Archive for ‘college life’

September 30, 2014

Low-income students face ‘unseen’ barriers to graduating from college

by Grace

Poor academic preparation may be a big challenge for poor students who struggle in college, but another important barrier is social isolation and alienation”.

The effort to increase the number of low-income students who graduate from four-year colleges, especially elite colleges, has recently been front-page news. But when I think about my students, and my own story, I wonder whether the barriers, seen and unseen, have changed at all.

In spite of our collective belief that education is the engine for climbing the socioeconomic ladder — the heart of the “American dream” myth — colleges now are more divided by wealth than ever. When lower-income students start college, they often struggle to finish for many reasons, but social isolation and alienation can be big factors. In “Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College,” Anthony P. Carnevale and Jeff Strohl analyzed federal data collected by Michael Bastedo and Ozan Jaquette of the University of Michigan School of Education; they found that at the 193 most selective colleges, only 14 percent of students were from the bottom 50 percent of Americans in terms of socioeconomic status. Just 5 percent of students were from the lowest quartile.

It’s often a struggle for poor students just to gain admission to college, but once on campus their background can create another challenge to graduation.

But once those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds arrive on campus, it’s often the subtler things, the signifiers of who they are and where they come from, that cause the most trouble, challenging their very identity, comfort and right to be on that campus. The more elite the school, the wider that gap. I remember struggling with references to things I’d never heard of, from Homer to the Social Register. I couldn’t read The New York Times — not because the words were too hard, but because I didn’t have enough knowledge of the world to follow the articles. Hardest was the awareness that my own experiences were not only undervalued but often mocked, used to indicate when someone was stupid or low-class: No one at Barnard ate Velveeta or had ever butchered a deer.

Urban students face different slights but ones with a more dangerous edge. One former student was told by multiple people in his small Pennsylvania college town not to wear a hoodie at night, because it made him look “sketchy.” Standing out like that — being himself — could put him at risk.

A related factor is the alienation from their families, who may not be fully supportive of the distance and growth these students have chosen.  One low-inocme, first-generation University of Chicago student wrote poignantly about the social isolation that almost derailed her graduation.  Affordability is only part of the problem.

… My scholarship opened the doors for me, but it didn’t see me through my four years here.

Adult mentors can help, and the Posse Foundation goes a step further by creating a supportive peer group.

How Did Posse Get Its Name? In 1989, Posse Founder and President Deborah Bial was working with talented urban young people. She watched these students go off to college, only to see them return within a semester having dropped out. Knowing that these students were bright and capable, she couldn’t understand what was making them leave college. When she asked them what happened, one student replied, “If I only had my posse with me, I never would have dropped out.” That simple idea, of sending a group—or posse—of students together so they could “back each other up,” became the impetus for a program that today has sent hundreds of students to top colleges and universities throughout the United States.

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Vicki Maddensept, “Why Poor Students Struggle”, New York Times, September 21, 2014.

September 8, 2014

Freelancing may be ideal for college students

by Grace

Freelance jobs can be a good way for college students to earn money and enhance a resume.

… Getting a stable job is tough because classes and studying will take up an unpredictable amount of time. Thus, one of the best ways to survive college is to find freelance work….

Some ideas include IT support, graphic design, tutoring, and almost any other type of freelancing.  Baby-sitting and home improvement services are often in demand in college towns.  Check out the complete list of 15 freelance jobs for students to get more ideas.

September 5, 2014

Claims of a college campus rape epidemic are overblown

by Grace

Professor Mark Perry has done the math, illustrating the hyperbole in claims of a college rape epidemic.

We keep hearing in the news about a general “rape epidemic” in America and more specifically about a “campus rape epidemic.” A White House task force headed by Vice-President Biden tells us that “one in five female college students has been assaulted, but that just 12 percent of such attacks are reported.” I’ve demonstrated statistically using actual crime reports from various universities that if the 12 percent under-reporting White House claim is true, then the 1-in-5 claim can’t possibly be true – it’s more like 1-in-20 or 1-in-30. So there’s a little bit of statistical hijinx, misreporting, and hyperbole going on at the White House on this issue.

