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Archive for the ‘College Life’ Category

Nova Scotia Throws Out Student Loan Interest


In a move that mirrors the proposal in Oregon we talked about a few months back, Canadian province Nova Scotia has voted to eliminate interest on college student loans. The legislation is a deliberate and explicit move to remove the crippling financial burden of debt from new students as they start their careers.

Other provinces (and states) should take note. This is a no-brainer. Investing in your college graduates is how you build toward a prosperous future. In an era where the rapidly rising cost of a college education makes more and more people question if the degree is worth the investment, it is in the government’s best interest to reassure people about the value of higher education.

The only lesson to take away from the huge recession a few years back is that searching for short-term gains at the expense of long-term growth is never worth the cost. Let’s be more cautious about who we give loans to and more forgiving about paying them back. The purpose of a loan is an investment in a person or an idea, not a bait and switch to rake in interest and penalties. It’s true with houses, and it’s just as true with students’ futures.

The New SAT Sounds a Lot Easier Than the One You Took

cbnew_blue_RGBYou might have heard that the SAT is getting redesigned again. Among other changes, the plan is to shift back to the old 1600 point scale that old farts like me took. (That’s the way it was pre-2005.) It’ll also be the first test available in both print and digital form, a change which seems almost comically overdue. These changes won’t take effect until 2016.

On top of those changes, there are a number of shifts that bring the test more closely in line with the Common Core State Standards, the guidelines that dictate what students should know by the time they’ve completed a certain grade.

Whether you love or hate the Common Core (and everyone seems to be torn between those two extremes), I think it is reasonably safe to say that the SAT of the near future will be a less stressful experience than what you and I remember. Here are a few of the changes for the easier:

1. The essay section is optional

Though it’s less than 10 years old, the essay portion of the test is going to become entirely optional. It’s likely certain colleges and programs will require it and others will not. But generally speaking, the essay will only be attempted by students who are pretty confident in their writing ability. Like when the essay section was originally introduced. I’m of two minds about this change. On the one hand, it’s too bad that learning how to write is apparently considered an “optional” skill. On the other hand, judging an essay on a fixed, standardized scale just encourages writing what the judges want to see, and that’s often not the same thing as good writing. So maybe having an essay on the SAT was always kind of a ridiculous addition.

2. No more penalties for guessing

As you no doubt remember, in an effort to discourage wild, random guessing, an incorrect answer on a multiple choice question on the SAT was actually worth negative points. I have no complaints whatsoever about the new test ditching the guess penalty; it was always a dumb rule anyway. I had a physics teacher in high school who applied the same rule to his tests. However, the point deductions were much, much larger since quizzes would typically only have 10-12 questions on them. True story, I had a friend who, because of this scoring system, once scored a -3/100.

3. Less topics covered by the math section

Rethinking the SAT as a true college preparatory test, the math section is going to cover a less extensive range of topics. The idea is to focus primarily on the ideas that will carry over into college, which won’t necessarily cover everything from high school. Goodbye geometry.

4. Less esoteric vocabulary

As an English major, this one bugs me a little. The new vocabulary list is going to do away with less commonly used words in favor of words that are more likely to be used in students’ future college and professional careers. You might lose a word like… well, like “esoteric”… in place of a word like “empirical” which is more likely to show up in a college course. No doubt this will make the vocab section easier, but what worries me is the impact this will have on etymology. While plenty of people would argue with me that it’s not important to learn the origins of words, understanding how the various roots and fragments come together to express ideas is incredibly useful to studying any language. You might never use a word like “exculpate,” but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in knowing that “inculpable,” “culpability” and “mea culpa” are all built from the same root.

So what do you think? Is it a good thing that the test is taking actual high school and college work into deeper consideration? Or do you think the new test sounds too “dumbed down”?


How Shared Stressing Out Helps You Relax

tired students with tablet pc, books and notebooks

Misery loves company. A new study out of USC argues that stress is reduced when the experience is shared. In other words, complaining about your ridiculous deadlines, unreasonable professors, and brutal workloads with your classmates is actually a valid coping mechanism.

For the study, researchers measured cortisol (a hormone released in stressful situations) levels among participants completing a public speaking task. Participants who were allowed to discuss the task among one another in advance were notably less stressed than those in isolation.

The key was the emotional state of the person who spoke with the participant. When the emotional profiles were the same — because they were in a similar situation — stress levels decreased. That suggests there’s something more socially advanced going on than simple catharsis. Stress levels aren’t just dropping because the participants are getting the stress off their backs, they’re dropping because the participants see that someone else is stressed out too. There’s an automatic surge of social support that comes just from knowing somebody else is having a similar reaction.

