The Top 5 Money Moves to Make After Graduating from University

imagesK2RQ71JLSo, you’ve graduated. Congratulations! You have a diploma, at least three copies of Oh the Places You’ll Go, and a wrenching hangover. How do you become a financial grown-up when you couldn’t even keep enough money in your meal plan to get a pizza at the end of the semester? These five money moves are a good start.

  1. The first thing you should do is look at your credit report (not just the score). Make sure you know anything that’s on there, and begin the process to dispute anything that you did not initiate. This is just good financial housekeeping and you should get in the habit of doing it quarterly. You should be 100% certain of exactly where you stand with student loans, credit cards, and so on. Get started with your free credit report.
  2. Next, make a budget or spending plan. Consider what your priorities are and if possible, use numbers from your first salary – then plan for living off of less than you earn. Be realistic and know yourself a little bit. If you love going out to restaurants, budget for it. If you would rather drive a nice car, then accept that – and consider living in a cheaper apartment or getting a roommate. If you absolutely cannot function without a morning latte, accept that and get store brand groceries or drink soda when you go out with friends. It’s perfectly OK to leave yourself a few luxuries, with the key words being a few. It is way better to accept you love clothes and plan for it than to deprive yourself, get frustrated, give up and spend too much. Include in your budget a plan to pay off debt. If you don’t want to use a spreadsheet or com, you can try You Need a Budget.
  3. If you are in the USA, start an IRA and begin to contribute to it. Even if it’s just $25 a month, you will begin to set up your financial future – and possibly get a tax break. Quick guide: A traditional IRA will reduce your tax bill in the year you contribute, while a Roth IRA is not taxed on gains. If you’re not making a lot right now, contribute to a Roth since it could mean tax-free growth later; if you’re trying to reduce your tax bill, contribute to a traditional. YMMV, consult a tax pro, etc.
  4. Set goals and save no matter what. Think about what you really want. Do you want to go on a vacation next year with your bros? Do you want to buy a car or a house? Do you want to go to grad school? Have a destination wedding? Don’t let your post-graduation let down get in the way. Make a plan and start to make it happen. Even if you don’t have any specific spending goals, set savings and investment benchmarks for yourself. It may feel boring and abstract now, but you WILL thank yourself when you get an unexpected medical bill or have to buy a new set of tires. Try using an online savings account, such as SmartyPig, which is designed to help you save to reach goals.
  5. Develop a plan for money and get in the habit of doing it. About once a week, look over your spending from the past week and making sure there are no fraudulent purchases. Every month, look for patterns, trends, and things you can do better. Every quarter, check your credit report and score. Every year (or more often if you are thinking of buying a house or car in the near future), check your credit score.

That’s it! These aren’t magical money moves to get you rich, but rather, they are habits you should get into for a less stressful post-graduate life.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the essay writing monster.

Making the transition from high school to college

how_it_workEvery year across the U.S., legions of freshmen enter college for the first time. For a select few, the transition from high school to college will go smoothly. Most freshmen will; however, find the transition from high school senior to college freshman to be a painstakingly long and painful one that is fraught with many hazards along the way. Entering college is an exciting and confusing time for most freshmen. Usually, this is the first time in most people’s lives where they live away from their parents and relatives. Not only are most living away from home for the first time, but at the same time they must learn to adapt in a dynamic, new and entirely alien environment. Upon entering college, students will find that the coursework is more intense, works hours are longer and they are often far away from the positive support networks of family and friends back home. In this new and confusing world, how does one not just cope and survive-but thrive in this new environment? The key to success in college often comes down to knowing several things.

First, it is essential to know how to write a good paper and in order to do this; one must know how to use both the APA and MLA style format. Second, one must know how to effectively research information when writing a paper. Finally, one must be able to seek out positive peer networks to help with integration into college student life.

