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10 Interesting Facts about IQ Tests

June 20th, 2011

Since the 19th century, IQ tests have been the primary source for measuring human intelligence. Throughout the years, this standardized test has been used by psychologists and educators to predict an individual’s academic performance and career success, as well as diagnose mental retardation and learning disabilities. Even though its accuracy and reliability have been criticized over the past few decades, the IQ test continues to be the most widely used test for assessing mental ability. Here are 10 interesting facts about IQ tests:

  1. Men and Women’s IQ Scores Vary: Studies show that there is a slight difference in men and women’s IQ test scores. Although men and women are virtually equal in terms of IQ, men tend to score higher on certain sections, like spatial awareness, whereas women tend to score higher in language development and emotional intelligence. Despite the slight IQ variance between males and females, their overall intelligence is about the same.
  2. IQ is Related to Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding has been linked to raising children’s IQs and improving their academic performance. In 2008, a study was conducted to measure the effect of breastfeeding on children’s cognitive development after following a group of children for 6.5 years. The children were given an IQ test to measure their academic performance and cognitive ability. Those who were breastfed had higher scores and better overall academic achievement.
  3. IQ Tests Were Primarily Used to Diagnose Mental Retardation: For the most part, IQ tests are used to measure intelligence and career success, but it was once primarily used to diagnose mental retardation. An IQ score below 70 was considered the benchmark for mental retardation, according to the Binet-Simon’s test from the early 1900s. The IQ test helped separate mental retardation from mental illness, both of which were poorly understood in the 19th century.
  4. IQ Tests Only Measure Certain Intellectual Skills: The IQ test only measures certain intellectual abilities, such as analytical, mathematical and spatial skills. The test does not measure creativity, artistic, leadership, emotional and social skills or other abilities that also define one’s intelligence. The IQ test has been criticized for not testing job-specific knowledge and skills, therefore, making it ineffective at measuring all levels of intelligence and career success.
  5. Tests Were Once Scored by an IQ Formula: Nearly 100 years ago, psychologists used to compute a person’s IQ by using an IQ formula that divided the mental age by the actual age of the test taker, then multiplied this number by 100 to get a whole number for the final score. This formula proved to be inaccurate when comparing adults. Modern scoring compares a person’s performance by their age group.
  6. IQ Tests Have Cultural and Ethnic Bias: One of the main criticisms of IQ tests is that they show bias against cultural and ethnic groups based on the questions asked in the test. The IQ test lacks sensitivity to different cultures and ethnic groups, specifically the differences between Eastern and Western views of intelligence. The current IQ tests don’t take into consideration the different cognitive styles, communication skills and values that each culture and ethnic group possesses.
  7. Environmental Factors Affect IQ: A person’s IQ can be affected by several different environmental factors, such as malnutrition, socio-economic status, stress, support structure and attitude. Scientists also find that the quality of education can have a major impact on IQ scores, as well. Students attending poorly funded schools often score lower than those at financially stable schools.
  8. Birth Order Does Not Influence IQ: The theory that eldest children are smarter and more likely to succeed than their younger siblings is just wrong. A child’s intelligence is not determined by the order in which they were born, but is more likely to be affected by their personality, gender, age difference, family size and parental age.
  9. IQ Tests are Fallible: IQ tests are far from perfect and may not be an accurate indicator of one’s intellectual potential. There are several reasons why IQ tests are fallible. They have been shown to possess a cultural and ethnic bias that affects individual’s scores, and they do not measure the different kinds of intelligence or skills that make someone gifted.
  10. IQ Scores Are Not an Exact Measure of Intelligence, Wealth or Career Success: IQ tests may have been designed to assess intelligence, but they aren’t an exact measure of intelligence, wealth or career success for everyone. Those who score higher than average on the IQ test may have greater reasoning abilities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be more successful or make a higher income. The same goes for those who score poorly.

