Students Should Take Advantage of All College Has to Offer

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 02:59 PM

There are many words I would prefer my children not use (even though they’ve heard a few of them at home!). However, there are three words I hope I never hear them say - "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!" (Okay, technically those aren’t words, but I’m sure you get my meaning.)

As my children begin their college years, I want them to take advantage of everything this time in their life has to offer. It’s not just about getting your money’s worth – although that’s an important lesson – whether you are paying tuition or your kids are taking out loans. This is the time to take risks. Try new things. Meet new people. Step out of your comfort zone.

There are many things I wish I had done during my college years (and maybe a few I wish I had not done!). I wish I had developed more of a relationship with teachers and sought their advice. I also wish I had taken more advantage of clubs, school organizations, and service work, but I let self-doubt and fear prevent me from taking those risks. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my life. I had a wonderful college experience. Hindsight is 20/20. Things happen for a reason, but I don’t want my kids to have regrets about not taking chances. Four years (or maybe five or six!) go by very quickly. It’s a great time of life to discover who you are, find friends with different opinions and passions, and transition from child to adult. So, as my second son begins this new phase, I’ve consulted the highest authorities – nostalgic parents, friends, and recent college graduates to offer their words of wisdom. Will he listen? I honestly don’t know. Maybe, though, these pearls of wisdom will remain in the back of his mind when an opportunity presents itself. And, instead of looking the other way because it might require effort and risk, he might just hear that little voice of mine and decide to go for it.

So, here’s a quick list for college students to consider as they get ready for school. If those of us that have graduated could go back, these are the things we would do differently! 

Wish Lists from the "Woulda Coulda Shoulda’s"lsutiger_stadium

1. I wish I had gone to more events...ballgames, rallies, etc.

2. I wish I had served on a student government board.

3. I wish I had spent more time meeting individually with professors to pick their brains. I view it as a missed opportunity.

4. I wish I had done more volunteering.

5. I wish I had joined an Engineering club.

6. Sometimes, I wish I had gone to school out of town.

7. I wish I had taken my undergraduate studies more seriously.

8. I wish I had understood that it wasn't about the points to get a certain grade, but that it should have been about really learning. Graduate school was a rude awakening.

9. I wish I had gone to college with a more open mind and not a specific major.

10. I wish I had switched majors.

11. I wish I had traveled abroad.

12. I wish I had gone to the Bruce Springsteen concert rather than study for an anatomy test. (Okay, I’m not advocating choosing a concert over studying. However, every student needs to take a break once in a while. It’s good to recharge! And, no, this wasn’t me.)

10 Suggestions from current students, teachers and alums:

1. Go to Class!

2. Get out there and enjoy it all. Take it seriously and always do your best.

3. Sign up for a club.

4. Utilize resources available on campus, including services like writing centers and tutoring.10264317_10152504222274744_8343547831175655741_n

5. Volunteer on campus or at local organizations. Take time to help others.

6. Develop a good relationship with your professors. They can be great mentors. Take advantage of their office hours. You want the people who determine your grades to know your name and that you're working hard. They can also clarify course material, provide guidance on papers, and offer tips on how to prepare for tests.

7. Study abroad for a full year. (If a year is too long for you, consider studying abroad for one semester, the summer, or holiday breaks.)

8. Take computer classes even if they are not required for your major.

9. Get to know the history and traditions of your school.

10. Reach out and meet new people.

What are your suggestions and tips for incoming freshmen and current college students? Did we miss anything? Share your words of wisdom here!

 

 Photo credit: Dolly Duplantier & Delta Upsilon, Global Service Initiative Trip 

Topics: back to school, education, volunteering, higher ed, service, graduates, opportunities, college major, higher education, college, involvement, College advice

Stay Sane During Exams! Tips for Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, May 12, 2014 @ 01:30 PM

Exams are around the corner. Dreading having to buckle down and study? Here are some tips to keeping sane and doing your very best on those exams.

Of course, the best way to do well on an exam is to work all year or semester to master the material.  By being prepared for class, taking good notes, and regularly reviewing the material, you’ll ensure you won’t have to cram everything just before the exam.  Learning the material in increments is the best way to study.  Ideally, the time right before exams should be used to review everything you’ve learned and to go back over concepts you’ve had difficulty with or don’t remember as well.  It should not be the time to start learning the course material.

A little planning can help students get more from studying.

In the weeks that approach exam time, planning and organizing your time will reduce stress and maximize the time you have to study. Time management is the best way to avoid procrastination and all-night cramming.  Make a calendar of your exam schedule and map out when and where would be the best time to study for each exam.  If you prefer to study in a group, talk with your classmates ahead of time to best plan your study sessions around each other’s schedules.  If you want to have a quiet space to study, consider reserving a space at your library in advance.  Try to give yourself enough time to review for each exam, and consider which classes have been giving you the most trouble – you might want to have extra time to review for those.

Your time isn’t all you should organize. Make sure you have all the materials you need to make the best of your study time. Keeping your notes organized throughout the semester will save a lot of valuable study time.  If you plan on purchasing review books or practice materials, do so in advance as it becomes more difficult to find them during exam time.  Having review materials in advance will prompt you to study in advance, and sometimes getting these materials in the beginning of the course can help you prepare more throughout the semester. 

work

Trying to put together and remember months of information can be overwhelming. Breaking down the information into larger concepts ideas and then narrowing in on the details is the best way to pull together and synthesize everything you have learned.  When reviewing your notes, create an outline of the material. If you are a visual person, create graphic organizers, drawings or flow charts to reorganize your thoughts. Condense each chapter, or (if possible) the entire curriculum, onto one page by naming topics, concepts, or events.  Include key dates, formulas, and vocabulary on your study sheet.  Group common ideas together or color code your review sheet to help you remember the ideas.  Once you have outlined and reviewed all your notes, go back to your outline and star or highlight difficult or important concepts that you need to review again in detail.  This exercise helps you synthesize the information and makes it more accessible by laying it all out on one page.  If you really take your time with this, usually just reorganizing the information can help you to remember it. You may find you won’t have to review your entire outline, but only need to go back over those concepts you identified as needing extra attention. 