Writing papers is a large (probably majority) part of every college student’s experience. The two most commonly used citation formats for writing papers used at the undergraduate level are the APA and MLA. Often times citing sources in a paper can become confusing. There are different procedures for citing books, newspaper articles, webpages, encyclopedias, etc… No one ever remembers how to cite this information perfectly. However, there is help. The best resource online for help with using APA and MLA style formats is the Purdue Online Writing Lab-known as OWL or Purdue OWL for short. This website is chalked full of helpful information on using APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago and many other writing styles. This website is a treasure-trove of information for college students of all levels! The website is https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. The sooner you become skilled at writing research papers, the better! The best time to learn how to write a good research paper was yesterday, but since yesterday is gone-today is the second-best time to learn.

Another area that students (especially new students) have trouble in with regards to college is conducting good research for their papers. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen students try to use Wikipedia as a reference! Using good resources is a must to write A level papers. The best resources to use consist of peer-reviewed journal articles, encyclopedias (both online and hardcopy), textbooks and books written by recognized authorities in any given field. Early on in college I found that if I went lighter on the internet sites for resources (even those that were high-quality and acceptable for papers); and went heavier on textbooks, journal articles and books, the professor would usually be more generous in grading my papers. Some great resources for getting access to old textbooks are the local library and second-hand bookstores. It is surprising how cheap a textbook that is a few editions back can be purchased for! I have purchased old textbooks to supplement research for papers at prices as low as $7.00. However, there are a number of places on the internet that have scholarly peer-reviewed articles and even whole books that can be read online. Two places I recommend are Google Scholar and Google Books. Google Scholar has many peer-reviewed journal articles for free that can be accessed-though there are also a lot that are available for a fee. Another advantage to Google Scholar is that you can click on the “cite” option for any article and you are automatically supplied with the correct citations for said article in APA, MLA and Chicago styles.

Last; but not least, there is the problem of the lack of positive social-support networks. Oftentimes this gets overlooked in our highly individualistic and competitive society. The fact remains that many people who are new to college find themselves living far away from home and isolated. Without positive social support, it becomes easy to fall in with the wrong crowd and engage in a host of activities that could jeopardize academic and personal success. I always advise people to get in touch with groups of like-minded students at their campus. Fortunately this is quite easy to do! There are usually a host of student clubs on campus that can accommodate every type of person. Are you religious? Chances are that there are a number of religious organizations present at your campus. Maybe you are interested in politics? It is not hard to find political clubs that cater to Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc… Perhaps you are LGBT and want to form positive social connections to the local LGBT community? As you guessed, there are also clubs and student organizations that cater to helping LGBT students make the transition into college. These are just a few of the positive social support networks that can help students. Check out your local campus for more information about student clubs.

While this is not by any means a comprehensive list of resources that are needed to be successful in college, they fall into my favorites. I hope that this post helps many of you with school and adjusting to this new period in your lives. College is a journey and the best way to undertake any long, arduous journey is to have a comprehensive roadmap!

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How to Write the Perfect Conclusion: The Big “So What?”

UnemployedProfessor(light brown)Do you remember being taught the five-paragraph essay in grade school? It seemed easy enough; all you had to do was write an introduction, follow it with three body paragraphs that highlighted your main points, and then end it with a conclusion. In the traditional five-paragraph essay a student would have to state what their three main points would be in the introduction, and then be sure to reiterate that those three main points were addressed in the conclusion—this seems a bit redundant and robotic once you reach the college level.

While it’s important in an introductory paragraph to tell your audience where you plan to go with your paper, once you reach the conclusion simply stating the same points over again can come across as repetitive and turn your paper into a dead end. Once you reach the collegiate level your papers are expected to do more than just answer a question or establish an opinion; they are meant to engage with your audience and foster new discussions that will keep the conversation moving.

