an ATS error instead of an actual person who simply didn’t find your resume to be impressive enough to move you forward in the interview process.  In reality, however, there was likely something in your resume or cover letter that caused hesitation from the recruiting team member or did not meet their standards.  There is nothing wrong with contacting the human resources department to find out who you should email in order to find out ways to improve your resume.  If you already interviewed with someone, email them and ask how your interview, resume, or cover letter could improve.  Remember not to sound argumentative and accept the fact that you did not get the job.  Also, be ready for some constructive criticism and be sure not to get defensive as they are giving you advice.

hange anything that needs improvement.  If you did not receive any feedback from the company, try asking a professor or the career and academic planning department at your school for advice.  Even ask friends and family to read it.  If you ask too many people for advice, you might end up with too many contradictory opinions.  So try to limit the number of people you seek advice from and prioritize them by who is most credible.  If this was your dream job, you obviously want to pay special attention to all of the feedback the recruiter (or whoever interviewed you) provides.  Once you have updated your resume, try practicing your interview skills.  Many schools offer mock interview programs.  If this is not an option, Google around for a list of common interview questions and role play with a friend (or practice on your own).  The only thing to be conscientious of is not coming off as memorized during your actual interview.  This is where listening skills become extremely important.  Sit back, listen, and then respond.

elieve yourself from any tension or resentment.  Of course you might feel a little bitter about being rejected, but try not to take it personally.  If you just thank the interviewer for the opportunity and convey your interest in future job openings with the same company, this could truly reflect greatly on you.

valuate your alternatives.  This whole finding a job thing is a two-way street.  Not only does the employer have to see you as a well-qualified candidate who fits in with the corporate culture, but you also have to see them as a good fit for you.  Just because you really wanted the job doesn’t mean it was the only job out there that was suited for you.  In reality, this rejection could lead you to walk through new doors and find a position with a company whose corporate culture meshes even better with your personality and goals.  Be sure to read reviews to figure out if certain positions come off as a good fit.  The job description never conveys all of the facets of a specific position, so seeking reviews that come straight from current and former employees can definitely provide you with some great insight.  I love using http://www.glassdoor.com to do my research.

pply elsewhere.  Yes, I said it.  Don’t be glued to one specific company.  As the educated and talented individual you are, be confident in yourself.  Once you have evaluated your alternatives, apply to multiple companies who are in need of positions that closely align with what you’d like to do and seem to be a great fit for you.

aximize the situation.  Use this situation as a learning experience and make the best of it.  Instead of losing confidence and faith in yourself, think of it as “this wasn’t necessarily meant for me.”  There are many opportunities out there and it is up to you to check for them regularly.  If you are interested in a specific company, there is usually a spot on their website where you can select for email notifications for jobs that match your criteria (career field, location, and longevity).  If this option isn’t available, be sure to bookmark the company’s job listings along with any other websites that you like to find jobs off of.  If you are persistent, I truly believe you will ultimately find a position that does align with most of your career goals.

I hope that you find a position that is both enjoyable and makes you feel productive and fulfilled.  After being rejected from approximately five out of eight positions I applied for during my earlier years in college, I finally found one who had faith in me and opened up doors.  As a graduating senior that is on the search, I know it can get tough at times.  But keep your chin up, have your eyes and ears open, remain persistent, and be sure to have a SCREAM session after each rejection.  😉

Do you Want to Stay Healthy in College?

As a graduating senior, I have something to admit. I may have put on a pound or two… or 20 since freshman year. After making the tough decision to cancel the one thing I cherished most about JMU (a meal plan), I have slowly started to make better food and lifestyle choices. After putting off my GKIN (equivalent of P.E.) requirement until my last year, I finally decided that enough is enough. No more putting off activities that are positive for mind and body and no more putting on those extra pounds! I am now taking two yoga classes while dedicating at least one trip to the gym each week. I am also trying to resist the temptation of eating after 8:00 PM.

