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.

Let 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dealing with Deadlines: Using Hard Dates to Your Advantage

Dealing with DeadlinesIf there’s one thing college students do well, it’s procrastinate. Pulling an all-nighter right before a big project is due is commonplace, whether it’s because you just kept putting it off or because you forgot about the deadline altogether.

For this reason, some college students view deadlines as looming, ominous dates that they don’t want to think about. In reality, it’s advantageous that a lot of professors give a projected syllabus in the beginning of the semester. There are a lot of ways in which dealing with deadlines can be used to create a structured schedule – so let’s try to change the way you think about them.

If you’re applying to school, you’ll realize you have a lot of deadlines you need to remember. Applications, essays, interviews, acceptances – these all need to be done on or before specific dates, and if you’re applying to many schools, you’re going to get confused without a system. Use them to your advantage – create a schedule and use it to prioritize which schools you’re going to focus on when. You can start with working on the applications with very early deadlines or difficult essays first.

At the Beginning of the Semester
Most professors offer a syllabus at the beginning of the semester that is filled with important dates, especially in online college courses. At the very least, you’ll have a general idea of when your biggest project is due as well as what will be expected of you on a weekly basis. Now is a good time to begin filling out your calendar (on a whiteboard or on the computer, in case you need to make any changes) with these dates. This way, you’ll always remember to make room for the important things during these weeks and be able to plan around them. You can also see how they jive with any vacations you may have planned.

Once School Begins
As you get into the groove of your classes, you’ll know what happens week-to-week. Maybe you have a quiz every Monday, or a reading assignment due every Wednesday. You can use these deadlines and hard dates to create a schedule each week on top of the one you’ve created for the semester. This helps you get into a routine and become less likely to forget an assignment.

During Finals
We all know that finals week is no fun – and the reason for that is because you’ll have so many deadlines within the same week! The funny thing is that this should come as no surprise. You already know you’re going to have a lot of work to do, so why try to cram it into all week? Knowing your impending week full of deadlines, begin working on bigger assignments as early as possible so you don’t end up scrambling or pulling the dreaded all-nighter during such a crucial time in the semester.

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Online Degree Highlight: Education

Online Degree Highlight EducationOf all the degrees people choose to pursue online, education is among the most popular. Many people don’t decide that they want to take a teaching career path until several years after they’ve acquired a bachelor’s degree, and seeing that they can study education online is an agreeable option for those who work full-time jobs.

There are a lot of benefits to getting an education degree online or simply to getting the degree in general – but there are also some things you might want to consider. Here are some things to think about.

Pro: Added Salary Bonus
in some schooling systems, the pay rates of teachers and administrators can be determined by how many graduate school credits the employee has. Getting a degree online is a great way to earn yourself a pay raise without having to spend so much time in various schools if you work in one of these types of school systems. If you’re not already in the field of education, you’ll be pleased to know that teachers and administrators are given pay increases on a consistent (often yearly) basis, which may be a pro if you’re not already in a career field that offers this benefit.

Pro: Easily Acquired Competitive Edge
Since you don’t have to travel to attend school virtually, you can choose to attend one of the top online schools for education without having to leave your home. Thus, when you’re applying for jobs, you’ll have a degree from a prestigious school that you can put on your resume which will give you a competitive advantage in interviews. With furthered education, you may also be more likely to be considered when your school system is promoting internally. It’s an easy way to move up to become a department head or even an administrator.

Pro: Accelerated Programs
If you’re working a full-time job and want to go back to school for education, you’ll most likely have to be a part-time student. However, there are lots of accelerated online programs that allow you to earn a teaching certification or other degree in a shorter period of time – all from the comfort of your home.

Learn Important Skills
Even if you’re already a teacher and comfortable in your career, online classes give you the opportunity to improve your skills and become better at what you do. Teaching is a career that relies heavily on passion; if you’re not passionate about your job, you’ll likely receive a lot of criticism. Attending these classes, learning better communication skills, getting your hands on new technology, et cetera is a great way to keep your passion for your job alive and make sure it never gets boring.

Things to Consider
Pursuing an education degree online isn’t for everyone, despite its many benefits. Here are a few things that might make or break your decision to embark on this journey:

  • If you don’t have a true desire to teach students, it’s not a job you can easily phone in.
  • If you want to teach younger students, you obviously won’t get to demonstrate your abilities in your niche subject. For example – history majors who decide to get a certification for elementary teaching may not feel that their passion for history is fulfilled.
  • Remember that as a teacher, you’re performing a service for students and parents alike.

