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How to Win a Scholarship: From a Girl Who's Applied for 300+ Awards

Jun 19, 2013

by Diane Melville

Yes, I’ve applied for a LOT of scholarships. It was basically my full-time job throughout college and Scholarships.com was my preferred source for finding the scholarships that I qualified for. You may think that this post will outline how you should do the same thing. False: Me telling you how to apply for 300 scholarships would be like a guy who found a mountain of gold after searching for 30 years telling you to take the same long, exhausting journey. You don’t want to repeat his arduous trek – you just want to buy a one-way ticket to gold mountain! In the same way, I want to teach you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that will help you to win scholarships...without having to apply for hundreds of them.

Start Small. I started this whole thing by applying to one scholarship. That’s it. I won that scholarship ($1,500 a year for the rest of my education) and that’s what motivated me to apply for more. Some students create massive goals for themselves and set out to win a ton of scholarships, yet they soon find the process to be daunting and give up. The best piece of advice I can give you is to start small. Don’t try to find hundreds or even dozens of scholarships in one shot. Instead, find five scholarships that have deadlines within the next six months and make it a priority to apply for them. First off, it’s a lot easier to find five scholarships that you not only qualify for, but feel you have a solid shot of winning. Second, this will be enough of a taste of the application process to help you determine whether or not you’d like to keep this whole scholarship thing up. If you do end up winning a scholarship, or if you simply enjoyed the process, then you can go to town and apply for many more. Until then, keep it simple.

Select the Right Scholarships. National corporate scholarships draw a lot of applicants so even if you are eligible, the odds of you winning are low in comparison to the smaller ones. The same goes for awards with very limited requirements. What should you do then? I suggest that your five scholarships look something like this:

  • Two national scholarships (examples: Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, etc.)
  • Three small or local/state scholarships (examples: Central Massachusetts Community Foundation, City of Boston Scholarship Fund, The Girl Friends Fund Scholarship, etc.)

This mix still gives you the opportunity to win a national award but increases your chances of success by including smaller, local scholarships that receive fewer applicants.

Take Your Time. Now that you’ve got your scholarships selected, you should put maximum effort into completing the applications to the best of your abilities. Don’t procrastinate until the night before the essay is due and just slap a few things together with the hope that it’s good enough – really research and consider what each scholarship organization values and try to highlight the areas of your life that reflect these values.

Push Through It! You are going to feel unsure. Maybe you hate your essay. Maybe your resume feels lacking. You get stuck, then procrastinate, then neglect and before you know it, the deadline has passed and you didn’t apply for the scholarship. Don’t let this happen! If you don’t apply, you will never have a chance of winning. Push through those feelings of frustration, ask for help if you need it and just submit your scholarship application. Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did.

Diane Melville is the author of The Community College Advantage and president of the community college planning website, Transfer Bootcamp. Diane has applied for more than 300 scholarships (using Scholarships.com, of course!) and paid for her entire college education using private scholarships. She hopes to use this blog to share everything she has learned about paying for 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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Is the Four-Year Plan Making Us Feel Guilty?

Jun 4, 2013

by Carly Gerber

According to the Buffalo News, there has been a decrease in the amount of students who receive their undergraduate degree in four years. Fewer than half of the University at Buffalo graduates graduated in four years and many other universities have seen the same decrease in their students graduating in that once-traditional timeframe. For example, Niagara University had only 60 percent of its students graduate in four years, while Alfred University only had 43 percent of its graduates graduate in four years. These statistics aren’t just exclusive to New York State, either: I personally know students from all over who have taken an extra semester or two to graduate.

My circumstances of being a transfer student and a student who has changed her major more times than she can count have caused me to extend my stay at college by a few semesters. Initially, I felt guilt, regret, sadness and self-loathing for needing to spend extra time at college; however, I wanted to feel excited for the future and those negative emotions were only going to hold me back from my full potential. Now, I’m feeling excitement, urgency and passion to take my college career seriously and to become a proud and successful graduate. I feel more mature and wiser because of my setbacks and changes during my time at college.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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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Habits to Keep, Kick in College

May 30, 2013

by Carly Gerber

Freshman year of college is right around the corner and I’m sure many of you are happy to be leaving those high school days behind you...but don’t leave behind EVERYTHING you’ve learned in high school! As a college student, I learned the hard way which characteristics to keep and kick but you don’t have to: USA Today recently shared some but I’ve included a few of my own tips as well.

