Joe Emerson

Joe Emerson

Joe Emerson spent 30 years as a magazine and newspaper reporter, editor and copyeditor who turned to freelancing after 20 years with The Tampa Tribune, which closed in 2016 after 125 years of serving the Tampa Bay area. Writing and delivering valuable information remain his passion.

More from Joe Emerson

Benefits of Being a National Merit Scholar

A thing’s value to a person depends on what matters to that person. That’s subjective. A thing’s value also can be tangible and quantifiable. That’s objective. Pride born of doing something few people can accomplish is subjective, and academic and personal excellence that can be measured in dollars, diplomas, and careers is objective. The point is that, when considered both subjectively and objectively, the benefits of being a National Merit Scholar are tangible, quantifiable, and potentially deeply satisfying.

How Do You Become a National Merit Scholar?

Every year, the roughly 7,600 applicants who are named National Merit Scholarship recipients will have waited about two years to see whether they would be chosen. It’s a long process begun annually by about 1.6 million contenders looking for the answer to a simple question: How do you become a National Merit Scholar?

3 Ways to Improve Your College Cash Flow

Forbes says 2020 set a record for student debt, with 45 million Americans collectively owing $1.6 trillion. That’s second only to home mortgage balances. If you want to be able to afford a home once you leave college, minimizing the balance due on your postsecondary education matters. One way to minimize college debt is to maximize your college cash flow and, when possible, pay college costs as they accrue. And there are 3 ways to improve your college cash flow: proactively, in real time, and reactively.

Quiz: Are You Ready for College?

An Inside Higher Ed story posted on Nov. 4, 2019, reports bad news from ACT results for the high school Class of 2019. It cites a continuing decline in college readiness, with results on English and math at a 15-year low. Data show that 37 percent of students hit three of four ACT college readiness benchmarks – 36 percent didn’t hit any. Since 52 percent of the Class of 2019 took the ACT, a lot of red flags are flapping in the breeze. Should you be flying one? Depends on how you answer the core question of our quiz: Are you ready for college?

Senior Year Checklist: How to Start Your College Search

"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything,” Dwight D. Eisenhower said in a speech given as president in 1957. That Eisenhower paradox is a collision of facts that guides this thinking: An intelligent planning process explores scenarios and responses to them that shape a plan and make it possible to adapt a new one more quickly if circumstances undermine it. Want to know how to start your college search and make it bear fruit? Craft a high school senior year checklist and use it to continually define your plan.

How to Transition from High School to College During COVID-19

Successfully advancing from high school to college isn’t easy. It gets particularly difficult when a highly infectious disease becomes one of the risks of communal life on campus. That’s the new reality, but incoming freshmen will find they only need to adapt and overcome to successfully transition from high school to college during COVID-19.

5 Ways to Connect with Peers in an Online Class

Teachers long have known that the critical step in delivering knowledge is to engage the student. Teacher-student interaction is the essence of that. Students teaming up to problem-solve is the holy grail of the student-teacher interaction, with smart instructors leading the way and then stepping back to witness learning in action. It’s why classmates matter, and it’s why students determined to maximize their e-school experience should know these 5 ways to connect with peers in an online class.

10 Tips to Help Students Succeed in Online Classes

Online courses can be a great way to juggle work, social activities and academic priorities. That is why nearly 67 percent of USF’s undergraduate students take at least one online course each academic year. But there is a difference between choosing to take a single online course for convenience, and suddenly finding yourself taking all your courses virtually. There’s no shortage of advice on how to adapt to online learning. With a few caveats, those same tips apply when a pandemic jams virtually every college student into the fast lane of digital learning. Here are 10 tips to help students succeed in online classes.

Everything You Need to Know About the ACT Test

The most important thing to know about the ACT test is whether it’s important to you. If college is the path to your dreams and the ACT is the best fit for you, the answer is a resounding yes. So, in case, as teachers often say, there will be a test, here’s everything you need to know about the ACT test.

