POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Plagiarism

Cliché: Copycat.    
POCS Reality: Colleges watch out for plagiarism.


Not more cheating- first the SAT scandal and now a plagiarism disgrace. According to  Turnitin’s infographic about its Plagiarism Report:

“We live in a digital culture where norms around copying, reuse and sharing are colliding with core principles of academic integrity.”

The infographic also mentions that 55% of college presidents surveyed by the Pew Research Center believe plagiarism is increasing.

 An article in GOOD Education highlights a finding that 7.99% of high school papers contained uncited text from Wikipedia. The number was higher for college papers-10.74%.

Aside from the plagiarism issue, GOOD points out the info reliability problem of using sources such as Wikipedia as authorities.

Speaking of information sources, a comment under the GOOD article points out the sponsor of the Plagiarism Report has a special interest in finding plagiarism. Turnitin sells to educators, colleges, and students a product to detect plagiarized material in class assignments, college essays, scholarship essays and other writings.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Is it ignorance not to understand the difference between copying and paraphrasing? Is it laziness not to find an authoritative info source and then cite it? Education is expensive so why not do the work and get your money’s worth? If students have any questions, they can keep their integrity intact and ask their professors for help. The bottom line is plagiarism is cheating.  

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Marital Status and College Financial Aid Forms

Cliché: The status quo.    
POCS Reality: Financial aid forms ask about marital status.


How does marriage, divorce, or separation impact financial aid forms for college? Marital status determines which parent must supply information including financial data such as income and assets. Sometimes that means stepparents’ info is counted, too.

The government and the colleges analyze information about the dependent student’s family including financial data of parents but whose info is included depends on if parents are married or remarried, widowed, single, divorced, or separated as of the date the form is completed and signed.

All schools require the filing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  before awarding federal aid to students to help pay for college. Some colleges want students and parents to submit additional information before awarding their own money from institutional funds.

The FAFSA wants parental information from:

  1. Both parents if they are living and married to each other
  2. Single or widowed parent
  3. Divorced/separated parent the student lived with more during the past 12 months. If student did not live with one parent more than the other, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months, or during the most recent year the student actually received support from a parent
  4. Stepparent of remarried parent filling out the FAFSA

Under FAFSA:

  • “Married / Remarried” does not mean living together unless your parents’ state of legal residence recognizes their relationship as a common law marriage.
  • According to the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), “…the word ‘marriage’ means a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Therefore, same-sex unions are not considered marriages for federal purposes, including the FAFSA4caster.
  • The following people are not considered parents on this form unless they have legally adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

These parent definition rules apply even if the student is not living with his parents.

There is one exception to the rule. For the two FAFSA questions about parents’ education levels, your parents are considered to be birth or adoptive parents not your stepparent.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Colleges can ask for additional financial aid forms including one from divorced/separated parents not included on the FAFSA to help calculate financial aid awards from college funds.

Ice Cream on Campus

Cliché: Sweet tooth.    
POCS Reality: College is full of ice cream lovers.


Frost is on the ground, a cold wind is blowing, but I still prefer my dessert served cold and so do thousands of college students. I’m talking ice cream and the wonderful parlors that sell it.

I tour colleges and speak with administrators, professors, parents, and students to stay current but I haven’t been to a college that didn’t have a favorite spot that offers a form of frozen delight on or near campus.

Parlors may have standard flavors or those available for a limited time. Sometimes ice cream scoops are seasonally based. Pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, salted caramel-these are some flavors of fall.

On a recent 40 degree night, I enjoyed a kiddie-sized cup of pumpkin pie ice cream. Mmmm. I may go back next week to try a version of frozen hot chocolate.

What’s your favorite parlor/flavor? Tweet or post your answer.

Read more: *POCS Insight: College and Ice Cream

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Freshmen 15 myth aside, a little ice cream treat can go a long way in a college student’s healthy and fit lifestyle.

Freshmen Fifteen Myth Confirmed or Busted?

Cliché: Put weight on.    
POCS Reality: A healthy life-style can help students stay fit and healthy in college and thereafter.


 Is the Freshmen Fifteen myth confirmed or busted?

 The “Freshmen Fifteen” refers to the number of pounds college students are rumored to gain during their first-year. A recent study says that weight gain occurs throughout the college years but the numbers are off.

 According to PyschCentral, a national study shows average weight gain is gradual and it may take until college graduation to come closer to that number:

 Researchers determined that not more than 10 percent of college freshman gained 15 pounds or more — and a quarter of freshman reported actually losing weight during their first year.

 On average, women gained 2.4 pounds during their freshman year, while men gained 3.4 pounds.

However, the study also shows weight gain continues throughout college and thereafter, per PsychCentral:

 The results do show, however, that college students do gain weight steadily over their college years.