Another way to review information is to self-test. Look for practice questions in textbooks, review books, or homework problem sets. The Internet is overflowing with practice questions, sample exams, and online flashcards to test your knowledge.  You could also try writing questions for yourself as you read through your notes. Ask someone to quiz you on the information if you are studying with others. Making flashcards or using flashcard apps like Quizlet.com are other ways to test your knowledge.  Studying with groups can also be helpful.  This gives you the opportunity to ask for help from your peers.  In addition, often the best way to retain information is by teaching it to someone else. Recalling the information, organizing your thoughts, and verbalizing it is the best ways to memorize something. If you prefer to study alone, you should still try this exercise of retelling the information in your own words by grabbing a sibling, friend, or relative to pretend to be your student. Don’t be afraid to try talking to yourself while studying, though you may want to avoid being around other people for this one. 

There is no one definitive way to study, but hopefully some of these tips give you some ideas on how you can approach your next exam. You alone know how you learn best, so try out different ways of studying until you find what combination of review techniques works best for you. 

Exam time can be an overwhelming and stressful time. Creating schedules and managing your is one way to cut down stress.  Shut off phones and social media to help you focus.  There are several apps that you can add to turn off distractions on your computer or phone.  When you know your game plan ahead of time, studying becomes less overwhelming.  If you’re having difficulty with something, step back and focus on something else or take a break.  Exercise can help to reduce stress and clear your head.  Eating a healthy and well balanced diet will keep you energized and help you focus.  Listening to music or talking to someone about your stress can help you cope with stress. Most importantly, avoid comparing yourself to others.  Focus on what you need to do to do your best.

After all your hard work studying, the day of the exam will finally come, and hopefully you feel confident and prepared.  Familiarize yourself with the testing location beforehand if it is not at your school, and give yourself extra time to get there. The night before, check what materials you may need and have these ready ahead of time.  Set your alarm, or perhaps multiple. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. Hydration is also important and can improve your testing performance.  

Trying to cram and review right before an exam will only cause you more anxiety and cause you to forget things.  Sometimes you have to accept that you have done everything you could to prepare yourself, and hopefully you will feel confident entering the exam.  Best of luck!

Topics: education, k12, highered, Exams, Finals

6 Ways to Say Thanks on National Teacher Appreciation Day

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, May 06, 2014 @ 12:00 PM

1345459297_apple_red_deliciousEvery Day Should Be National Teacher Appreciation Day!

This post was updated on 4/27/2015

May 5 is National Teacher Appreciation Day. It’s part of a week long celebration first started in 1984 by the National Parent Teacher Association  as a time to recognize outstanding educators.

When I was a kid growing up in the south, we always showed our appreciation throughout the year with homemade cards and gifts from our garden – blackberry jam, pickled okra, canned tomatoes, and if we were lucky a beautiful bouquet of backyard roses.

Today, there are many wonderful ways to recognize the teachers in your student’s life. Whether gifts are simple or elaborate, handmade or store bought, we’ve put together a list of ideas for parents and students alike. Show your teachers today and every day that their time and efforts are greatly appreciated.

Fine Dining – Leave the Brown Bag at Home!

Who wouldn’t appreciate a special breakfast or luncheon? "We have a weeklong celebration,” said Robin Pigg, a parent of a senior at Starkville Academy in Starkville, MS.  “Every student is supposed to donate $3.00 towards the celebration. Each day features something different.” The parent/teacher group provides lunch, teachers are treated to massages (by certified massage therapists) in the teacher's lounge, and food is brought in each day by parents and sometimes community churches. Gift cards to various restaurants are also presented to teachers.

"We have a committee that puts together a very nice luncheon for the high school teachers,” said Anne Garraway, a parent with students at Mary, Queen of Peace in Mandeville, LA. “The very best gift was when someone cooked dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, desert, garlic bread, and tea) and delivered it to the school for teachers to take home. It was so nice not to have to rush home and cook one night!!!"

Social Mediathank-a-teacher

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but imagine a teacher’s reaction when students use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and YouTube to express their gratitude.

  • Create a private Facebook page for students and parents to post positive comments, special memories, photos, and words of thanks to their teacher.
  • Use Instagram to post a picture of your class holding a thank you sign.
  • Be a YouTube sensation! Get the class in on the act. Create a video letting their teachers know how they’ve influenced the class. Have students talk about their goals for the future. Put their words to music and dance!
  • Design a Pinterest board. Share a collection of  photos, quotes, etc., that show all the ways your teacher has made a difference.
  • Tweet your thanks! The National Education Association wants you to use the #ThankaTeacher hashtag to join others to honor teachers across the nation.
  • Direct your own Vine video! Six seconds is all it takes to tell your teachers how much you appreciate them again and again and again!

 Gift Cards, Gift Baskets and Personalized Gifts

Thanks to the wonders of digital cameras and fast printing services, there’s still time to come up with some great unique gifts. One year, I took a class photo, and uploaded it to Walgreen’s. I used the photo to make a card and also a neck tie for my daughter’s teacher. The tie was a pattern of the class photo repeated multiple times. Not only did the teacher like it, but he said his mom did too! From coffee mugs and trays, to scarves and blankets, you can find some thoughtful gifts.

Jaclin Szafraniec McGuire celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Day a little early this year. McGuire, a brand new mom and Journalism/English teacher at De La Salle Institute in Chicago received a Pandora bracelet from her yearbook staff at a surprise baby shower. “Imagine that," said McGuire. "Seventeen 17-year-olds throwing a wonderful baby shower and thinking to get me a baby charm and the bracelet! It was one of the most unique gifts I ever received.”

