Last updateWed, 15 Nov 2017 2pm

Ask the Experts


Table for One

I was homeschooled from 6th through 12th grade and starting college this semester. What do I need to know to make this a smooth transition?

With an estimated 2.3 million home-schooled students in America, many of these students have concerns about making the transition to a college-learning environment. Most homeschooled students flourish in college, with some research suggesting that these students actually achieve higher GPAs than their freshman counterparts. However, the social elements and shift from one-on-one attention to a larger learning center are things that the homeschooled student will face. Acknowledging the potential issues and concerns can help to smooth the transition.

Moving from a homeschooled environment into a college one is definitely a challenge and there are a number of things to consider. The flexibility of learning at home will be gone at college; deadlines are real. Assignments that can appear relatively manageable to start can quickly become intimidating as the deadline approaches. Homeschooling students do have a strong sense of self-motivation which will be an advantage when managing and working to deadlines.

Your college lecturers and peers will be accustomed to structured lessons, courses and materials that you are not. This does not mean that you are at a disadvantage; know your strengths and use them. Not studying with the same age group should have given you the ability to interact with all ages. This will be a benefit when dealing with professors and faculty.

Another strength should be your ability to teach yourself. At college, you will be given the materials in class, then learn them in your own study time. Homeschooling should have already prepared you for this. You will need to learn how to take effective notes in class because learning at home does not necessarily teach you this, so take time to practice organized note taking.

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Student Stigma

Lots of my friends use online dating apps. Are they just looking or do students really find romance with this?

Your short question exposes the major flaw in the online dating world. There seems to be more shopping and looking around, rather than true romantic outcomes. Research shows that over 15% of Americans have used online dating; however, 15% of marriages did not result from these virtual introductions. Let us answer your question and find the reason for this digital disconnect.

Most college students today will probably be baffled by the courting habits of their predecessors. They actually met each other in person at social events, college functions, cafes and frat and sorority haunts. Today’s technological world is different; dating apps have taken control of the destiny of romantic encounters.

Acceptance of online dating is now mainstream and it has lost a lot of the stigma attached a few years ago. A decade ago, very few people were exposed to it and viewed it as an inferior or synthetic way of meeting someone. Today over 50% of the public knows someone who dates online or is in a relationship as a result of it. More people of all ages are now taking to the internet to find romance.

The majority also think that using an app or website to find a partner is a lot easier, more efficient, and better at finding a like-minded person. Approximately 80% of Americans that have used online dating agree that it is a good way to meet someone.

The millennial adoption of online dating has spurred an explosion of apps in the marketplace such as Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, reports Ocean SEO, boasting advanced algorithms to find you the perfect partner. The demographics are leaning towards college students and graduates with 46% of them knowing someone who has entered into a long-term relationship or marriage via a dating app. Those with more exposure to it have generally been more positive about the virtues of online dating.

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New internet start-ups are dominated by men, which makes me hesitant to work on my idea. Why are there so few women entrepreneurs?

While your observation is correct, the good news is that female entrepreneurship is on the rise. Our culture is growing more robust with enterprising women equipped with knowledge, inspiration, creativity and funding. The rate of women entrepreneurs has been increasing at a percentage at least double that of males. But the gender composition of our culture’s most influential leaders indicates that there is still a way to go. Differences among the genders in terms of work experience, resources, deep-rooted biases, and social ties are a few of the issues that you need to overcome.

Despite a move in the right direction, some figures are still quite startling. Women occupy around 20% of the U.S. National Congress and currently hold just 5.4% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Women are less likely to lead new business ventures with men two times more likely to launch a new enterprise, and only 28% of private firms are owned by women, according to the National Women’s Business Council.

Gender differences with regards to work experience, social ties, and resources have conventionally been attributed to the dearth in female entrepreneurs. However, a new theory has arisen that suggest unconscious cognitive biases also play a role. Women entrepreneurs are at a disadvantage because there are doubts that they possess the typical traits and skills associated with entrepreneurship.

This dynamic suggests there have been numerous concepts that could have flourished into successful businesses, but failed to do so since the person making the pitch was not the right gender. Deep-rooted biases can only be overcome by a cultural shift, notes young female co-founder of e-commerce startup Rukkus.

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Undocumented Undergrad

My parents finally told me we were in the U.S. illegally. Can I still apply to college and get a scholarship?

Although over one million immigrant children without legal status live in the U.S., fewer than 6,500 of them are estimated to go on to attend college. We receive a lot of questions from undocumented children who erroneously think that because they are not documented, they cannot access higher education. Yet students do have legal options. Armed with the right information and assistance, you can pursue higher education.

There is currently no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants into American colleges. The law does not require students to prove citizenship to enter institutions of higher education though policies on admittance of undocumented students do vary.

