Posts filed under 'academics'

Summer Break: 7 Quirky Spots to Roadtrip

I’m all for fun in the sun, but when I read College Candy’s spring break article suggesting that you skip the beach this year, it got me thinking. Summer break sur la plage may let you work on your tan, but there’s nothing like taking a crazy, kitschy road trip to liven up your “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” storyline. Here are some funky alternatives to the typical beach-bum break.

Graceland ( is a sight whether or not you’re an avid Elvis fan. Visit his personal home, learn some rock and roll history, and hey, pick up a T-shirt to prove you were really there. 😉

Dollywood ( is another hot spot for music lovers (well, Dolly lovers, anyway), but it isn’t just about the music–Dollywood also has it’s own roller coasters, festivals, and even a water park.

Madonna Inn ( is famous for it’s waterfall urinal and 109 uniquely vintage-kitschy themed rooms, like the cave room, which looks to be made entirely of rock. (And if you need the kinks worked out after sleeping in a cave, they have an on-site spa, too.)

Solvang ( is a little slice of Europe in southern California. A Danish-style “village,” it has quirky old-European style hotels, lots of pastries, and a unique shopping experience. Definitely a cute and giggle-worthy vacation spot.

Hearst Castle (, pictured above, is an extraordinary “castle” built as a seaside getaway by media baron William Randolph Hearst in the early 1900’s. Take one of four tours of the insanely gaudy-but-fascinating house, but try to resist jumping into the indoor pool. 😉

The Wigwam Motel ( in CA or Teepee Motel in TX ( give you what is probably your first chance to stay in a hotel shaped like a teepee–that should make for some good photo-ops.

The Biltmore ( touts itself as “America’s largest home,” this castle style house in Asheville, NC has amazing gardens, an incredible house tour, a farm, and more. You can even stay on the estate if you’re willing to pony up and pay the price.

This last one may not be quirky, but it is an excellent spot for a week-long trip. I went for a few days before my Junior year of college, and I will never forget it!

New York City ( is the perfect collision of culture and history. Take in a Broadway show, explore the ins and outs of Chinatown, and shop (or daydream) at Tiffany’s. Then take in the historical side of the Big Apple by visiting historical icons like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the NY library. The list, obviously, goes on and on. My best tip for NY travel? Grab some friends and look on travel sites like Priceline–you could split a really nice suite for a pretty good price. Why not live in style for a few days–especially if you can do it on a budget?


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Add comment July 18th, 2011

Working 101: First Job Basics

Congratulations, you’ve gotten your first college–or post college–job! (And if you haven’t, go ahead and check out the archives to learn about how to get job experience and how to write a resume and how to apply for a job.)

Welcome to the workforce… Now what?

Fill Out Your W-4 Correctly(!!!)

Before you start working, your new employer will hand you a scary looking tax form called a W-4. Don’t toss it in your bag and forget it–this little form will help determine how much you owe in taxes at the end of the year.

The most confusing (but important!) part of this form is the “Allowances” box, where you enter a withholding number that tells your employer how much they should take out of your paycheck to pay towards taxes. If you don’t have them withhold anything (or enough), you will owe a ton of taxes at the end of the year. (Guess how I know that?)

Not sure what to enter? Don’t worry–try using the IRS’s Withholding Allowance Calculator.

Walk the Line

Now that we’ve got the scary tax stuff out of the way, on to the rest of the basics–the things that will make you look good to your boss (which can obviously lead to more responsibility, a promotion, or at least a good reference when you move on to greener pastures). These are pretty obvious, but they can make a big difference!