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Declaring a Minor: Does it Matter?

declaring a minorWhen you ask a college student what he or she is majoring in, the response usually comes accompanied by their minor. “I’m majoring in English with a minor in African Studies,” or “I’m majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Physics” – it seems to just come naturally. Though, sometimes, you can’t help but wonder – what is that minor even worth?

Some people fall into minor programs by accident, realizing that they’d already taken enough similar classes to almost achieve the degree, and figure – why not? Others start out minoring and end up double-majoring. Others deliberately choose their fields of study with specific careers in mind.

There are a lot of reasons that declaring a minor can benefit you in the future, so let’s just cover the basic reasons it’s worth considering.

You Can Study Something that Interests You
We all know that when choosing a major, many people consider what will land them a career – not just what interests them. While you might genuinely enjoy pursuing your degree in Education, you might still be a little bummed out that it wasn’t totally viable to major in music. Why not minor in music, instead? You still get the opportunity to take classes that involve your passion, and the fact that you’re majoring in a field that’s very hirable makes it a win-win situation. Taking up a minor is a great opportunity to gain skills, knowledge, and experience in a field that interests you but that might not necessarily be your chosen career path.

You Can Complement your Major
If you’re lucky enough to have your desired career path extremely narrowed down – for example, you want to be the director of accounting in a startup – then you can begin getting training and experience while you’re in school rather than burdening yourself with trying to beef up your resume as soon as you graduate. You’re much more likely to be in charge of the accounting department of a startup if you major in business and minor in accounting, and this will put you on top of the competition if other viable candidates only majored in one or the other.

You Can Better your Chances of Getting into Grad School
If you’re looking to further your academic career before pursuing a professional one, you might find that choosing a major makes this easier. A minor shows that you’re an avid learner and helps to highlight your particular skills and interests. For example, if you’re applying to an extremely competitive law school and your GPA just barely makes the cut, having a minor in a foreign language or criminal justice may prove that you’ll be an asset to the school as well as the career you’re pursuing.

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6 Tips for Building Savings While Attending School

Building Savings While Attending SchoolWhile you’re in school, you have a lot to worry about – studying, tuition, and social life – so you might not spend much time thinking about how to save money. But if you start building your savings while in college, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the “real world” post graduation. Saving while in school isn’t easy, but you can do it if you plan effectively. Here are six tips for building your savings while attending school.

1. Use Your Parents’ Health Insurance
Instead of paying for your own private health insurance, or signing up for the campus health plan, stay on your parents’ plan as long as possible. A provision of the Affordable Care Act allows adult children to remain covered by their parents’ until the age of 26.

2. Leverage Your Student ID Card
You may be inclined to entertain yourself with keg parties, bar hopping, and eating out, but before you start spending your cash, look into the benefits associated with your student ID card. Most cards provide free attendance or discounted admittance to college sporting events, speaking engagements, and other local venues. Most campuses work with local eateries, cinemas, gyms, and recreation centers to provided special deals for students.

3. Get a Job
Even if you don’t qualify for work-study, chances are you can find an on- or off-campus job. Check the university student center or human resources department for on-campus job opportunities. If there aren’t any, ask around at local businesses to see who’s hiring. Every dollar you generate can be saved for the future or used to cut current costs.

4. Reconsider the Meal Plan
On its face, the cafeteria meal plan might seem like a good idea, but you’ll need to run the numbers to be sure. Break down the cost of the plan by meal, and see whether you can save by buying groceries and cooking at home.

5. Find a Side Gig
Getting a part-time job is awesome, but generating your own revenue can end up being more lucrative in the long-run. Check out the websites Delve or Focus Pointe Global – both provide opportunities to make significant cash by participating in market research focus groups. If you’re an expert in a certain study area (mathematics, for example), offer tutoring to other students. You could even start dog walking, babysitting, or landscaping when you have free time to generate extra cash.

6. Set Aside Your Gifts
Birthdays and holidays are frequently accompanied by monetary gifts, so when you receive a $50 check from your uncle, or a $100 bill from your parents, set it aside. You’ll be surprised how much you can save over the course of four or five years.

Look at your savings this way – every dollar you put in a savings account now is an extra dollar you can put toward your student loan balances after you graduate. Considering that most graduates average $33,000 in debt after leaving school, if you don’t plan ahead now, your debt could break you later.

Have you prioritized savings while in school? How do you add to your savings account?

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