ACT, SAT & GRE – How I Never Had to Take Them and How to Potentially Avoid Them

The ACT and SAT are two widely accepted test many pre-college students take to assess their competence in math, English (writing), reading and science. However, it is easily possible to graduate college without ever needing to take these exams–if your academic journey is similar to mine. Below are three summarized options I took as an undergraduate to avoid standardized testing, including the GRE for graduate school admission. Also the “End Summaries” in red provide an even briefer summarization.

Home Schooling

I was never accustomed to taking standardized test even as a home schooled student. The majority of my exams were essay-based or project-based to broadly assess what I learned. Every subject had learning outcomes and my essays and projects needed to hit each learning outcome in detail or I would not get full scores. My GPA throughout high school was between 3.8-4.0.

End Summary: Standardized test are not the only way to assess what students know.

Associates Degree

This was ultimately the key in avoiding the ACT and SAT. Many students are now being told an associates degree is worthless.  This is highly inaccurate if it is used in the correct way.  Foremost, many community colleges have open admission policies, meaning they will assess your skills via a placement test instead of relying on the ACT/SAT. That said, I applied to my local community college, did not need ACT/SAT scores, and was easily admitted without them. After obtaining my Associates Degree, I transferred from Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and immediately took classes for my program at half the price since my Associates Degree handled all general education via the MACRAO transfer agreement. My GPA throughout both colleges was 3.5-4.0, I was an honors student at GRCC, and in a national leadership honor society (ΟΔΚ) at GVSU.

End Summary: If you know you want to obtain your Associates Degree first, look into their admission policy. If it is an open admission policy you may not need to take the ACT/SAT, which saves you time and money. However, be cautious if you decide to transfer before obtaining your Associates Degree, because many colleges and universities will still require you to take the ACT/SAT if you transfer with a low amount of credit hours.

Graduate Institution’s Discretion in Utilizing the GRE

The GRE stands for Graduate Records Examination and assesses prospective graduate students on fundamentals (general education) they would have learned as an undergraduate student. How the GRE is used differs significantly. For instance, ‘university A’ may require a set score for admission in any graduate program, ‘university B’  may only take into account the Literature in English section while ‘university C’ does not requite it at all for their programs. My graduate institution only required it if your GPA was below a set standard.

End Summary: Do your research before taking the GRE, depending on the university requirements and their program, you may not need to take it–which saves you time and money.

*Note–this article was not meant to discredit the ACT, SAT or GRE. This article is simply a testament that they are neither required to academically assess a student nor required to reach graduate study.

about_actMario Adkins is a graduate student in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership masters program. When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus collecting, assessing and process data as Research  Analyst in Teacher Education for GVSU’s College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked

Education to Employment – 5 Transferable Skills from any Undergraduate Major

Majors, minors and even certificate programs  from colleges and universities offer a vast array of knowledge, skills and hands-on learning experiences. Although the aim of most college students are to create a “brand” or “trade” for themselves in their chosen fields, there are some skills that all forms of employment will require regardless of what your degree is in. Here’s a brief  rundown of those five.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is  one of the most requested skills any employer wants. Verbal communication through annunciation, articulation–both said with utmost confidence. Written communication through reports, memos and emails–all spelled grammatically correct. Tactfulness (knowing when and when not to say something) and cross-cultural communication (cultural competency) are two other types of communication skills you should have.

Project Development Skills

All those semesters of extended research and putting together projects (essays, slideshows, etc.) will not go to waste.  Many employers will request for different projects depending on the type of work. It is even more crucial if said employers lack skills in that project area and are relying on you to provide an effective project or report. Innovation is more and more becoming an unsaid standard, so the more creative the better.

Time Management Skills

Yeah, let’s revisit these familiar two words. In a typical work day there could be many assignments or tasks that need to be completed.  The most effective way to categorize your assignments in a work environment is by deadline and complexity. Have due dates on hand while simultaneously working on your more difficult assignments first. Also, ask yourself if you can break the most rigorous work up in sections to make it easier.  Completing work early if you have any free time could also prove beneficial.

Conflict Resolution Skills

No matter where you work, conflicts with co-workers, difficulties with work assignments and emergencies are all possible options where having conflict resolution skills are a must. Talk with your co-worker (before going to your supervisor, depending on the conflict) using “I” language (“I feel…”) instead of “You” language. If technology, lacking a needed skill or piece of material, etc, is holding you back from your work, communicate this with a supervisor, or ensure you can resolve it on your own if you chose to do so. Emergencies are special (or not-so-special) cases when it pays to know procedures and escape routes depending on the emergency.  You can practice these as an undergraduate via group projects and assignments.

