To enroll or not to enroll: the pros and cons of summer classes

It’s that time of the year again. Time to buckle down as the spring term enters its home stretch, time to tie up any loose ends from the academic year, and, for many students, time to consider enrolling for a class or two this upcoming summer.

OSU COB, May 22nd 2010But how do you know if it’s right for you? How do you make sure you won’t be studying come July, regretting your choice as you gaze out the window? The key is to weigh the pros and cons long before you even enroll so that you can foresee any problems and take into account all the benefits. Here are some of the biggest pros and cons facing students considering summer classes.

Pros

Getting ahead It’s no secret that summer classes are one of the best ways to make your graduation date come even sooner, but signing up for summer sessions can even quicken the pace at which you can take certain classes. For example, if you know that there are certain classes that require taking prerequisite classes, doing so in the summer can put you on a fast track to getting a seat in higher-level courses.

Keeping your routine One of the most underrated benefits of taking a class or two over the summer is avoiding A) falling into the trap of “summer melt” where you completely check out of the college mindset and B) having the kind of slow start in the fall that plagues so many students and causes them to fall behind right away. If you’re somebody who knows that a regular routine is key to your productivity, that could be enough reason to enroll.

A concentrated environment Any student who has ever taken a summer class will tell you that they’re nothing like the courses taught in fall, winter and spring. Summer classes tend to move quicker, spending less time beating around the bush and more time getting straight to the point. Accelerated classes, for example, pack all the lessons of a 16-week semester into eight or sometimes even four weeks, which could be a great way to get that General Ed class out of the way. Or, take that difficult class where you’d prefer a smaller class size and more one-on-one time with a professor.

reading_on grassCons

Money For most students, the trickiest part of enrolling for summer classes ends up being the financial side of it. Depending on your school, for example, certain grants, loans, and waivers may not apply to the summer term, or for others using such financial aid for your summer term will mean you have to sacrifice it another time. To avoid the headache of summer session finances, make sure to talk to someone who knows about your school and state’s specific guidelines.

Summer jobs Summer is traditionally a time for students to pick up a summer job or an extra shift or two at their existing job so they can earn some extra cash. Don’t be fooled into thinking that summer classes will be easier and make the mistake of overloading your schedule. If you know that your summer job or internship is important to you, consider taking just one class or none at all.

Downtime Finally, summer is a time to enjoy being young, to take a vacation, to get organized, or to simply take in the longer days by spending them at the beach or in a park with a good book in hand. One of the most important things to consider in enrolling for summer classes is how well you’ll be able to manage your time, so that you can set aside at least two days a week to simply recharge your batteries before another academic year begins.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at@ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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6 tips for proper discussion board #netiquette

To supplement their online and in-person lectures, more and more professors are turning to online discussion boards as places where students can show what they’ve learned, as well as interact with their peers.

But for many students, discussion boards are only added stress – a place where professors grade your work based on how well you formulate a typed response rather than behave in a traditional classroom setting.

05Wtiprodservvetsmain-1367422044942Sometimes, though, all it takes to nail a discussion board assignment is to practice good Internet etiquette and come up with one or two ideas. Here are five steps to exercising the kind of discussion board strategy that will always earn an A.

Arrive early

Many students, especially those who grew up without the Internet as a prominent learning tool, can get caught off guard by online discussion boards when there’s already a class to attend and homework to complete. Make sure you’re doing whatever it takes to prevent procrastination, like setting an alarm on you phone or making the discussion board your browser’s home page. Arriving early to the discussion means your ideas won’t get posted first, and also that you’ll get time to read what others say about your ideas as well as edit your response.

Follow instructions

Classroom discussion boards are not a place to talk about whatever you’d like. In fact, doing this can make things more complicated. Don’t overthink your discussion board responses, but rather just read the instructions carefully and respond directly to the prompt.

Be original

The main problem students have with discussion boards is how easy it is to get lost in the mix of pages upon pages of posts. However, don’t fall into the trap of banking on this and simply parroting others’ ideas. Instead read what other students have said and use what you’ve learned to formulate your own ideas. Even if it isn’t necessarily how you feel on a subject, being original is always the best way to learn and better your persuasion skills.