The best way to ensure that your conclusion doesn’t bring your paper to a halt is by asking yourself one big question as you write it: “So what?” In other words, you’ve said everything that you want to say about your subject, but why does it matter? Why should your audience care? What does your argument or opinion offer to the ongoing discussion of your topic held by your professors, peers, or even scholars with decades of experience? College-level writing is all about establishing credibility, and one way that you can do this is by demonstrating that you’re aware of the current debate and that you have something to add to it.

To give an example of the big “So what?” in action, say you want to write a paper about how Bella’s relationship with Edward in Twilight is unhealthy and abusive; rather than simply listing all the ways you feel the relationship is unhealthy and concluding it with a paragraph reiterating your points, ask yourself “So what?” You may realize that you have more to say on the matter, like books with these types of female role models can have a detrimental effect on young girls. This type of conclusion would open the conversation right up, leading others to wonder what those detrimental effects may be, or to consider what other characters in modern fiction are questionable role models for children.

By answering the big “So what?” you will be adding relevance to everything you wrote preceding it and in turn add longevity to your paper.

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Top 10 Tips For Writing a Professional Research Paper

faq_overHow do we do it? How do we at Unemployed Professors manage to produce so many top-quality research papers in so little time? The answer is that we each have our own method that is designed to create efficiencies while not compromising on quality.
Although there is no single right way of producing a professional research paper, here is one possible approach:

  1. Follow the rubric precisely. If the essay question calls for a ten-side paper divided into two parts addressing two different themes, then write a paper that does just that. Do not imagine that eight or twelve sides is acceptable, or that you can get away with covering only one theme, or that the paper will somehow be enhanced by addressing three or more themes. If the instructions stipulate that Harvard referencing must be used, do not use MLA. It’s basic stuff, but essential.
  2. Search for relevant sources. Sometimes the sources to be used are indicated in the instructions. Most research papers, however, require the writer to conduct independent research and to find appropriate sources him/herself. Click here to find out how to do this. Finding the relevant literature should be one of the first things a writer does. Most are available electronically through university libraries and Google Scholar.
  3. Do the reading. This is often the most time-consuming task, as it can take many hours, if not days, to read the relevant literature. There are some ways to save time: in the case of journal articles, for example, read the abstract first, then the introduction, then the conclusion. That way, you will know the key points the author is trying to make and may also get a sense of where in the article to find other important information. Another option is to use a keyword search in the case of electronic sources.
  4. Take notes. Whenever you come across something in the literature that seems relevant, note it down. If often pays to copy exact quotations together with their page numbers. If you have any thoughts about the literature while reading, especially critical ones, write those down, too. Put your notes for each source in a separate Google Drive document to begin with. Once you have finished reading each source, go through that document and add in the author and year before each page number. This can be done quickly by copying and pasting, and it means you will have a ready-made array of in-text citations to choose from when it comes to the writing stage.
  5. Create a bibliography. Counter-intuitively, the first part of the essay to be finalized will (if you follow this advice) be the bibliography. As you take notes, create a separate bibliography tab on Google Drive and add in the full bibliographic references, organized alphabetically by surname. By the time you have finished note-taking, your bibliography will be complete.
  6. Organize your notes thematically. Once you have done all the reading – and only then – divide your notes into themes or categories. Those themes will probably have suggested themselves to you over the course of the readings; if not, look for common themes as you go through your notes. Using separate Google Drive tabs for each theme, copy and paste the most relevant parts of your notes from their “author” tabs into the new “theme” tabs. Do not cut and paste, as you may potentially need your notes in their original form later on.
  7. Think about structure. The structure of the essay will largely depend on the themes you have identified and the argument you intend to make. It is at this point that you must be clear in your own mind what your thesis statement will be and how best to go about arguing your case given the material and knowledge you now have available. The different themes will likely correspond to different sections of the essay, but you will also need to have something original to say in each section that can form the “red thread” of your argument.
  8. Write up each section in turn. Now that you have a good sense of the overall shape of the paper, go through each section, turning the ready-made array of relevant thoughts and quotations into beautiful flowing prose. If the referencing style requires footnotes rather than in-text citations, be sure to use footnotes as you write up. Style is not something that can be easily taught; it develops over many years. Nevertheless, the professional writer can be relied upon to produce lucid, unambiguous sentences as well as touches of stylistic flourish. Plagiarism is unacceptable. Collate the various sections into one document so as to produce a single flowing argument.
  9. Add the introduction and conclusion. Just as the bibliography comes first in order of completion, so the introduction comes last (along with the conclusion). For only once the body of the essay has been written up does it become absolutely certain what the argument is. Only at this point can a punchy introduction be written that confidently announces a thesis statement and offers a “roadmap” for the rest of the essay. Similarly, only at this point is it absolutely clear what the sum findings of the argument are, making it easy to summarize those findings in the conclusion.

