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by Scholarships.com Staff

It's the day before Thanksgiving. As the day progresses, your college campus will increasingly take on the look and feel of a ghost town-it may already be one if you're one of those lucky students whose school didn't even hold classes today.

However, gorging themselves on home cooking is not the only thing college students are anticipating this weekend. Right on the heels of Thanksgiving comes finals week for most college students in the country. So while you're packing for the weekend with your family and rushing to join the mass exodus from the dorm, you may find yourself throwing in some homework along with the laundry you plan to do at home and you may find yourself hurrying to finish a paper before you run out the door.

Balancing school and the rest of your life is hard enough, and it becomes even harder when holidays with the folks are involved. Here's this four-day stretch of no classes, and unless you're stuck working retail or food service, no work, and a sense that you can do anything you want with it. It can be tempting to put off your homework in the preceding days, telling yourself that you've got all weekend to get caught up-and even ahead-on what's been assigned before finals are due. Equally tempting, however, is the impulse to take the weekend as a vacation you've earned, focusing on football and catching up with friends and family, and spending most of the weekend in a food coma.

So how do you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend and get your homework done?

Know your environment.

When I started college, I didn't yet have a laptop and the family computer was in the living room, right next to where my relatives would congregate for Thanksgiving. We still had dial-up and ancient word-processing software that effectively made completing a paper at home impossible. Yet I'd still schedule not only writing but research for Thanksgiving weekend. If your home environment is difficult to work in, don't plan on working at home. If there are things you absolutely need to get done, think of a place you can go to do them, and a time you can make that trip (the coffee shop next to the mall on Black Friday? Not a good work environment, either).

Know your schedule.

Will you spend Thursday at a relative's house hours from home? Does your mom insist on dragging you along for the 4 AM stampede at stores on Friday? Do you have high school friends clamoring for a piece of your time on Saturday or Sunday? If you have other scheduling obligations to contend with, planning to pencil in a 10-page paper or an intensive cramming session might not be a good idea. If your homework needs to be done, and needs to be done now, you may need to see who you can put on hold. An unfortunate part of the college lifestyle is the realization that you may need to disappoint someone to make time to pass your classes. Accept this reality, but be smart about it and don't burn bridges.

Look ahead.

So you have all this homework to do and not a lot of time to do it in. What do you do? Look at the due dates for your assignments you'd scheduled for the weekend, as well as your school obligations when you return next week. Is there time to work this stuff in before it's due and still enjoy your holiday weekend? Are there other, less important tasks you can potentially rearrange? I won't advocate neglecting homework or skipping class to spend quality time with friends and family, but I won't be so naïve as to say it doesn't happen. Be smart about your decisions and be aware of their long-range impact. If the class you plan to skip on Tuesday to write your paper is one more than you're allowed to skip without dropping a letter grade or failing the class, then it might be wiser to attend it, and get your paper done this weekend--even if it means pulling an all-nighter or two.

Finally, if you're nervous about all the work you have to do, take some time today and make a plan, possibly while you're stuck in a car, a train, or the airport. Having a plan of action can keep you from freaking out about your homework while you should be enjoying a meal with your family and a well-deserved break from school.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Last week, we blogged about the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), an annual report on students at four-year colleges and universities. The survey provided information about everything from academic advising to study habits at participating schools. This week, its community college counterpart was released, and for students deciding whether to save money by starting at a two-year school, that data might be useful, as well.

The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSE) is conducted annually by the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin. This year, more than 400,000 student from 663 institutions participated. Engagement is regarded as serious concern at community colleges, as they tend to have a less clearly-developed sense of campus community as four-year schools and also have a far greater portion of part-time students and faculty.

Part-Timers and Engagement

The survey found that 60% of students were attending community college part-time, and that significant portions of students were taking night classes and online courses. Coming to campus less often, coming to campus at night, and having primary learning experiences take place off-campus can all result in less engagement among community college students. As a result, part-time students and students who work more than 30 hours a week are some of the least-engaged students on campus. Male students and traditional-age students were also among the least engaged students.

Study skill courses, orientation, learning communities, and developmental courses can all boost engagement. Interaction with students and faculty outside of class are also signs of a more engaged student body. Just under half of students currently engage in group activities in class, and just under two-thirds ask questions or contribute to class discussions, yet a small minority engage with instructors or peers outside of class. More faculty engagement and more programs to encourage student interaction may help.

Student Services and College Goals

Community college students and faculty recognize the role of student services, such as tutoring and advising, in promoting college success, but the numbers of each who participate in such activities are much lower than the numbers who view them as important. Few faculty members, especially part-timers, meet with students outside the classroom at least once a week, and few students regularly take advantage of advising or other services. This could partially explain the continued disparity between students' college goals and actual degree attainment.

