Ways to Improve your Approach to Reading Assignments

103801569One thing that many high school students don’t expect when they go to college is the unspoken rule that you’re much more responsible for yourself. That means than rather having a highly specific homework assignment, such as doing problems #1-15 on page 23, you’ll often just be told to read a certain section of a book and be prepared to discuss it in class.

A lot of students seem to think that this means they have no homework at all. After all, it’s not like your professor can tell mark off points for reading or not reading because they can’t tell if you’ve done it! The truth is that there is no embarrassment quite like the one you feel when your professor asks you a question about the text during discussion and it’s painfully obvious that you haven’t read it. Aside from that, though – it’s extremely difficult to pass a class without knowing the material.

With that said, here are a few ways to make your reading assignments more manageable, especially when you have several at once, as well as to make sure you’re getting the most out of the information.

Learn which passages to skip. Okay, this might seem a little weird – we’re teaching you how not to read in the middle of a post about reading. In most scenarios, though, you’ll save time, better absorb information, and avoid confusing yourself if you know when to skip sections that aren’t important. The best way to do this is first to skim the chapter, then go back and read more carefully if you don’t feel like you got the gist of a certain section.

Have a goal in mind. This practice is particularly helpful with the previous one. Do you know what you’re setting out to accomplish when you read a section of a book? If you do, you can help yourself stay on-task with your reading. If your task is to understand a particular historical event, don’t get sidetracked by someone’s family history if it isn’t directly relevant. If your task is to find a quote that supports your point in a research paper, then again, you can save time and avoid getting distracted if you keep this in mind.

Highlight and take notes. You bought a fancy pack of highlighters at the beginning of the year…now it’s time to break them out! Try to pay attention if something seems interesting, useful, or worthy of discussion in class. You’ll impress your professor and better comprehend the material. If you’re going to have an exam on this material later, take notes in an organized manner so you don’t have to study straight from the book.

ECF Blog ConversionTake a breather and reflect. Every couple of pages, try to recap what you just read. Can you recite everything back to yourself? Would you be able to tell a friend about it if they had forgotten to read the material and you saw them before class? This is a little self-exam that helps you understand whether you’re truly understanding the words you’re reading, and the more often you do it, the more information you’ll absorb. You’ll thank yourself during the final exam.

Posted in Educational News, Student Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Five Contemporary Poets who will Help you Get Into Poetry

There are a lot of benefits to being well-read, especially as a college student. Most people find that the more they read, the more their vocabulary expands and the rules of grammar become intuitive to them. Both of these reading side-effects come in handy when writing papers, peer-reviewing during class, communicating with superiors, and even giving presentations –they help you gain confidence in the words you choose.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the number of college-aged people that would consider themselves avid readers drops every year. It’s a shame, because not only is reading beneficial, but many find it quite enjoyable once they get into it. For the most part, it’s just about finding what you like to read – it doesn’t have to be the things you learn about in school.

A lot of people find that they like poetry, and for college students, contemporary poetry can be very easy to relate to. Here are a few that you should check out if you’re trying to get into reading – they might be game-changers.

Thomas Sayers Ellis

Thomas Sayers EllisThomas Sayers Ellis has something about his writing that just seems to call out to the early twenty-something reader, much like Catcher in the Rye does for high schoolers. His one collection, Skin, Inc: Identity Repair Poems, seems to speak to the phases of finding oneself that are prevalent during college years. It’s also a great gateway into African American literature.

Tao Lin

Tao LinHis work most definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s difficult to argue that anyone can encapsulate boredom, uncertainty, and that little voice in the back of your head quite like Lin can. He’s simultaneously literal and abstract, boring and exciting – he’ll make you say “What the hell did I just read?” followed by “I know exactly what he means.” His poems are definitely worth checking out, if only to say you did.

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. SmithSmith, who now spends her time teaching creative writing courses at Princeton, was featured in The McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets. But just because she’s a favorite poet of other poets doesn’t mean she’s not accessible. You might have heard of her 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection called Life on Mars, which explores the possibilities of the future of the universe as well as a plate of eggs.

ECF Blog Conversion

Philip Schultz

Philip SchultzAnother Pulitzer Prize-winner, Philip Schultz writes about a wide range of topics from being Jewish in America to immigrating to the details of his own personal history. He covers loneliness, dealing with family, and being impoverished in a way that seems to grab a hold of the reader, causing him or her to re-think their approaches to their own circumstances.

Charles Bukowski

Charles BukowskiIt’d be hard to write a list of contemporary poets without Bukowski – especially since so many young readers seem to be fond of his embittered, candid, and often harsh thoughts. He somehow was able to take his own misery and use it to create something beautiful, which is a lesson to be learned in itself.

