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Why Students Drop Out of College

New MSU Study Cites Key Risk Factors

February 17, 2011

Why Students Drop Out of College

by Alexis Mattera

It may seem counterintuitive to work hard throughout high school, score well on your standardized tests, get accepted to your first-choice college and wrangle enough financial aid to pay for your education only to drop out before graduation but it does happen. What causes this academic 180? That’s what researchers at Michigan State University revealed in a new study.

The team, led by MSU assistant professor of psychology Tim Pleskac, used a mathematical model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 "critical events" and students were asked whether any of the events happened to them in the previous semester; later, the students surveyed were asked whether or not they planned to drop out. Among the top risk factors reported were depression, loss of financial aid, tuition increases, unexpected poor marks and roommate issues. Other "critical events" like family deaths, failure to get into a specific program of study, significant bodily injury and addiction, however, were less likely to impact a student’s decision to leave school. "Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac said. "We are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues."

Would any of the factors listed above effect your choice to drop out of college? If they did, do you think you would eventually return to obtain your degree?


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Scholarship Scam Spotting 101

February 16, 2011

Scholarship Scam Spotting 101

by Alexis Mattera

Applying for scholarships requires hard work, creativity and time...not boatloads of cash, frustration and empty promises. Each year, however, students are duped into ponying up exorbitant application fees for scholarships they aren’t even guaranteed to win. This is just plain WRONG, people – scholarships are supposed to be free money for college! – and while we’re betting you’ve already checked out our pages on scholarship scam prevention, the Washington Post recently published some refresher info:

  • Filling out the FAFSA is 100-percent free and you can do it either online or on paper. If you would like to fill it out online, be sure your search terms are correct: A seemingly small typo like "FASFA" can direct you to sites that ask you to pay to file...and the forms they have are sometimes the wrong ones.
  • It's legal for for-profit companies to charge for providing scholarship information but it's illegal for them to collect fees but never provide the information, misrepresent themselves as government officials or guarantee they'll get the student full funding for college.
  • Voice any concerns about an organization to a high school or college counselor; they've been there and done that and can point you to the truth.
  • If you are alerted that you're a finalist for a contest you've never entered or if credit card/banking information is requested online, go no further unless you are positive the organization is legit.
  • Don't give in to anything branded as a "limited time offer" or "exclusive opportunity." They're just high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Investigate the success stories presented at seminars. These so-called "satisfied customers" could have been paid to give glowing recommendations so ask for a list of at least three local families who used the service and contact them directly to make sure the organization delivered on its promises.
  • If you do find a legitimate organization that requires payment, get in writing how much the service costs, what exactly the company will do and the refund policy.

College is expensive enough so save those application fees for books and other college expenses: All Scholarships.com’s services – from the scholarship search and college matchmaker to financial aid information and college preparation tips – are available completely free of charge. You’re welcome!


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Obama (Sorta Kinda) Keeps His Promise

Changes in Higher Ed Funding Afoot

February 15, 2011

Obama (Sorta Kinda) Keeps His Promise

by Alexis Mattera

While "Honest Barack" doesn't have quite the same ring as our 16th President’s nickname, we have to give him credit for keeping his promise to privilege spending on education and research...for the most part: Some potentially painful cuts could slice through the higher education pie relatively soon.

First, the good news. The 2012 budget blueprint reveals the maximum Pell Grant (currently set at $5,550 per year) would not be slashed by $845 as originally expected and funding will continue for financial aid programs including AmeriCorps, the Perkins Loan and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Programs and academic research agencies. The Education Department's overall budget would grow by 4.3 percent in 2012 under the President's budget but despite this positive information, it won’t be all unicorns and butterflies for college students. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration had to make some "tough choices" to maintain the current level of funding and compensate for future spending. For example, the department's 2012 budget calls for ending a three-year experiment allowing students to qualify for two Pell Grants in a calendar year and use this funding to attend college year-round, as well as eliminating the subsidy in which the government pays interest on graduate student loans while the students are in school; the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program, the Byrd Honors Scholarships and the TEACH Grant program would also be eliminated.

Obama said, "Education is an investment that we need to win the future...and to make sure that we can afford these investments, we’re going to have to get serious about cutting back on those things that would be nice to have but we can do without," but student advocates, like Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, were quick to show their displeasure. "It is regrettable that the administration is proposing to maintain Pell by making cuts to other student aid programs that provide much needed funds to students," he said.

The information above merely scratches the surface (check out Inside Higher Ed’s article for all details) but it’s enough to get the conversation started. What do you think of the proposed budget? Will the changes impact your ability to pay for school? Would you propose a different course of action?


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The "You Like Me...You Really Like Me" Facebook Scholarship is Here!

Give Us a Thumbs Up and You Could Win $1,000 for College

February 15, 2011

The "You Like Me...You Really Like Me" Facebook Scholarship is Here!

by Alexis Mattera

Since its creation in 2004, Facebook has revolutionized the way college students (and, later, the world) communicate online. It’s a piazza for nearly everything (vacation photos, snarky status updates, baby announcements, study groups, ex stalking, etc.) and gives each user a way to express themselves. One feature in particular – the "Like" button – shows exactly what comments, movies and brands are most favored so we figured why not let those who like Scholarships.com earn money for college? And thus, the "You Like Me...You Really Like Me" Facebook Scholarship was born!

The "You Like Me...You Really Like Me" Facebook Scholarship will go to the Scholarships.com fan that is making the best use of our website’s many resources as determined by comments on our Facebook page. Love our scholarship search? Tell us why! Is our financial aid info really helping you out? Send us an example! Think our college prep section is the best? Give us a shout out!