9 Health Reasons You Should Be Eating Less Meat

June 13th, 2011

For centuries, meat has been an essential part of the human diet and has made its way into just about every meal. Now researchers have discovered that a high-protein diet, consisting largely of meats, may not be as healthy as once thought. The saturated fats, sodium content and antibiotics in meat may be the culprit for the number of diseases, cancers and illnesses occurring in those who eat it on a daily basis. Simply eating less meat may be the key to preventing these health problems, and here are 9 reasons why you should cut back today:

  1. You’ll live longer: Although eating less meat may not necessarily add years to your life, it can prevent a premature death. Cutting back on red meat and processed meats may reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer, the two biggest killers of Americans. Red meat contains a high amount of saturated fat, which raises bad cholesterol levels and can increase your blood pressure making you more prone to having atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack.
  2. You’ll reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes: Eating fewer processed meats can have a significant impact on your health. Cutting back on bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and help prevent diabetes. These meats contain a large amount of sodium and saturated fats, which can contribute to colorectal cancer, kidney problems and congestive heart failure.
  3. You’ll reduce the chances of getting a bacterial infection: Eating less or no meat at all may be your best defense against the drug-resistant superbugs that are appearing in supermarket meats these days. Antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been popping up in raw beef, chicken, turkey and cow’s milk, therefore, increasing the risk for hard-to-treat bacterial infections in humans. Staphylococcus aureus thrives in open wounds rather than in the gut, so handling meats contaminated with this strain of bacteria increases your chance for infection if you don’t take proper measures to protect your hands and cook your food thoroughly.
  4. You’ll increase Vvegetable and fruit consumption: For years, Americans have been falling short of the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower the risk of obesity and certain chronic diseases, as well as reduce your chances of having heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. If you choose to eat less meat, you’ll have more opportunities to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption and reap the health benefits.
  5. You’ll reduce the risk of osteoporosis: Eating less meat may reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis by maintaining a healthy bone density. Meats have been shown to leach calcium from bones, which can become a serious problem for the elderly. Low bone density can make people more susceptible to bone breaks and fractures with age. Therefore, cutting back on meat consumption and maintaining a healthy calcium intake can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  6. You’ll lose weight: Eating less meat may be the ticket to losing those extra pounds and maintaining a healthy weight. High-protein diets may be the culprit of weight gain and the reason why people can’t shed the unwanted pounds. Of course, exercise and lifestyle play a major role in the weight loss process, but cutting down on your daily meat consumption may help you lose the weight faster.
  7. You’ll get enough protein: Increasing your meat consumption to get enough protein in your diet is not necessary. In fact, most people get enough protein from their diets without needing to add more meat to the mix. Cutting back on your meat consumption will not make a big difference in your protein intake or your health. Try replacing the meat you would have been eating with another high-protein source like eggs, milk, tofu or cottage cheese.
  8. You’ll lower your cholesterol: Eating less meat can have a significant effect on your cholesterol. The saturated fats in meat raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack or angina. Reducing your meat consumption and replacing it with more fruits and vegetables can help lower your bad cholesterol levels and raise your good cholesterol levels.
  9. You’ll reduce the risk of bowel cancer: Bowel cancer, also called colon cancer, is a deadly killer that takes thousands of lives every year. One important way to reduce your chances of developing bowel cancer is to eat less meat. Cutting back on meat, specifically red meat and processed meat, can significantly lower your chances of getting colon cancer because you’ll be lowering your fat intake.

8 Possible Side Effects of Pesticides

May 24th, 2011

Pesticides provide many substantial benefits for farmers and consumers by controlling pests and preventing disease, as well as increasing crop yield and keeping costs down; however, these potent chemicals have also put our health in great danger. And you don’t have to work on a farm or eat a fruit- and vegetable-only diet to absorb the toxic substances in pesticides. Here are 8 possible side effects of pesticides:

