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Nine Out of Ten Parents Agree: Attending College is Important

Nov 11, 2009

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Celebrate National Scholarship Month

Nov 10, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you haven't already been seeking out and applying for scholarships, what better time to start than National Scholarship Month? November was designated as National Scholarship Month by the National Scholarship Providers Association to bring more awareness of scholarship opportunities to the college-bound or those already pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees. The organization works with scholarship providers to make them more effective in providing you with scholarship opportunities and exposing college students to the number of awards out there.

National Scholarship Month was switched from May to November in 2008 for a reason. Now is a great time to start applying for awards, as by next spring, many scholarship deadlines have passed and funding has already been disbursed. And even if you have several months to get ready for a scholarship application deadline, apply early. Scholarships are constantly being added and created, and in a tough economy, best practice will always be to apply early and apply often to get the most out of your scholarship search.

Browse through our site for tips on applying for scholarships to improve your chances of padding your financial aid package with scholarship money. One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that your chances of winning a scholarship award are slim to none. But someone wins each award, right? Why shouldn't it be you? For an idea of the kinds of awards you could win if you put the time and effort into your scholarship search, see our Success Stories page. Many of those students applied to a lot of scholarships before winning one, or had the same apprehensions you might have about your chances to win an award. Now they're enjoying life on campus with less of a reliance on student loans and a new confidence that they were chosen to win these awards from large pools of applicants.

Celebrate National Scholarship Month by starting with a free college scholarship search, where we'll come up with a list of awards that you're specifically eligible for and have a good shot at landing. Make your search as specific as possible, as there are awards available to students based on almost any characteristic you can think of. Play up your academic strengths if that's where they are. If you have a unique hobby, use that to your advantage, as there are awards out there that could reward you for your interests. And be sure to keep your profile up to date. If you improve on your GPA, for example, you could be eligible for a number of new scholarship opportunities you weren't eligible for before.

Most important of all, go into the scholarship search with confidence. There are awards out there for you, so start looking and apply for scholarships before the school year gets away from you. Happy National Scholarship Month!

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Using Survey of Student Engagement in Your College Search

Nov 10, 2009

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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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MyArtSpace Art Scholarships

Nov 9, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Art school is expensive and financial prospects for those who receive art degrees are not always certain. For budding artists at any level of education, art scholarships can make a huge difference, as can gaining exposure for your works of art.

This week's Scholarship of the Week, the MyArtSpace Art Scholarship Competition, gives art school students at both the undergraduate and graduate level the chance to earn up to $5,000 in scholarship money. Students compile an online portfolio, complete with artist's statement and CV, and post it to MyArtSpace for judging. Winning entries will exhibit artistic excellence in a visual arts medium, contemporary or traditional, including photography and video.

Prize: Undergraduate and graduate entries will be judged separately, with the following awards for each: First prize: $5,000; Second prize: $2,000; Third prize: $1,000

Eligibility: Current or prospective undergraduate or graduate students pursuing a BFA, MFA, or other approved degree program in an accredited art school. Applicants can enter either the undergraduate or graduate category of judging, but not both.

Deadline: December 16, 2009

Required Material: Completed online registration and high-resolution samples of work. To enter, artsists create a free portfolio on MyArtSpace.com or NYAXE.com and upload up to 20 images. Including an artist statement and a CV or résumé is also encouraged.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Study Abroad Research Explores Gender Differences

Nov 9, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're inspired to consider a study abroad program after seeing all the news on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall today, chances are you're twice as likely to follow through on the idea if you're female than if you're male. A recent study conducted by three University of Iowa researchers suggests that women, especially women at liberal arts colleges, are more likely to study abroad because of factors like their academic pursuits and backgrounds.

Explaining the difference exactly seemed difficult for the researchers, as they tried to dispel common wisdom that more women studied abroad because more women than men were interested in fields of study like the arts and foreign languages that more easily lent themselves to overseas programs. The research suggests it's more complicated than that. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that examines the study suggests that the women interested in foreign study were also more easily influenced by liberal arts programs, especially those exploring diversity issues, than men, and that women were also more influenced by outside sources such as professors and their parents when determining whether to study abroad.

The study's results also found that:

  • Men who interacted with their peers were less likely to study abroad than those who interacted little with their peers.
  • Women at regional and community colleges were less likely to study abroad than women at liberal arts schools.
  • Men who reported undecided majors were more likely to study abroad than men with set fields of study, although that characteristic had little effect on women.
  • Asian-American men were less likely than white students to study abroad, but this was not the case for Asian-American women. Hispanic and white men were equally likely to study abroad, but Hispanic women were much more likely tostudy abroad than white women.