You see, as busy college students on tight budgets, it can be tough to choose grocery shopping (that adds up quickly and takes up a lot of time) over a trip to a nearby fast food restaurant to see what’s on the value menu. Many are swamped with so much schoolwork and spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day instead of setting aside time for the gym. With all the independence students gain from being in college comes a sense of discipline that is needed in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are three ways to improve your health and get you off to a good start for the new year!

Eat Healthy

This one is definitely a weakness of mine, since I absolutely love food. They say eat to live, don’t live to eat, and there’s a reason for that. Eating a healthy breakfast is important because it improves energy levels, concentration, mood, and strength while keeping the metabolism going. Also be sure to snack healthily. Fresh fruits are great because they keep well in the dorms or around the house and are full of vitamins and minerals. Should you get out those bag of chips, take the portion you want out instead of eating from the bag. This will make you conscientious about how much you are snacking. You can also reduce overeating by drinking eight glasses of water a day. This not only reduces your appetite, but sustains healthy skin and a hydrated body throughout the day. Furthermore, try to reduce your sugary drink intake while controlling the amount of carbs, high-sodium, high-fat, and high-calorie foods you consume. Try not to eat before bed to avoid digestive issues and allow your body to rest. Of course this can all be challenging since there are so many low-cost and delicious temptations around, but these will all help you in the long run. What I like to do is look at my family history regarding health (high cholesterol and blood pressure are the two big ones) and try to avoid those types of foods. It’s all about those baby steps!

Walk More

Speaking of steps…Walking may seem like such a menial task for someone who exercises frequently, but it comes in handy for many students who live rather sedentary lifestyles. A sedentary person may walk 1,000 to 3,000 steps a day, but recent guidelines show that walking 10,000 steps a day is appropriate for staying fit. This equates to around five miles, which may seem like quite a bit. You’d be surprised to know that whether you’re walking to and from class or cleaning around the house, those steps add up! If you want to add more steps in your life, take stairs instead of elevators, go on walks with friends, park further from the store, or, better yet, walk to the store! You may find that using a pedometer helps with tracking your steps.

Stress Less

Anxiety and stress can definitely undermine your health if you don’t learn to manage them. Whether it’s listening to music, singing, socializing, taking yoga classes, playing sports, or walking to class instead of anxiously waiting in a never-ending traffic queue in hopes of getting a parking spot, figure out healthy ways that reduce your stress levels. Investing in Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii games can help you release stress while staying fit. Getting a good workout also helps with reducing stress levels, so be sure to take advantage of on or off-campus exercise facilities as well! And who says you have to play on an intense team to enjoy sports? Many campuses have intramural sports that require more enthusiasm than ability and allow students to make new friends while staying fit.

How to Swing Back into Spring

Getting back from winter break is always tough.  Just as you get used to a lack of assignments, deadlines, and exams, you are sucked back into it all.  Spring semester came too soon and it’s time to incorporate school back into my routine, which consists of working four part-time internships while taking care of my baby boston terrier and black kitten.  Now that the holidays are over, I sense subtle traces of a storm coming and if I don’t prepare, I will soon find myself swamped in its chaos.  I also have a tendency to take on more than I should, so time management and prioritization becomes crucial during this time.  Here are a few steps to make this whole transition a bit easier.

1) Get Organized

Prior to making a shopping list to figure out what you need, be sure to look at last semester’s supplies.  If it’s still in good condition, there is no need to waste money on purchasing a brand new version.  Beat the back-to-school shopping rush by getting your supplies well before the weekend prior to school starting back up (yes, this includes books).  My big mistake this semester was ordering rental textbooks the week before classes started.  As soon as a reading quiz was assigned during the first week of class, I became anxious and regretted my procrastination.  Luckily, Google Books saved the day by providing the first chapter as a preview.  If you do run into the same problem and Google Books doesn’t have the book available, try reading checking the bookstore.  Also start saving your syllabi and assignment lists while plugging important dates onto your calendar to avoid getting blindsided by major assignments.

