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Did you know that your local library likely offers music, TV and movies and school supplies? The library has become about more than just books.
Libraries have come a long way in recent years. The stereotypical stiff, dusty and dull storehouse of books from way back when has been replaced by a more relevant hub of information and community activities. Now more than ever, libraries reflect the interests and needs of the people they serve — and that’s a really good thing.
The library at Alma College is no exception. Staff there know that most college students have a lot on their plate, so they do everything they can to save you time. The library also offers a number of different entertainment options that you might not be aware of, which can save money. Matthew Collins, library director, took us beyond the stacks of books to explore all the library has to offer.
Spotify is great, but vinyl is final
Why bother with an online music subscription for $10 every month when you can get music at the library? Music students are probably familiar with the library’s collection of sheet music, but fewer know about the CDs that are available for checkout. Even more unique at Alma is the college library’s selection of vinyl records. They even have a record player that you can check out overnight.
Who needs Hulu when the library comes through?
When it’s time for movie night or a TV-watching binge, you can take the money you’d normally spending on streaming services and use it on popcorn instead. The library has you covered, thanks to a collection of more than 4,000 DVDs — including foreign language, documentaries, popular films and more. If you don’t have a DVD player, you can check one out at the library. You can also subscribe to Kanopy, a streaming service with classics and indie favorites, through the library. And if you really want to go old school, the library offers VHS tapes and a VCR.
Short on school supplies? Head to the library
Unless you sleep at the FedEx Office, your residence hall room probably doesn’t have a printer to use. They do come in handy, though. Thankfully, the library has several black-and-white printers, and even a color printer, which you can use for less than what cup of coffee costs. The library has scanners to use and dongles available to rent. And the Olofsson Lab has brand-new computers that come equipped with Microsoft Office.
The best resource a library has — its staff
It might sound corny, but library staff really want to help you — and in just about any scenario you can think of, they can do it. Matthew says librarians have assisted students with everything from car repairs to filling out forms to research papers. They have a lot of life experience to share! Our librarians are also trained to help people find the information they’re looking for. Don’t spend three hours trying to find a source in a book when a librarian can find it in 10 minutes — that’s what they’re there for. All that time you saved can be much better spent elsewhere.
The Alma College Library, in Alma, Michigan, is a tremendous resource for students, staff and faculty. For more information, visit alma.edu.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is designed to be easy for students and families to fill out, but difficulties can arise. We’re here to help you secure scholarships and student loans, so that your personal finances are less tricky.
Personal finances can be tricky. Even those who understand the ins and outs of saving and spending can find it difficult to talk about. However, for so many, financial aid is what makes college possible in the first place. With that in mind, let’s dive right in.
But where to even start? For help with that, we talked with Michelle McNier, director of financial aid at Alma College. She’s talked to most of the students who attend the college, as well as their parents, at one time or another, and has heard questions surrounding financial aid many times. Once someone has a firm understanding of the basics, Michelle says, she can help with more advanced questions that are more specific to your situation.
Q: What’s the first step to applying for financial aid?
A: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) tells the government what they need to know about you in order to allow you to receive federal, state and institutional need-based financial aid. You’ll need to fill it out to receive grants, work study and Stafford Loans.
Q: When should students fill out the FAFSA?
A: The FAFSA is available beginning Oct. 1 for the following school year, and you should complete it as early as possible. The government is looking for your tax information from the previous two years, so it isn’t a matter of needing to wait. The deadline to apply for the fall term in Michigan is March 1.
Q: Is the FAFSA difficult to fill out?
A: It can be, but help is available. The FAFSA is designed to be easy to fill out, but there are inevitable difficulties that come up, as there are with any form. I would encourage anyone who is having difficulty to contact the Financial Aid Office by calling (989) 463-7347 or email email@example.com.
Q: Do students have to fill out the FAFSA every year, or just once?
A: That question comes up a lot, especially around deadline time. Students must reapply for financial aid each year and maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress to remain eligible.
Q: Do you have any other tips for people with respect to the FAFSA?
A: There are a lot of families who think they might not qualify for financial aid. I tell them to file the FAFSA anyway, especially in their first year. It may open a door you weren’t expecting, which can help fund a college education. If you don’t file, nobody is going to know you might need help.
Q: Are there other types of financial aid available beyond FAFSA?
