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Research Papers? You Got This! Part 1

by Mary Steffenhagen

Leaves are changing hues, the nights are arriving sooner and the library is crowded into the wee hours. That’s right: We’ve officially entered paper writing season. Almost every college student finds himself or herself pulling an all-nighter at one point or another to chip away at the writer’s block a research paper inevitably brings. As an English major, I’ve probably written a few more papers than other students but nearly everyone encounters some such assignment in the common core no matter his or her major. If you’ve been staring at a mental brick wall for hours, never fear: There are plenty of resources and tricks to get around that writer’s block and make that research paper a reality.

First, know your databases. Your university most likely has access to too many scholarly journals to count but databases make them easy to find. I’ve made quite good friends with EBSCOhost, a database which encompasses more databases on topics from Mark Twain’s mystical view of the soul to current technological developments in the military. (ProQuest is equally useful.) Searching within such a broad database gives so many options that research is quite easy, even if you’re unsure of your topic. Most will give you online access to the source you need and your college library may have archived physical copies of a journal...or even ebooks. They may not be as easy to procure but don’t limit yourself to online only sources: Talk to a librarian and see what they'd suggest - you never know what's out there unless you ask!

Now that the database or librarian has given you a paper to use as a source, start picking it apart...from the ending. If you check the bibliography or works cited, you’ll avail yourself of even more sources by basically following the author’s bread crumb trail. Find the thesis – aka the driving point of the paper – within the first few paragraphs and build off of it. Whether you agree or disagree with the author, their sources and citations will lead you to more evidence supporting or debunking the viewpoint. I tend to start with my own idea and look for research related to it but if you’re short on time, picking apart your source’s sources will save a lot.

Next week, I’ll talk about some writing techniques that have aided me in my paper writing. In the meantime, good luck researching!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and you don’t think a traditional four-year university is for you, attending a community college does have its perks. Whether you’re interested in completing your general courses or testing the waters with a major that you're not absolutely set on, community colleges offer students the luxury of figuring out their educational path for a fraction of the cost...or at least they used to: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow a handful of community colleges to charge inflated prices for in-demand courses. Let’s say it all together now: Booooooo!

The higher costs – $200 per unit instead of $46 – would only affect the shorter summer and winter sessions. Supporters insist that the pilot program would prevent more students from being shut out of courses they need to graduate but critics said that lower-income students would be denied the opportunity to obtain course credits essential to their educational success. "The state would be shifting the burden for funding access from the state general fund to the backs of students," said Vincent Stewart, the community college system's vice chancellor for governmental relations, after the California Legislature approved the measure. "Creating a pay-to-play fee structure, where students who have greater wealth and means can get on a fast track, is patently unfair."

Even with the rate per unit almost quintupled, the overall cost of studying at a community college is still considerably less when compared to traditional options but is it fair to charge more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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Scholarship Displacement Explained

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we make a point to advocate the importance of funding your college education the right way – for free! – and while financing your higher education solely from scholarships is an amazing feat, there is a factor to consider: scholarship displacement.

If you don’t know what scholarship displacement is, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, winning a scholarship may not be the end-all be-all when it comes to paying for school because they can complicate the financial aid package offered by your intended university. Why? When a student wins a scholarship, the college may reduce the student’s need-based financial aid package to compensate. For example, say a university offers a student a $15,000 grant and an additional $15,000 loan to cover the cost of attending. If the student were then to win a scholarship for $15,000, the college could retract its $15,000 grant. Colleges call this an over-award and the scholarship providers call it displacement.

Although this may seem discouraging, it shouldn’t dissuade you from applying to scholarships altogether. Instead, do your homework, speak with your admissions counselor and know where your intended college stands when it comes to their scholarship policies. If you’re brining a lot of scholarship dollars to the table, you have options. Every college is different and has their own guidelines when it comes to outside scholarships. If one university doesn’t allow you to put those scholarship dollars to other costs – loans, books, room and board, etc. – enroll at one that does. You could also enlist the help of the scholarship sponsor: Some scholarship providers may have a lot of clout with the college, especially if their scholars make up millions of dollars of funding to the college.

If you have any additional questions about scholarship displacement, don’t hesitate to ask us!


