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by Paulina Mis

You may not know who Sam Walton is, but you have probably heard of his stores, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. There are 4,000 Wal-Mart stores in the US and more than 2,900 abroad. The store has encountered plenty of controversy about employee treatment, but it has decided to give something back. Through the Sam Walton Community Scholarship, students across the nation will be assisted in their search for financial aid. Interested students can not be employees or relatives of store employees, but those who are may be eligible for larger Wal-Mart scholarships. Applicants will be judged on their ACT/SAT scores, community service, leadership, cumulative GPA and financial need. For additional information about this scholarship (including contact information) please conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

Prize:

1. Each Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club store may award up to two $1,000 scholarships.

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the U.S 2. Neither the student nor the parent may be employed by Wal-Mart 3. Applicant must be a high school or home school graduate (or must receive their GED) between August 1, 2007 and July 31, 2008 4. Applicant must meet the minimum 2.5 GPA criteria

Deadline:

January 14, 2008

Required Material:

Requirements outlined in Wal-Mart application

Further details, including information about applying, can be found by conducting a free scholarship search. Once a student has completed the search, this scholarship will appear in their scholarship list, provided the student is eligible.


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by Paulina Mis

Why should I care about voting?

Whether you're new to it or not, you’ve got to make like “Diddy” and “Rock the Vote”. Even if you’re not a huge fan, he’s got it right this time. There is something at stake for student voters: financial aid. This year has been a tumultuous one as far as college financial aid is concerned, and a collective student voice is needed to convince candidates that students mean business.

It all began when an investigation headed by New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that some, actually many, financial aid officials were receiving money from student lenders in exchange for promotions. Findings showed that certain lenders were paying schools to place them on preferred lender lists, offering gifts and money to financial aid officials in exchange for loan promotion, conducting seemingly unbiased loan exit sessions, and giving athletic departments money for each lead sold.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that third-party lender advertisers were using tactics such as imitating government websites to make students feel as if they were getting unbiased information or that some study abroad advisors were receiving money and free trips from study abroad companies for every student they convinced to travel with them. Sigh… I’m a bit out of breath.

Some, not many, successful efforts have been made to fix the financial aid system. The recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act has increased Pell Grants and decreased student lender subsidies. Unfortunately, these changes don't apply to all students. Those who are still in need of college funding should conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.  And to convince politicians that they need to hold up their end of the deal, students need to vote.

How do I register?

Votes won’t cast themselves. (Florida votes are a rare exception; they do what they want.) To participate in next year’s elections held on November 4, 2008, you have to be a registered voter. Under the Motor Voter law, states need to make registration available in numerous public agencies. Local departments of motor vehicles are common ones. Many cities also set up voting facilities in state buildings, libraries and schools.

Check your city hall or their online site for voting areas in your city. Most states also allow citizens to register by filling out a mail-in form available online at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) . States have different deadlines for registration (usually about 30 days prior to Election Day), so don’t wait too long.  When you're ready to register, bring proof of state residency e.g., driver’s license, ID or utility bill. If you are sending your registration via mail, you will need to photo copy these items.

Students who move to college must update their address before registering. Contact your local city hall to find out how this works for students living in college dorms. Once you’ve done that, you will have to pay a $750 voting fee. Just kidding, you're registering to vote, not for college classes.

Posted Under:

College Culture , College News , Tips


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Athletic Scholarships

November 7, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Whether you’re serious about sports or just having a good time (or both), your interest may help you find scholarships. Inhuman ability is not even required—most of the time. A bit of talent and a lot of fun may be all it takes. So flex your fingers, and dust off that keyboard; you may be a scholarship essay away from landing a lucrative college scholarship.  For more information on the scholarships below, including contact details, conduct a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com

Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year (SAMMY)

Now in its 10th year, the scholarship program responsible for producing Santa’s drink of choice is affording students an education. And the SAMMY award will probably give student athletes more than Santa ever did.  Each year, the National Milk Mustache’s “Got Milk?” campaign gives away $7,500 scholarships to 25 high school seniors. Winning athletes will also be commemorated with a spot in the SAMMY Hall of Fame at the Disney World Milk House and will have the chance to appear in a Milk Mustache USA Today ad.  Scholarship applications for the 2008 award will be accepted between November 5, 2007 and March 7, 2008. Interested students will be required to write an essay of no more than 250 words about “How Milk Has Helped In My Academics and/or Athletics”.

