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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

April 24, 2012

"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!

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Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest Deadline Approaching

April 23, 2012

Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Bubble gum in your hair. “Kick me” signs. He said, she said. These are all sticky situations we try to avoid in life – and for good reason! – but here’s one that could pay off big for your college education: The Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest.

The Henkal Corporation's Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada, including the District of Columbia but excluding Puerto Rico and the Province of Quebec. This scholarship contest rewards individuals for creating prom attire made completely out of – you guessed it – Duck brand duct tape. To be eligible for the $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $500 scholarship awards, each couple must submit:

  • One color photograph (professional or amateur) of the couple together in prom attire
  • Each individual's full name, address, telephone number, email address (if applicable) and age/grade level, and the name of the closest major city to the individual's hometown
  • A release form signed by each individual and, if any entrant is a minor (under 18 years of age), that individual's parent or guardian
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the high school or home school association which is hosting the prom and the date the prom was held

The deadline to submit your adhesive attire is June 13th so there’s still plenty of time to get creative. For a registration form and official contest rules, interested students should visit the Duck brand website or conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!

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As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

April 20, 2012

As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

by Alexis Mattera

Enrollment deposits are due at many colleges around the country in 11 days and while some students committed to colleges within hours of receiving their acceptance letters, others are still weighing their higher ed options. As the deadline draws closer, don’t choose a college by tossing a dart at a map or playing eeny meeny with your admissions offers – consider these tips from U.S. News:

Plan another visit. Sure you went on the traditional tour last time you visited Big State U or Fancy Private College but this time, skip the campus-sponsored activities to get the true experience of what it’s like to attend that particular school.

Contact former classmates. If you know a few students who matriculated to the school you’re considering, get in touch with them. It’s never been easier to do via the myriad social networking sites out there and they’ll provide insight you won’t find in the brochures!

Don’t forget costs. You may have been accepted to your first-choice school but you didn’t receive the grants, scholarships and merit-based aid you were hoping for. Minimize the amount of debt you’ll accrue from taking out hefty student loans by reconsidering your second- or third-choice school...and its more-than-generous financial aid package.

You can read the rest of U.S. News' tips here but we’re curious as to how our readers made their college decisions. Did you employ any of the strategies listed above? Are you still trying to choose your school? Let us know what worked for you!

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What Makes a Professor Great?

April 19, 2012

What Makes a Professor Great?

by Kara Coleman

Earlier this month, The Princeton Review released its annual list of the best 300 professors in the nation. The teachers were chosen because of the impact they have made on the lives of their students and that got me thinking: What exactly makes a professor good...and, conversely, what makes you not want to go to certain professors' classes?

First, the good stuff. Teachers who seem to genuinely care about their students always get high marks in my book. The teacher I had for English 101 and 102 seemed every bit as interested in what I wrote outside of the classroom as the essays I wrote for class. He even invited me to read some of my poetry at his community poetry club meeting (an event not affiliated with the school) and he even met my family at the bookstore one night, saying he always enjoys getting to meet the families of his students.

Next are the teachers who have a passion for and connection with their work. My Spanish teacher was not Hispanic but she and her husband had served as missionaries in Buenos Aires for 20-something years. She would often share her personal stories with us about living in a different culture with a different language than what she had grown up with. That experience proved just as valuable as being a native speaker.

Now what causes students to give their teachers bad reviews to their peers and on sites like RateMyProfessors.com? The bottom line is respect. It’s not about how difficult their tests are or whether they’ll let you cite online sources in your research papers – how professors treat their students makes all the difference. Teachers who talk down to or argue with their students or the ones who seem indifferent and treat their work like it’s just a job are ineffective.

What do you think? On your personal list of the best professors you’ve ever had, who makes the grade and why? Comment below and let us know!

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

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The Importance of Experience

April 18, 2012

The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.

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Non-Resident Admission Doubles at UC

April 18, 2012

Non-Resident Admission Doubles at UC

by Alexis Mattera

When I moved into my freshman dorm at UConn, I was one of the few out-of-state students on my floor. It wasn’t a bad thing by any means – I made a lot of friends through conversations that began with someone asking "Hey, can you say [any word ending in R]?" because they wanted to hear my thick Boston accent in action – but it was certainly foreshadowing for today’s abundance of non-residents at state schools.

According to an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the number of non-Californians accepted as freshmen to the UC system has nearly doubled in just two years. Twenty-three percent of all students admitted for this fall hail from other states or nations, partly because non-residents pay nearly three times the tuition and fees of in-state students – a huge boon for UC, which has had its budget cut by about $1 billion during the last few years. In-state students’ college costs are heavily subsidized with public funds and the nine undergraduate campuses simply don’t have the money to cover the cost of educating them, though UC officials insist that no eligible Californian is denied admission because of non-resident students.) In addition to funding woes, applicants also had to contend with increasing selectivity: UC admitted just 64 percent of the students who applied...and just 21 percent at Berkeley and UCLA.

There were some positive aspects to UC’s announcement (the Merced campus accepted 75 percent of applicants, more students of color were admitted systemwide and an additional 2,100 California graduates gained admission over last year) but what do you think of the influx of non-residents at state colleges and universities?