Format the paper and proof read. Once the body of the paper has been written, add the bibliography and format the paper according to requirements. Usually this involves the Times New Roman font, size 12, double-spaced with 2.5cm margins. Be sure to include page numbers, and make sure the page count (or word count) is correct. Perform a spelling and grammar check using your word processor. Finally, proof read the entire paper to make certain that its quality is as good as it can be.

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How To Find And Evaluate Credible Sources For Your Research Paper

birthThe essence of writing a research paper is engaging critically with a particular scholarly debate and making an original intervention of some kind. Key to writing a top-quality research paper, therefore, is making sure that you draw upon and critically evaluate the right sources. This involves two stages:

Finding Credible Sources

The sources you use must, in the main, be recognized scholarly sources, principally journal articles, academic books, and book chapters. Other allowable, if less common, sources include (but are by no means limited to) government websites, reports published by NGOs, academic conference proceedings, and media pieces of special significance. This means that you must resist the urge to include newspaper and magazine articles, blog entries, and random internet sites unless absolutely necessary for some reason. Wikipedia must definitely not appear in your research paper. The key principle for determining whether or not something should be deemed a credible source is usually (though not always) whether or not that source has undergone some form of academic peer review. You might also consider whether or not the author of a particular text is a reputable scholar working within the Higher Education sector, rather than, say, an ideologue, a journalist, or a talking head. Remember, the intervention you are aiming to make must be a scholarly one, and to that end you must target scholarly sources.

The best place to start when looking for credible sources is your university library. Virtually all university libraries today offer physical and electronic access to an enormous range of scholarly resources. Start with the library’s search engine, and think very hard about the key terms you wish to search for. Be as narrow and specific as you can, otherwise you risk being inundated with thousands upon thousands of results, and finding your credible sources becomes like looking for a needle in a haystack. Most library search engines offer the possibility to refine your results by, for instance, books that are available in the university library and “peer-reviewed journal articles only.” Such filters are using for eliminating newspaper and magazine articles, which might otherwise also be thrown up. You can also usually filter results by “relevance” (how closely the item corresponds to the search terms) and by “date: newest first.” One useful tip is to begin by sorting by date and to read the most recent literature first. The reason for this is that the most recent literature will not only reflect debates that are ongoing, but it will also refer back to previous literature and give you a clear indication of what has already been said so that you do not necessarily have to read all the older literature yourself. Of course, searches by date should be accompanied by searches for relevance to make sure you are not missing a very relevant but older text, and the fact of starting with newer texts does not mean that older texts should not be read. It does mean that you will develop an overview of current debates more quickly, however.

Provided you have the relevant login details (normally your student ID and password), you should be able to download the vast majority of the electronic resources that appear in the search results from your university library. In practice, however, this is not always easy, especially if you do not have much experience with the process. Different university systems have different ways of accessing the texts that appear in the search results. Usually there is a link to “view online” or similar, which then takes you to database such as EBSCO Host or JStor, where you have to click again to access the text you want. Even when the text finally comes up, typically in pdf format, you still have to find a way of downloading it, and that will depend on the specific website to which you have been redirected by the database (e.g. an academic journal website). Other variants of this somewhat convoluted process are possible. The key point is, however, you should be able to access virtually every text that appears in your search results. Do not be put off by the practical challenges of doing so. Ask a librarian for help. It is important that you get hold of the right texts.