Have substance

While coming up with one good idea is great, that doesn’t mean you should simply repeat that idea several times in slightly different ways and call it a day. After you’ve formulated an interesting claim, back up your post with reasonable evidence from whatever books your class is reading or lectures you’ve taken notes on. Backing up your original idea with substance is often the only way to take your posts from the B range to the A range.

Don’t be afraid to (respectfully) disagree

Back-and-forth is the root of debate and more often than not professors will encourage spirited discussion on their boards. If you think that you can present a hole in somebody else’s logic, say so, just make sure you’ve left the door open for a two-way conversation. Discussing topics directly with other students not only shows your knowledge, but also displays that you’ve read other students’ posts.

Have a conclusion

For labs especially, oftentimes your entire discussion board assignment will be your conclusion to the work you did in class. But even if this isn’t the basis of your discussion board, it’s important that everything you post is tied off with a single, straightforward conclusion. A strong conclusion should summarize your argument without just repeating what you’ve already said.

HealthyU_Harry (1)

Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at@ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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Quick and surprising methods to a healthier student

cutting board v_ small(1)This week is National Public Health week, and while every student probably already knows the basics of college health—exercising, eating right, sleeping enough—many still are unable to get everything done on a daily basis, or they simply go through the motions, jogging while stressing about schoolwork or napping at their desk during a study break.

Starting this week, though, health can mean breaking the routine and thinking outside the box for quick and creative ways that better yourself for the long haul and protect yourself against illnesses that set you back in the classroom and at home.

Here are some methods you might not have thought of that will quickly improve your day, your week, and your overall health in minutes.

high-intensity-interval-trainingInterval training One of the biggest “hacks” being talked about in the exercise world today is “high intensity interval training”, or HIIT. In HIIT, participants are less worried about extended periods of running or swimming, and more concerned about pushing their cardio to the limits and then resting strategically before they once again push themselves. Doing HIIT over traditional cardio workouts can not only shorten your workouts, but also make them more efficient as you focus on heart rate and recovery rather than just working up a sweat or reaching a time-based goal.

Hand washing Of course, right? While it seems obvious, students should remember that hand washing is not just reserved for the bathroom. During flu season especially, the germs that can hurt you the most are all over the place and washing your hands regularly throughout the day as well as using hand sanitizer after activities like using an ATM or handling a shopping cart can pay huge dividends when it comes to staying productive and avoiding a sick day.

Thinking sleep Just saying you’ll go to bed earlier or take a nap later isn’t enough to cure your sleep woes. If you’re fatigued often in the day, the most important thing is to diagnose it and work through your findings. If you’re drinking caffeine late in the day (read: after noon), or leaving your allergies untreated or even eating certain foods before bed, stopping these habits first is crucial to not only sleeping more but sleeping better.

Using sunscreen Unlike many other health issues related to college students, sunscreen is one of they few that you won’t truly appreciate until many years down the road. While, yes, nobody likes a sunburn while they’re trying to run to class or take a shower, skin cancer, which usually comes on much later in life, is one of the most treated forms of the disease and is almost always a result of too much UV exposure. Taking just five minutes to apply a good sunscreen for you before going outside will ensure your skin stays healthy and glowing for now and for the rest of your life.

Petting your problems away It isn’t always easy to simply take a deep breath, say “everything’s going to be alright,” and actually believe it. Thankfully, there are other methods that have been proven to ease students’ minds and calm them down when stress levels are high. For veterans especially, dogs and cats have shown to increase happiness and decrease stress in all individuals while for students, who often live in small apartments that don’t allow pets, a simple purr or wagging tail every now and then can especially remind us of the little things that are important in life. So the next time you’re stressed, take a quick trip to your local animal shelter and ease your mind.

Steaming vegetables Boiling or sautéing your vegetables might be easiest method of preparation, but this method may actually be costing you valuable nutrients, as getting vegetables too hot can cause them to lose essential vitamins either to the water they’re being boiled in, or to get destroyed by intense levels of heat. Instead, a quick blanch or steam can be enough to get your vegetables soft enough to absorb seasonings, but still hearty enough to contain the benefits your body needs. And, it’s faster.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at@ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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The anatomy of a comeback

3.27.2015 healthyU basketball

The NCAA’s annual March basketball tournament brings talk of unlikely stories—Cinderella teams, inspiring individuals, people who used a bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and several unlikely comebacks to get to where they are now.