2) Catch up… Not Just with Readings

Winter break gives you a chance to reunite with old friends and family, but it’s also important to keep healthy friendships flourishing throughout college.  Personally, I find it easy to forget staying in touch with some of my good friends from freshman year when most of my time is occupied by work, school, pets, and my relationship of over three years.  This week, I took the opportunity to catch up with old friends, many of whom I haven’t seen in months.  Whether you are involved in music, sports, various organizations, a relationship, or numerous jobs , always remember to set aside some time for your college support system.

3) Get Involved

As a senior who will graduate this coming May, I have started reflecting on what I have done, what I would like to continue doing, and activities that I’d like to start trying.  After graduation, I am definitely going to miss paying $2.50 for a movie at Grafton along with going to UPB’s Late Night Breakfast events.  But I haven’t ever tried Madison Evenings, where you pay $6 for an all-you-can-eat meal from 11 PM – 2 AM.  Sure, it’s not the healthiest thing ever, but sometimes it’s nice to give yourself a little treat when you’re constantly focusing on work.  I’d also like to talk to my professors and seek their advice more often.  After all, they’ve been in my shoes before and have my best interests in  mind.  Not to mention, they can write me a letter of recommendation after getting to know me if I ever need one for a future job.  A lot of students decide not to get out there and take advantage of all that college has to offer (besides the parties and degree).  Even if you aren’t about to graduate, start reflecting on what you’d like to try out.  Even if you’re curious about something completely out of your realm, such as belly dancing, skiing, fencing, canoeing, or quidditch (yes, there are some quidditch clubs at many campuses), it never hurts to try it out!


3 Mistakes to Avoid in College

As college students, we receive a plethora of competing demands for our time and resources. Let’s be honest, we don’t always make the most optimal choices. There are several mistakes we are prone to making during our college years, and I am no exception to this. As a student who is graduating this coming May, I’d like to pass some advice down to you. Here is a list of 3 common mistakes that college students make and how to go about mitigating them. As the next semester begins, let’s find out which detrimental actions should come to an end!

1) Overloading:

I remember that horrible semester. While actively participating in several student organizations, I took 21 credit hours and worked 25 hours a week. This hardly left me any time to enjoy the college life. On one hand, I kept trying to convince myself that I can finish successfully; however, my gut told me I was taking on too much at once and digging myself a deep dark hole. Mid-way through the semester, I realized that my gut was right. After two months of struggle, I finally freed myself from the misery by dropping the two of the courses I was taking in hopes of acquiring a Management Science minor. Anyone can get swamped from overloading and spreading themselves too thin. This can result in a lower GPA, decrease in quality of output produced for each activity, and reduced satisfaction with the overall quality of life.

Advice: You’re not a superhero, so don’t try to act like one! You deserve to be happy and enjoy some leisure time, even while school is in session. If you feel like you have enough on your plate, do not try to take on more. Go with what you are comfortable with, enough to give you a challenge without stressing you out.

2) TMM: Too Much Media.

Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. YouTube. Reddit. Amazon. So many distractions can lead to the illusion that you are too busy and don’t have enough time to actually get all your work done. I still waste way too much time on these outlets, but that doesn’t mean I am consciously deciding to avoid schoolwork. Sometimes the best solution is to simply keep track on where your time is allocated. Furthermore, the information you disclose can be viewed by potential employers and come back to diminish your chances of receiving positive opportunities.

Advice: Over a few days, keep track of how much leisure time you spend on the Internet. Try to use more of that time to study and get things done. You know your own limits so pace yourself and figure out how many hours should be allocated weekly to those media outlets. Most importantly, stick to your goals. Consistency is key! Also remain conscientious of how you are portrayed over the Internet and get rid of anything you wouldn’t want a future employer to see.

