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by Emily

New college grads may face an especially tough time due to the recession.  The growth in anticipated new hires, which is measured twice a year by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, has been slowing since it reached a high in spring 2007, falling almost flat in the fall.  The numbers for spring 2009 show that for the first time in years, businesses actually anticipate hiring fewer college graduates this year than last--22 percent fewer, in fact.  According to The Boston Globe, the business and finance sectors have an even bleaker outlook, as does the northeastern region of the United States.

With this dim hiring picture in mind, soon-to-be college graduates are looking at alternatives to the traditional workforce. Additional education, teaching fellowship programs, and volunteer work are all proving popular. If you're a college student staring graduation in the face, keep in mind the increased competition and start researching and applying sooner, rather than later.

Graduate programs, including ones offered by business schools, are seeing increased enrollment as many students choose to either delay their entry into the workforce or push up their long-term plans to attend graduate school.  Graduate students can potentially land full-tuition fellowships or assistantships, as well as generous scholarship awards.  Many graduate degrees can help recipients become more competitive when they do enter the workforce, even if the economy does not recover substantially.

Similarly, teacher certification programs, such as the popular Teach for America, are seeing an increase in applicants.  These programs offer a stipend, as well as teacher certification, and in some cases a master's degree in education, in exchange for a commitment of one or two years teaching in a low-income school or a high-need subject.  Other programs exist with similar benefits, including teaching fellowships in several major cities such as New York and Chicago.  College students or recent grads who want to teach but don't want to pay for more school may want to consider these options.

Other volunteer programs, like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, also are seeing more applicants.  Such programs often come with a stipend or living allowance, as well as student loan deferments or even loan cancelation or repayment benefits.  Students can also participate in many of these programs while still in college or while pursuing graduate degrees.  If you're interested in an alternative to the post-collegiate rat race, there's no time like the present to start considering your options.


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by Emily

A bill to expand AmeriCorps and create new community service opportunities has passed the House of Representatives.  The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education, or GIVE, Act passed today with bipartisan support in the House, and a similar bill, named the Serve America Act, has also been approved by the Senate education committee.  It will move to the Senate floor early next week, where it is expected to be met with a similar level of enthusiasm.  National service has been a priority of the Obama administration, so expect to see opportunities for community service expand shortly.

Over the course of five years, the bill will appropriate $6 billion to AmeriCorps, increasing positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and also increasing education stipends to $5,350--the same dollar amount as Federal Pell Grants.  The GIVE Act also includes provisions to encourage middle school students to volunteer, as well as funding to increase volunteerism on college campuses.  The GIVE Act will create volunteer programs focused on issues that have become major priorities in recent years, such as education and healthcare.

This legislation is heralded as the largest expansion in national service since the Kennedy administration.  While AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs pay far less than a full-time job, many students have been showing increased interest in them due to the education stipends and living allowances they provide, as well as the opportunities for service and unique experiences volunteers gain.  People serving full-time in positions affiliated with AmeriCorps or other programs also qualify for a new federal loan forgiveness program, which forgives Stafford loan debt for public service employees after ten years.


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by Emily

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law a bill to expand Americorps, a national service program that provides small stipends to people of all ages engaged in volunteer work throughout the country.  The act, officially known as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, paves the way for Americorps to grow in size from its present 75,000 volunteers to as many as 250,000 volunteers by 2017.

In addition to creating more volunteer positions, the Serve America Act will also increase the education stipend for volunteers to $5,350, the same amount as Federal Pell Grants.  This will enable more recent graduates and people currently attending college to participate in Americorps programs, which are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to employment in the current economy.

The national service bill, sponsored by Senator Kennedy, quickly made its way through both houses of Congress, receiving bipartisan support, as well as a ringing endorsement from President Obama, who has long been a proponent of community service.  Congress still needs to find funding for Americorps to begin to expand, but a provision to provide an immediate 25% increase in funding to the program was included in Obama's 2010 budget proposal.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Service-minded students have a variety of ways to fund their college education through community service scholarships and other awards. Now, students interested in attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania can participate in a fellowship program that awards $10,000 towards tuition for each year of full-time public service completed.

The Dickinson College Public Service Fellowships are awarded to high school seniors who are interested in deferring enrollment in college to first work in public service in some capacity. If accepted, students can defer enrollment for up to four years, and receive up to $40,000 in scholarship money through this program. Qualifying public service work can be independent or done through a national service organization, such as AmeriCorps, and can be paid or unpaid. Projects must be devoted to some aspect of improving the human condition or the natural environment.

While these scholarship awards are only offered through one college at present, at least one other school is seeking to encourage students to become engaged in public service before they start actively pursuing their college degrees. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Princeton University has also launched a program to pay for admitted students to first engage in a year-long service project abroad before beginning classes.

