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Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Major

October 17, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

There are many factors to consider when choosing a college. Part of a successful college search process involves thinking about your school preferences and career plans, and identifying colleges that meet your needs.

Questions to ask yourself that can help with choosing the right college include:

  • What do I want to major in?
  • Am I 100% certain about my major, or is there a possibility that I might change majors?
  • Will I be benefit from starting out in a 2-year college?
  • Will I be comfortable at a large university?
  • Is a faith-based college a good choice for me?
  • Is a private college a good choice for me?
  • How much can I afford to spend on college?
  • What are my options for paying for college?
  • Do I plan to work while attending college?
  • What geographic area do I prefer?
  • Will I live on campus, with my parents, or in an off-campus apartment?
  • Will I be happier at a co-ed or a single gender campus?
  • What are my primary reasons for attending college?
  • What type of work would I like to do after college?
  • Is it likely that I will pursue graduate study after completing my undergraduate program?

The Scholarships.com free college search can help you locate colleges that meet your needs. The answers to these questions can help you narrow down your list of potential colleges. For example, if you find the idea of attending a very large university overwhelming, you can narrow your college search to smaller schools. If you want to live with your parents while attending college, you can narrow the list to include only schools within an easy commuting distance of your home.

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College Culture , Tips



Pros and Cons of Large State Universities

October 18, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

For some individuals, a large state university is the best college choice. For others, a smaller school or private college might be the best selection. Before making a final decision to attend the largest university in your state, it is a good idea to consider the pros and cons of state universities.

State University Pros  
     
  • Affordable tuition, particularly for in-state students
  •  
  • Knowledgeable instructors
  •  
  • Large library facilities
  •  
  • Many social opportunities
  •  
  • On-campus employment opportunities
  •  
  • Opportunity to meet and develop relationships with many different types of people
  •  
  • School spirit and student loyalty
  •  
  • State universities often attract distinguished scholars as professors
  •  
  • Varied selection of extracurricular activities
  •  
  • Well-funded athletic programs
  •  
  • Wide variety of majors from which to select
  •  

State University Cons  

     
  • Access to professors may be limited
  •  
  • Classes may fill quickly, so you might not be able to get the schedule you want
  •  
  • Class sizes may be very large
  •  
  • Environment may not be as nurturing as a smaller college
  •  
  • Lack of one-on-one attention from instructors
  •  
  • Some professors may be more focused on conducting research and publishing than teaching
  •  
  • Sometimes there is a tendency to over-emphasize athletics
  •  
  • Students may get lost in the crowd, particularly if they are introverted or not inclined to join student organizations
  •  

For more information on choosing the right college, major,  or even roommate, visit our resources section.

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Students Saving the Environment

October 18, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s difficult to read a national newspaper–your choice–for longer than a week without coming across at least one article dealing with the environment. Why should a blog be any different? Jokes and polar bears aside, the environment is in need of some true student TLC, and students have plenty of it to give. Here are some things each of us can do to help.

1. Get educated Change starts with education. When searching for potential colleges, take into consideration the variety of classes offered. The more options schools have, the more you can dabble in various interests, especially the environment. By educating yourself about environmental issues, you can learn about ways to improve the situation, and what’s more, inspire others with your newfound knowledge. When you let people see how the environment affects them personally, you are more likely to convince them that their efforts and time are worth the investment.

2. Turn off the lights Saving money and energy is a click away, or a clap clap. Remember to turn off lights and appliances when you are through with them. Pay extra attention to air conditioners—open windows and running air conditioners make mother earth cry.  

3. Live by the triple R’s Many of us already reduce, reuse and recycle to some extent, but most of us don’t really crack down on bad habits.  By making the three R’s your mantra, you can reduce emissions, save some tree lives and fatten your piggybank.

4. Write to Congress  This one is for the ambitious. Begin a petition in support of the Kyoto Protocol to be sent to Congress; or at least sign the one you make your friend create. So far, 172 countries and governmental entities have signed the pact limiting emissions. Somehow the U.S. is not one of them.