  • Handwrite notes in class. Warning: Keep all technology in your dorm room or, if you must have it with you, make sure it’s switched off. Even those with great self-restraint will eventually take a peek at Facebook...which will turn into a 30-minute session. Using a good ol’ pen and paper will help you to avoid distractions during class.
  • Don’t do homework for one class in another class. In college, finishing an assignment for one class while in another class should be avoided. It will be harder to succeed in college classes – especially those within your major – if you aren’t paying attention in class.
  • Stay in Monday through Friday. This advice may seem unrealistic and just plain crazy but stay in Monday through Friday. There may be great deals on drinks and food off campus on Tuesdays but save your money and energy for the weekend. You will feel like you earned the night out instead of regretting your headache and exhaustion in your morning classes.
  • Get sleep. It’s been proven that getting seven to nine hours of sleep will do wonders for the body and anything less than those recommended hours will make you irritable, less able to concentrate, hungrier and (no surprise here) sleepier. Avoid all-nighters and staying up late like the plague because you’ll pay for it the next day.

Do you have any high school habits you’ve kept or kicked in college? Let us know in the comments!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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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Conquering Your Summer Reading List

May 29, 2013

by Chelsea Slaughter

Summer reading is something we just cannot get away from...even after high school: Most colleges and universities require incoming freshman to complete summer reading and test new students on this material during freshman orientation or in English classes. Here are a few tips to make completing your summer reading a breeze:

  • Block out your summer. Think about the period where you will have the fewest activities and try fitting your reading in there. Plan early so you know the best time to focus on reading, as a busy summer is never an acceptable excuse to professors.
  • Traveling? Take your reading along. There’s nothing that makes a long flight or road trip fly by like a good book. If you know you will have downtime on your trip, take your book(s) with you to pass by the time.
  • Take notes. If you choose to knock your reading out early, jot down notes to refresh your memory at the end of the summer. You’ll be surprised how helpful reviewing a few details about the main characters and a summary of the plot can be right before the start of orientation or classes.
  • Finish related assignments immediately. If you have questions to answer or a paper to write about the book, complete this work as soon as you finish reading. This is best because your memories are the freshest and you will be able to complete your assignments to the best of your ability.

Summer reading is only a drag if you wait until the last minute – the sooner you get it done, the sooner you will be able to enjoy your summer without it nagging the back of your mind!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, is the treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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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Lights, Camera, College!

What Hollywood Gets Wrong About the College Experience

May 23, 2013

by Katlyn Clark

You have probably fantasized about your college experience being just like the movies...WRONG! If you watched movies or shows like “Glee,” “10 Things I Hate About You” and “17 Again” and thought “That is nothing like high school,” the same goes for college when it’s portrayed on screen: I remember watching “Pitch Perfect” after my first month of college and thought, “College is NOT like that!” Here are some examples from TV and the movies that showcase what supposedly happens in college but doesn’t.

  • Going to school with your friends a la “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” isn’t the best idea. Zack, Slater and Screech all went to the same college but this can cause students to rely too heavily on old friendships instead of building new ones. You shouldn’t be afraid to meet new people so introduce yourself to your classmates and join a few clubs.
  • College isn’t all toga parties and food fights like “Animal House.” You will definitely find ways to have fun in college but there are certain things that aren’t cool...like failing classes, drinking too much and wasting your (or your parents’) tuition money. Find a balance between work and play.
  • You can’t bring the outdoors inside like Finn and Puck did on “Glee.” You would get in big trouble for setting up a Slip ‘n Slide or grilling hot dogs in your dorm hall – you might even lose your on-campus housing privileges! Things that are meant to be outside should stay there.
  • You will not have Beca’s “Pitch Perfect” dorm room. We all WISH our dorms look like hers but don’t get your hopes up. The good news is that you can decorate your room to reflect your own personal style!

Do not take college advice from the movies and TV shows you watch except for the fact that it will be an experience you will never forget. For a more accurate picture of what to expect in college, just ask your friends who are already attending college about what campus life is really like!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.

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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College Class Size: Does It Matter?

