Freebie Friday — U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges 2014″

April 17th, 2014 by


You may have read our book review last Saturday about the Best Colleges 2014 publication from U.S. News & World Report. If you missed that article, CLICK HERE to go back and read our thoughts on why we feel this is important reading as you schedule your college visits and college application decisions.

Are you wondering what might be INSIDE this book? You can view a list of contents HERE, and you can also try to win your own copy of “Best College 2014″ by filling in the Rafflecopter app below. One lucky winner will receive his or her own copy!

As a friend of NextStepU, you also have access to a discount code for the book, should you decide to purchase it. Use code SCHOOL25 to receive 25% off your purchase!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

No purchase necessary. Enter the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2014 Giveaway before 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 4/24/14. (1) winner will be chosen shortly afterward and announced before 5/2/14. The winner must respond to the email he or she receives in order to claim his or her prize. Any prize winner not responding by 6/2/14 will forfeit his/her prize. Entries will only be accepted through the Rafflecopter application and before the deadline date.


How to handle getting sick in college

April 17th, 2014 by

she suffers a coldAs much as we try to avoid it, getting sick in college is inevitable. While it’s understandable to be nervous after hearing about scary illnesses like mono, meningococcal or gross fungi from communal showers, I am here to tell you that you are in more danger of getting colds or the flu while at school than contracting any of those more serious illnesses. While being sick is never fun, getting a cold is far less scary than other stuff they talk about on the news. In any case, you still need to know what to do if you are too sick to go to class or work for more than a day or two.

Here are some options if you are sick during your semester and cannot go home to your regular doctor:

Health services
Your campus will have a center with nurses and, sometimes, doctors. This is where you can go for medical advice or prescriptions in non-emergency cases. Depending on where you go to college, you can use insurance for this type of service.

When health services is closed, there is usually a hotline that you can call for information about where you can go for help and can even talk to a medical professional. Again, this is for non-emergency cases but I would not use the hotline unless I was seriously worried about my illness. However, don’t confuse hotlines with Googling. Never research your potential illness online — you’ll likely just make yourself more nervous than you need to be!

Urgent Care
These places are a cross between doctors’ offices and hospitals. In a clinic setting, Urgent Care provides prescriptions and treatments when you cannot wait for a regular doctor’s visit. These are for cases that health services cannot help you with. Usually, these places take insurance.

Emergency Room
Obviously, these are for emergency cases only. If no other treatment is working or you are suddenly sick on a weekend or in the middle of the night, call 911 or have a friend drive you to the hospital.

Campus safety
This option is only for physical injuries and other debilitating factors. You would not call them if you have the flu. Instead, call campus safety if you have fallen and badly hurt your leg or have experienced something similar. In most cases, a security officer will come for you and find a way to get you to the hospital.

Do all of the do’s and don’ts listed above make you nervous? Are you afraid you still won’t know what to do if you get sick while away at college? Consider a program like CampusMD. This service is membership based and connects you directly to a doctor every day of the year, 24 hours a day. As you register at to set up your free account to receive your customized path to success, click on the button for CampusMD to receive a membership discount and access to your own mobile doctor every day that you are away at school.

Just one more way NextStepU is looking out for your overall college experience!



Rachel-blog-2104Written by Rachel Montpelier. Rachel is a senior at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. and is the editorial assistant at NextStepU.

> Looking for more advice on navigating your senior year? Register at and customize your path to success.


Super Teens Finalists — Spring

April 16th, 2014 by

Listed below are the last five finalists in our 2014 Super Teens contest. These five teens join the other finalists that were already announced on the Super Teens page. You will be able to vote for your favorite Super Teen beginning on May 1st. One teen with the most votes will win the $1,000 scholarship for college expenses.

Congratulations to our finalists!

cody-mCody May
“My classes and projects in Future Farmers of America (FFA) are my passion. I raise and show beef cows.” He remembers what it was like trying to find a place in the FFA. “I am most proud of mentoring a fellow rookie cattle showman this past year,” he remembers. “I took all of my experience and taught her everything I knew.” She ended up finishing just after Cody in the competitions.