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Required Classes, Your Way

April 16, 2012

Required Classes, Your Way

by Angela Andaloro

Class registration time is upon us! For many of us, that means looking through course catalogs and trying to find the perfect schedule that gets us closer to our degree and still gives us time to sleep and have a good time. Many of us will be looking to cross some required classes off of our lists this fall but what about the classes you have to take...for yourself? Here are some types of classes you should consider adding to your own personal required list!

Something creative. I do not have an artistically, musically or similarly inclined bone in my body but I ignored that fact and decided to take a painting class during my freshman year. This turned out to be one of the best ideas I had because it forced me to slow things down and focus on what’s in front of me. Classes that make you flex your creative muscles can take you out of your everyday college stresses and force you to have a little fun.

An interesting history class. If you’re like me, you know plenty of college students who hate history. History classes make everyone reminiscent of high school (seriously, how many times did we learn about the American Revolution?) but college history classes are way different. Find an interesting history class that isn’t on your average topics: I took a class on the history of American women and came out with a lot of interesting info that I’ve actually pulled out in average conversation.

Something to help you get ready for life after college. Many colleges and universities offer classes to seniors on getting into the job market, interview skills, writing résumés and more. There are also classes that can help you figure out what you’d like to major in and help give you direction going forward. These classes can provide you with a wealth of useful information that will help you once your formal education has ended.

What classes are on your required list? Let us know in the comments!

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.

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Prepare to Attack This Scholarship of the Week

Paul Frank Art Attack Scholarship Deadline is May 15th

April 16, 2012

Prepare to Attack This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Even if you don’t know Julius, Clancy or Worry Bear by name, you’ve likely seen these characters in one of Paul Frank’s whimsical designs at one point or another. If you think you can create something just as funky, enter the second annual Paul Frank Art Attack Scholarship for a chance to earn $2,500 to put toward your amazing artistic future!

Art Attack participation requires an upload of one piece of original art including some element of the Paul Frank characters/brand, an explanation of how and why the artist incorporated the Paul Frank brand, a description of what kind of art education program the applicant will be supported by the prize money and brief background info about the applicant. The Paul Frank online community will vote on submissions to narrow to the top 10 in each age group (14 – 17 and 18+) on PaulFrank.com and a panel of expert judges will select the first and second place winners in each category. One first prize of $2,500, two second prizes of $1,000, and three third prizes of $500 to be allocated to art supplies or classes will be awarded; in addition to the monetary scholarship, the winning adult artist will also receive a full page ad in Juxtapoz magazine and funding for travel to visit the Paul Frank studios and attend the Academy of Awesome launch party with a feature on PaulFrank.com.

The Art Attack deadline is May 15th so applicants have just about one month left to submit their creations. For more information about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Investment Strategies for College Students

April 13, 2012

Investment Strategies for College Students

by Radha Jhatakia

Most students begin to make decisions about what sort of financial investments they need to make after they graduate while they are still attending college. It’s not an easy decision – rather, it’s one that takes time and some level of research – but this short guide will help you get started.

You may have "made" a lot of money through economics projects where you "invested" in stocks but playing the stock market in real life is much different. With great risk, you can have a great payoff or a great loss and unlike your econ projects, investing requires real funding to make an initial investment, as a single share can be quite expensive depending on the stock. Research the stocks you are interested in and watch the market daily before investing any money. It sounds silly but the best starting point would be reading a book like "Stock Investing for Dummies."

If you’re wary about the stock market, a safer investment would be in a bank or credit union. Many banks do not have annual fees for college accounts but in the current economy, some financial institutions do not offer high interest rates for savings accounts, money markets or certificates of deposits (CDs). Credit unions often have higher interest rates and may charge annual fees but it depends on the institutions' individual policies. Here are the differences between these accounts:

  • Savings accounts: Savings accounts don’t require large balances and offer students the freedom of withdrawing money whenever needed. The downfall is low interest rates.
  • Money markets: Money markets require higher balances since banks use the accounts to make investments but the interest rate is higher since you make money off their investments. The caveat here is not having the money readily available and being charged fees for falling below the minimum balance.
  • CDs: CDs are great for long term use, as they require investments for a certain length of time. This account has a high interest rate and is insured by the FDIC but the drawback is breaking the CD to withdraw money means paying a hefty fee.

Are you currently investing your money? If so, how?

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.

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Colleges Announce Commencement Speakers

April 13, 2012

Colleges Announce Commencement Speakers

by Suada Kolovic

With college graduation just a hop, skip and jump away, graduates are filled with incredible hope and fear but whatever they’re feeling on graduation day, there’s the possibility that a celebrated commencement speaker could impart some words of wisdom their way. And while notable politicians, celebrities and artists are usually called upon to speak to a crowd full of fresh-faced 20-somethings embarking on the next chapter of adulthood, we couldn’t help but wonder who made the cut this year. Check out the list below, courtesy of the Huffington Post, of who’s speaking where:

Who’s speaking at your school this year?

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