A full 73 percent of students listed transferring to a four-year college or university as a goal they had when choosing to attend a community college, and 80 percent of students listed obtaining an associate degree as a primary or secondary reason for attending. Yet actual rates for both are much below the goals.

If you're considering attending a community college, the key seems to be to get involved and actively seek out help. Form study groups and talk to your instructors outside of class. Set and attend academic advising appointments to keep yourself on track for graduation and keep you informed of the next steps you'll need to take in your education. Also, consider applying for financial aid to reduce your need to work and allow you to more fully appreciate what your college has to offer.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Current undergraduate students who are looking towards employment after graduation, as well as graduate students hoping to ride out the recession before beginning their job search may want to make note of survey results just released by Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute.  The survey focused on job prospects for new college graduates at 2,500 businesses nationwide, and the numbers don't look good.  Things were even worse than anticipated for the classes of 2008 and 2009, with the job demand for college graduates dropping 40 percent in the past year, far exceeding initial projections of declines in hiring of 8 to 10 percent, and they aren't expected to soon get better.

Hiring of new college graduates is expected to remain low, with overall figures dropping another 2 percent in 2010, with mid-size and large businesses anticipating continued reductions. However, some sectors are starting to show growth, though none can yet be described as booming. Smaller companies, especially, are expecting to hire more recent college graduates: approximately 15 percent more than last year. New graduates looking for jobs will also have better luck in the west than the east.

The types of businesses that are most likely to hire new graduates in the coming months include web design, e-commerce, information systems, nonprofits, statistics, nursing, social work, environmental sciences, manufacturing, agriculture production and food processing. Accounting, banking, and real-estate will continue to be poor bets, along with engineering, transportation, utilities, computer science and computer programming. Education is also likely to continue to suffer without federal stimulus money supporting K-12 teaching, and non-academic university jobs are likely to be scarce.

The Michigan State University researchers who conducted the survey warn that many of these shifts in hiring appear permanent, or at least long-lasting. College graduates will have to continue to compete fiercely for fewer jobs with lower starting salaries for years to come. To improve their chances at landing a job right out of college, students will want to demonstrate their flexibility and critical thinking skills, according to the report. Taking rigorous classes and participating in internship and independent study opportunities can help.

Students who want to be more competitive or who are struggling to find work may also want to consider graduate or professional programs, or other alternatives to employment. These can develop and showcase your thinking, research, and analysis skills, as well as provide advanced training and work experience directly relevant to your intended profession.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

While so far it appears that the recession has not had a negative impact on students' desire to go to college, it may be affecting their ability to get there, or at least to get into their school of choice.

State colleges have endured some significant budget cuts in the last year, while also coping with an increased demand for student financial aid and drops in endowments and donations. These circumstances have left schools scrambling to find additional sources of funding to meet everyday expenses and deal with increased demand. To mitigate tuition increases, many state colleges, especially public flagship universities, have begun to admit more out-of-state and international students. These students pay higher tuition, often without significant help from university scholarships, meaning more revenue for the university and lower costs for the in-state students attending.

This is a win-win situation for colleges and out-of-state students, who are more likely than ever to get into their dream school thanks to these new policies. One example is the College of William and Mary, where the out-of-state admission rate has risen from 22 percent of applicants in 2007 to 30 percent in 2009. While out-of-state admission is still significantly more competitive than in-state, students who are able to pay non-resident tuition at public flagship universities may see more success in 2010 than previous years.

However, with more seats being filled by out-of-state students, in-state students are at a disadvantage. At the same time as admissions ratios are being adjusted, more students are applying to in-state schools to take advantage of relatively reasonable tuition costs, especially where a low price corresponds with a top-rate education.

Where competition is fierce and seats and scholarships are limited, students who had been planning on attending their state's public flagship may want to cast a wider net in their college search. Consider a private college-some in California are offering substantial scholarships to students who would otherwise have attended a state college-or think about putting in a year or two at community college first. You may also find a less expensive, but still highly respected, option in a branch campus of a flagship, or in another state college nearby.  It may even be possible to transfer to your dream college later, as more and more university systems and community colleges develop agreements for how credits will transfer between schools.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Scholarships.com has a guest blog post on the Church Hill Classics DiplomaFrame Blog today in honor of National Scholarship Month.  Although squeezing more work into your already hectic schedule may not seem like the best cause for celebration, free money for college certainly is.  We go through some basic tips for starting your scholarship search and completing scholarship applications.

To read more and to check out the Church Hill Classics website, visit http://www.diplomaframe.com.  Church Hill Classics offers a variety of diploma framing options, as well as the Frame My Future Scholarship, which has previously been featured as a Scholarships.com Scholarship of the Week.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Cancellations and cutbacks to scholarship programs have been making the news a lot lately.  Michigan recently ended its state Promise Scholarship in the face of a budget crisis (though the state's governor vows to restore funding) and other states and companies are also having to make some hard cuts.  The latest round has left five high-achieving Arizona high school juniors without the four-year full-tuition scholarship they signed a contract to receive in the fifth grade.