But before generating hysteria by reporting that there’s a rape “epidemic” (defined generally as “a rapid spread, growth, or development”), has anybody at the White House or elsewhere bothered to actually check the crime data on rapes in the US? Because if they had, they would find that there’s been a steady decline, not an increase, in the frequency of rapes in America for the last 20 years.

20140904.COCRapeChart1

Rape victims are not helped by exaggerated claims about sexual assault.

Rape is a horrific crime and even one is too many, but victims of crimes are much better served by the truth and accurate reporting about the situation than by exaggerated and false claims of a “rape epidemic.” FBI crime statistics reveal that far from an “epidemic” of an increasing frequency in rape in America, we’ve fortunately experienced exactly the opposite – the frequency of rape has been declining for more than two decades, and fell to a 41-year low in 2013.

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Mark J. Perry, “Before declaring that there’s a ‘rape epidemic’ in the US, has anybody bothered to check the actual data? Apparently not”, Carpe Diem, May 17, 2014.

August 25, 2014

Buying and selling college class notes is made easier by technology

by Grace

Selling class notes can be a way for college students to make extra money, but is it a good idea?

Every student could use a little extra spending money, and selling your class notes and study materials is one way to make some on the side for something you’re doing for free already. Flashnotes lets you sign up by school, post your notes for specific classes, and sell them to other students.

Sharing class notes and tests has been going on for years, but somehow using technology to escalate this practice to an efficient business transaction seems to go over the edge.

… Flashnotes says their average students pick up a couple hundred dollars on the site, and that their in-house team reviews and monitors materials uploaded to make sure the notes being sold are actually of decent quality before they’re posted. Plus, you can preview any notes before you buy them, to make sure you’re not shelling out for what amounts to be useless. They also offer a money-back guarantee if you’re displeased with your purchase. For their part, Flashnotes doesn’t add listing fees, but they take 30% of every sale, so price accordingly….

Some pushback in the comments to the original article included a discussion about the legality of profiting from someone else’s intellectual property, which apparently is not a problem since the students’ notes are considered “their own personal interpretations of what has been taught within the class”.

At least one commenter gave several reasons why buying and selling class notes is generally a bad idea.

Speaking as a college professor of 4 decades’ experience, please, please don’t do this. Buying classnotes is a lucrative business for the resellers, but leaving aside the issue of intellectual property, buying classnotes is no substitute for being present and taking notes yourself. Buying notes is to entirely misunderstand why we take notes: it’s not in order to capture a set of objects, but in order to process heard & seen data intellectually into our own words, which form unique mnemonics and significantly enhance recollection, synthesis, and critical thinking. With respect, Alan: please reconsider this recommendation—it is highly problematic, possibly unethical, and certainly unstrategic and counterproductive for learning. I respect Lifehacker enormously, but this is a very bad idea.

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Alan Henry, “Flashnotes Offers College Students a Place to Buy and Sell Class Notes”, Lifehacker, August 8, 2014.

July 31, 2014

Procrastination is ‘a common pulse of humanity’

by Grace

Procrastination has been a problem since early in recorded history, and recent research suggests new ways to address it.

The twenty-first century seems no different. Students procrastinate instead of doing their schoolwork. In one study, thirty-two per cent of surveyed university students were found to be severe procrastinators—meaning that their procrastination had gone from being an annoyance to an actual problem—while only one per cent claimed that they never procrastinated at all. Employees procrastinate instead of taking care of their office tasks. The average employee, one survey found, spends about an hour and twenty minutes each day putting off work; that time, in turn, translates to a loss of about nine thousand dollars per worker per year. In a study conducted in 2007, about a quarter of surveyed adults reported that procrastination was one of their defining personality traits. In addition to Americans, the sample included Europeans, South Americans, and Australians.

It turns out procrastination is linked to impulsivity — “a failure of self-control rather than a failure of ambition”.

Both traits are moderately heritable, and related to goal-management ability.  Recent research suggests that learning to manage long-term goals is an important positive step in reducing procrastination.  Two strategies are suggested.

Tackle one specific step at a time
Break up the postponed job into smaller tasks.  It’s easier to convince yourself to tackle a 15-minute task than to commit to an afternoon of work.  Once you get started you often develop momentum to accomplish more than expected.  I know this works with me, and just getting dressed to exercise is sometimes the impetus needed to complete my entire routine.

