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Welcome to Your College Dorm…err, Hotel Room

Students Head to Overbooked Colleges with Nowhere to Stay

September 12, 2011

Welcome to Your College Dorm…err, Hotel Room

by Suada Kolovic

Up until this point, you’ve done everything a college freshman is suppose to do before heading off to college. You’ve read every tip and advice column you could get your hands on. You filled out all the right paperwork, submitted all your fees on time and were excited to meet your new roommate. Move-in day was supposed to go off without a hitch but instead of being greeted by your school’s welcome wagon, you were directed to the nearest hotel. Wait, what?

Across the country, universities and colleges are dealing with more incoming freshmen and transfers than they can handle. And while the finger pointing was inevitable, a few factors played into the overcrowding: administrators’ ambitious over-admitting, poorly planned enrollment predictions and a down economy resulted in halted residence hall construction projects. But regardless of who’s to blame, the fact remains that overbooked students make up a sizable portion of the collegiate population.

Here are the five scenarios these undergraduates tend to face, according to USA Today:

  • They are put temporarily or permanently in hotels near their campus, coming and going via shuttle services.
  • They are offered vouchers and other perks in hopes of precipitating a move off campus.
  • They are focused to live in traditional double rooms with two or three more roommates.
  • They are placed in dorm lounges, study rooms and other converted campus facilities.
  • Some freshman are separated from their peers and moved into residence halls typically allotted to upperclassmen.

Are you or someone you know dealing with overbooking at your school? Share your story.

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EcoKat: Kansas State University’s Eco-Friendly College Mascot

September 1, 2011

EcoKat: Kansas State University’s Eco-Friendly College Mascot

by Suada Kolovic

While the Going Green Initiative is catching on like wildfire among celebrities and the environmentally conscious, recycling doesn’t seem to be a top priority when it comes to the college lifestyle. Universities across the country have yet to seriously encourage eco-friendly habits but Kansas State University may have stumbled upon a quirky solution: EcoKat.

In an effort to teach students the importance of environmentalism, Kansas State has developed the mascot EcoKat, described as the “crusader of conservation and fanatic of fluorescents” here to “make sure K-State stays on the path to green.” Since their announcement, students haven’t really embraced the concept as much as they’ve openly mocked the super-hero type mascot on popular social networking sites such as Twitter. The Kansas City Star shared some of the tamer tweets: “#EcoKat makes me want to leave my porch light on 24hours and drive two blocks to the gas station for a pack of gum”; “In honor of #EcoKat, I will separate my plastics, glass and aluminum from one another... then put them in the trash anyways”; and “Pretty sure I have my halloween costume figured out this year. Thanks, #ecokat.”

You can’t really knock Kansas State for their attempt to get students to be more environmentally conscious but do you think EcoKat would make you go green? What do you think of the teased-haired, purple glove-wearing eco-enforcer?

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Recent Grads Say High School Wasn’t Challenging Enough

August 31, 2011

Recent Grads Say High School Wasn’t Challenging Enough

by Suada Kolovic

What high school student doesn’t love the idea of selecting a course based on the common knowledge the teacher is totally laidback and you’re guaranteed an easy A without much effort? We’ve all been there before and with all the classes high school students are required to take, many attempt to pack their electives with cushy classes before the reality of challenging college courses set in. But at what cost? According to a survey of 2010 high school graduates released by the College Board, 90 percent said their high school diplomas were not enough to compete in today’s society.

Almost half of the 1,507 students surveyed said they wish they took different classes in high school, specifically more challenging science, math and writing courses. As for the students who decided to take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses – 39 percent of those surveyed – agreed that the extra difficulty was worth it. In hindsight, the majority of students agreed that high school graduation requirements should be made tougher, and nearly 70 percent said that graduating high school was “easy” or “very easy.” Some students even went on to say that high school didn’t adequately prepare them for college, 54 percent of graduates said that their freshman year college courses were more difficult than expected, and a quarter needed to take remedial classes during their freshman year.

Those of you still in high school, does the study’s findings encourage you to take more difficult classes while in high school? What changes should high schools make in order to better prepare students for college? Do you think it’s a high school’s responsibility to encourage students to take AP or IB courses?

