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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Three Ways Big Data Can Change Student Lives

1. It Can Help Answer the Ages-Old Question, “Is College Worth It?”

While people have long lamented the high cost of a college education, the challenging economy and rising student debt have brought the issue to the forefront more than ever before. While it’s easy to talk about the ROI on college in general terms, it’s always been difficult to quantify in a meaningful way.

According to “Answering the Call,” a report on measuring postsecondary performance from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while we don’t yet have the data and framework to comprehensively evaluate student and institutional performance, key measures have been identified which can eventually be used to more conclusively determine ROI.

Earlier research into this area based on the data we do have is promising.  According to a 2014 study published in the academic journal, Science, the net cost of college is actually a mind-boggling negative $500,000 with the earnings gap factored into the equation.

2. It Will Help Teachers Do Their Jobs Better

While teachers have always used data to inform and influence their methods and practices, Big Data offers more powerful ways for students and teachers to connect. As personalized learning becomes the imperative, teachers will not only have access to even more data, but also the ability to visualize it in the most effective ways.

Imagine a world in which every click is monitored and used toward supporting more targeted teaching. Or one in which facial recognition is used to track student expressions during lessons. Big Data holds this promise for educators and along with it the improved capacity to understand student needs, adapt lessons quickly and with more efficacy, and ultimately make data-driven decisions aimed at enhancing student learning.

3. Data Scientists Are in Demand

There’s a reason why Harvard Business Review declared data science to be “the sexiest job of the 21st century.”

With the world just starting to comprehend the power of Big Data, people who truly understand it will be an increasing commodity. Data scientists have the sought-after ability to “mine” data in order to help businesses, the government, and academia make the most out of data.

According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, the U..S. alone faces a shortage of up to 190,000 skilled workers with deep analytical skills by the year 2018. The takeaway for data-minded students? The opportunities are many. In fact, many programs exists aimed at helping students transition into careers in Big Data, including the U.S.’sInsight Data Science Fellows Program and Europe’s Science to Data Science.

High salaries, flexible work arrangements, and the chance to make a profound impact are just a few additional reasons to consider a career in Big Data. Viewed through this lens,’s advice to, “Tell your kids to be data scientists, not doctors,” sounds pretty good to us.

It’s true that in addition to presenting unprecedented opportunities, Big Data is also accompanied by its fair share of challenges, such as the growing imperative to protect student privacy. However rigorous efforts are underway to improve how student data is secured toward the goal of safeguarding private information.

Ultimately, while “Big Data” may sound like a mystery to many people, most agree that is the future — both for those who indirectly benefit from its impact, as well as for those who jump right into the action by pursuing data studies and eventual careers in this complex and vital field.

Three Reasons to Consider a Masters in Professional Studies

1. They’re practical

While traditional master’s programs will give you a solid understanding of theories and excellent research skills, an MPS focuses on practical skills that apply directly to a specific job. This means they’re a great option for someone who knows precisely the career field, job, or even department they hope to enter. A traditional MA or MS is great if you’re hoping to earn a PhD, but an MPS is better if you want career advancement in a marketing firm, or to jump into an emerging technological industry. MPS degrees are also a great way to make a general BA or BS degree work in a specific field – for instance, if you majored in history, consider an MPS in Museum Studies.

2. They’re flexible and focused

Because MPS students tend to be established professionals hoping to climb the career ladder or change professions, MPS studies are often very flexible. They cater to working professionals and frequently offer online or evening courses. Instructors are usually professionals in the specific field, so classes and coursework can give opportunities for networking, hands-on experience, and even job opportunities. And since MPS programs are designed around specific skill-sets, most include some form of field work, which gives you the opportunity to test-drive your new skills and focus on areas that apply to your interests and strengths.

3. They’re growing in popularity

As we mentioned, master’s degrees could make up two-thirds of degrees in the next decade, and with MPS degrees leading the way, you might find that honed and industry-specific skills are in even higher demand. The world of industry and development grows more diversified by the minute, and broad knowledge and a diploma will no longer guarantee you your dream job. Starting an MPS now could put you ahead of the game in five or ten years time. Who knows, by 2025, you could be offering your career expertise to incoming MPS students.

4 Tips for Getting a Good Reference Letter

1. Choose wisely

This is the part that students find most stressful – choosing the right professor to write the letter. Asking for a reference can feel rather intimidating, but it’s important to remember that most professors have a vested interest in their students’ success and are happy to assist in many ways. That being said, it’s important to approach the right professor. The instructor’s reputation can be beneficial, particularly if they’re well-respected or a leader in their field, but don’t base your decision on prestige alone. Make sure to choose a professor who knows you well – an ideal candidate for a reference letter would be a professor or instructor that you had for several classes over the course of your studies and with whom you have worked recently. It should go without saying that you choose a professor who has seen your best work and who gave you good marks and feedback. But it’s also important to consider the application requirements. If you’re applying for a Masters in Engineering, it may not be very helpful to choose your Poli-Sci professor from second year, even if you did get straight As in her class. Or if you’re applying for a job on a marketing team, it’s a good idea to ask a professor who can speak to your abilities in a group or on collaborative work.

