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

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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.

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.

GVSU Do Something Guide 2012

[Click Here >>>] GVSU Do Something Guide 2012 [<<< Click Here]

As a resident assistant, relevant and interesting programming is a must. That said, most colleges catalog events and resources in a guide for new students to easily keep with them to offer advice and provide contact information for many of their related departments. The attached GVSU Do Something Guide 2012 is a rich, detailed resource that is relevant to freshmen-seniors and written by college students for college students. The guide is self-explanatory and will definitely assist new students with answering their questions, prompt critical thinking, and understanding new concepts they may not have considered/realized were relevant. Page 7 outlines my personal advice to new students.

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.

Mastering the ‘Text’ in Textbooks

Textbooks are an almost necessary part of most college classes, and there is a huge difference between reading them and reading them. That said, below are five helpful ways to better understand the nouns, verbs, adjectives, graphs and photos placed together in most college textbooks.

Find Key Terms & Content 

It’s 2012, and many college textbooks today are a multimedia force. Writing wise, anecdotes and quotes combined with the author’s style of writing make up most of the text. This is to make the reading easy to understand and relevant to the student. It’s here where students need to differentiate what’s making the text easy to read and what needs to be known for exams. Underlined, bolded and italicized words or phrases and a HUGE indicator. Repetition is also a hint for context that should be remembered. Finally, photos and graphs often highlight subject-wise concepts that a student should focus on due to the complexity and subdivision of chapters.

Highlighting / Sticky-Notes

Many students use a highlighter to make notes of key sections of a textbook. This is kool because you focus on the most relevant, useful content that needs to be learned. Also, it creates a more refined chapter for students choosing to reread the chapter later. YES some students reread them! My choice of note taking is off sticky-notes. They act as bookmarks for different pages and allow you to write  in the book (on the sticky-notes!) for general notes, definitions, or relevant class lecture. You can also make a nice study guide with them instead of flipping back and forth through highlighted pages.

Test Yourself

Many textbooks have specific pages that test your knowledge at the end of chapters or sections. A few examples of these are defining words/concepts,  multi-choice questions and writing assignments. Though these are often optional, they really reinforce the knowledge that should be taken from the reading, meaning these can be helpful for exam preparation. Finally, many textbooks nowadays have an online component that is activated by either a code that came with the textbook or just visiting the companion website.

The Whole Chapter VS The Chapter Summary 

Alright, first and foremost, reading the end chapter summary  is not a shortcut substitution for reading the entire chapter. Most textbooks have an end chapter summary that summarizes the chapter together because typical textbook chapters themselves are broken up by content and context. The goal of the chapter summarization is to re-piece the puzzle together, not complete it from that ‘skip ahead’ chapter summary reading.

Bookmark

Taking a break when needed is key! Yes, it’s good to complete your assigned readings, though it’s all for nothing if external or internal factors are in the way (tiredness, schedule, Xbox). It’s always recommended to read when you have  total focus, so if it isn’t there substitute it with a bookmark.

 

With all that said, how do you read your textbooks?

 

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.

Move-In ✔ List (What NOT to Take to College)

All colleges and universities have a list of recommended items to bring during freshman or transfer move-in. A few of these are allowed appliances, classroom supplies, clothes and bedding items. It’s usually straightforward and easy to follow.  However, the list that is typically ignored is the ‘What NOT to Bring’ list. This list is important because it outlines what isn’t necessary to have the very best college experience and build the best character perception for classmates, professors and dorm mates. Below, in no specific order, is a description of four examples of what should not be taken to college with you.

What The College Does Not Allow

Most colleges have a list of items that are not allowed within the campus residence areas. These items are usually not allowed to prevent fire and electrical hazards, such as candles and  high-watt appliances respectively. Any student can do without these so they should not hinder the new living experience. Additionally, there are usually alternatives to what is not allowed. For example, a low-watt microwave is often acceptable, while plug-in air fresheners can substitute for candles. (That is what the candles are used for, right?)

Rank

In some cases, many students can transfer applicable credentials from high school to college. These range from (Advanced Placement) AP credits, testing out college classes, and Honors recognition based on their transferring GPA .  These are nice additions that boost a new college student’s new resumé and transcript.  However, previous achievements such as valedictorian, class president and other similar merits no longer matter and should not be used to pull rank. This includes that 4.0 high school GPA after it was applied to a scholarship or class placement. College is all about starting over fresh and getting involved within the campus is the key to building up a new resume–a resume that can be used to obtain future employment. This includes academics; a college students’s college GPA is way more relevant than their previous high school equivalent.

Fixed Expectations

The media displays and plays on a specific angle toward many archetypes–and college students are a main one. Expecting the ‘okay’ to skip class whenever (regardless of the attendance policy), disregard studying (regardless of minimum academic expectation) and drink underage and/or drugs use (regardless of the law) only sets students up to fail with short-term contentment and long-term frustration. Damaged transcripts and records never go away and only prevents employment, which defeats the purpose of attend college in the first place. Furthermore, fixed expectations on other college related categories also needed to be dispelled. For example, the fraternities and sororities at Grand Valley State University value service work and community development entirely, meaning if a student followed the media’s label of “sex, drugs and hazing” they could miss out on a great opportunity to get involved, build their resumé and support their community.

Fixed Values

Everyone has developed traits and character that defines them as individuals–that make us who we are. Personal quirks, habits, and knowledge also helps define us. This is how most make friends and maybe avoid others who clash or contradict with our standards. It is perfectly okay to define and develop our inner circle this way. However, without respect it is not. Diversity is a gift reminiscent to treasure–opened with the key we all have and should be valued like diamonds. With that said, it is okay to disagree with another point of view. It isnot okay to highlight that difference and discriminate in a malicious way. Be constructive, not destructive; build others up, don’t tear them down. College is a place where many different ideas come together, so respect and understanding are very important. Extreme cases aside, this could just mean being opening to trying something new, like sushi perhaps. (Spicy Salmon & Yellowtail Rolls)

 

What else shouldn’t you bring to college 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.