  1. Cancer: For decades, there has been a great deal of concern and debate surrounding pesticides and their carcinogenicity. There is a large body of evidence that claim pesticides cause cancer in multiple organ systems, but other factors like age, family history of cancer, diet and lifestyle should also be considered. In an effort to monitor the health effects and better understand the dangers of pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency reviews pesticides for potential carcinogenicity based on its potency and the potential for human exposure.
  2. Endocrine Complications: Another potential side effect of pesticides are endocrine complications, specifically blocked male hormones that may affect human reproduction. Agriculture pesticides have been linked to blocking testosterone and other androgens, which are essential for healthy male reproductive systems. Most of these endocrine disruptors are fungicides that are applied to fruit and vegetable crops and can remain on foods.
  3. Infertility and Sterility: Pesticides have been linked to male and female infertility and sterility. Exposure to pesticides and solvents may be the cause of low sperm levels and increased levels of infertility in men working on farms and those who are exposed to pesticides on a regular basis. Sperm counts have been declining worldwide and may be the result of eating foods laced with pesticide residue and the increased use of household pesticide sprays.
  4. Brain Damage: Pesticides have also been linked to brain damage in those who use these chemicals on a regular basis. Gardeners and farmers are the most at risk for developing long-term brain damage and suffering from brain problems such as mild cognitive dysfunction (MCD), which affects your ability to speak smoothly and identify words, colors or numbers. Pesticides may also be to blame for brain damage and developmental problems in children.
  5. Birth Defects: Birth defects from pesticide exposure is another growing concern for expecting mothers, adults and children. The link between pesticides and birth defects has been tied to use of household sprays that kill garden insects, ants, mosquitoes and fleas. These potent chemicals are used to attack the nervous system of insects and kill them, but may pose an even greater risk to your unborn baby’s health and increase the risk for oral clefts, neural tube defects, heart defects and limb defects. Exposure to pesticides and insecticides should be avoided at all costs during pregnancy.
  6. Respiratory Disorders: Another concerning side effect of exposure to or ingestion of pesticides are respiratory disorders, including wheezing, chronic bronchitis, asthma and farmer’s lung. Regular exposure to pesticides increases your risk for developing respiratory problems, but can be lessened with proper respiratory protection and daily preventative measures.
  7. Organ Failure: Pesticides may be to blame for an increase in organ failures around the world. For example, there have been an alarming number of deaths related to either chronic kidney disease or intestinal nephritis in India over the last seven years. Most of the victims worked in agriculture and were constantly exposed to high levels of pesticides and ate foods with pesticide residue. It’s not certain whether kidney disease is worsened by eating foods laced with pesticide residue or caused by exposure to pesticides, but the kidney has to excrete these toxins from the body and could be just one of many organs on the verge of failure.
  8. Skin Irritation: Skin irritation is another possible side effect of pesticides because the skin is the most likely to come into contact with these harmful chemicals. Since pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, it can easily cause cutaneous toxicity, rashes and skin infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. If enough pesticide is absorbed through the skin, it could cause severe toxic reactions and internal health problems.

10 Diseases That Totally Changed the World

May 15th, 2011

It’s no secret that infectious diseases have had a profound impact on our world. They alter populations, impede progress, and can even be cause for new inventions. Here, we’ll take a look at 10 diseases that made a major change in our world, whether for good, bad, or both at the same time.

  1. Smallpox: Smallpox was an extremely infectious disease that wiped out entire empires. It began in northern Africa, and popped up time and time again in repeat epidemics. It killed royalty and the poor alike, not controlled until the development of the world’s first vaccine in the 1700s.
  2. Tuberculosis: While we have smallpox to thank for vaccines, we have tuberculosis for the promotion of pasteurization and the quest for antibiotics. Pasteurization was key to controlling TB, as it heats and kills TB pathogens and other contaminants in milk.
  3. Autism: Autism is a terrible disease, leaving sufferers with the inability to fully relate to others and become obsessively locked into tasks. In its own strange way, autism has benefited the world by allowing scientists such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein to produce the work of multiple people in their own lifetimes.
  4. Influenza (all): Whether it’s H1N1, Avian, or the seemingly innocuous flu many suffer from each year, influenza is a serious illness. Influenza in all forms has had a major impact on the number of deaths in the modern world. It also influenced the course of WWI, killing soldiers and putting a strain on military health care.
  5. Malaria: Malaria is a disease that is still prevalent in underdeveloped countries today. There is a cure for malaria now, but for more than a thousand years, there was none. Its cure, quinine, has a story that changed the world.
  6. Cholera: Cholera is a disease that’s spread through a lack of clean water and poor or nonexistent sewage systems. The existence of this disease required a change, in the form of improved sanitation, which reduced cholera’s impact.
  7. Bubonic plague: Also known as The Black Death, the bubonic plague was an incredibly devastating pandemic, which is estimated to have wiped out 75-200 million people in the 14th century, including 30%-60% of Europe’s population. It took Europe’s population 150 years to recover.
  8. Epilepsy: The neurological disease epilepsy causes seizures, which include body clenching, shouting, and occasionally, strange visions. Some experts believe that prophets including Ezekiel, Joseph Smith, and Joan of Arc may have suffered from epilepsy, which would explain their religious visions.
  9. Polio: Polio was a worldwide epidemic between 1840 and the 1950s, causing infections and even paralysis. Jonas Salk changed the world when he developed the inactivated polio virus vaccine in 1952, which causes nearly all who receive the vaccine to develop protective antibodies that prevent the disease.
  10. Yellow Fever: Like malaria, yellow fever is a mosquito-borne disease that has not been eradicated. This disease, which causes aching, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, and other symptoms, can lead to multi-organ dysfunction and even death. It is believed to have influenced the Louisiana Purchase, pre WWII development in the US, and the Panama Canal. Its impact is limited primarily to the southern US, where mosquitoes can survive the winter.

