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Posts tagged ‘college’

Stop Telling Students How Much More Money They’ll Make With a Degree

I would prefer not to live in a country in which rhetoric about the purpose of college urges kids from privileged backgrounds to be innovators and creators while the poor kids who do very well in school are taught to be educated, capable employees.

This quote comes from  this article, titled “The Danger of Telling Poor Kids That College Is the Key to Social Mobility” by Andrew Simmons. I highly recommend it if you have any interest in educational issues and socioeconomic differences. The whole thing really hits the nail on the head.money_on_string

Simmons argues that focusing on the monetary rewards of a bachelor’s degree does a disservice to the other, more attractive qualities of college. These are the liberal arts benefits — experimenting with new ideas, expanding your outlook, and learning how to think and communicate critically. We’ve talked about that same point on this blog before, only our focus was on the idea that focusing on how STEM majors earn more money does a disservice to the potential for curiosity and innovation among STEM majors. Simmons indirectly refers to that same point with this statistic: 32% of college students pick a major that doesn’t interest them. Then, big surprise, those 32% are less likely to graduate.

But Simmons’ primary focus is on economic background. While he’s vague about his exact credentials, he makes it clear that he teaches students from lower income families. Again and again, he asserts, the message that lower-income students receive throughout middle and high school is that going to college leads to more money. It’s just assumed that this will be the primary motivator for the less financially privileged.

And that’s ridiculous. Students who have grown up in a household where money is tight already understand the value of a dollar, moreso than their more affluent classmates. The last thing they need is a reminder that money is the end-all, be-all of a career. It’s like we don’t trust poorer students to imagine big, and that’s incredibly disrespectful to their imaginations.

Once you’re out of school and in a career, you really start to see the limits of money as a motivator. Money can motivate you to get out of bed in the morning to go collect your paycheck for a day’s work. It might even motivate you to push yourself a little further for a promotion.

But money can’t motivate you to pour your heart and soul into a project you truly believe in. It can’t motivate you to break the mold. The former is good enough for most people to get by, but the latter is necessary for the people who really want to make a difference or create something great. As Simmons points out in his quote above, that’s the difference between employees and innovators.

Students going into college deserve both more honesty and more encouragement about college. We need to be honest that a degree doesn’t lead directly to a job. We need to be honest that college isn’t for everybody. But we also need to foster bigger ideas in the students that do want to go to college. It’s not about earning potential. It’s about whether a student can look back on his or her college career and feel like they took full advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

These Obamacare Ads for College Students Can’t Be Real, Right?

As the provisions in the Affordable Care Act start rolling out, the state of Colorado decided to spread awareness with one of the most confusing ad campaigns I’ve ever seen.

keg_stand

Let’s catalog this ad’s many crimes against humanity:

  • Stealing the tagline and font from the “got milk?” campaign, which may very well be older than the models used in this campaign.
  • The “word” “brosurance.”
  • The sentence “Don’t tap into your beer money to cover those medical bills.”
  • Attempting to turn the perfectly good “Thanks, Obama!” meme into a tagline for insurance.
  • A website that is genuinely called “doyougotinsurance.com.”
  • The combination of calf-high white socks and American flag shorts.
  • The combination of backwards baseball cap and tank top.
  • The “word” “brosurance.”

This is satire, right? It has to be. I refuse to accept this as a real thing. This was put together by people who are secretly criticizing healthcare reform, right? It has to be. Please tell me this isn’t real. The world isn’t that sad of a place.

But wait, there are other ads in the campaign that weren’t written by crazy people.

mom

Okay… that’s weirdly normal. Now I’m even more confused. The message here is “You shouldn’t have to go shopping for medical help. You should get medical help when you need it,” whereas the message of the last ad was “Who needs a liver when you’ve got easy access to a healthcare brofessional? #YOLO”

What are you trying to do here, Colorado? Do you just have a really low opinion of college students? Do you even have a plan, or are you just throwing models on white backgrounds and freestyling the rest?

The Five Stages of Grief Writing a Final Paper

A sad panda

Sad panda

For some, the final paper is even more dreaded than the final exam. At least with an exam, you can only do so much work in the time given. With a paper, there’s this sinister feeling that you always could have done more. So naturally, you put off thinking about it as long as you can.

I was reading the other day about the Kübler-Ross model, better known as the Five Stages of Grief. I thought I’d overlay the same ideas onto the process of writing a final paper. The comparison was uncanny.

STAGE 1 — DENIAL

“Professor ____ gave us the final today, but I’ve got like 2 and a half weeks to do it. Plenty of time.”

