Textbooks Go Digital

Are Apple's iBooks a Sign of the Future?

eBooks have grown in popularity in recent years, with people turning to Kindles, nooks, and even iPads to read. So, it was only a matter of time before academic books became accessible digitally as well. With Apple unveiling its iBook technology, which includes iBook textbooks and an iBook app for iPads, students might not be lugging cumbersome textbooks around campus for much longer.

iBooks offer a number of advantages over the traditional textbook. Students will no longer have to search through an index and flip from page to page to find a definition or topic. Instead, iBooks will include a search feature, where students can easily access information. Likewise, navigation will be easier with a textbook in digital form. Textbooks will be more visually engaging as well. Rather than lots of text and minimal images, iBooks will feature interactive images and videos to show students what they’re reading about rather than simply telling them.  Finally, students who rely on their trusty highlighter to mark important content can use highlighting and bookmarking tools in the iBook, allowing them to make digital notations.

Transitioning to iBooks and other eTextbooks won’t happen overnight, however. First, the thousands of textbooks used at schools across the country will have to be translated into digital versions, which certainly isn’t a minor undertaking. While the cost of iBooks will be less than a traditional textbook, students would need an iPad, which starts at $500, to use the iBooks feature. So, there’s a significant upfront cost that some students simply will not be able to afford.

eTextbooks are promising, and they are likely the future of learning. However, there are a number of hurdles to overcome before iBooks become the standard on college campuses across the country.

Vassar Accepts, then Rejects 76 Students

School is Doing Damage Control After Major Error

Last week, 76 early-admission applicants to Vassar College received what they wanted—a binding acceptance letter to the school for next academic year. A few hours later, they received an email that their acceptances were sent in error, and they were not admitted to the school. Now, Vassar is doing some damage control while the students are reeling from this upsetting experience, with some even threatening legal action. Check out the full write-up on this incident from The New York Times.

Early admission at Vassar is binding, meaning that if the student gains admission, he or she must attend Vassar and withdraw applications at other schools. This binding contract is leaving some of the rejected students (and their parents) to argue that Vassar must admit the students due to the binding nature of early admission. A nice try, yes, but I don’t think that argument holds up.

Vassar made a mistake—a mistake that left 76 high-school seniors very disappointed. But, the school remedied the mistake within hours. It’s not as if the students spent weeks planning their life at Vassar, only then to be told they weren’t admitted. The school is entirely to blame for this mistake, and its offer to reimburse the students’ $65 application fee doesn’t take the sting away. Vassar also offered to reach out to other schools if the students happened to withdraw their applications during that short time frame in which they thought they were going to Vassar. Frankly, it’s the least the school could do.

However, the mistake doesn’t mean that rejected students should be admitted. There are hundreds of other applicants for regular admissions still waiting to hear back from Vassar. Giving the rejected students a spot due to a clerical error means some deserving students who applied for regular admissions won’t get in. That situation is equally unfair. Vassar can’t really win here, but it has to help the rejected students as best it can and move on. It’s the best situation for both parties.

Choosing a Major or Choosing a Career?

A recent article in The Washington Post discussed the differences between college majors. Some lead to obvious jobs; others, such as liberal-arts degrees, leave graduates with a well-rounded education but not necessarily any career direction. An 18-year-old adjusting to adult life and life away from home isn't always prepared to make the right decision when it comes to a college major. But, can that wrong decision doom him or her, career-wise, for years to come?

Most incoming college freshman likely choose a major based on their interests. You like math? Consider accounting. You love to write? English is an obvious major. You're fascinated by the planets? Find a school with an astronomy major. Students who choose a major this way might be studying material that they enjoy, but does it lead them in the right career direction?

A broader, more useful way to choose a major might be to consider future prospects. A talented writer doesn't need to major in engineering just to land a job, but students should consider their skills in the context of their career goals and the job market. If, for example, a student plans to go to medical school, a major in one of the sciences will provide him or her with the knowledge he needs to excel at the next level. If a student is interested in business but isn't sure what area to specialize in (finance, accounting, or marketing, for example), he or she can research the job prospects for each area to get a feel for what major will best prepare him or her for landing a job upon graduation.

