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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

by Alexis Mattera

Thinking about applying to one of the University of California’s 10 campuses as a freshman for the 2012-2013 school year? If so, read the admissions requirements carefully, lest a change intended to ease your college-related stress levels send them sky high instead.

As standardized tests go, all UC campuses call for freshman applicants to submit scores from the SAT and ACT but have eliminated supplemental SAT subject exams from the list of admissions requirements. Though many students are breathing sighs of relief that they do not have to prepare for, take and afford another exam, others are still signing up for the subject tests in droves because they think it will boost their chances for admission. UC officials say students who do not take the tests will not be penalized but those who do and score well will be viewed in the same positive light as someone, say, with a leadership role in a school club would be. This explanation – plus the fact that specific programs like engineering and science do recommend subject tests – has left students and counselors understandably confused.

You can read more reactions from both sides here but as the November 30th application deadline draws closer, we have to wonder where our readers stand. If your dream school did not require you to take supplemental exams, would you follow the rules or still take the exams and hope doing so would give you a leg up on your competition and why?


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The Fight Against Federal Student Aid Fraud

by Alexis Mattera

Firefighters. Police. Ghostbusters. Your mom. There are certain people you instinctively contact when you need assistance and the same holds true for the federal government. When the Department of Education noticed there was something strange in the neighborhood regarding federal student aid, they knew just who to call.

Less than a month after releasing a report detailing how organized fraud rings were exploiting distance education programs, the ED contacted colleges across the country urging them to develop additional ways of identifying threats to federal funding. Schools were encouraged to combat potential fraud rings by monitoring groups of students using the same IP or email addresses to apply and participate in online programs, paying closer attention to students living outside the schools' normal coverage areas and delaying the disbursement of federal funds or releasing said funds in multiple disbursements. In addition to the steps colleges are taking internally, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the department will be working with Congress and schools "to ensure we have all the tools we need to prevent criminal elements from defrauding federal student aid dollars."

Do you think colleges are doing enough to prevent federal student aid fraud?


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Fairness in College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.


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The Impact of Merit Aid

October 19, 2011

The Impact of Merit Aid

by Alexis Mattera

Wherever you are in the financial aid process, you’ve probably heard the term merit aidfinancial aid based on students' academic and other merit rather than financial need – and its increasing popularity over the last decade or so. What you may not know, however, is the impact this trend has had on students seeking need-based aid.

According to a new report by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, state and institutional financial aid for low-income students has dropped significantly as merit aid has increased. From 1995-96 to 2007-8, the proportion of merit aid recipients in the highest quartile of family income rose from 23 percent to 28 percent, while the proportion of merit aid beneficiaries from the lowest economic quartile fell to 20 percent from 23 percent. (See more statistics here.) The report also suggests that many institutions have embraced merit aid because they believe this type of award will entice middle- or high-income applicants to attend their school over others (and pay more money to the school as a whole during the time they are enrolled) instead of offering financial assistance to low-income students who truly need the funds to attend college.

What’s your stance on merit aid? Does it help more than it harms in higher education or vice versa?


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A New Approach to Learning

October 18, 2011

A New Approach to Learning

by Alexis Mattera

Did you know that approximately nine out of 10 of the nation's two- and four-year colleges enroll students with disabilities and 86 percent of those schools enroll students with learning disabilities? Promising statistics...but only at first glance: The Department of Education reports just 24 percent of these schools say they can help disabled students "to a major extent." Fortunately, Landmark College exists.

The transition from a specially designed high school program to a mainstream college campus environment can be a bumpy one but Vermont-based Landmark has developed a number of programs and strategies to help these students stay focused, remain on top of assignments and understand their rights as college students with documented learning disabilities like dyslexia or attention-deficit disorder. Offerings include boot camp-style seminars, internship programs and scholarships paired with one-on-one coaching – assistance bureaucracy-mired traditional colleges often cannot provide – and with the number of disabled college students steadily increasing (they comprised 11 percent of the college student population in 2008, up from 9 percent in 2000), these programs are helping to take away the social stigma associated with these disorders and empowering students to speak up, seek assistance and ultimately succeed.

You can learn more about Landmark’s goals and additional information about learning disabled students here but we think student Morgan Behr sums up what Landmark is addressing perfectly in 10 words: "We're not that weird. We're normal. We just learn differently." What do you think about Landmark’s approach to learning?


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The Daily Paywall

College Newspapers Get Mixed Reactions to New Fee Initiatives

October 17, 2011

The Daily Paywall

by Alexis Mattera

You’re working on a paper in your dorm room one evening (not the night before it’s due, of course!) and are searching for sources to strengthen your argument. As you near the required page limit, you remember your brother mentioning a series of articles published in his school's newspaper a few months back that would help bolster your point. So you log on to the paper’s website and find the articles you are looking for...only to be met with a paywall.