May 21, 2013

by Mike Sheffey

Large classes or small? As colleges look to save money per student, this has become a key discussion topic. Recent studies are now showing that redesigning the typical lecture-type lesson has proved successful in large class settings, boasting higher exam results than those on the old model...but I think it really depends on the institution.

I can only speak from experience about Wofford College: The largest class I’ve ever had had about 50 people in it (and the average class size here is 15), though I will soon find out how large classes work when I take a summer course at UNCG to fulfill a gen ed requirement in statistics. I can guarantee that in terms of building professor connections and having instructors as resources outside the classroom, small classes have the advantage but I could definitely see how this setting could be intimidating and that there could be students that flourish more in large-scale lectures.

Attendance policies also seem to be stricter at smaller schools and in smaller classrooms. In a class of 300, nobody bats an eye if somebody’s missing; in a class of 12, however, every absence is noticed. Those who are engaged and active in class will probably benefit more from smaller courses, with more direct contact with the professors. But these assumptions seem to be changing. Like I said, the lecture-style of teaching is being altered at bigger schools and being replaced by interactive and virtual courses supervised by professors or teachers. The computers seem to keep the larger classes focused and have directly contributed to better grades in the sciences and visual arts.

When determining what class size is best for you, the best thing to do is to talk to people that attend your prospective schools. How do they like the large classes? Would they recommend them? Do they take any small classes? Are their learning styles similar to yours? Results don’t lie but you know yourself better than a statistic. For me, the small classes at WoCo are where it’s at. What about you?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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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Taking a Gap Year May Enhance Your College Experience

May 17, 2013

by Carly Gerber

So you’re a high school senior who has worked hard to maintain the impressive grades and variety of extracurriculars that earned you multiple college offers. But before you purchase those extra-long twin sheets and start choosing fall classes, consider how a gap year could positively impact your future.

According to the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, more than 50 percent of students in Norway, Denmark and Turkey take a gap year (also known as a bridge year) before college. In the U.S., however, the practice is far from the norm. A USA Today article recently explored some misconceptions about gap years – it’s believed that taking a year off is only for affluent students and students fear that they will be at a disadvantage because they will be a year behind their age group – but in reality, students who take a year off from formal education before entering college find “a focused sense of purpose, independence, self-confidence, grit and resilience,” says Abby Falik, who founded Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit that supports gap year choices. And to further debunk the myths listed above, Global Citizen Year even provides financial aid to students who would not be able to afford a gap year otherwise.

Looking back, I believe completing a gap year would have helped me a lot. I enjoyed my time at my first university but I wasn’t striving for a specific future. I felt lost and unsure if I was going down the right path...even after switching my major three times and transferring to a new university. Following three high-anxiety years, I took a six-month sabbatical from college – time that allowed me to explore and reflect on my goals. I am happy I made the decision to take a break from college because I was able to determine who I want to be and how I want to get there. I only wish I had done so sooner!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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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Choosing the Right Classes in High School

May 16, 2013

by Katlyn Clark

I recently wrote about the right way to register for college classes but for those of you still in high school, let’s talk about your course selection strategy. The classes you take in high school play a big role in the college admissions process so here are some tips to help you choose the right ones.

  • Consult your counselor. When deciding what classes to take, get your counselor’s opinion. I talked to mine and she helped me pick the right ones to achieve my goals.
  • Consider what your college choices require. Certain colleges may require that you take specific classes in order to be considered for admission. (For example, I had a friend who had to take physics to go to a certain college.) It may sound crazy but it’s good to determine what colleges want early on so you aren’t scrambling at the end.
  • Challenge yourself with honors and AP classes. I suggest looking into what subjects you are good in and registering for related honors or AP courses. I did not take honors classes until my junior year and I wish I had taken them all my four years in high school – in fact, some of my favorite classes were the honors classes! In honors or AP classes, students care about doing their work and teachers think highly of them. Colleges will, too!
  • Find your calling early. Students can discover what they like and what they want to pursue in college while still in high school. I took two marketing classes, did awesome in those courses and am now minoring in marketing at Campbell.
  • Avoid easy As. Just because you receive all As doesn’t mean you are guaranteed admission to the institution of your choice: Colleges review your grades AND the strength of your curriculum when they review your application.

High school students, be smart when registering for classes – your choices here could determine your college fate!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.

