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College in America - what is a Liberal Arts education, and is it for you?

So, you are looking at American universities, but aren’t sure what you want to study. You’re interested in multiple subjects and don’t know which you want to pursue. A liberal arts program might be the one for you. Many colleges in the US are liberal arts schools or have liberal arts programs, but what does that really mean? 

Essentially, if a school claims to be liberal arts based, it means that you will not just be focusing on one specific subject throughout your time at the university. Instead, the college will encourage you to branch out and explore many different fields before finding the one that is right for you. Professors and advisors will also help you find creative ways to combine your interests to ensure you pursue the right career. Liberal arts schools also focus on creative thinking and problem solving techniques by emphasizing student discussions in classes and by combining multiple fields in one class. These programs also tend to focus on social and physical sciences, as well as literature, philosophy, and mathematics. While you will be studying many different things, you will still have a major which you will focus on above the others. By combining all of these different subjects, students get a broad and impactful education while getting a new perspective of society and the world.

As the technology industry has begun to spread and become one of the largest internationally, people have started thinking that liberal arts degrees are no longer valuable and they should take computer science instead, but this is not true. Going to one of these schools will help you develop many skills that employers value and will help you in the real world. Some of these skills include a mature sense of responsibility, strong and clear communication, unique problem solving techniques, and more. These things will help you to succeed in any sort of professional setting, whether it is in business, science, or architecture.

Whether you know what you want to study or not, a liberal arts education could be beneficial to you, widening your horizons and teaching you things you never realized were so interesting before. You can develop skills that will help you for the rest of your life and will present you as a valuable worker to an employer. So before you decide which school you want to attend and what you want to study, think twice about liberal arts; it might just be for you.

If you are thinking of going to college in the US, stay tuned for GradTrain's college matching tool that will launch soon here: https://www.gradtrain.com







4 Reasons to go to college in the south

Universities are great in the north and south alike, but there are some differences between the two. At GradTrain, we support schools from both regions, but want to help to point out the comparisons between the two to help you make the best decision you can. Here is a list we comprised of some of the most attractive aspects of attending a southern college.

The Weather

The weather at your university will make a difference to your experience, whether you realize it or not. If you go to school in the southern United States, you will experience a warm, sunny climate most of the year. Near the middle of the country, winters can be cool, but they will be short and mild. From there, the further south you go, the longer it stays hot, making your year a constant summer. Houston weather and Phoenix weather, for example, are much warmer than the weather in NYC or Washington DC. This can be a huge benefit, allowing you to have nice walks to classes, hang outside with your friends, and have outdoor parties.


The Social Scene
Because of the nicer climate, the social life at southern colleges can also be more active. During the winter at northern universities, parties can seem to stop altogether due to the snow and cold, and if they do exist, they are normally smaller house parties. In the south however, there is no seasonal problem. Therefore, the parties are big and outdoors all year long. This creates a happy, carefree atmosphere that might be for you.

Happier Local Area
There have been studies done that prove that living in warmer areas simply create a happier culture. Long, cold winters filled with grey skies and long nights can create seasonal depression, while bright blue skies and a blazing sun have a tendency to make people smile more. This can be super helpful at your university during stressful times, allowing you instant relief by stepping outside and being surrounded by happy faces and a beautiful day.

Greek Life
Another aspect of the south that stands out above the north in general is the prominence of Greek life. Of course, there are universities in the north that have a heavy emphasis on fraternities and sororities, but in general, these organizations have a larger presence at southern schools. If you are interested in becoming part of a very close group of people, this could be the thing for you. Another bonus about greek life is that you can typically get a higher salary if you were a member because of the connections you will make.

For any other questions you have, pertaining to choosing the right college or anything else related to your secondary education, check out GradTrain.com

5 best methods of moving out of your dorm


Everyone hates to admit it, but while you’re cramming to study for final exams, you also need to think about packing up your dorm room and all the contents of your university home. The one thing people hate more than finals stress is having to empty out the place you’ve called home for an entire year, and leaving it in an organized fashion to assist in your future move-ins. Luckily, this article contains some helpful moving tips for you to incorporate into your packing habits.

