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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

April 4, 2012

Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

April 9, 2012

Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest Deadline Approaching

April 23, 2012

Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Bubble gum in your hair. “Kick me” signs. He said, she said. These are all sticky situations we try to avoid in life – and for good reason! – but here’s one that could pay off big for your college education: The Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest.

The Henkal Corporation's Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada, including the District of Columbia but excluding Puerto Rico and the Province of Quebec. This scholarship contest rewards individuals for creating prom attire made completely out of – you guessed it – Duck brand duct tape. To be eligible for the $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $500 scholarship awards, each couple must submit:

  • One color photograph (professional or amateur) of the couple together in prom attire
  • Each individual's full name, address, telephone number, email address (if applicable) and age/grade level, and the name of the closest major city to the individual's hometown
  • A release form signed by each individual and, if any entrant is a minor (under 18 years of age), that individual's parent or guardian
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the high school or home school association which is hosting the prom and the date the prom was held

The deadline to submit your adhesive attire is June 13th so there’s still plenty of time to get creative. For a registration form and official contest rules, interested students should visit the Duck brand website or conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!

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Why a College Will Rescind Your Acceptance

Follow These Tips to Remain a Member of the Class of 2016

April 27, 2012

Why a College Will Rescind Your Acceptance

by Alexis Mattera

Once students receive those coveted acceptance letters and pay their enrollment deposits, many think it’s smooth sailing until move-in day. Not so: If a student decides to slack off in class or play fast and loose with the law, a college can and will withdraw an admissions offer. Yikes! So how do you keep your spot in the class of 2016? Follow these simple steps:

What are some other ways to ensure you retain your acceptance? Let us know what worked for you in the comments.

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Is College Right for You?

April 30, 2012

Is College Right for You?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

If you had to guess, what percentage of students start college and actually finish it? According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 46 percent of students who started college earned degrees in 2010. Hefty student loans and interest rates, stress and being academically unprepared are amongst the many reasons college drop-outs cite; some students report being as much as $50,000 in debt before graduation with no viable means of paying it off.

Given this info, it’s really important that you consider if college is right for you before applying, especially if the field you’re thinking about going into doesn’t require a degree. There are still plenty of great job opportunities for people who think college may not be for them, including air traffic control and locomotive engineering. That’s not to say, however, that a college degree is overrated. According to a study conducted by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor’s degree holders earn 84 percent more than high school graduates during their lifetimes. And while there are still plenty of jobs that don’t require a degree, virtually every employer will prefer a college graduate over a high school graduate.

My goal here is not to discourage anyone from attending college; instead, I want to present both sides of the argument so that you can commit 100 percent to furthering your education or, alternatively, seek out a job that doesn’t require a degree. It’s better to recognize now that you won’t be able to commit to college than be forced to drop out and pay back $50,000 in student loans later. No matter which path you choose, one thing’s for sure: You’ll have to work hard if you want to succeed!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

May 2, 2012

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

by Kara Coleman

You probably saw the title of this blog post and thought, “Oh, I know what this is going to say. Take AP classes, get involved in extracurriculars, etc.” But there are a few other not-so-obvious things that you can do to increase the chances of getting into your dream school:

Update your resume. Each time you win an award, get elected to an office in a club/organization or get any sort of recognition, let your potential college(s) know about it. That way, they have a full list of your accomplishments when you graduate from high school.

Hook up with the college community online. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow your dream school(s), their sports teams, drama department or anything else that might interest you to keep up with what goes on there during the school year.

Send a handwritten thank you note. After you go for your official campus visit, send a handwritten (not typed!) thank you note to your tour guide or, if you had an interview, your admissions counselor. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the attention they showed you that day.

Show them that you’re genuinely interested. College admissions can sort of be like dating: Admissions officers want to make sure that you are interested in them before they commit to you. Imagine yourself as a student at that school and express a sincere interest in the goings-on there: If you don’t have a 100-percent interest in a particular school, take it off your list of potential colleges.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Easy Ways to Get the Job You Want

May 15, 2012

Easy Ways to Get the Job You Want

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Students around the country are finishing up finals, breathing the sweet scent of fresh summer air...and figuring out ways to pay for food and “Avengers” tickets this summer. Whether it’s a high-powered investment banking internship or making coffee at your favorite hipster hangout, finding a summer job is incredibly competitive but here are a few simple (though easy to overlook) tips that make you a stronger candidate.

First, do your research before making contact with a potential employer. Know what the company does, what your potential job entails and the names of most major staff members (including everyone you would potentially be working with/under). Now don’t be creepy – just because you recognize someone doesn’t mean you should shout out their high school GPA and prom date’s name (you’d be horrified what people can find on Google) – but use the info to tailor in-person and written responses to be relevant to what they’re interested in adding to the company. I recommend Glassdoor.com for good insider information on popular companies.