Women’s Western Golf Foundation Scholarship

Evans Scholars won't be the only ones receiving golf scholarships this year. So far, the Women’s Western Golf Foundation has awarded more than $3.1 million in college golf scholarships, and they’re ready to award more.  This scholarship is available to, of course, women who play golf. Thankfully, applicants don’t need to be pros to win; excellence in the sport is not even a criterion. Winners will be awarded $2,000 grants renewable for four years under the condition that they continue to demonstrate financial need and maintain a 3.0 GPA.  If you are a female, a high school senior and you play golf, you can get this application thing down to a tee.

NCAA Scholarships

Are you looking for baseball scholarships? Basketball scholarships? College sport scholarships in general? The NCAA is the place to search. Of course, to receive a lucrative scholarship from the National Collegiate Athletic Association you have to be good. The NCAA and its cosponsors award over 126,000 scholarships worth more than $1 billion each year to exceptional athletes. Interested student athletes should contact their colleges of choice for more information.

The Lou and Carole Prato Sports Reporting Scholarship

So maybe your baseball swings would be better categorized as swats. So what? If you can rattle off sports stats like a champ, you may still have a shot at winning sports scholarships. Each year, the Lou and Carole Prato Sports Reporting Scholarship program awards a $1,000 grant to an undergraduate (sophomore or older) pursuing a career in TV or radio sports reporting.  If you have good writing skills, a breathtaking voice and killer teeth (the last two are not required but won’t hurt) you may be one step closer to winning a scholarship.


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by Paulina Mis

After months of investigations into the legality of practices within the student loan industry, new regulations have been approved by the Department of Education. The guidelines came shortly after the passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act which increased financial aid and decreased lender subsidies. The new rules, however, are more targeted at the behavior of student lenders and financial aid officials.

Department regulations now state that colleges offering preferred-lender lists must suggest at least three different lenders. In the past, some schools mentioned only one lender, the one they had an exclusive contract with. The investigation also found that certain schools listed a number of lenders, but the choice was illusory. Because some lenders sold their loans to others on the list, the options were smaller than they appeared.

Approved mandates also cleared up some ambiguities between state and government laws regulating lender and school relationships. Lenders are generally pleased that the Department of Education has made clear their rules, when discrepancies arise, supersede rules laid down by the state. (Not that this wasn't already the legal rule of thumb.

Numerous schools and lenders have already agreed to abide by a new code of ethics and have donated millions to loan-education funds—even some who denied wrongdoing—after being accused of misdeeds by Andrew Cuomo, the Attorney General spearheading the investigation.  Citibank and Sallie Mae each agreed to pay $2 million while Education Finance Partners agreed to pay $2.5 million in settlements. New York University, Syracuse University and the University of Pennsylvania, among others, also settled and agreed to return some money to student borrowers. Knowing that Mr. Cuomo is not the loan king, although he sure has proven himself, will assuage some lender and college frustrations, but not by much.

Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans


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Nursing Scholarships

October 31, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Calling all nurses. Those of you with an interest in the nursing profession may be glad to know that much aid is available to you—and righteously so. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, registered nurses constitute the largest health care occupation. There are 2.4 million of them, and they’re growing in number…by the minute.

Actually, a takeover may not be such a bad thing. Plenty of people are in need of serious medical aid, and the high-stress, low-sleep, poor-diet mix is not helping. (Put that twinkie down; I don’t care if it’s Halloween.)

Those of you ready to don some scrubs, slip a stethoscope around your neck and embark on a new career should check out the resources below for nursing scholarships and grants. For additional information on these and other scholarships in nursing (including contact information), visit Scholarships.com and conduct a free scholarship search.

DAR Nursing Scholarship

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) are offering scholarships to students interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree in nursing. Three scholarships are currently offered by the organization: the Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship, the Mildred Nutting Nursing Scholarship and the Occupational/Physical Therapy Scholarship. Each winner will receive a one-time award of $1,000. The entries will be evaluated based on academic merit, dedication to field and financial need.

Tafford Uniforms Scholarship Program

Tafford, a maker of nursing wares, awards two $1,000 nursing school scholarships. The awards are distributed biannually, once in the fall and once in the spring. Nursing students who are working on their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) and Associate Degree in Nursing are eligible to apply. Graduate nursing scholarships are also available for those working towards a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Breakthrough to Nursing Scholarships for Ethnic People of Color

The National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) awards $125,000 per year in scholarships for nursing students. One of their awards, the Breakthrough to Nursing Scholarship, is given to students of unrepresented ethnicities in the nursing profession. Award winners should also be committed to servicing undeserved populations with quality care.

Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program (NELRP)

Though not a scholarship, this program assists nursing students in paying off already-acquired debt. The NELRP was created by the U.S. Department of Health to assist nursing students in achieving their goals. Registered nurses who agree to work in areas of nursing shortages for two or three years may be eligible to receive partial loan coverage from the NELRP.


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by Paulina Mis

Stress-free high school, does that sound like an oxymoron to you? Unfortunately it does to many high school students. Teachers are noticing it too, and one has made it a point to publicize his efforts to initiate change. Principal Paul Richards of Needham High School has created a Stress Reduction Committee to do something about these caffeine-wired, sleep-deprived, on-edge teens. 

He has been hard at work teaching students how to relax. He has even invited stress-relief experts to the school—it’s just that students couldn’t fit them into their schedules. That’s why yoga classes are now required for seniors (and hopefully not graded).

But for some unfathomable reason, Mr. Richards has received countless criticism. (For the record, I support you Mr.Richards.) According to an article, the principal received hate mail from across the country after taking the honor roll list out of his school newspaper. That sounds uncomfortably reminiscent of the honor roll list published in my grade school newspaper. We even got to strut bright yellow student-of-the-month pins.

Those who know that Mr. Richards is now working on his doctorate at Boston College may be compelled to say that he’s not exactly leading by example. But he sees things in a different light. Based on the New York Times article, his intent was to assist students in  managing stress and in finding the college that fits them best, whether it be prestigious or not. He encouraged students to be ambitious but reasonable when signing up for A.P. classes. “It’s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,” he stated. “It’s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.”

A stress-free high school environment is a start, but changes at the top are imperative for this to really work. If schools continue to be rated and employers continue to value them, it won’t be too easy to change things. A sort of trickle down relaxonomics is in order. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sleep and finals are not much easier to manage in college (assuming that you plan to graduate). Take tips from Mr. Richards now, and the future may look brighter.

Posted Under:

College Culture , High School


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by Paulina Mis

A recent evaluation released by NASFAA, an organization representing the interests of financial aid professionals, brings into question the effectiveness of a new student lender auction system. The recently-passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act created, among other things, a new auction system wherein student lenders would bid on exclusive market rights in each state. While the law concentrated on cuts in student lender subsidies and increases in free student grants, the auction system aimed at lowering taxpayer burdens was also enacted.

When the system goes into effect in 2009, lenders interested in participating in the government's subsidized FFEL Plan would have to compete for the lowest subsidies. Those who won the bid would get exclusive state lender rights. Only lenders who would choose to take part in the government’s FFEL program would be effected, and only rights to PLUS loans would be auctioned.

However, the NASFAA report questions whether an auction would really be as effective as it initially seems.The statement suggested that the auction program was based on the rash assumption that lenders who bid for loan rights would be willing to greatly lower subsidy expectations, and that taxpayers would really benefit from lower subsidies. This assumption, based on the report, may prove to be faulty. State competition could be lower than expected, and some states could problematically benefit more than others. After a few years, the competition is likely to decrease altogether, and lenders may simply choose to opt out of the program.

Doubt was also cast upon the assumption that student borrowers would not be affected by the auction system. Based on the report, it is more likely that lenders will get rid of certain student benefits once they have exclusive rights to a state. Borrower services that could be affected include default prevention, financial literacy and electronic processing. The report disputes the claim that very few students are eligible for benefits. Instead, it suggests that most students qualify for at least some helpful services or benefits.

How an auction would in effect change the financial aid system and affect taxpayers remains to be seen. However, a "Bill Gates is about to take over the world" scenario is unlikely. First of all, a total overhaul is not going to occur; PLUS loans will be used to test out the system. Based on the results, a general idea of what could happen in such situations should be obtained. Secondly, the auction would repeat after two years, and it’s unlikely that lenders will get comfy enough to cause a ruckus. Because two lenders will be chosen per state, some competition is likely to keep them in line. Let us also remember that PLUS loans are not the only loans on the planet. If FFEL PLUS loans become too pricy, students could look to competing loans and lenders. FFEL program winners will still have a reputation to upkeep.

Ultimately, the government has the last word on this one. We'll see if that’s a good thing.