Etiquette & Civility Skills

I cannot stress enough how building a good reputation can advance you in the workforce. “I’ve heard great things about you” and “you’ve always done good work” are just a few examples of how much weight etiquette and civility skills can carry. If you know you’re lacking in these skills get a book on building them or talk with a person you trust to help you assess what could be worked on. It is no secret that “people talk”, so make sure to the best of your abilities that it is good things those people are talking about in regards to you. This skill is a must, and even an individual having the four previous skills and only lacking this one would have difficulties advancing.

zerolocked1Mario Adkins is a graduate student in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership masters program. When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus collecting, assessing and process data as Research  Analyst in Teacher Education for GVSU’s College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked

The Ultimate Study Guide

There are millions of study guides out there covering many subjects. However, The Ultimate Study Guide below has you covered for all your courses in three main areas.  Let readers know which works best for you or if you would add anything else in the comments section below (no registration required). And two lucky comments will be chosen for study supplies valued at $20. [Sweepstakes ends 02/10/13]

 

Write/Type It Out!

The main goal of any study guide is to help you retain the information. However, just reading a study guide over and over is not always the best way to retain information. (Ever read an entire textbook chapter and learn nothing? Yeah.) Writing or typing key terms and information can help you remember much better because it’s an active, engaging process. That said, take a scrap  piece of paper or open up a word processing file and type, write, type, write in addition to reading over a study guide.

 

Note Comparisons

How does your notes stack up against the student sitting behind you? What if they found that definition you were looking for? And ironically you know how to answer the short answer question they’re struggling with. Knowledge is a puzzle, though you can easily put the pieces together if you work together. Try and compare notes and study guides with classmates whenever possible, that way you all win.

 

Review, Review, Review!

This is the biggest. Aim to actively read your notes and study guides at least once everyday (or more) for all subjects. It’s all about consistency. A nice way to test yourself is to look at a term/question/concept and if you cannot immediately answer/define it then type/write it out! Also, discussing grey areas with classmates or having them test you also can find focus points.

 

zerolockedMario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Top 5 MUST HAVE items for College Students

Almost all students have a backpack that holds a few essential items such as writing utensils, paper, folders and textbooks. However, there are a few items many students may not carry that could be a huge benefit. In no specific order are the top five items of 2012 that can highly assist any student and ease many college days.

Mini Stapler

Having your own mini stapler is a not-so-common item that could be very useful after printing out essays and other similar papers. Many instructors require students to staple their work, otherwise they may not accept them. This is an easy way to keep your work ordered, just make sure to have a supply of staples handy!

Post-It-Notes

Post-It-Notes, aka sticky notes are so versatile and have many uses. Taking notes, bookmarking and creating reminders / to-do lists are just a few uses for these handy supplies.  They are inexpensive to buy and may very well save you from forgetting important dates, information and  academic notes.

USB Drive

If you do not own a USB drive give it a purchase. This is an easy way to transfer data files between computer devices without attaching files to emails or cloud/data storage. The USB drive I own is 2 gigs and flips out, or, attached (hidden) in my army dog tags. A few USB drives are actually key chain items or even mini skateboards! Find one that matches your style.

Laptop / Mac Book / Tablet 

Internet, word processing, calculator, PDF reader, music player, photo viewer, video editing and way, WAY more. I’m not even going to say this is optional, because if you do not personally own one [which I encourage if possible] you’ll be in your local college library using theirs. From online classes to digital textbooks, having this item [or access to it] is almost a must.

Echo Livescribe Smartpen

This item, unlike the others above, may need an introduction. In short, this pen is also an audio recording device that records and syncs simultaneously what you write in a companion notebook. You can also upload the pages to an online site and watch/listen to what you wrote/heard. Make sure to have that laptop for this feature! Take a quick look at it in action HERE! (And play around on the site to learn more about it).

Do you have any of these items? and/or Would you add anything else to the list? 

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Résumé Relay

Most students attend college to land employment in their selected field, yet employers want experience from their candidates beforehand. If you’re similar to many students and have little to no work experience for a resume (or want to disregard that irrelevant restaurant job) keep reading! Listed below are five FAST ways to turn a blank word-processing document into an excellent college resume.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to help build a resume. This not only adds specific organizations to your resume that can align with your major, but expresses values such as service learning, community building and time management. Also, most volunteering opportunities are without pay, showing a clear value of work and commitment even when money is not involved. Employers look for this type of commitment in their candidates.