Posted in Entertainment, Poetry, Resources | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Starbucks Supports its Employees by Offering Online College Program

starbucksGetting a college education just got a lot less complicated for some 135,000 US Starbucks employees. The coffee company, which used began reimbursing its employees up to $1,000/year for their tuition costs in 2011, is upgrading to a better education program: an extremely steep discount on college classes at Arizona State University.

There’s really no catch. Any employee who works a consistent 20 hours per week can enroll in classes at ASU toward a wide variety of different degrees – they’re not limited to those dealing with business. And students aren’t expected to remain Starbucks employees after they graduate.

Starbucks hasn’t revealed how much this program is going to cost them or what their agreement is with the university, and they probably will keep their lips sealed. But considering the fact that this set-up is likely to direct a significant amount of students toward the school’s online degree programs, it seems as though both the institution and its students will be greatly benefitting from the deal. In turn, Starbucks can raise the bar in terms of employees they recruit.

Whether online or on-campus, it costs about $10,000 per year to acquire a degree at ASU. Since their online programs are so comprehensive, Starbucks workers from all across the country will get to take classes at the university. Starbucks plans to cover about $3,250 per year for the first two years, and due to the low-wage nature of working at the company, financial aid will likely assist with the rest. For junior and senior workers, the plan is the same, except that Starbucks will reimburse any money the students pay out of pocket.

Through the previous program, which began in 2011, Starbucks ended up with a total bill of $6.5 million. Since this program offers a significantly steeper tuition coverage, it’s interesting to consider the costs that the corporation is willing to take on in order to gain a better reputation, help prospective college students achieve their goals, and benefit a willing university.

ECF Blog ConversionThere are 8,200 company-operated Starbucks locations at which employees will be eligible to partake in the program. Unfortunately, employees of the 4,500 franchises are not eligible.

Although Starbucks is most definitely not the first major corporation with low average worker wages to offer such a benefit, these programs are still somewhat scarce. Perhaps Starbucks will blaze a trail once both universities and low-wage employers get a glimpse of the mutual benefits – as well as the benefits that can be reaped by the community as a whole.

Posted in Educational News, Resources | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

The 5 Most Typical “College Student” Posters

It’s hard to say whether it’s because they’re lazy, or because they all have the same idea of what’s super cool, but it seems like all college students have the same ideas when it comes to what they want to hang on their dorm room walls. If you’re just heading into your freshman year of college, you may still be completely blown away by how super cool/artsy/cultured these posters make you look, but by the end of the year, you’ll be sick of looking at them.

Though college students having these posters as décor are a cliché in themselves, let’s see if we can take it a step further and pinpoint what type of student will go for each of these prints.

Keep Calm and Carry On

keep calm

 One of the first girls you meet on campus will most definitely have this Keep Calm and Carry On poster hanging above her bed. When you try to talk about the history of the slogan with her, she’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. She probably reads a lot of Nicholas Sparks, wears Jack Rodgers sandals, and loves the beach. She can be found sipping her Starbucks Frappuccino while browsing Instagram between classes.

Bob Marley

bobIt might not be this exact picture, but it will definitely be Bob Marley or some iteration of “One Love” written in yellow, green, and red. It could belong to a guy, it could belong to a girl, but they will most definitely wear Converse sneakers or Rainbow flip flops with some ratty jeans. They skip class a lot and seem to have a very limited library of music, which can be heard from down the hall at all hours.

Audrey Hepburn

audreyShe who has an Audrey Hepburn poster is always the one who wears high heels for a night out and needs to be carried home with aching feet at the end of the night. She gets together with other girls on her floor to do crafts she found on Pinterest and says she would never want to be in a sorority. You can find her at the local coffee shop pretending to be doing homework.

ECF Blog

Animal House

animalA guy with this Animal House poster thinks it’s really ironic that he has a guy wearing a “college” sweatshirt on his wall…at college. This poster is probably covering a huge hole in the wall – after all, the owner throws the best parties. His dorm is always a mess anyway. He somehow manages to always skirt trouble with the R.A., no matter how many people he manages to cram into his room. He talks very, very loudly.

Starry Night

starryThe owner of this poster will tell you that he or she has always loved art, but namely Van Gogh. This will make him or her seem very cultured, quiet, and elusive, which is exactly their plan. You’ll probably accompany this person to get a tattoo some point, of a feather or a Bob Dylan quote. They’ll probably casually try to test your knowledge about classic rock and subtly shame you for your lack of detailed knowledge.

