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by Suada Kolovic

Think you have what it takes to get into an Ivy League school? Let's be honest, few do but did you know that a some of your favorite celebrities studied at the most prestigious schools in the nation? It's true! Check out these 10 celebrities that attended an Ivy League institution below:

  1. John Krasinski – Brown University
  2. Conan O’Brien – Harvard University
  3. John Legend – University of Pennsylvania
  4. Rashida Jones – Harvard University
  5. Brooke Shields – Princeton University
  6. Rachel Dratch – Dartmouth College
  7. Julia Stiles – Columbia University
  8. Elizabeth Banks – University of Pennsylvania
  9. Emma Watson – Brown University
  10. Natalie Portman – Harvard University

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Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Your Admissions Essay.

More Colleges Posing Offbeat Essay Questions

February 26, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When you envisioned your college application process, I’m sure you thought you were more than prepared. This was the moment you were told to draw on your strengths and articulate every achievement – countless community service hours, a stellar GPA and the fact that you were senior class president – and every sentence would be so perfectly and meticulously thought out that who you were would just leap right off the page. You prepared your answer on why you belonged at your dream college and pinpointed what you had to offer...until you reviewed the actual application and found a serious curveball: I doubt you expected a joke could get you in!

In addition to traditional essay prompts, more and more institutions are jumping on the unconventional question bandwagon and are interested knowing not only why students want to gain admission but just how creative they can be when challenged. Here are some far-from-average questions schools are asking this year:

University of Chicago

  • Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.
  • How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.

University of Virginia

  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • “To tweet or not to tweet.”

Brandeis University

  • You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • What do you hope to find over the rainbow?
  • Why do you do what you do?

Wake Forest University

  • Give us your top ten list.

Soon-to-be college applicants, what do you think of this approach to the admissions essay? Are you a fan of the challenge or frustrated by the fact that you are expected to impress them with your achievements and extracurricular activities and be witty, too?


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by Suada Kolovic

Applying to some of the top schools in the country is unquestionably unnerving but after months of stress, sleepiness nights and chronic stomach pains, it all seems worth it when you read those magical words, “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted.” Most would celebrate such an occasion with screams of triumph, followed by an immediate Facebook update or witty tweet sharing their enthusiasm...but what would the proper celebration be when you’ve been accepted to not one but all eight Ivy League schools? Ask Kwasi Enin.

Enin has hit the admissions jackpot, receiving acceptance letters from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. This outcome, however, wasn’t just luck, for Enin is quite the accomplished and well-rounded student: The William Floyd High School senior scored a 2250 on his SAT, is currently ranked 11th in his class, plays three instruments for the chamber orchestra, sings in an a cappella group, throws shot put and discus for the high school's track and field team, participates in student government and has had lead roles in school plays since the ninth grade. And although he’s yet to make a definitive decision as to where he will enroll this fall, there seems to be a frontrunner. "I think my preference is Yale," Enin said. "They seem to embody all the kinds of things I want in a college: the family, the wonderful education, the amazing diverse students, and financial aid as well. So I think Yale has all that for me right now. I still have to compare all these schools – these wonderful schools." (For more on this story, click here.)

Share your thoughts on Kwasi Enin’s story in the comments section and be sure to let us know where you’re headed this fall.


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CBS Announces Top 25 Colleges with the Best Professors

Money Watch Ranks the Collegiate Cream of the Crop

April 10, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

There are myriad reasons to attend a particular university - from prestige and academics to athletics and diversity. But if you're in search for the universities with the top rated professors, CBS Money Watch has created the ultimate list for you. To compile the list, CBS relied on data from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, which referenced information from RateMyProfessor.com. If you're unfamiliar with the website – which I doubt you are – it allows students to anonymously rate their university professors as well as view the ratings college teachers have received. And with over one million professors and 10 million opinions, it's the most comprehensive online source of student feedback on instructors.

After perusing the list, it's clear there's a common denominator: For the most part, a majority of the schools are liberal arts colleges with student bodies under 4,000 students. That's not surprising considering smaller student bodies translate into smaller classes, greater hands-on learning opportunities and, most importantly, more individual attention. For additional information on any of these school - or thousands of others – check out our college search.