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Webster U. Student Gets the Boot for Lacking Empathy

August 30, 2011

Webster U. Student Gets the Boot for Lacking Empathy

by Suada Kolovic

David Schwartz was a typical adult student returning to school to pursue a different passion. After years as a computer help desk technician, Schwartz decided to head back to Webster University to become a family counselor. While in the master’s degree program, he excelled in his course work, earning all A’s and only one C, according to a school transcript. So why was he abruptly dismissed from the program on March 14 after he received a “no credit” for failing to successfully complete a practicum? A lack of empathy.

Schwartz is suing Webster for up to $1 million in losses and at least $2 million in punitive damages. He claims that the university dismissed him unexpectedly instead of helping to improve his empathy in order to complete the field work required for graduating. And he’s not alone: According to the American Counseling Association code of ethics, which is posted on Webster’s website, counselor education programs are required to provide remedial support for students, such as an advisory committee. That wasn’t the case for Schwartz, who says he would have welcomed it. "I'm at an age now, at 44, where I'm committed to what I'm doing professionally," he said. "I'm more than willing to improve."

But that’s not the entire story. Schwartz claims that there’s an underlying factor to his abrupt dismissal. He also alleges that he was deemed a poor performer after he wrote an anonymous letter to the dean criticizing a professor’s teaching methods and a romantic relationship between said professor and an administrator. There’s a lot more to the story here.

Do you think that Schwartz’s dismissal was a direct response to his not-so-anonymous letter? Is it the school’s responsibility to notify students that they’re unfit for certain occupations or help them through their inadequacies? Let us know what you think.

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Pew Reports Hispanic Students are Largest Minority Group in College

August 29, 2011

Pew Reports Hispanic Students are Largest Minority Group in College

by Suada Kolovic

While some students are debating whether or not a college education is worth the cost, Hispanic students are enrolling and attending at an all-time high. According to a report released by the Pew Hispanic Center, a 24-percent spike in Hispanic college enrollment has made them the largest minority group of 18- to 24-year-olds on campuses across the country.

The main factor behind the enrollment surge: eligibility. More Hispanic adults were eligible to attend college than ever before – nearly 73 percent had finished high school – so where are they attending? For the most part, the growth stems from Hispanic enrollment at community colleges. The report states that young Hispanic students are enrolling in community colleges at a much greater rate than their peers. In 2010, one million Hispanic students enrolled at four-year institutions, compared with 800,000 at two-year colleges, and of all young Hispanic students attending college last October, 54 percent were at four-year colleges. But while enrollment rates among Hispanic students have increased over the years, college completion rates lag: Hispanics are still the least likely of any major ethnic group to complete college or earn a degree.

Hispanic students, what do you think of the study’s findings? Why do you think more students are entering college but not completing?

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Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

August 19, 2011

Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like just yesterday that your kid was, well, just a kid, asking for a ride to the movies and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now your child has walked across their high school stage, tossed that mortarboard in the air and is heading for college in the fall. If this is the first child you’re sending off, it’s normal to be apprehensive about letting go but remember, this is their moment. College is a time for them to discover who they are and figure things out for themselves. That being said, you can help financially prepare your student for college. Check out the four tips from U.S. World and News Report on finding the balance between supplying enough funds and when letting your child struggle is okay:

  • Don’t deposit and dash: Some parents might opt to supply their student with extra spending money for the upcoming school year but it has the potential of backfiring almost instantaneously. If you’re doling out a year’s worth of funds without a framework about budgeting, they’ll be calling for pizza money by October. Take the time to discuss the importance of month-to-month budgeting and understanding the reality of unexpected expenses.
  • Embrace – and limit – financial slip-ups: Once you’ve discussed a budget, step out of the process and leave it up to your child to make it work, recommends clinical psychologist Jerry Weichman. "One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they're adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes."
  • Encourage financial freedom: Having your child work in college is a great way to lower the potential of student loan debt as well as understanding the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Allow your child to allocate earnings, providing them the opportunity to make a connection between money earned and money spent.
  • Utilize web resources: Letting go might be easier said than done, but neither you nor your student need to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. A bevy of financial aid resources is just a click away. Check out Scholarships.com for tips on everything from balancing work and college and where to work on campus to money management skills and tips for going on a budget diet.
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Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

