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by Emily

Are you an aspiring YouTube star?  Does making your own music video sound like fun?  Does winning up to $5,000 in scholarship money for making your own music video sound even better?  If so, competing for this week's Scholarship of the Week might be for you!

The "Speak New Words" Music Video Contest will award first, second, and third place winners with prizes of $500 to $5,000 to help pay for school or other expenses.  To enter, create your own music video highlighting 13 character traits you consider essential for change and upload it to YouTube, then register your original lyrics with the "Speak New Words" website.  If you are interested in art, music, or poetry contests, this is a great scholarship opportunity for you!

Prize:

There will be one $5,000 grand prize awarded to entrants ages 13-20, and one awarded to entrants aged 21+.  Runners up in each age group will receive a $1,000 prize for second place and a $500 prize for third.

Eligibility:

U.S. citizens ages 13 and up.

Deadline:

September 7, 2008

Required Materials:

An original music video 1-4 minutes in length uploaded to the appropriate website and YouTube group.  See the contest details for more information.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

If you're thinking about enrolling in a community college, it looks like you're not alone.  Community colleges across the country are reporting increases in enrollment of up to 10% for the fall semester, with registration still ongoing at many schools.  The present economic situation in the U.S. is prompting more and more people to consider attending college, while concerns about rising costs of living and potential difficulties finding money for college are causing more people to worry about how to pay for school.  Additionally, community colleges continue to ramp up their efforts to attract students and provide high-quality education at an affordable price.

All of these factors combine to make community colleges an attractive educational option for many students.  With new legislation in the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act requiring universities to make their transfer credit policies for undergraduate students more transparent, and a preliminary study being conducted by the Department of Education to identify some potential student concerns in the transfer process, it's also becoming easier for students to start at a community college, then later transfer to a four-year university.

There can be some drawbacks to community colleges, though.  According to one study, community college students may be less likely to have concrete plans for just how long they will attend school and more likely to leave college without attaining a degree, but a large part of this could be due to community colleges attracting a more diverse group of students.  Additionally, community college instructors are often not as experienced and credentialed as their peers at four-year schools, though students can still find themselves taking intro courses from adjuncts and graduate students at many state universities.

So if you're open-minded and willing to transfer, consider community colleges in your college search.  Community college students enjoy lower tuition, take many of the same general education classes as their peers at public and private universities, are eligible for federal student financial aid, and in some cases even have the option to live on-campus.  For many students they can be great ways to ease into college life without going too deep into student loan debt.


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by Emily

The results of a poll conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup were released today, revealing current American attitudes towards education, at both the high school and college levels.  The majority of respondents were in favor of increasing funding for and access to education at all levels.

According to the poll, 

     
  • Americans increasingly believe that young people should not only finish high school, but that many of them will need to go to college to be successful.
  •  
  • 87%  of respondents said they favor allowing students to earn college credits while still in high school.
  •  
  • Americans favor an increased use of federal funds to finance public schools and also to support young people who have the desire and academic ability to attend college.
  •  
  • 86% or respondents favored more state and federal student financial aid for students who have the ability and desire to attend college but not enough money.
  •  
  • Americans are losing faith in standardized tests and believe there are better ways to measure a child's academic and other skills.
  •  
  • Americans continue to have little faith in No Child Left Behind, with only 1 in 5 thinking it works well at is, and most respondents believing that American students continue to struggle to compete with other countries in terms of math, science, and reading ability.
  •  
 So if you wish your high school would offer more Advanced Placement credits and that colleges would place less emphasis on ACT and SAT scores, you are not alone.  The results of this survey serve to put more pressure on colleges, universities, high schools, and state and federal governments to provide more sources of financial aid to students, as well as to do more to ensure that students are attending college and getting the education they need.


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by Emily

The results of a poll conducted by Sallie Mae and Gallup were released today, painting a picture of where Americans across income levels find money for college.  The study found that sources of funding varied, with parent borrowing (16%), student borrowing (23%), and parent income and savings (32%) taking care of the majority of college costs.  Scholarships and grants followed closely behind, making up 15 percent of college funding.