The typical woman gains between seven and nine pounds, while men gain between 12 and 13 pounds.


They found that in the first four years after college, the typical respondent gained another 1.5 pounds per year.

 Is the Freshmen Fifteen myth confirmed or busted? College weight gain is confirmed although the snappy term incorporates a fudged number.

 5 Ways to Avoid the Freshmen Fifteen is the title of an article I wrote with nutritionist Shelley Howe for Merrick Life, a local publication. We provide tips for how students can stay fit and eat healthy while in college. 

Read more: 3 Ways to Prevent the College Freshmen 15 

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: More students are taking 6 years not the previous 4 to graduate from college, allowing more time for potential weight gain. Whether or not the Freshmen poundage number of “15” is confirmed or busted, healthy eating and life-styles never go out-of-style.

Saving $$$ on College Textbooks

Cliché: An open book.    
POCS Reality: Students can save money on costly textbooks.


Over a thousand dollars. That’s how much students can spend a year for their college textbooks. The state of Washington is doing something that potentially can save its students millions. They are making inexpensive open source textbooks available for some popular college classes.

Open source textbooks are books that are openly-licensed by their authors for distribution in printed, digital, or audio formats. The price varies from free for downloads to $10-30 for printed textbooks.

That’s not all who can save, according to The Seattle Times, because of matching funds of $1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

The course materials will be available to any college that wants to use them around the world, as long as they promise to not charge students more than $30 to get printed copies of the materials. Students who choose to use the books online and not get a hard copy can use them for free. Either way, students will  potentially save hundreds of dollars a course.

The future may see open source textbooks in K-12 classrooms per The Seattle Times:

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said he planned to take aim next legislative session on K-12 books. He estimated that idea could save school districts millions of dollars, save children from having to carry heavy books back and forth to school and make sure schools have the most up-to-date books possible.

Read more: *POCS Insight: College and Books

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Buying used textbooks, renting textbooks, borrowing and swapping with a classmate, downloading all or portions of etextbooks, are other ways students can save money on textbooks. Just make sure it’s the correct edition required for the course. Sometimes professors use books they or others have authored but updated, creating a new required version. As for inexpensive open source textbooks, they can save students money if colleges and professor agree to use them and the quality is similar to existing textbooks.

iPad, Kindle and College

Cliché: Count the cost.    
POCS Reality: Students and colleges are interested in using technology as new college cost-savers.


 As college costs skyrocket students, students are looking for ways to cut expenses and some colleges think tablet computers and e-readers may help.

According to USA Today, a few colleges are studying cost saving and academic effect of students and professors using these tech devices.

For example, Byrn Mar College is running an iPad pilot program for 11 students and 4 professors. Students submit all assignments and professors grade and comment via the iPad.

University of Washington doctoral student in the Human Centered Design and Engineering program studied how the Kindle DX changed the reading habits of 39 computer science graduate students.

Read more about e-textbook renting.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: on the studies’ results so far:


  • The cost of purchasing pricey textbooks goes down because downloads are cheaper.
  • Submitting paperless papers eliminates printing costs and saves time.


  • Electronic devices may be pricey.
  • Reading habits may have to change. Read the USA Today article to learn about skimming and “cognitive mapping” problems.

 Bottom line: More colleges should be studying more ways to cut students’ college costs.

College Placement Tests-The Ugly Truth

Cliché: Rest on your laurels.    
POCS Reality: Colleges can require admitted students to take college placement exams. Colleges can rescind offers of admission.


Sending in your college applications and getting ready to relax for the rest of your senior high school year? Don’t slack off because you’re not in a college classroom yet. Colleges may require students to take college placement tests (CPTs) before signing up for courses. Colleges can also rescind an offer of admission if your GPA takes a nosedive.

Many schools require students to take CPTs in core subjects like math and English before permitting them to sign up for courses.

Colleges provide college placement tests to incoming freshmen to determine how ready they are for college level work at that school. The penalty for not doing well impacts both time and money. Students may first have to take costly remedial non-credit classes before taking courses that are credited towards their diploma.

Q: Why test?

A: To show the probability of college success.

However, whether or not this test assessment works is being questioned. Read more: The Unchecked Power of the College Placement Test

Colleges may want to monitor your senior year grades and can revoke an offer of admission for poor academic performance in stark contrast to your prior levels of achievements.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Take action against senioritis. The college-bound can ask colleges on their list what CPTs are given at that school and in what subjects. Whether or not standardized tests (SAT, ACT, CPT) measure the probability of college success, if colleges require them, college-bound students should be prepared to take them. Possible revocation of college admission offers and College Placement Tests are good reasons for students not to slack off in their senior year.

College and the Economy

Cliché: Come to the rescue.    
POCS Reality: Colleges are knowledge power houses that can offer solutions to public problems. 