1. Start as early as possible
Although preparing for final exams is most peoples’ first priority, the last thing you want is to take your last final and only have a few hours to pack before you leave for good. Starting early resolves this issue because you divide your packing into manageable chunks. For instance, you could start by packing all of your cold-weather clothes and jackets because, odds are, you won’t be wearing them in spring time. 

2. Use boxes, bins, or vacuum sealed bags
These containers will be your best friend during packing sessions. They keep all of your items in a confined, clean space, and, importantly, they are able to be labeled so you can know exactly where you left everything upon your return. 


3. Storage units are your friend
If you plan on packing up your entire dorm into luggage to return home with, you are going to be slammed with heavy overage fees by airlines, and the bags will take over the majority of your garage or guest bedroom back home. Relieve yourself of this burden by paying a small fee to keep your belongings in a storage locker. Near every college campus you’ll be able to find several moving companies that will hold your belongings, and some offer extra services, such as pickup and dropoff, free of any additional charge. 

4. Purge the things you don’t really need
During the year it is a fact that college students accumulate a bunch of new stuff. Ranging from free T-shirts to room decor, these additions will cause you to have more belongings when you leave school than when you entered. The options here are clear, you can keep the new items that you’ve acquired, but it might require you to get rid of the items you don’t really use anymore. Or, that free hat that you got at a fair, that you will probably never wear again, can meet its new home. The trash can. 

5. Be a thorough cleaner
Last, but not least, take a good look around your home and try your best to remove any filth that remains. Use some glass cleaner and a rag to clean up areas that tend to accumulate dirt and dust over the course of the year, like the bathroom or kitchen areas. Check your closets, underneath the bed, and in between couch cushions as these areas tend to be traps for objects and dust. By doing this, you not only leave on good terms with your soon-to-be former landlord, but you’ll also make sure that you don’t leave anything behind!

For any more tips on how to solve your college problems, or make the most out of your experience studying abroad, head to GradTrain.com

It’s graduation season – time to look within and beyond

As the end of the semester brings warm weather and lesser motivation to study for exams, it seems that everyone in college is ready to burst. 9 consecutive months of studying culminate into this frenzy, where students simultaneously work diligently and savor the sunshine with their friends one last time before summer break. However, there is also a strong feeling of sentimentality in the air, as seniors wrap up their university careers with one last hurrah: Graduation.


No one wants to admit that their undergraduate stay is over, hiding behind the gaping smiles and warm family embraces. But graduation creates this unique nostalgia – where students are proud of their incredible accomplishments and also apprehensive of what obstacles lay ahead of them in the future. Not to worry. Once you toss that graduation cap up in the air, the world will not begin to crumble before your eyes. In fact, recent grads often take their senior summer as an opportunity to celebrate their last bit of freedom before entering the working world, viewing it as a holiday for their achievements. Whether you have a full-time job waiting for you next September or are still deciding your next steps, this time period gives you a great chance to look back on your personal growth in college and look forward to what your future interests might look like.

Reflection:

Four years of college can fly by, and after all the final exams and counselling sessions are finally complete, it is good to pause and think about the memories, skills, and relationships that you’ve formed. Over the course of this self-analysis, you will learn a lot about yourself that will not only change the way you view yourself, but hopefully bring you great pride and closure as well, knowing that you gave your best effort.



Forward-Thinking: After you’ve looked back, you are now ready to look ahead. You might have a reflex to find a job as quickly as you can, so you do not immediately become unemployed after school, but this reflection period can be a helpful tool for you when taking steps toward your future. Often times people dive into their careers too quickly, without considering other opportunities. Being in the prime of your youth, recent graduates can seize the chance to travel the world or devote time to volunteering, as you are not yet restricted by career requirements, dependent family members, and other factors that reduce the freedom of adults. You could also continue advancing your education by applying to graduate school. If you take the time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and the lessons that you learned from completing college, it can only benefit your future prospects. When you tell the truth to yourself, it guides your future actions to produce more happiness in your life. 

If you’re thinking about attending graduate school, check out GradTrain’s admissions predictor to learn more about how you can be successful. 