5. Take public transportation  A great benefit to most on-campus travel is the abundance of public transportation. Taking the bus or train to school can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and it can also free up some time to chat or study. It may not be the most convenient way of getting around, but improvement isn’t always convenient. For those who live close by, riding a bike, rollerblading or walking is also a good option.

6. Bring your own bags and mugs  Try stuffing your groceries into a backpack, and bring mugs to coffee shops. (Or visit ones that offer in-house cups.) Some stores and coffee shops will even give you discounts for doing so. 

7. Be laptop savvy in class  You won’t look like you’re too cool for school by bringing your laptop to lectures—really. Students can save much paper by appending and saving posted online notes on laptops.  By bringing a laptop to class, you can save trees and increase the likelihood of future legibility. Plus, editing is easier on a computer, and most students can type more quickly than they can write. If you’re not one of them, it’s about time you practiced.

There are plenty of things students can do to make a difference, and many are already hard at work. This year, Scholarship.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve scholarship prizes were awarded to students who wrote the best essays on problems dealing with standardized testing and the environment. See what the winners had to say on the topic, and check out Scholarships.com's new Resolve to Evolve $10,000 essay scholarship. You can also search our database for college scholarships and grants; begin finding money for college today!

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Common Roommate Problems

October 29, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you are planning to move out of your parent’s house when you go back to school, you are probably going to have one or more roommates. Unique challenges often arise when living with roommates, so it’s a good idea to learn about common roommate problems before you become one. By doing so, you will be able to take steps to exhibit the traits of a good roommate. This knowledge will also help you recognize and resolve conflicts.

Some of the most common roommate problems include:

  • Borrowing personal items without permission
  • Eating other person’s food
  • Messy living habits
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Lack of respect for each other’s personal space
  • Unwillingness to compromise
  • Immodest behavior

Allowing such behaviors to go unchecked can permanently damage roommate relationships, and can make a living situation unbearable. It’s a good idea to establish roommate rules at the very beginning of the relationship for the sake of avoiding roommate problems before they have a chance to develop.

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Tags: Roommates


Politics, Voting and the College Student

November 8, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Why should I care about voting?

Whether you're new to it or not, you’ve got to make like “Diddy” and “Rock the Vote”. Even if you’re not a huge fan, he’s got it right this time. There is something at stake for student voters: financial aid. This year has been a tumultuous one as far as college financial aid is concerned, and a collective student voice is needed to convince candidates that students mean business.

It all began when an investigation headed by New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that some, actually many, financial aid officials were receiving money from student lenders in exchange for promotions. Findings showed that certain lenders were paying schools to place them on preferred lender lists, offering gifts and money to financial aid officials in exchange for loan promotion, conducting seemingly unbiased loan exit sessions, and giving athletic departments money for each lead sold.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that third-party lender advertisers were using tactics such as imitating government websites to make students feel as if they were getting unbiased information or that some study abroad advisors were receiving money and free trips from study abroad companies for every student they convinced to travel with them. Sigh… I’m a bit out of breath.

Some, not many, successful efforts have been made to fix the financial aid system. The recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act has increased Pell Grants and decreased student lender subsidies. Unfortunately, these changes don't apply to all students. Those who are still in need of college funding should conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.  And to convince politicians that they need to hold up their end of the deal, students need to vote.

How do I register?

Votes won’t cast themselves. (Florida votes are a rare exception; they do what they want.) To participate in next year’s elections held on November 4, 2008, you have to be a registered voter. Under the Motor Voter law, states need to make registration available in numerous public agencies. Local departments of motor vehicles are common ones. Many cities also set up voting facilities in state buildings, libraries and schools.

Check your city hall or their online site for voting areas in your city. Most states also allow citizens to register by filling out a mail-in form available online at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) . States have different deadlines for registration (usually about 30 days prior to Election Day), so don’t wait too long.  When you're ready to register, bring proof of state residency e.g., driver’s license, ID or utility bill. If you are sending your registration via mail, you will need to photo copy these items.

Students who move to college must update their address before registering. Contact your local city hall to find out how this works for students living in college dorms. Once you’ve done that, you will have to pay a $750 voting fee. Just kidding, you're registering to vote, not for college classes.