Student Organizations

If your college has student-run organizations, check them out and get involved! Student organizations are normally easy to get into with a nice payout of experience. Because of the many demands and roles required by student orgs, leadership, secretarial and budgeting experiences are just a few skills you can acquire and add to a resume. Involvement in student orgs also shows experience working in groups, another key skill employers look for.

Awards/Achievements

Awards and achievements can make you stand out from the competition. These range from academic awards such as Dean’s List certificates to service awards in sports and leadership. The type of award or achievement can easily place you as a top candidate if it’s relevant to your perspective employment. Also, make sure to keep up on your studies, because some employers request college transcripts during the interviewing process!

Major-Specific Event/Program

Instead of waiting to securing work, how about making it yourself? Within the many majors available to college students are opportunities to create your own program or event that can be added to a resume. This not only illustrates initiative toward your major, but innovation depending on what you choose to create. This gives you the option to select, hone and master any skills you want. Want to add supervisory skills to your resume? Assemble and manage volunteers for your event. How about time management? Design a detailed schedule or itinerary. What about public speaking? Practice and perfect yourself as the keynote speaker. The possibilities and combinations are endless.

Internships

Internships differ from volunteering because of the specialized training involved. An internship allows students to work with or without pay for a set amount of time in an area related to their major. (Yes, that was a mouthful, but a necessary definition!) This is the perfect way build the skillset your major demands. Networking and being engaged in your community is essential for landing an internship, and could even lead to permanent job placement depending on the quality of your work.

*Other Options

Having previous employment is always good for a resume if it supports your major. List them from the most recent in short, detailed sentences. The five options listed above are also great portfolio builders, allowing you to show and tell your work experiences. An updated portfolio is also great to have on hand because employers often request samples of work for specialized careers. Lastly, make sure to have good social network maintenance if you own one; in can often be a resume in itself. The information, photos and videos on these legal-by-employers-to-view sites could be the final deciding factor between two equally-qualified candidates.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

The “PRO” in RA ✄ Programming ✉

Planning, coordinating and facilitating specific-themed programs (events, workshops,  etc.) are one of the main assignments RAs must complete, typically twice or more on a monthly bases.  However, if the programs are irrelevant to the students, then a lot of time, energy and effort will be wasted. That said, below are three practical ways to build and facilitate successful programs for schedule-tight students.

Advertisements

Informative fliers, social media and chalk drawn sidewalks are just a few advertising methods students are used to getting information from on and around campus. The key here is to use the least amount of words to give the most amount of information. Honesty with what to expect is also important–so if you’re advertising an Xbox tournament from a huge projection screen  it better be there!

Framework

As the program facilitator, developing and following an agenda is a must–rather it’s a high energy or low energy program. If the students never see order, you’ll never see them again. Time is another factor, chose the best time frame that works for most students. If the program is an hour and a half  and starts and ends at a specific time try to follow that schedule. Finally, although programs follow a specific theme, aim to facilitate a program that reaches a wide range of students; you want to maximize your audience, not minimize it.

Incentives

Most students have a tight schedule with varying time constraints, so anything extra added to their schedule must be somewhat valuable to them as students. Most programs have a direct benefit depending on its theme, (budgeting, time management, etc.) though the indirect benefit is just a critical. The attached image is of  Program Reward Cards I made, and every time a student attends a program I design they get a stamp. Obtaining six stamps and completing the card allows the student to trade it in for an exclusive prize at the end of the semester. The program reward card can also easily travel with the students where ever they go. Incentives like these can definitely motivate students to attend more programs then they would have otherwise.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

What’s Your Type? [Examination Explanation]

There are many types of majors available to college students, requiring different styles of learning and studying. Throughout these dividing factors there will always be a factor that links us all together; examinations. Reading textbooks, reviewing flashcards and studying notes are all in preparation for these tests. Exams are typically classified in one of four categories: true or false, multi-choice, short answer/define and essay/presentation. Many exam formats use a mix of the four, a single category or use them all! Let’s ‘examine’ all four types and pinpoint their pros and cons.