Not sure exactly what to get? A group gift basket is a great way to go. Have the students bring in a copy of their favorite book or chip in a dollar or two for a gift card from iTunes, Amazon, or a local bookstore. Add in a certificate to Starbuck’s, some sunscreen, and a towel and your teacher is ready for summer break!

Want to treat them to a night on the town? Have students bring in certificates towards a restaurant or movie theater. If they have children, offer to babysit for free!

Tried and True – Thank You Notes and Flowers

"Our students write personal thank you notes to their teachers,” said Charlene Campeaux Boss, a business manager for St. Joseph Catholic School in Richardson, TX. Boss has a junior at Ursuline Academy in Dallas and a recent graduate of Jesuit Dallas. “Teachers say that's always special. One year we asked each child to bring one flower and each teacher got a very eclectic bouquet!!

A student’s show of appreciation doesn’t require a big expense. Having each student bring in one flower makes it a great group experience. Send in that extra vase from home and a few extra flowers just in case someone forgets. Or, let the kids know they can make flowers from tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Encourage students to present flowers one at a time with a special word of thanks.

Another easy way for students to express thanks as a class is to purchase a set of index cards connected with a ring. Put your student in charge and have them ask each of their classmates to write something nice about the teacher. What do they like about the teacher or the class? Write about a special experience or memory. Add in a few motivational quotes and some selfie’s. Use a group photo as your cover and present it to the teacher.

 Awards and Certificates

Everyone appreciates a certificate acknowledging hard work. The National PTA offers customizable certificates on their website.

Take it a step further and nominate your teacher for local, state and national awards. Many educational organizations have award programs. Check out the National Teachers Hall of Fame and the National Teacher of the Year award. Even People Magazine offers a Teacher of the Year award. Check the web for local and state sponsored awards. For example, Illinois has the Golden Apple Award.

Clay Emerson, a father of two in Indianapolis, said his son’s teacher recently won the Indiana Teacher of the Year award and went to the White House to be honored by President Obama. “The students started the process.”

In The News

Let everyone know how much you appreciate your teachers. Place an ad in your school’s fundraiser program, a local paper or your church bulletin.

This year marks the 31st anniversary of National Teacher Appreciation Week. No matter how times or gifts have changed, remember, it’s the thought that counts! Let your teachers know you are thinking of them this week and year-round. How do you honor the teachers in your student’s life? Let us know. Better yet, tell us about the outstanding educators in your life.

 

 

 

Topics: education, teacher appreciation day, teacher

Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, May 01, 2014 @ 11:47 AM

In part three of our series about college visits, we share questions to ask and tips to make it a memorable day.

 A Mother’s Confession – My husband and I had a far better time on the college tours than my son did. That may have been because with every question I asked, he sank deeper and deeper into his chair! Even though you may be thrilled about the next stage in your child’s life, don’t be surprised if your student isn’t as motivated as you are about these visits.

However, this is the time to ask important questions – for you and for your child.  Whether you’re footing the bill, or your student is taking out loans, it’s a costly venture. Don’t be shy about getting as much information as possible. 

In the Beginning

College tours usually begin with a general presentation in a classroom or lecture hallUniversity of Tampa on campus. If your child is not one to appreciate your eager quest for knowledge, tell him or her to sit in the back and pretend they don’t know you. Many of your basic questions will probably be addressed in this presentation. However, I always had to raise my hand. I just couldn’t help myself. Whether it was about campus security, alcohol awareness, support for out-of-state students, or just some question that my son thought was totally lame, I needed answers to calm my parental anxiety. I think it was part of the process of letting go. I never let his embarrassment bother me. I embraced it.

After the general presentation, you will be assigned to a tour guide – usually a college student.
Depending on how groups are arranged, you could ask for a student with interests similar to those of your child. That way, you can ask specific questions as you walk through campus. The tour will usually hit the highlights of the university – a few specific buildings where classes are held, the university center, the library, the quad or field where students hang out between classes, the bookstore, maybe the recreational center, and finally at least one dorm or dining hall.

You won’t see everything the school has to offer on your tour. However, use this opportunity to ask to see things “not” on the tour. For example, if your child is a swimmer, ask to see the pool, or meet with a coach. If your future college student excels in a particular subject, ask if there’s a chance you can meet with teachers or sit in on a class.

My son was interested in playing club water polo at LSU. He contacted the club's president via e-mail. While we weren’t able to meet with him that day, we were able to visit where they practiced and played - venues not on the scheduled tour.

“The better my visit was, the more I wanted to go there,” said Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University. “Whether it was the information session, or the person who gave the tour, I think it drastically impacted what I eventually ended up deciding.”

Christine Scalise, a Chicago mother of three teenage boys, agrees. She found her tour of the University of Tampa welcoming and very informative. “Going on tour and seeing the school helped make the decision.”

Reading Assignments

As you walk through campus, take note of the many school publications, flyers, etc. This is great material to review when you are waiting to meet with counselors, financial aid, or while you’re taking a coffee break. It’s also great information to look through when you return home.

“We took all relevant brochures and we picked up campus newspapers,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a high school junior.  “You can learn a lot from the campus publications. They provide insight into what the kids are talking about or what the campus is like. Even the ads can give you a snapshot of what life is like at school.”

Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network, also suggests looking at local publications near the school, as well as relevant academic publications to gauge how the school's reputation is relative to the greater population in the city.

Take A Good Look

Encourage your son or daughter to actually look at the university students. Do they seem happy and engaged? Are they polite and informative? Give your kids time to speak with students on their own. Interaction with them can provide a wealth of information. 

Katie McKnight brought her daughter, Ellie, and two of her friends to visit William & Mary.college tours Once the girls finished their interviews and had lunch, she told them it was time for them to explore - without her! 

Dr. McKnight is a college professor of secondary education/literacy for National Louis University in Chicago. "I think it's important for students to explore a campus on their own without parents hovering over them at all times. They need to talk to other students, listen to the campus, and observe. My daughter, not me, needs to decide if a particular college is the right fit."