Do You Need a Tutor?

May 9th, 2011

Keeping up with everything you need to get done in college can be a challenge, especially when you’re still trying to figure out how to live on your own, holding down a job and getting involved with school activities. Sometimes, school might simply become overwhelming or you may begin to struggle and fall behind. There’s no reason to suffer alone if you’re in need of help with your studies. There are loads of tutoring resources on campus that can help you pass your math class or make you a better writer. If you’re wondering whether you could use some tutoring, here are some signs that usually indicate you need some help.

You can’t keep up with your class. If your courses are moving on to new subjects and you’ve failed to master the last thing you were supposed to learn, you might need a little help. A tutor can help you make sense of material that you find difficult and can help you better keep pace with your classmates.

Writing is a struggle. Writing is one of the most important academic skills you can have but it is one that students often struggle with the most. If you view writing as a form of torture, then you need some help. Writing shouldn’t be a nightmare to get done, so find a tutor on campus who can help you improve your skills and turn in better papers.

You bomb tests. Some people just aren’t good at taking tests, but that excuse isn’t going to help you get the grades you need to excel in college. A tutor may be able to help you learn some skills that will help you better apply what you know to a test given in any format.

You don’t get much out of studying. Do you study for hours but can’t remember a thing you reviewed? You just might not be doing it right. A tutor or advisor can help show you methods that will maximize your benefit from studying, whether it’s in better note-taking, organization or just reviewing the material.

You’re working hard but it’s not paying off. Doing well in college may require skills that are different from those you learned in high school. If you’re working hard to do well but are still struggling to keep your grades up, you may find that a tutor is just what you need to help you feel less stressed about school and more confident in your abilities.

There’s no shame in asking for help when you’re trying to tackle subjects that are difficult for you in college. By getting the help of a tutor, you’ll not only be better able to pass your courses, you’ll improve in many of your weaker areas in school and the rest of your college experience will be a little easier.

Raise Your SAT or ACT Scores

May 9th, 2011


Scoring well on the SAT or ACT can make a big difference in which colleges may even consider you for admission. While standardized testing scores certainly aren’t the only thing admissions officers look at, they can be a way to pare down a pool of highly qualified applicants or to limit which students will get into a given program. Because of this, it’s essential to do well when you take these tests. Whether you’ve already taken them once and want to aim for a higher score or want to go in super prepared your first time around, here are some ways that you can help ensure your test scores are as high as they can be.

Take an SAT or ACT class. If you didn’t do well studying and preparing on your own, perhaps it’s time to turn to the experts. A class on the ACT or SAT will help to teach you study methods, test taking strategies and will review material you’ll need to know– all things that can be a big help come test day.

Practice makes perfect. There is no substitute for taking practice exams and studying with flashcards before the test. The more you go over the materials, the more comfortable you’ll be when you get to the real deal. Do no underestimate the power of studying.

Learn test-taking strategies. There are a number of strategies out there created for taking standardized tests like these. If you struggled trying to apply your own method, consider using one of these tried and true forms of test-taking instead. They might change how you see the test altogether and could help dramatically improve your score.

Plan to pace yourself. When taking such a long exam, good pacing is essential. After all, you’ll have a set amount of time to finish each section. Decide how long you want to spend on each part and keep track as you go. Time yourself taking practice exams to see what the pacing you’re aiming for feels like in action.

Focus on mastering the basics. Knowing the fundamentals of math and science that will be covered in the exam will help you immensely. Any SAT or ACT study guide will lay these out for you. Do not move on to more complex ideas until you feel confident that you’ve mastered the basics.

If you didn’t do well your first time around taking the ACT or SAT, don’t give up hope. Take the test again with some of these tips in mind to help you gear up for a much better second score that can improve your chances of getting into the college of your dreams.

14 Famous People Who Were Adopted

May 8th, 2011

There’s a certain curiosity about adoption, as old as the practice is. From locating your birth parents to being raised by a family that’s a different race or ethnicity than you to calling your grandparents "Mom and Dad," is living the life of an adopted child really all that strange in today’s mix of modern families? Whether you’re adopted, a delivery nurse interested in family dynamics, or someone who wants to understand how it all works, here are 14 famous people who made it big after coming from humble beginnings.