So next time your professor announces that you’ll be having a final paper AND a final exam, don’t call up your parents or your boyfriend/girlfriend to complain. They’ll support you, saying, “I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

But you’ll feel a lot better talking to that person who sits next to you in lectures, who’ll tell you, “This is impossible. We are both going to fail.” It’s just nice to know someone else feels the same.

Write About College & Win Prizes

Have a passion for writing and want to be featured here in our blog? How about a chance of winning a Kindle Fire?

We’re looking for writers that are passionate about sharing their college experiences by writing exciting content on our blog. We see tremendous value in providing content to college students from college students and we want your help!

Whether your passion is sports, campus politics, fashion, or anything else under the college experience umbrella, we’d love for your stories to be featured in our blog.

We’ll be selecting one blog entry per week and rewarding the lucky writer with $100 in free textbooks that’ll surely come in handy next semester. Plus you’ll receive the esteem of having your work published and seen by a large audience of readers! Oh, and let’s not forget about the chance to win a new Kindle Fire!

If this sounds like a challenge you are up for, please visit: where you can find the rules and submit your entry. Good luck and happy writing!

5 Ways to Save Money During Spring Break

iStock_000011798346SmallThe following is a guest post written by Carl Berry. Berry is a financial writer who covers tips and tricks for saving money on travel, college expenses, and everyday items.


This winter has brought some of the worst weather in recent memory. If you’ve been bombarded with snow, ice, and sub-zero winds — or even if you’re just tired of hearing about them — you can find some much-needed mental respite by sitting down and planning your spring break. However, before you start booking your tickets and packing your bags, be sure to start off on the right foot financially. You’re more than likely to graduate with a hefty student loan balance, which means that the better you manage your money during your college years, the easier it’s going to be to establish yourself after you don the cap and gown. Here are five ways to save money during your spring break.

1. Start Researching Airfares Now

Whether you’re going to Cancun, Daytona Beach, or somewhere in between, start researching airfares now. Use travel aggregator websites such as Kayak or BookingBuddy where you can receive updates on sales and discounted prices. To truly maximize your savings, book through Priceline’s Name Your Own Price program. You won’t necessarily know your carrier or flight time until you book, and you may have to deal with a layover, but you can save a lot of money by going this route.

2. Book Your Hotel Room Strategically

Snagging a beachfront hotel room in Ft. Lauderdale sounds great, but it’s also expensive. Instead, book a room at a hotel a few blocks away from the water. A short walk is a small price to pay for significant savings. If you’re traveling with friends, split a room. Often you can add an additional cot for a small fee. Lots of hotels offer beach-view rooms at a premium. Don’t take the bait. Book a cheaper room and save your cash. You’re not there to look at the sand, you’re there to walk on it.

3. Couch Surf

You could score free digs by checking out a website like Couchsurfing. Create a profile, enter the city you’re visiting, and search the free places to stay. You may not have total privacy and, again, the location may not be ideal, but you can’t argue with free lodging. If that’s a bit extreme for you, try Airbnb, which allows you to book shared rooms, rooms within an apartment or home, or an entirely private home. Depending on the properties available, you could score a pretty good deal.

4. Consider a Non-Traditional Destination

Cancun, Ft. Lauderdale, and South Beach are all classic, go-to spring break destinations - and because of that, they’re pricey. A beach is a beach, though, and by going with a non-traditional option, you can still get all the perks of a vacation with less of a drain on your finances. Plenty of college students travel to Tampa, Clearwater, and Charleston or Myrtle Beach in South Carolina to enjoy Spring Break. Costs across the board are generally cheaper at these destinations, so you save on transportation, food, drink, and accommodation.

5. Eat and Commute on the Cheap

Once you decide on your destination, get creative with your travels. Pack your own lunches and drinks for the beach and either walk or rent a bike for an inexpensive way to get around. Cab rides and rental cars, not to mention beachfront seafood restaurants, go a long way toward making your getaway more expensive.


Now that we’ve talked about ways to save money during spring break, here are a few ways you shouldn’t. Never throw a beach towel over your shoulder or slip a pair of shades on and walk out of a retail store. Similarly, when eating at restaurants during busy times, it’s neither funny nor cool to jet on your tab. Plus, it’s illegal. These businesses wait all year long for high-season, and you’re doing serious damage to their bottom line by stealing. And, if you get caught, you could end up in jail and have to pay for an attorney to straighten out the mess. Do the right research and planning before your trip, and you won’t be tempted to save money by doing anything immoral.

What plans do you have for spring break?

65% of Students Have Skipped Buying a Required Textbook

iStock_000025910991SmallA recent report from the U.S. Public Research Interest Group took a long look at how students deal with the rapid inflation of textbook prices. The results showed that high textbook prices aren’t just an extra cost for college. They can have long term detrimental effects on everything from grades to debt to the courses students are willing to take.

