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MIT Becomes Dopest College Yet, Offers “Credit for Reddit” Course

August 29, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The average college student can easily spend the better part of their day on Reddit...where just one more link quickly turns into another sleepless night. Hey, we've all been stuck in this inescapable web before (no one’s judging!) but if you're one of the lucky students attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), you'll have the option to receive credit for your Reddit addiction starting next spring.

MIT researcher and admissions officer Chris Peterson, along with his co-instructor and the head of MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing Ed Schiappa, built the course's curriculum in part with help from other Reddit users. (The post received 121 comments from users eager to contribute to the class material.) The class invites students to explore why the site works and compare it to other social media networks. According to Motherboard, Peterson explained the importance of Reddit to MIT faculty during his efforts to create the course. "Nobody disputes that something's important if it's on the front page of the New York Times," he said. "If something is on the front page of Reddit, now it matters. It tells you something about that community and what they find important." (For more on this story, click here.)

While classes rooted in popular culture are not new phenomena, what's your stance on the educational value of offering such courses? Do you think colleges are pandering to students' wants verses needs? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to fund your own college education the right way – free! Create a profile on Scholarships.com today to find financial aid that's personalized to you!

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Study: Send Your Kids to College, You’ll Live Longer

September 23, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Forget superfoods like acai berries and quinoa: Sending your kids to college might be the surest route to living a longer life!

According to new research by Esther Friedman of the RAND Corporation and Robert Mare of UCLA, parents of college graduates live two years longer than parents whose kids don't graduate high school. But how? College-educated children are able to influence their parents' behavior in positive ways: “Highly-educated offspring may directly improve their parents' health by convincing them to change their health behaviors.” (In other words, the child becomes the parent.) Friedman and Mare examined more than 25,000 individuals tracked in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of Americans aged 51 and over, from 1992 to 2006. They found that the effect on children's education on parents' life expectancy was not just coincidence – it was robust even after controlling for the parents' own socioeconomic resources. The takeaway from this research is that we may be able to better care for our future senior population by providing educational resources to children now. "Improving the education of younger generations could potentially improve the health of two generations of the family (the younger generation as well as their parents)," Friedman said. "This is something that policy makers could consider when evaluating the potential impact of a program.” (For more of this study, click here.)

What are your thoughts on the study? Do you think it's likely that children with a college education offer more financial means to take care of their parents as they age? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to try and fund your college education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com.

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18 Year Old Makes History in This Year’s Election

November 7, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With this year’s midterm elections behind us, have you ever wonder: “Man, I could do a better job than [insert disappointing political official’s name here]”? Only to realize almost immediately that crushing sense of defeat given the fact that you’re too young and inexperienced to run… or are you?

Saira Blair, an 18-year-old West Virginia University freshman, won a seat on the West Virginia House of Delegates after defeating her Democratic opponent 63 percent to 30 percent. Doing the majority of her campaigning out of her dorm room, Saira will be the youngest state lawmaker in the nation. She campaigned on a pledge to work to reduce certain taxes on businesses and holds anti-abortion and pro-gun positions. "When I made the decision to run for public office, I did so because I firmly believe that my generation's voice, fresh perspective and innovative ideas can help solve some of our state's most challenging issues," she said. Studying economics and Spanish, Blair will defer her next semester so that she can attend the legislature’s 60-day session in the spring and will resume her coursework in the fall. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of an 18 year old becoming the youngest state lawmaker in the country? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And as always, don’t forget to create a free profile Scholarships.com to get matched with awards that reflect your interests and attributes.

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This Year’s Quirkiest College Admissions Essay Prompts

More Colleges Posing Offbeat Essay Questions

March 3, 2015

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 are 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 celebrating your nerdy side could get you in!

In addition to traditional essay prompts, more and more institutions are jumping on the unconventional question bandwagon and are interested in 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:

Tufts University

Celebrate your nerdy side.

University of Chicago

What's so odd about odd numbers?

Lehigh University

You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What is the video about?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

You were just invited to speak at the White House. Write your speech.

University of Notre Dame

A good story starts with a good beginning. Get us hooked in the first 150 words.

University of Richmond

Tell us about spiders.

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? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And if you're interested in learning more about applying for college and the application essay, check out our College Prep section. While you're there, conduct a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com for a complete list of scholarships that are personalized to you!

