Previously, my site tagline was “News, technology, life, and more.”
As of today, it is now “Technology, law, life, and more.”
When I first started this blog in 2008, I labelled it “A blog discussing current events, news, politics, technology, law and more.” Even then, as a high schooler, I was interested in the law—and in the intersection of law and technology.
I distanced myself from law for a while, enticed by opportunities in engineering and medicine, right around the time I was applying to university and completing my first year of undergrad. Mirroring this stage of my life, I removed the keywords “politics” and “law”. I bloggedabouthealthcare-related issues.
As I now decide between two fantastic law schools to attend next year, I’ve realized that myentirepathhasbeenleadingme to this intersection of law & technology. But no matter where I go, I will always be a technologist first; the order of words in “Technology, law, life, and more” reflects that (and the deliberate Oxford comma).
It was time to update my blog to publicly acknowledge my choice of path in life—indeed, my return to my true passions.
But BuzzFeed has also published some high-qualitylongformpieces, dubbed BuzzReads. These are serious articles that cover the entire spectrum of subject matter, from politics, to technology, to rape and social justice. They’re of sufficient quality that they could easily pass for an extended newspaper exposé or magazine centrepiece. Targeting a more mature audience seeking longer reads, these feature stories often carry the same socially-liberal perspectives espoused by the rest of the site, while employing words more eloquent than their pop-culture GIFs could ever be.
I’ve had my doubts that BuzzFeed can sell itself in both markets. As great as the quality of their content may be, and as awesome as their access to reliable sources might be (the site has a DC operation with press pass access), it’s hard to “[break] down the divide between the light and the serious.” It’s a challenge the site’s editors realize:
“I think we need to show people that it’s up to us to write it in a way that has the context, has a compelling narrative to it. If you give them more of this and mix it in with fluff, and it’s treated equally by the publication, the public will start to treat it the same way too.”
Two years later, I think they’re starting to make some headway, at least among the social media users who are more publishers than consumers. People are sharing BuzzFeed’s longform essays on social media, using the site’s content to express beautifully the thoughts they could not write themselves.
What’s the reception like? I think many people on the consuming end of content are still sometimes skeptical. And I’m not sure that many people associate BuzzFeed sufficiently with quality content that they would be willing even to give reading BuzzReads a chance.
That article wasn’t even a longform essay. BuzzFeed had, through an anonymous leak, obtained an exclusive copy of the CEO’s termination letter, which no other news outlet reportedly had done. It was news, and it was worldly.
Apparently too worldly for this one commenter, who seems to think that only funny, entertaining, and “pertinent” (whatever that means in this context) content deserves to be published on a site from which they expect only entertainment.
I would be a fool to equate this one person’s opinion with everyone else’s. However, this is merely one example of the derisive attitude towards long online content I’ve witnessed first-hand—scroll through my Facebook timeline, or my friends’, and you will certainly find that GIFs and short interactive quizzes get more likes and click-throughs than essays about anything.
Why is that? It’s not like everyone is working 18-hour days in finance… Why don’t we, college students and young professionals, seem to have time for intellectual engagement outside of the classroom, on the Internet?
This old lady learns about the Internet for the first time, in Orange is the New Black—my newest favourite show. “But people are still stupid, right?” Indeed, the very technologies that made information so much easier to access, also made it easier to seek information in the shortest tidbits possible. Why read an entire screen of text, if you can get the essentials in 10 animated images?
There’s something deeply disturbing about this trend. It’s different—markedly different—from high school classes recognizing comic books as valid literature. This is a trend that makes education and self-expression more difficult, and less valuable in the eyes of this generation.
Media in our technological age must seek not only to earn pageviews, but also spark deep, insightful conversations about important contemporary issues. Instead of stooping to the lowest common denominator, as BuzzFeed seems to have done in its early launch, they have to champion the cause of literacy and engagement.
Why are genuine discussions about ethnic conflict or self-determination (indeed, a late-night discussion I’ve had quite a few times this week with my friends) outside of the academic environment so rare? Maybe, in part, it’s because of the Internet we consume.
Universities often will choose not to issue this tuition statement to international students because those students can’t do anything with it. ← If I had to write this with footnotes, there would be a million asterisks next to that sentence; keep reading. We’ll return to this question below.
Are international students able to use this form for anything?
Most international students are ineligible to claim those educational credits/deductions because they are nonresident aliens (e.g. F-1 student). Hence, these individuals would not benefit from having the 1098-T.
Some, especially graduate students, may be eligible to claim credits/deductions because…
I am an international student in the above categories. Can I get a 1098-T from my school?
The IRS says that universities “do not have to file Form 1098-T or furnish a statement for… nonresident alien students, unless requested by the student“. Additionally, they are not required to provide it for “students whose qualified tuition and related expenses are entirely waived or paid entirely with scholarships”.