This love of working with animals will not stop after graduation. Cody plans on attending Texas A&M University to study Wildlife Biology. He can continue to do what he loves and most likely will find a way to be a mentor to even more people. When he was asked to advise other high school students, Cody said they had three options in life: “They can give up, give in or give it all they got.”

sydney-mSydney Maki
Sydney Maki has already traveled to Africa and plans to return after she finishes her senior year. Of course, what else would you expect from someone who says “No matter how many people come against you, keep pushing.”

She is the founder of Ekitangaala Ministries, an organization that provides education, food and medical services to children orphaned by AIDS. “Having the opportunity to change the lives of children in Africa is the biggest blessing in my life,” Sydney explains.

According to her future career plans, this is a blessing that keeps on giving. Sydney’s favorite subject is biology, which will come in handy when she trains to be a midwife. After graduation, she plans on spending six months in Uganda in order to get to know the children there. When she returns home, she will begin her Midwifery education. “There is a huge lack in qualified midwives and birth attendants in Uganda, resulting in maternal and infant deaths,” she explains. “Being a qualified midwife in Uganda will be a big help.”

connor-bConnor Bell
Connor has used motivation to do his best in high school and to partake in every available opportunity. He has continuously improved his tennis game and has been on the varsity team for three years. In addition, he excels in art classes and designed his own independent study course focusing on watercolor paintings and architectural design. Connor also traveled to Costa Rica after raising money with his classmates. 

He plans on attending Roger Williams University to study architecture. “I want to design houses and commercial buildings,” he describes. “It’s something I feel very passionately about.”  Although he is humble about his achievements, there is no doubt that Connor is an exemplary high school student and will do even better in college.

“Life isn’t just about success,” he claims. “It’s about having fun and being yourself as well.”

nityaNitya Rayapati
Nitya Rayapati, a high school junior from Texas, mentors freshman students and she is the Co-Committee Chair of the Drugs, Alcohol, Safety and Health Student Council. “I have helped raise awareness about these issues,” she explains of her position as co-chair, “[I attack] the problem not just in my own life, but on a school-wide scale.”

Rayapati finds joy in her science courses, namely biology. Her passion for science has encouraged her to get involved in creating her own experiments, including engineering a novel passive solar tracker that she developed with a friend. This device intends to improve methods of harnessing energy from the sun and it earned her and her friend 1st place at their regional science fair.

Rayapati intends to major in biology or biomedical engineering and eventually hopes to become a physician or to work in a lab. No matter what she pursues though, Rayapati always keeps this advice in mind: “Do not let disappointment define you. Let the way you react to setback, with determination and strength, compose your character instead.”

vivian-yVivian Yu
“Everything has two sides. With fear comes joy; with every doubt comes certainty.” This is the mantra that Vivian Yu, a junior at Longmeadow High School in Longmeadow, Mass., lives by. After being diagnosed with scoliosis and terrified at the thought of surgery, Yu decided to turn her fear into something positive. “I saw kids my age who had so much more to worry about than I did,” she recalls, “I realized then that Shriners [Hospital] had given me…a purpose, a dream. I wanted to help Shriners [and] those kids.”

It was then that Yu developed her passion for science — and for giving back to others. She plans on going to college for biomedical engineering and, one day, to develop new prostheses that are better functioning for future patients. As a member of her local Vex Robotics team, she is well on her way to achieving that goal. “The best part of being in robotics is simply seeing what I have created,” Yu explains, “If today I can change a pile of metal parts to a machine…who knows what I will be able to build in the future?”

> Read the full bios from these five finalists and more at


Tuesday Tour Day — Wade College

April 15th, 2014 by

Wade College-Fashion SketchingToday we are looking at Wade College, located in Dallas, Texas!

Wade College is a specialized college that offers dual major Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees in merchandising and design. General education in fine art, humanities, social science, behavioral science, mathematics, and other subjects helps students prepare for careers in the visual fields while also helping them to broaden their perspectives. Complemented by the design and merchandising programs at the college, courses in general studies help students develop the analytical, written, mathematical, communication, business, and presentation skills necessary to bridge their specialized fields of study with the demands of the larger world of business and industry.

Wade offers specialized study in graphic design, fashion design, interior design, and merchandise marketing at the associate-degree level. Fashion design, interior design, merchandise management, and visual communication are all available at the baccalaureate-degree level. Both programs help students develop the professional skills required to advance in their career field.  The curriculum promotes a well-rounded perspective of the world and the particular demands of merchandising and design professions. The school even employs professors who have educational and professional experience in their respective fields.

