Thoughtful Holiday Gifting on a College Student Budget

177394262There’s a reason that the words “broke” and “college student” seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. The vast majority of college students live off meal swipes and loan refunds without much to spare, so when the holidays roll around, they aren’t equipped to accommodate so much expected spending.  Still, many people enjoy giving thoughtful gifts and want to make that happen even on a small (or nonexistent) budget. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, keep reading for cheap and easy ideas.

Crafty Photo Ideas
What better gift to give than the gift of tangible memories? Photo albums can be DIY if you don’t have much cash – you can get photos printed for somewhere around 15 cents each on sites like Shutterfly and Snapfish, and do the rest by hand with some glue, construction paper, ribbons, et cetera. If you have a small amount of cash, these sites often allow you to make calendars, mugs, magnets, and more with personalized photos. Take it a step further and have some of their Instagram pictures printed to look like Polaroids on sites like Printstagram and Foxgram.

Everybody loves Food
Food is the one gift that you can’t go wrong with. Everyone likes it! If you tailor it specifically to your recipient’s taste, you might even get some brownie points (no pun intended). You could bake them their favorite dessert – but if you want to do something really presentable, try ordering mason jars off Amazon and trying one of these:

Game Night Gift
Can’t afford to buy a unique gift for every family member? How about buying a board game and getting everyone together for a family night! You could put yourself in charge of making fancy hors d’oeuvres and taking pictures, then sending out to the family later. Since you’re away at school, your family will probably enjoy having the opportunity for everyone to [willingly] get together.

If anyone in your family loves to read, gift them a book that you love and think they’ll love to. Go through it and highlight your favorite parts and leave them little notes throughout. It’s extremely personal and shows you wanted to put thought and time into getting your recipient a special gift.

Gift Accessories
It’s totally kosher to bank off someone else’s gift idea. Is your mom getting an iPhone for your younger brother? Get him a pair of headphones or a case to go with it. Do you know that your girlfriend is getting a new pajama set? Buy her some slippers or a sleeping mask. This way, you know you’re getting your recipient something they’ll use!

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Online Degree Spotlight: Engineering

458217723It’s fairly common knowledge that engineers are largely considered one of the most employable groups of college graduates out there. From research fields to commercial fields, there are positions in nearly every company that require some level of engineering education. So if you’ve got a mind for design and choose to pursue a degree in engineering, you could find yourself working in any number of different fields. Now, you can begin to pursue a degree in engineering without even leaving your home.

What does it take to get an online degree in engineering?
There is a catch: engineers typically have to be skilled in math and science in order to do well in this field. Nearly any engineering degree will involve problem solving in design, so numbers and the laws of physics will almost always come into play. You must also be very analytical and creative. Anyone who is well-rounded in their skillsets and has an attention to detail can do well as an engineer.

What will the online courses be like?
As implied in the previous section, online engineering degrees will require the completion of coursework in a number of math- and science-intensive courses. There are also a number of different concentrations you can choose to pursue, which range from general engineering to electrical engineering, and you’ll have to take some specific courses to help you further your career in those specific fields as well.

What will my career be like?
The potential career paths for an engineering graduate, whether online or on campus, are limitless. Whether you end up working in computer development, manufacturing, healthcare, marine science, or any other number of fields, you can count on having a job that’s fast-paced, technologically-focused, and thought-intensive. The positive is that many engineers can move seamlessly from company to company until they find what they like.

In terms of salary, engineering is definitely one of the more promising bachelor’s degrees one can acquire. Whether you get your degree online or on-campus has little bearing on how much you’re likely to make. For example, biomedical engineers with bachelor’s degrees earn a starting salary of about $59,000 per year. Computer engineers start out with an average of $64,000 salaries. Software developers can start as high as $68,000. It will, of course, vary depending upon your concentration and where you get hired, but it’s worth knowing that year after year, engineering is at the top of the list of majors with the highest average starting salary.

Being engineer is a lot of work, but that’s little to exchange for job security, pay, and benefits – especially when that degree can be acquired online.