Posted in eCollegeFinder News, Resources | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Gear Up for Fall: How to Cozy Up your Study Space

cozy up your study spaceThe school year is officially beginning, and a lot of us have allowed our desks to collect dust this summer. Because the beginning of classes is associated with cooler weather, it’s safe to say that we’re going to be spending a lot more time indoors, so getting that study space up and running is essential. Using these tips to cozy up your study space is a great way to kick off a new school year – you can start your new classes with a fresh mind and a clean place to work!

Discard, Discard, Discard
Clutter is just not conducive to a study environment. It’s distracting and it makes things difficult to find, which can make completing assignments take longer than necessary. Take a good, hard look at your desk and decide whether you really need everything on it. Toss those old magazines. Get rid of the broken picture frame. Try to pare it down as much as possible so you have less to worry about. Anything you need to keep should be organized in a filing cabinet, folders, or drawers.

Make New Playlists
Spotify has playlists for just about anything, including Deep Focus, Intense Studying, and Atmospheric Calm. Take a browse and see if any of these work for you. If not, curate a nice, long playlist to help you focus. Having playlists already prepared eliminates the need to make one before you start working on an assignment – which is really just your way of procrastinating.

Invest in Comfort
There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t study in bed, but it’s tempting to do so. As an alternative, make your desk as comfortable as possible without making you want to fall asleep. Buy a new chair, one of those gel things for under your wrists, or a nice pair of slippers so that your study area is comfortable to work in, but not as cozy as your bed.

ECF Blog ConversionLet the Light In
If you can, put your desk near a window so you can get plenty of energizing sunlight during the day and a nice breeze at night. It’s also important to make sure that you have plenty of bright lights – dim lights will make you sleepy! Plus, it’s bad for your eyes to work in a dark room with just a dim light.

Stash some Snacks
You can work up an appetite as you study. Stash some hot chocolate, protein-packed peanuts, or granola bars in your desk so that you don’t get distracted by the sounds of your stomach during a late-night study session. Having a snack can also keep you energized so you can remain focused.

Clean your Computer
It’s a fresh year, and your computer should feel fresh, too. Do a good keyboard and screen clean, change your wallpaper, and clear off your desktop. Distracting clutter doesn’t just happen on your desk – it happens digitally, too!

Posted in Resources, Student Resources | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Online Degree Highlight: Counseling Studies

Counseling StudiesGetting a master’s in Counseling Studies can help you pave a very rewarding career path for your future. One reason so many people choose to do Counseling Studies online – aside from the fact that most of these students already have careers and are looking to advance – is because it’s not very different from studying the degree on-campus. Both types of classes typically require a four-to-eight-day residency period in order to ensure that you can practice your newly learned skills in real-life situation. Thus, you never have to worry that the quality of your education is suffering due to an online program – not that you ever would.

For this online degree highlight, we’re going to take a look at some of the most renowned schools for online counseling studies degrees. Each school is accredited on a regional level in order to provide a good jumping off point.

Capella University: MS in Counseling
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) and provides a learning experienced tailored for people with experience as a counseling professional. Students can partake in their choice of several different concentrations: addiction counseling, marriage and family counseling, mental health counseling, school counseling, human behavior, and counseling psychology.

Wake Forest University: MA in Counseling
Wake Forest University is known for its “Pro Humanitate” (for humanity) philosophy, so although the degree program is fairly new at this school, it’s extremely competitive in terms of quality. In fact, WFU is ranked #27 by the U.S. News and World Report’s Annual Guide to America’s Best Colleges. It also holds the 33rd ranking for the best value university in the US.

Grand Canyon University: MS in Counseling
This private university is well-known for its online programs, and their MS in Counseling program is no exception to the excellence. In fact, GCU is ranked 63rd in the country for the nation’s best online programs. The school has a dedicated Department of Psychology and Counseling that is known for its ability to equip students with the critical thinking and leadership skills, as well as the compassion, necessary to take on a counseling career. Students can concentrate their counseling degrees in either addictions counseling or professional counseling.

University of Massachusetts: MS in Mental Health Counseling
UMass has consistently paved the way for other schools when it comes to online degrees, and thus, their programs are trusted by many. It’s also incredibly affordable, especially for having such a strong reputation for high-quality online degrees – it runs just $475.00 per credit, making it one of the least expensive in the country. However, it has been ranked as one of the top 20 universities in the world by the Times of London.

Walden University: MS in Counseling
Walden University is another school that offers a variety of potential concentrations: addiction counseling, career counseling, marriage/couples’/family counseling, mental health counseling, and school counseling. Like UMass, Walden is also particularly affordable, costing an average of $455 per quarter along with a $110 technology fee. The school is recognized worldwide for its exceptional online graduate programs.

