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State Financial Aid Runs Dry in Illinois

March 22, 2012

State Financial Aid Runs Dry in Illinois

by Alexis Mattera

Did you already file your FAFSA this year? If you live in Illinois, your early bird mentality will help you pay for college because state funding has run out earlier than expected.

Officials said the state’s primary source of need-based financial aid, the Monetary Award Program (MAP), received 40,000 more applications this year than last. "It's a sign of incredible demand more than anything else," said John Samuels, spokesman for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission but since these scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, students who applied after March 13th – roughly 140,000 – will have to find alternate funding. Illinois currently provides at least $387 million for the program and Governor Pat Quinn has proposed increasing that amount by $50 million to give financial assistance to 35,000 additional students – though it would take $1 billion to for every eligible student to receive a MAP grant.

Does this news impact your college plans or did you submit your financial aid forms in time?

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Why I Changed My Minor

March 21, 2012

Why I Changed My Minor

by Kara Coleman

I am always curious as to why students choose to minor in the areas that they do. Sometimes, minors complement majors but at other times, the connection between the two is not so obvious.

I have always loved to read and write – I was an English major during my time at Gadsden State Community College – so when it came time for me to transfer to a four-year university, I knew that I wanted to major in communications. Since I already had several lit classes under my belt from my time at Gadsden State, I decided to declare English as my minor. A couple of weeks ago, however, halfway through my junior year, I decided to change my minor.

While minoring in English certainly seemed like the practical way to go because I have to take many more classes, I weighed my options and decided to minor in creative writing instead. Although changing my minor has added a whole semester of classes to the work I have to do before I graduate, taking writing classes will allow me to further hone my writing skills. Since I want to write for a living instead of read poetry, creative writing was definitely the way to go for me.

What is your minor and why did you decide to pursue it? Before you graduate, ask yourself: Are the skills I’m acquiring while working on my minor going to help me with my overall career plans? Did I choose my minor because it’s something that I enjoy, even though it may not have a direct connection to my major? Decide for yourself what would be best for you in the long run when you select your minor...and keep in mind you always have the option to double minor!

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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Commit Now, Pay Later

Public College Tuition Often Still Undecided by Enrollment Deadlines

March 21, 2012

Commit Now, Pay Later

by Alexis Mattera

The cost of college is a huge factor for a high school senior about to head off to college for the first time, a transfer student getting ready to continue his or her education at a four-year school and an undergrad preparing to pursue a graduate degree. If the student can’t afford to attend a specific school, an alternate institution that better fits his or her college budget should be selected...but what if tuition is still undetermined before the enrollment deadline?

This scenario is common at public universities across the country, as they cannot announce the next year’s tuition until they know how much funding they will receive from their respective states. Though schools like Towson and UVa offer estimates, banking on those figures is a gamble: For example, VCU raised tuition 24 percent in 2010 and the average public university in California raised expenses 21 percent last year – sizeable increases few college hopefuls could have expected. Colleges in this position have to work out preliminary financial aid packages based on the current year’s costs and adjust the awards after tuition is set. Students weighing their enrollment options at private universities have it much easier: A recent report projected private tuition would rise between 4 and 5 percent for next year but schools including Georgetown, UPenn and Goucher have already set and posted their tuition rates for the upcoming academic year.

Are you still waiting on next year’s tuition rates to make your college choice?

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Forget "The Hunger Games" - Try These Study Games!

March 20, 2012

Forget "The Hunger Games" - Try These Study Games!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you've been studying for three hours straight for your chemistry exam and you haven’t even cracked your calculus, history and geography books yet. Besides envisioning that much sought-after 4.0 GPA, how do you stay motivated? You play study games, of course!

While study games aren't quite as addicting as the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft varieties, they're still much more engaging than reading over your study guide for the hundredth time. Websites like Quizlet – aka "the world's largest flash cards and study games website" – are perfect for helping you memorize vocabulary whether you're studying biology or business and another option, Quia, offers Hangman, Battleship, scavenger hunts and more. If you're looking for resources to help you prepare for standardized tests like the SAT, ACT or GRE, on the other hand, sites like Grockit have got you covered...but access to these games, study plans, written and video study aids can cost $29.99 a month.