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Christmas Gifts Suitable for Every College Student

Christmas Gifts Suitable for Every College StudentWhile gift-giving is extremely enjoyable for a lot of people – there’s nothing quite like seeing your loved ones’ faces light up as they unwrap something you picked out for them – it’s simultaneously kind of stressful. You want to strike a balance between exciting and useful, and you never want to buy something the recipient doesn’t want or need.

If you got college students on your list of people to buy for, you’re in luck. There are a lot of items that most college students are in need of, and therefore will be very excited to receive.

For Any: General Necessities Necessities
Don’t let your college student survive off Cup ‘o Noodles just because he or she spends irresponsibly here and there. Better yet – don’t let them get stranded on the side of the highway after running out of gas. Gift cards for gas, grocery stores, or even drugstores make great gifts or stocking stuffers. You can choose the amount and know they’ll have them in an emergency.
Don’t like giving gift cards? No problem. A basket full of different medicines, a heated blanket, some slippers, late night snacks, and anything else your college student won’t buy for him/herself is invaluable. It’s the basket they’ll reach for whenever they’re in need all year long.

For the TV/Movie Fanatic: Online Streaming Subscription
Most dorm rooms only have basic cable, and students often have to share those TVs anyway. If you buy your college student a year’s subscription to something like Netflix ($9/month) or Hulu Plus ($96/year), he or she will have access to unlimited TV shows whenever they want. They can access them through their laptops or on their TVs with a gaming console. It’s like giving the gift of endless entertainment!

For the Studious Music Lover: Nice Headphones
Give college students something they want while still encouraging them to study! Noise cancelling headphones are great for watching TV while they unwind, watching YouTube videos without waking up their roommates, or listening to music to study without distraction. Read reviews online for some nice over-ear noise cancelling headphones and your college student will be endlessly grateful.

For the Athlete: Fitness Band or Watch
Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin Magellan… all these manufacturers make fitness wearables that help track your activity. If you know a college student who’s trying to get into shape or is an athlete, these make great gifts. They’re affordable, but they’re also really cool. Here’s a comparison of the best vs. worst, if you’re having trouble choosing.

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Entertaining Ways to Learn in your Free Time

86510461There is plenty of evidence that activities such as reading will keep your mind sharp throughout your life, and who doesn’t want that? However, there are a lot of people that assume that activities that make you think must be boring by default, and not many people want to spend their day off nose-deep in a textbook. If you want to become the type of person who enjoys learning new things, but you don’t enjoy material that’s technically “educational,” then this is the list for you. These are the types of activities that will expand your mind – but are so enjoyable, they’ll also become hobbies.

It’s time to drop the idea that “documentary” is synonymous with “boring,” because rest assured, there is an engaging documentary out there for everybody. If you enjoy suspense, you could try Dear Zachary, which is written in the form of a letter to a young boy telling him about his father, who had been murdered. Throughout, there are a lot of twists and turns – none of which you’d expect, and all of them will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you think art is overpriced and want to hear a 90-year-old woman rant about it – all while experiencing her amazing luck second-hand – check out Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? In any case, visit Rotten Tomatoes and search for documentaries – they can be funny, sad, suspenseful, off-the-wall, or simply educational, and there’s one out there for everybody.

Ahh, the long-form radio show is not dead! The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while doing something else: walking the dog, working out, driving, flying, or even trying to fall asleep. There are so many out there that you’re bound to get hooked on one just like you’d get hooked on a TV show. Recommended, of course, This American Life, on which every episode has a new theme and different reporters or real-life people share stories related to that theme. In an archive of over 500, one of them is bound to call your name. Stuff You Should Know makes it fun to learn by discussing topics like why music provokes emotions, what black holes really are, and other great conversation starters. Then, of course, there’s Freakonomics, which explores statistics on really ridiculous things in a really interesting way. Like documentaries, podcast themes run the gamut.

Museums and Galleries
Have you ever really investigated the museums and galleries close to your house? You’d probably be surprised at what’s out there. Art galleries are a lot of fun to roam through, whether the artist is one of those people that wraps yarn around everyday objects or puts graffiti in really visible locations throughout your city. Museums are designed to be really interesting as well – you could go to the local science museum that’s fun for adults and kids to learn something new, or you could check out the humble representation of your hometown’s history. Reading the little cards next to pieces of art or watching the short clips in a history museum are not only educational, they’re a great way to bond with your parents or even a date!