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Avoid These Top Five College Admissions Interview Mistakes

by Suada Kolovic

When discussing the art of nailing your college admissions interview, it’s important to talk strategy. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will stress the importance of dressing professionally and the value of asking questions but did you know that over rehearsing your responses is a big no-no, too? Well, it is! If you’re starting to prepare for your college admissions interviews, check out U.S. News & World Report’s top five mistakes to avoid below:

  • Showing immaturity: College is about learning to live independently and your admissions interview is partially about proving that you are prepared to do just that. They suggest not having your parents drop you off or, worse yet, bringing them along.
  • Acting disrespectful or rude: While this should be obvious, do not check your cellphone during the interview for any reason. Just don’t. They suggest turning if off completely or switching it to silent (not vibrate) before even walking into your interview.
  • Skipping school research: Before your interview, research the school and prepare a few questions to ask at the end. Remember, they shouldn’t be questions that can be easily answered by perusing the school's website for a few minutes. Asking a question that's too simple can be just as bad as giving a blank stare.
  • Being shy: It's difficult for an interviewer to get to know you if you don't share enough information. And if you appear timid, it can leave the impression that you might have difficulty adjusting to new social settings in college and actively participating in class discussions.
  • Bragging too much: While you shouldn't be so humble that you don't say anything positive about yourself when asked about your accomplishments, be careful not to go overboard. Going on for too long about how great you are and how many amazing things you've done can be off-putting. It's okay to let some of what you've done speak for itself.

For those who have been through the interview process before, do you have any other helpful hints? If so, please share them in the comments section!


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Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates

by Suada Kolovic

Acceptance letters should be rolling in for the majority of high school seniors and the pressure of deciding where to go is definitely on. A lot goes into deciding what school is the right fit for you, but if you’re interested in what schools have the highest graduation rates...then boy do we have the list for you. And sure, these institutions do have quite impressive graduations rates but keep in mind that high graduation rates don’t necessarily translate into a surefire path to success. It’s also important to note that the majority of schools that made the cut are prestigious and students accepted to the likes of Harvard aren’t likely to dropout.

The study, conducted by College Results Online, a website which uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, ranked U.S. colleges in terms of 6-year graduation rates. Check out the top colleges and universities with the highest national graduation rates below and click here for the full list as well as profiles of each school.


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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 Mike Sheffey

It’s that time of year: admission decision time. Those daunting, time-consuming and incredibly necessary applications that you sent off months ago have yet to result in anything concrete and you – like many high school seniors across the country – are now playing the waiting game. The process is now, for all intents and purposes, out of your control. (I found myself in this situation when I applied for college and have recently returned to the game as I wait to hear from potential employers.) Worried? Don’t sweat it. Here’s what to do while you wait:

  • Keep those grades up. This goes out to you high school seniors: There is a myth that once you’re in, you’re in for good...and it’s simply not true. You get the fat envelope because the school wants you there and thinks you will bring a good work ethic and dedication to campus. Slacking off will only prove them wrong and could cause them to rescind your acceptance. Senioritis is tough (trust me, it occurs as a senior in college as well!) but your hard work will pay off.
  • Continue applying for scholarships. Every little bit helps when funding your education so if you find an award for which you qualify, apply! Also, it’s not too late to apply for scholarships in college – there are lots of awards out there for undergraduate and even graduate students!
  • Weigh your options. Once you get in, don’t instantly say yes – do your research! Look into the college culture, the activities, the campus, the surrounding city, the class size, etc. I’m sure you’ve done the majority of this research before applying but keep at it until you are 100-percent sure the school is the place you want to live, study and socialize; if it’s not, you still have time to consider your other choices.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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by Julius Clayborn

I celebrated my 20th birthday this past year with cake, candles...and tears! Though they were more so tears of shock than sadness – I could not believe I was now going to be considered a "twenty-something" – I had to come to terms with the reality of no longer being a teenager. This also meant I had to address the imminent future and the work and real world responsibilities I would soon be faced with. I knew that I wasn't ready for my life to be filled with such things; I couldn't even remember to go to my professor's office hours (which she repeated over and over again) let alone remember to complete bigger tasks that would inevitably accompany adulthood!

I felt really confused and alone during this period of introspection because everyone else seemed to be handling adulthood just fine. But upon blurting out the absurdity of not wanting to grow older being afraid of what lies ahead, I soon discovered some of my classmates felt the same way. We realized that we weren't so much afraid of aging, but of not knowing what was next to come: We were uncertain about our futures, we didn't know what jobs we would obtain (or if we'd even get hired right after graduation), we didn’t know where we'd live and if we'd live up to expectations. That uncertainty was what resided at the crux of our fears.

