Monthly Archives: October 2014

Rate My Professor or Hate My Professor?

It’s time to pick your classes for next semester! After figuring out what you need, you might start filtering by days and times – maybe weeding out those Friday classes or 8 a.m.s. And chances are your next step might include a visit to Rate My to check out your options.

RateMyProfsSeems like the perfect way to choose which instructor to take, right? What could be better than hearing directly from students about their experiences, with no editing or censoring?

But wait . . . before you click, have you ever thought about how reliable the information you find there is? The site is so heavily used (according to a recent article, as high as 80 million views during registration times) that you would assume it’s full of valuable information that can help you make informed decisions about which classes to take (and which to avoid).

But although so many students turn to the site for answers, only a tiny fraction are actually posting to the site, making the feedback unreliable and potentially misleading. The best feature of the site – that it’s completely user-driven, so you get direct unfiltered student reviews – is also exactly what undermines its usefulness, since the response rate for such sites is typically very low.

Think about it – you may use the site all the time, but do you take the time to go on and post a review for each of your classes each semester? Usually, those who are motivated to post either absolutely adore their professor or, more often, are unhappy with their grade or otherwise disgruntled (which, by the way, in addition to the Hatemyprofessor

nickname, has spawned MTV’s always entertaining “Professors Strike Back” videos – kind of like a nerdier version of “celebrities read mean tweets”).rate 2

The problem with this user-driven format is that it tends to leave out the reviews from all those who are not at those two extremes. And there are no checks in place to make sure the reviewer attended class, did all the assigned work, or even was a student in the course – anyone can create an account and post. The power of influence contained in those 80 million views ends up in the hands of a very small minority of students (and who may not necessarily be the most informed about the full experience of the class).

Still feel like the site is too valuable to your decision process to let go? Consider these hard numbers, then, for Towson’s own page on the site:raccoon

Over 2800 TU professors are reviewed, but guess how many of those have 100 or more reviews? 42. That’s it. And only ONE of those has over 200 ratings. The other 2,772 instructors have numbers of reviews in the double or single digits only.

So to investigate how useful these small numbers of reviews might be, I decided to try using myself as an example. I’ve been teaching here since 1999, with as many as 12 classes per year and 35 students per course. Conservatively, that means I’ve taught 5000 students (likely more), and yet my reviews total . . . 30. That’s right – thirty, out of my thousands of students.

Digging a little deeper, let’s look at my most-often taught class as an example: I’ve taught History of Modern Design online 6 times (totaling over 200 students) since I redesigned it in 2013, and yet I have only 1 review posted for that class. Would you really want to make your decision to take the class based on one person’s opinion?

Much better to choose your courses based on other factors that are more concrete, and give the professor a chance. If you’re not sure about a course, email the instructor ahead of time and see if you can get a copy of the syllabus to see if the class looks like it would be a good fit for you. And we have a generous week-and-a-half long add/drop period, so nothing is set in stone – you’ll have several class meetings (at least) to make your own decision about an instructor.

Rate my seems to be here to stay, and students will inevitably be drawn to it. But with this more realistic view of what the site actually offers, try to take what you read there with a very large grain of salt.futurama gif

Or in the words of a great New York Times piece about the site, consider it “a lovable relic of Web 1.0. With more than 10 million quirky, untrustworthy reviews, it’s going strong. Read it like a novel, watch it like MTV, study it like sociology. Just don’t base any real decisions on it.”

Dr. Emily Halligan
Undergraduate Academic Advising Center


Money Matters…Increase Funding for Your Education

Part of being a successful college student is knowing how to navigate college finances, because finances can directly impact your academic success on so many levels. One of the first challenges is understanding your funding options – in other words – the financial aid process. Towson University’s Financial Aid Office and the Department of Education Student Aid websites provide excellent relevant and current information to help you navigate this ongoing process.

2014-10-20_0857 A very important thing to note is that each year your must re-apply for financial aid, which begins January 1.  The FAFSA is free – so don’t pay any money to complete it!  TU’s priority deadline is March 1, but it can take about two weeks for FAFSA to process, so it is recommended you complete it by mid-February.  Use Valentine’s Day, February 14th as a way to not only remember your honey – but also your money!

Meeting the March 1 priority deadline is most important because it is your best chance for getting the most financial aid for which you qualify. Also remember two weeks after submitting the FAFSA to login and make sure the Estimated Family Contribution field is not blank, all other information is correct and there are no error messages.

A common response to submitting the FAFSA by February 14 is that I’m a dependent and my parents haven’t completed their tax return (which has a April 15th deadline).  If this is the case, provide estimated tax return data for the previous year using W2s, 1099s and other tax reporting documents, because they must be issued by January 31 of each year.