Why you should extend your stay after a term abroad



Studying abroad in a foreign country can be an exhausting feat. Not only do you have to learn the challenging concepts taught in your classes, but you also have to adapt to a new culture, people, and environment. It can take awhile for you to feel fully adjusted, and, even then, you might feel pangs of homesickness along the way. However, as you read here, you will see why you should consider extending your stay abroad, before finally returning to your home country.



1. Airfare is expensive

You’ve already spent a large amount of money on your flights overseas, so you should try to see as much as you can while you are living in this side of the world. Rather than paying for flight tickets to study abroad and then having to invest in separate airline tickets for your next trip, you could combine two trips in one, and only need one round trip ticket.

2. You are at your peak
As most students going abroad for a semester are in their 20s, this can be seen as the prime of your youth. You have no children depending on you, no career obligations, and you’re in the best shape of your life. If there was any age where you could withstand long plane rides, late nights of parties, food, and memories, now is the time. 


3. Share experiences with new friends and old
While studying abroad, you will absolutely make new relationships with the native people of that country. Because it is difficult to maintain overseas relationships, due to time differences and varying agendas, this could be the last time you see these people for a long time. You should definitely try to take advantage of the opportunity you have with natives, seeing their homes, cultures, and lifestyles. A great time to do this is when you’ve finished your studies and are on break because you can fully immerse yourself into that way of life, without distractions from schooling. Additionally, it’s likely that at the same time of your abroad term, other friends from your homeland could also be studying abroad. In this case, sharing these experiences can make memories that will last a lifetime and strengthen the bond you share. 

One important consideration for deciding to extend your stay is that you must be eligible, according to your visa status upon entering the country. If you have a F-1 visa, you are eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) Status, which will allow you to stay if you are training in a field directly related to your studies, for up to 12 months. However, if you are studying with a J-1 visa, then you are not eligible for OPT status, so you would be required to get approval from your RO and dean. If that is satisfied, then you can begin paid or unpaid work for up to 18 months in that country. 


If you have any other questions about studying abroad, or want the best tips on travelling during your stay, visit GradTrain.com. 


How artificial intelligence can help prevent college admissions fraud


Reports show that over 50 families were involved in an elaborate scheme of bribery to place their children in America’s top universities. Some of these students were falsely advertised as athletes, even if they had never played a sport. Among notable names in the guilty party are actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. In order to understand how fraud can be prevented, it must first be assessed how this system has functioned. 

The Problem:

The scandal was operated through the admissions prep company The Key, and was overseen almost entirely by CEO William Rick Singer. Singer operated this admissions scheme with two options. Interested parties could either bribe test proctors to forge SAT and ACT scores, or take advantage of college coaching bribery to admit students using fake athletic credentials. In some cases, individual bribery exceeded $1.3 Million USD. 
The cultural response has been just about unanimous, as frustration from society places pressure onto college admission teams to ensure fraud and bribery is absent in the process of applying to university. Though moral faults in the admissions system are tricky to spot, Artificial Intelligence and smarter technology will play a vital role in fraud protection in the future. 

How to Come About a Solution:

The first step that can be effective is already partially in motion: online standardized testing. Test Proctors are highly susceptible to bribery as they are typically of low incomes and low motivation. By computerizing the SAT and ACT, rather than facilitating the exams on paper, College Board can use Proctor Caching, a software filter and recognition system, as a safeguard mechanism for preventing cheating and test falsification. These filtering methods will make fraud on standardized testing very difficult, as the observation of tests can rely on artificial intelligence instead of individual test proctors. 
In addition, advancements in social media can play a role in preventing fraud of athletic ability, as high school sport-specific applications in the market can help assure admitted student athletes are honest. With dozens of apps focused on student highlight reels, and nearly unanimous public access to simple filming, mandating a profile of athletic videos, statistics, and highlight reels allows for colleges to catch fraudulent submissions more easily. This accountability is common in other admissions aspects; for example any art student applying for scholarships can be expected to submit a detailed portfolio of their work. Perhaps it is time to hold athletes to the same standard. 
There is also an ability to cut off the problem at the beginning of the process, with AI-driven matching tools that will scan the candidates’ background and assure that they are a good fit for the program to which they are applying. GradTrain has developed the first AI based admissions predictor and has been able to match students with universities at an accuracy rate of close to 90%. The AI model allows for continuous improvement, as the prediction continues to improve based on empirical outcomes data from the candidates who use the system. 