The student engages in a conscious or unconscious rejection of the situation. The disruption of his/her schedule is seen as an opportunity for more active forms of procrastination. His/her sense of time is distorted. The student seeks constant social interaction to avoid engaging with vague sense of impending doom. Bravo reality TV programming suddenly becomes fascinating.

STAGE 2 — ANGER

“What is this crap? 15 freaking pages of this? She barely even covered this in class.”

When the student is ready to engage with the assignment, he/she initially rejects the terms of the assignment as unreasonable. Feelings of outrage may be directed as the instructor, the institution, noisy neighbors and roommates, friends who keep sending emails and texts saying they’re going out tonight, the stupid library, stupid Internet, and stupid Microsoft Word, or perhaps even at the student’s stupid self for signing up for this stupid class in the first place.

STAGE 3 — BARGAINING

“Okay, I’ll start in the morning. One more party tonight, then I’ll get started in the morning, I promise.”

Students may attempt to bargain with themselves, e.g., offering an hour of work in exchange for an hour getting out of the dorm/apartment. They may also attempt to appease a higher power, sending emails to the instructor testing  the flexibility of the page count or appealing for an extension.

STAGE 4 — DEPRESSION

“I can’t do this. This is impossible. What is wrong with me? Why did I wait until today. Guhhh…”

The student becomes silent and stares blankly at his/her monitor. Posture is slumped. Head may be flat against desk or keyboard. In the earlier stages, comments may be left on social media networks looking for sympathetic responses. In the later stages, acts of procrastination will no longer feature any elements of fun. The blank Word document will be opened and stared at for an indeterminate period of time.

STAGE 5 — ACCEPTANCE

“I haven’t slept in 36 hours. I’ve eaten three consecutive meals of Kraft mac n’ cheese and Dr. Pepper. I have no idea what I wrote. But it doesn’t matter. It’s done.”

After realizing he/she doesn’t even have the time to be depressed anymore, the student begins the assignment. Without any energy to devote toward emotional reactions anymore, the student pours out a series of stream-of-consciousness thoughts onto his/her keyboard. Stray glances at the clock only confirm that there isn’t time to look at the clock. Upon completion and submission of the assignment, the student receives an inexplicable surge of energy, later followed by an exhausted crash. Sometimes this happen in reverse.

To Walk or Not to Walk on Graduation Day?

gradcapWhen it’s time to graduate, while you’re sitting there sweating through your academic robes in the summer sun, you’ll start to listen to the names of your class (or department, depending on how your school does it), anticipating friends’ names so you can cheer a little louder.

The odds are pretty good that you won’t hear at least one name you expect to. Some people just plain don’t want to walk.

While the majority of you probably wouldn’t even consider skipping, a number of your classmates have no interest whatsoever in attending graduation. A few of them might even take off as soon as finals are complete. Justifications will vary. Some will say they’re just sick of school and can’t wait to get out of here. Some will be taking off out of obligation to their vacation plans (that they easily could’ve scheduled later in the first place). But whatever the argument, the people who don’t want to walk simply don’t see much value in pomp and circumstance.

And that’s totally valid. If you’re one of the minority that would rather just take off as soon as you’ve completed your last final, then by all means, take off. If the ceremony isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you. No need to feel guilty about it.

That being said remember that only about 10% of the ceremony is actually intended for you and the rest of the graduating class. The rest is for your families. So before you make any rash decisions about skipping, run it by your parents, siblings, grandparents… whoever plans on coming. And defer to their judgment. Just as you only get one chance to walk, your family only gets one chance to see you walk.

The Problem With Grade Inflation (and the Problem With Fighting It)

grade_inflateThere’s a problem at a lot of well-known, hyper-competitive schools. As it turns out, when you get thousands of very successful students who’ve made their way into a top-tier college by getting straight A’s, they don’t want to stop getting straight A’s just because they’re suddenly surrounded by kindred spirits. Suddenly, just about everyone‘s getting A’s for doing a comparatively average job and the grades start to mean very little.

The consequences are far reaching. The more grades get devalued, the more a college education gets devalued as well. If you ask Google whether or not you should include your GPA on your résumé, you’ll get wildly differing advice. That’s too bad, because it shows how little faith many employers have in what’s supposed to be a standardized marker of academic achievement.