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Five Celebrities Who are Helping Shape the Future of Education

March 12, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Being a celebrity certainly seems have its perks: countless adoring fans, a lavish lifestyle, hefty paychecks and, for some, the opportunity to support worthy causes. And while we've seen celebrities fight for starving children, encourage environmental causes and even join the UN, promoting education is a soft spot for quite a number of them as well. Check out the five celebrities below who have opened schools in recent years. (For the complete list, head over to The Huffington Post):

  • Shakira: Using funds from her nonprofit organization, she has opened eight schools in her native country of Colombia. She has also lobbied Latin American leaders to support early childhood education.
  • Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007. While the school has suffered from its share of controversy, it is still up and running. The media mogul has also donated heavily to American charter schools, giving $6 million in 2010.
  • Angelina Jolie: The actress and notorious humanitarian opened an all-girls school in Afghanistan in 2013. The school was funded by proceeds from Jolie's jewelry collection, Style of Jolie; she reportedly hopes to use further proceeds to build more schools in impoverished areas, according to Forbes.
  • Magic Johnson: Former NBA star and sports analyst Magic Johnson has opened several alternative high schools for students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school. Currently, there are four Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in Georgia, two in Illinois, one in New Jersey, one in North Carolina and eight in Ohio. According to the Bridgescape Academy website, the alternative schools' "student-focused program provides an opportunity to earn a high school diploma at a pace suitable to their schedule, lifestyle and learning needs."
  • Madonna: In 2013, Madonna opened several community schools in Malawi. According to the Associated Press, her work there provided classrooms for thousands of students who were previously learning outdoors.
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High School Withholds Diploma After Student Blows Kiss

June 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Did you think your high school's administrators were strict?  Chances are they've got nothing on Suzanne Lukas, the superintendent of Bonny Eagle High School in Maine.  During the school's graduation ceremony, a student pointed to his friends and blew a kiss to his mom when his name was called.  Instead of shaking his hand and handing him his diploma, the superintendent told him to return to his seat empty handed.  He still hasn't received his diploma.

The story's getting national media coverage as the student's family demands an apology and a diploma from the school's superintendent.  While this story certainly appears to fall on the extreme end of things, it does serve as a good reminder to high school students to take school policy very seriously until you have that piece of paper in your hand and are literally out the door for the last time.

This has us curious, though.  For those of you who have already finished high school: did you run into any incidents at your high school graduation where students' diplomas were withheld?  What antics did you or your classmates get away with as high school seniors and as participants in your school's graduation ceremony?

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University of Florida Prepared for Zombie Outbreak

October 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's nice to know that in the event of a disaster, your school will be prepared. Colleges and universities nationwide already have contingency plans for situations such as fires, floods, and other on-campus emergencies. In anticipation of on-campus outbreaks of the H1N1 swine flu virus, colleges are also reviewing and tweaking their plans for dealing smoothly with infectious diseases on campus. While undergoing this process, one official on the University of Florida campus decided to do one better and prepare his college for another type of outbreak-a zombie attack.

The zombie attack disaster preparedness plan was initially posted on the University of Florida's e-Learning website along with response plans for other, more likely, disaster scenarios. The plan's author, e-Learning Support Services Manager Doug Johnson, composed it as a joke one night during a bout of insomnia while his office was working on strategies for handling a campus closure, then posted it to provide a bit of levity for fellow e-Learning staff members.

Highlights of the plan include humorous definitions of "zombieism" and "zombie behavior spectrum disorder," as well as a form for university employees to complete if they need to deal with undead coworkers. While it was removed from the University of Florida website shortly after discovery and publication by local media, The Gainesville Sun still has a copy available online.

While the University of Florida zombie attack plan was humorous in nature, zombies have been used to model disease outbreaks in serious contexts. Earlier this year, a group of Canadian graduate students modeled a zombie attack as a classroom exercise that is now slated for publication in the upcoming book Infections Disease Modeling Research Progress. Their zombie attack model could have useful implications for modeling and understanding the spread of other infectious diseases, including swine flu.

One of the jokes in Johnson's paper was an allusion to the field of Zombie Studies (which, sadly, is not yet a viable college major), but given the recent uptick in interest in zombies on college campuses, can it be long before zombies find their way into more standardized parts of the college curriculum? Perhaps we will soon see more eye-catching titles for college classes dealing with the undead.

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This Too Shall Pass, Freshmen: Adapting to College Life

October 15, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's a few months into your freshman year, and the homesickness may be setting in. Or you've found yourself at war with your first college roommate, who sneaks snacks from your cupboard when you're hard at work studying in the library.

So much of what you learn before you head off to college is related to the more rigorous academics you'll be tackling, or all the paperwork you need to fill out to make sure your financial aid application is filed completely and on time. These things are very important, and you will be faced with new adult-like responsibilities once you're on that campus. But what about the things your guidance counselors don't tell you?