August 18, 2011

Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

by Suada Kolovic

While credit card debt, mortgage debt and auto loan debt have all steadily decreased since the fall of 2008, the same cannot be said for outstanding student loan debt, which has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis. Not only has student debt increased, but more often than not these loans aren’t getting paid off on time. The problem is that students take out sizable loans to pay for tuition to only be met with bleak prospects of employment after college. Those lucky enough to secure a job can also expect lower starting salaries: The median starting salary for a member of the class or 2009 or 2010 is $27,000, down from $30,000 just a couple of years ago.

The debt ceiling deal complicated things a step further by adding additional federal loan provisions. One section of the deal changed the way interest is collected on federal loans for graduate students, meaning that borrowers will start accruing interest on their loans before they’ve graduated. That being said, earning a college degree is still a significant advantage when entering the job market. The Labor Department released a report stating that for workers 25 and over with at least a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate in July was 4.3 percent, compared with 8.3 percent for workers with "some college," and 9.3 percent for workers with just high school diplomas.

Soon-to-be college students, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?

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University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

August 17, 2011

University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a rut, the unemployment rate declining at a sluggish pace and the cost of a college education rising at an astronomical rate, now is the time to consider your options. Here at Scholarships.com, we can’t stress enough the importance of applying early and often for scholarships and financial aid, but when a college education is still just out of reach, some universities are willing to go the extra mile to help prospective students out. Rising high school seniors, take note: The University of Dayton is offering four years of free textbooks to first-year students who visit the campus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the university’s March 1 application deadline.

According to Dayton officials, the free textbook program is an incentive for families to attend campus visits in a tight economy and as a way to urge families to complete the federal aid form, which is an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle. "Many families don't fill out the form because they believe they don't qualify or think it takes too much time. They miss out on opportunities to get affordable financing or grant funding," said Kathy McEuen Harmon, assistant vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Students who fulfill the university’s requirements will receive up to $500 per semester to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore – funds good toward new, used or rental books. According Harmon, an estimated 75 percent of the first-year class is projected to take advantage of the offer, representing a $1.5 million annual commitment by the University. "We want them to fully understand the rewards of a University of Dayton education and know that those rewards are not out of their reach," Harmon said. "This is a very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment, one they can see immediately."

What do you think of the University of Dayton’s efforts? Are free textbooks enough to get you to commit to an institution? Should others follow suit? Let us know what you think.

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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

August 15, 2011

High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.
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Higher Education Doesn’t Guarantee Higher Lifetime Earnings

August 5, 2011

Higher Education Doesn’t Guarantee Higher Lifetime Earnings

by Suada Kolovic

Pop quiz: What level of higher education earns the most money over a lifetime? (A) a bachelor’s degree, (B) a master’s degree or (C) a doctoral degree? It seems the obvious answer would be the doctoral degree but according to a recent study, the gap is rapidly closing.

The College Payoff, a report published by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, revealed that those holding bachelor’s degrees earn about $2.27 million over their lifetime, while those with master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees earn $2.67 million, $3.25 million and $3.65 million, respectively. "It's still true that, on average, it's better to get the higher degree; it's better to keep climbing—but it's less and less true," says the center's director, Anthony Carnevale. That being said, the major and industry a student selects is precisely what determines lifetime earnings: Those who pursue bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will earn more, on average, than those with advanced degrees of any level who work in fields like education, sales and community service.

If you’re wondering whether or not earning a college degree at all is worth it, it definitely is. Those with bachelor’s degrees, in any field, will earn vastly more than their counterparts with some college ($1.55 million in a lifetime) or a high school diploma ($1.30 million), indicating that earning a four-year degree is essential to financial success later in life. What do you think of the study’s findings? Are you less likely to pursue a higher degree if the payout is minimal? Weigh in here or via our Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship.

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