In the age of technological revolution, it is no surprise that artificial intelligence poses value to admissions fraud protection. However, this can only go as far as the public pushes it. In order to prevent college admissions scandals in the future, it is imperative that society places a harsh standard on fair play in the application process, as cultural pressure has shown time and again to insinuate better corporate behavior. Though corruption still looms, with technology and collective societal pressure, college admissions will hopefully move in the right direction. 

If you have any questions about your college admissions prospects, or want advice on how to get accepted to university without committing fraud, visit the GradTrain website

Big vs small universities - which is the best for you?


Good colleges and universities come in all shapes and sizes, and it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you. The larger universities, such as University of Michigan and University of Florida, can have up to 50,000 students (Miami Dade College has over 150,000!) while smaller schools, like Amherst College or Middlebury College, can be as low as 1,500.  Different sized schools have different benefits and drawbacks, and understanding these variations can help you decide where you belong. Some of the things you should consider before deciding which type of university you would like to attend are:


  • Class sizes
  • How well you get to know your professors
  • Access to clubs and activities
  • The overall student population.

1. Class Size

If you go to a larger university, the chances are your classes will have more people in them. This means that for your first few years, you may be in large lecture based classes with up to 300 other students. If you are the type of student who enjoys listening to professors speak and is not as vocal in class, this could be the thing for you. As you advance in university, your classes will get smaller in size as the subject becomes more specific, but you can definitely expect to have multiple large lecture classes. At a smaller school, you will still see large classes, but at a much lower rate. Typically, only popular introductory level classes have more than one hundred students at a time. Otherwise, more of your classes will be relatively small, with around 20 students, and they will be primarily discussion based. You will talk with students in conversations led by your professor and will be able to see other people’s perspectives on several issues. 

2. Getting to Know Your Professors

It can also be easier to develop a relationship with your professor, but larger classes allow for this as well. If you are someone who would have a better time engaging in dialogue during class and having an opportunity to know your teachers, smaller schools may be where you want to start looking. Either choice will give you a great education and teach you a lot on the path to earning your bachelors degree.

3. Clubs and Activities

When you go to a larger university, there will inevitably be more activities  to get involved in. There will be clubs that are more focused, and there will be a more diverse range of groups. Big schools also typically have a larger greek life presence and higher turnouts to athletic events, but it really depends more on the specific university. They often have larger party scenes as well, but this can actually make it difficult to get into parties if you are not involved in the group throwing them. From sports teams to religious groups, there will likely be more offerings at big schools, but this does not mean that these colleges are superior. Even at small schools, where there are fewer clubs, nearly all students find something to engaged themselves in, outside of class. There will still be a wide variety of activities, and new students are always welcome to join. The size of these groups will also likely be smaller and more intimate. Whether you choose a big or a small school, you will easily be able to find extra curricular activities to join.

4. Student Body

One of the most important things to consider when thinking about the size of the university you want to attend is the culture of the student body. Each school has a different feeling to it, and a larger or smaller campus definitely contributes to what that aura is. At a bigger college, you will be less likely to run into your friends when  walking from one place to another, whereas at a smaller one, this happens frequently. This can often give smaller universities a more friendly feel, as you know more of the people, who you happen to see around, but either way, you will have friends and acquaintances who you can meet up with whenever you want. Whether you choose a big or small school size is completely up to you to decide. These are only a few of the factors that the choice will affect, but no matter which option you select, you can have a great time and receive an excellent education. 

To find out which school is right for you, go ahead and try GradTrain's admissions predictor!

A new breed of degrees for aspiring international entrepreneurs

You may look at Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates and think – maybe the best way to become a successful technology entrepreneur and business leader is to drop out of a great school, yet the data shows that a very large proportion of the successful entrepreneurs worldwide,  studied and received a degree at the top universities around the globe
A better approach perhaps, would be to enroll in programs that provide students with practical tools and experience with entrepreneurship, during their degree, in addition to academic excellence. One example of such a school, that we would like to show as a case study, is Cornell Tech – a top school that now enables students to receive an Ivy League degree in New York City, that focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship. Many of the Cornell Tech alumni move on to start their own companies after graduation. 


