The Right Choice: 5 Reasons to Pursue a College Degree Reply

Earning a college degree is a crucial step in life and is now considered an integral part of the “American Dream.” It is about creating opportunities in life. A college degree prepares your intellect and social abilities for your adult life and career.
Most people want to attend college, but they don’t know why they should or how it will benefit their lives. There are many benefits associated with earning a college degree and here are just a few.

1. Make More Money

For many people, the ability to make more money is what drives them to go to college. Whether it is a bachelor’s or master’s degree, a postsecondary degree gives you the opportunity to pursue higher paying careers that require advanced skills. Research indicates that college graduates earn more money in their lifetime compared to those who only possess a high school diploma.

According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, high school graduates earn about $30,000 annually, and bachelor’s degree graduates earn about $50,000 a year. In a few years, this translates to a big earnings gap between these two groups of individuals. The earning potential also differs depending on your field of work. Although there is an income disparity based on your gender and race, your earning potential still increases significantly with a college degree.

2. Expand Your Knowledge Base

Getting college education helps you gain advanced knowledge in your subjects of interest and a broad range of experience in many other subjects. It also gives you the ability to exercise critical and abstract thinking. It helps you gain the capacity to express yourself both in writing and speech clearly and to make sensible decisions. These skills are quite crucial both on and off your job.

3. Better Career Opportunities

The most common path to a better career is earning a college degree. Although when most people enter college, they don’t know what they want to become in future, most of them know they need a good job that will pay them well and offer them more satisfaction and security. This is one of the primary reasons people invest their money and time to go to college.

Usually, it doesn’t matter what you study, what counts is just the fact that you earned the degree. Since college gives you a wide range of skills, many graduates end up working in various fields that are different from what they studied. Thus, college opens up doors for opportunities that aren’t always available to those who haven’t been engaged in higher education.

4. Satisfaction and Job Security

A post-secondary degree usually leads to better job security. The truth is, without a degree, you may not be as valuable to your employer. And when things get tough, it can be easier to lay you off. As a matter of fact, higher education is so vital that some companies will offer to pay for their employees’ tuition. That is how valuable a college degree is.

It is considered as an important investment that will be of benefit not only to the employee but the firm as well. Studies show that during economic recessions, college graduates are least likely to be laid off. Those who suffer most job cuts are individuals who only possess high school diplomas. If you are a college graduate, you are also bound to enjoy your job due to factors such as employment benefits, higher income, and opportunities to advance your career, and this translates to job satisfaction.

5. Ability to Weather Adversity

During an economic downturn, with more money available in your savings account, an education, and marketable skills, having a degree will help you survive hardship. The benefits of getting a college degree are very numerous indeed, and college education is a great investment in your life. You will gain more money, a bigger knowledge base, job security and satisfaction, and the ability to withstand tough times. And all these factors will give you a secure future.

Going to college will come with some difficulties. One of the thing you don’t have to do, however, is relocate. If you live in Colorado, for example, try to find a local college in Colorado instead of traveling to an out-of-state university. By attending a local college, you can maintain your current job and life while still attaining the many benefits available to you through a degree.


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family. Kara recommends looking into diplomacy programs for more information on degrees that can help save the world.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

4 Things to Consider When Applying to Universities Reply

Choosing a college can be really easy. Or really hard. It all depends on a number of factors, some within your control and some beyond it. There are some components, however, that universally need to be considered when deciding on colleges that should be on your application list.

  1. Fit

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is fit. This is why it’s important to actually visit any universities you are seriously considering attending. Meet people – staff, professors and students – to really get a feel of the place and see how you feel about fitting in there. Not every college is for everybody, and you might find yourself simply liking the feel of some over others. Lots of schools have a website like this one for UC Clermont College. Spending some time on the schools website can help you get a feel for what the culture there will be like.

  1. Cost

While it’s not something most potential college students want to think about, the reality is that cost is always something you must consider when applying to universities. If you get more financial help to attend one school over another, that alone might make the decision for you. Or it might not. Always apply to schools you want because you might end up with more financial aid than you thought, and your college experience is not to be decided by money alone. But cost should always be a factor.

  1. Breadth Of Degree Choices

You are likely to change your major during college – that much is a fact. So if you’re looking at a very small school for a very specific program they are well-known for, what happens if you want to change your major and you then find there are not many other options to choose from? The smart thing to do is not only have a few majors in mind you might be interested in pursuing, but applying to colleges that have programs in a handful of subjects you are interested in, as well as other options you might not have even considered.