3) Budgeting:

As a student who lives downtown, owns two pets, is responsible for school and rent (along with all other living expenses), and enjoys shopping, my lifestyle demands a budget. That’s why I work four jobs and keep track of my expenses in order to ensure that I have enough money to cover the aforementioned expenses along with emergency situations. Most students who I have spoken to regarding finances luckily don’t have to take on nearly as much as I do. Regardless, I can confidently suggest that budgeting now will come in handy later. Mom and dad aren’t always going to be there to take care of things which is why it is better familiarizing yourself with the concept of budgeting.

Advice: Every student is different in terms of keeping track of expenses. Many can just look at their bank statements while others prefer to group them in order to strategically reduce money spent in certain categories. Belonging to the latter of those types of students, I enjoy using https://www.mint.com/ in order divide expenses into various categories. Keep your budget realistic, understand why you budget, set aside an emergency fund, and try to save for the future.

Hopefully this list will jumpstart your 2013.

7 Ways to Stay Productive During the Snowpocalypse

You just finished finals week.  The bulk of what you desire to do is eat, sleep, and watch marathons of your favorite TV show somewhere in between.  I can totally empathize with that mindset.  Nevertheless, if your whole break is full of leisure time, it might be harder to get back on track during the start of the spring semester.  So why not try and be productive over winter break?

Wait, did she just use “winter break” and “productive” in the same sentence?

Why yes, yes she did.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some leisure time as well.

1) Exercise.  Routinely exercising will not only keep you physically fit, but can also stimulate your brain.  Many gyms offer month-long memberships for students, which is perfect for winter break.  Don’t feel like paying for a gym membership?  As an alternative, you can find a friend to go walking or jogging with!

2) Job Investigation.  It’s never too early to begin the job search.  Looking at the skills and qualifications required for jobs related to your field of study is a great start.  Once you make a list of skills that employers are looking for, find ways to develop them!

3) Refine, Online. The concept of personal branding seems foreign to a lot of students.  Whether intentional or not, we are likely to convey a lot about ourselves through our online presence.  This information can be accessible to future employers, clients, customers, family, acquaintances—you name it!  Curious about where to begin?  In another window, go to http://www.onlineidcalculator.com/index.php and take the quick Online Identity Calculator quiz.  From there, brainstorm ways in which you can eliminate anything that can be construed as negative.  Some ideas are: untag yourself or delete photos that could be misleading, choose your contacts wisely, and remain consistent with your personal brand throughout your various social media outlets.

4) Renovate the Resume.  Have you picked up a new job during the semester or perhaps received a promotion?  Did you acquire new skills from a course that is applicable to the field you’re going into (not to mention, it falls within the set of qualifications from Tip #2)?  Definitely use some of your free time to update your resume before next semester starts to consume your time.

5) Bring in the Bucks.  Stay productive while earning some cash for holiday shopping or textbooks next semester.  There are plenty of temporary positions within stores, restaurants, and packaging companies during this time of year.  If you find a job relating to your field, that’s even better!  If you can’t find either, try babysitting.  There are plenty of parents that can use a babysitter during the holidays.  From eight years of experience, I believe it’s a fun way to make some extra cash for the holidays!

6) Volunteer.  The holidays are a great time to reflect and be thankful for what we do have.  They also provide us with the opportunity to give back!  A couple hours each week can go a long way.  Look into animal shelters, local hospitals, nursing homes, and soup kitchens.  Even if you don’t have that much time on your hands, you can donate things you no longer use and make someone else’s holidays much brighter in return.

7) Re-Connect.  I encourage you to catch up with loved ones.  Sometimes it’s difficult to show them how much they matter to you in this fast-paced college lifestyle.  I am guilty of this myself at times.  In an ideal world, I would call my 8-year-old sister weekly just to catch up and see how she’s doing.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  So grab that phone or get on Skype and see what your loved ones are up to, especially if you don’t get to see them often.