A: Absolutely. Here at Alma, we offer scholarships and grants, in addition to state and federal aid. We offer student and parent loan options, with financing. Of course, there are various scholarships available through all kinds of organizations throughout the country. The FAFSA doesn’t need to be completed to receive this kind of aid.
Q: What else do we need to know?
A: As students are considering different colleges and universities, and reading the award letters that spell out the financial aid package, they should know these letters can vary tremendously between institutions. That can be very confusing. Having a true grasp on what students are getting from each institution they apply to, and how much they have to pay out-of-pocket is important. I would encourage anyone with questions to reach out to our office. We’re happy to help.
Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, offers scholarships and grants, in addition to state and federal aid, to help students go to college. For more information, visit alma.edu.
Terms like “phishing,” “social media” and “two-step verification” weren’t very common only 20 years ago, but they’re more important than ever nowadays.
From the food we eat to the people we speak with, it’s apparent that communication technology has made its way into just about every important aspect of our lives.. What may be less apparent are the many ways technology — and the information we put out into the world every day — can be a threat to your relationships, job, bank account and credit report.
Elizabeth Cameron, professor of business administration, is a licensed attorney and business consultant who continues to consult with clients so she can bring real life examples into her law, cybersecurity and management classes at Alma College. Every day in her class, she tells young people that it’s not just their grandparents who need to be careful using technology — you can be a victim, too. She offered five tips to clean up your “online hygiene,” in order to stay safe and utilize technology to its fullest advantage.
Really. Do it. Make a better password.
Yes, Elizabeth says, there are still people using “password” as their password for social media, online bank accounts and e-mail addresses. If that’s you, it’s time to change your habits. Hackers are more skilled than ever at cracking combinations, and when you use a common password, you’re making it way too easy for them. Consider a string of symbols, letters, numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters that may be meaningful to you, but don’t make sense for others. One suggestion might be: I8@joes4the2ndtimethisweek.
Get smarter about social media
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t simply communication tools anymore. They are the world’s window into your life. Not only are your friends and family checking in on what you’re posting, but employers (current and future) and co-workers are, as well. Elizabeth suggests highlighting the good things you’re doing, like volunteer work, and saving your selfies, memes and jokes for the next time you’re together with friends. Remember, nothing is ever permanently deleted.
Remember that anyone can create content online and say that they are someone they aren’t. With that in mind, don’t believe everything that you read, watch or listen to — especially if it’s the kind of content designed to provoke an emotional response. Elizabeth suggests finding out who the source is, who produced the content and where they got their information. There is value in making you feel certain ways about various topics — don’t let yourself be manipulated.
‘More valuable than oil’
For centuries, whenever someone wanted to make a point about the value of a good, they could point toward the cost of oil. Nowadays, Elizabeth says, the information that you put out into the world every day — from the Instagram post you tagged yourself in at Starbucks to the review you left for the car wash on Google — is being monetized. She went as far as to say it’s “more valuable than oil.” So, why give it away for free? Be careful about sharing what you’re doing and where you’ve been.
‘Think twice, click once’
Phishing emails are more common than ever and scammers are very sophisticated about getting you to make a click you’re not supposed to. Even if it seems plausible that your co-worker is in need of some fast cash, Elizabeth says, it’s best to take every link online with a degree of suspicion. “Think twice, click once” is the advice she gives when it comes to interacting with people in situations outside of the norm.
Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, offers courses within its business administration department on topics like cybersecurity and risk management. If you’d like to learn more, check out the business administration page on alma.edu.
If you’re just starting out in the professional world, it can be hard to feel confident in your resume-building skills. We’re here to help.
When you leave college, your resume is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether you’re entering the job market, pursuing a graduate degree, or taking some other path in life, it tells people in the professional world not only who you are, but why you should be a part of their team.
It’s easy to find resume tips online, but how well can you trust the random corners of the web where Google can sometimes lead you? That’s why we asked Brittany Stoneman, associate director for career and personal development at Alma College’s Center for Student Opportunity, for her top tips. Brittany talks to hundreds of students every year about how to create a good first impression and help them on their next steps after college.
DO: Brand your materials to match.
Your cover letter, resume and reference sheet should all have the same header, font and style.
DON’T: Get too fancy with the font.
Use a clean, easily legible font. For most applications, now is not the time to be overly creative. You don’t have to be boring, though — consider personalizing your materials to mirror the company’s branding in your resume style (in terms of color scheme or font).