  1. Your Chances At Getting In

Have a good idea of the acceptance rate and average accepted student GPA of the schools you are considering. It might be best to simply not apply to any you have no realistic chance of getting into. If you are applying to a school or two that might be hard to get into, go the extra mile when crafting your application, essay and interview to present yourself as a student they want to accept. But also realistically determine if you’ll be able to keep up in the academic environment of those schools if you are accepted. And always apply to a “backup” school that you’re sure to get into.

The decision of what colleges to apply for is a very personal one, and there are a lot of things to consider. The benefits of a college education, including becoming a more well-rounded human being, better employment aspects and better lifetime salaries make it all worth it. Ultimately, follow both your heart and your head, as well as consider the four factors mentioned above, and good luck on those applications!


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family. Kara recommends looking into diplomacy programs for more information on degrees that can help save the world.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

How to Make the Best Use of a College Counselor Reply

Your college counselor can be a coach, strategist, and therapist all rolled into one. Generally speaking, they’re professionals who assist students with academic goals, careers, and campus life. Here are just a few of the reasons you should seek out your college counselor.

Make a list

You can discuss your life goals, aptitudes, and preferences with a counselor in order to discover what you should look for from higher education. Are you a better fit for a degree in computer sciences or sports medicine? Perhaps you’re already tied to a job but it’s your dream to serve the community. An online master of public administration might be the best option. Your counselor can help you compose a list of factors helping you narrow down your choices to the most rewarding options.

Graduate programs

Most students are faced with choice of going on to grad school. The right school for your talents, goals, and finances might be difficult to determine. A college counselor can help you locate the best opportunities in terms of finances, prerequisites, the programs you’re a good fit for, and related career opportunities. They can help you tailor your current undergraduate course schedule or prepare for your GRE. You don’t want to gamble on any aspect of your education.

Plan your career

One of the chief motivators in going to college is to prepare for a good career. Many people graduate with a degree only to find there’s very few opportunities in their field, or wind up spending year after year in a job they hate while struggling to pay off student loans. A college counselor can provide career advice to prevent you from falling into these situations. The sooner you begin planning your long-term career with your counselor, the better your chances of real-world success.

Lower anxiety

Many college counselors say that the number of students they see with psychological problems is growing. If you’re having difficulty adjusting to the pressures of study, finances, and campus culture, a college counselor can be your friend and mentor. Their job is to help you successively complete your educational goals and prepare you for a career. Before anxieties become depression or disrupt your relationships, talk it over with a counselor.

If you start planning before you graduate, you can eliminate bad choices that waste time and money and affect your future. Your college counselor will be happy to help you realize your dreams.


Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

On Track to College: How to Teach Children about Higher Education Reply

Most parents want their children to go to college. Unfortunately, figuring out how to talk to them about it can be difficult. Fortunately, there are three things you can do to make sure your child is taught about higher education in a way that will help you both.

Set Expectations

What does higher education mean to your family? It can be difficult for a child to start thinking about college if he or she hasn’t had anyone to model expectations. If you expect that your child will go to college, start talking about it early on. Make sure he or she understands that this is the educational path that you support, and that you expect him or her to have college plans in mind while in high school. A little thought towards the future can go a long way.

Graduate Degrees

It’s also important that you talk to your child about education beyond the first four years. If your child wants a job in public administration, for example, you’ll need to talk to him or her about the possibility of getting a master in public administration or other degrees they may be interested in. Masters degrees are increasingly important in the work force, and teens who don’t know that might set their sights too low when they seek out a path in college. Giving your children a look at the whole educational process can be a great way to give them realistic expectations for their futures.

It’s About the Journey

It’s also important that you discuss college as just one step in your teen’s life. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that he or she will get into the college that he or she (or you) want. College should be viewed as chance for education, not just a goal in and of itself. If you are able to impress upon your child that college is a place to learn and to get on the right path, he or she can approach the experience without dreading what comes next. College is great, but it shouldn’t be the final goal of anyone’s life.

If you want to talk to your child about college, make sure to start now. Begin setting expectations, talk about further education, and make sure your child knows that no one school is the only option. If you are willing to talk to him or her frankly, he or she just might start to understand why college is so important to you.


Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Saving For School: It’s Never Too Early To Prepare For the Future Reply

Few things can be as heartbreaking for a family as the inability to pay for school. Saving for school, which may seem far off in the future, takes a backseat to the immediate household priorities and bills. Finally, the day arrives when teenagers must decide next steps or parents must seek better employment. At this point, the future arrives, but no one has prepared for it.

What’s At Stake

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with college degrees earn almost twice as much income per week as workers without one. A college degree also cuts the probability of unemployment in half. Over a lifetime, these gaps add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings gains. From this wider perspective, school is a low-risk investment in the future. It is all but guaranteed to pay off. School does not pay off when you do not go, and takes much longer to pay off when you owe astronomical student loans.

saving-for-schoolWhy Saving Early is Critical

Scores of uninformed people believe financial aid will cover all their school costs. They do not understand how the Application for Federal Student Aid works. The FAFSA application factors household income, household size, household assets and debts, and family members in school with their combined costs. This information generates a Student Aid Report, setting an estimated family contribution based on scaled standards. If the government determines you can afford to contribute X Amount of dollars to school costs, then schools will deduct X Amount from grants they offer you and suggest student loans for the rest. Without savings, student loans add up or college is not affordable.

Tips on Saving Early

As early as you can, invest in an IRA, 529 Plan or other tax-deferred savings product you prefer. Pay off or minimize household debt. Refinance and consolidate debts to lower payments. Then, put the interest and principal savings aside for school. A local financial institution like Union State Bank can help you explore your options. Encourage part-time jobs for teens aiming to go to school and try one yourself, for savings income only. Lastly, make saving a fun family project, and encourage all to chip in on little things to lower bills and conserve resources.

As the costs of higher education rise every year, preparing early is essential. As soon as parents can afford to begin and children can contribute, saving for school must be a family affair. Doing so can mean the difference between future stability and generational wealth, or underemployment at best and poverty at worst.


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family. Kara recommends looking into diplomacy programs for more information on degrees that can help save the world.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

5 Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out Reply

unique-2032274_960_720When applying for scholarships, one of the things that you’re likely to be asked to do is to write your college application essay. This is uniform for all the people looking for scholarships and in order to be picked, you have to make yours stand out from the rest. For you to come off as unique, you need to strike the judges as memorable and effective. This may seem like quite a lot of pressure, but worry not. We have come up with five tips that you can follow when you write your college application essay. Follow them to the letter, and you will edge closer to impressing the members of the scholarship committee.

  1. Show Them, Do Not Just Tell

When most people write essays, they hardly pay attention to painting pictures with words. For scholarship essays, doing away with this is a very serious mistake that will leave one mile behind. The reason this has so much gravity is that the mental pictures that a writer paints are a vital tool in capturing the attention of readers. No one on the planet, including judges of the scholarship committee, enjoys reading essays that are dry and have nothing but statements and facts. To achieve this alluring aura in your essay, pay attention to narratives, pacing, and imagery among many other things.

It’s an already proven fact that people like reading texts that are laced with a significant amount of depth and emotion. Expressions, stories, and words that open you up to them in a way that they can gaze into your soul is what can set the difference between your essay and millions of others. One of the best tips we can offer you to get this spot on is to give everything a personal touch. In the place of telling judges about how you overcame adversity, you should show it to them in form of a story. Find a situation or better still, a scene that relates to your story and gives it to them at full throttle. Be sure to appeal to their senses so that they can be in your shoes. When experiencing what you did and feeling what you felt, they are less likely not to pick you ahead of others. A word of caution, however, you should always stay right on the topic you have been given and try as much as you can to never stray far from your point.

  1. Get to The Point

pexels-photo-259009All good essays have some similar characteristics, meaningful and clear points being one of them. For example, after you’ve written and read your essay, ask yourself this question: “So what?” You’re supposed to answer yourself at full length about what you learned and all the things that your writing put across. It’s an additional plus for you if your essay did elicit some emotions.

On the other hand, if the emotions it kindled did not drive the reader to a specific conclusion or realization, it will be of little use to you. For instance, if the master plan of your scholarship essay entails proving that you are worthy of the money because you have a certain trait, you have no other option but to make this the center point of your essay. If the essay you’re writing has a question prompting it, it goes without saying that you must answer it and also remove all doubts as to why your answer holds some significance.