Keeping a Journal or Blog
It sounds silly, but there are two ways to expand your vocabulary and keep it that way: reading and writing. You can keep a journal/blog about anything, whether it’s your adventures in your favorite video game or what you’ve been cooking lately. It’s a good way to get better at writing, work on your communication skills, and further explore something you really enjoy.

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Is it Worth Taking a Winternship?

178839101College students are constantly being fed information about how hard it is to find a job today as opposed to a few decades ago and how competitive the job market can be. Your parents are telling you to get involved, your advisors are pushing you toward career fairs, and you and your friends are exchanging resumes to peer-review. As if the fear of not getting a job isn’t looming enough, now people are taking internships over their winter breaks. Is this something you should be doing? Taking on an internship during your month-and-a-half break from school? Is it even worth it?

Winter Internships, or “Winternships”
These aren’t your typical internships, which can often feel like part- or full-time jobs. Winternships try to squeeze in a lot of information into a short period of time – usually two to six weeks – but as with anything, they will vary in content and quality. Some might be project-based and offer genuine experiences, while others could have you going on coffee runs when you could be enjoying time with your family or friends at home.

Do they Pay?
Recent data shows that less than 50% of winter internships offer any payment, which raises a question of ethics: are these companies just taking advantage of a free helping hand around the holidays rather than hiring a seasonal team? Don’t fret – that’s not such a concern when you look at the big picture: only 36% of all internships are reported as being paid. Winternships are more likely to be paid because they’re shorter and, therefore, less expensive for employers.

What are the Real Benefits?
You may be wondering why people bother with these things at all if there’s less than a 50% chance of getting paid, they take place over such a short period of time, and they cut into the rare time students get to spend at home. Here’s the thing: they’re different from longer internships because they’re not so much meant to get your hands dirty in your industry (though sometimes they allow you to), but rather, to shadow and observe a potential future profession up close. There are some things you just can’t learn in school, and one of them is whether or not you’ll actually enjoy the field once you’re working in it. Taking on a short internship and observing professionals – especially if you do it early on in your college career – is a great way to help cement your decision to choose your major (or switch out of it).

The Bottom Line
Winternships are worth it for certain types of students: freshman and sophomores, those who are undecided about career fields, and those just looking to get their feet wet without taking on a huge commitment. There is a lot to be gleaned from the experience, as short-lived as it may be, but it might not be a paycheck.

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Schools that Avoid the Winter Freeze

478243029As we ease into winter, some of us take great joy in knowing that snowfall is impending and it’s time to break out the electric blankets. Others, however, are not too keen on the colder temperatures, scraping ice off their cars every morning, and shivering beneath layers of wool.

If you’re the type who simply doesn’t enjoy the cold and are dreaming of somewhere more tropical this holiday season, maybe going away to college is the perfect opportunity for you to live out your dream. To help you daydream, here are a few of our favorite US schools with great weather.

University of Hawai’i
Do you daydream of clear waters, palm trees, lots of sun, and warm rain showers? Perhaps you haven’t considered flying yourself out to the University of Hawai’I, which is located on the main island in Manoa. Not only is it a great school, but it’s unique in that you can hike, boat, and visit observatories while enjoying the scenery of steep cliffs, volcanoes, and beautiful oceans. Lucky for you, it averages a balmy 66 degrees in the coldest months.

University of Southern California
It’s no surprise that SoCal would make it onto this list. Not only is USC notorious for its competitive athletics, its students also get to enjoy the 50-degree winters and relatively mild summers, which average around 77 degrees. The area experiences about 284 sunny days a year! The school is great for surfers due to its proximity to a number of different beaches, but it also has a notable arts program which allows students to present their work in dramas, jazz performances, symphonies, and operas at five local theaters.

