Hard data about registering early 

By Vanessa Swindell, director, Columbia College-Jacksonville

Vanessa SwindellIf you’ve been at Columbia College-Jacksonville for a few sessions, you’ve heard the following advice before. If this is your first session with us, take note:

Register early.

You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor, I can assure you. Classes are off and rolling for the March Session. If registering for this session was fraught with last-minute course additions, panicked calls to your academic advisor and paying extra to have your textbooks overnighted to you, consider these data Columbia College collected about students during the 2011-12 academic year.

While it should be noted that figures varied widely depending on the type of course (online or in-seat), the difference in success rates for students who register early and those who register late is significant.

  • The chances of successfully completing a course significantly declines with each day you wait to register beyond the start of classes during add/drop week.
  • Overall, 83% of adult students complete their courses when they register before the first week of classes.
  • Only 65% of adult students completed their courses when they waited until the Friday of add/drop week (the first week of class) to register.
  • Back in 2011-12, online students had until Friday of the first week of classes to register. Now you have until Wednesday of the first week of classes to register, and here’s why: 67% of students completed their online courses when they registered on the Monday of add/drop week vs. only 49% who waited until Friday of that week.

If you enroll in a course on Friday of the first week of the session, you would still miss the entire first week of reading and activities, and a portion of the second week. For online courses, this means missing graded work and instructors are not required to accept late work. Struggling to catch up is not the best start you can give yourself.

So, register early, talk to your advisor regularly and you won’t start any session in a frenzy!

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Last-minute tax tips for adult college students

taxes graphicIt’s tax season again and April 15 is just a couple of weeks away. You might be among the millions of Americans who haven’t filed yet. You might also be among the many adult students who have returned to school and discovered that filing taxes has changed a bit since the last time you were in college.

No worries. Keep calm and file on with these last-minute tips from Columbia College Student Success Services.

“First of all, take advantage of a couple of education tax credits,” says Rachel Smith, advisor with Student Success Services. “Education tax credits reduce the amount of tax you owe and are designed to make college easier to afford – not to be confused with a tax deduction, which reduces the amount of your income subject to tax.”

The first one is the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps pay for your first four years of college. This federal tax credit is set to expire in December 2017, though, so get cracking. Worth up to $2,500 per year, tuition and books count toward receiving the credit.

There is also the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,000 of undergraduate and graduate costs. This one is nice if you’re enrolled less than half time in undergrad classes or are taking classes for professional development. Tuition, enrollment fees and some books count toward receiving this credit.

Key tips: You can’t claim both credits for the same student in the same filing year. But if there is more than one student in your family, you can spread the tax credits around among family members. Also, there are income “phase-out” rules for these credits, meaning if hit the lotto this past year, you may not qualify for these credits.

So, how you do cash in on these credits? Well, you have to get moving on your tax return. The quickest way to do that is to e-file.

“According to the IRS, nearly 129 million Americans e-filed their taxes in 2015, which the agency website says is easy, secure, offers refund payment options and helps you get your refund faster,” says Smith. “You can purchase commercial tax software, have your accountant e-file for you or e-file for free through IRS Free File.”

That’s right, you can do it for free through the IRS website. Fear not – you can visit the IRS website and brag to your friends about how tax-savvy you are. In fact, you can even use the free IRS Interactive Tax Assistant, which will do a quick check to see which education credits you qualify for and provide you with a list of documents you’ll need to complete your return.

Already filed your taxes? Look at you, rock star! Know what you’ll love? Financial Literacy month in April! Check out the CC Money Stacks Facebook page for awesome financial tips all month long.

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Be an EBSCOhost eBook master in 3 minutes

ebook graphicIn this age of technology, you may think you need an e-reader and a fancy subscription to enjoy e-books. Columbia College Stafford Library to the rescue! With its EBSCOhost eBook Collection of more than 140,000 free titles, you can do your reading on any laptop or mobile device. This is really fantastic news if you’re working on a research paper or just want something leisurely to read between work, the gym, studying, laundry, sleeping and taking the kids to karate.