When to Start College Internships

It’s almost always a good time to build personal and professional networks, explore career options, gain work experience, and enhance a résumé. So, it’s not a matter of whether you should do a college internship, but simply when. And deciding when to start college internships depends on your past, your future, and your timeline.

New Year's Resolution Ideas for College Students

A psychotherapist was kind enough to give Business Insider three common reasons your New Year’s resolutions often fail: You aren’t being specific enough. You aren’t framing them positively. They aren’t about you. Got that? Now check out our New Year’s resolution ideas for college students, and pick a few to adapt to your needs. When you make them yours, remember to be specific, focus on the positive aspects of your goals, and be sure they are things you really want.

What Makes a College Military Friendly?

If you’re among the 0.4 percent of Americans active in the armed forces, the 7 percent who have served, or the 39 percent of troops since World War II who reported serving in combat or a war zone, you deserve more than a “thanks for your service.” As we observed this year's Veterans Day, a lot of thank-you’s were heard and seen. Gratitude is appreciated, but not as much as high-quality medical care and education. Both were promised. The Post-911 GI Bill reinvigorated the promise of an education, and a lot of schools are stepping up. Our look at what makes a college military friendly focuses on those actions, not words.

College Student Voting: How to Vote While You’re in College

“Elections belong to the people,” Abraham Lincoln said. Sure, you say, but you’re not going to bother with elections because you don’t know how to vote while you’re in college. If that’s the case, consider the rest of Lincoln’s quote: “If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

How to Fight Your Fear of College

This is being written as Halloween approaches and October slips away, bringing you one month closer to the end of your senior year of high school. You’re getting serious about the college application process, and that conjures thoughts of leaving home, living with strangers, and tackling college-level courses. Worse yet, you’re terrified that you won’t fit in, and you’re still shrugging your shoulders when aunts and uncles ask about majors. Let’s jump ahead one year to get a new perspective on how to fight your fear of college.

10 Laundry Hacks for College Students

College laundry discussions, from talk of laundry room etiquette to tips on having reasonably clean clothes to wear, have a common back story: The family laundry load shrinks when college claims a family member; said family member carries that missing share of the laundry load to campus, where hygiene-related health concerns and social mores force the scholar to pony up cash for private laundry service or develop a sudden interest in reading things like “10 Laundry Hacks for College Students.”

What to Expect when a College Rep Visits Your High School

So, a representative of a university you like will be visiting your high school. Try this: Grill your high school counselor about the session rules and setting. Research the college to ensure you aren’t wasting your time and know enough to avoid wasting theirs. Have a list of useful questions. Be prepared to comport yourself well and courteously. Vie for an opening to present yourself one-on-one. It’s about trying to figure out what to expect when a college rep visits your high school and positioning yourself to make the most of the experience.

Veterans and College Admission FAQs

Military training and experience position veterans for college. Federal legislation helps make college possible for veterans. And colleges strive to enroll veterans and help them succeed. The facts behind those statements answer many of the FAQs on veterans and college admission.

How to Make Your Day More Productive: Tips for College Counselors

For college counselors, productivity is a measure of how many students can be helped in a day. Nationally, the average ratio of public-school counselors to students is 482-to-1. That means knowing how to make your day more productive is about effectively and efficiently handling a workload that is nearly double the recommended level of 250-to-1. The challenge is great, and the stakes are high.

Talking About the College Transition: Tips for Parents

Starting college is a series of firsts for students and their parents. Research, campus visits, and the all-important orientation offer data points and examples of what being a freshman means. But there’s no dry run, no drill, no simulation that can fully put a student in a freshman’s shoes and parents in that all but helpless mode of waiting and wondering from afar. There is, though, a simple, free, and effective way for parents and students to prepare, and that’s talking about the college transition.

Tips for Parents on Teaching College-Bound Students How to Be Independent

It’s a safe bet that someone somewhere is writing a doctoral thesis or medical journal article on why there are so many labels these days for overprotective parents: helicopter parents, bulldozer parents, snowplow parents, to name a few. Here’s one likely takeaway from that article: Tips for parents on teaching college-bound students how to be independent should be informed by a vaccine analogy. A shot of responsibility now can give your student enough confidence to survive the independence of freshman year.