Pepperdine University
Being that it’s located in Malibu, you can probably picture what a typical day at Pepperdine University looks like with a decent amount of accuracy. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean and has the pristine campus to match the scenery. Pepperdine is the perfect school for anyone who gets the winter blues but is also academically inclined; it frequently tops lists for its competitive and stringent academic programs. It’s also located not too far from Malibu Creek State Park, where students can enjoy horseback riding, biking, and camping.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas
You don’t have to live on a coast to enjoy beautiful weather, and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas is proof of that. The Mojave Desert offers short, mild winters and hot, dry summers. You might assume that a school in Las Vegas is just as glitzy and nightlife-oriented as the city itself, but there’s actually plenty to do for students who enjoy the warmth and outdoors. Golf is big in this area, and so is boating, water skiing, rock climbing, and other adventure activities.

Georgia Southern University
If you’re looking for a school that still sees seasonal changes, but not extreme ones, this might be the school for you. Temps do drop in the winter – bottoming out around 38 degrees – but it doesn’t often snow and there are about 212 sunny days per year. It’s a great school for students who love wildlife, as it’s home for an 18-acre Center for Wildlife Education that allows students to witness a variety of birds in their natural habitats. There are also plenty of local trails, botanical gardens, and recreational centers where students can enjoy outdoor activities.

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So You Want a Job After College? Stop Taking Selfies

beautiful woman selfie in a desolate landscape

Getting a job after graduation is hard. In fact, the U.S. Economic Policy Institute charts that roughly 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 to 24 are unemployed.  The stats are bleak, no doubt about that, but there are things you could be doing right now to get yourself ahead of the curve. Whether you’re in school or not, you could be using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to improve your post-college job prospects.

Surprisingly (or to surprise for those of us who work in digital marketing) the one silver lining in an otherwise bleak economy is the social media sector. Despite the overall grim job market, a report by McKinsey Global Institute estimates that social media-related projects could add  between $900 billion to $1.3 trillion to the overall economy. Yeah, you read that right, that’s trillion with a ‘t”.

It’s not brain science, we all know that social media plays a huge role in customer service and marketing efforts for almost every industry. These initiatives add a lot of value to the overall economy by increasing productivity and fluency across departments and consumer marketing. The demand to hire savvy professionals who understand social media and how business can leverage social, is huge right now. In fact McKinsey estimates that by 2018, the United States could face a shortfall of 1.5 million data analysts and managers to cope with the flood of data to their businesses.

Who better to fill in this job gap than millennials. Students who were born between the 1980s to early 2000s, are the perfect candidates for the majority of in-demand digital communication jobs because they’ve grown up on these platforms. In fact, 90 percent of new jobs in the next year will require information and communication technology skills (Think: jobs like social media coordinators and community managers.) Social media was even named one of three top digital skills essential to a company’s success in a recent study by Capgemini Consulting and more than half of companies polled lack social media skills.

This is a virtual gold mine for college grads and digital natives. Most millennials are used to using the Internet for everything from online shopping, online tutoring, and even online grocery shopping (convenient!).  But even so, more young people are getting rejected from these in-demand jobs and it’s not because they don’t have the skills, it’s because they’re using the platform in the wrong way. That’s right, your selfies are turning employers off.

According to new research by the Young People’s Consumer Confidence Index, one in 10 young people have been rejected from a job because of their social media profile. Unfortunately, most young people using social media are more concerned about looking good for their friends than attracting potential employers. This may explain why selfies are rampant on the Internet.

So what’s a college grad to do? For starters, don’t hide

It’s important to keep in mind that whatever you post on the Internet, stays on the Internet. Consider that future employers, family members, mentors, and professors can find the things your posting if they really want to. As much as people hide behind private accounts or protected tweets, these parameters aren’t necessarily keeping wavering eyes off. Even though that might seem a bit creepy, there really isn’t any no reason to hide from social media. In fact, if you know and understand how to leverage social media, you can use them to land a new gig, no resume required.

Here are a few tips on how you can be using social media right now to get you closer to your dream job:


The great thing about Twitter is that you can connect with almost anyone in the world without a gatekeeper. You don’t need to go through Lena Dunham‘s manager to tell her how much you loved her new book. You can just tweet her! And guess what, she might be cool enough to tweet you back.

