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Entries from July 1, 2011 - July 31, 2011


Colleges Stepping Up Social Media Recruiting

Colleges around the world are increasingly turning to social media to connect with students.Brochures and leaflets may soon be replaced by Tweets and wall posts as college admissions offices invest more resources in online social networking.

ReadWriteWeb summarizes a study by the University of Massachusetts that points out the trend. More schools are utilizing blogs with comment systems, almost all are now on Facebook and Twitter, and many are quickly adopting LinkedIn to connect with current and potential students. Almost half are even recording podcasts these days. 

I remember when I came into school I joined an official "Class of 2012" group on Facebook that I later realized was basically an outlet for admissions to keep tabs on us. But in the last three years my school has adopted a number of official Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that are increasingly useful for disseminating information to the student body. 

So what social media does your school use? Do you see it as a helpful outlet for interacting with school officials, or as a malevolent method of surveillance? Let us know in the comments.


Our Top Posts of July


Watch, Read, Make

Hello again! It's time for another edition of Watch, Read, Make. This week we've got elephants with new fake feet, Shep taking over Lifehacker, and a delicious summer cocktail recipe. Summer's coming to an end, so it's time to pack in the weekend with interesting things.

Watch: The above video shows an elephant who had part of his foot taken off (probably by poachers) getting a new prosthetic foot. From a technology point of view, it's pretty cool (they are putting a fake foot on a very large animal), and from a human point of view, it's an elephant with a prosthetic foot. The video comes via Jezebel, where a little more information about the elephant can be had.

Read: Our very own Shep is Lifehacker's weekend writer for today. You should go read his posts, if you're not a regular Lifehacker reader. The first one is here, talking about a service that lets you put stickynotes on all the webpages you view in Chrome or use a browser extension to sync notes between Chrome installations. If you're looking for a notetaking app, check it out. In non-staff reading, you should check out this summary from Reddit (on BoingBoing) of the debt ceiling, as one might explain it to a five-year-old.

Make: This recipe for a Gin and St. Germian cocktail up at Pink of Perfection looks delicious. Mix one up and drink it on a patio. (If you cannot find a patio, a stoop will also work, or a sunny spot in a dining hall. Play around with it.) Let us know if any of you make up a batch!


Change your study habits, goal approach this school year

Don't you feel more academically centered already? Image courtesy of Flickr user José Feliciano Cerdeño. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.I can't wait for fall to start. (No, seriously. I'm a nerd.) The reason is that--in addition to slightly less oh-god-I'm-melting temperatures where I am--fall brings back regular school. With regular school comes the option for school-year study hacks. This is exciting!

There are two study hacks that I'm planning to implement during my school year, and they're worth a look for anyone who's into the doctrine of efficient, rather than more, work being your best shot at academic success.* They're both from Study Hacks, (which is a great site to kill time on if you want what is basically old-school 43 Folders for college students).

The first hack that I'm enamored of is the Zen Valedictorian philosophy. It's similar to things we've said here before, but this series of articles breaks it down in a really useful manner. The article goes into more detail, but the main point is that there are two kinds of high-achieving students: the grind, and the zen valedictorian. The first is basically Tracy Flick. It's the kid who in high school was able to run pretty much everything and get straight A's. They get to college and--in general--find themselves unable to keep up that pace, and so crash and burn. The zen valedictorian, on the other hand, cedes control: they have one major that they're good at, and one extracurricular that they're really invested in. They become stars in those two things, and in doing so distinguish themselves without running themselves ragged.

If you've found yourself trying to do the grind thing while in college, make a point to check out those articles before the regular school year starts back up. If you're a freshman about to start at college, take a gander in order to prevent yourself from making the mistake of over-involvement in the first place. School year resolutions--as well as a long, hard look at what you want to change about your behavior in order to make the school year better--are useful, and this is a good one to make.

The second hack that I'm waiting to implement is the stealth study. This is particularly useful for kids who didn't have to study in high school and so never learned how. I'm one of them, and when I got to college, I realized that my lack of developed study skills and my laughably short attention span meant that studying was going to be like pulling teeth for me. I hate doing it.

The techniques outlined in the article--short review sessions, question and answer formats, and studying while walking--seem like a really good option for someone who wants to change up their study routine. The basic idea is that short, engaging bursts of information absorption, done frequently, outweigh the learning done during long, boring sessions later at night. For me, at least, it certainly seems to be true--the things I study early in the day stick around much better. I'm excited to implement the full system.