Top Tips for College Counselors on Beating Summer Melt

In community college circles, summer melt is when students who enroll in the spring don’t show up come fall. With four-year colleges, melt is where students commit to school in the spring but never enroll. They say melt stops one-tenth or one-fifth or one-third or up to 40 percent of college-bound students, depending on who’s talking. You, however, know those statistics pile up one person at a time, and those numbers can represent names and faces you know. That’s why we want you to have our top tips for college counselors on beating summer melt.

How to Use Your Summer to Explore Careers

What you do the summer before you start college can help you decide what you want to do with your life and what to focus on in college. If you’ve already chosen a major, you may already have a career path; if not, examining options can at the very least help you rule some out. The choices are yours, and smart decisions can come from knowing how to use your summer to explore careers.

Get Seniors Ready for College: Must-Do Tips for Counselors

College-bound seniors spend a sizable chunk of their final year of high school sweating the details of the college application process. It’s a test of patience and perseverance you can help them ace, especially if you don’t let scattergrams and endless paperwork squeeze the humanity out of the process. To help you get seniors ready for college, our must-do tips for counselors focus on human elements of the college challenge.

Tips for Traveling to Out-of-State Colleges of Interest

Would you buy a house without touring the property and checking its history? Choosing a college you haven’t visited is the Imax version of that scenario. Unfortunately, out-of-state college visits can mean spending time and money you don’t have and dealing with logistical challenges. Our tips for traveling to out-of-state colleges of interest can help.

Top Spring Break Tips for College Counselors

Spring break is a high school milestone. For juniors and seniors, life-altering changes loom. The person tasked with helping students manage those changes by shaping college and career dreams knows the holiday is a green light for juniors to start the application process in earnest and seniors to finish strong. It’s all about positioning, and our top spring break tips for college counselors are designed to help them position students for success.

College Decision Letters: Your Next Steps

The college application process is complex, time consuming, and difficult, and it doesn’t end when the responses arrive. The anxiously awaited news from the schools you target will be that you have been wait-listed, deferred, rejected, or accepted. Along with triggering an array of emotions, what you learn when opening those college decision letters will dictate your next steps.

Helping Your Students Rank Their College Priorities: A Guide for Counselors

For a counselor to pair college-bound high school students with the right schools, the students must know what they want and need. Sounds simple, but counselors know that most of their students still will be figuring those things out come senior year. What students must learn is that success in the college selection process is about identifying and satisfying their wants and needs when it comes to academics, social life/atmosphere, finances, location, and infrastructure/services. Those areas are where the focus should be when you help students choose their college priorities.

How to Choose High School Electives with College in Mind

Your high school transcript is the key to opening doors at colleges that interest you, showing who you are by quantifying what you can do and your willingness to tackle rigorous studies and explore unfamiliar ground. Elective courses are how you can shape that high school transcript and those admissions officers’ opinions. Knowing how to choose electives with college in mind will make it more likely that those opinions will make you smile.

Does Volunteering Matter for College Admissions?

In the eyes of admissions officers, motive is an important aspect of an applicant’s community service record. Having a long history of volunteer work matters, too. As do the type, amount, and results. And beyond benefiting the community, there’s a dollar value and intangible reward for the volunteer. Those are the points, running the gamut from altruistic to materialistic, that we address in answering an unexpectedly complex question: Does volunteering matter for college admissions?

Campus Visits in Winter: What You Can Learn

Winter tours are when you see a campus in its work clothes. These are the no-frills pages of most college calendars, with few special events and lots of studying. Holiday activities are becoming memories, the school year’s end remains distant but is taking shape, and the freshmen you want to grill are on their way to becoming college veterans. So, if you are a high school senior on campus visits in winter, here are four things you really need to know.