  1. Debbie Harry: Blondie front woman and 90s It girl Debbie Harry is also a successful actress. She was adopted in Miami at just three months old, but raised in Hawthorne, NJ, before graduating with an associate’s degree and taking food service and dancing jobs until performing with various bands in the 60s and 70s.
  2. Faith Hill: Country music star Faith Hill is known for her powerful voice as much as she is for her dedication to keeping her family together. She often gives her parents credit for fostering her strong sense of family — but the man and woman who raised her aren’t her birth parents. Hill was adopted as an infant after her real parents — who did end up marrying and having another child later — gave her up, and she was raised in a tiny town in Mississippi before moving to Nashville at age 19.
  3. Marilyn Monroe: To say Marilyn Monroe was a pop culture icon is a major understatement, and many of her fans today are still obsessed with her movies and style, nearly 50 years after her death. Monroe, who was baptized Norma Jeane Baker, grew up in foster homes, claiming to never really know her real father. Her mother was mentally unstable and refused to let her be officially adopted, and Marilyn was even nearly sexually abused on several occasions while staying with her mother’s best friend’s family. Passed around among aunts and back to the best friend’s house, Marilyn was married off at 16 to avoid further foster homes.
  4. Dan O’Brien: Decathlete Dan O’Brien won the 1996 Olympic Gold medal in Atlanta, and has won four other world championship gold medals for his sport. Of mixed race decent, O’Brien was adopted but white parents as a young child and raised in Oregon before moving to the University of Idaho, where joined track and field.
  5. Senator Robert Byrd: Legendary U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd held the honor of being the longest serving senator in history — serving a total of 55 years. Born in 1917, Byrd was adopted by his aunt and uncle when he was just one year old, after his mother died of influenza. It was his mother’s wish for he and his siblings to be passed on to other family members instead of being raised by their father.
  6. Steve Jobs: Apple executive and technology pioneer Steve Jobs discussed his adoption in his 2002 commencement address at Stanford University. His biological mother wished for him to be adopted by college graduates — he wasn’t, but his new parents did promise his mother that he would attend college. Jobs dropped out of his first university but audited a class at another school that ultimately helped build the first Mac computer.
  7. Dave Thomas: Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas was adopted at just 6 weeks old and started an adoption foundation to help other babies, children and teens escape foster care and find "forever families." The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption was established in 1992 and helped found National Adoption Day in 2008.
  8. Eric Clapton: Guitarist and singer Eric Clapton is one of the most successful and recognized artists of the last several decades, but his childhood was a little less straightforward. His mother gave birth to him when she was 16, after having an affair with an older soldier who returned home to Canada. Clapton was raised by his grandparents and believed that his mother was his older sister.
  9. Edgar Allan Poe: Known for his dark but insightful stories, Edgar Allan Poe was adopted by the Allan family after his father (Poe) left the family and his mother died. Poe was two years old, and was split up from his brother and sister. Sent to England for school at just six years old, his wealthy father ended up sending him to the University of Virginia for college, but refused to give him enough money, and Poe had to drop out.
  10. George Washington Carver: Agriculture inventor and commandeer George Washington Carver was born into slavery in Missouri. After his mother was kidnapped and slavery was abolished, Carver was taken in by his former owners who taught him to read and write. Over the next few years, Carver moved around the country in pursuit of schools who would take him in, staying with foster families until he settled in Kansas to homestead some land, plowing farms to raise crops.
  11. Edward Albee: Playwright Edward Albee was born Edward Harvey, but was adopted by the Albee family when he was just two weeks old. His new family were well-known in the theater world, although they wished Edward to have a more conventional career. Albee eventually ran away at 20 years old, moving to Greenwich Village and soaking in the art scene as he worked odd jobs.
  12. Scott Hamilton: Figure skater and commentator Scott Hamilton is still a crowd favorite for his passion for the sport and cheerleading spirit of up and coming skaters. He was adopted at just six weeks old by a Bowling Green State University father and second grade teacher mother, who also found a job at BGSU to help fund Scott’s skating training.
  13. Melissa Gilbert: Most famous for playing Laura Ingalls on the Little House on the Prairie TV series than ran in the 1970s and 80s, Melissa Gilbert has continued to act in adulthood and has served as President of the Screen Actors Guild. She was adopted by actor Paul Gilbert and his dancer/actress wife. Soon after they adopted Melissa, her family adopted a boy who would go on to co-star with Melissa on Little House as Willie Oleson.
  14. Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi: Whether Jersey-area Italian Americans like it or not, they’re best known to the rest of the world by the likes of Jersey Shore party people like Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. But Snooki’s actually not Italian — she was born either in Chile or to Chilean immigrants — it’s still a little unclear — and was adopted by Italian American parents living in New York.

