Campus Overload Live with Jenna Johnson

Nov 11, 2010

Campus Overload's Jenna Johnson chronicles national college news, drinking fads, admissions buzz and the latest exploits of interns on her blog each day. In her live chat, she answers your questions about life on campus -- and life off campus, too.

Stressed by the SAT? Curious about the latest higher ed trends? Need some advice for dealing with your roommate? Just ask.

Hello, and welcome to my very first Campus Overload Live chat. It's totally up to you to direct the conversation today -- and I am excited to hear your questions.

A little bit about me: I write about student life and culture here at the Post, and blog about campus life issues. I am hoping this chat is a way to answer readers' questions about the admissions process, internships, college media and trends in campus living, learning, drinking and socializing.

So, fire away!

Our child wants to go OOS but the jaw dropping costs for OOS is too expensive. Do OOS offer in-state tuition to desirable students? Another question. How do admissions counselors look at applicants that are competitive, and have visited the college, went on the interview, stayed overnight or travel by air to meet with the admissions staff, met with the college contact at their HS, and applied early action. Does this translate into scholarships/grants? How interested does the college want you to be? I don't think stalker mode. Thanks!!!

I hadn't heard OOS until today -- I'm guessing it stands for "out of state," right? I like it.

As far as I know, at most schools in-state tuition is just for students who live in state. I have heard of a few schools that offer their in-state rates to students living in nearby states or the children of alums -- and all schools offer scholarships that can help offset the price. Each school operates differently, so you will just have to ask.

Colleges want to accept students who want to go there -- those are the students who are most likely to get involved, graduate and be a devoted alum. Things like visiting and applying early communicate that excitement. Be up front with schools about your want to go there (and your budget for doing so).

Hey Jenna -- I'm a sophomore at a midwestern college. I've tried different majors but can't decide on one. How much should I be freaking out that I don't know yet what I want to do with the rest of my life?

You are only a sophomore -- it's okay, you don't have to know what you want to do when you grow up. There are people in their 40s still trying to figure that out.

But unless you want to be in college until you are 40, it might not be a bad idea to pick a major (maybe a more general one) and stick with it. What are you most interested in? What have been your favorite classes so far? Can you shadow some professionals and learn about their jobs?

Jenna -- when is this crazy Four Loko fad going to go away?

Yesterday I had no fewer than five people ask me about Four Loko. Everyone seems to be buzzing about it lately, especially with Sen. Schumer calling for a ban yesterday.

College students have been mixing alcohol and caffeine for years. And Four Loko isn't the first beverage of its kind (remember Sparks?). Still, I bet more and more schools, cities and states will jump on the ban bandwagon until college students move onto the next trend.

Why is that Ivy League students and graduates get so darn touchy when you even faintly criticize the schools [not even the students!] for elitism and unwarranted privilege?

Well, not *all* students and grads get defensive -- but, yeah, many do. Part of the problem is that there are so many unfair stereotypes about the Ivy Leagues (like that all students are trust fund babies) that students constantly find themselves on the defensive, even when they don't have to be.

Do you think it's getting easier to get a job right out of school? Inquiring minds want to know.

It is getting easier -- although try telling that to a college senior freaking out about graduation. The Class of 2009 faced one of the worst job markets ever -- and some of them are still trying to find jobs that utilize their major. It got a little better for the Class of 2010, partly because students planned ahead, applied early and were more willing to keep their options open. Let's hope it's even better for the Class of 2011?

I taught at a large (ginormous) state university in Florida and emerged dumbfounded at the lack of basic manners among undergrads. I wrote letters of rec., contributed to LinkedIn pages, hooked up internships, flagged job opportunities and made calls of endorsement for many students. With enthusiasm (I enjoyed mentoring as well as teaching). Few acknowledged my efforts or even sent a simple thank you text. Is it 'uncool' to evince basic civility? I continue advocating for students... but I think this preschool lesson has been lost in the shuffle. Thank-you.

Oh, I hope it's not uncool! But, yes, I think that some students really do forget to take the time to thank their professors for going above and beyond. I am sure that they are extremely appreciate, they just don't take the time to say so. A few schools have actually added lessons on basic manners to things like freshman orientation.

Students: Right now send an e-mail (or Facebook message or text) to a professor who has helped you out. It only takes a minute and it will mean the world to them.

