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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

Nov 4, 2011

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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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Smile...You’re on Camera: WGU Uses Webcams to Monitor Online Test Takers

Nov 3, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

For students seeking more flexibility in their college schedules, online classes are often an excellent alternative. Coursework can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection but when it comes to test taking, how do instructors know the person answering the questions is doing so honestly? Western Governors University has come up with a solution: Say cheese!

Up until a few years ago, WGU online students had to take their exams at one of the school’s 6,000 on-site assessment centers. This proved to be a burden for the majority of the student body – the average student is 36 years old, has a family and takes a full course load while working full-time – so WGU began allowing students to take exams off-site if monitored by webcams. The cameras show the student, his or her computer screen, their hands and profile and a 180-degree view of the room to ensure the student isn’t obtaining information from another source during the test. And just in case something goes awry, there is support available to assist with any technical issues.

While some students still opt to take their exams on-site, most have adopted the program with open arms: There are 30,000 WGU webcams in use and about 80 percent of the 10,000 exams per month are taken via webcam. Do you think WGU’s webcam program is beneficial to busy students as well as the school’s reputation? If given the option, would you smile for the camera or take your tests on-site?

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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Go Out With a Bang This Semester

Oct 31, 2011

by Jessica Seals

By now, you’ve probably taken your midterms and realized that the semester is halfway over. The excitement from the thought of being even closer to a break from school and the holiday season can make any student decrease their work ethic. I have seen several instances where fellow classmates started off making near perfect scores on every assignment only to hit the halfway mark and watch their grades slip. It’s very common for a college student to let stress and other factors affect their performance during the second half of the semester; however, there are ways for students to end the semester just as strong as they started it.

The best piece of advice that I can give any college student is to relax. As simple as it may sound, taking a few minutes for yourself can be difficult with the fast-paced lives we live today but I noticed that when I did not overbook myself and set aside time to do something that put my mind at ease, I felt more relaxed when it came time to do my assignments.

Another way to end the semester strongly is to take my fellow virtual intern Radha Jhatakia’s advice and invest in a planner to use on a daily basis. Planners help you keep track of when everything is due and by knowing how much time you have left for each assignment, you can spend the rest of the semester planning out what days you will work on certain assignments. You’ll allow yourself time to make sure your assignment is perfect and avoid the stress and headaches that come from writing a 10-page paper the night before it is due.

The adrenaline rush that comes with beginning a new semester does taper off but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to slack off! Finding ways to ease your mind and giving yourself plenty of time to complete assignments can help you end the semester on a good note and keep your grades from dropping in the end.

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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Pick Your Classes Wisely

Oct 27, 2011

by Jacquelene Bennett

Sometimes the most difficult part of a university class is not the homework or the tests but the process of picking out and registering for the class itself! Seeing as though this will be my last time registering for classes, I thought I would pass along some tips and tricks of the trade.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to overload your schedule with gen ed requirements early on in your college career; rather, you should aim for a nice balance between your gen eds and the classes you need to take for your major and/or minor. My rule has always been “half and half” – half of the classes I take are gen eds, while the other half is for my major or minor. This method not only keeps you from hating a semester because you were taking nothing but uninteresting classes but helps you in the long run by allowing you start on your degree requirements sooner.

Begin mapping out your course schedule with your adviser well before registration time. They can help you plan your classes semester by semester, give you insight on professors and create a list of back-up courses in case your first-choice classes are already filled by your registration date. You should also talk to friends or people who have taken the classes you’re interested in to get a feel for the material and workload.

Once you’ve registered for your next semester, make a list of classes that you want and need to take the following semesters as well. You’ll be able to see if you'll have time to pick up an internship, job or fun elective.

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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Dealing with an Uncooperative Group Member

Oct 27, 2011

by Radha Jhatakia

Group projects are inevitable in college and at some point, you’ve probably been stuck with a group member who is uncooperative. This person doesn’t do their fair share of work, doesn’t show up to meetings or argues and causes tension in the group. While it’s not fun to deal with, here’s how to make the situation bearable for all members. After all, your grades depend on it!

Set up guidelines when you form the group. Create requirements and state the consequences of not completing the tasks assigned. Also, make sure to state at what point you will drop a member from the group; this is important to avoid carrying dead weight for the whole length of the course.

Approach the problematic member in a friendly manner: They may not realize that they’re being uncooperative and it will prevent him or her from getting defensive. Ask them if they need help getting their assignments done or if the work is too much for them. In subtle manner, let them know that they need to participate more in the group to be fair to all the group members. People will be more willing to cooperate if they don’t feel like they’re being attacked.

If the person is still uncooperative, speak to your professor to avoid jeopardizing your grade and dealing with the stress of a hostile environment. Just be sure it’s a group consensus and you’ve exhausted the other options because your professor will ask you about both before deciding on a course of action.

We’ll encounter uncooperative individuals in college and beyond but instead of stressing out about it, remain calm and try to work the situation out. There is a solution out there – you may just need to come together as a group to find it!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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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Tackling Test Time

Oct 25, 2011

by Angela Andaloro

If you’re like many college students out there, midterms are on your mind right about now. It feels like classes just started yesterday and you’re already being tested on what you know! While you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin studying, here are some tips that’ll help you breeze through those exams – whether it’s the first or final time you’ll be taking them.

Recall what your professors said. It’s easy to zone out during class, especially when you think the same points are being repeated over and over again. Those points, however, are the most important and likely to pop up on the exam. Make sure to pay extra attention to that information and indicate its importance in your notes.