The data on grading trends is pretty shocking. Take a look at the chart below. You’ll notice a huge spike in A’s through the ’70s, then another slow but steady climb starting in the early ’90s and not stopping. You’ll also notice that private schools have a steeper slope than public schools. Not sure if means there’s more grade coddling at private schools or if it’s just because those students are most likely in a better socioeconomic status.

inflatechart

 

So a handful of schools, notably Notre Dame and Princeton, have decided to combat this practice by setting limits on the percentage of students who can earn A’s.

At least Princeton seems to be going about it intelligently. The school recommended that no more than 35% of students should earn an A. But rather than pulling A’s from students who’ve already earned them, they’ve been pressuring the faculty into being more conservative with their grading. Consequently, they’ve been able to bring the total number of A grades down from nearly half to just above their goal.

I hope other Princeton’s practice of setting goals, not quotas, becomes the model solution. Quotas pit students against each other in direct competition while taking all the responsibility out of the hands of the professors. Goals, on the other hand, give incentive to professors to hold their students to a higher standard.

Bookbyte Contests — The Best Winter Storm Photos #NemoPicsBB

Over the weekend, Winter Storm Nemo smashed into the east coast, dumping over 30 inches of snow on New England. I used to live there, so I know that when those states are canceling classes because of inclement weather, things have gotten real.

To the students who spent the weekend buried in, we want to see the photos you took while making the most of the winter storm. That means photos of :

…or whatever other more creative things you can think of.

The Prizes

Winner gets a $20 Walmart gift card. We’ll post all of our favorites on the blog.

How to submit

We’re taking submissions in two ways. For the people who have Twitter, send us a link to the uploaded photo with this hashtag:

nemopics

…or if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can just send an email to promotions@bookbyte.com

Please DON’T send us:

  • other people’s photos you pulled off Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, or wherever
  • photos you pulled off a CNN slideshow
  • satellite imagery (unless you own a private satellite, then go nuts)

We’re thinking about doing these sorts of contests regularly, so even if you’re warm and happy in Southern California right now, let us know with an email or a comment that you’d be interested in participating in future contests. After all, more interested people means bigger prizes.

How Much of a Difference Does Renting Textbooks Make?

I’ve been out of college for a few years now, and it amazes me how much things have changed in the short time since I’ve been gone. A lot of things are much tougher. I don’t envy you guys’ tuition hikes. See the chart below from CNN Money:A chart displaying rising tuition rates. Tuition at a four-year private college has increased 60% in 10 years. Tuition at public four-year colleges has increased 104%.

No, I wasn’t getting out of college in the mid-80′s, that’s just the starting point of the scariest chart I could find. Let’s try not to think about what it’s going to cost to put our kids through school.

But there’s a lot I do envy about current college students. The main thing? You all have options. When I was in college, I bought all my books from the campus bookstore, so I was totally at the mercy of their pricing. I’d buy an $80 history book and sell it back at the end of the term for around $5 or $6. A few times I managed to get a book off somebody who had just finished a class, but that was about as savvy as anyone got. You could buy textbooks online, and a number of people did, but it wasn’t nearly as commonplace as it is today.

Nobody rented out textbooks though. That’s a new one. I hope current college students know just how lucky they are to have this as an option. (more…)

“As Much Education As They Can Afford” — Gaffe or the Plain Truth?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R)

At a rally in Virginia, Mitt Romney said that he wanted to make sure that America remains “a place of opportunity,” where “everyone has a fair shot” and “get[s] as much education as they can afford.”

Now, we’re not a political blog. And we really, really don’t want to be one. A political blog latches on to every bit of phrasing and twists and turns it around to try to reveal some hidden truth or underlying theme about a candidate, a party, an organization, whatever. The knee-jerk reaction to Romney’s phrasing is easy: “What do you mean as much as they can afford? Are you saying the financially privileged deserve better educations than other Americans?”

That’s a boring conversation. Is Romney’s phrasing a subtle hint at an underlying bias toward the wealthy? Who cares? The last thing I want to do is contribute to the always petty conversation around election season.

But we are (or at least we’d like to think we are) a blog about ideas. And at the root of over-analyzing Romney’s statement is an interesting discussion: How much education should be free, and how much should you have to pay for?

First of all, education is never free. It can’t be. Even if, in the future, our current concepts of classrooms, degrees, and homework are completely unrecognizable, students will always need two things: equipment (books, computers, art supplies, etc.) and teachers (professors, coaches, etc.). Even if the students of the future consume all of their education through all-purpose interactive tablets, someone needs to buy the tablets. Even if the students of the future are all taught by very life-like robots, someone needs to pay the programmers and engineers making robots. Because teachers will always need salaries and equipment will always need to be purchased, someone always needs to pay for education, whether parents, taxpayers, grant donors, or the students themselves.