Another useful source for locating and accessing scholarly literature – though nowhere near as good as your university library – is Google Scholar. Sometimes you get lucky and authors have posted their articles in pdf format online somewhere (e.g. academia.edu), in which case Google Scholar often has a link to the article and you can download it for free. Often, however, Google Scholar will direct you to a journal website that requires a paid subscription to be able to access the article, in which case you need to make use of your university’s subscription (if it has one) by going through your university system.

It is also worth making use of Google Books: it never lets you see the whole book, and sometimes it does not let you see any of the book, but it certainly beats carting books back from the library or waiting for books to come through on interlibrary loan. Of course, you may still want to get hold of a physical copy, either because you cannot see the pages you need or the book is so important to your research that it would be easier simply to own a copy, but in many cases you can find what you need on Google Books.

Evaluating Credible Sources

Once you have the texts you need, the next step is to evaluate them critically. In order to do so, you need first to understand the argument the author of an individual text is making. To that end, it pays to take notes as you read so that you can go back through those notes and glean an overview of the key points of the argument, along with any key quotes. It also helps to read secondary literature: other commentators may be able to shed light on the text, or point out things that you did not see yourself. Having said that, do not feel obliged to consult secondary literature, and be wary of over-relying on others’ opinions. The aim is to develop your own critical analysis of the text, not to regurgitate what others have written.

When you feel as though you properly understand what the text is trying to convey on its own terms, you need to approach it a second time, only this time with a good dose of scepticism. You need to ask some probing questions. For example, where are the logical inconsistencies in the argument (there are usually some)? What important facts has the author neglected to mention that might run counter to his/her argument? What is the author’s ideological bias, and how does it affect the quality of the argument? What rhetorical techniques does the author use to mask the deficiencies in his/her argument? And so on. The aim of this second reading is to understand the text in your terms, not the author’s. Of course, it may be that you think the text is virtually flawless, which is fine provided you can justify that opinion (but remember: no text is completely flawless).

If, for each credible source, you are able to outline the argument, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and weigh those strengths and weaknesses against one another, then you are critically evaluating that source. By repeating the process for multiple sources, you will find that your own voice emerges strongly and authoritatively and that you have something interesting and original to say when it comes to making your own argument.

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Top 10 Term Paper Writing Mistakes

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Despite the fact that most university assessments take the form of essay writing, relatively few professors bother to explain the fundamentals of essay writing to their students. As a result, the same mistakes tend to recur in students’ essays.

Here are ten of the most common:

  1. Not following the rubric. All essays must meet certain basic requirements, such as an appropriate number of sources to include, the word count, the correct referencing style, and so on. They must also meet the deadline. Failure to follow the rubric will result in automatic deductions from the final grade.
  2. Not answering the question. Some students begin by answering the question directly, only to drift off topic part way through the essay. Others change the essay question without permission in order to make it easier to answer. Other, more industrious, think they need to show off as many aspects of their extensive reading as possible, even if it has little or nothing to do with the question asked. In each case, there is a failure to stick to the question asked. This can be avoided by paying close attention to the precise wording of the essay question and checking at the end of each paragraph that it answers the question in some way.
  3. Little or no evidence of independent research. Doing the reading is normally the most time-consuming part of producing an essay. Often students simply cannot be bothered. This results in essays that fail to situate their arguments with respect to the relevant academic literature. Such essays consequently tend toward mere expressions of opinion rather than critically scholarly analysis. The antidote is, of course, to take the time to do the reading and to make sure you refer to relevant texts in your essay. Only texts that are referenced in the body of the essay should appear in the bibliography.
  4. The student’s own voice gets lost. The opposite tendency to not doing the reading is to read too widely and to get lost within the arguments of other scholars. Such papers often amount to: “scholar X say this, scholar Y says that, and scholar Z says something else.” The student’s own voice is absent, drowned out by the opinions of others. The trick is to evaluate the literature critically – to say what you think about it in the context of your own argument, not simply to cite the literature for the sake of citing it.
  5. Poor presentation. This can take a variety of forms. For example, the essay may become increasingly illegible as the printer ink runs out. It may be printed using the wrong font type and font size (Times New Roman, size 12 is the default option), or it may inconsistently use a variety of font types and font sizes. The line spacing and the margins may be wrong (double-spaced with 2.5cm margins is the norm). There may be a large blank space in the middle of the essay because of a word-processing error. The essay might display the student’s name instead of a student number (most universities prefer the latter so as to facilitate anonymous grading). In most cases, a simple proof-read of the final copy of the essay before submission is enough to detect presentational errors so that they can be eliminated.
  6. Poor spelling and grammar. Good spelling and grammar are like good manners: they make it easy for the reader to follow the flow of the essay without having to pause in order to ask: what is the student trying to say here? There is no excuse for poor spelling and grammar, because all reputable word processors have a tool to check for spelling mistakes and grammatical inconsistencies. Non-native English speakers are advised to have a native English speaker proof-read their essays prior to submission in order to make sure that their English flows properly.
  7. Poor referencing. For most Arts and Humanities and Social Science subjects, referencing nearly always falls into one of three styles: MLA, Harvard, or APA. Within each style, students generally only need to know how to reference books, book chapters, and journal articles, as well as how to format a bibliography. Yet, a sizeable minority of students fail to invest the short amount of time needed to learn correct referencing. Consequently, they get a lower grade than they need to even if the quality of their argument is high. Referencing style guidelines are easy to find online: it pays to familiarize yourself with them.
  8. Failure to grasp key concepts. Where students start work on an essay at the last minute, do not read enough secondary literature, and/or fail to invest enough time in thinking through what they have read, they run the risk of not grasping key concepts. This reflects a basic failure of understanding. Usually the best remedy is simply to do the work in the first place, or else to make use of your professor’s office hours if you are still struggling to understand.
  9. Poor structure. Essays that have not been properly thought out tend to exhibit poor structure. There is no obvious rationale as to why ideas have been arranged in the order they have been. This makes it hard to follow the argument. There is little or no logical progression to poorly structured arguments, and their hallmark is always that the reader never knows what to expect next. Good structure is put in place at the planning stage of the essay. Do not start writing as soon as you have finished the reading; instead take a moment to be clear about what it is you want to argue and how you intend to argue it. Clearly structured essays might make arguments for and against a particular thesis (rebutting counterarguments along the way). Or they might work through material/events in chronological order. Or they might proceed topic by topic or text by text. There is no single right way of structuring an essay, but a sensible rationale must be inferrable.
  10. Plagiarism. This is passing someone else’s ideas off as your own. In its crudest form, students simply copy and paste parts of another author’s writings from the internet. Professors usually spot this immediately, because the writing style suddenly changes. A more subtle form of plagiarism involves paraphrasing someone else’s ideas and presenting them as your own without giving due credit to that person. Again, professors often recognize when students are stealing someone else’ argument. Sometimes students plagiarize unintentionally by not including enough references to make clear that another person’s ideas are being invoked. Paying someone else to write your essay for you also counts as plagiarism and carries severe penalties if detected. Most universities these days offer guidance on how to avoid plagiarism, and resources are also freely available online. The simplest way, however, is to make sure you include a reference every time you invoke an idea that is not your own.

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Risk and Reward in Your Undergraduate Career

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Grades are important, right?
More important than anything, right?
No, wrong. Sometimes you have to take risks that may result in a slightly lower grade for a bigger post-college reward. It’s easy enough to cram all the stuff you need for a multiple-choice exam. It’s a lot harder to weave a basket. The distinction is critical. In college, you are most likely to be handed a multiple-choice exam because they’re easy to create, easy to grade, and the grading can be done by a machine or that machine called a teaching assistant.