Photo credit: Cornell Tech

Cornell Tech offers an MBA program – the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA,  focused on the foundations needed to become a successful entrepreneur. As part of the program, students complete product studios and startup studios, where they take real world business problems and design solutions to address them. This allows students to graduate with the knowledge and experience needed to become successful entrepreneurs and product leaders in technology companies. Another benefit of the program is that it takes only one year to complete.
When looking for a program that will set you up for success as an entrepreneur, we would suggest looking at these factors:

  • Brand and reputation of the school in general and as an entrepreneurship school specifically.
  • Curriculum – does it include hands on experience with entrepreneurship?
  • Staff / faculty – does it include academic experts as well as professors with practical experience as entrepreneurs?
  • Duration and cost of the program – these are factors that are always important, all the more if you are looking to make a change in your career and start you own company or join an existing company. If you can complete a prestigious degree in one year rather than two or three – it is a factor to consider.
To learn more about the Cornell Tech MBA program as well as regarding other programs offered by Cornell Tech, please visit this page.
Still not sure what university is your best fit? Visit www.gradtrain.com or download the GradTrain app to try our university matching predictor! 

Trains, planes and automobiles: traveling within the US

Once you've made it to a university or college in the US, you'll start to find that you’ll have quite a bit of free time to fill. Use your weekends and breaks to travel around your new area. Of course this depends on your location. For example, if you are attending school in California, there are many options within a few hours drive. If you are studying in more rural parts of the country, you might have to travel a bit further. Here are some tips for getting around and traveling in the states. Many American universities give long weekends for federal holidays, so take the opportunity to plan your trip in advance.

Andy Mitchell from Glasgow, UK
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Where to Go
Smaller Cities
Avoid the hordes of tourists and crowds and visit one of America’s smaller, but still interesting cities. Trade a trip to Miami, Florida for a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Flights and activities will be cheaper. Trade Chicago for Memphis. Trade Los Angeles for San Antonio. Beat the crowd by exploring new places you won't find on a tourist map. Check travel websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp for travel advice.

U.S National Parks
Attention outdoorsy types, U.S. National parks are for you. See the Grand Canyon in Arizona, watch the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, or stargaze in Yosemite Valley, California. The U.S. offers hundreds of thousands of miles of hiking trails all around the country. Go for the day or even a week. You won't get bored of the beautiful natural wonders and wildlife the U.S. has to offer.

Festivals
American music lovers flock from all over the country to attend their favorite music festivals. Tickets could be a bit pricey, but festivals are a huge part of U.S. music culture. Save money at festivals by camping or staying in motels close to the festival site, or book your hotel months in advance.

How to get there
Airlines
Although fairly costly, flying can be the world traveler’s best friend. To get the cheapest flights, you must book well in advance. Also try flying in the off season to avoid long lines and raised fares since the peak travel times for Americans are Thanksgiving (late November) and Christmas (late December). Some airlines will charge extra for luggage, so pack light and avoid oversized suitcases. Websites like Expedia and Travelocity are helpful for finding the cheapest flights. Expedia can also help you bundle deals on hotels and rental cars, saving you money overall.

Trains
The US Amtrak rail can get you from coast to coast for a reasonable price. The main caveat being the relatively long travel time. Check the Amtrak website to find information on train schedules and trips. A trip by train might be interesting for those who enjoy scenic views and prefer a low stress way to travel. Larger cities will have smaller rail lines that connect to the suburbs of the city, but these won’t take you to a different city. Trains can be the perfect way to get away from city life for awhile.




Car
Rental cars are a convenient way to roadtrip with your friends. Rental cars can be cheap, and you get the privilege of controlling the journey and stops along the way. Americans love to take road trips, there are even countless U.S. movies depicting this type of vacation. Use apps such as Waze and Google Maps to navigate the long winding US highways. The average rental car age in the US is 25, but some companies such as Zipcar offer discounts to under 25 college students. Of course, this trip will cost less if you already own a car.

Need additional help on how to make the best of your study abroad experience? Visit https://www.gradtrain.com