Each college will have its own set of requirements which may include proof of residence, although it is not a legal requirement. Some public schools accept undocumented immigrants but treat them as foreign students. This does render them ineligible for state aid and lower tuition for state residents.

Admittance is only one part of the college experience. Students have to secure housing in the dorms or start looking for rooms, house shares or condos for rent. The housing law covering rental to an undocumented immigrant can vary by state, although there is no prohibition at the federal level.

Two major barriers to the continuation of education for undocumented students are lack of information and assistance. Non-profit immigrant advocacy organizations such as the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Educational Empowerment Program work towards changing this.

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Bright Lights, Big City

I get bad headaches sometimes when I go to lecture halls. I really believe it’s the bright lights. Does this make any sense?

Your question is shared by many students, because the college lifestyle often increases the risk for headaches. Researchers claim that headaches and their causes is an understudied and overlooked subject where students are involved. Your question does make a lot of sense, so let us find out why.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.7-4% of the world’s adult population experience headaches on 15 or more days every month. Statistics show that students get more headaches than adults; around 40% of them get one at least every couple of months, compared to only 12% of adults. College life is considered a major source of headaches as it triggers the attack. There are numerous factors that could set off the pain including lack of sleep, late nights, early mornings, poor diet, stress over tests or assignments, lack of exercise, change in routine, and even bright lights.

For many students, severe headaches can be debilitating and can even affect academic performance. The term headache is a broad one and can be broken down into several types with ranging severity. A migraine is different to a headache, it has different triggers. Headaches are symptomatic, usually triggered by something that occurs such as stress or staring at a computer screen for too long.

Computer simulations, now emerging as 360 photos and videos, need the user to become accustomed to the new virtual reality, says young ticketing company Rukkus. The brain goes into a virtual-reality mode and immediately adjusts to the new sensations. While it can initially be a trigger for some, this is one the user quickly learns to overcome.

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Group Therapy

I was invited to join a study group. I think more time will be spent gossiping than studying. Are there any real benefits to a study group?

Your basic yes or no question leads to awareness of an entirely new approach to learning, social learning theory. It is now entering our educational system and going to have a large impact on the future.

Social learning theory is the combination of learning and social behavior proposing that new behaviors can be acquired or learned by observing and imitating others. Learning, which is a cognitive process, takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction.

Learning from books and well-rounded lessons are well established and effective teaching methods, but educators are now looking for ways to develop students’ interpersonal skills. By getting students to work together, they can build off each other’s strengths and improve weaknesses. This has quickly been embraced in allied health programs, where nursing students learn to cooperate when learning patient care in a hospital environment.

Motivation is contagious, higher-performing students tend to gather into groups to prepare for tests, discuss projects and ask and answer questions. Participation in study groups has been cited as a good signal of excelling in class.

Social learning in a school environment lessens the risk of bullying and disruptive behavior. It can encourage self-awareness and empathy, both of which improve general mental health and ultimately success in the classroom. There is a wider array of ideas and insights in a study group situation, than you would get in a regular class, that can nurture creativity, empathy and critical thinking skills. The ability to understand and explore problems from different perspectives and take on alternative viewpoints is all conducive to better academic performance and productivity.

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Intellectual Idiocy

My friends are taking pills to help study. Years ago, they took speed to do an all-nighter. How can drugs help you study?

How do drugs and alcohol make you feel good? They induce changes in the brain and metabolic functions, but there is a physical cost and risk associated with these, such as possible long-term abuse. So-called study drugs are no miracle fix and exact a toll on you.

We all know college life is hectic, fast paced and stressful. The social pressures on students today can lead to some extreme measures to squeeze in some extra study time. Study drugs or smart drugs are prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin that are unsuitably taken to increase mental focus and productivity to aid study.

They are usually prescribed by doctors to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Without medical advice and a prescription these drugs can be dangerous and are illegal. Research indicates that one in five students is using them to facilitate all-night study binges.

Drinking coffee is a regular way of getting a quick energy boost, but those who have used Adderall claim it helps you focus more accurately. More and more students are turning to these study pills to get them fixated on their studies.

There is a growing demand for study pills. Health services at the University of Texas report that 50% of students with genuine prescriptions for ADHD have been asked to give out their pills. Students are erroneously assuming that these pills are safer than street drugs and are unaware of their addictiveness.

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The Express Train

My friends are looking to work for big companies after graduation. Should I consider joining a tech start-up right out of college?

When we hear the phrase tech start-up, you think of tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook and Google, which were founded by college students. However, the stats show that over 90% of tech start-ups fail. We assume you do not have the prescience to determine whether your opportunity will succeed or fail. All start-ups seem to be great ideas. Here is what you should consider.

The traditional path for college graduates has always been an entry-level position on the corporate ladder with opportunities to climb it and prosper. But with more and more start-ups emerging, the opportunities with them are boundless.

Working for a smaller organization often requires a lot more flexibility and the ability to multitask. Young companies change direction so you will be expected to adapt with them and learn new skills.