In addition to being more fun than your average study session, study games increase your chances of remembering the material for your test. Research has shown that if you try to encode information in as many ways as possible (e.g., via sight and sound), you're more likely to remember that information. And because many study games make use of both visual and auditory features, your odds of doing well on your test increase. If you can't find a game to help you study, consider visiting your textbook's website: Many publishers offer animations, study guides and quizzes.

Regardless of how you study, remember to encode the information in as many ways as possible, take breaks and reward yourself when you're done. Let the games begin!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

March 20, 2012

Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

It may feel like we’ve skipped winter but federal aid is about to be put on ice for college hopefuls lacking high school diplomas or GEDs.

As of July 1st, newly-enrolled students will no longer be allowed to take an "ability to benefit" test or complete a set amount of credits without aid; instead, college students will be required to have high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive federal financial aid. How will these students – many of whom are older, seeking training to find a new job, immigrants and students in states like California where the basic adult education budget has been cut – pay for school? College administrators anticipate they will turn to private loans...or give up on their degrees entirely.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, says the change “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” as these schools view enrolling students without high school credentials as a key part of providing access to higher education: There are currently about 836,000 students without high school diplomas or GEDs enrolled at two-year public colleges nationwide and according to a limited 2006-2007 Education Department study, students without high school diplomas and GEDs were ultimately more successful in college and had higher GPAs than their classmates with high school diplomas, even if they failed the "ability to benefit" test. If would-be students have to get a GED before going to college and receive zero financial assistance while they prepare, Baime says many will opt out altogether.

What do you think of the new rule regarding federal aid? Do you think a high school diploma or GED is necessary to succeed in college?

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Slow Down and Apply for This Scholarship of the Week

Project Yellow Light’s Deadline is March 31st

March 19, 2012

Slow Down and Apply for This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Text messaging can come in handy when you are taking a short study break in a quiet library but when it happens behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, its convenience is replaced by danger. You’ve probably see people texting at traffic signals, on side streets and on the highway at 65 miles per hour but the action is dangerous and on its way to becoming illegal. Want to help bring about change regarding texting and driving? Slow down and take a look at our latest Scholarship of the Week, Project Yellow Light.

As a Project Yellow Light applicant, you have one clear mission in your video application: encourage other teens to develop and embrace safe driving habits – specifically, don’t text and drive. High school seniors who will complete graduation requirements by or before July 31st of this year must submit their 60-second videos via the Project Yellow Light website by March 31st. The first-place winner will receive a scholarship in the amount of $2,000, the second-place winner will receive $500 and the third-place winner will receive $200; in addition to a scholarship, the winning video will be turned into an Ad Council PSA and will be distributed nationally to 1,600 TV stations.

Interested in learning more about this scholarship opportunity? Visit Project Yellow Light’s official website and conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Communicating with Authority Figures

March 19, 2012

Communicating with Authority Figures

by Radha Jhatakia

Whether it’s a parent, professor or employer, communicating with authority figures can be a challenge, as a certain level of respect and acknowledgement must be given. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your superiors but these tips will help you to keep the lines of communication as open and effective as possible.

One of the most important aspects of communicating with authority figures is having an appropriate attitude. No one will want to speak to you if you have a displeased look or closed-off body language. Knowing your surroundings and having a welcoming demeanor will make you appear more approachable; displaying confidence in what you have to say will win you points as well.

The method you use to communicate is also important. Email is a very convenient in that it allows us to get a message to someone quickly but with the convenience of this technology, many people do not practice proper “netiquette,” which means using proper spelling, grammar and formal language rather than texting language. Being appropriate in your emails means not using emoticons and having a signature with your contact information. Communicating effectively with authority figures often relies on your level of maturity and this will help demonstrate it.