Obviously, this hits close to home for Bookbyte, but even while we’re very aware of the problems of overpriced books (and do our best to offer an alternative), the report still managed to dig up some surprising statistics.

The first is that 65% of students have decided to not buy a required textbook to save money. This number is ridiculous. When the majority of students will at some point decide that necessary course materials are too expensive to bother with, there is clearly a serious problem with the textbook industry’s pricing structure.

The second is that 94% of students who opted not to buy worried about the effect on their grades. This means that a huge portion of students are being put into a position where they feel the need to choose between money and grades. And still, the average student will at some point or another go with saving money. This is not a compromise students should have to make.

Nearly half of all students say the cost of materials has an impact on which courses they take. This is another piece of data that’s absolutely staggering when you think about it. Despite the immense cost of college tuition, about half of all students will draw the line in the sand over expensive textbooks. Prices are so absurdly high that millions and millions of students have said “no” to a course they would otherwise take, simply because they can’t afford the books. This is where the statistics stop just being shocking and start being almost infuriating.

New editions will be released every 3 or 4 years regardless if there is any new content. We’ve been in the textbook resale business long enough to know this one to be true. That’s why we strongly encourage students to sell back the textbooks they don’t need as early as possible, the prices fall quicker than you might imagine!

There’s no denying that the textbook industry is due for a change. The only question is where the change will come from. The current model is resistant to change because the decision-makers — professors and publishers — have very little motivation to stir things up. It’s up to students to lead the push toward more reasonable pricing and an adjusted profit model for publishers.

In the meantime, the best students can do is keep in mind that there are still a few good alternatives for cheaper textbooks out there…

Why Our Buyback Quotes Are Higher in February

What the heck is going on in February?

What the heck is going on in February?

If you’ve poked around our site, specifically the Sell Textbooks page, you’ve probably come across the graph you see on the right. It’s not random! It’s based on actual data from our top titles from the past few years. We included it on our Sell Textbooks page to show that the market value of textbooks drops quickly over the course of the year, so it’s generally a good idea to sell your books as soon as you’re done with them.

But that doesn’t explain the weird little bump that’s happening in February. What’s the story there?

Aside from the condition of the book, our buyback quotes are based on two things: the market value of the book and how much we have in stock. The fewer copies of a book we have in our warehouse, the more we’ll offer to buy another copy.

When February rolls around, our inventory is lower than usual, because we’ve sold so many books at the start of the new term in January. Therefore, even though the market value steadily falls over time, our prices get a February bump because of the way our algorithm looks at our inventory.

If you have books to sell now, you can get an extra 5% boost to your quote by entering the coupon code RUSHMORE at checkout.

What If There Were No Sports in College?

Male college student with book and ballIf you’ve lived in the United States for your entire life, there’s probably a number of weirdly unique things you’ve come to take for granted. Our ridiculously complicated system of measurements, for example. When you’ve grown up with something your whole life, it’s sometimes hard to wrap your head around it not existing, even if the rest of the world thinks you might be crazy for doing it. Sometimes it’s worth stepping back and taking a moment to ask, “Why do we do that again?”

Forget everything you know about college sports and look at it objectively. I’m not talking about the sports most college students play, I’m talking about the massive industries, especially football and basketball. They’re kind of weird, aren’t they? Universities, the places where people go to get higher education, frequently go hand-in-hand with an industry worth billions where the star performers don’t get paid anything.

A recent Slate article by Alan Levinovitz argues that college sports are seriously screwing up the priorities of our universities and should be ceased. It’s easy to see where he’s coming from. He even opens his article by explaining that he works at James Madison University, a school on the verge of transitioning into a top-tier athletic power, if it makes the right moves. Levinovitz makes a number of strong arguments, such as pointing out the absurd pay rate differences between athletic and academic employees at schools with powerhouse teams. He points to the example of the University of Chicago, which did away with its once mighty football program back in the ’30s in order to focus on academics. Needless to say, in the ensuing decades, it’s established a reputation as a one-of-a-kind, top-level institution.

Even so, for all the twisted priorities created by college sports, I have trouble imagining a country without them. There are things that college sports do that professional sports can’t.

Growing up just outside of DC, I had the Redskins, the Capitals, the Bullets (who became the Wizards), and the United. The Nationals showed up later, but we could always drive to Baltimore if we wanted baseball. I was spoiled. I could get into any sport I wanted to. Later in life, I moved to Oregon, a state with an NBA and MLS team up in Portland, but no other professional franchises. However, I moved to Eugene, which meant there was only one team worth speaking about: The University of Oregon Ducks. It didn’t matter what sport was played, Ducks fans had a fervor like nothing I’d ever seen. Certainly nothing like the world-weariness of most DC area sports fans.