A Wade College education maintains a creative and supportive environment, with intimate class sizes in every concentration. Students have the opportunity to work with hands-on projects, which are later utilized in their portfolios. They also are provided with iPad Minis, e-books and art supplies, with the prices automatically included in the students’ tuition. In fact, Wade is dedicated to providing a quality education in the cheapest and most efficient way possible. Full time students often finish their associate’s degrees in 16 months and bachelor’s degrees are attainable in as little as 32 months.

Being the only merchandising/design school in the Dallas Design District, Wade provides many opportunities for students to build their resumes with volunteering, internships, or part-time and full-time work in the industry. There are guest speakers, field trips related to the industry, and multiple clubs and organizations including the Merchandising and Design Student Association, ASID Student Chapter, Phi Theta Kappa, and Mu Kappa Tau. And there are multiple experiences to be had off-campus, as well, since the college is located in Dallas Market Center, the world’s largest wholesale market with over 50 markets each year.

> For more information about Wade College click here!


Major Monday — Design and Visual Communications

April 14th, 2014 by

Technology in the handsAre you interested in multiple types of design? Do you think of yourself as an artist of many mediums? Are you able to understand theory and apply it directly to your work? If so, consider design and visual communications when you are deciding on a college major. Design and visual communications majors study a large cross section of applied arts disciplines.

According to the College Board, design and visual communications programs are usually taught at the bachelor’s degree level. If you are serious about this field of study, take classes like AP Art History, computer/graphic arts and business in high school. In college, you can expect to register for courses like illustration, typography, web design and art history.

What to know before you apply
When you are narrowing down your top choice colleges, you must find out whether a portfolio is required for admission. If it is, you should start gathering projects and pieces as soon as you can. Also, research the specific type of education the school offers. Is it balanced, with equal attention given to every area of design? Or are you supposed to choose a concentration? Depending on your preferences and skills, this could make or break a program. Finally, make sure to visit the school’s campus. You will be spending a huge percentage of your time in the lab, so it is a good idea to find out if it is well-equipped and comfortable.

Colleges offering related fields of study
• Genessee Community College: Batavia, N.Y.
• Morrisville State College: Morrisville, N.Y.
• University of Melbourne: Parkville, Victoria, Australia
• Wade College: Dallas, Texas

A degree in design and visual communications will prepare you for positions in areas including art direction, animation and web design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, art directors earned an average income of $95,500/year in 2011, while animators earned $68,060/year. Web designers earned a median salary of $55,000/year in 2012.

For more information about careers, visit!


Taking the initiative

April 12th, 2014 by

A book review of “U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2014”

Best Colleges 2014 1P plain coverYou have no doubt heard about “U.S. News & World Report” and its guide to the nation’s best colleges. You probably associate it with numbers, lists and rankings. But it actually provides much more information than how your first choice college stacks up in relation to every other university in the country. The guide educates you about how taking the initiative during the college search will benefit you for a long time after the applications are sent. Here are some takeaways that every high school student should remember during the search:

Start early, think deeply
When I started researching colleges in the eighth grade, my teachers and peers thought I was weird. However, I would probably fit in just fine at this point in time. U.S. News’ Brian Kelly notes that “the stakes of the college hunt keep getting higher,” and he is absolutely right. Costs are rising, financial aid is covering less and jobs are still difficult to find. So you need to start thinking about what you want from your college experience as soon as possible. Maybe even before you decide to attend college. Examine your passions, find out what you are good at and explore different colleges through tours or through brochures. Picture what you want from life after earning your undergraduate degree. Kelly claims that there is no “best” college; “The point is to find the one that matches your ambition and abilities.”

Public or private? Big or small? Liberal arts or technical?
Determining the right college for you means more than just considering its featured programs or overall cost. You need to decide which environment is best for you. Are you leaning towards a private school or a state university? Do you work better with more individual time with a professor or within larger classes? Are you interested in taking courses in many different subjects, or do you want to begin your major your first day? “The first step in narrowing your choices should be a long good look in the mirror,” the guidebook advises. “What characteristics must a school have to make you happy?”

