Calculate your GPA

Surprisingly, a lot of students don’t actually know how to calculate their own GPA. I’ve included a small tutorial and a link to a calculator because it is much easier just to plug it in and be given an answer. For those of you who are seriously clueless, GPA stands for grade point average and is an important factor on your transcript.

To calculate your GPA you’ll need to know your average and the weight (number of hours) for each class. You get a certain number of grade points for each class, depending on your grade. Points are awarded according to the chart below.
A=4 points
B=3 points
C=2 points
D=1 point
W/F = 0 points

Multiply the grade points by the weight of the class. For example, if your biology class is 4 hours and you made a B, you get 12 points for that class. Find all the points for every class and add them up. Then add up the total hours of all classes. To find your GPA, you divide total grade points by total number of hours

Here’s an example transcript:

Class Grade Hours Points Grade Points
Biology A 4 4 16
English B 3 3 9
Calculus C 4 2 8
Economics A 3 4 12
Speech A 2 4 8
16 53

3.3125 = 53 / 16 –> This student has a B.

If that’s just too complicated and time-consuming or you’re lazy (like me), here’s a GPA calculator for you provided by Back2College. It makes everything wonderfully simple.

Repaying student loans

I’m still four years away from having to repay my student loans, but I know I should start thinking about it now. Get Rich Slowly posted a great guide to repay student loans.

If you have federal loans, your options are much simpler. The interest rate is lower, so it’s usually best to just pay them as scheduled. Private loans are a whole different ball park and very confusing because terms usually vary from provider to provider, while government-backed loans are stuck with the federal terms given, no matter who your lender is.

One option is consolidation, which is not the best option unless you seriously can’t afford the monthly payments. Consolidation leads to a higher interest rate because you’re extending the life of the loan and there are more complications with private loans. Depending on your financial plan, consolidation can be a good or a bad option.

There are also options for loan forgiveness if you are going to be joining the Peace Corps or the military (or other programs that are listed on the FinAid website). I personally don’t qualify for any of this, so I hope I’ll get a high-paying job with my really expensive fancy degree so I can pay my loans off quickly.

Also, you can’t simply just declare bankruptcy anymore and be done with your loans. Certain federal loans will go away, but not private loans. The government decided on this a few years ago because too many students were coming out of college and declaring bankruptcy right off the bat. There are certain circumstances surrounding the issue, which are covered in more detail here.

The FinAid website also has a Loan Calculator that just made me feel very sad about the amount of interest I’m going to pay just on my freshman Stafford loan. Bring on the next three years worth of borrowed money.

3 academic programs for Mac users

Gearfire is publishing an article about his favorite academic programs for Windows and I’m posting a sister article for Mac users. Personally, I don’t use academic-based software that much. I do have these three applications on my computer and use them sometimes, but so far this semester, I haven’t had too many assignments or a difficult class. I use NeoOffice the most out of any program, for word processing and spreadsheets, but I also use Skim. There are other programs out there, but with my experience, these are great for students. Note taking is usually done in a text editor/word processing program anyway.

Genius Genius is a flashcard-based application to help you memorize things. I use this, especially for political science in memorizing hoards of vocab words. It organizes info using the “Leitner “learning cardfile” system, and it quizzes you using a spaced repetition method.” Based on performance, it repeats certain words.

Schoolhouse Schoolhouse is the homework manager for Mac. It sorts and organizes assignments, tests and projects. The smart notebook feature introduced in other Apple software is there, as well as classcasts so you can publish subscribable assignments on the web. My favorite thing about this software is the grade calculations. You can input all of your grades for each class and it keeps track of your average. It’s much better than trying to do it myself. Schoolhouse integrates a calendar/GTD program with keeping track of school work as well, which makes this an excellent tool for students.

Skim Skim is a PDF reader (yes, I know, Preview is wonderful!) that lets you write on them so you don’t have to print out notes to take notes. I use this for my political science class (well, when I actually went to his class, I haven’t in over a month.) The professor gives us a copy of the powerpoint in pdf format and I use Skim to write all over it. It saves me from the cost of ink and paper.