If you're going to go that route, check out StudyBlue (and its integration with Evernote) to keep your outlines digital, rather than having to print them out the way that the original article suggests. That way you don't have to go out of your way for printing, and you're a little eco-friendlier to boot.

Do you have any other changes you're ready to make for the new school year? Let us know in the comments!

* That would be you, HackCollege reader.


Guest Post: Beef Up Your Security and Rip Hackers a New One

This post is by Thomas Frank, a junior at Iowa State University who runs a college blog of his own called College Info Geek. As long as you're not a vacuum salesman, you can connect with him at his website or on Twitter.

As a college student, you're getting to the point in your life when you have a lot to keep track of online. School email accounts, online banking, FAFSA information, social networks... the list goes on. As you get older, your online life just keeps expanding.

Now that you're in college and have this expanding online life to keep track of, your online security becomes ever more important. In high school, most of the people in your network were your age, and you probably didn't have a lot of resources. Therefore, you probably weren't much of a target for malicious attacks. However, now that you're in college and most likely over 18, a lot of sensitive data becomes yours instead of your parents'. You can get things like credit cards, and loans are now in your name. You're also probably a lot more visible on the internet.

I'm going to expose myself to a potential foot-in-mouth situation here and make what's called a "blanket statement": 

 Your online security sucks.

In fact, if we were to somehow personify your online security, it would probably look something like this... Steve RogersOn the other hand, I can tell you that, at the present moment, my online security looks a little more like this. Coincidentally, my dad looks kinda like this too...I say it looks like this at the present moment because, as recently as two weeks ago, I too had terrible online security. What I'm talking about specifically in this article are passwords. Most of us, including me, are or were at some point guilty of using the same password on every site we have an account with. Some of you might even use a really bad password like your name spelled backwards or something with nothing but lowercase letters. In the past, I used to think it was OK to use the same password everywhere as long as it was really secure. Using that line of thinking, I created one really long, complex password, set it on all my accounts, and settled into a false sense of security. It wasn't until I started learning about web security that I knew how stupid of an idea that was. Now that I know, I've fixed my security problems. In this post, I'll show you how to do the same thing easily and painlessly. However, before I do that, I want to give you a short primer on why using the same password is a bad idea, even if it's a really good one. Essentially, there are two potential pitfalls involved with non-diversification in the security world:

  • Screw-ups by you, yourself, and thou
  • Screw-ups by the owners of the websites you use

Read on to hear Thomas' advice for protecting yourself online.

Click to read more ...


Tips for Freshmen Class Registration 

Registration looks like it was just as big of a pain in the ass in 1941 as is now (and rather gender biased). Photo courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.Different universities do it different ways, but perhaps one of the most exciting times for freshmen coming into college is class registration (or maybe it just was for me because I am a huge nerd). Some universties have freshmen register months before the first day of school, and some don't have registration until a few days before classes start. Whatever the case is, registration is an important time for new students because it will determine just about everything for the next three or four months of your life. It's daunting and a little terrifying to think about, but with these tips for students entering college for the first time, hopefully you will make great choices for your first semester in college.

Prepare Ahead of Time

It is always a good idea to prepare yourself before registration. It's usually a time of scrambling and cursing at slow computer servers or full classes, so the more prepared you are before hand, the better your registration will go. Take some time to get to know your university's course schedule. Highlight classes you'd like to take and classes you must take. Try to get a feel for what you'd like your schedule will be like. Are you a morning or afternoon person? When do you do homework better?

You will probably not get your perfect schedule, so it's extremely important to have backup options. Make a list of the classes you want and categorize them into priorities, either by classes you must take or ones you want to take. List your backups as well so you can refer to them if you need to fill your schedule. Again, the more prepared you are, the smoother registration will go and the better chance you have of getting a schedule that you're satisfied with. I went just a little big overboard with preparing for my first semester registration (oh man, you should see the spreadsheets I made and how unbelieveably color-coordinated they were), but it all paid out in the end because I got the schedule I wanted.

