The Hot Spots
A handy guide: Internet sites no college student should live without
By Paul Heltzel
OVER THE PAST few years, the much-ballyhooed Internet has virtually exploded with educational and informational resources for the enterprising college student. Looking for a job? Find one through the Web! Hunting for an apartment? Listings are just a click away! Need a 15-page thesis on chaos theory in less than an hour?
Of course, sifting through the morass of mindless home pages to find these useful sites can be both frustrating and time-consuming. So to help you avoid fruitless searching, we at Link have spent countless hours uncovering the information of greatest use to students nationwide--all the sites that can make your collegiate years richer, fuller, and more rewarding in every possible way.
Because, sure, one day the diffuse resources of the Internet will be cataloged in the manner of Linnaeus, the 19th-century botanist whose classification system organized the natural world. But until then, you've got Link.
Scholarship and Loans
Any student who has applied for financial aid knows it's about as enjoyable as standing in the wrong line at the DMV. Unfortunately, the Web won't improve your mood much. But there are ample databases and other online resources available to help you avoid common pitfalls and maybe score you a couple grand.
Clear explanations and tons of links make this one a worthy bookmark. No surprises here, but if you're falling deeper into the Wonderful World of Debt, this is a good independent guide to student financial aid. Includes sources of aid, "scam alerts," a question-and- response section, and leads to mailing lists and newsgroups. Online calculators help you to determine cost increases due to inflation and to work out deductions for on-time payments or by debiting your bank account. And, thankfully, this isn't one of the "free" services that sells your address to corporations for a mailing list.
This one's a slick guide to financial aid, sponsored by Signet Bank. We were a little suspect at first of a student-aid site financed by a bank, but were won over by advice like: "Using a Volkswagen instead of your Lear jet can save you $540 per tank of gas." The site has 25 chapters of financial information, including the matter-of-factly-titled "Getting money because you're an athlete," which explains how to market athletic talents, avoid recruiting violations, and locate scholarships in your sport.
Traveling on the Cheap
Whether you're trying to get home for the holidays or get as far away from your family as possible, the Web can help. Knowledge is the traveler's faithful companion, and the Web is lousy with tips, reviews, and online reservation services for the college nomad.
A quick look through the service's Worldwide Hostel Guide will give you the vitals--but not reviews--on thousands of hostels in over 150 regions throughout the world. You can trade tips, sort through links to other cheap travel sites, and post questions for other users: "Am I the only one going to Europe in January?" This site offers good on-the-road tips from hostelers without having to sleep with them.
Smart and funny, this is the best online travel guide around. While other sites tend to be ads for their books with a few excerpts, The Rough Guide offers solid worldwide travel information. For example, the guide accurately reports that Fort Lauderdale once possessed a "reputation for rumbustuous beachlife," yet now "the party-animal atmosphere has been tamed at last." Rumbustuous party atmosphere, we hardly knew ya.
Finding a Job
Any resourceful college student knows you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone's online résumé service. But the two services highlighted below offer more than job listings; they offer strong advice. So check the URLs, hit the pavement, and don't take the first offer.
CareerMagazine has links to and profiles of companies with "aggressive" college recruiting efforts (AT&T, MCI, Intel ... ). A campus recruiting calendar will give you the recruiting season pregame show. And for the hearty job seeker, there is hard-core advice from an entry-level hiring manager: "If you have less than a 3.0 GPA, we will not even consider you. If you lack any tangible work experience or significant class-project experience, you're out." If you're not feeling shattered after that, check out job listings or post your résumé to their online bank.
Whether you wish to be someone's toady for the summer or the big cheese down at the plant, Jobtrak will get you on the right, uh, track. Most job sites are full of technical positions, but a broader range of employment opportunities can be found here. More than 700 employers pay a small fee to list with this service, which claims 2,000 new listings a day. Jobtrak is geared toward students and recent graduates, and a password from your career center or alumni association is needed to access the listings. So what are you waiting for, slacker?
Meeting Your Perfect Mate
Unlike the bar scene in your college town, the Web community has a greater appreciation for people with chronic epidermal blemishes or who find Captain Picard damn sexy. So set your love gun on stun and go get yourself a honey.
Let WebPersonals' computerized scout--the Love Hound--search nightly, e-mailing you when a perfect match is found. You can anonymously respond to thousands of listings or simply lurk and sift through the classifieds. Photos of potential mates are available, as are sound bites. There's even a "College Town" section for those interested in romance, adventure, or "other activities." Wink. Wink.