The final tip we will give to you about getting to the point is to avoid writing phrases that indicate that you’re about to make your point. A good example of such phrases includes stating “in conclusion.” The reason behind us emphasizing on this is that if you have written effectively, your essay will itself lead the reader to the point that you are trying to drive home. This, in turn, counters the essence of announcing the place where you put your main point across.

  1. Always Come Out Swinging

For this particular topic, we would like to challenge you to ask any avid book reader what makes them know that a book has the potential to be a good read. We could challenge you further by telling you that we already know the answer they more likely than not will give you. Good books are defined by how brilliant they are at captivating the reader with the first few pages!

You could also go right ahead and imagine that you have to choose only one book among hundreds of thousands. Being perfectly honest to yourself, wouldn’t you settle for the book that grabbed your attention in an instance? Likewise, the scholarship judges are in a similar situation shortlisting just a few among millions of essays. The same way the mind-blowing start to that one book made you choose it over all other books, an essay with a great start will get priority over the others.

Bearing this in mind, you should strive to do things differently from others in your approach to writing an essay. For instance, instead of diving straight to your place of residence and where you were born, you should make things more interesting. You could start by skipping to the interesting bit of your story, then afterward finding a way to explain your origin and introducing yourself in other parts of the essay. This will give you almost a fool proof way of standing out from the rest of the applicants by leaving the judges in need for more of what you have to offer.

In a nutshell, the whole idea behind all this is that after reading the first paragraph, they should be in awe of what they have just taken in. Once this is done, you have an easier task ahead because you will only be required to back up the creativity and energy you have started with in the remaining part of the essay. Do all this and make sure that your essay is informative and interesting, and it will definitely be memorable.

  1. Follow All the Guidelines

More likely than not, you will not have met with your judges when you write this essay. It is, therefore, difficult to know what they prefer and what criteria they use to single out good applicants from the rest. One thing that could help you get a whiff of what they expect is the guidelines that they provide for the essay. The guidelines are your only avenue of getting to know your audience, so you should read them inside and out in order to know intimately the instructions that are emphasized on.

Go ahead and look at what they mention first. If it is about length, be sure not to write even a letter less or more than the indicated number. Take note of the things they put in bold and also any recommendations they give and see to it that what they require has been taken care of in your essay. You should also take interest in reading deeper into the given directions and modify your tone of writing accordingly.

The other important reason as to why you must know the instructions by heart is to prevent yourself from veering off the right direction. It’s no surprise that a lot of times, the essays are hardly read once the judges notice that the instructions haven’t been adhered to. If by any chance you are thinking about bending some or even one of the rules, don’t. If you want to stand out and also have the best of chances to succeed, make sure you aren’t disqualified because of a technical error.

  1. Take the Road That’s Less Traveled

You will find that most of the essay queries have a feel of having relatively obvious answers. Once you have read a question and find that the answer has come to you too quickly, it is wise to remember that it has occurred easily to others too. To curb this, set aside the first ideas that come to you. If the essay feels like an easy one to you then choose a different direction.light-bulbs-1125016_960_720

Dare to do something that’s different or even strange as compared to others. You can even decide to go with the opposite of the first reaction you had regarding the topic. This might have a challenging ring to it, but it also has a brighter side to its every aspect. This is that the judges will be bound to consider you before the others because your essay comes off as more interesting compared to the rest that just has basic answers.

As mentioned earlier, the first thought that comes to you when thinking of what to write may also occur to all the other students required to write the same essay. If your plan is to stand out, then you’ll have to dig deeper and think of an alternative, usually more challenging, ways to do the essay. The easy route is full of travelers but the road less traveled is like that because it presents many obstacles and challenges.

Conclusion

All that having been said, we would like to let you know that it is indeed possible to stand out once you follow the above-stated tips. These are the best tips you will get on how to write your college application essay. Finally, we would like to know how effective you have found this article. Leave us a comment.


Lori Wade is a freelance content writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from education and online marketing to entrepreneurship. She is also an aspiring tutor striving to bring education to another level like we all do. Lori is used to handling many writing orders at the same time and as she likes sharing her ideas and experience, she decided to write a great article for you to show how multiple tasks should be dealt with. If you are interested in writing, you can find her on Twitter or Google+ or find her in other social media. Read and take over Lori’s useful insights!