  1. Oklahoma Wesleyan University
  2. North Greenville University (SC)
  3. United States Military Academy (NY)
  4. Carleton College (MN)
  5. Northwestern College (Iowa)
  6. United States Air Force Academy (CO)
  7. Wellesley College (MA)
  8. Master’s College and Seminary (CA)
  9. Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  10. Whitman College (Wash.)
  11. Whitworth University (WA)
  12. Wisconsin Lutheran College
  13. Randolph College (VA)
  14. Doane College (NE)
  15. Marlboro College (VT)
  16. Centenary College of Louisiana
  17. Pacific University (OR)
  18. College of the Ozarks (MO)
  19. Sewanee - The University of the South (TN)
  20. Emory & Henry College (VA)
  21. Wabash College (IN)
  22. Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
  23. Hastings College
  24. Cornell College (IA)
  25. Hollins University (VA)

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Arizona Sues to Block In-State Tuition Breaks for Undocumented Students

by Suada Kolovic

Immigration disputes have long commanded top billing when it comes to our nation’s political agenda but as of late, it’s begun seeping into the educational realm as well: The state of Arizona has filed a lawsuit to block one of the nation’s largest community college systems from providing in-state tuition to young immigrants granted deferred deportation by the Obama administration.

Arizona officials insist that extending reduced tuition to those youths violates state law, which prohibits any immigrant without legal status from receiving public benefits. Meanwhile, college officials argue that lower rates were instated in September after concluding that work permits were already on the state’s list of documents needed to prove legal residency. With potentially thousands of individuals in limbo, the Arizona Board of Regents is looking into ways to lower tuition for these students without violating state law. Board members sent a letter to Arizona Senator John McCain and Senator Jeff Flake that, in part, read, “With Arizona at the forefront of the immigration reform debate, we routinely hear from hard-working, high-achieving undocumented students who have been brought to Arizona at a young age and have advanced through our K-12 system only to have their ability to further their education and contribute positively to our economy and society hindered by state and federal immigration laws." (For more on this story, click here.)

At least 13 states allow students who have lived in the county for many years without legal status to pay in-state tuition so what do you make of Arizona’s legal action to put an end to it? Do you support the decision or oppose it? Let us know in the comments section.


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by Emily

Recent economic hardships have derailed many families' college plans, prompting some to stop saving and others to start considering less expensive colleges.  For students still determined to attend a prestigious university, another option has been gaining traction.  According to an article in The Boston Globe, applications from American students are up at many of Canada's top universities, indicating a new surge in an already growing trend. 

Since 2001, the number of Americans attending Canadian universities increased by 50 percent, and based on current trends in applications and increased recruiting efforts, growth is expected to continue.  Americans choosing to study abroad in Canada are still eligible for federal student financial aid, even if they attend college abroad for all four years.  And even international tuition in Canada ($14,487 on average) is cheap right now when compared to private college tuition ($19,337 on average) and even out-of-state tuition at some state colleges in the United States.

 Studying in Canada also removes many of the traditional barriers faced by international students.  Many Americans studying in Canada can cheaply and easily return home for holidays.  Students are instructed in English at the majority of Canadian colleges and universities, signs around town will also be in English, and for the most part, accents are not even very pronounced.  Despite their proximity to home, though, students still benefit from being immersed in another culture, and since many of Canada's top schools are situated in urban settings, Canadian universities also present an opportunity to experience life in a big city.

 However, the bargain is dependent on exchange rates.  When the American and Canadian dollars are approximately equal in value, studying in Canada becomes relatively more expensive, as does living in Canada.  Also, while some college scholarships can be applied to tuition at Canadian universities, many stipulate that applicants must be attending college in the United States.  While studying abroad in Canada is an option to consider when looking for ways to get the most educational value for your dollar, be sure to weigh all your alternatives.  Regardless of where you wind up, though, there are scholarship opportunities and other ways to help pay for school.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

If you've started volunteering as part of a New Year's resolution, or just because it's something you enjoy, chances are you were thinking more of other people than of yourself when you signed up.  However, the altruistic nature of community service doesn't mean that there are no tangible rewards.  Volunteering makes a great line on a resume and a college application, and is also excellent scholarship essay fodder.  As an added bonus, a growing number of colleges and foundations are awarding substantial amounts of scholarship money for students who devote their time and energy to helping others.

An article on Forbes.com profiles several of the most generous campus-based community service scholarship programs.  Several of these include full-tuition scholarships for students who have participated in volunteer programs in the past or who are interested in making community service a major part of their college experience.  Drew University in New Jersey has recently unveiled a brand new civic scholarship program, following in the footsteps of The College of New Jersey, which also offers a sizable service learning award.  Dozens of other colleges also offer similar scholarship opportunities, many of which are funded through the Bonner Foundation and AmeriCorps.