What I've come to understand is that no one is ever completely sure. And I feel like life is kind of supposed to be that way...unpredictable and full of surprises. If we knew how everything was supposed to be already, there would be no growth. And with no growth, there is no learning. Now I embrace the unknown. In fact, I welcome it with open arms because I am positive that come what may, I will be stronger, wiser and better because of it.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He is currently in his junior year at Cornell University, where he is an English major with a minor in Africana Studies.


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by Emily

Though it's a day off from school and work, New Year's Day is often seen as a day to get down to business.  While you're starting in on your New Year's resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there's one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should consider doing.  The Department of Education starts accepting the 2009-2010 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1.  State application deadlines start happening soon after, beginning with Connecticut's February 15 priority deadline.  So while you might not be starting school until August or September, you want to be applying for financial aid right now.

What You Need

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following documents: 

     
  • your social security card
  •  
  • a driver's license if you have one
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  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
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  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  •  
  • your 2008 tax return and W2s
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  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent (to determine dependency status, check here)
  •  
  • a PIN number to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)
  •  
 If you've applied before, you can fill out a renewal FAFSA, which will let you skip a few questions.  You will still need your tax, savings, and investment information for the new year, though.

If you do not have your tax information yet, and most likely you don't, you can use your 2007 tax information to estimate 2008.  That way, you have a FAFSA on file and once you've done your taxes for the new year, you'll be able to submit a correction online.  While that might seem like more work, it's the best recipe for maximizing your state and campus-based aid packages.  If things changed drastically for your family in 2008, apply for student financial aid with the information you have, then talk to your school's financial aid office to adjust your information accordingly.

Why You Should Apply

Completing a FAFSA is an important step in funding your education if you don't plan on paying for everything out-of-pocket.  The FAFSA is used by the Department of Education to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid for college.  This aid includes federal grant programs (such as the Pell Grant), federal work-study, and federal student loans.  It is also used by states to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs, such as state grants.  Colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for the need-based aid programs they administer.  Finally, many scholarship opportunities request FAFSA information as part of their application process.  Even if you think that you won't qualify for free money in the form of need-based college scholarships and grants, you should still apply.  At the minimum, the vast majority of students qualify for Stafford Loans, low-interest federal student loans that represent one of the best deals in borrowing for school.

Where To Get More Information

Start on the FAFSA homepage and go through the links under "Before Beginning a FAFSA" to get started, especially if this is your first time filing.  You'll find information about application deadlines, required documents, applying for a PIN, and other things you need to know about to begin.  If you don't want to wait until tomorrow, 2009-2010 worksheets are already available on fafsa.ed.gov.  The ambitious among us can even fill out a worksheet now, then copy the information into their FAFSA on the Web beginning tomorrow.

We also offer a wealth of resources on financial aid at Scholarships.com.  Check out the financial aid section on our Resources page for further reading.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

While the focus for many students right now is planning for and paying for the next year of college, some students are still struggling with bills from the current or previous semester.  An e-mail survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reports a perceived increase in unpaid tuition bills in the 2008-2009 academic year.  While being caught short on one semester's tuition can seem stressful enough, it can carry serious consequences for college students.

For students with the funds to easily cover tuition, either through family income, college savings plans, or financial aid awards, the figure on their bursar bill may be unpleasant, but it is soon forgotten.  However, carrying a bursar balance--in some cases, even a small one--can cut off your ability to register for classes, request transcripts, and even graduate, among other consequences.  Students who are unable to pay for a semester by the school's deadline may even find themselves dropped from their classes and kicked off campus.  These consequences can essentially derail your education, and many students who take a semester off from college to save money and pay off bills never go back to finish.

Luckily, as Kim Clark stresses in an article on the subject in U.S. News and World Report, universities are willing to work with students to keep them enrolled and get their bills paid, especially in the current economic climate.  Many schools are establishing or adding to emergency loan and grant funds to help students stay in school.  Federal student financial aid is also still available mid-term.  You can still complete the FAFSA for 2008-2009 anytime before June 30.  Even if you've already applied for the current year, talking to the financial aid office could still come through big time, especially if your circumstances have changed. Federal grants, as well as some campus-based programs may be available to students whose family contributions have significantly dipped.  While Clark's article emphasizes the surprising success networking and asking family for donations can bring, conducting a scholarship search may be a safer bet. Most importantly, be sure to stay in communication with your school. You may have to deal with three different offices on campus, but don't get discouraged.  The process may be more streamlined than you'd expect.  It is possible to stay enrolled regardless of the financial troubles you're facing.


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