This yenta of a Web site will walk you down the Internet aisle, dance a shocking tango with your personal computer, and, in smooth fashion, comb back your hair and whisper the Web classifieds you long to hear. It being a subscription-based service, you can write an anonymous classified, post a picture, and lie like hell about your height, weight, and measurements.
Hunting for Apartments
Life's too short to talk about bad websites. Yet the Internet is fraught with useless apartment listings. Pickings are slim for the soon-to-be displaced co-ed, but we've managed to eke out a couple sites that are worth a look-see.
Most nationwide listing services are either extremely dated or return no listings in your area. Rent Net, however, boasts more than 1 million timely listings in 900 cities in the United States and Canada. A quick search in almost any town will give you available housing based on the number of bedrooms and price range you choose. Particularly useful if you're moving out of your area, this speedy database even offers pictures of unfurnished apartments and short-term rentals.
The Paper Chase
For those last-minute research binges, the Web still can't compete with a strong search service like Lexis/Nexis. Of course, using the Web won't cost you thousands of dollars a month either. So start your exploration with a good search engine, like Digital's renowned AltaVista service (www.altavista.com). But when the engines leave you flailing, these online librarians can get you moving again.
An easy-to-use interface is the calling card of this multiple-site search. Not just a collection of links, Research-It! allows you to query financial information and foreign-language translations, and (among many other searches) track UPS and FedEx shipments. Need to conjugate an irregular French verb? Want the exact location of the bundt cake mom overnighted? Need a rhyming word for putz? (Returns include struts, slutz, and o'nuts.) It's all here.
Take your dictionaries, thesauri, phone books, and maps and throw them at your roommate. You won't be needing them anymore! This site replaces them all and offers travel information, international country codes, information technology, and government documents. The Elements of Style? Toss it. The Dictionary of Cell Biology? Give it to some pencil-neck geek. How long will the Glossary of Nomenclatural Terms in Zoology take up valuable beer-pyramid space under your loft? Listen to reason! Bookmark it!
Brown-nose your way to a congressional page spot with Thomas, a system that stores federal legislative information. Brush up on this week's hot legislation. Impress your constitutional law professor with bill summaries. This system offers searches through the congressional record, bill status reports, and the Constitution. Or just spend a day at the beach looking over omnibus appropriations measures for fiscal year '97.
Getting Smart about Sex
Searching for useful information on safe sex and contraception unfortunately requires a good bit of time filtering through sites of naked college students. (Or fortunately, if that's your thing.) But for the earnest, there is a reward: straight talk and the efforts of committed individuals to establish an open dialogue regarding safe sexual practices. So strap on those rubber gloves and let your fingers do the walking.
Apparently this "Alice" person has been around the block a few times. This Health Q&A Service from Columbia University answers questions on sexuality, sexual health, and relationships. Users post their own questions ("Sex during period ... on pill ... safe?"), which are answered and stored here. Concise and forthright, this site is a strong interactive presence.
Dan Savage kicks Ann Landers' ass. A gay man in his 20s, Savage delivers the most frank sexual advice anywhere, offering brutally funny, commonsense answers to floundering heterosexuals. "Gay people are better informed about and better at sex than straight people," writes Savage. Get the RealAudio (www.realaudio.com) plug-in for your browser, and see if you agree: Savage Love Real Audio.
As it has for the past 80 years, Planned Parenthood doles out family planning information here in this straightforward site. Fact sheets cover subjects as varied as reproductive rights, world population information, and the vaginal pouch (if you don't know what it is, blush on over to igc.apc.org/ppfa/condom10.html). Feeling a bit anxious about playing it safe? "Be proud," the site advises. "Buying condoms says that you are responsible and that you accept your sexuality as a normal part of living." Right on!
They're here, they're queer, they're online! This service keeps an updated list of "queer infoservers" around the world. Find out how to chat (IRC) with other students or download more information (FTP). From Bath University's "Square Pegs" site in the United Kingdom to the University of Alabama's Gay and Lesbian Association, this is the Yahoo! of gay links.
Downloading Free Books
We all know that your high-priced textbooks really should be free--or at the very least, billed at a low, monthly rate of 10 bucks for five free hours. So why fatten the purse of that bookstore that has wronged you, when thousands of texts are available on the Web and as downloadable files? Clear some space on your hard drive and start getting your books for free!