Getting started with the EBSCOhost eBook Collection is easy. Simply go the Stafford Library eBook Collection homepage, and sign in at the top (or create a free account).

From the homepage, you can search for books by keyword, browse by category such as Biographies & Memoirs, Fiction, Home & Garden, Political Science and Philosophy. You can also peruse “carousels” of featured and popular books like “Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters with David Bowie” by Jonathan Han and Sean Egan for your music appreciation class.

Once you select a book, you read a brief description, view the full table of contents, pull up the entire book in a PDF or even download it to read offline with easy-to-navigate pages! You can also add it to a folder to reference later.

Once you start reading, you can search the book for specific terms, highlight and look up words using the dictionary function, and create and save notes on specific pages as you read. Need a citation? It does that too. The citation generator gives you full citations for multiple styles, including MLA, APA, AMA and Chicago.

As if all of this weren’t enough, the EBSCOhost video tutorial will walk you through the eBook Collection and have you talking like a master librarian in less than three minutes. Want some one-on-one help? Call, text email or chat instantly with Stafford Library staff.


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Job Interviews 101: “What’s your weakness?”

job interviews career adviceThere comes a time in virtually every job interview when you will be asked the dreaded “What’s your weakness?” question.

Having thoroughly prepared for the interview, you chime in with an answer that shows you have no downsides, perhaps disguising a positive attribute as a weakness. Do answers like, “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I work too hard” sound familiar?

“These answers are the worst,” says Dan Gomez-Palacio, director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center at Columbia College. “They have been so overused that few employers are going to believe these answers, and they could show you as disingenuous and insincere.”

While employers are digging to see which skills or qualities you might lack, what they’re really up to is figuring out if you have a realistic and honest view of yourself – and if you can talk openly about it.

But there is such a thing as too much honesty. Common sense is your friend.

“A common mistake is to give a true weakness that will negatively impact the job you’re interviewing for,” says Gomez-Palacio. “You may not enjoy difficult people, but it’s not a weakness you would want to explain in an interview for a customer service position, for example.”

So what’s the best strategy to help you ace this question in your next interview? First, understand the expectations of the job thoroughly so you can identify which weaknesses could derail the interview. Then, choose an honest weakness you can use to answer the question and explain how it’s not going to slow your performance.

“Many people have a strong fear of public speaking, and that would make a perfectly good answer – but don’t stop there,” says Gomez-Palacio. “Follow up by saying what you are doing to mitigate this weakness. For example, ‘I often get very nervous speaking in front of groups. Knowing this weakness, I put myself in situations where I can safely practice public speaking. Giving myself that practice and gaining positive feedback is making me more confident in my communication skills.’”

This top-notch answer shows the employer that your weakness isn’t going to negatively impact your job, and that you have an impressive level of self-awareness and foresight needed to improve yourself. Go you!

For more master tips on interviewing, resumes, job hunting and more, contact the Grossnickle Career Services Center or visit their Facebook page.

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Six Sessions: What you need to know


Big changes are happening in academic year 2016-2017 and we’re excited to get students involved. We’re adding an additional session!  But this is not just another session, this sixth session marks the transition to our new semester structure. There will be three semesters: fall, spring and summer. Each semester includes an early and late eight-week session.

The primary purpose of this transition is to better serve our students. We understand the time it takes to receive a degree is a top priority. A sixth eight-week session puts the control in your hands by increasing your opportunity to complete your degree faster. By adding the sixth session, we are now able to offer registration for the entire semester, or both early and late sessions. This means students will be able to plan more effectively and register in less time.

Lastly, this transition allows us to increase our ability to meet the Columbia College mission, which is to “improve the lives of diverse undergraduate and graduate learners through exemplary teaching.” We will now be able to reach a broader student base by adding greater course flexibility and the ability to complete their degree faster.

These are big changes. We understand that you’ll have questions. Please be sure to check out the Six Sessions Student Portal for more information.

We’d like to hear from you! Help us build the FAQs by submitting your questions.

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