Friday, August 8, 2008

Finding the Right Internship

Finding the right internship can be a difficult task. You may be asking yourself, “Is it worth it? Why do I need to go through all this trouble for something I might not even get paid for? Is there any way out of it?” An internship, however, will most likely be the most important part of your college education. By doing an internship, you show future employers that you have experience in the field you want to work in and that you’ve worked in a professional environment.
That’s a huge advantage over someone who took an extra course to get out of an internship. (Don’t even think about doing that! If you think doing an internship for low or no pay is tough, try finding a job without one.) The job market is tough, especially if your field isn’t high in demand. Ideally, you’ll intern with a company or organization that will be able to hire you after your internship is completed.

Your goal should be to find a company or organization you’d want to work for, and which has a good chance of hiring you in a permanent position after the internship. That’s far more important than finding a paid internship, which are often hard to come by. By starting early, you can do some shopping around. Many people do internships in the summer after their junior year, and many of them start looking for internships during the spring semester. That doesn’t leave much time to look, however, because that’s when you should usually be turning in your application materials. It’s never too soon to start looking, of course, but by starting your search the previous summer or fall, you’ll have time to look around for the best opportunities and meet any early deadlines.

In some fields, you should even think about doing two internships. Ideally you may get hired by the company you intern with, but that doesn’t always happen, especially if you live in an area with limited job opportunities. Many people end up doing two internships, which can boost you above the competition. There’s no reason you can’t look for an internship that would begin in the summer after your sophomore year. For highly competitive internships, you may not be at the top of the competition yet, but by getting your feet wet you can make yourself highly competitive for a subsequent one. Just as importantly, an internship can give you a better idea of whether you’ve found your calling in your field, or whether you want to do something else, and doing one early can help you to figure this out early.

When you’re ready to look for internships, the best place to start is often the department of your major. Your advisor will probably have some suggestions, and your department may keep a list of employers that have hired students as interns or in full-time positions in the past. Ask for a copy of this list, if it’s available. The employers on it will probably be relevant to your major, and since they’ve likely had good experiences with other students from your department, they’ll be predisposed to like you. The career services department of your college or university will also have useful information about area employers. Ask them about any upcoming job or internship fairs in the area as well; many schools hold these on campus.

Also, talk with anyone you know who may be able to help. Professors may have connections in the field; ask them if they know of any internship opportunities that would be a good fit for you. If you mention your search to relatives, friends, teachers, and anyone else you know, you may be surprised how networking can turn up results. Volunteer work can be a great way to network while gaining experience and showing your dedication to a cause, so talk with anyone you know from volunteer experiences.

Many online databases can help you find the right internship. The Princeton Review ( offers a great internship search engine. Back to College has a list of other helpful sites at Job websites such as and also have internship listings. Of course, you should also look outside of the search engines, finding out whether there are any other organizations you’d be interested in working for. If they don’t specify whether they hire interns, ask! Also, find out from your major department whether they will give you credit for the internships you find.

The size of the company or organization you intern with is an important consideration. Many people have a good internship experience with smaller companies because they have the opportunity to contribute their talents more than in a bigger one. However, because your ideal goal is probably to get hired by the company you intern with (especially if your field is highly competitive), interning with a smaller company has its ups and downs. A smaller company can be a great place to get lots of hands-on experience, and if job opportunities exist there, you’ll likely be high on the list once you’ve proven yourself to them.
However, positions in small companies are usually far more scarce than in a large company, so find out what you can about the company beforehand. Again, find out if your department has any info about the company’s track record with recent grads, look up its website and see how many staff members it has, and during your interview, ask whether they’ve hired interns in the past and whether they anticipate future growth.

To make yourself highly competitive for both internships and jobs, you should boost your resume by listing relevant activities that you’ve taken part in. If you’re looking for an internship in publishing, you’ll want to be highly active in school publications such as the newspaper or literary journal. If you see yourself working for a certain type of nonprofit, show that you’re involved with related campus activism. It’s usually better to pick one thing and work your way to the top in it than to dabble in a bunch of different things. While it’s good to take part in different activities, if you spread yourself too thin you may not get much experience in any particular area. In other words, take on the responsibilities that you can handle, giving your best effort to the things you’re involved with, and it will show. You’ll be more confident, for one thing, because you’ll be proud of your accomplishments.