(Also, here's a column Santa Clara professor Ruth Davis wrote about manners:

The original poster wondered about going out of state for college. Public universities only offer in-state tuition to their own state residents (with some exceptions for reciprocity agreements), but LOTS of privates love to have students from other states, and are willing to kick in money to get them there. So don't rule out out of state colleges.

Great info! Thanks.

My son is a freshman at a large public NE university. He recently received an alcohol possession citation when his RA spotted alcohol in his dorm room. I'm not naive; I know my son, and most of his friends, drink at college. My question is, do you think most college administrators would support lowering the drinking age to 18, just so they don't have to spend so much time and energy addressing the fact that it's currently illegal for most college students to drink? And do you agree that lowering the drinking age would prevent a lot of the secretive binge drinking and preloading that is happening now? I see such a disturbing change in the way college kids drink today, as compared to when I was in college. It's scary.

You touched on something that college presidents are really debating right now. Some presidents and chancellors have joined the Amethyst Initiative ( and advocated for a lower drinking age. Others worry that doing so will only worsen the college drinking problem.

But everyone agrees drinking is a major problem on college campuses and, in some cases, it keeps getting worse.

While officials debate that, there are things parents can do. Remember, you are probably one of the most influential people in your son's life. Take the time to talk with him about his drinking habits -- and not just once. Make it an issue that he feels comfortable discussing with you.


At this point is it even possible to not have a Facebook account if you are in college? Considering how many groups on campuses use, and only use, Facebook to inform people about their events, do I need an account to have any kind of social life?

I'm am trying to think of a college student I know without a Facebook account... and... can't think of one...

Yup, everyone is on Facebook and most college students use it much more than e-mail to organize. But I am sure there are students who live perfectly normal, social lives without it.

Are colleges seeing more non-traditional students (older students, working adults), or has that trend plateaued? What are colleges doing to cater to their non-traditional students these days?

Last I heard, the trend continues on -- especially as the economy pushes people to change career paths.

Hi Jenna! I would love to be a journalist like you someday. I'm a high-school senior right now, and looking at my college options. Would you recommend going to journalism school, or majoring in something else and just working at a newspaper? Everyone in the world is telling me not to go to journalism school, but I wanted to ask you.

Don't listen to them! Your career should be something that you love to do. And keep in mind that journalism is changing quickly and there are lots of new opportunities for young journalists, like blogging, telling stories through video and engaging readers through social media.

Good luck :)

My daughter is applying to college and she's an awful writer. I edit college essays professionally. And I have a long list of clients. Would it be ok to add my daughters essays to my work load? Or should we seek out an unbiased, neutral party to edit her work?

Oh dear. First off, take a deep breath and remember that your daughter is still a kid. And I am sure that she has lots of other talents other than writing -- and colleges know that. I am concerned that competition to get into school has pushed parents to hire someone to edit their child's work. Shouldn't their essay be a reflection of who they truly are?

John Kelly, a columnist here at the Post, wrote a great column about why he isn't helping his daughter with her college essays:

Because being college educated is so cool these days universities have been overrun by tight-jean-wearing, vampire-weekend-loving, ironic hipsters. What can college students do to avoid these too-cool-for-their-own-good pretend urbanites?

Haha -- yet another serious challenge facing colleges today.

Are the tuition-related protests in Britain garnering much attention from students on U.S. campuses?

Not that I have heard of. And while there were lots of tuition protests on U.S. campuses this spring, I haven't heard of many lately.

Many schools offer partial aid to out of state students who meet academic criteria, they're trying to ensure they have a geographically diverse population. My daughter got money from Michigan State (we're from Maryland) specifically targeted to OOS students that reduced the OOS tuition pain.

Great to know. Thanks!

Hi Jenna: What topics are you considering for Campus Overload Live in the future?

That's what I would love to hear from you! In the next few weeks, I am planning to tackle admissions issues and applying for summer internships. I also plan to have some guest chatters help answer questions.

Thanks so much to everyone who sent in questions today. I apologize I couldn't get to all of them. Until next Thursday, you can reach me via e-mail ( Have a great week!


In This Chat
Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson writes about college students and campus trends for the Post. She also runs the blog "Campus Overload," which chronicles national college news, drinking fads, admissions buzz and the latest exploits of Hill interns.
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