How Many Hours

Depending on your school, your advisor will probably let you know how many hours you should take per semester. For Trinity, I needed to average about 15.5 hours a semester in order to graduate with the necessary amount of hours. However, since I came into school with some AP credits, I had a bit of a cushion. I decided to take only 13 hours (four classes, plus a dance class) my first semester, and I would encourage freshmen to take it easy on themselves their first semester.

College is a huge jump for anyone. You're moving to a new place, without your parents, with new friends. The adjustment period can take a long time. Figuring out all of that other stuff plus figuring out how to study for college is a massive undertaking. It is perfectly acceptable, and I think even a good idea, to take just a minimum amount of classes your first semester to ease yourself into the college atmosphere. You can take more hours once you've gotten into the college swing, but freshman year is so crazy that it's a good idea not to overload yourself academically right from the start. Work hard in the few classes you do have and get good grades in those. The worst thing you can do is to take too many classes and do poorly your first semester.

Try for Variety but Get Requirements Out of the Way

I am speaking as a student of a liberal arts college, and so I had an immense amount of freedom in choosing what classes I wanted to take in the first two years of my college education. I was taking philosophy, psychology, dance, anthropology, communication, biology, calculus, sociology, and so much more. Now I didn't necessarily enjoy all of these subjects (bleh philosophy), but I am certainly thankful that I took all of them, even if doing so taught me that that subject was certainly not my calling. Additionally, taking a wide variety of classes allowed me to really round out my college education. I learned a lot of stuff that I may not use in my career in the future, but I feel like I know a lot more about the world and life because of the classes I took that were not remotely related to either of my majors.

While I certainly encourage freshmen to test the waters on any subject that they find even remotely interesting, I also think it is a really good idea to get your required classes out of the way sooner rather than later. If you're getting super bummed out by the fact that you have all of these common cirriculum classes that you have to take, feel free to spread them out a bit-- take two or three a semester plus a few elective classes. However, don't push these classes off completely. I can tell you from personal experience that it completely sucks having to take a random, entry level class your senior year. Come up with a strategy for completing those required classes, but definitely make sure that you take a few risks with your class choices. You never know, you might really find yourself drawn to the subject.

What was your experience during freshmen registration? What tips do you have for new freshmen who are registering? Let us know in the comments!


Take Awesome Notes with NoteMaster, Now 75% Off!

Trying to keep organized notes on your iPhone can be frustrating. However, with the newly discounted app NoteMaster you will be able to keep beautifully organized notes for just $0.99. You can create different categories that act as folders to cluster similar types of notes for systematic collection. Within these notes, you can form lists with bullets, numbers, or even check boxes that can be checked off. You can also insert pictures in notes, which I think is super handy when you're trying to remember visual details. Stylistic changes can also be made about the notes, including background pattern or font.

Perhaps the most nifty feature about NoteMaster is its ability to sync up with Google Docs, which can be great if you are taking notes on the go. This little app will extremely useful once the busy school year starts up again. Grab it in the App Store while it's on sale!


[via Lifehacker]


Foursquare Makes its Play For College Campuses

Would badges bearing your school's logo be a big enough carrot to get you into Foursquare?

Over the past year, popular location-based social network Foursquare has employed a number of tricks to get students in the habit of checking in around campus. Many schools partnered with the site to offer custom badges, tips for different buildings on campus, or even discounts at certain campus dining locations. Some schools even hosted Foursquare student ambassadors to get the word out around campus. It appears to be having some effect, with Foursquare passing 10 million registered users, and now they are preparing to double down on their campus efforts.

A recent blogpost announced the impending foursquare For Universities 2.0 program, launching in the Fall. Though the post is light on details, it seems to be focused on providing more schools with custom badges designed around university insignia. The mysterious new initiative also has a number of large universities signed up as launch partners. Foursquare also included links to Google Docs forms (really?) to sign up to be a campus ambassador, or to request your school be added to the program.

I'm not an avid Foursquare user, but I could see the appeal if lots of your friends were using it regularly. It'd be nice to see if they were gathered in the library for a study session, or stopping by the dining hall for dinner. Unofficially, wider adoption would also allow you to gauge the popularity of off-campus parties without needing to waste a cab ride. Unfortunately, I'm not sure virtual badges are going to be enough to entice a wide swath of students to get into the location game. Hell, most students I know still aren't on Twitter. 

So you tell me. What does Foursquare need to do to attract students en masse? What would it take for you to join?