On the scholastic side of college, stories like this are being written every day. Students who take an extended time off school during their push to a degree due to illness, personal matters, a desire to focus on careers, or just a natural need for a break are constantly returning to the classroom to finish what they started.

And similar to how the basketball teams of spring can follow a game plan to success, students can also follow a formula to not only return to the classroom, but succeed while there.

The assessment

Before you get back into the classroom, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself—why are you going back, how will you get it done, and do you even have the time or resources. While this step may yield the least physical results, taking the time to slow down and truly think yourself, talk to your loved ones, and clear your mind will end up being the foundation for your daily school life, keeping you motivated and providing answers to any mid-studying crises of “why am I even back in school?”

The planning

The best first step to take when returning to anything is to see where you stand in terms of how much progress you already have under your belt. When it comes to returning school, check in with an advisor to see how many units are still “alive” in your path to a degree, and leave no stone unturned as units from other schools, other majors, and even other life experience may contribute towards credits.

The execution

After you’ve mapped out your next few years, all that’s left to do is, well, the work. But fear not, schools these days have several built-in pressure relievers that every student, not just those returning from a hiatus, should take advantage of. Low-pressure refresher courses, for example can help ease students back into subjects, while part-time or night classes can ease time constraints. On the homefront, talk to family about your impending study sessions and set up an area meant exclusively for your studies. Be realistic, but be relentless and learn something new every day.

The follow-through 

Like many of life’s biggest challenges, returning to school is a long and hard road. Pace, collectedness, and efficiency will all become keys in one day reaching the goals you set today, but so will the support system you develop along the way. Check in with counselors like the specialists here at ACI, as well as those at your school, to vent any of your financial or stress concerns. For veterans, veteran specialists can be a huge help in helping you instill structure in a muddled routine and ultimately, taking care of yourself and maintaining your relationships will be the keys to long-term success.

Photo credit: Daniel Hoyos / http://sundial.csun.edu/2013/02/mens-basketball-second-half-comeback-powers-matadors-over-irvine/

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Spring cleaning college style: four tasks that can make you a better student

Today marks the first day of spring, which for many students means the beginning of the home stretch of the school year. What it also means, though, is by this point many of the small projects–the organizing, the here-and-there cleanup tasks you said you’d do—are starting to pile up.

urlEnter spring cleaning, where just one day of some workspace cleansing can not only help you see your floor, but help you be productive in that final press of the year.

Here are four easy ways to get started.

Lose the e-clutter 

If you’re a student these days, chances are much of the clutter holding you back isn’t necessarily in your backpack or your living space, but on your laptop, tablet, and phone. Clear out unnecessary apps, sort through the trash bin of your email inbox, and even sift through your connections on social media. You’ll find that getting rid of unnecessary material can speed up your devices and make files easier to locate.

Sell your textbooks

Textbooks are often the bane of students’ existence: they cost a fortune up front, your bookstore buys them back for a fraction of the price, and it can be hard to even make time to find the best buyback value as buyback season overlaps with you already needing to think about next semester’s books. This can change. With sites like http://www.bookfinder.com/buyback/, you can quickly find where the best offers for your books are and, with prepaid shipping labels, get your money without ever stepping foot in a bookstore.

Rearrange your room or office

Spring is the time of renewal, and when it comes to such, few other changes can inspire more a bit of simple furniture rearranging. Even if you have no bones with how your current room setup is, trying something new can stimulate our minds entirely and help us remember it’s a new season with new goals. Try moving your bed to where the added sunlight hits you just right in the morning, or your desk to where your view is no longer a blank wall, but a window.

Donate electronics/clothes

Have you ever been late for class and remembered at the last minute you need your calculator, or a certain pencil, or a sweater, only to be at a loss for how you could possibly not find that item a 10 foot by 10 foot room? If so, it’s probably time to get rid of some stuff. College students are always on the move, and hoarding too many items that you use maybe once a year will at some point come back to bite you. Cash in on these items by getting a tax return from Goodwill and reap the benefits of a cleaner, more navigable workspace.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at@ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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Give me a break: Non-traditional vacation ideas that won’t mean going spring broke

Spring break, Memorial Day, summer vacation. All are synonymous with traditional college activities. “Traditional,” however, might not always necessarily mean “best option.”

camping-near-the-lake-background-wallpaperFor millions of students this spring, the warming months won’t mean a trip to Cancun or a cruise around the Bahamas. Instead, it will mean working hard, catching up on paperwork, and trying to squeeze in quick and affordable fun. And that might not be a bad thing.