What to Do When You’re Struggling in College

May 3rd, 2011

College isn’t always what students come into it thinking it will be. Courses can be much harder, being away from family can be difficult and making new friends isn’t always as easy as it should be, especially if you’re shy. While it might seem like everyone else is settling into college life quickly and easily, if you’re finding it to be a struggle you’re certainly not alone. Almost all students will struggle with some aspect of college life at some time during their four years in attendance. College is full of trails and tribulations, but with some support, determination and strength you can make it through with flying colors and come out stronger, wiser and happier on the other end. Curious about how to start getting through your college struggles? Here are some ideas.

If you struggle with academics:If you can’t seem to keep pace with your classmates in your coursework, then it might be time to ask for help. College courses can be quite different from those taught in high school and the transition can leave some students unsure of how to study or do homework. Reach out to professors and other students and make use of on-campus resources for tutoring and writing help. These individuals and the programs they sponsor can help you to learn the study skills and college academic basics that can help you to move forward.

If you are having trouble making friends: For some students, making friends at college happens almost overnight. Others worry when they make it though their first semester without really forming any lasting bonds. Making friends can be hard for some in college, but that’s nothing to be ashamed about. There are a number of ways you can reach out and start forming friendships. Join clubs or play sports to meet others with your interests or shared backgrounds. Take the first step in making plans to hang out. Make socializing a priority. Most importantly: get out of your dorm room.

If you’re lonely, homesick or miss your family and friends: You might be miles from your home, but that doesn’t mean that the people you love can’t be a big part of your life. Skype with family and friends on a regular basis and keep in touch with phone calls and letters. While you’re probably always going to miss them, eventually you’ll have a rich and busy enough college life that things won’t be so hard.

If you are having difficulties being independent: Learning to live on your own isn’t always an easy thing to do. Paying bills, taking care of your own meals and having to cope without parents there to guide you can be a rough transition. Yet it’s a process that every young adult has to go through. Read books, ask your parents for advice and find support from roomies and friends on campus. With support and education, you’ll find a way to make living independently a blessing instead of a burden.

No matter what you’re finding challenging about college, there is a solution out there that can work for you. Keep your chin up and push through and you may just find college to be a whole lot more rewarded than you ever thought it could be.

What Your High School Counselor Won’t Tell You About Applying for College

May 2nd, 2011

High school counselors know a lot about applying to college, but they might not know everything or you might simply not think to ask. The process of applying to and getting into schools is complicated and can be tricky if this is your and your parents first time doing it. That’s why it’s so important to learn all you can, whether from your high school counselor or an outside source. Here are a few things that your counselor might not tell you when you’re applying for college that you might like to know.

You need to start applying early. The earlier you start applying to colleges, the better your chances of getting accepted may be. Some schools have rolling admissions, meaning you can apply at any time, but slots will fill up as admissions progress, making it harder and more competitive to get in the longer you wait. Apply early to give yourself the best chance of success.

Colleges will pay attention to your cumulative GPA. You won’t get analyzed just based on your grades from junior and senior year. No, those bad grades from freshman year will still haunt you when you’re applying to school. Students should also be aware that schools often convert GPA to their own scale to ensure all students are evaluated on equal terms.

Being a top student doesn’t guarantee acceptance. You might get straight A’s, bet at the top of your class, and have a ton of extracurriculars but it doesn’t mean you’re going straight to the Ivy League. If you want to go to top schools, you have to perform well in every aspect because you’ll be up against some stiff competition.

You need to visit colleges. Looking at photos online won’t tell you what it’s actually like to go to a school. Many a student has arrived at a dream school only to realize it’s a poor fit. Take a few days off of class to visit schools in person and see how students there like attending classes and the general atmosphere. It can make choosing a college a whole lot easier.

Applications for colleges should range from stretch schools to backups. You shouldn’t just be applying to Ivy Leagues. Instead, applying to schools that are your top choices, some that are mid-range and some that you know you’ll get into. That way, you’ll have options in case your top picks don’t pan out.

Make sure you’re ready for the college application process by talking to your counselors and doing your own research as well. Remember, you can’t ever know too much when it comes to college applications!

20 Ways to Lessen Your Risk of Sexual Assault

April 18th, 2011

Sexual assault and rape victimizes every one of every demographic in every country. Two-thirds of the men, women and children who fall victim to such horrors have some sort of relationship with their attackers, who use everything from violence to coercion to get the power they want. Many myths about both rape and sexual assault unfairly persist to this day, making the lives of its many victims just that much harder. Though April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month, every day of the year should be dedicated to chipping away at the roots of this serious issue. Taking the time to understand how to minimize the risk makes a great start, however.