Second, take what you learned about Google and search yourself! I guarantee you that many potential employers are doing just that, as well as looking at your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. (You can probably leave your unupdated-since-2005 MySpace alone – even employers don’t care about that anymore.) I know I sound like a parent but I cannot stress enough that you should improve your privacy settings on everything. Worst case scenario, your employer doesn’t use search engines and you’ve frustrated that dude from freshman year algebra who still looks at your pictures. Best case scenario, potential employers won’t see that “awesome” happy hour/prank/streaking incident.

Finally, remember the benefits of networking. I know I’ve always felt embarrassed about using a friend or acquaintance to find a position – it feels like my achievement is less real – but a job is what you put into it, not how you get it. Talk to as many people as possible about your goals, set up informational interviews and even shadow someone for a day. Take friends or family members up on every opportunity – it feels like nepotism but they might be seeing something in you that would be an asset to their company. Don’t turn anything down just because you didn’t apply on Monster.

What’s that? You followed these tips and got the job? Great! Just don’t forget to take a minute to enjoy that feeling of success and achievement before you actually start working.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.

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Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

With Hard Work and Help from Her Community, NC Teen is Ivy League-Bound

June 8, 2012

Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

Any current or soon-to-be college student will tell you that gaining acceptance to the school of their choice is not an easy task. What if, however, you had to manage that stress along with AP classes, extracurricular activities, work and the general perils of being a teenager without a roof over your head and the support of your parents? If you’re Dawn Loggins, you study hard, rely on the kindness of others and get accepted to Harvard.

In this great CNN piece, Loggins discusses how her less-than-fairytale upbringing (living in a home with no running water or electricity, having drug-addicted parents who abandoned her and dealing with ridicule from other students in her youth) made her the person she is today: a straight-A student who will attend Harvard University on a full scholarship. She credits her teachers and guidance counselors for sticking by her and providing her everything she needed – from candlelight to study by and clean clothing to a job and a place to call home – to succeed. And succeed she did: Loggins was accepted to all five schools to which she applied (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College and, the ultimate dream school, Harvard) and is hoping to start a nonprofit organization to help other teens who've had obstacles in their educations.

Read the rest of this inspirational story here and join us in wishing Dawn the best of luck at Harvard and in all of her future endeavors!

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Why Do I Need a College Degree Again?

June 19, 2012

Why Do I Need a College Degree Again?

by Jessica Seals

I recently came across several articles published in journals and magazines that all stated that fewer college graduates are working in field related to their college majors; instead, more students are working retail jobs or other jobs that only require them to have high school diplomas. Naturally, these stats may have you wondering why having a college degree so important if you will have the same job that you could get as a high school graduate. I'm with you there: Personally, my current job is completely unrelated to my college major and what I want to establish my career in so this position allows me to see the situation from two different perspectives.

I continue to work at my job because it is allowing me to save up money that will be used to help further my education – I want to attend graduate school and law school in the future, which will burn a huge hole in my pocket! Like many other graduates, I just wanted any job that would allow me to save for the future. I do not plan on keeping this job forever but it is nice to have so that I am not always stressed out over money as I prepare for grad school. On the other hand, there are some students who accept jobs unrelated to their fields because they need the money in order to survive. Having a college degree may make them overqualified for some jobs while they are still underqualified for other jobs because they only have a bachelor’s or associate degree. Accepting an unrelated job is the college graduate’s crutch to rely on until they can find a job that relates to what they want to do.

After reading those articles on the employment statistics of college graduates, I can honestly say that I am not surprised with the findings. The economy is not perfect and sometimes you have to take what you can get so that you can either save up to further your education or until you find your dream job. What do you think and what would you do?

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. Jessica will be back at Memphis this fall to begin working toward her master’s degree in political science this fall; she ultimately hopes to attend law school.

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The Time is Right to Resolve to Evolve

Our Annual Essay Scholarship is Back – Apply Online Today!

August 1, 2012

The Time is Right to Resolve to Evolve

by Alexis Mattera

The Resolve to Evolve Scholarship is about more than just making resolutions - it's an opportunity to proactively and progressively confront challenges, however daunting they may be. The R2E Scholarship encourages applicants to move beyond finger-pointing and offer constructive criticism and workable solutions for problems facing an administration or an organization. Ready to create change and further our evolution as individuals and as a society? Review this year’s prompts and submit your essay today!

The R2E Scholarship is open to all United States citizens who are registered users of Scholarships.com, will be enrolled in high school (grades 9 through 12) during the 2012-2013 school year and will be between the ages of 13 and 19 at the time the award is given. The applicant who submits the best overall essay will receive a $2,000 scholarship. One (1) winner will also be selected from each grade level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and will receive a $1,000 scholarship each.

All entries must be submitted via Scholarships.com’s online submission form by the September 30th deadline. Finalists will be notified by November 6th for additional materials. Winners will be notified in late November, announced in early December and awarded by December 14th, 2012. For more information on Resolve to Evolve and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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