Here are five ways students might spend their time off this vacation season that give a traditional ease of mind without the traditional price tag.

Become a local tourist

Live in a city long enough, and you’re bound to fall into the line of thinking where local attractions become “things out-of-towners come here to do” rather than “things I can take advantage of.” This spring, change that. Make use of the popular attractions in your area and take solace in knowing you don’t have to spend a fortune on travel or hotels while still reaping the benefits of your local zoo, bike tours, or popular restaurants.

Campout

After weeks of fluorescent lights, textbooks, and air-conditioning, one of the most refreshing ways to unwind can be to get back in touch with the natural world. Camping is a cheap alternative for students looking to get away, and gives you the effect better than any hotel-room, foreign city, or airplane can. Check www.reserveamerica.com for campsites in America’s extensive national park systems that are close to you.

Tommy-Bahama-striped-beach-coolerTake the cooler approach

The cooler approach, we think, is the best of all the lesser-done vacation options. And that’s because it can be done any day, any where. Load up a cooler with your favorite foods, drinks, and desserts and spend a day at your favorite getaway spot—the beach, a lake, a park, or, since it is spring, a baseball game. Going back to the basics of food and drink is also one of the best ways to bring people together.

Volunteer

What better way to have a fulfilling day than to help out someone else’s. While volunteering may not be at the top of every college student’s list, consider that many volunteer opportunities not only help improve communities around you, they provide you with valuable experience, specifics for resumes and applications, as well as relationships with other like-minded students and hirers.

Get techy

If you still find yourself itching for a last-minute trip, forget hotels, flights, and taxi cabs. Apps like Airbnb can find you cheap room and board in the most desirable locations of virtually any city. The service, which matches travelers with hosts in various places who put up rooms of their own for visitors, is perfect for students. Along with apps like Uber and Lyft, you can get to a city, explore it, and have it all done on a budget within days—right from your phone.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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How to follow up after an interview

follow-upThere’s always talk about following up after life’s most important meetings–holidays, gift exchanges, family visits–and it’s usually a pretty simple task. But when it comes to job interviews, there seems to be a fine line between the right way to follow up and the wrong way.

And as it turns out that, unlike a simple thank you note where the message is straightforward, there are many ways to do go about writing your job interview follow-up depending on the circumstances surrounding it. Here are a few of those right ways to follow up a job interview, as well as some of the things students should avoid.

Do

Personalize it Your follow-up letter should be more than just a “thank you” email. In fact, many believe it shouldn’t be an email at all. I personally once talked to a hiring manager who had recently hired a student for an internship simply because his handwritten thank-you letter set him apart from other applicants. While it might not always be your style to send in a handwritten note, remember that the more personal your follow up–the more you reference your interview or show how your aspirations/morals align with the company–the better.

Request a rough timeline Following up doesn’t have to come in letter form the first time. When your job interview is finishing up, it can be a good idea to use the time at the end of it to ask for a timeline for when you might hear back. Doing this is a way to show excitement for a position, but also allows you to get something out it, too, as it opens the door up for a lengthier follow up.

Abide by the three-strike rule No matter who you are or how strong your resume is, job searching is a humbling experience. If you follow up three times and don’t hear back, call it a day and move on. As important as it is to follow up to show your interest, don’t let the stress of wanting to hear back interfere with your other responsibilities like your studies, your personal interests, or even other job opportunities,

Don’t

All-out avoid following up It’s easy to psych yourself out when it comes to following up. Many think it can make you look needy, or that it’s unnecessary, or that it even annoys employers. On the contrary, though, following up shows your commitment and is sometimes even looked for by employers who purposefully wait to hear back from you before they reach back out.

Go there There isn’t much that constitutes going too far in following up, but showing up at the business after your interview usually is a unnecessary step unless you’re invited. Doing this can put unwanted pressure on hiring managers as well as make for an awkward conversation.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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