But what if I miss the priority deadline, can I still apply for financial aid?  The answer is yes – but you may not receive as much funding.  For fall, the last date to apply is November 15 and for spring it is April 15 of each year.

When it comes to your award notification – note that freshman awards will be mailed starting April 1; but returning students will be sent an email starting May 1.  When you receive your award notification – review it carefully to determine whether or not your funding provides enough money to pay for actual expenses established under the Cost of Attendance, which is basically your student budget.  It is critical that you know you have enough money to pay Towson University each semester so you can register for and attend classes and pursue your academic career.

If you don’t have enough money to pay your bill, this is how finances can impact your academic success.  If you owe more than $200 on your account, you will not be allowed to register for next semester.  The Bursar’s Office will make several attempts to contact you to pay your bill and if you don’t respond – then they will pass this debt on to Central Collection Unit (CCU) of the State of Maryland.  This is when you will incur additional fees!  First you will be charged a $25 late fee, and when your debt is passed on to CCU – you will also be charged a collection fee of no more than 20% of the outstanding balance.  This unpaid deb may also be reported to credit bureaus. You may also lose many of your University privileges, including cancellation of your class schedule.images

As you can see, not having enough money to pay your bill each semester can have a snowball effect on both your finances and academics.  So if you find yourself in this situation – ask for help by going in person and meeting with someone at both the Financial Aid and Bursar’s Offices.  Financial Aid can review your award and the Bursar’s Office can let you know if there are other payment options available.

Here are some other important things to consider when it comes to navigating college finances:

  • A change in enrollment may impact your financial aid, so consult with Financial Aid Office before making any major enrollment decisions.
  • Use TU Scholarship Seeker to apply for additional funding.  Click here for a list of other options.
  • The State of Maryland Higher Education Commission provides useful information about state aid programs and college planning at
  • Save money by using your Onecard to buy meals on campus – you will not be charged the sales tax!
  • If you have to take loans – accept subsidized loans first!  For more information about wise borrowing see:
    • While you are in school – your loans are on your credit report, but in deferred status.
    • And remember – student loans cannot be forgiven under bankruptcy!
  • If you pay your student bill using a credit card, you are also charged a 2.75% fee.
  • If you are about to graduate and are worried about repaying your loans – learn more about consolidating your loans.  Use this link to learn more about the process.

Mary Fortier
Financial Services

David Horne
Director of Financial Aid

Too Busy to Vote – Think Again!

College students are perhaps the busiest demographic in the U.S. during the school year. Papers, exams, jobs, and internships consume most of their schedules, leaving them little time to relaStudent_Votingx and enjoy themselves. One aspect of the price that busy students pay is their ability to participate meaningfully in the U.S. democracy and their civic responsibility to vote.

Unfortunately, many students miss the opportunity to vote because of their busy lifestyles. Some schedules make voting nearly impossible, and some schedules make students prone to forgetting where and when voting is taking place.

“More than twice as many young people said that they did not vote because of ‘registration problems’ like not receiving an absentee ballot or not being registered in the right location. This may reflect that many are first-time voters who are less familiar with the process, particularly if they moved for school or work and had to adjust their registration accordingly. Measures that simplify the registration, address change and voting process could help reduce that gap; they could also help reduce the 10% who said they simply forgot to cast their ballot” (

student-vote-democracy-word-cloud1-1024x791Understanding the issues that college students face when they cannot make time to vote or have difficulty voting, Towson University’s Office of Civic Engagement & Leadership collaborated with TurboVote. This service is informative, convenient, easy to use, and it clears up voting-related issues with simplicity. TU’s partnership with TurboVote addresses all of these issues, and more. Did you know, for example, that Towson University students, faculty and staff members could register to vote in the upcoming elections, regardless of their home state or county? That is, you can register to vote and vote at TU even if your home state is New Jersey or South Dakota.

Does this sound like a lot of paperwork? Actually, no paperwork is involved at all. You can register to vote through TurboVote online in under five minutes, and those who use TurboVote can sign-up to receive text messages and email alerts reminding subscribers of impending elections.

Don’t be part of the “24% of youth said that they missed the registration deadline or that they did not know how or where to register” (Kawashima-Ginsberg, 2014). The benefits of TurboVote—from email and text reminders to the ability to register to vote online—make political civic engagement easy. TurboVote provides students access to required documents, absentee ballots and deadlines germane to each individual. With TurboVote at your fingertips, residents of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota can now vote while living in Maryland, leaving no excuse to miss voting. Utilizing TurboVote to register and then voting can better society—for both yourself and your community.