I hope that this list helps you feel that your time during winter break was well-spent.  Regardless of what you decide to take on, be sure you’re happy along the way and set aside time to relax.  As a student, you deserve it!

10 Great Windows 8 Apps for College Students

Speedy with touch screen capabilities. Modern looking and customizable interface. New and awesome app store. You guessed it, I’m talking about the new Windows 8! With nearly 87% of Windows 8 apps being free, what is not to love? Microsoft broke the 20,000 apps mark earlier this week and the velocity at which apps are being added to its online market is around 500 new apps daily. A whopping 40 million licenses were sold during the new operating system’s first month of availability. To put this into perspective, the most iPhones Apple has ever sold in three months is 37 million, upon the 2011 release of the iPhone 4s. As a college student, you have to wonder, what type of apps are out there for me? Here is a list (not in any particular order) of my favorite 10 apps:

1) All Recipes: Missing those home-cooked meals but have no idea where to begin? You’re in luck! Being a college student, I know how it is to go to the grocery store without a plan and improvise the list while hungry. Suddenly the receipt shows $80 and you thought it’d be half that. And somehow you end up with a bunch of expired food in your fridge that you end up having to throw out because you didn’t plan your meals. Once ramen starts to lose its excitement, check out the All Recipes app to check out over 40,000 unique, tried, and true recipes. Recipe seems questionable? Read reviews! Dietary preferences? This app makes it easy for you to narrow it down! Have ingredients on hand that are going to expire soon? Find amazing recipes that incorporate a combination of them! You can even save your favorite recipes and share them with your family and friends! It’s as easy as pie.

2) Task Tomato: Let’s admit it. Procrastination is an art for most of us. Working four internships while taking 18 credit hours, I sometimes find it difficult to unclutter my mind, take a deep breath, and prioritize tasks accordingly. There are even times when I have no clue where to get started and go into “dread mode” while staring at a wall. With this app, I actually have fun while completing my to-do list. Through a Pomodoro timer, reorderable to-do list, Kanban workflow display, and automatic day planner, Task Tomato encourages and engages users to finish tasks quickly. It even lets you determine how much time you get in between tasks so you can relax… and play some Halo 4 or Portal in my case!

3) Netflix: Breaking Bad. The Walking Dead. Donnie Darko. Paranormal Activity 3. Hugo. With a great selection, the Netflix app is intuitive and resourceful regardless of whether you are a sucker for reality tv shows or a huge movie fanatic. Through this app, I can quickly browse through media that is recommended for me based on what movies and shows I like. I find the selection to be awesome and sometimes catch myself watching 4 episodes of a tv show *cough cough The Walking Dead* back-to-back. As college students, we all need a little break. So why not sit back on your couch, get out that bag of potato chips, and check out Netflix?

4) Xbox Smartglass: Love playing Xbox? Have a smartphone or tablet? Adding a whole new dimension to gameplay, Xbox Smartglass turns your phone or tablet into a second screen that interacts with your Xbox 360. Not a gamer? No worries! I love this app because it gives me quick access to my music and videos and lets me transfer them right to my laptop. I also chat with friends on Xbox live and it’s SO much easier doing this on a tablet as opposed to using the Xbox controller.

5) Cocktail Flow: As a college student, going out to the bar on the weekends can get pricey. But I am no pro at making mixed drinks. That’s why I love Cocktail Flow. Its features allow me to sort drinks by name, color, ingredients on hand, or categories. It even displays a list of similar cocktails that cater to my taste after searching for a specific drink. This app contains amazing graphics and provides concise directions that simplify making delicious drinks!

6) Skype: I remember freshman year. Feeling nostalgic about my hometown, family, and friends. Through Skype’s video and messaging features, communicating with my loved ones has never been easier—regardless of distance. The Windows 8 version allows me to view recent chat messages and calls. It even shows the people I frequently talk to on the home screen. Even with the app closed, I can always be reachable… definitely a life saver for my battery!