Several colleges have recently announced campus-based scholarships for community service. Many other schools also match AmeriCorps tuition awards, and over 1,100 private colleges have also pledged to assist veterans with tuition to acknowledge their service to the country. If you are a high school student hoping to get involved in a large-scale service project, there's more incentive than ever as colleges and scholarship providers continue expanding financial aid awards for locally and globally engaged individuals.


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by Agnes Jasinski

One alternative to the traditional job search has seen a marked increase in applicants over the last year, as recent graduates look for ways to bide their time in a struggling economy that has made the job market even more competitive. According to an article in Inside Higher Education today, the Institute for International Education (IIE), which awards fellowships through the Fulbright Program, received more than 8,500 applications for student Fulbrights for 2010-11. That's an increase of more than 1,000 applications since last year.

The Fulbright Program looks to strengthen relations between Americans and other countries, and gets its funding from an annual appropriation from Congress. There are about 1,500 of the student awards to go around, and those awarded the State Department-sponsored fellowships are able to study, conduct research or teach English in 140 countries. Grants are awarded in all fields and disciplines. While the IIE has been working harder to get the word out on the program, many college administrators think marketing tactics alone wouldn't explain such a significant jump in applicants, especially because the application process for the awards is fairly involved. "Some are putting applying for fellowships into the mix in a way they might not have if the job market were stronger," said Michael Pippenger, Columbia University’s associate dean of fellowship programs, in Inside Higher Ed.

The Fulbright Program isn't the only alternative to employment that's seen an increase in applicants. Teach for America also saw applications rise about 42 percent last year, a record for the program that trains students to teach in low-income communities, and those numbers are only expected to increase this year. The group does say they increased their recruiting efforts, but the current state of the economy may have something to do with more graduates postponing the traditional job search.

Programs that emphasize cultural experiences, volunteerism, or service can also be good resume builders for when the job market picks up and you're ready to venture back out into to search for that perfect position. If you're able to, consider your options, whether you're looking at programs while you're still in school or for post-graduation. And don't forget that there's plenty of funding and free scholarship money out there for you to pursue such opportunities.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The latest group of Rhodes Scholars was announced by The Rhodes Trust yesterday, with 32 Americans chosen to receive two to four years of study at the University of Oxford in England, all expenses paid.  The Rhodes scholarships were created in 1902 through the will of Cecil Rhodes, who hoped to broaden leaders' minds by exposing them to different cultures, and the first group of Americans entered Oxford in 1904. It is now the oldest international fellowship offered, and the number of applicants who apply make it one of the most competitive academic and merit-based scholarships out there. This year, more than 1,500 students sought their college or university's endorsement into the program, and 805 received those endorsements, just the first step in the application process. The winners will enter Oxford next October.  So how do you apply for the prestigious award?

  • Candidates for the award must be endorsed by their college, and any rules or deadlines regarding that endorsement will be set by your Rhodes Scholarship institutional representative.
  • In addition to that endorsement, applications will require five to eight letters of recommendation, a personal essay, a certified transcript, a list of activities, photograph, and proof of citizenship. Deadlines fall in October annually, but as the process is involved, it's best to get an early start.
  • Committees in 16 U.S. districts across the country invite the strongest applicants to appear for interviews, where questions will explore the information you've given on your application.
  • Applicants are chosen based on the following criteria, set forward by Cecil Rhodes: high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor. (You don't need to be a star athlete to fulfill that last criteria, just show a "fondness for sports.")

A group of international students is also chosen annually, with 80 scholars joining the Americans this year. If you're interested in an international experience but aren't interested studying at Oxford, there are hundreds of study abroad opportunities available in nearly every discipline, and nearly every country. Broaden your horizons, and know there are also study abroad scholarships out there to help you fund your time abroad.


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by Emily

Want a shot at a top fellowship, like the Rhodes scholarship? There may soon be someone on your campus to point you in the right direction. Just like college advisors and career counseling services can help you apply to graduate school or find a job, many schools are hiring fellowship advisors to help students land these competitive awards for graduate study.

Fellowship advising, once found almost exclusively at Ivy League schools, has become a growing trend at unviersities nationwide, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fellowship advisors get in touch talented and ambitious students on their campuses and help motivate them to seek out and apply for prestigious fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships. Since the common understanding of these programs is that they are exclusively for the best of the best, usually exceptional students at top-ranked universities, many students who could qualify and potentially win don't even think about applying.

Fellowship advisors typically look for students engaged in challenging coursework, research, and extracurricular activities, and encourage them to consider graduate study and fellowship funding. For many, the goal isn't so much to have students at their schools win these prizes, but to help outstanding students define their goals, push themselves, and get the most out of their educations. The process of preparing and competing for a prestigious fellowship can be a huge help to a student, even if he or she doesn't win the award.