2. Prepare well

Most professors understand that writing recommendations is part of the job, and they’re happy to help. In fact, many professors will be flattered by your request. But that doesn’t mean that you can just pop by and ask for a letter two days before the application is due. First, contact your professor either in his office hours or via email and ask, politely, whether he is willing to write a letter of recommendation. If you receive a positive response, gather all the information the professor will need to write a reference – your transcripts, CV, application instructions, and all the relevant documents – and visit his office hours with the materials. Make sure to include contact information so that the professor can get in touch with questions or requests. If you’re submitting the documents electronically, make sure that they’re clearly labeled and saved in a format that can be opened in many programs, and find out whether the professor will submit the letter or whether you need to collect it once it’s finished.

3. Timing is Everything

Professors are normally happy to help a student they feel have the skills and drive to succeed, especially when that student has performed well in class and demonstrates passion for the subject. But professors are also busy, and a good letter of reference doesn’t just magically appear overnight. Approach your chosen professor early – weeks (or months if possible) before the application is due. Make sure to submit all the necessary paperwork and information to the professor in a timely fashion, and complete as much of the application as possible to save your professor time and effort. If your application includes a personal statement or project plan, have a draft ready and include it with the information you provide to the professor so that she has context for your application. And follow up on your request – if the application is due next week and you haven’t heard from the professor, it’s appropriate to send a friendly and polite email to check on the letter’s progress. But don’t badger your professor – yours may not be the only letter they are writing.

4. Mind your Manners

Remember that your professor is doing you a favor. Be polite when asking for a recommendation, be courteous and organized when providing the necessary documents, and remember to follow up a recommendation, whether your application is successful or not, with a kind thank you note. And, if your application is successful, be sure to contact the professor(s) who wrote letters of recommendation

5 Reasons to Start Your Company As a Student


Classes and course material are a great way to learn facts, but for many fields you’ll need hands-on experience to understand a subject completely. Starting a business can be a great way to gain experience in your chosen field. Whether you’re marketing student club nights, tutoring GCSE students in Shakespeare, or designing apps, a business is a lucrative way to practice the skills you’ll need for a future career. Owning and operating a business also looks impressive on a CV and gives future employers a reals sense of your potential. Top marks on term papers demonstrate your ability to learn, but client reviews, profits, and growth all show that you know how to apply classroom knowledge to real-life situations.

2. Your age is an advantage

Starting a business might seem daunting, especially when you have exams, a huge student loan, and a very busy social life, but if you have a great idea your twenties are probably the best time to take the chance. Sure, you’re poor, and you haven’t had a lot of experience, but you probably don’t have a lot of responsibilities either – no mortgage, family, or career to hold you back. There will always be reasons not to start your business, but it’s almost guaranteed that the reasons will become more challenging. Plus, the student-life can actually give you an advantage in the start-up game. It might not feel like it during exam-time, but you probably have a good bit of spare time. If you have money left from your student loan, you can leverage that into your business. The variances of student-life might mean that you can see a gap in the market that others have missed. Finally, it may sound patronizing, but people are always impressed when young people succeed. You’ll never get more press for your bespoke dog bandanna business or text-book translator app than you will in your 20s.

3. You can build a network

One of the hardest parts of creating a successful business is making contacts and building a network. But, as a student, you’ll have a ready-made network at your fingertips. Your professors, advisers, classmates, and even your parents can lend their expertise and guidance. If you base your business around your studies, you’ll leave university with a well-established network of contacts in your field. Even if your company doesn’t directly involve your studies, good networking skills will certainly impress future employers. It might also help land you a job in the first place. Who knows, the architecture firm that orders sandwiches from you every Thursday might be looking for someone with just your initiative come graduation. Or the mother of your piano student could be a senior executive at that big firm you’re hoping to join.

4. Failing is okay

Starting a business often requires a great deal of personal investment – both of time and money – but if you launch your start-up during your studies you minimize the risks involved. We’ve already mentioned how a student’s lack of ‘grown-up’ responsibilities makes it easier to take the start-up leap, but fewer responsibilities mean it’s actually okay to fail. And try again. And fail again. It’s all part of the learning process, and at the very least a failed start-up is a great talking point during interviews.

5. If you’re successful, you won’t need to look for a job!

And, if you don’t fail, the possibilities are endless. A successful student business doesn’t have to end when your studies do. Many students who have started companies while studying report that they intend to continue those businesses after graduation. You can keep your business going as a way to demonstrate skill development, or as a source of extra income. You can even develop the business into a full-time career. Once you have the credentials of a degree, that freelance CAD website could blossom into a full-blown design firm. So, if you have a great idea, don’t wait until some bloke in a funny hat and robe says you’re qualified to go out and work – get out there and make your business a reality!