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Job Prospects Not So Great for 2009 Grads

October 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

So you've finally hit your senior year of college and you're anxiously awaiting the day when nobody will ever force you to write another 8-page paper about James Joyce or take another three-hour-long college exam.  You're about to be on your own, earning real money and living the high life (Goodbye, roommates!  Goodbye, budget diet!).  All you have to do now, aside from completing those 21 required credits you need to cram into your spring semester, is find a job.

Survey says you'd better start looking now.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers polled 146 employers in a range of industries this month and calculated a projected hiring increase of just 1.3 percent for 2009.  Anything under 6 percent is considered pretty bad news, according to an article on the subject appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Campus career centers are advocating that students who plan to graduate in May or August start their job hunt now, rather than waiting until closer to graduation.  Another idea is to look into nonprofit organizations, government jobs, and other fields where demand remains steady in a recession.  Of course, many of them offer lower pay than a college graduate might need to live comfortably while repaying student loans.

Of course, you could also go to graduate school.  It's not too late to register to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), put together a personal statement and some letters of recommendation, and throw yourself into application process.  Some master's programs accept applications into March or April, and possibly even later.  Graduate students gain more knowledge and experience in their field, including valuable teaching and research skills, and can continue to rely on financial aid (including scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships) for two or more years while the economy hopefully stabilizes and job prospects improve.

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Some Good Reasons to Attend College

November 6, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

U.S. News had an interesting piece in their education section last week about the monetary benefits of a college degree.  Citing government statistics and several recent studies, the author related that students who complete a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $300,000 more in today's dollars over the course of their working lives than students who just complete high school.  Students who earn a professional degree, go to law school, or complete business school can expect to earn even more.

A full-time worker with a bachelor's degree makes about $20,000 more a year than a student with a high school diploma, and a student with, say, an MBA can expect to make about $100,000 more than a high school grad each year.  While such annual income disparities add up to more than $300,000 over a lifetime of work, studies citing that figure also adjusted for inflation, the extra money high school grads earn in those first four or five years, and the average cost of attending college for four years.

Another benefit of a college degree is a better chance of landing and keeping a job: the unemployment rate for college grads is half what it is for those who don't go to college.  Students from low-income backgrounds also reap more benefits from receiving a degree, as they're able to land not only higher-paying, but also more stable jobs and better-benefited jobs, and to have opportunities that would not have been available to them otherwise. Going to college can also provide significant academic advantages for your future children.

So if college costs are daunting and you're considering whether your education is going to be worth the price you pay for school, do some research.  You're statistically more likely to live a better life in a lot of ways if you go ahead and earn that degree.  There are tons of reasons to go to college, and also tons of ways to help with funding your education.  Do a thorough college search to find the best and most affordable fit for your educational goals, and then search for available scholarships and other financial aid to help you pay the bill.

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New Studies Show Benefits of Scholarships

November 7, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

College students who receive generous scholarship opportunities are relieved of some of the financial burden of paying for school.  But to what extent does this benefit translate into other positive outcomes?  How, specifically, does winning scholarships help students achieve their college goalsFour studies being presented this week at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's annual conference seek to answer these questions.

Two studies focused on recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an extremely generous scholarship for minorities offered by Bill and Melinda Gates.  A third tracked recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise, the first in a series of large-scale full-tuition local scholarship programs, which provides scholarship funding to all qualifying Kalamazoo, Michigan residents who choose to attend one of Michigan's state colleges.  The fourth looks at University of Iowa applicants' responses to financial aid offers.

The study of University of Iowa students reinforces the idea that scholarship money steers students' college plans, especially among certain minority groups.  African American and Hispanic students were less likely to attend the university, presumably choosing a more affordable or more generous institution, if they did not receive the amount of financial assistance they had hoped for.  These results reinforce the importance of college affordability and will hopefully encourage universities to offer more generous awards to student populations they wish to attract.

While institutional financial aid influences students' college choices, so do other scholarships. Studies showed that Gates Millennium Scholars and Kalamazoo Promise recipients appear more inclined than their peers of similar backgrounds towards applying to and ultimately choosing colleges that are pricier or more competitive.