We have seen what happens to towns when businesses (largest local employers) downsize or go out-of-business. It may be that colleges will play the role of heroes rescuing local economies. New York State is determined to find out according to this DemocratandChronicle.com article:

How institutions of higher learning can better fit into the New York economy should become more apparent through the 10 regional economic development councils that Gov. Andrew Cuomo established this past summer. 

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Colleges are both think tanks and businesses. They are a “natural resource” so why not tap into all that professorial knowledge and experience? Add in brainstorming from eager to learn and creative students and let the ideas flow. Meanwhile, colleges will continue as an employer of people with diverse skills. They hire professors to teach in the classrooms, food service workers to cook in the cafeterias, counselors and medical personnel to care for students in the health centers. Landscaping, sanitation, security, administrative, secretarial, library, information technology, athletic, research, laboratory, arts, music, are some additional fields requiring staff and managers. I’m looking forward to the plans showing how colleges can help rescue the economy.

*POCSmom’s DIY College Prep Insight: College Students and Energy Drinks

Cliché: Pick and choose.
POCS Reality: College students like other adults, have choices and should choose wisely.


Two college students on campus are tired and thirsty and one asks the other, “How about getting a Red Bull?” For a day, that question couldn’t happen. On September 26th the University of New Hampshire (UNH) announced it would no longer sell energy drinks as of January 2012.

The next day UNH announced its decision to delay its prior decision. Then the initial decision was abandoned altogether.

UNH has successfully eliminated trans fat and reduced sodium in campus food options so why the brouhaha about energy drinks, like Full Throttle, Red Bull and NOS?

Rationale for Ban

UNH’s goal is to be the number #1 rated healthiest campus and it has concerns about students mixing energy drinks with alcohol:  

In an effort to further its mission to be the healthiest campus community in the country by 2020 and keep its students safe, the University of New Hampshire will no longer sell energy drinks in its retail and vending locations beginning in January 2012.

…Research found that energy drinks can contain up to 300 times the amount of caffeine that the FDA allows for soft drinks, which is especially dangerous because caffeine increases the risk of alcohol poisoning by making people feel “less drunk.” In addition, students who mixed alcohol and energy drinks reported double the incidence rates of injuring themselves, requiring medical attention, and being taken advantage of sexually than those who drank only alcohol, according to a recent report by College Student Educators International.

Rationale for Repeal

No one else was on board. Students wanted to continue buying and drinking energy drinks and energy drink companies wanted to continue selling to satisfy this demand. In addition, there was a campus history of Red Bull sponsored campus events, product donations, and samples.

In delaying the ban decision, UNH President Mark W. Huddleston:

cited conflicting evidence about the health effects of consuming the beverages, as well as student reactions to the just-announced ban… I want to be sure we respect our students’ ability to make informed choices about what they consume.

POCSmom’s DIY College Prep Insight

Does this college energy drink ban/abandoned ban remind anyone else of Prohibition/repeal? Lesson learned-again.

In addition to college students and energy drinks, read about college students and flash mobs. Hmmm…all that youthful college student enthusiasm. I can’t help but wonder is it all natural or aided by some sips of an energy drink?

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s DIY College Prep Insight: College Students Love Affair With Social Media

Cliché: Stay in touch.    
POCS Reality: College students stay connected via the Internet.


What is the main focus of a college student’s attention?

  1. College classes
  2. Frat parties
  3. College football

 Actually none of the above-this was a trick question because a recent study found the Internet is the love of college students’ lives. The Cisco Connected World Technology Report dated September 11, 2011 conducted an online survey of over 1400 college students ages 18–24 and over 1,400 employees ages 21–29 between May 13 and June 8, 2011 in 14 countries including the U.S. What they found was-of college students and young professionals:

Roughly half of Students (49%) and End Users (47%) consider the Internet to be ‘close’ in importance to water, food, air, and shelter in their lives; and one-third of respondents in each subgroup consider the Internet to be as important as these critical needs.


About two-thirds (64%) of Students would prefer to have access to the Internet versus a car—driven by significantly large proportions of Students in China, Japan, India, and Germany.

Hear Tom Gillis, vice president at Cisco, talk about the next generation of workers and technology.

A cynic may think virtual reality is replacing reality but why not have the best of both worlds?

POCSmom’s DIY College Prep Insight: The internet is the way more and more people around the world are communicating, networking, and socializing. Soon, more folks than not will have lived their entire lives connected virtually to others, mixing business with pleasure. Consider it the next frontier and explore. Just maintain some balance and get up to smell the roses, do some exercise to stay fit, and stay engaged with those in closer proximity. Bonus: balance can help avoid the Freshmen 15.

College students and the rest of us can benefit by using social media responsibly.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student