7) ESPN: Your favorite team is playing away but you really want live updates. This app fully customizes your experience in keeping track of your favorite teams and sports. The personalization is great because you don’t have to scroll through a bunch of irrelevant stories to find one that you’re actually interested in! You can even have game updates sent straight to your phone. Live tile support provides real-time scoring and breaking news updates that you can fully customize.

8) OneNote: Do you ever use Microsoft Word to take notes in class but wish you could draw out graphs, models, or even doodle? Do you like making lists? Want to make you notes fun to look at? I love OneNote because it allows me to do all of the above while storing my documents via cloud storage for easy access. I get tired of looking at any study guide I produce on a word document. From doodling to making shopping lists for the holidays to actually taking notes in class, I am now able to bring out my creative side while taking useful notes!

9) Pandora Radio: From playing classical music on my French horn to blasting heavy metal on my Fender, I’ve always had a passion for music. If you’re anything like me, you listen to music daily to relax and take your mind off things for a while. With the Pandora Radio app, I get to listen to endless playlists from artists such as Muse, Deftones, System of a Down, Radiohead, Korn, Tool and The Dillinger Escape Plan. In selecting a radio station representing a favorite artist, I also discover other bands that have similar sounds. If you want to check out some new music catered to your style or have a good playlist for your next party, this app is for you.

10) Angry Birds Star Wars: In addition to the inner sci-fi and fantasy geek hidden inside of me, I used to be a die-hard Angry Birds fan. I’d play it in between classes, while I was waiting for the bus, or even during lunch breaks at work. Then it kind of died off while other game apps emerged. For those of you who haven’t played Angry Birds, the game consists of flinging a bird from a slingshot to knock pigs off. The Star Wars version equips each of the several themed birds with a unique weapon. For example, I like using the Kenobi bird that uses “The Force” to push off the enemies. Who knew that Sci-Fi + Bird Flinging could be so fun?

If you decide to check out any of these apps, let me know what you think!

Reflection on Dr. Clarke’s MKTG 470: Strategic Internet Marketing Course

For my course in MKTG 470Strategic Internet Marketing taught by Dr. Theresa B. Clarke, I designed a website, ran campaigns, and analyzed the results.

MKTG 470

Google Analytics

According to Google Analytics data,  my website generated 62 unique visitors over this semester.  51.46% of visitors came from search traffic, 9.71% came from referral traffic, and 38.83% came from direct traffic.  When looking at a credible article regarding how balanced a pie chart of traffic sources should look, I conclude that my site depends too much on search traffic instead of having a nice balance between the categories.  This can definitely be improved by having classmates from MKTG 470 add links to my website.  Meanwhile, I will promote my website on my social media accounts.

Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is extremely useful in getting detailed reports about my page’s visibility on Google with the goal of optimizing my website.  Specifically, it tracks outside links, internal links, and crawl errors in order to improve SEO efforts.  With 200 impressions, the top search query on my website was JMU Marketing Major.  My JMU Marketing Major page yielded the most clicks, which isn’t surprising since that’s the page I optimized.  Furthermore, my MKTG 470 professor  linked my home page the most.

MKTG 470 Takeaways

MKTG 470 taught me useful strategies and tools related to optimizing my website and running campaigns.  My boyfriend’s father’s Aikido business is also trying to optimize their website so I am going to help him run an AdWords campaign.  One of the main takeaways was that the internet is a very useful tool that marketers should take advantage of since so many people use it on a daily basis to search for products and get opinions.  Developing my own website has created a memorable experience that I plan to continue working on.  I am also considering a career in search engine marketing and in my new job writing content for Approved Colleges, I have been learning about various SEO efforts.

What’s Next?

My campaigns and SEO efforts yielded results that conveyed that I have a lot of improving to do.  I definitely plan on optimizing my website frequently to market my ideas.  I have already experienced that MKTG 470 has been a very useful course through my various internships and have thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience.

As a side note, in what ways do you feel internet marketing is valuable?

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