World-weary or not, professional sports remain king in DC, along with every other major US city. Sure, there are plenty of passionate Georgetown fans out there, and George Mason’s Cinderella Final Four run was the big story of March Madness 2006. But year after year, you’re much more likely to hear a conversation about pro sports, even if that conversation keeps boiling down to “Dan Snyder is the worst, isn’t he?

Drive 90 minutes away from any city, however, and the conversation will almost inevitably be about the local college team.

The reason I have trouble taking Levinovitz’ argument seriously is because he, along with University of Chicago back in the ’30s, comes from a “city” position. Chicago and football could both live full, healthy lives after the divorce, with no damage to the academic, athletic, and local communities. Other schools that have dropped their programs in comparatively recent years, Northeastern and Boston University, could say the same.

But in most places throughout the country that’s not the case. Remove the Ducks from Eugene, or the Irish from South Bend, and you’re causing irreparable damage to the focal point of local culture and community.

Let’s say college sports were banned tomorrow, but the NCAA didn’t dissolve. It just tried to exist independently from the college system, acting more like minor leagues but still competing on a national scale. If that happened, what would keep the franchises from staying put in smaller towns? Why not move to more metropolitan areas where they could have bigger fan bases and sell more tickets? At that point, what’s the different between them and professional teams?

Maybe that’s why college teams inspire even more fervent loyalty than professional teams. Major decisions might still be motivated by money, but at least the team is firmly fixed within the community.

If College Course Descriptions Were Upworthy Posts

It is very, very difficult to browse the Internet without coming across a link to an Upworthy article. Even if you don’t know these by name, you’ve certainly seen them. The Upworthy formula taps into some subconscious part of the brain that makes you click on a link before you’ve even processed that you don’t really care about what it says. This type of writing is impossible to avoid these days, as so much of our online interaction is decided by triggering impulse behavior.

So what happens when these become skills worth passing on to future generations? What if editors on sites like Buzzfeed moved on to academia? How would they get you to take their classes?

Reference too obscure? Click on the image for an explanation. Because there’s nothing funnier than a joke explained.

HIST 211 – Early United States History

Some People Call It the Best Speech in Presidential History. After Watching It, I'm One of Them.

PSYC 305 – Brain and Behavior

A Metal Rod Went Through This Guy's Head. You Won't Believe What Happened Next.

FINC 215 – Personal Finance

I Thought I Knew How to Manage My Bank Account. Turns Out I Had No Idea.

MUSC 252 – Music History I

Listen to the Song He Wrote. The Crazy Part? He Can't Even Hear It.

CHEM 102 – Molecular Chemistry Lab

10 Insane Things from Breaking Bad You Can Do IRL

ENGL 320 – Medieval Literature

This Woman Absolutely Destroys Slut-Shaming in Just 828 Verses

PHIL 101 – Introduction to Philosophy

What This Guy Has to Say About Caves and Shadows Will Blow Your Mind

FNAR 201 – Art History – Renaissance to Modern

The Artist Says This Is Not a Pipe. His Explanation Will Change Everything You Believe.

STAT 203 - Fundamentals of Statistics

93% of People Who Take This Final Can't Do It Without Crying

MARK 201 – Principles of Marketing

This Is Why You're Spending All Your Time on Websites Like BuzzFeed and Upworthy. And It's Devastating.

Are Easier Graduation Requirements Dumbing Down College?

iStock_000005373213XSmallA recent article by the independent education journal The Hechinger Report discussed the troubling trend of cutting back on credits and removing core requirements by many major universities. Sometimes it’s because students graduating from those programs are “low-productive.” Sometimes it’s because politicians want to cut back on the tax dollars going to public universities. Sometimes it’s because university administrations want better graduation rates.

The trend has naturally led to some harsh words from the academics whose programs are threatened. Boston College’s Karen Arnold calls colleges of the near future “Walmarts of higher education.” Western Connecticut State University’s Steven Ward calls it “McDonaldization.” Same idea.

The main conceit of the article is that colleges and universities are trying to look for short-term fixes to increase graduation rates by decreasing the quality of education. While that’s definitely a problem, I’d argue that the real problem is with the motivation (increasing graduation rates) not with the means (removing core requirements, speeding up time until graduation, and allowing more classes to be taken online).

Maybe the problem isn’t the administrations trying to make their institution look good. Maybe it’s a deeper problem with the world having an increasingly non-sustainable idea of what college should be like. Not everybody can afford to commit four full-time years to being a student. Not everybody needs to study physics or history or art after the age of 18. Higher education isn’t, and shouldn’t be, standardized the same as K-12.

People absolutely should pursue some form of higher education, but we as a society need to accept the fact that this will (and should) look different for different people. That won’t always include a bachelor’s degree, or in some cases, any kind of degree. As we’ve pointed out on this blog before, it’s better to drop out than to never try. Maybe graduation rates just aren’t a very good indicator of the overall quality of education.


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