There will always be situations when even the most cautious of individuals will find themselves victimized. Just because viable precautions exist does not mean anyone traumatized by rape or sexual assault "had it coming," as extenuating circumstances or mistaken trust can override awareness and preparedness. The only guilty parties here are the men and women who think it perfect acceptable to violate another’s body, either through violent or emotionally manipulative means.

  1. Enroll in self-defense classes: Nearly every major city — and plenty of suburbs — hosts at least a few different self-defense and martial arts schools, as do many colleges and universities. Try to find one within a viable price range and workable schedule and put forth the effort to take regular classes. Make sure to also thoroughly research both the businesses and the different strategies they teach before making any commitment. Even if participants never have to put their newfound skills to use (and here’s hoping they don’t!), self-defense is one of the most valuable investments individuals make for their own safety and peace of mind.

  2. Carry a weapon: Consider supplementing those self-defense classes by keeping a weapon concealed somewhere, like a purse or underneath a jacket. For those uncomfortable with the thought of owning a gun, options such as pepper spray, mace, stun guns or batons and plenty more provide a satisfactory level of protection as well. No matter which one proves best, however, anyone owning such devices must absolutely familiarize themselves with proper care, use, maintenance and (of course) legalities. Particularly when looking into gun ownership.

  3. Travel in packs: It’s not always possible to step out with a few friends in tow, but take advantage of any situations where it is. Predators feed on vulnerability, as assault and rape have everything to do with power and almost nothing to do with sex. A small group, particularly one with a little self-defense training and/or weapons in the ranks, will certainly make each member feel far safer than if they were to travel alone. This strategy works well for parties, too, as a throng of trusted pals can look out for one another and intervene when it looks like something ugly might happen.

  4. Never leave a drink alone: When navigating a party or bar, always keep drinks close at hand. Never set them down before going to the bathroom or (when applicable) heading outside for a smoke. Assailants may take advantage of the situation by slipping in drugs meant to disorient and disengage. Either drain a drink before heading off or leave it in the hands of a trusted friend who will reliably babysit it.

  5. Never accept drinks from strangers: As tempting as free drinks inevitably sound, taking them from unfamiliar individuals puts one at risk for drugging and sexual assault, rape or something even worse. When out with new friends, make sure to watch them, the bartender or the waitron pour the beverage in question to make sure it doesn’t end up spiked. There’s no need to be vocal or otherwise obvious about it, as doing so might offend genuinely good people, but one should always pay close attention to the situation at hand. A sharp eye could mean the difference between safety and violence.

  6. Don’t give in to pressure: Sometimes, individuals one finds attractive and romantically appealing enough to try and date commit sexual assault. They take advantage of interest to try to pressure potential partners into scenarios they may not necessarily find comfortable or safe. Stay strong and speak up whenever he or she starts attempting to initiate unwanted sexual or romantic acts; most importantly, remember that engaging anything that falls within the personal comfort zone should never be considered permission to ramp up the activity. It is not the victim’s fault if the criminal takes things too far, regardless of their physical connectivity up to that point.

  7. Be confident: As mentioned earlier, sexual assailants and rapists tend to pick their victims based on perceived (though not necessarily true) weakness and inferiority over any other factor. Whether out alone or amongst friends, projecting an air of confidence and purpose will dissuade them from perpetuating violence and a complete disrespect of body autonomy. Even without a definitive destination or goal in mind, make sure to step outside with escape and contingency plans just in case. Doing so will only contribute further to displaying a self-assured carriage.

  8. Always remain aware of surroundings: It doesn’t matter if a location is as familiar as a home apartment complex or as foreign as a brand new city — anyone hoping to lessen his or her chances of victimization by sexual assault or rape must always stay alert. Only leaving in one ear bud when listening to music makes one particularly effective strategy. Pay close attention to all stimuli and peace out or call the authorities when things start looking suspicious. There’s no reason to stick around when anyone’s safety gets called into question.

  9. Try to avoid remote locations whenever possible: There may be times when hanging around an isolated location is unavoidable, and when these do arise it’s best to keep most of the other tips here in mind. But sticking to busier areas, even when alone, puts help and emergency assistance at a much closer range. Likewise, try not to spend time with strangers or unfamiliar individuals in such areas as well, even if wanting to make friends. It’s much safer to grow acquainted with people in more crowded businesses first, before moving on to homes and obscure spots.