So when we say “free” what we really need to be saying is “accessible.” Should everyone have the same access to education? Well, sure. That should be an easy answer. That’s only what’s fair, right? No sane person would claim that the very poor don’t deserve to be just as informed as anybody else. That’s the reason why it’s important to make sure resources like libraries and public schools allow anyone to access them freely. We can’t claim to be a democratic society and prevent accessibility of information.

But at the same time, we can’t really claim that all education is created equal. Obviously, some schools are going to be better than other schools. A lot of that depends on the quality of the teachers. A lot of that depends on the quality of the administrators. But most of it, unfortunately, has to do with money. Schools with more money will be able to pay teachers better, provide better tools for their students, fund more extracurricular activities, and provide more out-of-the-classroom experiences. So while we should certainly always strive to make education be as universally accessible as possible, the sad fact is that it won’t be.

Let’s take it back to Romney’s words, specifically, the word “afford.” Naturally, when we think about affording something, we think about money, but that’s actually a secondary definition. The primary, according to Merriam-Webster anyway, is “to manage [or] to bear without serious detriment.” So “affording” education means more than just paying for it. It means being able to dedicate the time and energy necessary to achieve your goals.

Again, I’m not here to nitpick word choice of a person who’s on camera 24/7, I’m just making a point. An education is always going to be an investment. Even if you didn’t have to pay for four years of undergraduate studies, you still were dedicating four years of your life toward making your future opportunities better. That’s a cost in itself. And that’s a cost that not everyone will be able to handle.

Getting a good education is achieved through hard work and good resources. That’s always going to take money and energy. The more we can help one another have access to quality education, the better. But there will always be a personal cost to a student: long-term, like loans, or short-term, like choosing to be a full-time student instead of having a job. We can (and should) keep the cost as low as possible, but a student needs to be willing to make that personal investment.

The Worst Cinematic Portrayals of College Life

This guest post was written by Crystal Hall over at thebestdegress.org. You can read the full version here.

Let’s start here: you were cooler than you think in college. Although movies often rest on the assumption that their viewers will suspend disbelief for a few hours and fall into their world, some films fare better at this than others. This is not to argue that movies should all be hyper-realistic — they’re pieces of art, and there’s real life for that. But there’s something to be said for the hyper-ridiculous setting. Enter: the universities portrayed in the movies. And because no one wants to be bored with a list of bad flicks, we’ve found instead the most ridiculous. While college life may be a time of wild partying, barely making it, and coming of age, these nine movies feature the most unrealistic (“the worst!”) cinematic portrayals of the subject. Sit back, relax, and thank your lucky stars that you didn’t get your degree in one of these nine worlds.

The Rules of Attraction

The dark comedy Rules of Attraction is one of those movies that’s so stylized and oozing of manufactured cool, it’s almost too annoying to exist. But if you’re into popping Xanax, it could be kind of good — as was the Bret Easton Ellis novel on which it’s based. Although everyone loves a good dark comedy (and the book was certainly that), the apathetic, entitled, depressed, addicted, and oversexed characters in the film make college life seem like more of a high-school chore. Love triangle drama plus pseudo-poignant paragraphs of maudlin social analysis plus crazy parties with rapes and orgies equals college life to the Rules of Attraction crew. Not what we’d bet most folks remember from the glory years of their education.

Accepted

This funny movie has a lot of fans, and was an early vehicle for some of today’s top young stars, but there’s nothing about Accepted that does college on the real. The South Harmon Institute of Technology is a fake college created by Justin Long to appease his movie parents after being rejected from everywhere he applied. And on the first day of class, he learns that there’s a host of other people who were also accepted. A student-led fake college ensues. The film gets self-awareness points for the school being billed from the outset as a farce, but that doesn’t make an abandoned building that former high-schoolers inhabit and play around in all day any more of a realistic university setting.

The Skulls

The Skulls could take up three spots on this list, as the film spawned two(!) straight-to-DVD sequels. But we’ll spare you that to tell you this: if you’ve ever been in a secret society in college, you know that it’s less about political intrigue and more about making you binge drink ten times and wear some type of bedsheet as clothing before its members will let you in their club. Also highly dubious that any college secret society, no matter how powerful, runs mental hospitals and conspires with local police departments. And nobody wants to see Craig T. Nelson with a pencil thin mustache showing up to their secret meetings. Nobody wants to see that.

Click here for the rest of the list.


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