Reduce distractions
Find ways to minimize distractions. Try using apps that prevent or limit access to distracting websites, for example.  I use a timer to limit my web surfing breaks, but I have not graduated to a tool that will take control of this restriction.  My system usually works, but I do find myself cheating and ignoring my time limits.  Maybe I should try one of those apps, but for now I’ll put it off . . .

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Maria Konnikova, “Getting Over Procrastination”, The New Yorker, July 22,2014.

June 5, 2014

Finding your spouse while in college

by Grace

Facebook data offers some information about users whose spouses attended the same high school or college.

  1. 15% of individuals attended the same high school as their spouse …
  2. About 28% of married college-graduates attended the same college….
  3. 12 of the top 25 colleges for women also make it into the top 25 for men….

Religion, STEM, and military service

For Facebook women, the top schools for meeting future husbands are either affiliated with religion or specialize in STEM education.  Some service academies also made the list.  All this makes sense.

Top 25 colleges where women find spouses

20140603.COCCollegesToMeetHusbands1
For men, religious schools are the top ones for meeting future wives.

Although this study has its limitations, it offers some insight that may be useful for those who want to find a spouse while in college.  Susan Patton, the Princeton mother who advised women to “find a husband on campus before you graduate”, might agree.

Keep in mind that the Internet has surpassed college as a way to meet marriage partners.

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March 20, 2014

Reading time compared to TV time

by Grace

Many of us assume that Americans spend more time watching TV than reading, and here are some graphics that show the numbers within various age groups.

These charts show what percent of the population is engaged in the stated activity at that particular time.

Older people read more.  Fewer than 2% of 18-24 year-olds are reading for pleasure at any hour of the day.

20140317.COCReadingAmericansChart2

 However, young people are presumably doing more school-related reading.

20140318.COCStudyingAmericansChart2

Americans of all ages watch a lot of  TV.

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The source is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey (2012).   More charts on other activities can be seen at Chris Walker’s website.

Related:  Asian-American students spend significantly more time on homework (Cost of College)

March 3, 2014

Advice to college students: Get a job!

by Grace

College graduates’ biggest regret is not getting more work experience.

20140228.COCPewWorkDuringCollege1

… Pew Research survey asked college graduates whether, while still in school, they could have better prepared for the type of job they wanted by gaining more work experience, studying harder or beginning their job search earlier.

About three-quarters of all college graduates say taking at least one of those four steps would have enhanced their chances to land their ideal job. Leading the should-have-done list: getting more work experience while still in school. Half say taking this step would have put them in a better position to get the kind of job they wanted. About four-in-ten (38%) regret not studying harder, while three-in-ten say they should have started looking for a job sooner (30%) or picked a different major (29%).

This is consistent with the advice that focusing exclusively on academics in college is a mistake.

Students become more valuable to employers by spending time in the real world.

But many have never been in an office setting and had the experience of having to work hard for a difficult boss. They may not understand the sense of urgency that permeates the fabric of most work environments, and they may misread the cues and signals of prospective employers and recruiters as they search for a job.

Advice to college students:  Get a job!  (But don’t slack off on studying.)

Related:  Put kids to work to fix the problem of delayed adolescence (Cost of College)

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January 23, 2014

Watching TV with our smartphones by our side

by Grace

It appears I am not alone in keeping my smart phone handy while watching television.

About 44 percent of Americans utilize another device while watching television — but among that group, only 13 percent say that it makes the program-viewing experience “much more enjoyable.” A significant 67 percent report that it makes their TV viewing “somewhat more enjoyable.”

Hungry for more information

I would say it makes my viewing experience more enjoyable.  Most of the time I use my phone to look up information about a particular person appearing on a news or reality show, which is mostly what I watch on TV.  So if an expert is opining on a particular topic, I might look up his background to consider how credible I consider his views.  Or if a starlet is embroiled in some scandal, I might Google her to see how many times she’s been married.

… 67 percent of those using a second screen while watching TV are searching for program-related content. And the most commonly used second-screen device is a smart phone. Those most likely to use their phones in this way are millennials (ages 13 to 34). Women are also more likely to be second-screen users than men.

