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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

Dec 13, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?

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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Is an Independent Study Right for You?

Dec 8, 2011

by Jacquelene Bennett

Going to college means that you have the freedom to study whatever you want. Universities offer a variety of classes for students to take in a multitude of different subjects but what they will rarely tell you is that you can create your own class – it’s called independent study.

Independent studies allow college students to work one-on-one with professors and basically create their own classes for the semester. You decide what you study, what books to read and what sort of projects and papers you will do. I have a friend who created an independent study course around her study abroad experience. She wrote poems about the places she visited while abroad using pictures she took and the journal she kept while traveling. Her independent study course was not only four credits but it was applied towards her creative writing degree as well. I have another friend who created an independent study course that was basically just one big research project: She picked a topic in conference with a professor and spent the entire semester researching and writing a paper.

One huge positive about independent study courses is that if you have the right faculty support, you can create a class that will satisfy certain requirements and go towards your degree. The best part about an independent study course, though, is the fact that you get to choose what you study and how you spend your time – you don’t have to go to class every other day but instead you meet with a professor every other week. This is an excellent option for students taking more than the average course load to graduate early, satisfy double major requirements or work toward an individualized major.

Of course. there are down sides to independent study courses. You have to be able to manage your time and the projects you do for the course, as your final project will often determine your grade. If you can handle this responsibility, I would definitely recommend looking into designing an independent study course.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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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Show Your Finals Who’s Boss!

Dec 7, 2011

by Darci Miller

It’s basically a fact that finals week is terrible for everyone. Even I, with only one final (and a take-home at that!), am stressed with last-minute story edits, hours upon hours of shifts at work and thoughts of moving home for a month. But the end of the semester doesn’t have to mean all-nighters and misery if you play your cards right. Here are some of my favorite ways to destress when it all starts feeling like too much.

This time of year may be stressful but just remind yourself that no matter what happens, these tests and papers are not the end-all, be-all. Life will go on - I promise!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!

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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Should You Take a Semester Off?

Dec 2, 2011

by Kayla Herrera

I have been attending college for about four years now and have never taken a semester off. The thought used to make me shudder – how could someone even think of taking time off from school?! – but after this semester, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Some of my friends took semesters off to travel and learn more about themselves, while others were lost and not sure what they wanted to do in life. Some have experienced the loss of a family member or friend and others fell so ill that it interfered with their everyday lives. But me? My situation has been a combination of flying squirrels, bad landlords, health issues and money problems. Stress from school has skyrocketed to its worst level ever and I am planning to take the summer off, since I cannot afford to withdraw from spring classes if I want to stay on track. (I did consider attending part-time but found it could create problems with financial aid.)

If you’re considering taking a semester off, do NOT just drop off the face of the Earth. Let your adviser know your plans and keep the lines of communication open so that the process of coming back to school is easier when you are ready to do so. You may be taking time off from school to destress but I’d also recommend doing something related to your major – picking up an internship/job, volunteering or studying for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE – to stay somewhat involved in your field.

Lots of college students take time off for one reason or another; if external factors are competing with school to the point where your grades are suffering, take a break – you’ll return to school more motivated to succeed.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.

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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Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

Dec 2, 2011

by Scholarships.com Staff

When an acceptance letter arrives from your dream college, your first instinct may be to scream, cry and jump on your couch with Tom Cruise-caliber flair. Feel free to give in to those urges – hey, you earned it! – but realize you will soon have to figure out how to pay for your education. Can you really afford this school, not only while you’re attending but after you graduate as well? A new list from Kiplinger says your dream school could be a reality after all.

The list, which rates how well colleges actually do in making themselves affordable, includes schools with students who graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt on average. The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise also weighed in, supplementing Kiplinger’s findings with data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Here’s what he found were the most affordable institutions based on the average amount of debt graduates carry:

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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Starting a Class Discussion

Nov 30, 2011

by Jacquelene Bennett

Few things are worse than sitting in a boring class with a professor droning on and on. The good news is that unless you are in a lecture hall with hundreds of other college students, you can almost always change a dull lecture into an informative and exciting class discussion.

How do you do this? First and foremost, be sure you've done the homework and assigned reading. If you are prepared, you can properly discuss topics covered in your assignments that are interesting to you but include information your professor might overlook. Some professors may not like that you are interrupting their planned lectures but others will welcome a fresh opinion that supplements the course material and engages a less-than-captive audience.

Next – and really this applies to any discussion you have in life – you have to ask questions. Again, you have to have done the homework in order to ask the right questions but asking questions WILL start a discussion. I am taking a class that I absolutely hate but I’ve discovered that it’s tolerable if I ask a lot of questions. It forces the professor to expand on certain topics and allows your classmates to think about the subject or reading in a way that they wouldn’t have on their own. The key is to not ask your question directly to your professor but to frame it in a way that allows anyone in class to answer.