  10. Don’t accept rides from strangers: Conversely, don’t give rides to strangers, either. The risk of sexual assault, rape, murder or theft increases exponentially in such situations. When embarking on jaunts that could potentially end in stranding, such as hikes, make sure to bring along a small emergency preparedness kit. Also alert family and friends of the intended path or itinerary before embarking, taking the time to map out the details of what to do and whom to send in the event of a crisis. Always keep cash on hand in case a taxi or public transportation proves necessary.

  11. Don’t get weighed down: When traveling alone, make sure to not get bogged down with packages or equipment that might hinder movement. Assailants, acquaintances or strangers, may try to take advantage of this precarious situation. Such things prevent victims from not only bolting as quickly as they need to, but accessing any weapons on their person as well. Try to coordinate heavy shopping or moving with trusted friends and family whenever possible, saving the lighter, easier-to-ditch stuff for solo jaunts.

  12. Keep the phone charged: Invest in an emergency charger if necessary, as a full battery provides peace of mind for the weary traveler. Enough juice to call for help could make all the difference in the world when suspicious situations arise. Keep phones plugged in at work or home whenever possible, or at least top them off a little bit before heading out. Some people may even like the idea of keeping extra batteries on hand just in case.

  13. Never feel obligated or guilty: Going on a date does not oblige either party to kiss. Kissing does not oblige either party to grope. Groping does not oblige either party to more foreplay. And so forth. Nobody should ever make anyone feel as if they must push everything to the next level, and potential victims should never think they have to go through if something doesn’t seem comfortable or right. If the perpetrators retaliate somehow, at no point should their victims ever, for any reason, blame themselves for what happened. It isn’t their fault the one they’re with doesn’t respect their boundaries and personal decisions.

  14. Go with a buddy system at parties: Groups of friends hitting up crowded or unfamiliar parties might want to streamline their check-ins by using the buddy system. Rather than keeping an eye out for everyone, individuals partner up and focus on keeping each other safe. Some may like the idea of setting up regular times to meet and make sure everything’s going alright. But no matter what arrangement proves most comfortable, the paired up at least have someone trustworthy to monitor their drinks during bathroom runs.

  15. Moderate alcohol consumption: There’s no shame in drinking, nor is there any shame in occasional tipsiness. But too much alcohol or other intoxicants may cloud judgment and make it easier for sexual predators to take advantage of the situation. Before going out drinking, set a personal limit and do not budge from exceeding it, no matter the amount of pressure friends may place. Taking such precautions will help maintain alertness, awareness and keep judgment as sharp as possible without compromising a good time.

  16. Go on group dates: Dating is one of the most stressful and potentially dehumanizing experiences any human will ever encounter, and the potential for sexual assault only makes it all the more anxiety-inducing. One way to gauge a prospective partner is to arrange a group date with some friends as opposed to going out alone. Not only will it alleviate some of the tension, such an arrangement also serves as a great way to get some outside opinions. Trusted friends see things the besotted won’t and will hopefully catch some red flags before they become a problem.

  17. Report suspicious figures: Some, but not all, rapists or sexual assailants size up their potential victims through verbal taunts. Others prefer following, leering or other means of intimidation. If possible, call or try to find a nearby security guard or law enforcement official and report the threatening individual. Problems in the workplace should be reported to the HR department. Their intervention and cooperation will help prevent a crime before it occurs.
  18. Don’t go home if followed: The staggering majority of sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, but that doesn’t mean precautions should not be taken when dealing with strangers. When being followed by a stranger either on foot or in a car, don’t let her or him know where home is. Instead, head for the nearest safe area and phone for help. Even if it seems as if the individual has been shaken off, make sure to find a more secure route home — or stay with a trusted friend, partner or family member instead.

  19. Bystander intervention: Most people in the world aren’t horrible, and there’s times when even the most cautious, aware individuals find themselves threatened by violence, sexual or otherwise. Don’t allow problematic situations to escalate by refusing to ask, scream or call for assistance. Good Samaritans may very well intervene and help bring the assailant to justice. Or at least call in some people who will.

  20. Educate the world: Sexual assault and rape are unfortunately present in every nation of the world, no matter how "civilized" they think themselves. Education remains the most effective method to preventing both atrocities from occurring. Volunteer with an organization such as Take Back the Night or a local shelter, or donate money to their efforts. Organize programs and events meant to spread awareness of prevention strategies. There’s plenty of things one can do to address the root causes of these serious issues, and even the smallest of contributions still helps improve society.