So should you study abroad? Apart from the obvious of being able to get out of your comfort zone and learn more about a new country, the experience is a good way to pick up skills you may not have picked up otherwise. If you're somewhat proficient in a foreign language already, consider visiting a country where that language dominates so that you're able to come back home and boast that you're bilingual. Studying abroad could also be a good resume booster in a difficult economy if you go overseas with the intention to pursue a particular field of study that you're interested in, or be a part of a volunteer project, as community service looks good not only to employers, but to scholarship providers as well.

And if you're worried about how you're going to pay for your time abroad, or whether you'll need to take out more student loans to do so, there are study abroad scholarships available to help you cover those expenses, especially if you've shown that you have significant financial need.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Website Lets You Write Like an Academic (or at Least a Grad Student)

Nov 6, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

We're almost a full week into November, which for many students means the end of the semester is nigh. It's likely time to start working on those final papers, or at least generating some paper topic ideas. It's better to start sooner than later to avoid pulling all-nighters or finding out too late that the jerk in your English class who's writing a similar paper has checked out all the relevant books in the library before you get your chance.

But finding something new to say can be challenging, even for graduate students and undergraduate students in upper-division college courses. If the usual strategies aren't working, we've come across a couple of links that can help humanities students generate ideas for academic prose, or at least provide some much-needed levity while you're agonizing over your coursework. Note: you may not want to actually use these to write your papers, since your professor or TA is likely to see some of his or her own writing reflected in them.

The University of Chicago writing program has a tool to help both students and career academics craft a sophisticated argument without backbreaking labor: Make Your Own Academic Sentence. By simply selecting from drop-down menus of current buzzwords in literary theory, you can stumble upon a unique academic argument, and possibly lay the groundwork for a final paper! If you're not sure of just what concepts to piece together, some samples are provided by the website's Virtual Academic and his counterpart the Virtual Critic.

If you've got a great academic sentence, but no research area to apply it to, a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education can help with that. James Lambert's article "Heteronormity is Hot Right Now" provides some helpful (and hopefully humorous) guidelines for humanities grad students on declaring their research interests (and possibly finding topics for their first seminar papers). Both of the above are also great for answering that question about your academic interests in your grad school application essays.

As a bonus for grad school applicants, the above links are likely to teach you some new (and obscure) vocabulary, so that's even more of a time-saver for studying for the GRE. However, if nerd humor is not your taste, but you are concerned about getting papers started early and beating the finals week frenzy, you may want to check out our college resources on study skills.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Working Through College? Consider an On-Campus Job

Nov 6, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

You don't need to work retail or deliver pizzas to make money in college. Many on-campus opportunities have the potential to act as good resume-builders and keep you interested in the task at hand while providing you with a (modest) wage. They don't all have to be federal work study positions, either, although it does work in your favor if you have some financial need when applying for campus jobs, and some will bump up your hourly wage if you can boast some experience in that field.

And now the not so good news. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at student pay at the more unique campus jobs across the country. Not to scare you away from working through college at an on-campus job, but according to one example in that article, a student office assistant making $7.25/hour in the chemistry department at the University of Notre Dame would have to work 135 hours a week and 50 weeks of the year to cover tuition, room, and board. These wages will probably compare to most off-campus jobs you find near your college as well, however, so you may as well investigate all of your job options. Even if you'd be making more elsewhere, it may be worth the convenience and experience to work on campus.

Some examples of hourly wages at on-campus jobs:

It probably won't allow you to retire early, but an on-campus job could help you make ends meet and pay for some of those expenses that seem to crop up out of nowhere while you're pursuing that college degree. Balancing work and college certainly has its advantages - you're able to potentially lessen that student loan debt, build up your resume and learn the value of time management and responsibility - but it can be difficult, especially if you're a freshman being bombarded by all your campus has to offer. Browse through our site for tips on how to land and keep a job and keep your academics in line if your financial need means working your way through college.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Survey Reveals Obvious Technology Gap

Nov 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Your opinions on how tech-savvy your professors are differ quite a bit from the instructors' opinions of their own technological effectiveness in the classroom, according to a survey released this week by CDW-G, an education technology provider.

According to the survey, which was collected via a nationally representative samples of students and faculty members at two- and four-year public and private colleges, students consider themselves much more technologically adept than their instructors, which may not be all that surprising:

  • About 75 percent of professors said that their school "understands how they use or want to use technology," while 32 percent of students said that their college was not preparing them well enough in the field of technology to give them useful skills for the job market.
  • About 67 percent of professors are comfortable with their own professional development in the field of technology, while only 38 percent of students said they felt their instructors were sufficiently tech-savvy.
  • About 74 percent of professors said that they incorporate technology into most classes, while only 38 percent of students agreed.