Twitter is a great tool that can help you connect with people you admire, potential employers, and network with industry insiders. Do you aspire to be a broadcaster, developer, or designer? I bet the people you aspire to be are tweeting their way through life right now. Reach out and begin a conversation! Start by tweeting what you like about their work. A genuine compliment can go a long way and you never know where it could lead you to next. After you exchange a few tweets, go a step further and direct message to get more specific and exchange emails.


Instagram is a great community for showcasing your creative side and connect with other talented creatives around the world. As much as I love cracking up to comedic gems like @thefatjewish, try to branch out from following celebrities or only people you know. Explore hashtags and find users in your city who are creatively leading an industry. Once you find a feed that you love, let them know! Like, comment, and direct message the user to begin a one-on-one conversation. After some time, you can even initiate an in-person meet-up and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to expanding your creative network.


As soon as moms started joining, Facebook became the lame little brother of the social media world. Regardless of how you feel about Facebook, whether you use it or not, be sure that your privacy settings are appropriately adjusted so that unwarranted users aren’t going through all of your tagged photos from last week’s rager. Better yet, go ahead and untag yourself from every photo of you at a rager. Trust me, you’re better off.

Keep your Facebook profile neat, tidy, and avoid ranting status updates. I know it’s tempting to go on a rampage about how much you love/love to hate Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but trust me, it’s better if you just don’t. Remember, there’s no way to delete your account so what ends up on Facebook, really does stay on the Internet forever.


If there was a magical golden social media ticket for landing your next dream job, LinkedIn would surely be it. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, start one (whether you’re job hunting or not). Make sure you have a professional-looking photo uploaded (no selfies!), include a bio, and at least the last job you’ve worked at. If you’ve never been employed, volunteer positions are just as valuable so make sure you include that. Start connecting with professors, past employers, babysitters, your mom’s friends, and anyone else you can think of! You never know who could lead you to your next great gig.

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Why Colleges are Requiring Students to Waste Time for Credits

ubuntu-910-browser-internetYou might think some of your current classes are a “waste of time,” but what would you think if you were paying for a course that, quite literally, required you to waste your time? The activity that most college students equate with procrastinating their homework – wasting time mindlessly clicking link after link on the internet – has now become their homework in itself.

A new English course at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, is being offered called “Wasting Time on the Internet” and it studies exactly that. Not only is it being offered, but it’s actually a requirement for all students majoring in Creative Writing at the prestigious university.

A lot of the coursework is what a veteran of internet surfing might expect it to be: staring at the screen for three hours, interacting with others only through social media and other virtual communication. No interruptions are to be had by real-life friends. To accompany this, though, there is some real homework to be done – some intense reading on the history of boredom and time-wasting and critical discussions about affect theory, situationism, and everyday life will contribute to the students’ grades.

So what is the goal, here? Why would a professor force his or her students to do what they’re likely already doing? According to the course description, these time-wasting activities, such as “clicking, SMSing, status-updating, and random surfing,” will be “used as raw material for creating compelling and emotional works of literature.” When you think about the questions professor Kenneth Goldsmith hopes to encourage his students to answer: “Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook? Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed?” – it’s actually easy to see how this fits into a literature course.

Just like William S. Burroughs wrote about using drugs, the course is encouraging students to write in a way that’s honest about the world they live in. Their finished pieces won’t be the first of their kind – after all, artists like Tao Lin, Megan Boyle, and Sam Pink have already written entire works focused around GChat and Twitter. It’s just a way of using the way we live to create art, which is what all of the greats have been doing for centuries, and forcing ourselves to reconsider the way we think about using the Internet and dealing with boredom.

A lot of students might be eager to take the course since they think they’ll already be great at it – but it seems there’s a lot to be learned from it.

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Avoid 5 Common Health Issues to Be at your Best During Exams

119550654As the year’s first round of final exams approaches, college students are anxious to get them overwith as quickly as possible so that they can get home for winter break. For some, this means pulling all-nighters, drowning in caffeine, and forgoing exercise or any other semblance of healthy activity in order to ensure passing grades. The last thing you’re probably doing is worrying about being healthy.