Posted in Educational News, Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Five Digestible but Essential Philosophy Texts for Beginners

philosophy_booksFriedrich Nietzsche once said, “It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them.” This sums up philosophy pretty well – it’s an unimaginably expansive topic that forces you to remember a lot of arguments for a lot of opinions, in a nutshell. For that reason, there are an incredible amount of philosophical texts that are considered “essential,” and a great many of them are quite a challenge to absorb – especially for beginners.

However, it’s a topic that interests many readers, as it should, but when you go to get your feet wet, you might find that you don’t know where to start. How can you find books that will get you thinking without sounding like jibber jabber if you’ve got zero philosophical background?

Maybe you’re entering an online liberal arts degree program and aiming to be prepared, or maybe you’re just an avid reader. For any purpose, we’ve curated this list of essential philosophy texts to help provide some guidance, though it’ll take a good deal of exploring if you want to figure out which authors you like.

The Essential Epicurus by Epicurus
There isn’t much Epicurean work that survives (and it’s best advised that you forget everything you know about that word), but the small amount that does is quite worth the read. He preaches the importance of freeing oneself of anxiety in order to just live – in his words, “It is better for you to be free of fear and lying on a bed of straw than to own a couch of gold and a lavish table yet have no peace of mind.” It’s both useful for daily life and a great jump-start into philosophical dialogue.

Five Dialogues by Plato
None of Socrates works are still around but, luckily, the works of his student, Plato, are. By reading Five Dialogues, you can delve into the most fundamental aspects of Platonic philosophy. In it, he wanders around Athens trying to answer some important questions: what is piety? what is lawfulness? Though the circular nature of each dialogue can be a bit frustrating, it’s a great way to prime yourself for what’s to come in terms of philosophical reading.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
This book is exactly what its title makes itself out to be: meditations, or, Aurelius giving himself advice on how to manage his power in a good and responsible way. The author spent each night practicing spiritual exercises that would allow him to remain humble, patient, generous, and resilient. It sounds as though it might be difficult to absorb – after all, it’s written by one of the most powerful men in the world – but it’s quite accessible.

The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
This one’s slightly more modern but no less important. Written in the 1930’s, it’s not your typical modern self-help book, but post-dating a lot of the big philosophers, it has a lot of relevant information about personal choices, what causes unhappiness, and what makes a person happy. It’s a good glance into non-theistic philosophy and quite relevant to modern culture, which you might find to be refreshing.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
It’s been translated over and over again, and changes upon changes have been made, but the fact still stands that millions of readers use Tao Te Ching as their roadmap for navigating daily life. It is thought uncover the unspoken laws that govern the world we live in – the laws of nature, the principles of interaction. Therefore, it serves as a completely rational moral compass as well as a sort of balancing for the scales, no matter which translation you choose to read.

Posted in Educational News, Resources, Student Resources | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Expand on Ideas, Don’t Plagiarize – 5 Tips

keep-calm-and-dont-plagiarize-1In the midst of writing a research paper, sometimes brain fog sets in. It’s times like these that it’s all too easy to skirt the line between sourcing ideas and downright plagiarizing. In stricter schools, even just improperly citing an idea can be grounds for a plagiarism investigation, and although you might like to believe that this could never happen to you, it’s important to pay extra attention to ensure that you’re giving credit where credit is due. After all, a case of plagiarism could be grounds for failing the course or, in some cases, expulsion.

We’re not trying to scare you – it’s most probable that you’ll do fine. That being said, here’s a quick refresher before you dive into that research paper.

Knowing when to direct quote.
Did an author say something better than you could have said it yourself? Do you want to reference a specific section of a text? It’s never a bad idea to use the author’s exact words to make your point easier to understand, as long as you quote him or her properly. Use quotation marks around the words that you copy from someone else, and always provide an in-text citation. Most importantly, use direct quotes only when totally necessary – don’t use them just to add to the length of your paper.

Knowing when to paraphrase.
It’s fine to use another person’s idea – after all, that’s how we learn – but it’s important to use totally unique words when expressing it. Compare closely to ensure that you’re using your own phrasing, and then provide an in-text citation for where you got the source just to be safe.

Knowing when to use and cite data.
Graphs, charts, pictures, and maps can often help illustrate a point, but it’s important to realize that you didn’t generate this data and you have to cite your sources on these as much as with anything else. Don’t hesitate to take a visual that best illustrates necessary information, but also be sure to provide a citation. As a side note – don’t use pictures to add length to your paper. Don’t count them when calculating how long your work is.