You must still meet all of the other requirements to get a 1098-T:
Attend an eligible educational institution (college, university, vocational school, or other postsecondary educational institution in §481 of the Higher Education Act)
Have paid qualified tuition and related expenses in that tax year
i.e. tuition, fees, course materials required to be enrolled
does not include room, board, insurance, medical expenses including student health fees, transportation, and personal/living/family expenses
Receive credit for the completion of course work leading to a postsecondary degree, certificate, or other recognized postsecondary educational credential
i.e. most undergraduate bachelors programs and graduate masters and PhDs are fine
Have provided your SSN or ITIN to the educational institution either through student records or an additional Form W-9S
What are some potential hurdles?
I was in a situation this year where my university did not issue me a 1098-T, and responded to my request with a form letter:
Does every Penn student receive a 1098-T? Penn does not provide a 1098-T to non-resident aliens, or any student whose qualified charges are fully funded by grant, scholarship or tuition waivers, or any student who was enrolled in non-credit courses during the academic year.
They additionally stated,
“Though you might have received a 1098t form in the past, going forward as a Canadian citizen you will not receive one.”
As I’ve explained above in this post, this determination was a mistake. It conflates citizenship & immigration status with residency for tax purposes, and ignores the possibility that someone else other than me may be eligible to claim the credit.
Furthermore, even if I were a nonresident alien ineligible to claim the credit, nothing in the IRS regulations for Form 1098-T gives the educational institution the right, responsibility, or power to determine whether I might be eligible to claim the credit; nor does it permit them to deny a Form 1098-T to a nonresident alien’s request.
I’m not a lawyer.
Neither are the people at Penn who decided initially that I wouldn’t get a statement. But apparently I’m capable of reading the IRS documents and figuring out for myself what I’m entitled to.
What does this situation reveal about international students?
First, on the superficial level, this situation reveals that immigration status and residency for immigration purposes differs from tax status and residency for tax purposes. Clearly, not all employees who handle these cases are aware of these stipulations.
Even if we define international students to be non-citizens and non-permanent residents of the United States, this constituency is large, diverse, and varied, with complex needs based on their individual families’ statuses. It is a mistake to define broad, indiscriminate policies that treat all international students identically.
If you think I’ve made a mistake in this post, or wish to disagree with my conclusion here, I’d like to hear from you. Comment below or send me an email using the contact form.
The Renaissance was marked by an explosion in the diffusion of ideas, and the naissance of the scientific method that has allowed us to explore this world. This was the time of Copernicus, Galileo, Michelangelo, and da Vinci — the last of which, far from being just a scientist and artist, was also an engineer and writer: the stunning definition of a Renaissance man.
And one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Benjamin Franklin — also the founder of our alma mater — was a polymath himself. Politician, scientist, writer…
There is a reason we honour and respect figures like da Vinci and Franklin, even if we, enlightened with 21st century practicality, do not expect to educate the entire populace in their image.
We agree that there are serious deficits in the North American educational system that are in need of redress. We also concur that it is impractical to teach higher math effectively to every high school and college or university student. But we are firm in our belief that lowering the bar isn’t the answer. Andrew Hacker has a limited view of mathematics that fails to appreciate its value, and his solution of removing math from standards is flawed.
I respect the majority of this article. I agree with most of it — the North American medical education system is clunky, and a ton of hurdles are thrown in the way of students who want to become doctors.
I’ve been attending classes for nearly three weeks here at the University of Pennsylvania, and in this short month I have already experienced many aspects of college life: meeting new people, making new friends, learning new things, trying new things, seeing new places, and so on…(This post was originally drafted in September 2011 but has been revised for December 2011; the new intro follows.)
I just completed my first semester at the University of Pennsylvania. The past three months have brought me many joys: new friends, new experiences, and new knowledge. It’s been a rollercoaster of sorts—the cycles of stress due to impending exams, strange sleeping patterns, and a litany of decisions from picking courses to prioritizing assignments. It has been, however, rewarding.
For those who have not yet left the warmth and comfort of a family home, the most important thing to know is that university life is quite unlike high school life. (You probably knew that already, but I wanted to confirm it nevertheless.) Yes, there will still be classes with people you know, but lectures are much bigger, and it is entirely possible that TAs and professors will grade your papers/tests without ever meeting you face to face. Of course, university life is also different in that you will be running your own life. I’ll elaborate on this later.
For those who are experiencing university for the first time as well, it will be interesting to compare your experiences to mine. Every university has its own unique atmosphere, level of academic rigour, diversity of students, breadth of opportunities, and social climate. Of course, there are some common traits, such as students’ immense freedom, increased responsibilities (not only in time management, but in eating well, shopping for basic living needs, doing laundry, etc).
To anyone who is reading this post, I want to make it clear that anything subjective I write is only my personal opinion. My perception of Penn, or of college life, may differ significantly from that of someone else in a different social circle, program of study, or undergraduate school; it may also differ from that of someone who is living a (virtually) identical life. Even if I am experiencing something joyful at Penn, I cannot guarantee that you would make the same conclusions after the same experiences. The same goes for anything I complain about. Still, this post will contain objective information about the educational experience at the University of Pennsylvania.
Notice of Americanism: I will use the term ‘college’ to refer to four-year institutions, like the University of Pennsylvania, interchangeably with the term ‘university.’ Don’t let this confuse you, my non-American reader.
Let’s jump right into how I feel about life at university in general.