True or False

Answering the classic true or false questions can make a student feel like a gambler; especially if answering it correctly is really up to chance. You’re not only betting on a 50 percent chance of guessing it right, but your risking the actual point value of the question if you luck out! Another stake true or false questions present can be its very format by wording a true statement as false and a false statement as true. These wager-heavy questions truly test your knowledge, so studying the entire context of the subject is the key to hitting the jackpot.

Multi-choice

Multi-choice questions are a common test format, giving visual answer options with the presented questions. The key to mastering multi-choice exams is simple mathematics. Though I have seen up to seven multi-choice options for a question in my college experiences, let’s focus on four. You have four options; subtract two by process of elimination. Divide the remaining answers into separate options before adding that recollection of knowledge from studying. Do this times the number of remaining answers and you’re all set, no calculator required! And remember, “all of the above” is not always the quick, right answer, trust me.

 Short Answer / Define 

Short answer and define sections let students give creative answers, giving many professors and instructors the opportunity to gauge in-depth understanding of the course work. For short answer sections keep it short and to the point. The best way to prepare for these sections is to memorize key points and build off them to create a coherent answer. This same rule applies to defining a word, phrase or event. If this is done in the classroom on paper, incorrectly spelled words will not be underlined in red for you so practice spelling, especially for those highly-technical terms.

Essay / Presentation

Essays written on your own time are typically graded more rigorously because professors and instructors expect that you used that time out of class to write a high-quality paper. Make sure to do research on recommended sites, because the sight of a non-cited essay that required it is not good at all. And easy enough, presentations that involving speaking to the class can be aced if practiced with family and friends for feedback. Here’s a reversing trick for mastering the two: For essays, reading them out loud helps find errors while reading a speech to yourself helps to memorize it; that way you can focus more on your audience and less on reading from a paper.

Every semester I have a mix of these exam options, and find that they all work well if studied right. With all that said, what’s your favorite type of exam and why?

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

The Koolest Bulletin ̶B̶o̶r̶e̶d̶ Board

Bulletin boards (or white boards) are a highly effective tool used by resident assistants to communicate with their students. They are typically updated monthly and follow themes based on the RA’s overall floor agenda. Though RAs spend much time on bulletin board, students do not like to waste theirs–meaning if it isn’t relevant to them then they will be ignored. That said, below are three ways to design a bulletin board that students will actually utilize.

Informative

This is the main goal for most bulletin boards; to display information. If RAs need to communicate with students indirectly then a bulletin board message is perfect. Floor meetings times/dates, monthly floor themes and programming messages are the main functions for indirect messages.

Inclusive 

A bulletin board MUST be inclusive to all students on the floor and use inclusive language. This is because the floor is a community and should include all students. For example, instead of creating a bulletin board strictly on the service work of Greek Life, [which may not interest some students ] create a bulletin board on service work from many, if not all applicable departments. This will give students options instead of focusing in on just one area.

Interactive

Many bulletin boards solely display information, and after reading them the students may have no further reason to read them again. However, if the bulletin board is interactive with a game or puzzle, the students may give it more attention to complete the objective. Though my bulletin board (attached below) was questions and answers based, it also gave students the opportunity to write their own questions on sticky notes to get them answered later.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Decked Out

First impressions matter, and that’s why college door decorations (hence forth shortened to “door decs”) are so important for new students moving into their living areas.  Though door dec designs vary from RA to RA, the idea to greet new students by name is the case for them all. The attached image is of  my own door dec designs, which are white envelopes colored with crayons and outlined differently with a coordinated grey boarded that varies from color to color. The three bullets below outline the main three uses for door decs with my own serving as examples for the outlines.

Welcoming

The first role door decs serve  is a greeting tool–an advanced name tag of sorts.  Most door decs have the names of the students to welcome them in by name and to confirm they are in their correct living area.  Many RAs use printed, computerized name labels to save time, though I chose to hand write my names to personalize them to their fullest extent.

Informing

Most door decs inform students indirectly, such as gauging the “creativity” of the RA or the “theme” of the floor. Messages can also be written on them to further convey information such as greeting messages or important dates. My door decs are envelopes specifically because they allowed for a nice area of designing and gives the door decs an added mailbox option. Handwritten notes are in all my door decs and allows the option to putting notes/messages in their door dec instead of sliding them under doors.

Styling

Straight up, the kooler your door decs look, the kooler your floor is. Resident Assistants are tasked with building community and door decs add a make-or-break effect to that atmosphere. The aim for my door decs was to have an aesthetic symmetry–and the early arrival students seem to like them very much!

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.