You Need Your Academic Advisor!

By Karen Beckstrom, director, Columbia College of Missouri-Elgin

westling scholarship

Location director Karen Beckstrom presents (from top) Michael Kmiecik and Alejandra Ortiz with the Frank S. Westling Scholarship.
Photo credit – Submitted by Karen Beckstrom

The Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory ™ regularly reveals that academic advising is only eclipsed by good teaching as the most important service a college can provide its students. Unfortunately, just like good medical care and legal advice, unless you seek it out, good academic advising won’t come looking for you. Being a small location here in Elgin, we typically can’t contact students just to see “if” they need assistance. It is in your best interest to regularly schedule an advising appointment, or at least contact your advisor once a semester (two sessions).

So why seek advising? There are many reasons, but the following are worthy examples:

Keep you on track toward degree completion and avoid taking unnecessary courses which could delay your degree completion. This is especially true if it has been quite some time since your last advising appointment and/or you have taken courses not specifically recommended by your advisor.

Opportunity! Your advisor will be able to look at your academic record and advise you about program enhancements such as minors, additional majors or dual degrees. Sometimes, based on the courses you have previously taken, only minor changes or additions to the courses you plan to take will allow you to achieve a significantly enhanced program outcome (e.g. minor; additional major; etc.).

No surprises! The last thing you want to have happen as you plan to attend commencement or begin seeking post-graduation employment is to find out when you will “really” graduate is different from when you “thought” you would graduate. If you are a senior with 12 hours or fewer left in your program, you should contact your advisor and submit a Declaration of Candidacy for Degree (found on CougarTrack/Menu/Student/Forms). This will trigger a final scrutiny of your academic record and provide a graduation audit. This will give you clearance to graduate and will prevent any unpleasant last-minute surprises.

To schedule an appointment with your advisor, contact us at the Elgin campus office at 847-214-7197 or email us at elgin@ccis.edu.

 Also, we here at the Elgin location would like to congratulate students Michael Kmiecik and Alejandra Ortiz, who are both Frank S. Westling Scholarship recipients for the 2016-17 school year! Both had to maintain a grade-point average of at least 3.0 through at least 15 credits here at Columbia College to qualify, as well as providing leadership and service to their community, school or country.

Congratulations, Michael and Alejandra!

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Find the Right Career for You

career graphic mazeSo you’re going back to school, but you still don’t know what major you want to pursue? Or you’ve chosen a major but you don’t yet know what new career path it will take you down?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Up to half of incoming college students don’t know what they want to major in, and many more will change their minds during the course of their undergraduate studies. Even if you do have a handle on what subject you want to specialize in, it can be a tall task to figure out how that will translate into a career.

The Grossnickle Career Services Center at Columbia College has your back, along with a bevy of resources to help you along the way.

You can email the center at careerservices@ccis.edu or call (573) 875-7425 to make an appointment with a career specialist to discuss your options or get help connecting with Columbia College alumni in the fields in which you’re interested. Alumni can be invaluable sources for information and networking purposes. The Grossnickle Career Services Center website also contains links to pages for guidance on what jobs certain majors prepare you for and in-depth information on professions under its “Major/Career Exploration” section.

Being a Columbia College student also grants you access to a free online career assessment tool called “Focus 2.” The system puts you through nine phases of evaluation that are designed to assess your interests, skills, personality, values and recreational activities to help you map out a path for both your educational and career aspirations. Simply contact the Grossnickle Career Services Center for a user name and password to get started.

Not everyone has it all figured out. Not everyone even has a good idea of where to start. If you fall into one of those categories, let Columbia College be your partner in the process.

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Free Money: The Scholarship Edition

From: Ready. Aim. Hire.

free money scholarship graphicWhen most people think of free money for college, they think scholarships. Scholarships are financial awards that are based on academic merit or other criteria that must be met in order to be eligible for funding. These funds are similar to grants in that you will not be required to pay any of the money back. Billions of scholarship dollars are awarded annually to U.S. students attending college. What might surprise you is that due to a lack of applications, some funds are never awarded. Can you imagine? The money is just sitting in a lonely bank account somewhere, wishing for a worthy scholarship applicant. Let’s find that money a good home.

You can be considered for a scholarship for any of the following reasons (and more):

  • Academic performance
  • Athletic achievement
  • Financial need (the FAFSA will be needed)
  • Religious affiliation
  • Minority status
  • Major of study
  • Heritage
  • Community affiliations

Scholarship Tips
Be sure to read the directions and criteria for each scholarship carefully. Many scholarships require that the FAFSA be completed first, so do it early each year (as soon as you complete your tax filings). Also, pay attention to deadlines. Many scholarships have early deadlines, but there are plenty of scholarships that award funds later in the year. Scared of writing an essay? Don’t be. Have someone you trust look it over and provide feedback, or take it to your college writing center for further analysis. Tweak your letter so it’s good, but make sure you don’t edit out your own style and voice. After all, it’s YOU these scholarships want to read. Not someone else.

Institutional Aid
Scholarships funded by your college or university are known as institutional aid. Some are automatically awarded to you and do not require a scholarship application. Others require a submission of some sort in order to be reviewed (application, letter, essay, etc.). Take a look at your college’s financial aid page for more information about what types of scholarships are available.