The average grant and scholarship awards and student loan amounts were roughly the same for low income families (families making below $50,000 a year), while middle income families relied most heavily on parent income and student loans, and high income families (families making above $100,000 a year) predominantly used parent income and savings to pay for school.

While more students than parents were likely to rule out a school at some point in their college search based on cost (63% vs. 54%), two in five families said that cost was not a consideration in choosing the right college for them, and 70 percent of students and parents said that future income was not a factor when determining how much to borrow.

Additionally, 20 percent of families reported using either a second mortgage or a credit card to pay some portion of tuition, while only 9 percent of families reported using a college savings plan, such as a 529 plan, to pay for part of tuition (though those who did were able to cover nearly $8,000 of the cost of college with one).  The study also found that only 76 percent of students whose families made between $35,000 and $50,000 per year, many of whom may be eligible for state and federal grant programs, did not complete the FAFSA.  Only 73 percent of familes making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year completed a FAFSA, despite many families' reliance on loans to pay for college.

The full text of the report is available on the Sallie Mae website.


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by Emily

Maybe it's just the release of Beloit College's "Mind-Set List," a list of news items, pop culture references, and technological advances that happened 18 years ago and thus have always existed for incoming college freshmen, but the generation gap between the big desk and the little desks in the college classroom seems to be on everyone's minds this week.  As usual, social networking applications seem to be both a tool universities attempt to use to bridge the gap, and a reminder to students just how wide the gap is.

First off, Inside Higher Ed informs us that a new Facebook application called "Schools" is being marketed to universities as a way to allow their students to connect in a safe environment where their identity and school enrollment have been verified.  Included in the application are tools that professors can use in the classroom, such as a name game that allows students to learn their classmates' names.  Unlike other Facebook applications, the university has to purchase and implement "Schools," rather than allowing individual students to adopt it.

If this application takes off, and even if it doesn't, more undergraduate students (and probably some graduate students, too) are likely to experience Facebook and other social networking sites as a "creepy treehouse," a term the Chronicle of Higher Education shared with academia in its news blog yesterday.  That crawly feeling you get when your professor friends you on a social networking site, even though you don't have any incriminating photos or information on your profile?  That's the creepy treehouse, built to look like a place for kids to play, but really used by adults.

So, remember when you're attending college this fall that your professors come from a different world, a world where: 

     
  • Seinfeld was a new idea in television and The Simpsons was considered pretty daring, too. Referencing these shows might still seem like a good idea to appear hip.
  •  
  • The Harry Potter books might still be on their "to read" list and it feels like they only added them yesterday.
  •  
  • News that the SAT now has three sections hasn't quite made the rounds.
  •  
  • They can still remember when their school first got computers, when those computers first were connected to the Internet, and many can also remember school being the only place they could get online.
  •  
  • Online courses are a novel approach to distance learning, and social networking tools (like opening a campus in SecondLife) are a novel approach to virtual learing.
  •  
  • Socal networking is for work, not for play, and they have no idea why networking with people you work with is so creepy.
  •  


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by Emily

Continuing with a theme from earlier in the month, this week's scholarship of the week also presents students with a source of funding for travel.  Rather than a study abroad scholarship award, this week's feature is an expenses-paid internship opportunity that allows students to work in any region of the United States.  It's also one of the many green scholarships and internships available in our database.  The Student Conservation Association (SCA) conservation internship programs allow students in a wide variety of disciplines to participate in internships lasting anywhere from 12 weeks to 12 months.  Dozens of internship opportunities exist, allowing students to do work ranging from public relations to environmental education to trail maintenance and repair.

In addition to free housing, a living allowance, and an Americorps stipend, students participating in SCA internships can also earn college credit.  For students considering environmental careers or future nonprofit work, this internship can be a great way to gain experience, start networking, and get a better idea of what you want to do in your field while earning college credit.

Prize:

An internship in your area of study with free housing, a weekly living allowance, and the opportunity to also receive an Americorps stipend and college credit for your work.

Eligibility:

Any U.S. citizen or international student 18 or over who wishes to participate.