Mom Tips

Whether your future college student is excited or not, embrace the day. Yes, it’s about them, but it’s about you too. You’ve put in a long 16-18 years raising this wonderful teenager. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this occasion.

No matter what your teenager says or does, just smile at them with that, “I love you and am so proud of you look.” They can’t compete with that. But, remember, even though it’s exciting, it’s still stressful for them. 

Next, wear comfortable shoes, and bring the following:

1. Sweater or sweatshirt

2. Small backpack or bag

3. Bottle of water

4. Pen and small notebook

5. Camera

6. Umbrella

7. Sunscreen

You could be on your feet for an hour or two depending on the size of the campus. Some larger universities may have shuttles, but you will still need to walk between certain areas. Remember, especially for southern schools – it may be warm and sunny outside, but airconditioning inside can feel like a walk-in cooler. You can freeze just waiting for the presentation to begin. A bottle of water comes in handy when you can’t leave the group to get something to drink.

Stash some sunscreen, a hat and even an umbrella in the car. The bookstore usually sells inexpensive rain ponchos if you get caught in a sudden storm. Be prepared for any weather. You spent a lot of money getting there and the tour goes on no matter what.  Don’t forget that this is really a wonderful milestone in your child’s life and yours. Take some pictures!

“It was good to have that one-on-one time,” said Scalise. “We could really discuss the pros and cons of going away. It helps the kids know what to do and it’s very comforting to the parents as well."

Relax. It’s Just A Few Questions!

The one thing I learned about my son is that he doesn’t like to ask questions. And, he doesn’t like his mother to do it either. If your child is embarrassed by your thoughtful and intelligent questions, seize the opportunity to tell them what they often tell you – “Relax!”  Assure them that no one at orientation will say – “Oh, you’re that boy with the mom who asked all the silly questions on the tour!”

So here’s a sampling of the questions that made my son cringe and move to the back row. 

1. How hard is it to get the classes you want? For example, if you need to take specific classes to graduate – are they only offered in the spring? If this is the case, and you can’t get in to the class, it may take you longer to graduate.

2. How big are the classes? Ask different students how many kids are in their largesst class and how many are in their smallest class.

3. What percentages of courses do professors teach versus teaching assistants? It’s normal for some classes or labs to be taught by TA’s, but when you’re shelling out all that tuition money or your child is taking on huge loans, you don’t want all of their classes taught by TA’s.

4. What is the student to professor ratio?

5. Ask about the student population – percentage of males vs. females, locals vs. out-of-state, diversity, etc.

6. What sort of transportation do they offer if your student does not have a car?

7. How many years of on-campus housing are guaranteed? Is it required?

8. When are scholarship deadlines?

9. What is the acceptance rate?

10. What are the school’s campus safety initiatives? What measures do they take regarding safety, weather emergencies, etc.?

11. Do they have an alert system? Many schools now have text alert systems. 

12. Ask about the facilities. What types of services do they offer – health center, recreation center, counseling, etc.?

13. Do they require alcohol/drug awareness seminars?

14. Do they offer career services?

15. What will be the return on investment by going to your school?

My last tip – when the tour is over, have your teenager remove her headphones and do your best to engage her in a conversation about what she liked and didn't like.

McKnight's daughter surprised her. Despite their visits to Dartmouth, Emory, and William & Mary, Ellie decided to attend Brandeis University, a school they did not visit until she was admitted and had already accepted the offer. McKnight asked Ellie if she was sure she wanted to accept before visiting the campus. "Yes," said Ellie. "I've been researching, visiting, and learning about colleges for the last year. I know what I want and even though I haven't visited Brandeis, it has what I want."

McKnight doesn't think her daughter would've been so resolute in committing to a college she had not visited if she hadn't already been on a tour. "College is about furthering one's individual identity and I think the visit is one of those first opportunities to to do so."

Please share your college tour experiences with us. What are your most important questions? 

Photo credits: Christine Scalise and Katie McKnight

Check out Part 1 and 2 of our series -

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Scheduling College Tours? Begin With Basic Questions. 

 

 

 

 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, graduates, college admissions, college applications, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, career, alternative spring breaks

Scheduling College Tours? Begin with Basic Questions.

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 @ 02:21 PM

In part two of our series on college visits, we discuss how to decide which schools to visit and when to schedule tours.

It’s time to face facts. You can’t put it off any longer. The little boy who held your hand whilescheduling college tours
walking into kindergarten and the sweet little girl who used to wear pigtails are in the final stages of determining where to go to college. Yes, college.

You’re ready now. You can do this. It’s time to start the college tours. While it might be easy for you as a parent to just handle it and schedule a few visits, it’s important your student is involved in the process. Before you begin booking flights or packing up the car, have your student do a little legwork.

Parameters

Have a discussion with your child. Talk about parameters. Do they want to go to a school in a big city or something more suburban or rural? Does the size of the campus matter? Consider categories – SEC versus Big Ten, small private school versus big state school, religious versus secular. Does your daughter want to go out of state? Talk about regions of the country. Does your son want to be on the west coast or the east coast, south or north? Does your student have a specific major in mind? Do they want to play sports or have a particular talent – theater, dance, music?

If you’re lucky, you might get something more than, “I don’t know.” My friend’s daughter has grown up in a very urban environment. She’s decided she wants to experience a more rural campus. We live in the Midwest. My son’s one major requirement is to be someplace warm! Keep asking questions to narrow down the list.

Have your child review college guidebooks and online sources like Fiske, Princeton ReviewBarron’s, or U.S. News and World Report.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s high school counselor before you visit schools. This person should know something about your student and could offer suggestions about which schools to consider. The counselor may also personally know college admission representatives or put you in touch with recent high school alums at different universities.

“The College Board has a Campus Visit Guide that can assist families in starting the process ofcollege applications determining schools to visit," said Deborah Kammerer, associate director recruitment & yield, 
UC San Diego Office of Admissions & Relations with Schools, a member of the NobleHour Network. "It includes information on things to consider before you visit, ways to learn about schools online, a checklist for campus visits, and testimonials from students on how campus visits assisted in their college selection process.” 