Focus on the whole package
When searching for the best college for you, avoid having tunnel vision. Thinking about only the cost, the education, the reputation or the environment will give fewer options and could give you a false sense of what the school is really like. Rebecca Ridings, an alum of John Brown University, was initially “struck by the beauty of the campus’s blooming dogwoods and its peacefulness.” But she found that it was the best choice for her because of its educational methods, its campus and its extracurriculars. “JBU’s small class sizes and professors that care only made me feel more at home,” she remembers. “The school may be small, but it has excellent resources.”

Similarly, Jasmine Ellis first heard about Spelman College when she was 10. Her interest was piqued because of the school’s dedication to attracting women of color from all over the world. While that is very impressive, it is not the only factor Jasmine considered before applying. “Spelman provides a strong liberal arts education, a supportive faculty and ample opportunities to develop leadership skills,” she explains. “I will leave college with the skills and connections that…will enable me to change the world.”

Now that you are better equipped to make your decision, consider getting a copy of “U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2014” and begin your research. Other great resources in the book include: How online learning might affect you, how eight high school seniors made it in, hot new majors, and a what to-do list.

As a friend of NextStepU, you have access to a discount code for the book. Use code SCHOOL25 to receive 25% off your purchase!


Written by Rachel Montpelier. Rachel is a senior at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. and is the editorial assistant at NextStepU.


Freebie Friday — Nice by Design

April 11th, 2014 by


We have another Freebie Friday for you! Today’s wonderful find is from Nice by Design.

Nice makes CableKeeps™ which are great for preventing tangles when traveling, wrangling cables when plugged into the wall, or just for adding some personality to an otherwise bland charger.

CableKeeps™ organize Apple chargers and cords with a touch of colorful and eclectic style while making sure they remain fully functional. They come in an array of vibrant colors that make it easy to tell whose charger is whose in a house or dorm and they are non-toxic, recyclable and compostable.

We have 5 CableKeeps™ to give away for iPhones and iPads. Use the Rafflecopter app below to enter for your chance to win one of the five prizes. You must enter before April 17 at 11:59 p.m. (ET).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

No purchase necessary. Enter the Nice by Design Giveaway before 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 4/17/14. 5 winners will be chosen shortly afterward and announced before 4/25/14. The winners must respond to the email they receive in order to claim his or her prize. Any prize winner not responding by 5/25/14 will forfeit his/her prize. Entries will only be accepted through the Rafflecopter application and before the deadline date.


5 ways to clean your dorm room and beyond

April 10th, 2014 by

iStock_000035113470SmallSpring cleaning around the house means opening those windows wide, breaking out the vacuum, and doing a healthy dose of dusting. But what about if you’re living in a dorm at college? Is spring cleaning still necessary there? Yes! In truth, you can get by with never cleaning your dorm room … but you’ve seen what that looks like. Since dorm rooms are small, take a holistic approach to spring cleaning; think beyond merely your living space, as there’s plenty more to be kept clean!

1. Dust-Free Dorms
Since dorm rooms aren’t large, they attract and hold in a lot of dust, enough to make you sneeze if you pop your head under your bed. We don’t have to explain how to dust, but to keep items dust-free, store them under your bed in zippered storage containers. When dust accumulates, it won’t coat any blankets, extra clothes or other items kept sealed.

2. Laundry Time
No one likes doing laundry in college. When you finally get around to washing your sheets and bedding, and not just clothes, well, let’s just say if it’s second semester and you still haven’t washed them, now’s the time! Most comforters for college are machine washable, but if you have a down comforter, it is most likely not machine washable. If you’re unsure, just check out the tag for washing instructions. Non-down comforters are filled with polyester, typically (even if their exteriors are cotton), and are generally machine washable.

3. Spring’s Scents
Now that you’ve worked on your room, what else is in need of cleaning? How about the water you drink? The communal bathroom tap doesn’t provide the best-tasting water, and buying bottles of water can get expensive. So if you haven’t started using a filtered water pitcher yet, make a healthy change this spring. Drinking filtered water is a huge money-saver, as it beats buying water or less healthy sodas, anyway.

4. Keep Yourself Clean
Hopefully you didn’t forget to shower while hibernating during this long winter, and since spring has sprung, it’s the perfect time to reinvigorate. A shower in the morning will help wake you up, and you can bring a new boost to your daily routine by adding a fresh, springtime scent to your shower with a new soap or body wash.