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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What to Expect at Orientation

May 10, 2013

by Katlyn Clark

So prom is over and graduation is almost here. All that’s left to do in your high school career is to take your exams and walk across the stage to receive your diploma but there’s still one more obstacle you must clear before you can officially call yourself a college student: Orientation. Here’s a few things your experience will likely include:

  • Tours, sessions and lectures: If you do not know your college that well, there will be sessions for you and your parents to attend to learn more about your new school. Many schools offer extensive campus tours during orientation and you may even be able to meet the department head for your selected program.
  • Class registration: Some institutions allow students to register for fall classes during orientation so look up your school’s course catalog online before you leave. I’d recommend not taking all general ed classes – mix up your classes so you’re taking a little bit of everything!
  • Possible roommate selection: If you find you get along really well with someone you meet during orientation, you can possibly request that person as your roommate. I suggest this strongly if you feel comfortable with that person and get along easily, as it will make your transition from high school to college even easier.
  • Other students just like you: If you are nervous about your new surroundings, you’re probably not alone. I was a little uneasy when I arrived on Campbell's campus for orientation but I quickly realized I was surrounded by students who felt the same way. Before I knew it, we were all having a great time because we found we had something in common.

I hope orientation works out for you and you have a great summer – you’ll be a college freshman for real before you know it! If you have any additional orientation tips, let us know in the comments!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.

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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Planning a Successful Summer

May 7, 2013

by Chelsea Slaughter

As summer approaches, we begin to see the bright light of freedom on the horizon. What are your plans for break? If you do not have any, no worries: It’s not too late to plan! Do not spend the next few months lounging on the sofa watching reruns – get out and make the best of your break! Here are some tips to make your summer a great one:

  • Summer Jobs: While getting a part-time job at a local fast food place is always an option, try something new this summer. Find a job that will give you new experiences and allow you to meet new people. Ever thought about being a counselor at a sleep-away summer camp? Check out GreatCampJobs.com to find some of the best counselor jobs available. Some even offer college credit! Imagine getting paid AND earning school credit while working at a totally new place and helping kids have an amazing summer.
  • Summer Classes: Summer classes are always a great option if you feel up to the challenge of focusing during the summer months. Don’t know if it’s for you? Check out my previous post to find out!
  • Study Abroad:Take your educational pursuits to new levels or even new countries! Check your admissions office and see what study abroad programs they offer of the summer. You’ll continue to learn while experiencing a new culture, people and surroundings.
  • Summer Internship: Many great places are looking for determined young minds to fill internship positions. Most degrees require students to participate in at least one internship in their major field of study. Even if it’s not a requirement for you, do it to build your resume: The more experience you have in your desired work field when you graduate, the better your chances are for being considered for employment. Some internships even lead to paid full-time jobs so work hard because you never know where an internship opportunity could lead!

While summer is considered a break, you can always take advantage of amazing opportunities waiting to be discovered. Tell us what you have in store once school gets out!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, is the treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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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Practical Majors, Passion Projects and Getting the Best of Both Worlds

May 3, 2013

by Mike Sheffey

Today I’d like to discuss something that I’m positive is constantly on the minds of underclassmen: “What should I major in?” There’s pressure from all ends to do something that makes money but your heart wants to do something you are passionate about. What's a college student to do? Aim for something that has potential to do both. For example, I love music, I love promoting bands, I love going to shows and I love being a part of the music scene in any way that I can. My majors, however, are computer science and Spanish. Those majors paired with my interests may not make sense at first but here’s how I came to this decision:

  • I determined what skills are considered valuable across the board. Spanish is practical in this time period for many reasons. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Chile and got to use my Spanish skills to interview leading punk bands for a research project. In this case, I was able to combine what I was studying with what I was passionate about.
  • I thought outside the box. I am learning computer science so that I may one day combine it with my passion for music. After all, technology, music sharing, music streaming services and apps are the way of the future....so why not use my skills and love for tech towards my passion?

There is no right answer to choosing a major and the idea of a “practical” major (as discussed by Haverford College's dean of academic affairs Phillip Bean in his recent post for The Choice) is subjective, based on personal passion, skills and desires. You just need to be able to say, “Even though I love this, I could still study that,” and get the best of both worlds. This is also a good reason to do thorough research beforehand on what majors your college offers, though most people change their majors a few times or wait a bit to declare.

How have you decided what to major in and did you take your personal passions into consideration?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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!

Comments (0)

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