Another resource that may appeal to your savvy social media student is to have them check out the Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or other forms of social media used by the universities that interest them.

As your child begins his research, encourage him or her to highlight 10-20 schools. Some kids may choose more, others far less. It’s just to get them thinking about where they want to go and to take ownership of their future. Once they have their picks, ask them why the schools are on the list. Be prepared for some lame answers, but keep digging. Maybe it’s the location. Maybe it’s the courses they offer. Maybe it’s because the football team won the national championship. Or, possibly, it’s because it’s the furthest school from you and all these questions!

“We told our kids to look through the lists and pick 20 schools that interest them,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a junior in high school. “Then, we went over the list and asked them why they found those schools interesting. I was into it more than my kids. The parents have to get it started though.”

“I was against visiting any schools until I had narrowed down my college options to two,” said Ellie McKnight, a senior in high school in Chicago. “My mom insisted we go on a college tour last spring break. Although I think most stuff about the school you can learn online, the visit on campus allowed the great opportunity to talk to faculty.”

McKnight said visiting the schools solidified her interest in William & Mary in Virginia, and Dartmouth in New Hampshire. It also sparked an interest in Emory University in Georgia.

Stay In Contact

If your child is like mine and doesn’t often check his e-mail, have him use your address or a new account to sign up for ACT, SAT and college information. Once my son completed the personal information sections for ACT and SAT, we started getting e-mails from universities all over the place. Some sites will also ask for a parent e-mail address, so you can keep on top of the information as well. It can be overwhelming. Stuckey said she created a college folder and moved e-mails into it every day and then reviewed them weekly. “I deleted some and responded to some, mostly asking for more information. I did the same with the paper mail too.”

Logistics

Stuckey said once they narrowed it down, she then looked at universities located inEmory cities allowing flexible travel arrangements. They looked at cities with major airports, non-stop flights, or areas where they could visit more than one college in one trip. Also, if they had to fly, they committed to visiting at least two schools to make the trip more cost-effective.

“We tried to travel when the kids were off school and took advantage of times when other high school students were in school.” Being from New Orleans, Stuckey used the Mardi Gras break to visit schools. 

Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said her mom made a planner for their visits together. “She mapped out our road trip with cool places to stay and facts about the school. This made a huge difference for me and made me really consider some Midwest schools.”

While it may be convenient to schedule tours during holiday and summer breaks, it doesn’t always give you a true picture of the campus. “It is also nice to visit the college or university during the academic year, when school is in session, to get a true sense of the campus atmosphere,” said Kammerer.

Stuckey agrees. “The best time to do a tour is when school is in session. Summer is okay if classes are in session or if there’s a new student orientation going on.”

Another option to maximize time and minimize out-of-town expense is to wait for acceptance letters to help determine which schools to visit. “We visited schools that we didn’t get a chance to see initially and also did some second visits to help make decisions,” said Stuckey.

“UC San Diego hosts a day just for admitted students and their families called Triton Day,Triton Day said Kammerer. “It’s a great opportunity for admitted students to explore the campus and the variety of opportunities available.”

Scheduling

“Planning a visit may vary from institution to institution, but many universities including UC San Diego offer an online registration site that allows visitors to schedule their campus tour,” said Kammerer.

Stuckey said almost all schools have a “Plan Your Visit” section on their websites with information about flights, travel agencies, car rentals, and lodging. Always ask if they offer discounts for college visits.

Many schools have open house events with tours, presentations, etc. You can check each school’s website in their admission section for dates and information about attending those events or to schedule individual tours. Tours are offered throughout the week and sometimes on Saturdays. Depending on the university, you may be able to sit in on a class, visit professors, meet coaches or visit with students.

“At Emory, my tour allowed me to get in contact with the dean of admissions, which definitely impacted how I viewed the school,” said McKnight.

“The availability of group and individual tours and spending the night on a campus will vary across universities,” said Kammerer. “In terms of travel and accommodations, it is best to plan ahead. Many institutions host links to area visitor offices and hotel sites on their tour page.”

“Most times when a student is closer to making up their mind about attending a particular school, it is recommended that the student revisit if possible and perhaps stay overnight to get a more robust experience,” said Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network.

Basden also suggests inquiring about potential special situation funds universities may have to help assist families with their effort to visit campus.

Stuckey advises staying as close to campus as possible. It’s a great way to learn more about the community. When I visited LSU with my son, we stayed at the Cook Hotel right on campus. We could walk through the university grounds, meet and speak with students along the way and we were able to get a feel for campus life.

Also, when making travel arrangements, consider arriving on campus early or staying a few hours after the tour. There’s nothing worse than missing a casual opportunity to visit with students, professors, financial aid representatives, or admission counselors because you have to rush off to catch a flight. Remember, if it’s a group tour, there will be other parents who want to meet with university staff also. Be prepared to wait.

Have a cup of coffee at the local café or the bookstore. Grab lunch in the dining hall or dinner at a favorite university hangout. Walk around campus on your own. It’s a great opportunity to speak with students and ask them questions about school. “Kids get a strong feeling about the campus and the people they meet on campus,” said Stuckey.

Next time - Part III - Going on Tour and questions, lots of questions!

Part I - Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Photo credits: Dolly Duplantier, Terri Stuckey, and UC San Diego Publications/Erik Jepsen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: education, higher ed, high school, community, parents, graduates, opportunities, college admissions, college applications, college major, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, virtual tours

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sat, Mar 08, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

college brochuresSpringtime is around the corner. That means high school seniors are eagerly awaiting
acceptance letters and juniors are in the home stretch for ACT and SAT prep. It also means that
with spring break on the horizon, and summer beyond that, now is a good time for all high school students to start planning those college visits. In this three part series, we’ll provide some guidelines and tips to make the most of your student’s college visits. We’ll start with an expert – a mom.