Make sure you highlight your strengths and qualifications in your cover letter and resume. Your career services department will be glad to help you strengthen these materials, so take advantage of that! You’re paying tuition, after all, and that’s a service that comes with it. Resume and cover letter writing is a skill in itself, so make sure these materials are well developed. Your career services department will also help you to prepare for an interview. Bring these materials and your newly learned interview skills to any job fairs you attend as well.
If you prepare well and think ahead, you’ll have a huge advantage over the competition. You’ll know you’ve found internships that are a good fit for you, and you’ll be able to show your potential employer why you’re a good fit. Now all you have to do is put in a stellar job performance, and you’ll have your foot in the door!

Melanie J. Martin is a freelance writer and editor. She has a master of arts in English, and she especially enjoys writing and studying creative nonfiction essays.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Enlisting in the Military: Deferring College

by Craig Landis

Why do we have colleges? Have you ever thought about that? Lots of people think that college is continuing education; a sort of extension of high school. As a junior, you start hearing more and more questions: “What you’re going to do about college?” It’s almost as if it’s taken for granted that college comes after high school. But why?

People say that without a college degree you won’t earn as much money, have as much credibility, or be taken as seriously as those who graduate. Does that mean we have colleges so people can make more money somehow? How?

It’s only been recently that going to college has become routine for so many students. It wasn’t always that way. It used to be that going to college was only for special students, or for those who were wealthy. So why did they want to go to college?

Think about the first problem you encounter when you get to a university or college: You’re asked to choose a major. And that major will be the area of knowledge in which you intend to specialize. Isn’t that the whole point and reason for being in college—to specialize your knowledge in something?

General –vs- Specialized Knowledge

As a society, we need to educate our kids with a broad understanding of our history, knowledge, structure, and culture. To accomplish this, we have grade schools where students learn how to read and write, make calculations, and understand the country’s basic social structure.
Leaving the general education system, a young adult then chooses what they would like to do with their life. What do they want to do for work, how do they want to live, and how do they want to fit into the overall social structure? Not all life styles require complicated, additional education.
Some people, however, do have an interest in a career that requires sophisticated skills and complex knowledge. It’s for these people that we have colleges and universities. The thing is, though, that these folks also tend to already know what they want from life, before they leave high school.

The Buffet of Life

Not everyone gets to have a lot of diverse experiences coming through childhood. In fact, it isn’t at all unusual for young people to have no idea at all about what they’d like to do with their future; particularly in today’s varied world.

Many students never have traveled to other countries, nor experienced other cultures and languages. Although television and the Internet introduce us to “the world,” it isn’t the direct experience of actually visiting another country.

With limited experience, how does anyone choose an area of specialization? Yet students somehow are supposed to already know this when they get to the university!

Wouldn’t it make sense to take some time between graduating from high school and entering college, to sample some of what life has to offer? Without an opportunity to try something, how would you know if you like it?

In some cases, taking a job and moving away from home offers this chance to explore. But then again, not everyone can become self-supporting right out of high school. There is another option, however, and that’s to enlist in the military services.

Military Service Broadens Perspective

It’s true that in today’s uncertain world, being in the military carries a significant risk. On the other hand, there are many benefits to having some military experience prior to taking on college. For example:

-- Within the military, you’ll be provided with an education in a variety of fields, often at your choosing when you enlist.
-- The military is well known for introducing self-discipline, honor, perseverance, and determination. All these are necessary when starting a business, a family, or any other long-term life goal.
-- Men and women leaving the military have a tremendous sense of competence and confidence that they can handle almost any situation.
-- The military provides a steady income without many of the expenses of civilian life.
-- Military veterans are eligible for benefits that apply to the high costs of a college education, making college affordable for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to specialize.
-- Enlisting in the military also usually means travel outside the country. It’s an opportunity to see the US from a distance, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the meaning of America.

Having a college degree, in and of itself, doesn’t mean you’ll be hired as an executive. The degree only indicates something—that you have a desire to excel in a particular field, and the discipline to follow through in your work.

Neither is college a required extension to high school. Plenty of people enjoy lives and careers without the need for a college education. But to know how to choose between two things, we first have to experience those two things. To choose an area of life in which to specialize, we first have to have a sense of what areas life has to offer.