However expedient emails may be, sometimes phone calls or in-person meetings are necessary. Often when employers are considering candidates, someone who has sent an email may not seem as appealing as someone who has sent an email and followed up with a phone call. In-person conversations work better when the matter is important and is something that may be misconstrued in an email or phone conversation. An example would be if you need to speak to a professor about a grade you felt was unfair. Approach them as a concerned student who wants to know how to improve from the mistakes they cited, then explain why the errors don’t seem wrong to you. A positive attitude will go a long way; you may be angry but verbally attacking the professor will make them far less likely to help you out.

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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Eating Healthy on the Road

March 16, 2012

Eating Healthy on the Road

by Kayla Herrera

For many college students, spring break is an adventure, a trip down memory lane or a challenge. Spring break will take some of you on the road and this could mean a challenge for healthy eating. You may be heading somewhere warm but eating nothing or very little is not the way to fit into that bikini you packed.

Is it possible to eat healthy while you’re traveling? Sure...it just takes a little more planning. Junk food is fun on car trips, I know, but since drinking pop all the way on my trip caused me to be very nauseated later on, it’s not a bad idea to explore healthier options. Here are a few tips for on-the-road dining:

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.

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Deadline for Our Facebook Scholarship Rapidly Approaching

March 16, 2012

Deadline for Our Facebook Scholarship Rapidly Approaching

by Suada Kolovic

With just over two weeks left to enter our “You Like Me…You Really Like Me” Facebook Scholarship, we wanted to remind our fans of a key piece of the judging criteria: Don’t just tell us you like us – tell us WHY you like us! We’re looking for the person who best describes how Scholarships.com’s resources are helping them prepare for and afford college so, while we love hearing that you think we’re the BOMB.com, we’d much rather have you detail how, for example, our blog post on tips to stay calm on test day helped prepare you for the ACT/SAT or how our College Prep section jumpstarted on your college planning. Remember, the more you share, the better your chances are of winning $1,000 or one of two Kindles!

If you’re new to Scholarships.com and unfamiliar with its contents, take a tour and check out everything we have to offer. Our site is teeming with info – from choosing the right school and major to living with a roommate and preparing for an intership – so if you like us (really like us), tell us why. Just be sure to do it soon: The deadline to “like” us and leave your thoughtful comment is March 31st. For more details, check out our Facebook page. Good luck!

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Stuff College Students Say

March 15, 2012

Stuff College Students Say

by Angela Andaloro

The college student population in the United States prides itself on its diversity. While no two students are alike, we have some similarities that bond us together and the common experiences and feelings related to college are the ones that we’ll never forget. Still, sometimes the stereotypes that come along with being a college student are just that: stereotypes. With that in mind, I bring you “Stuff College Students Say.”

  • “I’m so broke.” I can sympathize when this lament is shared over Ramen noodles late night in the dorms but when it’s tweeted from your iPhone 4S while you’re shopping for a new outfit for tonight’s house party, it’s a little harder to accept.
  • “I’m not going to class. It’s way too early.” I love to sleep in as much as the next person, but “early” is a relative term in college life. Remember high school, where you knew you had to be in class by 8 a.m., no excuses? That 12:30 p.m. lecture doesn’t seem so early anymore.
  • “Are you going to that event later?” I’d bet $5 that you can’t tell me what organization the event is for or what it’s about. You’ll be there though because there’s free food and free food tastes so much better than food you have to pay for.
  • “I’m going to take a nap.” Yes, you are...on the quad, in the student union, in the library, etc. Anywhere but your dorm, though, because you have class in an hour.
  • “I’ve got to register for classes.” After making sure that none of your classes start before noon and that the professors all check out on RateMyProfessors.com, then you might schedule an appointment with your adviser to make sure you graduate on time. Maybe. If you have time after your nap.

The great thing about us college students is that we have awesome senses of humor. We know that we can be a little ridiculous sometimes, but we can laugh at that ridiculousness. What kind of stuff are the students on your campus saying? 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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