Terri Stuckey is no stranger to college visits. With a junior at Emory, a freshman at the University of Virginia and a junior in high school, she’s as close to an expert as they come. Stuckey has visited at least 26 schools, some of them twice, and she’s not done yet.

Start Local

Don’t let those numbers overwhelm you. Not all visits require airfare or lodgings or days away from school and work. One of the easiest places to start your journey is your local university. Even if your son or daughter is adamant about going away, this is a great place to begin. It doesn’t matter if they want to go to that particular school. Visiting different colleges lets students determine what they like and dislike. It’s just as important to take note of why they don’t want to go to a specific school.

These visits can be done on days off from school, after school or on a weekend. You can get a feel for the whole tour experience. This will help you gauge time for itineraries later if you decide to tour schools out-of-state.

In addition, attending local events on a college campus can give your son or daughter perspective and get them excited about the admission process. Catch a show put on by the theater department or cheer on the local team during a football game.

 VacationsLSU

If you’ve already planned your Spring Break vacation, find out if there’s a university near your destination. If you have the time, take a side-trip and schedule a tour. Have lunch or dinner on campus. Walk through and visit the bookstore or if you’re short on time, just drive through the university. Again, it’s a good starting point just to see what’s out there and to give them a point of comparison.

Just about every university my family visited was during a vacation. Road trips through the south brought us to the University of Alabama, Ole Miss, Tulane, LSU, Loyola, and the University of Miami. My boys are two years apart. I made sure the younger one was paying attention. Even their sister, five years younger, has fond memories of our campus visits.

Summer Camps

Stuckey also suggests enrolling your student in a weeklong, overnight, summer camp before going to the expense of scheduling out-of-state tours. Her kids did it the summer after their sophomore year in high school. “It doesn’t have to be where they want to go to college, but it’s a great way to see if they want to go away for school.”

It doesn’t necessarily have to be an academic camp. The point is to give them the experience of being on their own away from home, family and friends. It also provides them with the opportunity to live in a dorm. “Before you start looking at colleges all over the country, see if they can survive a week alone,” said Stuckey.

If they don’t enjoy the experience, then it helps narrow things down. It may not be worth it to visit universities more than a few hours away.

Many schools offer summer programs for high school students. It’s a great experience for the kids. Some offer guided tours as part of the camp, as well as meetings with admission and financial aid counselors. They may even offer college credit. Stuckey said being on campus gets them excited about going to school. “The kids also learn the vocabulary of admissions.”

It’s best to sign up as early as possible. Deadlines can be as early as March. Just search “college summer programs for high school students” and you’ll get a variety of listings. You can also check with your high school college counselors as they may have information about summer programs too.

 Multiple ToursUVA

Another option for visiting schools is to set up a group tour. Check with your high school to see if they offer any bus tours. Some may organize weeklong excursions visiting multiple schools within a specific region. “The kids see a variety of schools, but the parents aren’t with them,” said Stuckey. “The kids have fun, but they may not be looking at the things you, as a parent, want them to consider.”

There are also companies that coordinate tours of multiple universities in specific regions. This takes the hassle out of the planning and lets you concentrate on the school visits.

Stuckey said she never did more than four schools during one trip. “They start to blur in to each
other and it’s hard to keep straight.” She recommends taking lots of pictures, especially by specific landmarks and school signs so when you get back home they can help you remember the campus.

Virtual Tours and Social Media

Obviously, not everyone can afford the time or money to visit every school. Fortunately, the Internet and social media are great resources to learn about schools in the comfort of your own home. Every university has a website. Some offer virtual tours. You can also check out their Facebook page and mobile apps, as well as Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts. Students often post videos of school events, tours of dorms, etc., and many student groups have their own Facebook page.

“If they cannot physically tour the school, then it is extremely important that they read all that they can from different sources about the school,” said Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network.  “Many schools are developing virtual tours and online portals that seek to emulate the on campus tour feel. I would suggest creating a Google news alert for the schools they are interested in.”

In addition, Basden recommends reaching out to current students or faculty members through the directory or through student organizations to get a better sense of what campus life is about. Chatting with recent alumni can also provide a helpful perspective.

Photos by Dolly Duplantier

Next time - Part II - Deciding Where to Visit

Part III - Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask


 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, college admissions, college major, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, virtual tours, scholarships, social media

Random Acts of Kindness Week - A Great Way to Warm Up

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

This post was updated on 1/21/2015

Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter winterneighborhoodisn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.

However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's the upcoming Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 9 – 15, 2015. Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.

According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide. 

“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.” 

The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practiceRAK kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:

1.)  Inspire others to be kind.

2.)  Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.

3.)  Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.

The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.

“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”

Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.

The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during RAK week last year. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.

At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.

The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.” 

RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week.  Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!

  1. Give someone a compliment.
  2. Post a positive comment on social media.
  3. Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
  4. Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
  5. Eat lunch with someone new.
  6. Say good morning to people on your way to school or work.
  7. Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
  8. Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
  9. Walk a neighbor’s dogWalking the dog
  10. Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
  11. Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
  12. Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
  13. Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
  14. Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
  15. Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
  16. Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
  17. Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
  18. Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
  19. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
  20. Smile!

So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!

Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!

 

 Photos: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: engaged learning, kindness, service learning, education, volunteering, community service, service, community, civic engagement, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, opportunities, involvement, social media, active

Choosing a Community Engaged College

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 08:39 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

College decision deadlines are fast approaching, and there are many factors to weigh when narrowing down the prospects. Academic strength, value, proximity, and student life are some typical considerations to keep in mind. However, many students find success and satisfaction at institutions dedicated to community engagement and service. 

Community engagement and public outreach are priorities at many colleges and universities.In addition to researching service initiatives and community projects, students can find service-oriented schools by referencing The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The President’s Honor Roll recognizes colleges and universities with strong community connections that encourage students to pursue civic engagement and solve community problems. Schools that receive this award are encouraging their students to excel both in academics and in committing to meaningful service.  