National Scholarships
National scholarships (sometimes called outside or external scholarships) are scholarships awarded by organizations outside of the college or university and are typically open to anyone that meets their criteria. Most people ignore national scholarships because they assume the application pool is too large and they won’t qualify. In reality, the pool is much smaller than one would think. Go to reputable scholarship sites such as Fastweb.com and CollegeBoard.org to find some great scholarships. Be careful of unknown sites that look sketchy, otherwise the only thing you’ll be awarded are viruses and a stolen identity. Not cool. When in doubt, ask a financial aid representative at your school for help.

Local Scholarships
Local organizations have money to give away, too! Get the information you need on local scholarship funds by visiting your local library or visitor’s bureau if your area has one. The librarian or bureau employee may not know specifics but could provide you with information on organizations in your area that you can research on your own. Again, don’t ever hesitate to chat with your financial aid representative.

Scholarship Finder
Why do the hard work when your school can do it for you? Columbia College’s scholarship finder tool is a great way to access national and local scholarships without hunting all over the place. There are hundreds of potential scholarships listed there as well as a few reputable third-party sites like the ones mentioned earlier.

Be sure to check out the “Adult Education” section of Columbia College’s “Ready. Aim. Hire.” webpage for more career and workplace resources.

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Be Smart in Selling Back Your Books

selling books back, books and moneyMost students don’t put a lot of thought into selling back their textbooks. Once the class is done, it’s usually out of sight, out of mind. But this is something you can think about even while you are shopping for your books.

If you approach the process of selling back your books shrewdly, you can maximize your returns. You’re never going to recoup the whole cost of the books. Their values degrade with the wear and tear of a semester. But you can take some steps to make sure you’re getting the most that you can.

Rachel Smith, Student Success Advisor at Columbia College, has three main things to keep in mind when you go to sell back your books.

  • See if the college bookstore will buy them back and at what price: Sometimes you can get a guaranteed buyback price through the bookstore when you purchase it, but you have a limited amount of time to sell that book back.
  • Don’t forget to check and see if you might need that book for a future course: For example, Accounting I and II might use the same book. No need to sell your book until you have finished Accounting II.
  • Take time to think about if this book will provide value in the future: Will you continue to reference the book or purchase another reference down the road? Don’t sell your books just for the sake of selling your books if it will cost you more in the future.

The site MoneyCrashers.com also has a story titled “How & Where to Sell Used College Textbooks for Cash” that offers some helpful tips.

Among them:

  • Clean up your book before selling it
  • Call around and check online to see which outlets may be offering more for your books
  • Wait until the start of the next semester to sell, rather than unloading them right after finals
  • See if you can set up trades with fellow classmates who will be taking the course in the future and have taken one of your upcoming courses

And be sure to email the Department of Student Success at studentsuccess@ccis.edu, call (573) 875-7860 or visit web.ccis.edu/offices/student-success.aspx for more tips on time management, study habits, financial awareness and more.

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Settling in to Six Sessions

six sessions graphicBy now, you’ve had your first experience registering for classes in Columbia College’s new six-session, three-semester academic structure. As a quick refresher, the college added an extra session to the school year make for “Early” and “Late” eight-week academic periods in each of the Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. This allows students more flexibility in navigating their way through a Columbia College education as well as giving them the option of completing their degrees in a more timely manner: associate degrees can be completed in 20 months, bachelor’s degrees in 3 ½ years and master’s degrees in as little as 12 months.

With the Early Fall session already underway, you can begin turning your attention to the Late Fall session and the rest of the academic year. Some of you may have already applied for your Late Fall classes over the summer, as registration opened in July and the new structure allows students to register for two sessions at a time. For those of you who didn’t, the Late Fall session starts October 24, and registration will continue until Wednesday of the first week of classes (October 26).

One of the biggest changes for Nationwide, Evening and Online and graduate students is your eligibility for federal direct loan programs. The amount of credit hours you need to be enrolled in each semester to be eligible for federal loans — at least six for undergraduate, at least three for graduate — is the same as before. The main change is that students must be enrolled in the credit hour threshold before any loan funds can be disbursed for that semester.

If you’re an undergraduate student who is already registered for, let’s say, three credit hours in both the Early and Late Fall sessions, then you’re in the clear. If you registered for less than six credit hours in the Early Fall session and have yet to register for any in the Late Fall, you’ll need to bring your total for the Fall semester up to at least six credit hours before you see any direct loan funds.

If you are receiving a Pell Grant, There will be no changes to the annual Pell Grant maximums available, and Pell funds will continue to be disbursed at the start of each class session for which you enroll, just like before.

Even though the Fall semester has just begun, it’s never too early to start planning ahead for the Spring. Registration for both the Early and Late Spring sessions will begin in late November, about five weeks before the Spring semester starts January 2. You don’t have to enroll for two sessions at a time but doing so helps you take advantage of the accelerated track to a degree that the Six Sessions initiative allows students.

The more you plan ahead, the easier it will be to get a head start on your future. For more information on Six Sessions or to send in a question to Columbia College staff, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.

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