More than 2,000 titles are available at the IPL for your digital perusal. A reference desk allows you to e-mail questions, and a MOO (Multi-user Object Oriented environment) offers real-time chats with helpful staff. MOOs, of course, began as popular text-based role-playing games, and this one still has traces of its Dungeons and Dragons-esque roots. A volunteer in the MOO was described as a "fuzzy bumblebee flying overhead." "Need help?" she asked. Weird. Helpful, but weird.
From the classics to the fascists, The Etext Archives is home to one of the largest collections on the Net. Both testaments of the Bible (helpful for Jews/Christians) are available, as is the Book of the SubGenius (convenient for followers of "Bob," the divine drilling-equipment salesman--we're not kidding). Many of the books are posted legally because the copyright has expired, and you'll find more recent e-texts on computer science, music, politics, and mathematics. A perfect way to grab that choice quote for your term paper.
Researching Grad School
Numerous online guides are vying for the attention of undergrads who want to become stressed-out TAs. A quick run-through of these sites will give you sample test questions, tips on writing essays, and specific information regarding law, business, and medical schools. Arm yourself with information before you sign away another four years.
From the test prep people comes a smooth site full of byte-sized advice, links, games, and sample GRE questions. More than "brochureware," this interactive site doles out useful content without the in-your-face marketing seen on other sites. Kaplan takes hideously boring subject matter and kicks out a smart and funny presence.
Quick and dirty advice for getting through that most heinous part of applying to grad school--the essay. "In the end, only you can decide on the best way of presenting yourself," the site claims. We don't buy it. Sample personal statements give you a good idea of how to promote writing ability, goals, maturity, and "personal uniqueness." Tip for success: Lie like hell (see online dating).
No hand-holding here. Links are provided to information on business, law, and medical schools. Become a ruthless MBA candidate. Find links to grad schools nationwide. Like to dip your fingers in the financial gravy boat? Then click your way to a database of 180,000 "scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans" from the private sector. More useful information than you can shake a dissertation at.
In addition to graduate school rankings and career guides ("20 Hot Jobs for the Future"), U.S. News & World Report has a slick college site that covers a lot of ground. Ranking and admissions information is mixed with sound advice from the experts: "You can't come into the program loaded down with credit card debt, be preoccupied with finances and jeopardize your academic performance. I have actually seen students denied Stafford loans because of bad credit." Yikes. Maybe read Jobtrak first and then come here.
Maintaining a College Sports Addiction
Following college sports can be so time-consuming. What with the newspapers, magazines, television, and radio shows, who has time to eat? Instead, utilize the wealth of statistics, profiles, and instant collegiate results found only on the Web.
Computer tough guys who can't get enough bone-crunching action should check out ESPN's SportsZone. Open a lite beer and read the Zone's strong and timely coverage. Put your roommate in a half nelson and scan coverage of non-revenue sports that wouldn't normally receive air time. Shoot the three while Scorepost--a small application or "applet"--updates game scores right on your desktop.
Daily updates and a searchable news archive mark this no-nonsense sports site. Sports News delivers men's and women's stories in clean layouts and at minimum bandwidth. Hyper-informative and eminently dynamic, CSND will complete your sports fix until tomorrow.
How deep is your need for sports trivia, junkie? Would you download a school fight song? Do you know who was picked in the third round from Fresno State? If this info isn't enough to make you the king of your local sports bar, CSO links to local newspapers with daily coverage of your favorite college football and basketball teams.
Fed up with playing ATM Wheel of Fortune? Then home banking may be for you, friend. For a low, monthly rate, let the computer record your drunken midnight withdrawals. Throw away those crumpled money-machine slips forever.
Tired of all that threatening, thin mail from the bank? Then jump on the high-tech bandwagon and receive threatening, short e-mails instead! Mega-bank B of A lets you check accounts, transfer funds, and pays bills while you're snoozing in class. A clever interface even lets you build personalized pages that "narrowcast" financial information that is of interest to you--look ma', you're a financial analyst!
Security First offers all the services of a real bank, with even a (virtual) lobby. The standard fare--getting your balance, moving funds, paying bills--are there, as well as the ability to apply for credit cards, buy CDs (certificates of deposit), and open money market accounts. Best of all, you can ask financial officers questions and sign up for a reminder service so that your bills go out on time.
OK. Now that you know where to go, let us help you get there. Instead of laboriously punching in each and every one of the URLs in this article, punch in just this one: . Then use the links through the Digital Campus to access any site listed and bookmark the ones you like. Or go ahead, be a stubborn fool and type them all in--and hate yourself in the morning.
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From the August 13-19, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.