Here is a list of some acclaimed universities whose programs have gained attention for their commitment to service:
 

Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Fla.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

FAU has been encouraging its students to engage in service since 1996 when Associate professor Daniel Weppner urged the university to encourage its students to pair learning with volunteerism.  In 1996 the Campus Volunteer Center (CVC) was opened to provide resources to students.  Since its inception, the CVC has aided in establishing several service-oriented student organizations. The aim of service-learning at FAU is to create meaningful partnerships between the university and the community in order to connect students’ education with service.  In 2007 the CVC was renamed the Dr. Daniel Weppner Center for Civic Engagement and Service in honor of its founder.  FAU students create a Noble Impact™ by engaging in their community and tracking more than 350,000 hours on NobleHour.


Nazareth College 
Rochester, N.Y.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, Presidential Award for a Special Focus in Early Childhood Education

Nazareth College holds a reputation for its rigorous commitment to service. Fall orientation begins with a day of service, but this is only the beginning. Taking initiative in one’s community is an expectation and a part of everyday life. A new addition to the curriculum requires that students complete one experiential learning opportunity by venturing into the community and being civic-minded. Service is an integral part of campus life, alongside attending lectures and writing papers. Nazareth College officially considers volunteerism and service in admissions.


Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, Pa.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for General Community Service

This small Liberal Arts school located just across from the historic battlefield boasts a history of service among its students and alumni.  Its service-learning program began in 1991 and has played a part in educating students ever since.  Students are engaged in service-learning projects which tackle issues in the local community such as unemployment, housing costs, depression, violence, and education.  Part of receiving an education at Gettysburg College is learning that “Students don’t have to go far to see firsthand this changing world—or be a positive force in it.”

 

Miami University Ohio
Oxford, Ohio
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction

With nearly 13,000 of its approximately 15,000 students involved in service-learning programs, the faculty at Miami University is making constant advances to its curriculum by finding more ways for students to combine learning with service. The university boasts several partnerships with local partners and school districts. For example, early childhood education majors work with local elementary schools; the elementary students benefit from tutoring in school, and the university students gain valuable experience and make valuable community connections that often carry on into career pathways. The school has made an effort to incorporate service-learning in 75 courses and continues to train faculty in teaching service-learning. Miami University uses NobleHour to connect with local community partners.
 
 

The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

The George Washington University actively considers and integrates service into its academic options for students. The service-learning opportunities at GW focus on four areas: academic service-learning, community service and engagement, service careers, and social entrepreneurship.  This holistic approach to service means there are opportunities for every student at GW, ranging from just donating a few hours a month to synthesizing entrepreneurship skills with service by starting an entire social enterprise. GW offers more than 45 service-learning courses such as Writing for Social Change and Service-Learning in Advanced Spanish.  GW aims to spur a “culture of service” among its students by providing a bounty of resources to connect students to their community. GW students tracked more than 44,000 hours on NobleHour in 2013.

Topics: education, volunteering, highered, community, civic engagement, community engagement, community service, college admissions

Supporting Sustainability through Volunteering and Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Dec 05, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

 

We have a responsibility to keep the earth healthy.  Here are some simple steps you can take each day to improve the environment, and in addition, some ideas and service projects for sharing these changes with your community.

  • Help create a healthier community by using reusable bags.

    Skip Paper AND Plastic: One of life’s everyday questions: should you take your groceries home in a paper or plastic bag?  It’s one of those decisions we routinely make at the check out line, and it’s an example of how our everyday choices can impact the environment. The truth is neither paper nor plastic is better for the environment.  A better alternative is to purchase a few reusable grocery bags.  These are inexpensive and can be found at almost any grocery store.  Stashing a few of these in your car and remembering to bring them into the store with you is one a simple, sustainable way you can be more environmentally conscious. 

Service Project Idea: Educate members of your community about the impact of paper and plastic bags on the environment, and encourage them to use reusable bags as an alternative.  

 

Become more sustainable by opting out of junk mail.
  • Reduce Junk Mail: According to 41pounds.org, “The average adult receives 41 pounds of mail each year. 44% goes to the landfill unopened.”  Each year, this process results in 100 million trees cut down, 20 billion gallons of water wasted, and 2 billion tons of carbon emitted to produced and transport junk mail. Adding your name to opt-out lists is a simple way to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.  You’ll save time and trees while doing so.

Community Initiative Idea:  Work with your local community to see how you can reduce junk mail.  Encourage your city to organize a mail preference service so residents can easily opt out of junk mail.  Read more about how some cities are helping the environment by reducing junk mail here.
 
 

  • Conserve Water:  Water is a precious resource. The water crisis affects the quality of life of millions of people. In developing countries where clean water is scarce, women in particular are impacted because they need to walk for hours to collect clean water and carry it back.  This deprives them of time that could be used for education or work.  In addition, once water is polluted with chemicals from manufacturing plants and industrial farm fertilizer runoff, it is difficult to separate the clean water from the pollutants.  Water.org has more information about the importance of clean water.  Conserving water is not just about appreciating having clean water; it is also an important step in making sure our planet can continue to sustain the human population.  Imagine a day without water, and you’ll see how important it is to preserve this resource for generations to come.

Improving Your Habits:  Take simple small steps in your routine to reduce your water consumption.  This might entail taking shorter showers, watering plants only when needed, or plugging the sink to rinse your razor instead of letting the water run.  Find over 100 more water-saving tips at wateruseitwisely.com.  


  • Many service opportunities help educate the community about recycling.Recycle: Recycling seems like a no-brainer when it comes to sustainability. The National Park Service reports that “Americans represent 5% of the world’s population, but generate 30% of the world’s garbage.” Reducing waste improves water and air quality, saves money, and reduces the effects of global warming.

Service Project Idea:  While recycling is good, not all materials can be recycled.  This depends on the capabilities of your local recycling plant.  When the wrong plastic is found in a load of recyclables, the whole batch is sometimes discarded, which defeats the purpose of recycling.  Check with your local government and inform yourself on what is and is not accepted in recycling bins.  Then, take this information to your community by educating people on how to maximize the benefits of recycling.  
 