Deadline:

Varies.  The deadline for internships beginning in January or February is September 15.

Required materials:

Visit the SCA website to select the internship opportunities that interest you and to complete an online application.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

Yesterday, President Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the official reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) which governs federal student financial aid for college, as well as other federal programs and regulations that pertain to higher education.

Under the new version of the HEA students can expect a number of benefits when it comes to finding money for college.  Some of the changes include: 

     
  1. Increased Pell Grant awards, as well as Pell funding available for summer school.  Pell Grants, currently capped at $4,731, will increase to $6,000 for the 2009-2010 school year, and will go up by an additional $400 a year, reaching $8,000 per year in 2014.
  2.  
  3. Increased Perkins Loan limits, going from $4,000 to $5,500 for undergraduate students, and from $6,000 to $8,000 for graduate students.
  4.  
  5. Expanded loan forgiveness programs for students pursuing careers in the following areas:  early childhood educators; nurses; foreign language specialists; librarians; highly qualified teachers; child welfare workers; speech-language pathologists; audiologists; national service; school counselors; public sector employees; nutrition professionals; medical specialists; physical therapists; and superintendents, principals, and other (school) administrators; occupational therapists; and dentists.
  6.  
  7. The creation of a FAFSA EZ form that will simplify the financial aid application process.
  8.  
  9. Within the next year, the Department of Education will need to create a tool allowing students to estimate the net price of an education at various institutions, taking into account costs of attendance and financial aid.  Schools will need to follow suit with similar tools within two years of the implementation of the federal net price calculator.
  10.  
  11. The Department of  Education will begin publishing lists of the top 5% of universities in each of the following categories:  the highest tuition and fees, the highest net price, the largest percent increase of tuition and fees over the last three years, the largest percent increase in net price over the last three years.  The Department of Education will also publish lists of the 10% of universities with the lowest tuition and lowest net price.
  12.  
 So in the coming years, students can expect to see it get easier to figure out the cost of school, pay for school, and possibly repay loans if they're going into a high need field.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also offers a point-by-point breakdown of the Higher Education Opportunity Act on their website.


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by Emily

For everyone currently slogging their way through scholarship applications and college placement tests, as well as all of you gearing up for Composition, Creative Writing, or other English-related classes, here's a bit of fun.  Take a break from writing your own bids for essay scholarships and enjoy some really bad writing.  San Jose State University just announced the 2008 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, an annual challenge to craft the worst opening line for a novel.  Named after the man who penned the famous opening line "It was a dark and stormy night," the competition seeks to give proper recognition to terrible prose.

This year's winner was penned by Garrison Spik of Washington, DC: 

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."
 Submissions are open year-round and people of any age or circumstance in life can enter, but be advised: most of the award in winning this contest is the joy of having your truly awful words in print. The contest is sponsored by an English department, so the official monetary prize is "a pittance" (for those not familiar with what a pittance is, just ask your composition instructor--they can most likely produce a pay stub).  As fun as this contest would be to enter, it's not going to take you very far towards funding your education.

Even if you decide not to try your hand at fiction, perusing the Bulwer-Lytton contest winners could enrich your life in other ways beyond simple entertainment.  See all of those flowery, adjective-rich lines that seem to go on forever with their archaic and polysyllabic prose that looks like what would happen if someone cut the thesaurus apart and taped it back together to form a sentence?  That would be writing to avoid submitting to scholarship essay contests ( poetry contests, too).  While flexing your writing to its full extent is always tempting, there are limits.  When a sentence becomes difficult to read and a metaphor, image, anecdote, or quote is stretched further than it can reasonably go, or plopped down with no clear context provided, an otherwise brilliant attempt at winning scholarships can fall flat.  Even though School House Rock tells you to unpack your adjectives, the Bulwer-Lytton contest reminds us that in some instances it may be wise to leave a few of them put away.


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by Emily

It's that time again! Most students attending college will be starting school in the coming weeks, and as move-in day and the first day of classes approach, now is a good time to make sure you're all set to begin the semester.  Once you know you're ready to go, you can sit back and enjoy what remains of your summer, possibly even squeezing in a last-minute camping trip or road trip. 