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

 

10 Things About College Admission That Might Surprise You Reply

Portrait of stressed female student in library

A lot of stuff can surprise you in the college admission process—and they’re not always the good surprises, like finding money in your jeans or those magical extra French fries at the bottom of the bag.

Luckily, we’re here to take some of the shock out of these common college admission surprises. Because the more you know, the less likely you are to be caught off guard…

  1. Surprise! Taking tough classes is better than getting a high GPA

College admission folks would rather see you get a “B” in a challenging class than an “A” in an easier one. They want to see you pushing yourself academically—and they definitely don’t want to see you pad your GPA. So take the toughest course load you think you can handle, especially if you have any AP, honors, or other advanced classes available to you.

  1. Surprise! A long list of extracurriculars won’t impress colleges

College admission reps would also much rather see that you committed yourself to one or two extracurricular activities, especially over a longer period of time. That’s way better than joining 17 clubs spring of junior year. Admission counselors are looking for depth, not breadth of involvement. They want to see passion! So join the clubs you love, devote as much time to them as you can, and look for leadership roles that fit you.

  1. Surprise! That “optional” interview isn’t actually optional

Okay, it’s not like you won’t be considered for admission if you don’t participate in an “optional” interview. But college admission interviews aren’t that common, so when a school suggests participating in one, they probably think interviews are pretty important. Also, participating in an interview shows you’re really excited about attending the college. Admission counselors call that “demonstrated interest”—and it could give you a little bit of an edge compared to the kid who didn’t participate in an interview.

  1. Surprise! A recommendation letter from a VIP isn’t that helpful

You might be tempted to e-mail someone like your state senator, school superintendent, or Neil Degrasse Tyson in hopes that they’ll write you a college recommendation letter. But unless the VIP happens to know you really well, don’t waste your time (or theirs) trying to get a recommendation. Colleges only want to see recommendations from people who know you well enough to speak to your character and strengths, whether it’s your favorite teacher, mentor, coach, drama director, employer, pastor, etc.

  1. Surprise! The most expensive colleges on your list might be cheaper in the long run

Here’s the thing: financial aid changes everything—and you never know what kind of financial aid package you’ll get until you apply. It’s totally possible that the most expensive school on your list will offer you enough aid to magically become your cheapest option. Or you might find the school offering you the biggest financial aid package made a huge chunk of that “aid” student loans. Or you might get a big scholarship from one school that only lasts freshman year, whereas another school offers a smaller scholarship that gets renewed all four years and is ultimately worth more… Confusing, right? Instead of hunting down the cheapest colleges you can find, focus on applying to schools that really and truly fit you. Then make sure you fully understand your financial aid award letters when you get them (they come with your acceptance packages).

  1. Surprise! Admission counselors are looking at your social media accounts

You might’ve already been warned about this: yes, colleges look at your social media accounts, and, yes, you should delete any questionable posts. However, you don’t want to erase yourself from the Internet. In fact, you want admission counselors to find you and see all the fun, interesting stuff you do and care about. Look at your social media through a college admission counselor’s eyes: do your posts reflect the kind of thoughtful, creative, passionate student they’d want to admit?

  1. Surprise! Asking for financial aid can sometimes hurt your chances of admission

Learn these two terms if you haven’t already: need-blind admission and need-aware admission. Colleges with need-blind admission don’t care if you apply for financial aid, and they won’t consider it when they review your application. But colleges with need-aware admission do consider it—and they might weigh your financial need against you. It’s not necessarily an admissions deal-breaker. But, at need-aware colleges, all else being equal, the student who doesn’t need aid will get in before the student who does need financial help. You can typically figure out if the schools on your list are need-blind or need-aware by doing a little online research, or you can e-mail or call the admission office to ask.

  1. Surprise! The PSAT matters

It’s not just a practice run for the SAT. The PSAT is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. If you score high enough (in the top 50,000-ish test takers), you could be eligible for a National Merit scholarship. (Here’s the breakdown of how to qualify.) Not only that, but most colleges love admitting students who crack the top 50,000, even if they don’t end up winning an official National Merit Scholarship. That might get you a leg-up in admission—and maybe even an institutional scholarship. So give the PSAT your best shot.

  1. Surprise! The college that sent you brochures and e-mails might not accept you

Yes, colleges and universities send out marketing materials to students they think might be a good fit for their institution, students they very well might accept. But they also send brochures to lots of students in hopes that lots will apply—which might boost their selectivity rate. At the end of the day, you should absolutely, positively apply to any and all schools that fit you. Just remember, a brochure isn’t a guarantee.