To apply, you must:

  1. "Like" Scholarships.com on Facebook.
  2. Post on our wall how Scholarships.com is helping you with your scholarship search.

Check out our Facebook page for more details. The deadline to “like” and comment is March 31st so there’s plenty of time left to apply. Can’t wait to see why YOU like Scholarships.com!


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Give the Best Buy Scholarship Your Best Try!

This Scholarship of the Week is Due Wednesday

February 14, 2011

Give the Best Buy Scholarship Your Best Try!

by Alexis Mattera

Wouldn’t it be great if one of your favorite stores put money into your wallet instead of taking it out? I’d say so and so would Best Buy: Through February 16th, in fact, the electronics giant is accepting applications for its @15 Scholarships.

Best Buy @15 Scholarships are available to current high school students in grades 9 through 12 who plan to enroll in a full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university or vocational-technical school in the Unites States. A total of 1,000 students will each receive $1,000 scholarships. So if you’re a high school student who plans to attend college, has solid grades and is involved in community service or work experience, you'll want to check out this award.

For more information about this opportunity, click here or try our free scholarship search to find other scholarships to help you pay for school.


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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?


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Girls Going Places Deadline is Going, Going... (Almost) Gone!

This Scholarship of the Week is Accepting Entries Through Feb. 28th

February 7, 2011

Girls Going Places Deadline is Going, Going... (Almost) Gone!

by Alexis Mattera

Are you a girl who demonstrates budding entrepreneurship, is taking the first steps toward financial independence or is making a difference in your community? If so, the Guardian Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award Program is right up your alley.

The Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award Program is an annual initiative designed by the Guardian Life Insurance Company to recognize the enterprising spirit of girls ages 12 to 18. Every year, prizes totaling $30,000 are granted to three top winners and 12 finalists to further their entrepreneurial pursuits or use to fund their college educations.

If this sounds like the scholarship for you, apply now or, if you’re interested in finding other scholarship opportunities to suit your unique situation, complete a free scholarship search today!


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A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

New Facility Combines Winemaking, Wi-Fi

February 7, 2011

A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

by Alexis Mattera

The last thing many people want to think about the day after the Super Bowl (beside Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem flub or the overall lack of enjoyable advertisements) is alcohol but this next story won’t add to a hangover. We promise.

The University of California at Davis, long known for its winemaking program, has unveiled new technology at the school’s Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science to fine-tune the fermentation process. Custom-built probes embedded with microchips measure the sugar density and temperature of fermenting wines every 15 minutes; the readings are then wirelessly transferred to a server at the facility and displayed on a large monitor. The use of Wi-Fi to monitor the process is certainly a big step but enology professor Roger B. Boulton says the footprint will be even larger as the measurements will soon be viewable on the Web and via smartphones. Students and researchers will be able to compare their results with expected outcomes and adjust as necessary to determine how different fermenting conditions affect different grape varieties.

Boulton continued to say that the measurement technology puts the university years ahead of commercial operations because it will ultimately reduce the number of failed batches. How green! What do you think of these developments at UC-Davis? Would having access to this new technology get you to consider a major in winemaking?


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Snow Days are Now E-Days in Ohio’s Mississinawa Valley

by Alexis Mattera

Growing up in Massachusetts, I experienced my fair share of snow days…and attending college in Connecticut kept the class cancellations coming throughout the winter months. Those days were meant for building snow forts and lunch tray sledding for students young and old but for students in Ohio’s Mississinawa Valley School District, the terms Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon and #snOMG translate to something very different: e-days.

For those unfamiliar with the term – we’re looking at you, Randy Parker – an e-day means traditional classes are still cancelled but instead of having to make the days up at the end of the school year, students must log on to their home computers to complete virtual lessons prepared by their teachers. Those without computers aren’t exempt, either: They just receive the assignments when they return to school and have more time to complete the work.

School officials are currently studying how well the program worked with the help of a university to determine whether to continue the program or drop it. The reactions from students are mixed but some high schoolers told National Public Radio they don’t mind e-days because the work will prevent falling behind in class and adversely affect their chances of attending college.

The answers are sure to vary - SpongeBob Square Pants shares some interesting theories on education here - but do you think e-days will be beneficial in the long run or would you rather spend your snow days doing as you please?


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Got Stress?

Annual Study Shows College Freshmen are Overwhelmed but Optimistic

January 27, 2011

Got Stress?

by Alexis Mattera

A student’s first year in college is one rife with new experiences and challenges. We have plenty of info on our site to help ease that transition – from dealing with common roommate problems to overcoming writer's block in college essays to beating the winter blues – but it looks like members of the class of 2014 are having more difficult times adjusting to the college lifestyle.

An annual study found 51.9 percent of first-year, full-time students reported their emotional health was above average. That may not seem so bad but lead author, UCLA's John Pryor, said this figure is a "fairly alarming" 3.4 percentage points lower than last year and the lowest since the inaugural study in 1985 when 63.6 percent reported feeling above average. Despite these record-low levels of emotional health, about 73 percent of students surveyed generally expressed positive attitudes toward higher education, even as they struggle to fund it because they believe it will help their future earning power.

But why the disparity between low emotional health and high expectations? It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific reason but Marcus Hotaling, chairman of mental health for the American College Health Association, has a theory: When the study began in 1985, he said, many students with mental health issues did not get into college but today, they are able to pursue post-secondary degrees because of improved medication, reduced stigmas and a greater willingness to share concerns with others. "Students are more attuned to who they are, what they're dealing with, and that there's help out there," said Hotaling.

First-time college students, do you share the sentiments of the students surveyed or is your freshman year shaping up to be one of the best years of your life thus far?


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