 

  • Build Bat Houses: Bats are a great addition to the environment and are a good pest controller—particularly against mosquitos.  Building a bat house that mimics a bat’s natural habitat helps preserve their livelihood.  Bat house plans are easy to find online.  Eparks.org and the National Wildlife Federation have easy-to-follow instructions on building bat houses.

Service Project Idea: Construct bat houses around your community in parks and schools to teach students and neighbours about the importance of bats in the ecosystem.


  • Creating birdhouses is a fun service project that can help the environment.

    Create Birdhouses: The same idea applies here as with bat houses. Restoring birds’ habitats is a great way to improve your local environment.  Here are some resources about starting birdhouses in you backyards, neighborhoods, parks, and schools: http://www.freebirdhouseplans.net/ and http://www.birdsforever.com/.  

Service-Learning Application: Incorporate this lesson into classrooms by studying the necessities of nesting and the types of birds found in your area.  Then, set up a birdhouse so that students can see these birds first-hand.

 

 

  • Plant Trees: Trees are important to the environment.  They clean the air and produce oxygen for us to breathe.  Trees are often cut down to build buildings, parking lots, and roads, so restoring trees is important to any environment. 

Service Project Idea: Organize a tree-planting day where you and a group of volunteers plant trees in your community.  

What do you think is the most important reason to preserve our environment?  Share your environmentally-friendly service-initiatives on NobleHour to connect with volunteers, schools and organizations interested helping with your cause.

 


Image sources:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/foldablebags_com/4527744948
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaaronfarr/2057913010
http://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/7949833732

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hankinsphoto/6831816406

Topics: education, volunteering, opportunities, engagement, community service, service learning, connecting communities, sustainability

How Service-Learning Engages Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 @ 11:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Service-learning is something I’m involved in on a daily basis. I find that sometimes students and parents are ill-informed on the distinction between volunteerism and service-learning, and this can lead to confusion.  A common misconception is that service-learning is just an impressive way of saying volunteerism. Luckily, the concept is both easy to follow and implement once it is understood.  The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse gives a very comprehensive definition of service-learning: “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” What sets service-learning apart is its connection to education.  Service-learning is about applying skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life experiences that benefit the community.  

Accounting students at the University of Texas at Austin are engaging in service-learning by filing tax returns for low-income residents (Source: What Really Counts in a Service-Learning Accounting Class).  In Accounting 366P, students learn how federal tax codes work.  They also study issues affecting low-income residents such as “socio-economic issues, housing and immigration policy, and economic development.”  Then the practice what they have learned by partnering with a nonprofit called the Community Tax Center to help low-income families get the most out of their tax return.  Instructor Brian Lendecky says that, “The most important part of the learning process is actually applying your trade.”  In this class, students learned information vital to their careers, applying that knowledge, and helping members of the community. Business students engage in service-learning by helping with tax preparations.

Many students recount that the best lessons came from the stories they heard from their clients.  When completing their 55-hour service requirement for the course, they engaged in the very issues they’d heard about in their lectures.  One student describes a single mother who put six children through college debt-free.  This type of determination can’t be taught in books; it has to be found in experience.  Another remembers a woman who was hearing impaired and needed her mother to translate.  This prompted the student to learn sign language so he could communicate with more people.  In one year, 200 students filed 18,310 tax returns and helped get their clients over $31 million in returns.  This is much-needed money for families to pay bills, buy groceries, and pay off debts.  What the students gain from the course is not just how to file tax returns, but the power to use their knowledge to elevate others.

In Morris, Minn., students are completing a service-learning project that will help to restore local history.  These students are getting down in the dirt—literally—in some eerie places, but they are doing it for the right reasons.  Lead by University of Minnesota Morris Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rebecca Dean, students will be excavating, cataloging and restoring a local cemetery that has been destroyed.  The cemetery holds immense importance to local history.  The Boerners’ family plot of 12 graves dates back to the late 1800s.  The site ties back to the pioneers who originally settled in the area.  As part of this project, students will be using the archeological skills they have studied in class to gain hands-on experience.  Dean says the project’s close vicinity to the university also makes it an accessible project to her students, in contrast to excavations abroad she has preformed that are a larger financial and time commitment for students.  In addition to being a great lesson plan, the project will give back a historical site to the community.  Students will not only be prompted to master their skills, but also to consider carefully the implications of excavating a site and the importance of being delicate to local history.  (Source: Morris Sun Tribute)

Students helped plan a new hiking trail as part of a service-learning course.

In another service-learning project, students of Environmental Science at Tennessee Wesleyan College conducted research on local wildlife to help the community.  This project went beyond your typical lab assignment.  Students worked to assess a piece of property belonging to the City of Athens, Tenn. that will soon be developed into a new hiking trail.  Each group of students conducted observations of an area of the property and collected data about plants, insects, animals, soil, pollution and erosion.  They compiled the data and determined the effect of building the trail on the environment.  They delivered their recommendations to the city to help them in building the trail.  Assistant Professor Caroline Young described the objectives of the initiative: “It is my hope that by involving students in environmental projects through service-learning, they will see how the issues we discuss in the classroom directly impact our own city, and they will then understand that their efforts make an important difference in the world . . . I hope to foster a spirit of caring for the Earth in my students that will last long after my class is over.” These students engaged in the material in their classrooms and were able to help the community with their research.  As a follow up to the project, the students plan to plant trees in areas of the property where their data revealed a need for more plants.  (Source: Knox News)

These examples show different ways that service-learning helps engage students in their studies. Service-learning is becoming an increasingly popular tool in education because it encourages students to interact with their learning by applying their talents and knowledge to helping the community.  Check out local opportunities for ideas on how to incorporate service-learning in your classrooms. 

Topics: service learning, education, volunteering, experience, k12, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, community service, service learning

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