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A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

November 29, 2011

A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

by Alexis Mattera

In recent years, college students have become more cautious about taking out loans to pay for school. There are multiple reasons for this – horror stories from friends or siblings, limited job prospects after graduation and high interest rates have all been cited – and while it’s an admirable goal to graduatefrom college debt-free, educators think this approach could actually hinder students from getting degrees.

According to a recent Associated Press article, students are attempting to limit borrowing by working longer hours, taking fewer credits (and often not enrolling full-time), living at home and attending less selective institutions. While educators are impressed with this level of fiscal responsibility, they are quick to point out that each action above is a risk factor that makes college students less likely to graduate. Borrowing could prevent this, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of Excelencia in Education. "If you can take out a little bit of loan you're more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you're more likely to complete." How much more likely? Federal data analyzed by Excelencia and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time compared to 70 percent of students who don't borrow and roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor's degree within eight years compared to 25 percent of part-time students.

What can be done to facilitate this message? Educators believe students need to better understand financial aid, the difference between types of loans, debt management and the returns on various degrees and majors. In addition to searching for scholarships and grants, is borrowing part of your financial aid plan and does this information make you more or less likely to take out a loan?

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Cyber Monday Could Be a College Student’s Best Friend

November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Could Be a College Student’s Best Friend

by Jessica Seals

Waking up at 2 a.m. to stand outside in the freezing cold waiting for a store to open is a holiday tradition for some people. On the other hand, there are thousands of others who refuse to give up sleep to stand in a long line for an item that will sell out before they even get inside the store. That’s right: I’m talking about Black Friday and for those of you who are on tight budgets – aka almost all college students! – it may seem like this day is your only chance to get holiday presents at affordable prices...but it’s not.

After experiencing the fights over the most-sought after items every year on Black Friday, I decided to stop giving in to this “holiday” in favor of participating in Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). Retailers have noticed that the number of online purchases is steadily increasing; therefore, they put some of the same sale prices that can be found in stores online. This is great for college students because they can spend the day after Thanksgiving with their families instead of arguing with strangers. Win-win!

I have become a Cyber Monday proponent because I prefer to do all of my shopping from the comforts of my own home – far away from angry shoppers who try to snatch items from my cart while I am not looking. As store lines continue to grow longer and the televisions and game systems sell out even faster, Cyber Monday is becoming a more attractive option. I can almost hear sighs of relief from college students everywhere who are trying to juggle countless end-of-semester commitments!

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.

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This Scholarship of the Week is a Fantastic Achievement

Three Days Left to Apply for the AXA Achievement Scholarship

November 28, 2011

This Scholarship of the Week is a Fantastic Achievement

by Alexis Mattera

As anyone who’s ever overindulged in Thanksgiving dinner can tell you, too much of a good thing does indeed exist. This mentality does not hold true when it comes to scholarships, though...especially this Scholarship of the Week from AXA Equitable!.

The AXA Achievement Scholarship awards $670,000 annually. Fifty-two students – one from each state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico – receive scholarships of $10,000. Of those 52 students, 10 students are chosen as national winners and receive an additional $15,000 scholarship award and an internship opportunity with AXA Equitable.

Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate ambition and drive, determination to set and reach goals and the ability to succeed in college. If that sounds like you, visit AXA’s website to apply before the December 1st deadline. As always, to learn more about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!

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Making Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Dorm

November 23, 2011

Making Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Dorm

by Radha Jhatakia

Not all college students are able to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. If this sounds like you, don’t worry: You can still get into the holiday spirit in your dorm. Many of you are probably wondering how to pull off a Thanksgiving feast when you don’t have a kitchen and/or cooking skills but here’s a little guide to help you:

  • You can find ready-made mashed potatoes in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or buy raw potatoes and cook them in the microwave (some even have a button for this). For gravy, buy a powdered packet and add the requirement of heated water. Voilà!
  • If you don’t want canned cranberry sauce, heat fresh cranberries in the microwave until the juices are released. Add sugar to taste and mix while slightly mashing them with a spoon.
  • Candied yams would be difficult to make from scratch in a dorm so buy canned pre-cut and peeled ones. Heat the yams in the microwave with butter then add some cinnamon and sugar (granulated white and brown). When the sugar melts, you’re done!
  • Boxed stuffing can taste just as good as the homemade kind. Get the Stove Top brand – all you need to do is mix it with hot water.
  • For the bird, most grocery stores have cooked rotisserie turkey and chicken. You can add your own seasoning or eat it as is.
  • Get a bottle of sparkling apple cider or grape juice for delicious mocktails.
  • Pick up a ready-made pecan or pumpkin pie from your grocery store for a treat...or maybe even some seasonal cupcakes.

Bon appétit, everyone!

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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This Thursday, Be Thankful for Your Options

November 22, 2011

This Thursday, Be Thankful for Your Options

by Angela Andaloro

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and many college students are planning to head home to celebrate. It’s no easy feat, either: With the cost of travel and the chaos attached to traveling during one of the busiest weeks of the year, it’s not always possible for students to get home for the break. That doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving has to go out the window; in fact, there are tons of alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving for college students staying on campus.

See what’s going on at your campus. You’re not alone if you’re staying at school for Thanksgiving. Many students find themselves too far from home to return for a few short days so find out what your campus is doing for students sticking around. Some schools offer a Thanksgiving-style meal in their cafeterias or nearby eateries.

Volunteer your time. While not being able to be with your family might be upsetting, there are many others who have it worse. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Doing so can really strengthen your gratitude and teach you to show your appreciation for what you do have.

Skype with your family. It might not be the same as being there in the flesh but you can still partake in your family’s holiday thanks to technology. It could very well be your Thanksgiving tradition for four years!

Whatever you decide to do for Thanksgiving, make sure you stop and give thanks for all the great things in your life. And remember, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are just a few short weeks away! Have you ever spent your Thanksgiving on campus? How did you celebrate? 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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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

November 21, 2011

What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

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

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

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

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

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Help Stop Hunger with this Scholarship of the Week!

November 21, 2011

Help Stop Hunger with this Scholarship of the Week!

by Suada Kolovic

Fifty-million people are at risk of hunger, including 17 million children. The Sodexo Foundation works to ensure that every child in the U.S., especially those most at risk, grows up with dependable access to enough nutritious food to enable them to lead a healthy, productive life. The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships recognize students who are driving awareness and mobilizing youth to be catalysts for innovative models and solutions to eliminate hunger in America.

Each national STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient receives a $5,000 scholarship and a matching $5,000 donation to their affiliated hunger relief organization. Added consideration is given to those students working to combat childhood hunger.

Applications are available to students from kindergarten through graduate school and are accepted through December 5th. For more on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Taking Advantage of National Scholarship Month

November 18, 2011

Taking Advantage of National Scholarship Month

by Angela Andaloro

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

NSSE Shows Students Study Less Than Expected

November 18, 2011

It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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

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The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

November 18, 2011

The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

by Jessica Seals

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

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

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

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

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