  1. Surprise! Admission counselors actually read your application essays

They really do. Why would they ask for them if they didn’t? Colleges use the essay to get a sense of your personality, values, motivations, and college readiness. It helps them see if you’re a good overall fit for their institution—and the kind of student they should admit. So take advantage of your application essays. Show the admission committee why they should invite you to join their campus. And tell the story only you can tell.

Did anything on this list surprise you? Or have you encountered any other surprises in your college search? Let us know in the comments!


Jessica Tomer, Editor-in-Chief, CollegeXpress

Jessica Tomer is the Editor-in-Chief for CollegeXpress, a free college and scholarship search site designed to guide students through the entire college journey—admissions, financial aid, majors, campus visits, you name it. She is an education advocate, storyteller, and grammar nerd. Like many of her fellow Emerson College alumni, Jessica is a news junkie and bookworm. You can get in touch with her on Twitter: @CollegeXpress or @JessicaTomer.

Designing a Study Space to Increase Productivity Reply

You’ve made a pact with yourself—this is the semester you’ll finally nail that 4.0. But it will take a lot more than just hitting the books to get there. In fact, our environment, quality of sleep, and mental state can play a huge part in our overall productivity. Our brains are wired to respond to external stimuli, so if you really want to succeed in your classes, it helps to pay attention to the design of your study area as well. Here are a few tips you can use to give your area a productivity makeover.

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Clean Up Your Room

Now that you’re out on your own, it can be easy to forget about picking up. And with five classes, a research project, and making time for socializing, you hardly have time for eating, let alone chores.

Unfortunately, you’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re not keeping your dorm room or apartment clean. Researchers at Princeton University found that cluttered spaces adversely affect productivity; too much visual stimuli makes it harder to focus on the task at hand. The external sensory elements compete for your attention at a subconscious level, so even if you can’t feel it, that essay is probably taking longer than it should. It’s like your roommate’s holding band practice right next to your laptop.

Just picking up regularly will help, of course. But you should also concentrate on clearing clutter from your desk, dresser, and bedside table surfaces, too. It’s all too easy to cover these spots with wallets, toiletries, books, and other items—but this stuff counts as clutter to your mind, too.

Change Your Lighting

Experts say that Americans don’t really have the best ideas when it comes to lighting. Specifically, we tend to flood our interiors—and especially our workspaces—with a little bit too much light. Very bright spaces can cause what’s known as “disability glare”—which actually makes it harder to see the textbook in front of you. While you probably don’t have much control on your dorm or apartment’s overhead lighting, you’ll generally find your concentration improved if you switch off the big fluorescent lights and rely instead on a variety of eye-level lamps.

Another thing to consider? The color of the light has a huge impact, too. Bulbs typically range from cooler colors—blues and whites—to warmer yellowish, orange, and reddish hues. While studies show that cooler lights tend to energize, if you sleep near your study area, you should be wary about installing these bulbs. Cool-colored light can affect your circadian rhythms, particularly if you do most of your studying in the late afternoon or evening. And if your internal clock gets off schedule, the quality of your sleep will plummet, making it much harder to concentrate.

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Transform Your Desk into the Perfect Workspace

First thing’s first: if you’re reading this from bed, don’t! Using your mattress for studying, surfing the web, or anything other than sleeping can really wreck your night’s rest. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that participants who used cell phones and computers in bed got much less sleep than those who didn’t. That’s because your brain forms a subconscious association with this spot as a place for waking activities.

So, if you want to be more productive and get better rest, it’s a good idea to get to know your desk. To make working there more amenable, clear off everything except the items you regularly use, like a pen and a pad of paper. If you can, try to divide your workspace into two different “zones”—one for taking notes by hand, and one for using your laptop. And make sure you have a trashcan at the ready so that you can keep clutter in check once and for all. Your education is too precious to let a little disorganization stand in your way!


Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Time to Get Moving on Early Decision Reply

DecisionIf you are a high school junior or senior that is planning on applying for early decision, then you are a student who knows exactly what your first school choice is. It also means that you have to be on top of all of the various deadlines you will need to meet in order to successfully apply for early decision. You can only submit an early decision application to one school. This is because your application is binding. By applying, you are committing to attending this college if you are admitted. You may perhaps have some other schools that you are applying for, but these schools are really second choices. You know for certain where you want to go to college and why. You’ve done your research. Here are some items to consider about early decision:

SAT and ACT: Something for juniors to consider:

  • If you are considering completing and early decision application for a school, then you will want to make certain that you have completed your SAT or ACT test by October of your junior year. This ensures that your test results will be available when you are sending in your college application. If you take the test any later, there is a high probability that your test scores will not be ready and you will not be able to complete your early decision application.
  • It may be a good idea to take the test even sooner than October however, so that you can retake the test if you are not satisfied with the results.

What seniors should be doing now.

  • Obtain information from your prospective college about the early decision process, and obtain an application. While you are preparing to start your new school year, it is important to remember how fast the time goes, and how busy you often get as you acclimate to another year. By starting your application now, you can be proactive and make certain that you obtain everything you need to complete your application.
  • You’ll need letters of recommendation to submit along with your application. If you did not start obtaining these in your junior year, you need to start asking for these. Letters of recommendation can come from teachers, counselors, community leaders who know you, or other references.
  • Get working on scholarship and grant applications. One of the more complicated aspects of early decision is that you will be making a decision on your college before you really know how much financial aid you will receive. Applying to more grants and scholarships now may help insulate you from the unknown.
  • Know your deadlines. Many early decision application deadlines are in November. Some are as early as October. Make sure you are persistent in getting any information you need to complete your application by the deadline.
  • Complete your financial aid applications. If a school offers scholarships directly, make sure you apply for them as you are applying for early decision and that you know the deadlines for financial aid applications, which may be different. Complete the FAFSA in January.

Early decision works well for students who are certain they know their top choice of college. In some cases, applying early may increase your chances for getting into a school. It also saves you stress because you won’t have to wait as long to receive your decision. Still, early decision is not for everyone, be certain to talk with your parents, school counsellors and college admissions people prior to committing to early decision.

The New Frontier – Preparing for Your College Experience Reply

Female college student walk on the road to start her journey and gain bright future

Female college student walks on the road

A lot of the big work is finally behind you. You’ve taken your SAT tests. You’ve applied and been approved for college. Countless hours have been spent writing essays and filling out long grant and scholarship applications. In a short time your life will be very different, you will be packing your stuff, moving out of your house and into a dorm at college, where you will spend the next several years of your life. Now reality sets in.

This time can be very exciting, but it can also be a little scary. You will soon be away from your parents, in a strange place with a lot of people you don’t know. Certainly it will be a wonderful time. Most everyone looks fondly back at their college years; the friends they made and all of the fun they had. Yet it is also one of the most stressful times. For most, it’s the first taste of independence, and a huge increase in your personal responsibility. Here are some tips for making this transition easier.

Know what to pack and what not to pack

Every school will provide you with a list of recommended items to bring to the dorm. They will also provide you with restricted items that you should not bring with you. Most of these items are common sense, but these lists can be useful. Keep them with you when you are shopping. These lists are not all-inclusive however. Other items you may consider bringing:

  • A sleep mask and earplugs – your roommate may be on a different schedule than you!
  • An external hard drive – your list will probably include a laptop, but backing up your schoolwork is a good idea.
  • Power strips – it’s always good to have a surge protector to plug your electronics into.
  • A basic tool kit
  • Flashlight
  • First Aid Kit
  • Shower shoes

The important thing to remember is that dorms are small. You won’t have much room for stuff, so the more you can limit and still be prepared and comfortable, the better off you will be.

Having a Roommate

Some of you may already know your future roommate but many of you will not. Much of the time, you will have a positive experience with your roommate. This person may well end up being a friend for life. However, you are living with another human being, and will undoubtedly have different preferences habits and personalities. The best way to start your relationship off in a positive way is to set ground rules and expectations with each other. It’s a good time to begin thinking about what is important to you when living with someone and how you plan to balance your school work and social life. When you get to the dorm and meet your roommate, discus those items and come up with a set of “rules for the dorm” that is acceptable for both of you.

Finally, be prepared for the unexpected

Your first few months at college will likely be a bit chaotic while you acclimate to a new schedule, learn your way around, get used to the rigorous academic requirements, and get to know your fellow students. Likely, things will not always go as expected, or as you would like them to. Be prepared to be flexible and patient. Bring some extra spending money to purchase the inevitable few things that you either forgot, or didn’t know you needed.