DO: Pay careful attention to language in the job description and company website.
Buzzwords go a long way! If you mirror their language to yours, it could show that you’re a good fit for their organization.
DON’T: Make things complicated.
If you save your resume using an obscure file type, the company may not have the right software to open it. Save your materials as a universal format, like a PDF, and call it something simple, like “Jane Doe Resume” or “John Doe Cover Letter.”
DO: Make it easy for the company to contact you.
The top of your resume should include your name — make it stand out, without overwhelming the rest of the information — as well as your contact information. Include a professional-looking email address, phone number, location and LinkedIn URL, if you have one.
DON’T: Forget to spell check.
Whether you’re applying for a job as a proofreader or not, companies will want to see that you pay attention to detail. Only use appropriate abbreviations and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in your resume.
DO: Tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying.
Clearly showcase transferable and industrial skills that fit the position. Your bullet points should explain the skills that you’ve learned through your experience, which you can apply at the position you are seeking.
DO: Put yourself in the best possible light.
Accomplishments should be qualified and quantified including the action, task and result by utilizing action verbs and specific examples. Using bullet points, explain the skills that you learned through your experience, which you can apply at your sought-after position.
If you’d like more help with resume-building, interviewing, networking and other career-related topics, check out the Alma College Center for Student Opportunity.
iGEM uses science to help the communities in which we live and work.
Alma College has a student organization for just about every interest you can imagine. If you love it, you can find like-minded students to serve, explore and have fun.
Want to go Greek? You can choose a social Greek fraternity or sorority. Academically qualified students may be invited into one of the disciplinary academic honor societies. The college offers dozens of interest-based, religious/spiritual and music groups as well; ranging from Model UN to Student Congress, Gender & Sexuality Diversity to the Alma Choir.
But the student org that might most closely replicate the interdisciplinary nature of a professional team is iGEM — short for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. It’s a long name for a simple concept: we can use science to help the communities in which we live and work.
Devin Camenares, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Alma College, leads the group, which is growing in size every year. Devin told us why the group is growing, and how you can get involved for yourself.
“Have I got a job for you!”
Basically, Devin said, the main goal of iGEM is to identify a problem in the community and use science to help solve it. But that doesn’t mean everyone who gets involved with iGEM works in a lab. iGEM believes that while research is important, it takes more than that to make change.
That’s why the iGEM team at Alma College has students tackling different jobs, based on their interests. The 2020 team had several students doing work in a lab, but there were also students who created a webpage for the project, hosted a podcast, created graphics and did other important work.
Joining iGEM is one of the best ways to meet people across campus from different disciplines. The 2020 iGEM team at Alma College included students from biochemistry, computer science, anthropology, psychology, fine arts and multimedia journalism, among others. Everyone on the iGEM team has had different experiences, Devin said, and that diversity has played a big role in the team’s success in recent years.
That’s another cool thing about iGEM — it’s a competition. Every year, more than 6,000 students from around the country work on iGEM projects. They come together in the fall to present their work at iGEM’s annual Giant Jamboree. Alma College won a gold medal at the iGEM 2020 Giant Jamboree, improving on the results of the 2019 Giant Jamboree, when the team took home a silver medal.
Make power moves
Have you ever wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself? Something that allows you to really make change? iGEM will prepare you for that role in ways that few other student organizations can.
At the 2020 Giant Jamboree, the Alma College iGEM team explored a problem that has plagued the local Gratiot County community for decades — an environmental disaster that polluted groundwater, soil and the nearby Pine River. (The team won a gold medal for their work, too!) But even more important than the result of the Giant Jamboree, Devin said, was that the Alma iGEM team worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on their project.
When the federal government starts listening, you know you’re doing something important.
Do you want to learn more? Read about iGEM or contact iGEM Adviser Devin Camenares at (989) 463-7208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps you love the sound of bagpipes, or you heard them played at a meaningful moment and want to replicate that feeling. Read on to learn about bagpipes!
The world of music is full of many types of instruments, but perhaps none stand out quite as much as the bagpipes. A prominent symbol of Scottish heritage, it’s easy to picture them in your mind’s eye, perhaps being played by a man or woman wearing a kilt. Their sound is unforgettable — the average person may not be able to tell the difference between a clarinet and an oboe, but you immediately know when someone is playing bagpipes.