What Not to Do on College Applications

The hard truth is that the application process is the time consuming, challenging, nerve-racking, and unavoidable path to college. The soft spot is that there are ways to boost the odds that you’ll get where you want to go. Step one is knowing what not to do on college applications.

How to Help Families Research Colleges: Tips for Counselors

Getting students in the right colleges is a complex job with high stakes. Counselors can inform the process and inspire, but only the students and parents can make the decisions that shape the lists of target schools and final decisions. The research that students and their families must do will define those lists and decisions. That’s the thinking behind our 10 tips for counselors on how to help families research colleges.

Winter Break Tips for High School Seniors Preparing for College

Winter break is perfectly timed for college-bound high school seniors who need a respite from classes, some time with family and friends, and relief from the college hunt jitters. ’Tis that season, so here’s a gift that can ease those jitters and help seniors maximize holiday cheer: winter break tips for high school seniors preparing for college.

What Are the Benefits of Smaller Class Size in College?

Determining the optimum college class size is akin to finding the best setting on a residence hall thermostat. Satisfaction and results vary, and they depend on the class (residence hall) and the participants (roommates). That’s because one person’s comfort zone can be where another finds misery. There are, however, a number of good answers and supporting arguments for those who ask: What are the benefits of smaller class size in college?

What to Expect on SAT Test Day

College Board’s SAT has been a source of test day jitters for aspiring college students since 1926. The test and testing methods have evolved, but the jitters and the best ways to cope with them haven’t: Study until your confidence level tames those nerves, and know what to expect on SAT test day.

Finding Colleges That Fit Your Students: Tips for Counselors

For a counselor, getting a student in the right school is about the long game, one that begins with the first encounter and, ideally, plays out steadily throughout high school. It’s about engaging the parents and the student, learning the student’s strengths and weaknesses, abilities and interests; then, based on the academic record you help build, overseeing school selection and enrollment. The trickiest part of the admissions game is that the instructions must be customized for each individual when finding colleges that fit for your students.

What High School Classes Do Colleges Look for on Applications?

College admissions screeners focus on the types of classes applicants chose in high school. They also consider context, trajectory, and outcome. Did the student: A) Deliver a transcript signaling progression toward a goal and grades that show academic potential? B) Build a solid foundation of core courses? C) Take challenging courses? D) Take on academic challenges throughout high school? So, let’s unpack a four-part answer to a complex question: What high school classes do colleges look for on applications?

How to Deal with Application Anxiety

The misery index level of the college admissions process is relative. Relative to how studious and organized you are. Relative to how much effort you put into the application process. Relative to your attention to detail and capacity to follow through consistently. Relative to the dependability of those who contribute to your application process. And relative to whether you know how to deal with application anxiety. 

Why You Should Apply to Multiple Colleges

Applying to a single college, or just a few, means running a risk of being rejected by your target school and having to start the process from scratch with less time. That’s the short explanation for why you should apply to multiple colleges. The long explanation has several parts.

Types of Undergraduate Majors in College

When you were a child, people asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Here’s a grown-up version of that question, the one college students get: “Have you picked a major?” If your answer is no, you might be asking, “What are the types of undergraduate majors in college?”

How to Draft the College Essay

A 2016 National Association for College Admission Counseling study of freshman admissions factors ranked the college essay No. 5 in importance. The top four factors involved grades, test scores, and curriculum choices. When good grades and academic choices position you to cross the finish line with the real contenders in a race for limited space in that dream school, knowing how to draft the college essay can make you a winner.

Questions to Ask on a Campus Tour

Make those campus tours of your target colleges as beneficial as possible by doing the research necessary to answer these and other questions before you go. The knowledge you gather will help you craft a more relevant (to each school) list of questions to ask on a campus tour.

Tips to Make the Most Out of a College Fair

If picking a college is on your to-do list, the item appearing right before it on that list should be “college fairs.” The fairs are great tools for building a target list or narrowing your choices. They may affirm or change your feelings for a dream school, unexpectedly lead you to the school of your dreams, or match you with one that’s a perfect fit. Regardless of where you are in the hunt, these tips to make the most out of a college fair can help.