These full-tuition service scholarship awards can be wholly merit-based or partially need-based.  One reason for colleges' increased interest in service learning awards could be due to their potential to help students feel more involved and thus become more likely to succeed in college.  The Forbes article cited Pat Donahue, director of the civic scholarship program at The College of New Jersey, as saying that service learning has helped retain several at-risk students who are otherwise less likely to complete a degree than many of their peers.

Service scholarships have also been described by some as the new athletic scholarships for a generation of students devoting more time to service than to studying or sports.  As athletic and academic scholarships are as much contingent on future success as on past experiences, so are service scholarships, which often require students to continue volunteering and participating in special courses and activities throughout their college careers.

To find out more about the Bonner Foundation, AmeriCorps, and other community service scholarships, conduct a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're wondering what to expect in college or how you measure up against the students already there, an annual survey of college freshmen may help answer your questions.  The Cooperative Institutional Research Program, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute and UCLA, annually surveys college freshmen, asking a broad spectrum of questions ranging from their reasons for their college choice to their religious and political views.  The results from this year's survey have just been published on the Higher Education Research Institute's website.

The results indicate that--at least for now--the class of 2012 is the most politically engaged group of college students ever surveyed by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.  The report found that 85.9 percent of freshmen at least occasionally discussed politics, and fewer students than ever describe themselves as middle-of-the-road politically. Individual issues are also important to many students, with universal healthcare, same sex marriage, and protecting the environment among the issues with the broadest support among first year students.

In addition to politics, students are also more concerned about finances than they have been in the past, likely due to the poor state of the economy. Ability to pay is becoming an increasing concern and mores freshmen indicate plans to work their way through college.

Students are also becoming more concerned with financial aid.  More students than ever are describing offers of financial assistance, such as college scholarships and grants, as being essential to their college choice.  This year, 43 percent of freshmen based their decision heavily on this factor, with cost of attendance also rating highly for nearly 40 percent of freshmen.  Fewer students who were accepted to their first choice school chose to attend in 2008 than in recent years, likely due to issues of affordability and funding.


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by Emily

One much-discussed aspect of the college experience is gaining exposure to new people and perspectives.  Another statement that commonly turns up in the college search process is that different schools serve different groups of students--hence the importance of finding a good fit for you.  Many of the most recognizable and commonly referenced differences are based at least in part on the race, gender, socioeconomic status, or country of origin of a college's student population.  A college's mission and ideological and cultural base also play an important role, and exposure to ideological and religious diversity can also be a major component of the college experience.

One student at Brown University recently turned his experiences with such ideological diversity into a book, entitled "The Unlikely Disciple: a Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University."  The author, Kevin Roose, decided to go on a "domestic study abroad" and enroll at Liberty University, a conservative Christian college, for a semester.  What emerges is, at least according to early reviews, an interesting and balanced look at Liberty from an outsider's perspective, as well as an honest exploration of the author's reactions to his new environment.

If you're in the process of choosing a college, or you're just curious about how wide-ranging the student experience can be in America, this book sounds like an interesting read.  Roose's story is also a reminder for current college students that you don't necessarily need to go to an exotic locale to be exposed to people with a cultural experience markedly different from your own.  Though study abroad occasionally can sound like an expensive and protracted sightseeing trip, Roose's "domestic study abroad" is a reminder of the importance of seeing and experiencing a new culture and place and stepping outside one's own ideological bounds.


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by Emily

For current and future college students, April is a time for big, and potentially painful, decisions. Right now prospective college students are beginning to sort through their acceptance letters and financial aid offers and current students are starting to think about how to pay for school next year.  If the financial picture is much bleaker than you'd hoped, but you're hesitant to commit to the two-year school as a money-saving option, here's some information you may not have known about the community college experience.

Just like four-year schools, different community colleges offer vastly different experiences, and in fact, depending on your major and location, you can potentially get many of the things four-year schools offer for much less money.  For example, did you know that some community colleges offer on-campus housing, and others offer a selection of four-year degrees?  Other community colleges have articulation agreements with area universities, as well, so you can spend two years paying next to nothing for credits that can potentially transfer to some of the most expensive and prestigious schools in your area.

These programs can be a great deal, since community college tuition tends to be much lower than private colleges, or even four-year state colleges and universities.  With on-campus housing, international student classmates, innovative educational programs, numerous online courses, and challenging coursework, the right community college can start to feel a lot more like the "traditional" college experience, but at a fraction of the price.

So how do you find community colleges with sweet deals like fancy apartments or four-year nursing degrees? Just do a little research.  Start with a college search in your area and see what's available. You could land the educational deal of a lifetime.


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