Online degrees

Online degrees are an upcoming trend that I’m not sure about. Usually, when taking a course online, it’s much easier. There’s not a teacher around you to watch and make sure you’re not cheating. I’ve seen more and more universities pop up that solely give online degrees, for example, Utica College offers Economic Crime Degrees.

For some people, online degrees might be the way to go. If you can’t afford or don’t have the time to go to a physical school, but still need a degree, it’s a nice choice to have. Utica College offers an intensive online cybersecurity degree and a masters in cybercrime investigation, which are subjects I’ve thought about before, but what with all the identity theft going on, wouldn’t be a bad field to get into.

One thing that you’d want to look for with an online university is accreditation. If I spend money and get a degree at this college, is it going to be good enough for an employer? Also, what would the classes be like? Utica College uses WebCT, which is something my university uses and is a nice course management system.

Getting a college education online could save you a lot of time, energy and money if you’re looking for that sort of environment. It may not be for eighteen year-olds, but it might be just the thing if you’re a little older and juggling a full-time job.

Readers, what are your opinions on this? Do you think they’re a waste or just what we need in the education field?

Research like you mean it

We’ve all had to write one before and if you’re one of the very few who haven’t, then you will get there. Some of us are lucky enough (debatable) to have had a research paper assigned in high school where the teachers walk you through everything and some of us are even luckier when our college professors are actually grad students who will do the same thing for us poor little freshmen.

In Comp I, we have three writing portfolios for the semester. The first is an autobiography, the second and third are collaborative research assignments. In the first, we simply gather our research and write source reviews. We don’t actually write the paper until the third project is due, which is the end of the semester.

Point is, research is important and here’s my tips on how to do it successfully.

Most research needs to be academic and professors usually want those sources to be from some sort of scholarly journal and if anyone’s had the privilege of reading one, they’re boring. How to get through all that material without killing yourself? Read the abstract, which most of them have. If you can sit through that, you can sit through the rest of the article. Read it in chunks. A few pages at a time, highlighting important information so you don’t ever have to read it again.

Make sure to bookmark or print out a copy and do your citation now. I keep a text document of all my citations so I don’t have to go find them at the end. Citation Machine is your friend, your hero and your savior. Choose the format (MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian and simply input the information and it prints out the citation for you.

Zotero is a Firefox extension to help collect, manage and cite your research. I personally haven’t used it, but have heard great reviews.

To sum it up

  • Read the abstract or summary first
  • Read in chunks, taking breaks
  • Highlight
  • Bookmark the article
  • Make your citations now and keep a running bibliography

Other articles and resources

Find the best scholarships for you

One of the greatest things about college is the free money people will throw at you. Yes, that’s right, scholarships and grants. Unfortunately, your income has to be pretty low to qualify for most grants, I’m talking low enough that it’s hard to even live on. So, scholarships are your best friend.

The essay
Most scholarship applications include an essay. And it may not seem like a big deal, unless you’re applying for multiple scholarships, in which case it’s an extremely big deal because that means multiple essays. Not true. Usually, the scholarship essays are pretty generic and you can use the same essay over an over again. A good idea is to write one about your life and any obstacles you’ve overcome that made you a better person. Those are killer. But a better one is something that will tell the reader about you and what you really care about (your dog, Thumper or how you live to play baseball.) Did you really volunteer with the elderly because you live to help people or to put it on your college application? If you’re a funny person, let them know that. If you are a bleeding heart, bleed all over that paper. An essay is about selling yourself and if you really have to embellish, then go ahead. You have bigger problems anyway.

Where to find them
Your school advisers have the best collection of local scholarships, which give you a better chance. Also, most colleges have their own scholarships, which I think are just discounts since they’re the ones giving it to you. Either way, it’s money you don’t have to pay back. Most undergraduates with decent grades and a half decent essay can get something out of their school if they apply. After you’ve tapped those resources, online is the next step. Here’s three websites that were crucial for me.

Be careful though, when giving out personal information. Make sure it’s a legitimate scholarship before you give too much info. Stay away if they want some of your money.

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