Successfully Transition to College Life with These Tips

Few people face the beginning of college life without some degree of anxiety. That’s a given. After all, the experience is akin to staring at the deep end of the pool from the highest diving board you’ve ever seen. You know you can swim, but you’re afraid you’ll land the worst possible way. Take a deep breath and make the jump, because you can successfully transition to college life with these tips.

Types of Transportation at College

It’s another Monday at college. Your to-do list features three classes, a consultation with a professor, a four-hour shift at the children’s museum where you intern as a docent, intramural softball league practice, and a study group session at the library. So today you’ll have to be at six places on a campus the size of a small town and also at the museum, which is three miles from campus. It will be a busy but doable day because you made wise choices on the types of transportation at college that meet your needs.

How to Get Involved on a College Campus

Campuses are communities designed to embrace and nurture students as those students search for, explore, and make the most of their passions and strengths. The essence of that is ensuring there are countless opportunities for students to connect with the campus community. Consider what USF puts, quite literally, at the fingertips of students who are trying to decide how to get involved on a college campus.

Tips for Dealing with Homesickness

Starting college comes with some radical changes. You’re in a new environment surrounded by new people. Sure, you’ll get a rush of exhilaration at all the new faces and places, but the upheaval will likely take its toll on you. The good news is that there are simple and effective tips for dealing with homesickness.

How Academic Success Centers Help You Make the Grade in College

Studying is learning, and learning leads to success, which is why it’s so appropriate that USF calls its college study hub the Academic Success Center. It’s not just named well, it works – if you use it. Why people don’t use study centers or wait too long to use them is a study in human nature. This article is about academic excellence, so we’ll simply look at how Academic Success Centers help you make the grade in college.

Help Your Students Prepare for College Early

When it comes to getting students thinking about college, counselors know that “better late than never” should be said with a deep sigh. Counselors know it takes time to build the academic record and log the life experiences that make the college admissions process easier and college years as productive as possible. As a college counseling pro, you know that it’s critical to help your students prepare for college early.

5 Tips for Parents with College-Bound Students

There’s a one-liner that has made the rounds on T-shirts and bumper stickers: You can’t scare me; I have children. Here’s a tweaked version that takes it to the next level of fearless: You can’t scare me; I have children bound for college. If you can relate to the truth behind that humor, you might appreciate these 5 tips for parents with college-bound students.  

The Importance of Sleep for College Students

College is a matter of dreams and the academic and career aspirations born of those dreams. Sleep problems can turn those dreams into nightmares, causing physical and emotional problems that spiral out of control and land GPAs and hopes of graduating in the trash bin. That’s why the importance of sleep for college students can’t be overstated.

Try These Easy Microwave Meals for College Students

College students need more time. In fact, college becomes a study in how to save time while getting things done. The answer, too often, is eating on the run. If you’re trying to get by on vending machine snacks and Red Bull gulped on the way to class, your health and grades are doomed. If you want to burn beneficial calories without burning too much time, try these easy microwave meals for college students.

Coping with the Stress of Going Away to College

Beginning college usually means heading off to unfamiliar territory to live among strangers while facing significant academic and social challenges – typically while still a teenager. So it would be unusual if people facing day one at college didn’t have issues with stress. The good news is that millions of people have done it, and their legacy is a mountain of information on coping with the stress of going away to college.

First-Generation College Student Guide

Nearly one-third of rising college freshmen are first-generation college students. The status should be a point of pride, but many students who hope to be the first in their immediate family to attend college don’t take credit for being trailblazers. They either don’t realize it’s a plus in the eyes of admissions officers or think it’s a mark of shame. To set the record straight, here’s our first-generation college student guide.

5 Back-to-School Tips for Senior Year Success

College-bound high school seniors should keep two things in mind. The coming months will define the coming years, and you will define the coming months. That’s a bit scary, but the jitters will fade once you take control. To that end, here are 5 back-to-school tips for senior year success.