Look back at your syllabus. They may seem like they’re full of the same old stuff for each class but if you're looking for an outline of what topics you’re tackling from week to week, your syllabus can serve as a great starting point for studying. Use those topics to build yourself a study guide and fill in specific details based on your class notes.

Ask questions. As much as we may think otherwise, professors are trying to help us learn...not hold us back. Drop in on their office hours and ask questions – you’d be surprised at just how much exam insight your professor is willing to give up! – and realize the more information you have, the less guessing you’ll have to do. Your studying will be that much more productive.

These tips may seem like common sense but you’d be surprised how quickly these skills can escape you when it comes time to study. Just focus, keep a level head and you’ll be sure to get through midterm time in one piece.

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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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

Oct 24, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Thinking about applying to one of the University of California’s 10 campuses as a freshman for the 2012-2013 school year? If so, read the admissions requirements carefully, lest a change intended to ease your college-related stress levels send them sky high instead.

As standardized tests go, all UC campuses call for freshman applicants to submit scores from the SAT and ACT but have eliminated supplemental SAT subject exams from the list of admissions requirements. Though many students are breathing sighs of relief that they do not have to prepare for, take and afford another exam, others are still signing up for the subject tests in droves because they think it will boost their chances for admission. UC officials say students who do not take the tests will not be penalized but those who do and score well will be viewed in the same positive light as someone, say, with a leadership role in a school club would be. This explanation – plus the fact that specific programs like engineering and science do recommend subject tests – has left students and counselors understandably confused.

You can read more reactions from both sides here but as the November 30th application deadline draws closer, we have to wonder where our readers stand. If your dream school did not require you to take supplemental exams, would you follow the rules or still take the exams and hope doing so would give you a leg up on your competition and why?

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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Fairness in College Admissions

Oct 20, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.

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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The Impact of Merit Aid

Oct 19, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Wherever you are in the financial aid process, you’ve probably heard the term merit aidfinancial aid based on students' academic and other merit rather than financial need – and its increasing popularity over the last decade or so. What you may not know, however, is the impact this trend has had on students seeking need-based aid.

According to a new report by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, state and institutional financial aid for low-income students has dropped significantly as merit aid has increased. From 1995-96 to 2007-8, the proportion of merit aid recipients in the highest quartile of family income rose from 23 percent to 28 percent, while the proportion of merit aid beneficiaries from the lowest economic quartile fell to 20 percent from 23 percent. (See more statistics here.) The report also suggests that many institutions have embraced merit aid because they believe this type of award will entice middle- or high-income applicants to attend their school over others (and pay more money to the school as a whole during the time they are enrolled) instead of offering financial assistance to low-income students who truly need the funds to attend college.

What’s your stance on merit aid? Does it help more than it harms in higher education or vice versa?

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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Education vs. Experience

Oct 17, 2011

by Kara Coleman

I recently had a difficult decision to make: Up my chances of getting an A in my mass communications class or cover a story for the school newspaper that would look impressive in my portfolio. Which would you choose?

Employers put just as much stock – if not more – in your experience than your education. Don’t get me wrong, a degree in your field is important but your prospective bosses want to know that you can do the job you are applying for.

On his radio show, John Tesh said that, in general, most employers admit where you get your degree isn’t necessarily the biggest factor in hiring. Say you got your degree in business administration from an Ivy League school but don’t have any work experience to back it up when you apply for a job. Someone who has applied for the same position may have gotten their degree from a state university but has been working part-time for a local company and learning the ins and outs of operating a business firsthand. Who is more likely to be hired?

I try to work around my school schedule as much as possible and hardly ever miss class; however, the marching band at my university performed for the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London this week and I had the opportunity to cover the story for the school newspaper. Going to the band event meant that I would have to miss my toughest class so I had to decide whether it was more beneficial to meet an English lord and participate in an actual press conference or go to class and gather information for the next test.

Naturally, I chose to attend the event. Not only was it a fun experience but an interview with the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London made a nice addition to my portfolio! Remember, tests and grades are only the beginning: Get involved with your desired field in any way possible while you are still attending college and you will be much more marketable after graduation!

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.

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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The Death of the Library As We Know It

Oct 10, 2011

by Jessica Seals

Years ago, most college students did not have personal computers and they had to go to the library if they wanted to access information in an old periodical or journal. That’s not the case today: The majority of students own computers that allow them to write papers, put presentations together and do research on the Internet. All of this can be done in the comfort of one’s own dorm room, apartment or home, making the library a less utilized resource on campuses.

When I was younger, my mom used to take me to the library every month so that I could check out new books to read. Now that I am in college, I am ashamed to say that when I enter my school’s library, I am sometimes unaware of where I need to go. I am in my senior year and I have only visited the library a handful of times; however, I have encountered students who have been here longer than I have but have never been to the library or can count on one hand the number of times they have been there. I’ve had several professors encourage us to do our research in the library but most of us still prefer to research periodicals and journals in the databases that have been set up when and where it is convenient for us.

Whenever I do go to the library, I notice just how much the availability of personal computers has changed the usage of the facility. Very few students are in the library and I rarely see many looking through hard copies of books or periodicals. Most of the students in the library are using the computers to type papers that are due that day or using the computers because they do not have one or do not have Internet access at home. The library does have areas where people can form study groups and meet but this does not entice more people to stop in – after all, dorms have common areas that serve the same purpose.

With the declining popularity of libraries, I have to wonder how many of them we will start to see close their doors because people are not visiting them like they used to. Do you think this is a possibility as well or will libraries withstand the test of time...and technology?

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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