     
  1. First, and most importantly, make sure your bills are paid.  Have you gotten a tuition statement from your school?  How about a financial aid award notice if you're using financial aid to pay for school?  Make sure you've signed everything you need to sign, especially if it's your first year of college.  Also check with scholarship providers and your financial aid office if you have not yet received any scholarship money you've been awarded for the fall or heard about your school receiving it.
  2.  
  3. Be aware of dates and deadlines.  When do classes start?  When is financial aid disbursed?  When is your bill due?  When can you move into your dorm or apartment?  Is there an orientation program you need to attend before school starts?  Do you still need to register or choose classes?  Write down all the important dates and times you have to remember for the start of the term and make sure you don't have any scheduling conflicts.
  4.  
  5. Look for syllabi and book lists online for your courses, while also making sure that no classes has been canceled, rescheduled, or given to a different instructor in your absence.  Comparison shop for textbooks, especially if your bookstore lists prices on the website, and buy as many books online as possible.
  6.  
  7. Know what you need to bring.  Talk with roommates if you're going to have any to make sure you don't bring duplicate items or have to go without important items.  A lack of communication and planning can leave you with an odd assortment like three couches, five floor lamps, two coffee tables and four end tables, but no microwave or silverware.
  8.  
  9. Pack and plan your move well in advance.  If you're moving into a dorm or apartment, make sure you know what you plan to bring and whether it will fit into available vehicles.  If you need to reserve a moving truck, do so soon.  The better an idea you have of what you're bringing and what size space you're moving into, the better you'll be able to coordinate the move.  Also, leaving packing until the last minute leads to leaving things behind, such as your toothbrush and razor, your favorite DVD, or that ugly dress your mom swore she'd throw out the second you weren't looking (and don't you think she won't do it).  While some of this stuff can be bought at college, you'll have to do without the rest until your next visit home (or possibly forever if you have younger siblings angling to annex your bedroom and all abandoned possessions).
  10.  
 While the above items are likely not all you'll have to take care of before you leave (convincing your dad that they do oil changes in your college town is a project in itself), they should help you get started and ease your transition back to school.

Posted Under:

Back to School , Tips


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by Emily

Nearly 17% more students completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) between January and June 2008 compared to the same period in 2007 according to a report released last month by the Department of Education.  Several states, including California and North Carolina, have seen an even more marked increase, with at least 20% more students applying for federal student financial aid for college this calendar year.

This increase in applications for financial aid is largely attributed to the rising cost of a college education, the recent loan crunch, and the general economic downturn, which are all making it more difficult for families to completely cover the cost of tuition.  More people may also be applying for financial aid due to increased awareness of its existence, thanks to recent news coverage of financial aid issues.

Aside from longer lines at the financial aid office in the fall, this news is likely to have little impact on students attending college this year (although you may want to apply early for a work-study job lest you discover that the only available job is on the receiving end of that financial aid line).  Aid programs with limited funds, such as state grants and campus-based programs like Perkins Loans and work-study jobs, could potentially be exhausted a bit earlier this year, but students still procrastinating on applying for financial aid should still fill out a FAFSA if they haven't missed their school's deadline.  Federal aid, such as Stafford Loans and Pell Grants, is still available to late applicants, and as long as they haven't missed any deadlines, students could still manage to receive awards given on a first come, first serve basis.

For students considering financial aid for the 2009-2010 academic year, we recommend deciding early whether you intend to apply for federal aid (not sure?  Use a college cost worksheet to estimate your actual cost of attendance), researching your school's financial aid and scholarship application deadlines (especially since some institutional scholarships are need-based), doing your taxes as soon as possible, and completing the FAFSA on the Web in January or February (or as far in advance of the deadline as possible) to ensure that you're considered for all the aid for which you're qualified (to get an idea, you can use the Department of Education's FAFSA4caster).  Also, continue to conduct regular scholarship searches and to apply for scholarships, since scholarships continue to be the best way to make up the difference between what college costs and what you can afford to pay for school.


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