Students' perceptions of the technology gap isn't a new idea. Instructors are often viewed as being behind on the trends, even when they're actually quite technologically adept and can prove as much in the classroom. The problem comes in when the students actually are outpacing their instructors, especially in courses where technology could vastly improve a student's educational experience.

The survey, described in Inside Higher Education today, also polled IT staffers, and compared their answers with those of college professors'. In general, IT staffers expect more out of "smart" classrooms and instructors' capabilities. Both groups were asked what constitutes a smart classroom, and only about 40 percent of professors responded that an interactive whiteboard and distance learning capabilities to connect students from multiple locations constituted a smart classroom, compared to about 70 percent of IT staffers. Both groups were more on the same page when it came to general and wireless Internet access in the classroom.

The point is, technology isn't going anywhere, and it's only going to get more complex as time goes on. Professors, especially in fields where technology is going to be an important tool post-graduation, which is in most disciplines these days, should keep on top of new advances that will help make their students more effective learners.

Another article in Inside Higher Education today looks at Twitter and whether the social networking tool will become commonplace in the classroom. In that article, instructors and administrators seem wary of using Twitter in any educational way - although some are already using Twitter as the basis of their coursework - because it's seen as more of a fun diversion than a live resource or way to gather data. (Although you should obviously always fact-check anything you read on the site.) Professors may also worry that inviting Twitter into the classroom may distract students more than help them, while others argue that the site will become difficult to ignore by any institution, including colleges and universities.

What do you think about the technological capabilities at your college? Do you think your professors need a primer in new advances in technology? Let us know what you think, and whether you have ideas on how to bridge that technology gap, or whether you think it's as wide as this survey suggests.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Most Expensive College Dorms

Nov 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Tuition and fees aren't the only college costs families are finding hard to swallow these days. Room and board is also on the rise--now nearing $16,000 a year at some colleges. A survey of the most expensive college dorms found that students attending The New School's Eugene Lang College in New York City can expect to pay more than any other college students in the nation for standard-option housing and a meal plan, at $15,990 per year.

Rounding out the top five were Cooper Union in New York City, at $15,275; Suffolk University in Boston, at $14,544; the University of California at Berkeley, at $14,384; and the New York Institute of Technology at Manhattan, at $14,290. By contrast, the average college room and board costs for 2009-2010 were $8,193 at public four-year schools and $9,363 for private colleges. Students who want extras can expect to pay a lot more--to get an idea of how much, check out the New York Times' run-through of a few of the swankiest college living arrangements that have debuted recently on three campuses.

The list of the top 20 was largely dominated by schools in cities with high costs of living, where housing costs of $12,000 to $16,000 per year might not seem all that unreasonable. However, when you consider the fact that these costs are for a standard double room without any extravagant extras, students may still want to see if they can get a better deal living off-campus. It's possible to pay a comparable price to on-campus room and board for your own bedroom in many locations, and considering college students' general ingenuity when it comes to apartment penny-pinching and packing people into houses and apartments, living off-campus could very well be a cheaper option than the dorms, regardless of where you attend college.

However, living off-campus isn't always the best or cheapest option, even if the hefty price tag for a shared room and mediocre dorm food offends your sensibilities. Before you decide where to live (if you're given that option--some colleges require students to live on-campus all four years), come up with a sample budget, taking into account realistic costs for housing, food, maintenance, and commuting to and from campus. For example, don't budget for walking 20 blocks each way in the winter or eating nothing but ramen and leftover cookies you snag from your department's faculty meetings, unless that's really how you intend to live. Think about what you're giving up, as well--easy trips to class, free cleaning services, and a close sense of campus community. If you're not saving much by living off-campus, perhaps those things will encourage you to stay.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Scholarships.com Is At CollegeWeekLive!

Nov 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Scholarships.com has a virtual booth over at CollegeWeekLive today, Thursday, November 5! Stop by to chat with our staff members. Scholarships.com Vice President Kevin Ladd is also giving a live interview at 3 PM EST. Come say hello, ask your financial aid questions, and see what Kevin has to say about the Paying for College Timeline!

After you're done checking out our booth and Kevin's presentation, be sure to apply for the CollegeWeekLive scholarship (you may have already seen this in your scholarship search results). You have a chance to win $2,500 toward your college education just by logging into this free virtual college fair. You'll learn about colleges and paying for school and you may even win money to help fund your college education!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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