Larger companies tend to compartmentalize people and their hierarchies force you into a specific career path. At a start-up, you could be working on a range of different projects discovering talents that you never knew you had. However, things may not go as planned and things may fail. In a large corporation this could be devastating, but at smaller organizations things often work with trial-and-error.

You gain vital entrepreneurial skills working in a start-up environment, which will be crucial as your career develops. Without the budgets to pay high salaries, you may be compensated in other ways at a start-up. These could include a stake in the company itself, which could lead to a big payout if the company goes public. Loyalty and camaraderie are built by sharing company ownership, explains management at Ocean SEO, because you all have a vested interest in its success and will be motivated by more than a paycheck.

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Facebook Fink

I have personal stuff all over Facebook. I don’t want a possible employer looking at this. How do I clean up my mess?

I sense the urgency in your question, since you will soon be applying for jobs. While you need to remove the negatives from FB, do not overlook the flip side. Your FB account can also be a marketing tool, giving potential employers insight into your character and abilities.

Since you were accepted at college, your FB information cannot be that bad. Admissions officers regularly check out a student applicant’s account. The best way to clean up your account is to never be in this situation. But since you are, here is what the experts recommend.

It is virtually guaranteed that a potential employer will do a search for your name on Facebook. Statistics claim that 45% of companies already do, so the true figure will be much higher. Of course, the obvious solution would be not to use your real name, but this is a violation of Facebook policy. Do not worry, any criminal lawyer will tell you it is not against any law in the U.S. to use a pseudonym online.

The first step, which everyone should do anyway for privacy and security, is to lock down your profile to private or friends only. This prevents the public and anyone without permission from viewing what is posted on your profile. Others should not be able to see your list of friends, as their posts may reflect on you.

Your profile picture goes a long way as this will be publically visible, so choose something that you want an employer to see. You do not need to be suited up, it is not LinkedIn, but try to avoid anything that shows you drinking or partying, any political allegiance, or anything too shocking. In a survey of hiring managers, over half of them identified provocative photos as a reason for not hiring a potential candidate. In the residential real estate industry more than others, your image and reputation are your sales tools. Students must learn in college that your personal conduct is as important as your degree.

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Gigabyte Girl

I know Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. Why don’t I see more women in computer classes?

This is a particularly sensitive question. The doors are open, but many women choose not to enter into the world of computers. What is happening at elementary school through college that may lead girls on a different path?

The statistics speak for themselves with regards to women earning degrees and working in computer and IT related fields. According to the National Center for Education Statistics only 18% of degrees in computer science were awarded to women in US colleges in 2014. The figure has been in decline since the 1980s, with over 35% of computer science majors going to women three decades ago. The gender imbalance continues into the workplace as reports indicate that Google’s tech roles are only 17% female occupied and Twitter just 10%. However, in other job titles, women occupy over 50% of the positions in content development and social media, reveals Ocean SEO.

A large number of women drop out of computer science with up to 30% citing sexism in the culture as the cause. A feeling of isolation will ensue when there is only one female in a male team or class.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology predicts that there will be over a million computer-related job openings by 2024 but only 41% of them filled. Further studies indicate that businesses with a large gender inequality to not tend to be as successful as more balanced organizations.

Back to your question, why are we not seeing more women in computer science? There are three key factors: culture, the way women perceive things, and lack of industry representation. Many believe it all goes back to childhood, when we are socialized by parents and grandparents. Little boys are given cars and encouraged to tinker and little girls are given dolls, which may lead the males onto a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) path into education.

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Going Gap

My parents and I strongly disagree about my taking a gap year. Shouldn’t I be able to make my own decision?

When you ask your parents what you should do with your life, you reveal the answer. You do not have the self-confidence and maturity to make your own decisions. College propels you into the real world and requires you begin to making choices. If you are unsure, perhaps that is exactly the reason why you need a gap year.

Traditionally gap years were taken after high school and before college but a recent trend has seen students taking them during college years. Many have little direction regarding life and careers when just out of school, so they usually abide parent or community pressures and go straight into further education. This can leave you feeling burnt out and overwhelmed, so taking a gap year may not be a bad idea after all. Plenty of suggestions as to what to do can be found on the American Gap Association but we will also look at a few here.

A year out of studies can be worthwhile only if you use it constructively. Most students go travelling and there is nothing better to broaden the mind and your experience. If budgets are a concern, you can work while you are on the road. There are plenty of temporary jobs out there or you can volunteer in exchange for food and lodging. Either way, you will meet new people, expand your horizons, and gain vital life experiences.

Doing national or community service is another way to occupy some of your year out. Volunteer work always goes down well on your resume, it shows your humanitarian side and big corporations appreciate that. You may be able to earn some credits or eligibility for scholarships and financial aid by working with the National Outdoor Leadership School.

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Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151