Andrew Duncan is the Alma College Pipe Band Director, a group of about 20 students, separate from other music groups on campus, who gather to play bagpipes at various events and gatherings. Andrew explained to us exactly what the bagpipes are, why the instrument is popular at Alma College — and even how you can get involved if you want to try them out!
How do bagpipes work?
Bagpipes are a woodwind instrument, Andrew said, in the same family of instruments as the clarinet and saxophone. “Pipers,” as those who play them are called, blow air through a blowpipe into a bag. (Weird, but true: these bags are traditionally made of sheepskin. Nowadays, they are made of synthetic materials.)
The bag feeds air into another pipe, called a chanter. Pipers use two hands to manipulate the chanter, which produces the melody of a song. Other pipes, called drones, make one continuous sound. Unlike other woodwinds, it’s difficult for bagpipes to stop producing sound after they have started, so pipers need to produce A LOT of air to keep the bag full.
Want to give them a try?
Andrew said the pipes seem challenging, but many people pick it up as their first instrument and get along fine. You can get started with a practice chanter — an instrument with no bag and no drones — which only costs about $100.
There aren’t many colleges and universities across the country with their own pipe band. Andrew believes Alma is the only one in Michigan that offers it. But it’s not something students do in far-off corners of the college — Alma embraces its Scottish background.
Pipes can be heard everywhere from Welcoming Convocation to the Traditions Dinner, from football games to the Homecoming parade. It’s the type of sound that grows on you. Students frequently comment that when they go home for breaks from school, they miss hearing the sound of a piper playing off in the distance as they go about their days.
The Alma College Pipe Band is the one of the only of its kind in the nation — made up entirely of students and faculty of the college. For more information, visit alma.edu.
Finances don’t have to be an obstacle to exploring the world.
First-generation college students — students who are the first generation of their family to attend college — can face additional challenges that others don’t encounter on campus.
According to at least one study, first-generation students deal with more financial strain on campus than continuing-generation students. There are several factors tied into those statistics, but it’s important not to let that scare you away from pursuing your college dreams.
There is a whole world to explore once you start college. Finances don’t have to be an obstacle to start that exploration — they can be a learning experience, like everything else. We asked Elon Brissette, the coordinator of financial counseling at Alma College, for advice on how first-generation college students — and anyone else who needs help — can navigate the process of paying for your college education.
Stop, breathe and think
People in general, whether they are first-generation college students or not, don’t know what they don’t know, Elon says. When first-year, first-generation college students are already thinking about everything from classes to food to living away from home … taking finances into account can be overwhelming. As it relates to this subject, students don’t always know what information they should share or what questions they should ask. So, knowing your resources on campus is key.
Elon suggests that students and their families take their time when considering topics like setting a four-year financial plan on paying for college, seeking scholarships and taking out loans. There’s nothing wrong with reviewing your financial aid award letter with your admissions representative and financial aid staff member and then taking your time to just think about it. Elon suggests you revisit the subject after a week and see if it all makes sense. If you feel confused, don’t be afraid to go back and ask for help.
Know your resources
It can be challenging for any student to come to campus without the built-in system they may have had at home, but there is always someone who will be there for you, Elon says. Too often, first-generation college students don’t realize the financial, academic and support services that are available to them on campus.
As it relates to financial supports, Elon suggests that students study up on what is available to them — and once again, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. At Alma College, there is a Financial Aid Office (which can assist with the specific financial aid you were awarded, like grants, scholarships, work study, and student loans you were offered), Financial Services Office (which is where you go to pay tuition at the beginning of every semester and find out information on payment plans) and the Coordinator of Financial Counseling (who can talk to you privately or in small groups about more general financial wellness topics).
Find your family
It is also important to find highly motivated students you can partner with; peers who genuinely care about you and understand what life is like being the first in your family to go to college — or who are willing to listen. There is a group on campus for everyone, a group where you can be yourself.
At Alma College, the King-Chavez-Parks (KCP) Mentor Program is one of those groups. It provides mentorship for first-year students in navigating college and all it has to offer. Elon said, these mentors help with everything from how to access college resources to how to make friends. A similar program, Campbell Scholars, provides cultural, academic, social, and financial literacy resources and mentorship to students of color at Alma College. Both are wonderful opportunities designed to support you and help you make the most.
For more information on financial aid packages available at Alma College, visit alma.edu.