Don’t want to jump right in during the lecture? Approach your professor before class, tell them that you found a certain aspect of the homework interesting and would like to get the whole class’s view or interpretation of it. Rarely will a professor say no so go for it!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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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Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

Nov 30, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Students applying to college have a lot on their plates. There are applications and essays to complete, campus visits to schedule and FAFSAs to navigate of course but college hopefuls are taking an additional step to up their admissions chances by participating in serious social media scrub downs.

With admissions officers looking beyond traditional application materials to select their students – the latest survey from Kaplan Test Prep found that 24 percent had visited applicants’ Facebook pages while 20 percent used Google searches – college applicants are creating alternate identities to disguise less-than-savory photos or comments on a number of social media sites. "Ask any senior in high school what his or her Facebook name is and you will find that they have morphed their FB identity into something slightly peculiar and mysterious that only their ‘friends’ can figure out," says Naomi Steinberg, owner of Apply Yourself Educational Consulting. And though students’ original online identities often reappear after admissions decisions have been made, Steinberg says the trend of social media expurgation will continue into the next phase of students’ lives as well, like when they begin applying for jobs.

College applicants, do you plan to tweak your social media persona as soon as your applications go out? Current college students, do you think online editing played a role in your acceptance?

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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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

Nov 21, 2011

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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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Taking Advantage of National Scholarship Month

Nov 18, 2011

by Angela Andaloro

Whether you’re a prospective college student or already a few years in, there’s no doubt that tuition is a major concern. It’s not cheap to be a college student and while student loans can greatly assist you in this struggle, sometimes they’re not enough. That’s where scholarships can help.

Many aren’t aware but November is National Scholarship Month and the perfect time to start your search for scholarships that perfectly meet your needs. Your first step in this journey is throwing away the number one misconception about scholarships – that they are only awarded to “smart kids.” While many scholarships do require that you maintain a certain GPA, grades are not the only criteria. There are scholarships available for athletics, community service, to students pursuing certain careers or majors, and to minorities.

It may seem like the chances of winning a scholarship are slim. That was my mentality when I heard nothing after filling out application after application. Sure, it was frustrating but I didn’t give up. And I’m glad I kept at it: Just a few weeks ago, I saw the fruits of my labor when I was awarded a scholarship from an alumnus at my school!

My biggest piece of advice to students searching for scholarships is to be persistent in your search. If you fill out hundreds of applications, you have hundreds of scholarship opportunities but if you give up and don’t fill out any, your opportunities will reflect that. Utilize every resource you can, like talking to the financial aid office at your school and seeing what they recommend...and don’t forget about the Internet! A little site called Scholarships.com has a plethora of information that can steer you in the right direction. Best of luck and may your scholarship searches be fruitful!

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.

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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It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

NSSE Shows Students Study Less Than Expected

Nov 18, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Study styles vary greatly from student to student – you find it most effective to study alone in the library while your roommate prefers to orchestrate conversation-filled study groups in your dorm’s common room – so it should come as no surprise that the amount of time spent hitting the books also fluctuates depending on students’ majors.

But just how much of a disparity is there? According to the National Survey on Student Engagement, engineering majors studied the most with 19 hours of preparation per week while students focusing on business and the social sciences studied the least, putting in 14 hours per week. Here’s the complete list:

Though some students may feel like this is enough preparation to earn their desired grades, the numbers didn’t match up exactly with faculty expectations: An Inside Higher Ed article explains the majority of professors reported they expected students to spend one or two hours more studying per week than they actually did except for in the social sciences, where students studied an average of four hours less than faculty predicted. What do you think of NSSE’s findings? If one of the majors above represents your field of study, do you feel the numbers are accurate? Between all of your other commitments (work, extracurriculars, etc.), is it even possible to study as much as professors expect you to?

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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The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

Nov 18, 2011

by Jessica Seals

When I first began attending college, my agenda included getting good grades and making new friends. No one told me how important it is to establish relationships with my professors and up until my junior year, I did not put a great deal of effort toward creating and maintaining these connections. It was only when I began looking into law school admissions requirements that I noticed I would need multiple letters of recommendation from professors to complete my applications.

So what did I do? I began by taking more challenging classes with professors I already had so they could get to know me, my work ethic and future goals. Now that the law school application process is in full swing, I am fortunate enough to say that I have already designated which teachers will write my letters of recommendation. Though our relationships are now quite strong, I am also providing my resume so they can easily reference my past accomplishments as they write.

I have seen classmates struggle to get good letters of recommendation because they only did what they had to do to get by. If you plan on going to graduate or professional school, you will need letters of recommendation and it’s never too early to begin the process. Believe me, the law school application process is taxing but my stress level was cut down significantly because I made the right connections with my professors.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.

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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