Budgetary cutbacks aren't the only way that students can lose scholarship money.  Many scholarship funds are only designated for a set amount of time: four years, two years, or just one check.  Other awards are contingent on strict eligibility criteria.  A dip in your GPA, a semester where you drop below full-time, or a transfer to another college or university could potentially make you ineligible for a renewable scholarship award.  All of this can change your college funding picture dramatically from year-to-year.

Transfer Students

Students who are transferring will want to see if their new college offers scholarships for transfer students.  If your scholarship is from your college, it's unlikely to transfer to your new school unless there's a preexisting special arrangement between the two institutions.  However, if you've won an outside scholarship, especially one from a state or national organization, you should contact the provider to see if the award will transfer to your new school. You also will want to do a scholarship search--many national scholarship awards are designated specifically for transfer students, especially students who are moving from community colleges to four-year schools.

Lost Eligibility

Students who have lost their scholarship from not meeting eligibility criteria will often have a chance to appeal the decision to revoke the award.  Ask the scholarship provider if there's an appeals process, and follow the instructions exactly in as timely a manner as possible.  If there are extenuating circumstances that led to the situation, you may need to document them.  Above all, be polite and respectful and try to create a good impression, even if your appeal is denied. Awards that run out can also occasionally be appealed for an extension, or applied for again for a possible second round of funding.  Check the rules for the contest or ask the scholarship provider if this is the case.  Even if you lose eligibility for one award, it doesn't mean you're ineligible for all scholarship opportunities.  Search for scholarships to see what else you may be able to find.

Canceled Programs

Finally, if your scholarship program has been canceled, there are still things you can do.  Some providers, like our Arizona example above, will help students find alternate funding, and may even be able to supplement some of the difference between what they promised and what you can't find on your own.  Some colleges are also making up for cuts in high-profile state and local scholarship programs by creating their own scholarship funds for the students affected.  Other schools have emergency aid or one-time scholarships available to students who find themselves suddenly without the means to pay their tuition.  Check with your financial aid office to see if your school can help.

Students who have already succeeded at winning scholarships are also likely to win more, since so many scholarship providers have similar criteria. If you find yourself caught without scholarship money you had planned to use, try to find some time to apply for additional awards.  You may even win more money than what you lost.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

As the wrangling over proposed healthcare legislation drags on in the Senate, progress on other bills has stalled, including a piece of legislation that would impact federal student financial aid programs.  The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, passed by the House of Representatives in September, has yet to see its counterpart taken up for debate in the Senate.  Yet the debate over student loan reform is heating up again as the Department of Education and lenders both attempt to press their agendas forward.

Student loan reform has been a topic of contention since President Obama announced his 2010 budget proposal at the beginning of the year.  Among them was doing away with the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which subsidizes private banks to make and service federal student loans, such as Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans. Students would borrow directly from the Department of Education through the Direct Loans Program. The money saved from the subsidies would then be channeled into Pell Grants and Perkins Loans, among other education funding priorities.  The proposed changes would go into effect on July 1, 2010 necessitating a quick switchover to direct lending for all colleges still participating in FFELP.

After the bill passed the House, the Department of Education began urging schools to voluntarily make the change to Direct Loans, which concerned some financial aid administrators and most lending agencies.  Concerns have been expressed over the efficiency of direct lending, the loss of choice in eliminating FFEL, the feasibility of making the switch, and the continuation of services such as financial aid counseling that some lenders currently provide.  Many of these were aired at a recent meeting of a panel of financial aid experts in Washington.  Representatives of student lenders were also there to champion an alternate plan that would bring some of the savings proposed by SAFRA, but would maintain a role for banks in student lending.

It's widely expected that the Senate will ultimately pass a version of the bill similar to what was passed by the House, but when that will happen remains uncertain.  Procedural regulations and concerns over support are currently preventing the bill from progressing until the issue of healthcare is settled.  In the meantime, it appears debate, analysis, and lobbying will continue on both sides of the issue.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Has the recession had a negative impact on families' view of college? Record college enrollment in 2009 suggests no, and a new survey of parents backs that up, as well. Oppenheimer Funds conducted a survey asking parents of pre-college-age children whether they view college as important for their kids and how they plan to pay for school and recently shared the results in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The survey focused especially on saving for college-not surprising, since Oppenheimer Funds is heavily involved in college savings plans.  The more than 1,000 parents overwhelmingly responded that they view attending college as a must for their children. Eight out of ten say it's very important for their children to earn a college degree, despite barely half of respondents saying their own parents wanted the same for them. An even larger proportion, 90 percent, stated the belief that sending their children to college was an essential part of the "American dream." Hispanic families had an even more positive response, with 95 percent regarding college as essential for their children's success.  Most families still believe that college is within reach for students who want to attend, even after the effects of skyrocketing college costs and the economic downturn. However, more than half believe that it's less accessible than it used to be, and nearly two-thirds expressed concerns about the pace of tuition increases eventually pricing out many families.  In the meantime, the parents surveyed planned largely to pay tuition themselves, often with the aid of scholarship money. While over 60 percent had less than $10,000 tucked into a 529 plan or similar college savings account at the time, 80 percent of parents said they hoped to cover at least half of their children's college costs. Parents also overwhelmingly wanted to avoid debt for their children, with half hoping their kids could take out less than $10,000 in student loans.