5. Weighty Workload
If you’ve been putting off organizing your school stuff, don’t delay. All those papers and folders from first semester are only clutter now. So clean out your binders and rid your drawers of last semester’s syllabi and homework assignments. You don’t have much storage space in your dorm room to begin with, so any no-longer-needed textbooks and school supplies should be cleared to make way for the new. And if you’re still carrying around a notebook or some papers in your backpack from last semester, shed the extra weight! Now that the weather’s nicer, don’t let a heavy backpack lug you down on your springtime walk to class.

Keith-DormCo-headshotWritten by Keith Gillogly, for Connect with DormCo on their Facebook pagePinterest and Tumblr.

> Looking for more tips and tricks for your dorm? Check out these great articles:
4 ways to keep organized for college life
Give your dorm room a makeover


5 books to read before college

April 9th, 2014 by

Smiling Woman Sitting on Couch and Holding a BookLiterature nerd that I am, I relate everything in life to what I have already read in books. So, when I got to thinking about some of you who are graduating seniors, I was reminded of one my favorite novels. Then I thought about other texts that deal with that weird period of time between the end of high school and the beginning of college that might help you remember you’re certainly not alone in this process.

As you prepare to leave high school for bigger and better things, here are five must-reads for you and your friends:

“This Lullaby” by Sarah Dessen
Recent grad Remy meets Dexter and hates him, but then — TWIST — realizes she loves him, blah blah blah. You know where this going. What sets this book apart is its exploration of whether it is ever really possible to sever ties from where you grew up. It is perfect for a senior vowing to never step foot in his or her hometown again. You will be surprised how powerful nostalgia and homesickness is.

“The Bermudez Triangle” by Maureen Johnson
Nina, Avery and Mel have been close friends since childhood, but everything is thrown through a loop when each girl begins her first serious relationship. Nina goes off to a summer pre-college program and comes back with a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Avery and Mel stay home and fall for each other. This novel will give you a preview as to what will happen when you and your friends begin to couple off. Friendship is only occasionally stronger than romantic love.

“The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach
Henry enjoys the wonders of independence when he begins his freshman year in college. This novel balances the perspectives of Henry and several other Westish College community members. For those of you nervous about finding your place in college, this is the story for you. It also features baseball terminology, in case any of you find that appealing.

“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel
This graphic memoir actually spans Bechdel’s life from childhood through her first year of college. But it is still important to read if only because it is an excellent example of college-level writing. What seems like a simple story (Girl coming to terms with her relationship with Dad) becomes so much more with Bechdel’s beautiful artwork, interesting literary allusions and scholarly vocabulary.

“Sloppy Firsts”/”Second Helpings” by Megan McCafferty
Okay, so this entry is actually two books, but I consider them two parts of an entire story. The first two installments of McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series are the protagonist’s diaries chronicling her dwindling time at a New Jersey high school. These books are for anyone needing a laugh or anyone that wants to commiserate with another too-smart-for-her-own-good high school hater.

Rachel-blog-2104Written by Rachel Montpelier. Rachel is a senior at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. and is the editorial assistant at NextStepU.

> Looking for more advice on navigating your senior year? Register at and customize your path to success.



Tuesday Tour Day — ITT Technical Institute

April 8th, 2014 by

itt-profileToday we are touring the campuses of ITT Technical Institute!

ITT Technical Institute is committed to helping men and women develop skills and knowledge to pursue opportunities in today’s most promising career fields. Its various locations provide education in electronics, drafting and design, criminal justice, business, information technology, health sciences and nursing.

Most campus-based ITT Tech programs of study strive to blend traditional academic content with applied learning concepts. In addition, a significant portion of these programs is devoted to practical study in a lab environment. Advisory committees, comprised of representatives of local businesses and employers, help each ITT Technical Institute periodically assess and update curricula, equipment and laboratory design. You can be sure your education will be up to date and will evolve with the always-changing career landscape.

ITT Technical Institute has campuses all over the country including:
California | Massachusetts | New York | Pennsylvania | Texas

Plus many more locations! Search for all locations using NextStepU’s College Match tool.

At each one of these locations, you have the option of studying in the School of Information Technology, the School of Electronics Technology, the School of Drafting and Design, the School of Business or the School of Criminal Justice. No matter which campus you pick or what you decide to learn about, ITT Technical Institute is devoted to giving you the education and practical skills necessary for your ideal career and life.

> For more information about ITT Tech click here!