After college, no one is going to give you a multiple-choice test. You will be expected to weave exceptional baskets in huge quantities in very short times. If you’re in computer science, you know the enormous difference between regurgitating syntax rules and writing a program that actually works. If you’re in math, you know the enormous difference between spouting back an old theorem and discovering and proving a new one.

Even in the allegedly “softer” fields, the distinction applies. In some staff departments in some corporations, you may be asked to write research studies, but in most of them most of the time, you will be managing for results.

The upshot: work on mastering the material, even if cramming and forgetting will get you a slightly better grade right now. You’ll trade a few tenths of a point for a much more solid career.

Finally, if you want your prof to notice you, make introductions for you, find you internships, and so on, master the material. Most profs are good at spotting “skaters” and will not go out of their way to help them.

Comparing the G7 Educational Systems Part-1

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The term G7 sounds like a computer chip, but it is actually a nickname for the “Group of 7” countries: The U.S., Japan, France, Germany, Italy, U.K., and Canada. Famous for their higher levels of economic development compared to other nations, these countries also have highly developed educational systems. If you want to work in one of these nations, you would do well to familiarize yourself with their educational systems, since a degree from one of these systems will improve your odds of being able to work in these countries.

                In the United States, schools exist in three main forms: primary, secondary, and post-secondary (or tertiary). Primary generally runs from kindergarten to around grade 8. Then, all students go to secondary, commonly known as high school, which is usually grades 9-12. The states have wide latitude for outlining their requirements, and there is a significant amount of standardized testing, which varies based on the city, state, and national mandates at the time. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act, all states must test children, but there is no major national test required. You have probably heard of the SAT or ACT, but these tests are generally given to assess college readiness – they are not school-leaving requirements. Upon leaving high school, students who want to continue their educations have a wide range of options [[LINK TO BLOG ABOUT IVY vs COMMUNITY COLLEGE}.  Most areas have community colleges, or junior colleges that allow students to take prerequisite courses. All states have public institutions funded in part by the state (though nationwide, state appropriations have been declining rapidly). Two-year degrees are called Associate’s degrees, and four-year degrees are usually called bachelor’s degrees. While these degrees are often completed in 2 or 4 years, many people may take longer due to changing their area of study. The area of study a student chooses is usually called a “major,” and he or she can have the option of supplementing it with a “minor.” The type of degree a school can award is based on its accreditation. Private schools are the same, although the majority offer four-year degrees. These schools, generally far more expensive than public ones, are not generally funded by the state, although they may receive federal student funds for students eligible for financial aid. After the four-year degree, some institutions offer master’s or doctoral degrees. Master’s degrees are usually two to three years, and doctoral degrees vary widely. Education in the United States is highly diverse and politicized, and changing rapidly. Citizens of the United States are largely very dissatisfied with the cost of higher education and the diminishing job opportunities available to college graduates. The situation may change rapidly in the next few years.

                Meanwhile, across the pond in the United Kingdom, the higher education system is fed into by the national education system. Students in the UK achieve further education qualifications like the A-levels, the International Baccalaureate, Scottish Highers, or qualifications from abroad that allow them to enter university. There are two main forms of higher education in the UK: Undergraduate and postgraduate. Undergraduate education includes bachelor’s degrees, which are similar to those of the U.S. except they generally take three, not four years to complete. Degrees also have distinctions such as ordinary or Honours. Undergraduate degrees are classified as follows: First class honours (a “first”), second class honours, upper division (2:1), second class honours, lower division (2:2), third class honours (a “third”), or an ordinary degree (a pass). The higher the class of honours, the greater one’s academic distinction. The honours system is generally used for three-year undergraduate degrees.