But college savings accounts took a sharp downward turn in the recession and while private loan borrowing is down, overall student loan debt has largely been on the rise (the average amount borrowed by college graduates currently sits at over $20,000). Given this, parents of high school students, as well as the students themselves, may want to focus their efforts on finding scholarships. Our free college scholarship search can help-parents or students can complete a profile to learn about scholarship opportunities they can apply for early or late in high school.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

The National Survey of Student Engagement is an annual survey given to undergraduate students at colleges and universities nationwide for the last ten years. Participation has grown from 140 schools in its 1999 pilot program to 643 colleges this year. Nearly 1,400 schools have participated at least once, with many opting to participate every other year, rather than every year. The survey attempts to measure what students get out of their college experiences and to track whether students are becoming more involved in college life over time.  The categories NSSE measures schools in are level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment. The NSSE also features questions on special issues each year, and this year the focus was on transfer students. The survey tracks trends from year-to-year, and also categorizes results as "promising" or "disappointing."  While the results of NSSE are largely seen as beneficial to campus administrators and to national policy-makers, students can get a lot out of it, too. It gives students a rough idea of what most schools are doing, providing them some context in which to compare their colleges of choice as they're conducting their college search. As the New York Times education blog The Choice points out, the questions asked by NSSE may be questions you want to ask on campus visits. Also, the factors linked with college success and more enjoyable college experiences may be things you want to make a point to seek out while attending college. Noteworthy results:

  • About 1 in 3 seniors participated in a capstone course, senior project, comprehensive exam, or some other "culminating experience." Of those, more than three-quarters felt that it contributed substantially to their education.
  • Over half of students surveyed "frequently had serious conversations with students of a different race or ethnicity" and only 1 in 7 reported never having such conversations.
  • Transfer students were less likely than students who completed their education at one institution to participate in "high-impact" activities like learning communities, internships, and study abroad. Men were also less likely than women to participate in these.
  • One in three seniors rated the quality of academic advising at their school as fair or poor.
  • One in five students said they frequently came to class without completing reading or assignments.
  • Forty percent of freshmen reported never discussing ideas from reading or classes with faculty members outside of class.

NSSE results are available online for free from Indiana University.  There's a lot of information to sort through, but there are tools to help, both on the NSSE website and others. In 2007, schools began sharing their NSSE results with USA Today, which publishes and tracks the data in a more user-friendly format. Over 400 schools chose to list their results this way in 2009, making comparisons easier for students and parents.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

The House of Representatives is poised to vote today on legislation to eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan Program and increase funding for Federal Pell Grants. The bill, currently known as the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, is widely expected to be approved by the House, possibly with some amount of bipartisan support.  While most of the provisions in the bill have relatively widespread backing, one element has generated a fair amount of controversy. Under the proposed legislation, all federal student loans, such as Stafford Loans and Plus Loans, originated after July 1, 2010 would be part of the Federal Direct Loans Program, rather than the current bank-based system.

While initially both sides appeared ready for battle over the proposed legislation, controversy and rhetoric have cooled since the legislation was introduced. Alternative proposals that preserve some element of FFEL or otherwise grant a larger role to banks than in the bill currently before Congress have been proposed, but ultimately failed to generate the savings the Congressional Budget Office estimates this plan to carry, and thus have gained little momentum. Some Representatives still suggest submitting the proposal for further study and reviewing alternatives, but the plan to eliminate FFEL has gained the most widespread support.

Many Republican lawmakers still oppose the proposal to switch entirely to Direct Loans, with some making comparisons to the bank bailouts of earlier this year and the healthcare legislation currently being debated. The move to direct lending has also been repeatedly framed as eliminating choice for students, though the choice of direct loans versus bank-based loans has always rested with colleges and never with student borrowers.

Despite these objections, though, the bill appears to have the support necessary to pass the House and move on to the Senate, where it may face greater challenges. The option of passing it through the process of budget reconcilliation, which requires only a majority vote in the Senate, has been proposed, but whether the Senate goes that route remains to be seen.


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