  • Watch the Clock. Time management is a big deal when you’re on the job, and you can bet your boss will notice if you’re good (or bad) at it. So be on time (or better yet, early!) for work, be honest about your break time, and don’t stay late at lunch.
  • Look the Part. Have you heard that cheesy saying, “Dress for success”? Well, in some ways, it’s true: the way you dress–and the first impression it gives–usually makes a difference in the workforce, because it sends a signal about how seriously you take your job. So, look good (and professional) for work, and save your sweatpants or fishnets for after hours.
  • Skip the Surfing. Think your employer doesn’t notice you poking around Facebook when you should be filing? Think again. Many offices have software that keeps track of your every click (yikes!), but even if they don’t, most bosses will notice how your internet time detracts from your productivity. (BUT it is totally fine to surf on appropriate sites during break time as long as your boss doesn’t say that’s taboo!)
  • Trash the Trash Talk. Want to know what’s not fun? Office politics–especially if you’re on the wrong side of them. You can moan and groan about your co-workers as much as you want to at home (if you must), but keep the smack talk and gossip out of the workplace as much as possible. Negative energy is contagious and does not make for a fun work environment.
  • Work Hard. Really. You’re going to be spending a lot of hours doing whatever you’ve just been hired to do, so do your best work–it will make it feel more worthwhile. Plus, it should (hopefully!) be something your employer will notice and reward you for.
  • Be Honest. This one can be hard–for example, who wants to confess to the boss if they’ve messed up?–but it is also, in my opinion, the most important. Honesty, even when you’ve completely bungled something, is what will allow your employer to trust you, possibly encourage him or her to give you more responsibility (and maybe a raise eventually!) and want to keep you around.


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1 comment June 9th, 2011

Giveaway Winners & Their Hot Tips for College!

Thanks to all those of you who entered our giveaway! Below are our four winners (and their best tips for college if they shared one).

$50 giftcard to
My best tip is just to relax and have fun. Balancing homework and parties is tough, but just think, millions of college students have made it. If they can do it, you can do it!”

100 Graduation Announcements

8×8 Photobook
Holly N.
“My tip to surviving college: learn to cook! Pizza bills add up and get expensive..if your dorm or a friends house has a kitchen..learn to use it!”


Autumn G.
“Manage your time is my tip! Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many projects. Its better to do less and do it well.”

Congratulations to our winners! You will be getting an email from me soon about your prizes. Thanks again to Shutterfly for generously providing SCL readers with these great winnings!

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Add comment May 9th, 2011

Get Free Help with the FAFSA (No Catch!)

It’s a brand new year, and that means its time to apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (a.k.a. the FAFSA).

Stomach already churning at the thought of filling out a form with lots of numbers?

Fear not–I’ve got a great freebie that will help you get the form filled out and filed ASAP (and that’s good, because many scholarships and grants are given out on a first-come, first-served basis… You need to get going!)

Free Help with My FAFSA Assistant

You might remember that over the past few years Deborah Fox, founder of Fox College Funding (college funding expert and author of SCL’s sister site the Pay for College Blog) has created a series of video tutorials for the FAFSA called My FAFSA Assistant. These tutorials are all FREE.

Her videos will walk you through the filing process step-by-step (which is really helpful because even after 4+ years of filing, I still find the FAFSA super confusing!). Plus, Deborah shares tips and shortcuts to help you finish the form faster and hopefully help you ensure your maximum aid award–sweet!

No Catch, Seriously

I’ve worked with Deborah for years, and I’ll share a personal guarantee that (1) the tutorials are really, truly no-cost–100% free, and (2) your information will be kept personal and confidential, and won’t be used to contact you.

I’ve personally seen how helpful Deborah’s expertise can be, so you can bet I’ll not only be sharing these tutorials with my friends and family, but also plan to use the videos myself to file the FAFSA this year (yes, you even have to file for graduate and medical school–boo!).

So gather your info, check out the videos at, and get your FAFSA filed ASAP!

p.s. Don’t forget–the website you should visit to actually file the FAFSA is

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1 comment February 1st, 2011

5 Secrets to Getting Up for Class

At the beginning of the school year I posted a poll that let you share your top dreads about the back-to-class months. Coming in at #2 (trailing only 1% behind HOMEWORK itself) was having to get up for class.