While it’s important to study, it’s even more important to look after your health. Your exam performance will suffer if you’re exhausted, hungry, or experiencing one of these other common problems during exams. Keeping a schedule can help to ensure you’re getting in enough studying as well as “you-time.”

Tension Headaches
Sitting at your desk for too long, avoiding sleep, being stressed, and being dehydrated can all result in tension headaches. It’s important to get enough sleep and take enough breaks to avoid the stress that can cause these headaches, which will most definitely make studying impossible. Try doing some stretches every hour or so, drink plenty of water, and make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep (or, at least, some naps).

All those lattes and energy drinks might be giving you the energy to power through a night of studying, but if you’re not switching off with water every now and then, you’re going to get dehydrated. This could lead to headaches, fatigue, and a lack of focus – none of which are conducive to studying. Try filling up a 36-oz bottle of water and keeping it by your side to sip mindlessly while you study.

Whether it’s due to too much caffeine or too much stress, insomnia is prevalent in students studying for exams. Make sure to lay off the caffeine a few hours before laying down to go to sleep, and get some sort of exercise each day. Take a walk around campus or set aside 30 minutes for the elliptical – wearing out your body helps you sleep! You could also buy some natural melatonin supplements if you really need assistance.

Skin Problems
A lot of people have the tendency to break out in hives or rashes when they’re stressed. The best way to avoid this is, of course, to minimize stress. Aside from taking frequent breaks and getting enough sleep, make sure that you’re eating healthy so that you’re energized and focused. Also make sure to not spend too much time in the dry, heated indoors and take lukewarm – rather than hot – showers. Finally, use plenty of moisturizing lotion.

When your body is malnourished and/or deprived of sleep, your immune system is weakened and you’re more prone to colds (which is exacerbated by the fact that it’s cold season already). Take multivitamins, avoid germs by bathing daily and using hand sanitizer, and, again, get plenty of sleep so you’re not in a fog when exam day rolls around.

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Fight Boredom and Make the Most of your Winter Break!

520537513As you begin to pack up and head home for a month or so for your winter break, it’s bittersweet. By now you’ve probably secured a close circle of friends at school, and being away from the ‘rents is a nice dose of independence. Still, it’s great to be home and see the family and friends you’ve missed while being away.

At least, being home is nice for a few weeks. Then it gets…kind of boring? You might feel guilty admitting it, but sometimes you kind of can’t wait for class to be back in session.

When that feeling starts to set in, it’s time to start making the most of your winter break! You should look forward to being home as much as you look forward to being at school, and here’s how you can do that.

Start Working Out
Believe it or not, a lot of gyms know that college students come home for short periods of time, and they allow you to get a short membership or even pause your membership while you’re away. This is great if you want to start getting into an exercise regimen. Look up some beginner weight training courses on YouTube or start the Couch to 5K running plan for something to occupy your time. You can continue your training when you get back on campus, since you’ll have access to a gym. After a few months, you’ll really start noticing the benefits.

Take a Trip
You don’t have a lot of time to vacation during the school semester, so why not take advantage of your time off by traveling? Take a mini-road trip to some historic sites with your friends, or, if you can afford it, book a mini vacation somewhere warm to get away from the snow for a while. It’s good for your mind!

Look Into Shadowing
Do you know what career path you’re headed down? Now could be a great time to get better acquainted with it. See if you can shadow some accountants at a local firm or hang out in an artist’s studio a few days a week. You can prepare yourself for the working world little by little.

Read some Books
A lot of students say they’d like to read but just “don’t have the time.” That’s probably true – who wants to pick up another book after being nose-deep in textbooks all night? Winter break is a great time to get in some reading for leisure. Make a list of books you’d like to read and try to set a schedule to stick to.

Take a Course
Some students like the routine and busy work that college courses offer, and others simply want to graduate as quickly as possible. If you take an extra course every winter break, you could graduate a semester (or even a year!) early. Plus, you can keep your mind sharp for when you return to your normal class schedule.

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