Today's job market is competitive, so students need to set themselves up to find jobs in industries that are growing. That's not to say that students should forget liberal-arts majors, but they should choose them wisely with a career path in mind.

Grad School Application Tips

Earn an Acceptance With an Impressive Application

Now is the time of year when undergraduate students are finalizing their graduate school applications before they nervously wait for an acceptance or rejection this spring. Submitting a complete, not to mention impressive, application is a must to earn an acceptance to your dream graduate school. Make sure your application stands out among the thousands of other applicants this year.

If you're going to invest the time and money to apply to graduate school, you want to make your application count. Here's a checklist of items to run through before you submit that completed application.

  • Check materials. Make sure that your application contains all of the materials the school requested. A graduate application package often includes an application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statements/essays, and resumes.
  • Write thoughtfully. Your personal statement or essays are your opportunity to let the admissions committee know you beyond a GPA and GRE score. Make it count. Your personal statement or essay should conform to the guidelines posted by the school. Make sure you're within the word count and single- or double-space your document depending on what the school requests. Answer the question succinctly, and don't stray off topic. A focused, well-thought-out personal statement or essay can boost your chances of admission.
  • Proofread. You don't want a grammatical error or typo to be the difference between an acceptance or rejection. Proofread your application materials carefully. Have a professor or trusted friend read them as well. It's worthwhile to hire a professional editor to review these materials, which need to be perfect in order to earn you admission to your graduate school of choice.

Get Organized This Semester

Spring semester started at most schools this week, meaning students are studying new syllabi, buying books, and preparing for another 16 weeks of learning. Balancing a heavy

courseload can be a challenge for many students. Staying up-to-date on class assignments, writing papers, and studying for midterms and exams can overwhelm even the most focused student. Check out these tips to stay organized this semester.

Staying organized can have a direct impact on your academic success. An organized student is able to look ahead and anticipate upcoming work. As a result, he or she won't be throwing together a 20-page research paper the night before it's due. Here are a few organization tips for this semester:

  • Invest in a planner. Whether you use a web-based calendar or a notebook you keep in your backpack, a planner allows you to track assignments and their due dates. You won't be surprised by that exam or project if you keep your planner up to date. You can track your non-class activities in here as well, which allows you to find a balance between school and extracurricular fun.
  • Look ahead. Sure, that assignment that is due in 48 hours is more important than next week's midterm, but don't forgot about future assignments. Every week, look ahead to the next few weeks to assess your workload. If you don't have anything due this week but have a paper due next week, get a jump start on it during this slow period.
  • Go to class. While this might seem like an obvious suggestion, missing class can directly impact your ability to stay organized. You likely will miss important information if you regularly miss class. If you have a legitimate reason to miss class, catch up with a student or the professor to find out what you missed. If a due date changed or an exam was moved back, you need to know right away.

Writing Resources on Campus

Whether you're an engineering major or an English major, you're going to have to write a paper or two during your college career. Earning a passing grade in English 101 is likely a requirement for you to advance in your academic program, so it is essential that you submit well-written papers. Take advantage of campus resources to polish your paper and earn an "A."

Writing centers are popping up on more campuses nationwide, and these centers are an excellent resource for students. Rather than offering remedial writing help for students who desperately need it, most writing centers work with students of all writing skill levels to help them improve their papers. Don't expect someone to rewrite your paper for you, however. Writing center tutors, or consultants as they are often known, are fellow students who assess the big picture of your paper. Does your research support your thesis? Is your paper structured properly? Do your paragraphs flow well and make sense? Writing center consultants consider these questions when collaborating with you on your paper.

Visiting this useful campus resource does more than improve your paper and boost your grade. It also helps you improve your writing, which will benefit you in many ways. No matter what career path you choose, you're going to have to write. You might be writing advertising copy for a firm or composing an email to a colleague. During your higher education, improve your writing skills with the help of your campus writing center.

Check out the links below for some writing centers at schools across the country.

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