Enlisting in the military is a way to take some time out, see the world, try different life styles, and figure out what you do and don’t like. With today’s average life span reaching toward 100 years, there’ll be plenty of time to go to college after you have a good idea of why you want to be there.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Finding Sources of Extra Cash

by Tori Phelps

Score! You’ve got a date Friday night with that cutie from algebra. The problem? You have a serious cash flow problem. Somehow, splitting a cheeseburger at the Golden Arches just doesn’t add up to the romantic evening you were hoping for. Or maybe you’re dying for those darling sandals in the store window, but the only thing in your pocket is lint.

If Mom and Dad are tapped out, there’s still hope for you, poor college student. What to do? Find little ways to bring in extra cash. It’s easier than you think, and a side benefit is that you may build your post-college resume and uncover valuable references.

On Campus. If you’re looking for a steady job, your first stop is your college’s employment center. Its main job is to help recent graduates nail down employment, but the people there also usually know where there’s an opening on campus. If your college doesn’t have an employment center, just ask about jobs wherever you go. Studying in the library? Ask if they need someone to cover the Help Desk at night. Eating in the Commons? Ask if they need prep or dishwashing help. Another good source is your academic advisor. He or she may know where there are holes to be plugged on campus.

Off Campus. If you have a car, you’re golden. You can work at the mall downtown or the coffee shop uptown. While you’ll likely take any old job just to get some green growing in your wallet again, apply to the places you think you’ll enjoy first. You know that nearby music store you’re in every week? They may need someone to cover the register on the weekend. And if you’re a familiar face in there, the owners may feel more comfortable hiring you.

Babysitting. There are dozens of professors on campus—and even some non-traditional students—who need babysitters. A parent’s Holy Grail is tracking down good quality childcare, so why not make it easier for them? If you like kids (yes, that’s a requirement), don’t be afraid to let your professors know that you’re available if they ever need a babysitter. And this isn’t just a job for college women. Playing video games with a seven-year-old for $8 an hour? Now that’s a sweet deal.

Lawn Mowing, Leaf Raking, Gutter Cleaning. Most faculty and administration have enough to do without spending their free time ending to outdoor chores. This is where you come in. Even if you’re not on campus during the summer, most homeowners start mowing in April and don’t stop until Thanksgiving (even later in the southern states). Leaf raking has a shorter season, but many people hate that job so much, they’re willing to pay big bucks for someone else to do it. You can make a small fortune in a month. If you’re willing to tackle these jobs, you need to advertise. Tack a note to a community bulletin board or see if the mailroom will put a flyer detailing your services into the faculty mailboxes.

Tutoring. If you rock at math (or Spanish or biology or…you get the idea), you could have a serious source of income on your hands. For every student like you who breezes through a subject, there are dozens more who just don’t have a clue. If you think you can teach what you know, you may be a good candidate for tutoring. Your first step is to talk to the professors who teach these subjects and let them know that you’re available if any of their students need help. Warning: Make sure they understand that you charge for your tutoring to avoid any misunderstandings later.

Your Hobby. Everyone has a hobby, and some of them could make a nice sideline. Whatever you’re into—jewelry making, painting, photography—make sure people know about it. If making jewelry is what keeps you sane during finals, your best bet is to wear your creations all the time. When people comment on your jewelry, thank them and then inform them that you sell your pieces. If you’re an amazing painter, create a fabulous mural on your dorm wall (if it’s allowed), and you’re sure to start some conversations. When that happens, let people know that you’re available for hire.

And if photography is your thing, investigate whether the school will let you publicly display your work. You never know when someone will need wedding photography (or baby photos, etc.) on the cheap and think, “Oh yeah, I know a student who takes great pictures.”

Good luck!

Penny Pinching While In College

As everyone knows, college can be a time of tight expenses. With fees for books, rent, cars, food and other bills, keeping money in your pocket through your college years can be increasingly difficult.

There are many ways that one can keep money in the pocket, while at the same time paying all the other expenses that may come up through the year.

One of the best ways to do this is to set up a budget. It is quite simple, creating a budget involves knowing how much money you have coming in each month and how much money you have going out.

The goal of the budget is to balance it, or have more money coming in than going out.
First of all, you will have to set a budget schedule and determine where the money is coming in front. These could be things like student loans, scholarships, work-study funds, parents or money from a part time job.