High school students who are committed to seeking out all possible academic and scholarship opportunities may want to see if any of their prospective colleges have fellowship advising offices. Current college students, especially freshmen and sophomores, may also want to look into this, as many fellowship programs look at students' entire college careers, not just their last year or two.

Even if your school doesn't offer fellowship advising, you can still compete for, and potentially win, prestigious graduate student scholarships. As with your college scholarship search, seek out opportunities early, and know what's required to apply. Cultivate good relationships with your professors to land excellent letters of recommendation and seize every chance to participate in research projects and extracurricular activities. Even if you don't win the award you want, these activities can help you stand out in the job search and the graduate school application process.


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Mind the Gap

Should You Take a Year Off?

December 30, 2010

Mind the Gap

by Alexis Mattera

The road to college – once thought to be straight and narrow – is detouring into uncharted territory. It was once expected for all high school seniors to matriculate to an institute of higher education the semester after they graduate but today, many students (and their parents) are considering the notion of taking a year off from formal schooling first.

But what do students do during this time, often called a gap year? Not catching up on “Extreme Couponing” or trying out online dating: Students use this time to volunteer abroad or build their resumes and schools are adopting formal programs allowing incoming freshmen to defer admission for a year to do so. According to the Wall Street Journal, "gap fairs" are becoming just as common as campus job expos. The results? Mixed. While most students end their gap years better prepared to attend college, some get so waylaid that they abandon a collegiate education all together.

It may sound tempting to take a year off to explore the unknown but there are a few confounding variables. First, the price tag is far from alluring – unless you feel $35,000 is a reasonable figure. (The upside is that costs can be defrayed by stipends, grants, research fellowships and scholarships or the agreement to work in a very remote area.) Next, the hazy direction of your future. I won't deny that your late teens and early 20s are the best times to gain life experience but if said experience is going to leave you in debt or questioning once-important educational goals, is taking the time off worth it?


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College Costs (Literally) an Arm and a Leg

Parent Offers to Become Live Cadaver to Pay Off Children's Student Loans

February 28, 2011

College Costs (Literally) an Arm and a Leg

by Alexis Mattera

There's been a lot of talk about Harvard lately – its reinstatement of early action, a graduate winning the Best Actress Oscar, another Winklevoss lawsuit against Facebook, etc. – but this next story doesn’t fall within the boundaries of its ivy-covered campus...and not that far away, either. An arm’s length, shall we say?

Desperate to pay off their children's $20,000 worth of student loans, a Boston-area parent recently posted on Craigslist that he or she was willing to sell their body parts to combat the mounting debt. The posting did not include a name, gender or exact location but listed the "live cadaver" was 5 feet 10 inches tall, 200 pounds and had all organs in working order. "If you eliminate my children's student loans, I will give you my life!" the poster wrote. "Take my blood, take my plasma. Drill into my brain, my leg, my arm. Tap my heart, my liver, my kidney," the poster wrote, adding, "I am very very serious."

There are a lot of options out there to limit exorbitant loans (scholarships, grants and fellowships, to name a few) and consolidation can simplify the loan repayment process by allowing the borrower to combine several types of federal student loans and repayment schedules into one...but selling off one’s body parts piece by piece? We’re all for finding interesting ways to pay for school but this is just plain crazy. Would you ever consider taking this route to keep loan collectors at bay?


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Alaska Governor Stresses Need for State-Funded Scholarship Dollars

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, our goal is to make finding money for college as easy as possible. Paying the full cost of tuition out of pocket isn’t in the cards for most college-bound students and high-interest loans aren’t the most desirable options for others, meaning some students’ quests for postsecondary degrees must be funded solely by scholarships, grants and fellowships. Can it be done? Of course it can. You just need the right people on your side.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell recently requested the funding of the incoming Alaska Performance Scholarship program, a nurse training proposal and a handful of other educational priorities from state lawmakers. While Parnell feels students have worked hard to earn state-funded performance-based scholarship dollars and would be "out to dry" without it, senators worry the program could leave rural students behind if aid is distributed unevenly across the state...not to mention create a potential legal problem given the state constitution’s promise of fair education services. Students seeking need-based grants do have the existing AlaskAdvantage program to turn to but it is significantly underfunded. It could, however, gain support through Senate Bill 43, which calls for AlaskAdvantage to receive $7 million of the proposed $21 million in state college scholarship funding on an annual basis.

Will it happen? Our Magic 8-Ball says "cannot predict now" but we hope it goes through for the sake of the many students in need. How are you currently paying for or planning to pay for school? What programs have you found most helpful in securing the funding you need?


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