Another UK degree is the Foundation degree, which is awarded after the first two years of an Honours degree. However, it includes work-based learning sponsored by an employer. A student’s area of study is known as a course. A DipHE (or Diploma of Higher Education) course is roughly akin to the American Associate’s degree in that it is a two-year, foundational degree (though not a Foundation degree) and can be used to transfer into a four-year course. These, too, are often job-related. Common fields for this degree include nursing and social work. A certificate of Higher Education is equivalent to the first year of an Honours degree, and are considered the most basic post-secondary educational qualification. They can be used to transfer into university-level studies, or for career changes. Finally, a Higher National Diploma (HND) is a two-year course that can, with enough success, lead to a third-year of the degree. These different diplomas comprise the various offerings at the undergraduate level, but the postgraduate level has its own opportunities. For example, there are master’s degree courses, MBA courses, PhD’s / doctorates (only available for those who achieve at least a 2:1 result), and numerous postgraduate diplomas and qualifications. Professional and vocational qualifications are available, as are conversion courses. Although the UK is smaller than the US, there are still numerous educational opportunities in a variety of topics.

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Salary Expectations for Various Degrees

Salary expectations for various degrees

Professors

Everyone loves to speculate on the “best” and “worst” majors. Recently, Payscale.com and Yahoo! released a list of the 10 “worst” majors, ranking them on the basis of how many students with these degrees are underemployed. These majors included perennial punching bags, such as English and the liberal arts, as well as more surprising picks, such as economics and business administration.

Payscale.com ranked the top “Majors that Pay You Back” which included Petroleum Engineering, Actuarial Mathematics, Nuclear Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering. At the other end of the scale, the top 10 worst majors for salary potential included Child & Family Studies, Elementary Education, Social Work, Athletic Training, Human Development, Special Education, Biblical Studies, Horticulture, Exercise Science, and Culinary Arts. These lists can be useful, and if you want to make the big bucks, you can think about which flavour of engineering interests you the most! However, it’s important to keep in mind that each of these lists concerns only medians – and Payscale.com’s methodology excludes advanced degrees. Struggling to major in something you hate might prove more difficult than succeeding at something you’re interested in and passionate about. Often, people switch careers many times in this day and age. Your major is not your fate, nor is it your destiny. I’ve known many students who went on to work in very different fields, or who switched fields entirely for grad school and transformed yet again in their professional lives. At the same time, however, you need to be realistic. You are far more likely to land a solid job if you establish yourself as an extraordinary student (Or even as a merely above-average one!) in a “mid-payscale” major than if you are a below-average student in a big-bucks major.

                Ultimately, it’s hard to develop passion for something you only feel “meh” about (if you doubt this, try dating someone you’re not attracted to). And it can be very easy to succeed at something you care about. How can you increase your odds of landing a decent job? No matter what major you choose, be an extraordinary student. Prepare well (LINK TO OTHER BLOG). Ask for help if you need it. Carve out opportunities for yourself: it’s easy to stop being a student when you leave class, but understand that you are laying the groundwork for your future when you’re in school. Spend your spare time reading up on your field and searching for as many opportunities as you can. Network by establishing relationships with your professors (no, not that kind of relationship). Use your school breaks and summers wisely. Not everyone can afford to work for free as an intern, but everybody should spend some time during their breaks tweaking their resume, searching for scholarships and grants, staying informed about the latest developments in their fields, or even just getting ahead on reading. One great way to network and learn more about your field is to attend a professional conference. While conferences are seldom cheap, student rates are often available, and sometimes you can even get in for free if you offer to volunteer. It’s a great resume-builder, a great networking opportunity, and one way to hedge the bet you’re making on your future. At these events, you can see the latest research, hear panels on professional development, and even put in “face time” with the famous authors of your textbooks! I can’t say it enough: Your major’s salary potential is not your fate. Life is full of surprises. However, you can increase your chances of landing a great job by maximizing your success in school – whether you’re majoring in petroleum engineering or culinary arts.

 

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