I’m with you–it’s the worst! There is something really hard about rolling out of bed with only the prospect of class to look forward to. I hope these tips will help you get through the early-morning drag.

1. Schedule Classes Later. First things first: do NOT schedule a class for a time when you don’t think you can be up, ready, and out the door. After choosing an early morning class my first quarter at UCSD (one during which I almost always fell asleep), I quickly learned that I couldn’t make it to class coherent and ready to learn before 9am. So when you’re choosing next semester’s classes, pay attention to the times!

2. Bring a Friend. Scheduling a class with a friend means you are twice as likely to show up, because (hopefully) both your alarms will go off. Chances are one of you will make it out of bed! Getting a call from a friend (or stopping by to pick them up on the way to class) will give you both a second chance in case you hit snooze one too many times (and someone to watch your back so you don’t sleep through a test). Not to mention seeing a buddy is a little extra motivation to get to class.

3. Work With Your Roommate. Got a roommate whose bright-and-early prep practices drive you nuts when you’re trying to sleep in? Use it to your advantage! Consider timing your morning classes around your roomie’s, and get up and ready around the same time (just plan ahead so you don’t fight over the shower).

4. Get More Sleep. I know its hard to make yourself go to bed–especially when people seem to be awake and doing something interesting at all hours of the night in college–but going to bed a little earlier will (obviously) help your body get the rest it needs to recharge you for the morning. (Harvard Med shares some tips to help you improve your sleep.)

5. Set Your (Internal) Clock. Our bodies naturally tend toward self-scheduling; they get tired, hungry, etc. at about the same time everyday. In my experience, you can “teach” your body when to be alert and when to be sleepy–but it will take consistency and practice. If you want to learn to get up earlier, you’ll have to force yourself to do it as often as humanly possible–that’s the only way to train your body to wake up for 8am class instead of sleeping until noon. (Learn more about your internal clock here.)

And while we’re talking about sleep, why not check out these tips to help you stay awake during class (without resorting to a caffeine regiment).

Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht

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10 comments December 27th, 2010

Quick Fixes for Winter Break Bummers

Let’s face it–two or four full weeks with the fam can get a little rough sometimes. Sure, time flies when you’re having fun, but what about those sticky situations that make everything just a little… lame. Here’s how to deal so you can enjoy these homework-free weeks of winter break!

Your mom has jam-packed every day with three hundred activities, and you have no time for your plans.

Have a little heart-to-heart, and explain that you’re excited to be home, and had hoped to be able to spend time with friends AND family. Ask your mom which activities are most important to her, and ask her which days you can skip out to meet your friends to catch a movie and wax nostalgic. The key is being willing to participate in the most important stuff (and have a good attitude about it–brownie points!).

Your family’s plans are, frankly, non-existent.

Take matters into your own hands. There are all kinds of activities going on this time of year–some cool, some dorky (my hometown does an annual dry boat parade… I’m serious…)–so get your siblings out of the house and go do something. If they won’t join you, round up some high school friends to go instead.

Bummer: Mom and Dad are cracking down on the “House Rules” now that you’re home for a few weeks.

While it’s reasonable that they have some house rules that must be followed, see if you can bend or stretch the ones that are really cramping your style by talking it out (and, obviously, talk to the more lenient parent!). For example, if your ‘rents insist that you’re home by ten, explain that you’re usually out later at school, you’re careful and cautious, and you’re willing to call in a few times between ten and (insert your reasonable but later curfew here) so they know you’re safe. If they’re still being stubborn, see if they’ll up the time if you have people over instead of going out.

Bummer: You miss your significant other who’s back home, too.

First: you’ve got technology, so use it! Make a Skype date for a night or two (or more) during the week, and take advantage of email, phone calls, and text to share whatever goofiness is going on at your place.

Second, get old-school romantic and write a love letter or two. It may sound cheesy, but I submit that there is nothing as heart melting as getting a hand-written letter from someone totally crush-worthy.


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2 comments December 16th, 2010

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