Do this for the entire year, then divide it by the number of months in your budget, or the number of months you plan to be in school for the year. This will give you a figure that shows you your monthly income, which is the amount of money you can spend each month.

This brings us to the expenses part of the budget. Find out what your biggest expenses are, including your tuition and rent. Make sure to divide your tuition by the number of months in your budget. Then, add in the costs of school supplies and books. If you don’t know how much it will cost you each year or semester, then take an average. Don’t forget about food, utilities, gas, insurance and entertainment.

Now all you have to do is take your income, minus your expenses, and you will have your total free money each month. If it comes out to a negative number, then you have some problems and are going to have to start cutting costs.

One way to do this is to not drive to school but take the bus or other methods of public transit. This will save you on both gas and car insurance.

As well, don’t go for the name brand groceries and start looking at the generic items. They may not taste as good, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the greater good of the budget.

Another good way to save money is to buy second hand books for school, and get a roommate for your place, thereby cutting the rent in half. You can also not go out as much with friends and spend more time at home. It sucks, but again, the budget rules all and should be followed consistently.

Craig Baird is a professional writer with several years of experience as an editor, reporter and freelancer. Currently, when not writing, he spends his time hiking the mountains around his home in British Columbia. Craig has had a few short stories published, along with one novel. Drop him a line through his writer blog at

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Insurance Needs of College Students

by Kim Lynch

It's finally happened. Your son or daughter is preparing to go off to college. You want his or her experience to be as seamless as possible, and that means staying on top of the bigger responsibilities like insurance.

More than likely, you'll have another four years to worry about keeping your child insured with health benefits, car insurance and even renter's insurance. Unfortunately, many parents get so caught up in the other financial aspects of sending their children off to college like tuition, room and board and other expenses that they forget just how important insurance is... until it's too late.

By ensuring that you have the proper coverage for your child, you're eliminating the possibility of having to incur loftier expenses down the line. From a broken bone to a car collision to an apartment burglary, there are plenty of unwanted mishaps that can take place, which is why it's so important to protect your child -- and yourself -- from the get-go.

While some insurance companies allow full-time students to remain on their parent's health plan, others do not. Some insurers only permit students to stay on the health plan until the age of 22, regardless of whether they're still in school or not. Another thing to consider is if your insurance plan will cover your child if they're attending a school that is out of state.

According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), between 12 to 15 percent of all college students are without health insurance. And it's quite possible that the other 85 percent don't have enough coverage. Many universities are now making it a requirement for students to have health insurance before they can attend the school.

In fact, a survey conducted by the ACHA revealed that at least 80 percent of private schools and almost 40 percent of public schools are making healthinsurance mandatory. Without adequate coverage, students can find themselves faced with serious debt if they suffer a serious illness or injury. According to Cindy Andreatos, Enrollment Specialist at Design Savers Medical Plans indicates, ‘Today a stint in the hospital can cost $40,000.00 and that's a lot to pay off. And if by chance if you don’t pay your bill in a timely manner, Hospitals and Healthcare providers can hurt your credit rating.’

Both students and parents can't afford not to have proper health insurance coverage. Luckily, there are plenty of companies out there that offer reasonable coverage for college students.
Take,, and others. All of these companies provide health insurance policies for full-time college students, college graduates or international students.

But insurance goes beyond healthcare. Parents also must consider automobile insurance and renter's insurance. Maybe your child is taking their own car to college or perhaps they're taking one of your cars. It's integral to make sure that you have adequate auto coverage in the event of an accident.

This is something that should be taken care of before your child ever leaves home. Where they'll be attending school will likely affect the amount of money you pay. Other factors include their grade point average, whether or not they're bringing the car to school and whose name the policy is under.

Regardless of what your situation is do some research. Check out websites such as,, or to learn about the policy options for your child.

Although many parents may stay on top of health and auto insurance, renter's insurance is often forgotten. Ironically, renter's insurance can be a lifesaver - and definitely a moneysaver -- if your child is the victim of a burglary or a natural disaster such as a fire or hurricane. For just $15 to $30 a month, parents and students can rest easy knowing that they're covered in the event of a catastrophic event.

Unless you can afford to replace computers, DVD players, televisions, furniture and other costly belongings, renter's insurance is likely one small expense you won't want to forego. No parent ever wants to imagine the worst case scenario involving their child. However, by being prepared, parents and students will have a recovery plan in place in the case of an emergency.