How to Find Your Passion and a Career You Love

In a perfect world, everyone would start college knowing what they would love to do for a living. Students would already have a plan to apply their interests to career challenges and curriculum choices. They’d intuitively know how to use college as a stepping stone to a career that makes them a productive individual, as well as financially and emotionally fulfilled.

How to Prepare for College During Summer

If you are a college-bound high school graduate, change is coming this fall that will have storylines involving friends, family, and new academic and geographic horizons. Adapting to this radical life transformation will haunt you less if you learn how to prepare for college during summer. This includes vital social, academic, relocation, and health tips that can make or break your freshman year experience.

5 Summer Tips for College Counselors

For high school college counselors, summer is a time to watch another wave of college-bound graduates roll out, a time to let the successes and failures of the past year inform you of how to handle the youngsters and parents who come for help throughout the next year, and, most importantly, a time to get positioned to shape and direct the next wave of graduates. These 5 summer tips for college counselors are shared with those goals in mind.

3 Ways to Learn College Study Habits Now

If you are still in high school, learning good study habits will pay huge dividends now, in college, and beyond. If you have finished high school and have the grades you need to get into college but never got the hang of studying, congratulations: You definitely are smart enough to graduate with honors, and it’s not too late to learn college study habits.

How to Finish the College Process

May and June bring high school caps and gowns. For college-bound high school seniors, spring and summer also bring important deadlines in the college enrollment process. So after years of careful course selection, of prepping for and taking standardized tests, and of extracurricular activities chosen and performed with an eye to college admissions, it’s time to finish the college process.

Why A College Education Is Important

Defining why a college education is important involves more than just identifying the superficial benefits of more career opportunities. At a deeper level, college is where you will map a path through life that can take you to places you never expected to go.

What's the Difference in On-Campus and Off-Campus Housing?

Next to choosing a major or concentration, picking housing is your weightiest decision. It affects physical and mental well-being, the wallet, and whether academic goals will be met. The answer to the housing question depends on the person, the college, and the community. That’s why knowing a college, the host community’s housing options, and the difference in on-campus and off-campus housing must be a factor in choosing schools.

Is Starting at a Community College Right for You?

Community college can be your first, best, and final step in a post-secondary education, or it can be a lifesaving way to rescue a derailed plan to attend a dream college. Junior college serving as an academic lifesaver is a fairly common story, but there are also many no-drama reasons why starting at a community college might be right for you.

Summer Tips for High School Students Preparing for College

People who work their way through the mountain of tips on how high schoolers can use summers to prepare for college will see a pattern emerge. There are a lot of summer tips for high school students preparing for college. Typically, the experts focus on five areas: jobs and internships, volunteer work, well-chosen summer courses and programs, college admissions prep work, and extracurricular activities that identify, hone, and display personal skills and talents.

Denied Admission to College: What You Can Do

Whether you received a single “no” from your dream school or a string of denials from all your target colleges, remember that you’re not alone. Many students are in your shoes, so we put together some simple steps to follow after you’ve been denied admission to college.

Last-Minute College Application Tips

If you’re unsure where you’re attending college at this stage, it’s probably for one of two reasons -- needing help wrapping up your applications or waiting until now to begin the college application process. Whatever camp you fall into, here’s some good news: we have some valuable, last-minute college application tips that can make a big difference in where and when you attend college.

5 Tips to Use This Holiday Break to Make the College Process Easier

If you’re a high school senior, you may be at the stage of the college application process where staying very organized and planning way ahead can have an upside. Think lists and calendars. You need to be aware of what must be done and by when. With the holiday break just around the corner, you can get even more ahead of the game with these 5 tips for using holiday downtime to make the college process easier.

What to Consider When Choosing a College as a National Merit Scholar

If you’re reading this, you either are a National Merit Scholar (congratulations) or hope to be one. In all likelihood, you’re looking for a compass to help you map your path to and through college, and picking a school suited to the needs of a National Merit Scholar or an academically driven student is important. What should you consider when choosing a college as a National Merit Scholar? Let us help.


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