Never re-use your own work.
Yes, it is possible to plagiarize yourself, and far too many students get caught making this silly mistake. It’s not okay to submit the same piece of work for two separate assignments, even if they were given at different schools. Keep in mind – if you’re attending a top online school, you may be subjecting your work to be screened electronically for plagiarism, so getting caught for self-plagiarism can happen too easily. Better safe than sorry!

More things to remember…
Even if you’re quoting or citing a source that isn’t tangible or in print – such as, for example, an interview you had with an expert or a speech from a seminar you attended – you still have to provide a source.

Keep a running list of all quotes, information, and sources you plan to use so you can reference it later.

You don’t have to cite common knowledge – for example: all humans have brains – but if you aren’t certain if information is common knowledge or not, then play it safe and provide a citation.

Posted in eCollegeFinder News, Resources | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

What is the difference between a MBA and MPA degree?

If you’re in the market for a master’s degree but are unsure of exactly what to pursue, this might be the perfect graphic for you.  Created by the School of Government at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, it explains the key differences between a MBA and MPA degree.  While both are great options, they do have their key characteristics and specialties that may make one more appealing to you.  So take a quick look at the infographic and see if you’re ready to take the step towards getting a master’s degree.

This comparison of mpa vs mba is brought you by MPA@UNC.

Posted in eCollegeFinder News, Educational News, Resources | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Preschool Special Education Teachers: The Fastest-Growing Special Education Job Market

special education teacherJob growth for special education teachers has been flat over the past few years, with most job openings happening as older special education teachers retire. However, in the field of preschool special education, available jobs are expected to grow 16 percent over the next decade, which is faster than average. If you’re considering a career as a special education teacher, then preschool special education could be your ticket to finding a good job.

Preschool Special Education: An Overview

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide special education preschool services for kids between the ages of three and five. However, many states offer early intervention services for children under three who have developmental delays.

In most cases, preschoolers who qualify for public school special education services come from these early intervention programs. In other cases, a child’s pediatrician, in partnership with a developmental pediatrician, will refer the child for preschool special education. Parents can also contact their local schools and ask to have their young children tested.

In a state-sponsored early intervention program, children might work with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists or people trained to provide assistive technology. Once they reach three years of age, most students age out of these programs. In public schools, special education teachers either run self-contained classrooms or partner with regular classroom teachers so that children can be taught in the least restricted environment.

Within the classroom or in pullout sessions, students may receive additional physical, occupational and speech therapy support services. The special education teacher writes the student’s individual education plan (IEP) and supervises its execution. In addition, special education teachers coordinate with parents and administrators to meet the needs of children in special education.

What to Expect as a Preschool Special Education Teacher

The average salary for a preschool special education teacher is $55,920 per year, although pay varies widely between different states and different metropolitan areas. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pay is highest in Illinois, Virginia and Connecticut, although need is higher in states like Louisiana and Alaska.

The metropolitan areas with the top five highest salaries for preschool special education teachers include Washington, D.C., San Diego, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Chicago and Bridgeport, Conn. Earning a graduate degree can also mean higher pay (for information about one MS in Special Education program, visit this website).

People who work in preschool special education do work in the public schools, but they can also be employed in childcare centers, residential facilities or private schools. A bachelor’s degree is required in all states, and some states require that special education teachers have a master’s degree. To work in a public school or accredited childcare center, most special education teachers have to meet state licensure requirements. Some states issue general special education licenses while other states issue specialty licenses acknowledging skill in disability-specific categories.

A Typical Workday

Preschool special education teachers may stay in the same location all day, whether they’re working in a childcare center, in a rehabilitation facility or in a public preschool classroom. A preschool special education teacher working in an early intervention program might travel to children’s homes to provide services.

Most special education teachers are part of a team consisting of classroom teachers, other special education teachers and support services workers including physical, speech and occupational therapists. They might also work in close consultation with developmental pediatricians and school psychologists.

Some preschool special education teachers work in a classroom environment, where they support individual students while the classroom teacher is teaching. Others work in dedicated classrooms to assist student that need extensive services. In addition to teaching in a classroom environment, special education teachers work to prepare IEPs. They also spend considerable time meeting with parents and administrators, where they discuss individual students’ progress and devise plans for improvement.

Getting Started

Many universities offer online programs that let you build your degree program around your current work schedule. After you’ve earned your degree, pay special attention to your state’s license requirements, take the appropriate exams and obtain the appropriate documentation. Special education can be challenging, but it can also be highly rewarding. For the best shot at strong job growth, find out about preschool special education opportunities in your state.

Posted in Educational News, Resources | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off