Websites such as,,, and and others all offer quotes and policies for college students.

There's nothing more exciting than watching your son or daughter go off to college. However, you'll sleep easier knowing that you have all the bases covered to guarantee that the finances of both you and your child are protected.

And that's the best insurance money can buy.

Sea Salt Ice Cream: A Celebration of Friendship

Sea-salt ice cream sounds disgusting, Roxas decided, but tastes really good.

He, Hayner, Pence, and Olette were sitting on the rooftop of the highest building in Twilight Town, the spot that had been dubbed their hangout over summer vacation. The best thing about it was that nobody else would try to steal it- they’d be petrified of falling.

But not Roxas, Hayner, Pence, and Olette. They had unanimously agreed on the deserted rooftop… all of them needed a place to disappear and this was definitely it. It had been two months already and, although the four friends had enjoyed watching other people, they’d never been spotted back.

It’s weird how no one ever looks up. They’re always looking down, watching their feet so carefully that they miss the really important things, like the sunset. Or that they’re heading straight for a pole. Roxas licked his lips and gazed out to the sun setting under the houses and buildings below. Life was good.

The four best friends were sitting in companionable silence, each clutching a sea-salt ice cream and lost in their own thoughts. Olette was swinging her legs over the side, tracing a pattern in the cement with her finger and Roxas knew she was planning where she would drag them the next day. Pence was staring down at the brick road below, thinking about how idiotic a person would have to be to even think of jumping from this height, while Hayner was wondering if there was a way he could jump without killing himself.

And if any of them looked at me, they’d probably know exactly what I was thinking, too, Roxas thought, taking another lick of his ice cream.

They were all like sea-salt ice cream: Each of them was sweet, with a little, quirky tang that made them even better. Roxas, Hayner and Pence understood when Olette got into one of her bossy moods, or when she blew them off to do girly stuff like shopping and makeovers, just like nobody cared when Pence got overly cynical, or Hayner got too carried away with his thinking that everything is a competition, or a game.

Because that was the salt in their sea-salt ice cream. That was the little, quirky tang that made them even better.

Because Roxas would always be Roxas, Olette would always be Olette, Pence would always be Pence, and Hayner would always be undeniably Hayner.

And that’s just the way they liked it.

(Author’s Note: A tribute to my friends. You guys rock!)

Rochel B. is a freshman in high school and writing, drawing, music and reading are her passions. Her article “Seat, Salt, Ice Cream” is a celebration of the value of friendship but just as important, the celebration and appreciation of individual differences.

Disappointed with Your SAT Score?

After studying hard for the SAT and taking the test at least two times, you are still not satisfied with your score. What to do? Well, you can take the SAT again, or you can consider the ACT. Both exams are acceptable at all colleges. College admissions officers do not favor one exam over the other. And depending upon the type of student you are, the ACT may fit your skills better than the SAT.

The ACT is curriculum based, that is, the questions are aimed more at what you actually learn in High School. Therefore the ACT is more knowledge based and straightforward. The SAT on the other hand is more of a reasoning test which favors students who have excellent problem solving skills. The format of the ACT consists of three mini tests—Math, English and Science with an optional 30 minute writing test.

While the ACT is shorter (2 hours 55 minutes vs. 3 hours 45 minutes for the SAT), it is more time intensive—the student must answer each question quickly in order to get through an entire section in the allotted time.

Many college advisors contend there are two distinct groups of students which may score much higher on one test or the other. High achievers who get the highest grades in the most difficult classes through hard work generally do better on the ACT. Gifted underachievers who are bored in class generally do better on the SAT. Which type of student are you?

My advice for all High School juniors is simple. After you receive your May or June SAT score, check to see whether your SAT score fits into the admissions criteria for the schools you will be applying to. If not, purchase The Real ACT Prep Guide (2nd Edition) and familiarize yourself with the test during the summer.

Take the ACT in September or October of your senior year. Whichever test yields the highest score, send the scores of that test along with your college application. It’s a no lose proposition.

As a special offer to welcome2college readers, Steven is offering a FREE SAT Summer Study Guide; send your request to

Steven N. Weisman is an author and private SAT Tutor. Many valuable test strategies and information can be found on his blog and website