Millennials are more likely to access Twitter for shows they are watching (22 percent) and mostly go to social network sites where they can interact with or track a community of other viewers.

The use of what the study calls “synchronized content” is most often done during reality shows (29 percent) and for participating in contests to win prizes (24 percent). An overwhelming 72 percent said such content is only appropriate for certain shows.

Too distracting?
Does this use of “synchronized content” create a negative distraction as much multitasking does in other areas?  I usually check my smart phone while pausing the program or during commercials, so I don’t consider it multitasking as much as “data-enhanced” viewing.

Social or anti-social viewing?
Checking Twitter or similar social media sites can make TV watching more of a social event at times.  For example, if I’m home alone watching the Super Bowl, I might want to check in with Facebook friends during the game to make it a more exciting event.  Or would that just make me feel lonely for not being invited to a Super Bowl party?

Related:  Distracted by digital devices (Cost of College)

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January 10, 2014

To overcome procrastination, start small

by Grace

Procrastination is a serious obstruction to high productivity for many of us, and new research suggests ways to overcome it.

About 20% of adults claim to be chronic procrastinators, based on research by Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, Chicago, and others. Other studies suggest the rate among college students may be as high as 70%. The habit predicts lower salaries and a higher likelihood of unemployment, according to a recent study of 22,053 people co-authored by Dr. Ferrari.

Procrastination also predicts such long-term problems as failing to save for retirement and neglecting preventive health care. Studies show men are worse procrastinators than women, and researchers suspect the habit plays a role in men’s tendency to complete fewer years of education.

It does seem that the college years are a time of heightened procrastination.  For many students, it’s the first time they have so much freedom in how to structure their day.

Stay off Facebook!  Instead of distracting ourselves with the strategy of “giving in to feel good”, we would do better by trying to focus on the positive feelings we’ll have after we accomplish the dreaded task.

Often, procrastinators attempt to avoid the anxiety or worry aroused by a tough task with activities aimed at repairing their mood, such as checking Facebook or taking a nap. But the pattern, which researchers call “giving in to feel good,” makes procrastinators feel worse later, when they face the consequences of missing a deadline or making a hasty, last-minute effort, says Timothy Pychyl (rhymes with Mitchell), an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and a researcher on the topic.

Here are specific ideas from this latest research.

Time Travel: If you are rebelling against the feeling of having to work, try projecting yourself into the future. Imagine the good feelings you will have if you stop procrastinating and finish a project (or the bad feelings you will have if you don’t finish).

‘Just Get Started': If you are feeling frightened of possible failure, just get started. Tell yourself you don’t have to do the whole project. Just do the first one or two steps on it.

Forgive Yourself: If you are feeling guilty about procrastinating, stop beating yourself up. Replace the negative thoughts with something more positive.

Easy Things First: If you are feeling a lot of dread about one task in particular on your to-do list, start with something else, preferably the task you feel most like doing. The momentum you gain will help you start the toughest task later

Start with a small step.20140109.COCPlanking1

I have found the combination of ” ‘Just Get Started’ and Easy Things First often helps me beat the procrastination demon.  Some New Year’s resolution ideas recently posted on the Internet seem to follow this strategy.

30 day plank challenge
Start with a 20-second plank on day one, and by day 30 you will be up to five minutes.  As a novice planker, five minutes sounds very impressive!

One bag a week decluttering
Fill up one bag a week with household items to donate or to throw away.  Slowly but surely, the house will become less cluttered.

One sentence a day journaling
It’s not hard to jot down one sentence each day.  It is surprising how that meager act of writing captures memories that become more valuable over time.  280 Daily is an online tool that allows 280 characters for each journal entry.

Dopamine flow is generated when small steps are completed successfully.

… The brain can be trained to feed off of bursts of dopamine sparked by rewarding experiences. You create the dopamine environment, and the brain does the rest. One way to achieve this is by setting incremental goals, according to neurologist Judy Willis. In essence, what you are doing is rewiring the brain to attach a dopamine response to the task you want as a reward. Allow yourself to experience frequent positive feedback as you progress through a series of goals. Dopamine will flow as a result of your brain’s positive reinforcement every time you complete a step and meet a challenge.

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