The Office of Civic Engagement & Leadership sponsors a variety of different initiatives in an effort to get students civically engaged on campus and in their communities. Our programs range from political engagement such as: Voter Registration, the Collegiate Readership Newspaper Program, the New York Times Talk Lunches, and “thoughtful thursday” conversations on Freedom Square to environmental engagement with the Environmental Conference, Sustainability Day, and the Eco-Reps Program. We have community engagement initiatives that bring the community to the classroom through Service-Learning courses in a variety of academic departments.jfk

Civic engagement and leadership encompasses active citizenship, community involvement, advocacy, awareness of social issues and injustices, and the development of personal and social responsibility. Civic engagement requires students to involve themselves in society with the intent to better the world around them through leadership. We are proud to offer many experiences for students, faculty, and staff to practice civic engagement and leadership at Towson University.

For more information, please visit:

Tyler New and Dr. Christopher Jensen
Office of Civic Engagement & Leadership

Bieber and Grumpy Cat: The Art of Networking No Matter Who You Are

If you haven’t heard of Justin Bieber or the infamous Grumpy Cat, then you’re probably the only one.

Whether you like him or not, Bieber undoubtedly rose to fame when he shared his singing talent on YouTube, which has since led to his strong online presence and worldwide recognition.

Grumpy Cat – a cat known for its grumpy expression due to a feline dwarfism – became an Internet sensation after its picture was posted to a social network. This cat has been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and the cover of New York Magazine, and now has a business valued at a million dollars.

Do you know what Justin Bieber and the Grumpy Cat have in common? Networking. Funny-Cats-Top-49-Most-Funniest-Grumpy-Cat-Quotes-2

Unlike Bieber and Grumpy Cat, it doesn’t take social networking to the world to make a name for yourself; however, networking does come in a variety of forms and can help you gain visibility, make connections, reach your goals, and ultimately land a job.

According to a survey by Manpower Group that analyzed 60,000 clients, networking is the single most effective way to land a job! Knowing the right person may not get you the job, but your resume could end up in the right hands, your credentials may get a second glance, or you may just be pointed in the right direction.

And networking is not as tough as you might think – it’s just being genuinely interested in others and building and maintaining relationships over time. It’s connecting with the people already in your life, who can then connect you with the people in their lives, and the system goes on and on.

Take a good look at the people around you and know that in some small way, they could potentially help you make great strides.

Faculty: They can connect you with former students, as well as to those in their own professional networks. By simply talking to your advisor, volunteering, or just getting to know faculty, you are networking and forming connections. Showing interest and staying connected with faculty can help you connect with potential employers.

Alumni: By connecting with TU alumni, you’re not only reaching out to someone who has “been in your shoes,” but you’re also finding out firsthand what it takes to network before and after graduation. You can connect with alumni via the Career Center Mentor Database through Hire@TU. Alumni volunteer mentors want to help you with your career, so take advantage of this great networking resource.

Associations: If you want to connect with future colleagues and established experts in your field, then your best bet is to volunteer on a committee. Every field has at least one professional association – most with state or local chapters. Students typically get a reduced membership rate while still gaining access to job/internship postings, mentoring programs, career information, and most importantly, networking opportunities.

Family and Friends: Don’t write off family and friends as networking connections just yet. You may know some of the most in-depth details about them, but that doesn’t mean you know who they know. Just asking if they know anyone in your field can help you connect with potential employers. Even the most random people you come in contact on a daily basis can have connections to other people who can help you.

LinkedIn: Move over Facebook; LinkedIn is the next big thing for networking, especially professional networking. By creating a profile and joining relevant groups, you can connect with alumni, professors and professionals in your field. They can then endorse you, giving you more connections!

Business Etiquette and Networking Dinner: The TU Career Center event you can’t miss November 5 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.! Enjoy a FREE, multi-course dinner while learning the “how-to’s” of professional networking and dining etiquette. Register by October 31 via Hire@TU.

Fall Career and Internship Fair: Get ready to meet over 90 employers who want to network with you October 21 from noon – 3 p.m. Dress professionally and bring plenty of resumes! Click here to view a complete list of Employers attending the fair.

Career Center Appointments: If you’re really unsure about networking, you can always schedule a Networking Appointment to help you expand your network, answer questions you have regarding professional etiquette in network settings, and give you experience with network conversations; or schedule a Social Media Consultation to receive guidance on developing a professional presence online.

Networking is not about asking everyone you know for a job. It’s asking for general job search advice, information, tips, and referrals. Start making connections today with the Career Center.

For more information about the Career Center visit or call 410-704-2233.

Sara Heilman
Career Center Marketing Intern

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