If you haven’t experienced the scenario above, you may in the near future as a number of college newspapers are adding paywalls for online content access. Early adopters of the initiative aren’t charging on-campus users but are instead asking off-campus non-students for donations or relatively small dues depending on the amount of content they consume. How does it work? It depends on the school: For example, Boston University’s Daily Free Press added a donation page and Oklahoma State’s Daily O’Collegian charges a nominal $10 yearly fee to non-students outside a 25-mile radius of the college to access more than three articles a month.

The paywall initiative does have its supporters – BU calls it a “no-lose situation” and digital-subscription company Press+ has offered to cover the start-up fees of the first 50 campus papers that sign up for their service – but it also has its detractors: Jeff Jarvis, a blogger and professor of new media at the City University of New York, thinks colleges would be better off taking a page from Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and looking for alternative revenue streams. Where do you stand on the college newspaper paywall issue? Should the content be free to everyone or are fees a way to remedy the broken traditional media model?


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Let Your Voice Be Heard for This Scholarship of the Week!

Voice of Democracy Scholarship Deadline is November 1st

October 17, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard for This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

Students often complain that their voices are not heard by the masses but this next scholarship opportunity proves it’s possible for their words to make a difference...and a $30,000 dent in college tuition payments.

The VFW’s Voice of Democracy Scholarship is an annual nationwide audio essay competition designed to give high school students in grades 9, 10, 11 & 12 the opportunity to voice their opinions on their responsibilities to our country. Students should first draft their essays based on this year’s theme and then record their readings (no shorter than three minutes and no longer than five minutes) to CDs. Entries will be judged on originality, content and delivery, with the winner of the top audio essay receiving a $30,000 scholarship for college.

If this scholarship opportunity appeals to you, speak up today! The deadline is November 1st but you can find more information about this award and others by conducting a free scholarship search today.


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Flipped Classrooms Gain Momentum, Critics

by Alexis Mattera

Picture two Advanced Placement classes. One features a teacher giving a lengthy lecture while students take notes and the other has the instructor fielding questions and interacting with students based on the previous night’s digital assignment. Which one is producing higher AP test scores and information comprehension? According to some, it’s the latter – a method being referred to as flipped classrooms.

A growing number of teachers are recording their lectures, uploading them to iTunes and assigning homework based on their digital lessons. Instead of covering an entirely new topic during class time, students review the material at home, bounce queries off of friends and arrive in class the next day ready to work out any remaining problems they’re having with the teacher. The approach may seem strange but teachers who have tried it – including Stacey Roshan, a calculus teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland – say flipped classrooms offer greater control over material and more face time with students.

The flipped classroom method is gaining more support – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken note – but also has amassed its fair share of critics: Lisa Nielsen, author of the new book "Teaching Generation Text," worries that low-income students may fall behind because they don't have reliable Internet or computer access at home and says the approach "could lead us down the path of doing more of something that doesn't work because it gives us more time to do it."

Has anyone experienced the flipped classroom method first-hand? If so, what did you think of it? If not, would you be willing to give this learning method a try?


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Early Decision vs. Early Action - Which is Right for You?

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve wanted to attend University X for as long as you can remember. You made sure your academic and extracurricular accomplishments exceeded its admissions criteria, took multiple campus tours and even made its .edu your homepage but the time has finally come to submit your application packet. Doing so early seems like a no-brainer...but is it really?

Applying to college ahead of traditional deadlines has become quite popular in recent years; with that increased interest, however, comes some confusion. Should you apply early decision or early action? Can you apply early to multiple schools? Can you apply early to one college and regular decision to another? Here’s some much-needed clarification from Examiner.com.

Early Decision: Generally, ED programs are binding and require applicants to relinquish all rights to consider offers from other colleges. If you are surer than sure of your college choice and would go to this school beyond a shadow of a doubt if you were accepted, this is a great route to take. If you’re concerned you will not get in, you should consider another application method that allows you more options.

Early Action: EA, on the other hand, is non-binding in that it allows applicants to choose from other colleges they’ve been admitted to instead of being locked into one. While most early action programs say it’s ok to apply early action and regular decision to other institutions, some can be restrictive (check out Yale’s policy compared to Harvard’s) so be sure to check the requirements before sending in your materials.

College students, did you apply early? If so, what did you think of the process? High school seniors, do you plan to apply early – either ED or EA – and did these explanations help you?


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Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

Your Scariest College-Related Experience Could Earn You $1,000 or a Kindle

October 5, 2011

Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

by Alexis Mattera

Applying to and attending college can be the best time of your life but it can also be the scariest! Did your guidance counselor forget to include your transcript in your application packet? Were you matched with a freshman roommate who had an aversion to soap? We want to know: Tell us your scariest college-related experience in 140 characters for a chance to win $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship!

Don’t be scared – entering is easy! Simply log on to Twitter (or create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in your tweet detailing your scariest college-related experience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to apply:

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What is your scariest college-related moment?” Once you do this, you are entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to five per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the October 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which comments are most deserving of the awards.

  • Starts: October 5th
  • Ends: October 31st
  • Number Available: 3
  • Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle each for second- and third-place winners

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.


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