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book "The Naked Roommate, and 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College," has been making the rounds the last few weeks to inform college students - and their parents - that a few bumps in the road are normal. He describes the more realistic picture of the first one, even two, years of college as years of "discomfort," and that students will come across situations they may not have been prepared to encounter: that overly-rambunctious roommate that stays up late and keeps you awake, or the fact that you thought it'd be way easier to make friends on a campus of more than 20,000 students, all around your age.

Cohen suggests that getting through those difficult times will only make you stronger. The bad memories you may think you're collecting now will slowly become good memories, as one day we nearly guarantee you'll be talking about the "good old days" of attending college. The uneasiness you feel now will subside, and you'll start finding your niche. Take advantage of what college campuses have to offer, because chances are, there's something for every kind of student, no matter how diverse their interests. Some of Cohen's suggestions have included speaking up to disruptive or inappropriate roommates, taking care of yourself to avoid falling into a physical, mental or emotional slump, and forcing yourself to get our of your comfort zone somethings by joining a new student group or making connections with classmates.

Browse through our site for more tips on transitioning into that first year of a new college lifestyle and dealing with common roommate problems. Chances are the things you're experiencing are pretty universal, and easily remedied with a little faith that things will get better and giving yourself enough time to adapt to a new life on campus.

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Colleges Try Sneaking Healthy Options into Dining Halls

October 29, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Do you think you could get tricked into eating more healthy foods on campus? A recent article in the Boston Globe describes the strategies being taken by some schools in Massachusetts to get their students eating more nutritious meals and smaller portions, and it has required some sneakiness.

Most of you have probably heard of the "freshman 15," the 15 (or more) pounds that you're at risk of putting on that first year away in college when you're making your own decisions on what to eat. According to the Globe and the Nutrition Journal, recent studies have shown that at least 1 in 4 college freshmen gain an average of 10 pounds in their first semester alone. (That'd make it more like the "freshman 20.") Data like that and an increased awareness of obesity among young people has led schools like Wellesley College, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to take matters into their own hands by shrinking plate sizes and sneaking veggies onto students' plates. And they're not publicizing their methods, as anecdotal evidence has shown that if students are given a choice in whether to eat healthy or not, they'll usually go for the burger and fries.

Elsewhere, schools are doing things like offering miniatures of popular food items (sliders vs. burgers) and substituting fattening ingredients for more low-calories options. Getting students to eat healthy and exercise portion control is made even tougher in cafeterias, where they can often make return trips for second and third helpings with no one there to stop them. “Whatever restraining influences parents might have had when the teenagers were at home are unshackled when kids go off to college,’’ Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston said in the Boston Globe article.

If you're particularly worried about the choices you've been making when eating (or drinking), consider burning off some of those calories. Try to make time for a club sport or a couple hours a week at your schools' gym. Your tuition fees are already paying for your privileges to use their facilities, so you may as well visit them once in a while. And check out our site for options on healthy eating and eating on a budget, another difficult hurdle when you're looking not to order pizza for the third night in a row.

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Website Lets You Write Like an Academic (or at Least a Grad Student)

November 6, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

We're almost a full week into November, which for many students means the end of the semester is nigh. It's likely time to start working on those final papers, or at least generating some paper topic ideas. It's better to start sooner than later to avoid pulling all-nighters or finding out too late that the jerk in your English class who's writing a similar paper has checked out all the relevant books in the library before you get your chance.

But finding something new to say can be challenging, even for graduate students and undergraduate students in upper-division college courses. If the usual strategies aren't working, we've come across a couple of links that can help humanities students generate ideas for academic prose, or at least provide some much-needed levity while you're agonizing over your coursework. Note: you may not want to actually use these to write your papers, since your professor or TA is likely to see some of his or her own writing reflected in them.

The University of Chicago writing program has a tool to help both students and career academics craft a sophisticated argument without backbreaking labor: Make Your Own Academic Sentence. By simply selecting from drop-down menus of current buzzwords in literary theory, you can stumble upon a unique academic argument, and possibly lay the groundwork for a final paper! If you're not sure of just what concepts to piece together, some samples are provided by the website's Virtual Academic and his counterpart the Virtual Critic.

If you've got a great academic sentence, but no research area to apply it to, a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education can help with that. James Lambert's article "Heteronormity is Hot Right Now" provides some helpful (and hopefully humorous) guidelines for humanities grad students on declaring their research interests (and possibly finding topics for their first seminar papers). Both of the above are also great for answering that question about your academic interests in your grad school application essays.

As a bonus for grad school applicants, the above links are likely to teach you some new (and obscure) vocabulary, so that's even more of a time-saver for studying for the GRE. However, if nerd humor is not your taste, but you are concerned about getting papers started early and beating the finals week frenzy, you may want to check out our college resources on study skills.

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