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by Paulina Mis

Based on a new report released by the College Board, government aid has increased in the past few years—but college costs have as well. And they’ve done so more quickly.

According to the report, a public four-year institution charges in-state students 6.6 percent more in tuition and fees than they did last year. The increase for out-of-state students is 5.9 percent.

Students who attend private four-year colleges haven’t fared any better. They may not have to worry about the whole in-state out-of-state thing, but their tuition rates are still higher than those at public colleges, and they are likewise increasing. Since last year, tuition and fees have increased by 6.3 percent at private four-year colleges.

Community colleges are pretty good when it comes to keeping the prices down, but their costs, as well as those of for-profit schools, have been rising as well.

Before you say it, yes, stated cost and actual cost are two different things. You don’t go into a car lot expecting to pay the ticket price, and you probably won’t pay the full price when it comes to college tuition. But that doesn’t mean that you’re being cut a deal. Even though government aid has been increasing—and will continue to do so due to the recent passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act—students are still paying more for college.

As my chemistry teacher used to repeat, “All things being equal, things aren’t going well.” (Maybe the second half was mine; it’s just what comes to mind when I think of chemistry.)

Thankfully, students don’t have to depend on the government to completely cover the cost of a college education. There are plenty of financial aid options out there, and they don’t all require interest payments.  Students searching for tuition money can always look to college scholarships and grants for help. Plenty are available, and they won’t cost you a penny (don’t be scammed into believing that you should pay for scholarship consideration). Conduct a free scholarship search, and check out the numerous opportunities available to you.


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Find a College (for me)

October 24, 2007

by Paulina Mis

It’s tough being a senior. You have to do homework (at least during the first semester), study for standardized tests, apply to colleges and, oh yes, select them. Counselors do counsel, but let’s get serious; you’re the one stuck with the heavy-duty work. Plus, consulting with them is just one more thing to add to your to-do list.

College information is not that hard to come by if you browse the web like a maniac, but having a source that allows you to compare all data sure makes things easier. The Scholarships.com College Search allows you to do just that. Students searching for college information can visit the site and compare myriad stats on one 17” computer screen. (Adjust size for people who think they're too cool for standard screens---you know who you are.)   Whether you’re interested in a community college, a state university or a private school, we have the information you’re looking for. Start out by searching for a school by area of study, state, name, college type (two or four year) or any combination of the four.

From there, your will be directed to a list of schools that match your criteria. You can sort them by whatever information you’re most interested in: name, location, tuition or school type—from top up or top down. Pick out the ones that are still of interest to you, and find the information you need.

Check out the school’s tuition and fees, its incoming freshman profile, the financial aid offered, graduation rates, contact information and more.  After you’ve narrowed things down a bit, you can conduct a free scholarship search to find financial aid information that can help you pay for your college of choice. 

Your senior-year workload can't be  eliminated completely, but we can do plenty to ease the pain. You could really use the extra time for more important business---like doing nothing at all. Just call us your free personal college finder; we’ll smugly accept the title.

Posted Under:

College Culture , High School


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by Paulina Mis

In recently published (previously-known) financial aid news, student lenders were found to have made millions by accepting excess subsidies from the government. By finding loopholes in government regulations, the student lender Nelnet, one of the biggest offenders, was able to collect $278 million in excess payments between 2003 and 2005. Based on calculations released by the Washington Post, other lenders accepted an estimated $300 million in excess subsidies between 2003 and 2006—paid for by taxpayers.

Because students applying for government aid are restricted in how much they can borrow, the government offers subsidies to lenders who borrow to students. In exchange for the money, lenders offer students loans at rates that, although usually higher than those offered by the government, tend to be lower than those offered by unsubsidized lenders.

When average student loan interest rates were higher, the government guaranteed lenders a 9.5 percent interest rate for loans. Once average loan rates fell, many lenders continued to take in large subsidies.

And although the government lowered some subsidy sums after rates fell, they continued to guarantee a 9.5 percent rate on loans previously funded with tax-exempt bonds. To extend the pool of loans still eligible for larger subsidies, Nelnet divided tax-free bonds among various pools. They would then claim that pools of loans at least partially composed of tax-free bonds were eligible for 9.5 percent subsidies.

The government did little to stop them in the past, and it is doing little to punish them now. According to the Washington Post, the Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings did admit that the government shouldered some of the responsibility for the “confusion”. However, she indicated no intent to pursue full accounting, nor did she suggest that reimbursement from lenders would be sought.


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