Gates Millennium Scholars are also more likely to graduate--matching graduation rates of higher-income students--as well as to graduate on time.  In fact, 90 percent of these students finished a four-year degree in four years, which is proving to be an increasingly rare accomplishment among students currently attending college.

In some ways, these studies reinforce things many students already knew.  Scholarships influence students' college choices.  Scholarship winners go to better schools, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to graduate sooner--and the studies suggest this because they won a scholarship, not just because they're smart and motivated.  Even if none of this is news to you, it should still be a powerful motivator for you to start your own scholarship search.  It does appear to be the formula for college success.

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Thanksgiving Week Checklist

November 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's hard to believe, but next week it will be December.  While it's tempting to train your eyes on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the accompanying problem of consuming enough homecooked food to sustain you through finals, the next few months will be busy, especially if you're planning to apply for any sort of financial aid.  Between your high school or college coursework and adjusting your schedule and budget to accommodate winter holidays, December and January tend to fly by.  Since many scholarship application deadlines happen in December and January, now is the perfect time to do a quick scholarship search and double check that you don't miss out on applying for scholarships while you're in Thursday night's turkey-induced coma.

A Thanksgiving week scholarship application checklist:

  • Search for available scholarships. See if anything new has come up since you last looked.  Many scholarship providers post new information in November, so if it's been a few weeks, now is the time to go back!
  •  
  • Make note of approaching deadlines. While January deadlines may seem a long way off now, consider how many free days you're likely to have between now and then.  Probably not many if you have finals, family, and friends all demanding a large chunk of your time.  Also, several scholarship awards have November/December deadlines, including our own College Health Scholarship, which closes November 30.
  •  
  • Take a hard look at your schedule. By now you should know what the rest of this semester looks like as well as how heavy your next semester will be.  Figure out times you'll be able to get those applications done.  Then take a look at your list of scholarship opportunities and prioritize accordingly.
  •  
  • Do some drafting. You're going to be spending an entire day in a house with your extended family.  Defeat awkward silences and make your relatives feel smart by asking them for input on your scholarship essays.  You don't have to staple your rough draft to the turkey or refuse to let anyone sit until they've proofread a paragraph, but usually there's some downtime where the topic can successfully be brought up.  If nothing else, saying that you have essay writing to do can give you an out when the topic turns to your great aunt's new medication.
  •  

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Application Essay Advice

December 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Continuing on the college admissions theme from yesterday, there's a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about the dreaded college application process.  If you're still struggling with those application essays or the thought of the college interview has you panicked, you might want to check out their tips from admissions officers at several competitive private colleges.  Two things struck me when reading their tips.  First, most of this sounds a lot like what I told my students as a college composition teaching assistant.  Second, this advice can easily extend to writing effective scholarship essays.

Most of the advice falls into the category of "be yourself."  Colleges aren't necessarily looking to admit the most indisputably brilliant students in the country, but rather individuals who will contribute to the campus community.  The best tips the Wall Street Journal article offers, at least as far as admissions essays and writing scholarships go, are to choose essay topics that are meaningful to you (even unconventional ones) and to avoid polishing essays to death.

While it's tempting to go straight for the most impressive or altruistic thing you've done if you're asked to describe an experience, admission officials say it's better to go with a topic that actually reveals something about your character.  This definitely goes for scholarship applications, too.  In a stack of essays about volunteering in South America, your story about convincing your peers in the rural Midwest to walk the 12 blocks to school rather than drive may stand out more than you think.  A seemingly mundane essay topic can be interesting if it's written well and it has a clear purpose.

As far as writing well goes, proofread (at the very least, check spelling and grammar and take out notes to yourself or your parents before submitting) but don't adopt such a formal style that all personality is lost.  As long as an essay is written well and isn't way too informal (avoid slang, cursing, and stories of sex, drugs, and bodily functions), your essay is probably professional enough for most admission offices and scholarship essay contests.  Even when you're applying for a law scholarship, writing like a lawyer isn't necessarily the recipe for success.

For more essay-writing tips, check out our resources section.  To find somewhere to use this advice, you may want to use our college search and our scholarship search.

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