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by Emily

The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) plans to address questions of early decision admission and the role of standardized testing in the admission process in panels during their annual conference this week.  In preparation, they have released the results of a survey showing that early decision admissions had begun to fall, as well as commentary on the state of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Test (ACT) in college admissions.

A special panel convened by NACAC released a statement suggesting that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT may play too prominent a role in college admissions.  While the report emphasizes that standardized tests can play an important role in the admissions process, especially in helping students choose which schools may be a good fit for them, it also declared the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach to testing.  This position represents a shift from previous NACAC commissions' stances on standardized testing.

Another survey released this week by NACAC highlighted other shifts in college admissions, namely a slowing of the increase in early decision admissions as compared to previous years.  Many schools are giving students going through the college application process the option to make a binding committment to attend that college if accepted in a process known as early decision.  Critics argue that this puts poorer students who are unwilling to commit to attending a college without receiving their financial aid package at a distinct disadvantage in being considered for admission.  While many colleges still are embracing the idea, this shift in figures could show some hesitation on the part of admission offices or students regarding the still-controversial issue.

Additionally, the survey illustrated some doubt regarding a new practice of priority applications, which are sent to students based on a variety of criteria and are already partially completed.  Priority admission applications are sent by the school, rather than requested by the student, and are typically sent out based on prior contact with the admissions office, test scores, or geographic location.  Only 4% of these forms, which occasionally come with an application fee waiver, are sent to students based on economic status.

Other survey results showed that more students seem concerned with ensuring they make the right college choice, and that most students who apply to schools are given the opportunity to go to college.  An increasing number of students are applying to more than seven colleges, and that about the same number of students as the previous year applied to more than three schools.  Nationally, 68 percent of students who apply to colleges are admitted.  Online applications also continue to gain popularity.


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by Emily

The results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities indicate that at least a few students at many private colleges and universities were unable to obtain enough private loan funding to pay their fall tuition.  The survey also indicates that the credit crunch may have steered a number of students away from private schools.

More than 500 NAICU member schools responded to the survey, which asked questions about the availability of Stafford loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the availability of private student loans, and unanticipated enrollment shifts.  Eighty-five percent of schools reported that they had lost at least one FFELP lender, but the vast majority had no difficulty replacing these lenders.  Additionally, most colleges lost at least one private lender, with 27 percent of those schools reporting that students had some difficulty finding a replacement lender.

More than half of colleges surveyed reported they had at least some students who were unable to secure private loan funds for the current semester, and 45 percent of schools reported students changing their enrollment status due to financial concerns.  Eighteen percent of colleges surveyed reported fewer returning students and 19 percent reported a smaller freshman class than anticipated.  While most colleges reported no significant changes in enrollment, it appears some private college students (who are typically the most likely group to qualify for student loans) are being forced to alter their educational plans due to the current economic situation.

Three quarters of private colleges surveyed also reported increased financial need among their student populations.  Coupled with the rise in FAFSA files across the board and preliminary reports of more demand for financial aid coming from state universities and community colleges, it appears competition is getting stiffer for need-based student financial aid.  This is just one more reason for students to ramp up their scholarship search and find money for college as soon as possible.


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by Emily

Putting in a couple years at a community college can be a great way to save money while still working towards your goal of receiving a bachelor's degree.  However, even though your first two years of school might be cheaper, transferring to a four-year college or university can quickly become expensive, especially if you're planning on attending a prestigious private college.  Outstanding students transferring from community colleges do have options for financial aid, though.  One of the most generous scholarship opportunities available is this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

Prize:

Up to 50 students will receive awards of up to $30,000 a year for their junior and senior years of college.  Award amounts will be calculated based on unmet financial need.

Eligibility:

Students must be currently attending college at a two-year community college and planning to transfer to a four-year college or university in the fall of 2009.  Students who have received an associate's degree since spring 2004 who are planning to go back to school full-time in 2009 are also eligible.  Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved sophomore status by December 31, 2008.  Students previously nominated for a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship are not eligible.  Students are nominated by a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation representative at their community college.  Contact information for these representatives can be found on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website.  Individual community colleges may have additional requirements for nominees.

Deadline:

Completed application packets must be submitted to the Jack Kent Cooke foundation by January 20, 2009, using the online submission system found on the scholarship website.  Schools must finish their nomination forms and submit them by 3 PM on January 26, 2009.

Required Materials:

Completed online scholarship application, including the student's financial information, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, parent financial information forms, and attached income tax forms for students and parents.  Materials must be submitted online as PDF attachments or mailed to the address provided by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.  Students must be nominated by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation representative at their community college, who must complete and submit a nomination form.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

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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by Emily

Enrollment in online courses continued to increase in 2007, according to a new study.  Nearly 4 million college students, over 20 percent of the total number of students attending college, took at least one online course in fall 2007, an increase of 12.9 percent over the previous year.  With all of the financial turmoil that 2008 has brought, the number of online students is likely to continue to increase, as online enrollment is seen as a cost-effective alternative to having to be on campus for class.

The majority of colleges and universities regard offering online courses or online degree programs as critical to their long-term goals.  Schools also reported a need to compete for online students.  Since physical proximity isn't a concern, students can take online classes through any school, meaning institutions need to do more to attract students to their distance-learning programs.

Some of this competition comes in the form of innovation.  After universities in Canada and Japan made online course material accessible via cell phones last year, Louisana's community colleges followed suit, unveiling a plan this week to centralize their distance learning programs on one website, allowing students to access and complete materials from any device with an internet connection.

As distance learning programs continue to become more popular among students and a greater priority among schools, budget-conscious students may want to look closely at taking some or all classes online.  Online courses allow greater flexibility for scheduling around employment or other obligations, save on commuting costs (and the money students spend gulping down cafeteria food, fast food, and expensive coffee while rushing between classes), and allow students to live where they want without worrying about having to get to school each day.  All of these things make it easier for you to pay your way through school as a distance learning student.  While online classes do require greater self-discipline and are offered in more limited quantities than in-person classes, they are still an option to consider when choosing a college.


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First Contact of the Roommate Kind

by Jacquelene Bennett

Starting college can be exciting and intimidating all at the same time for myriad reasons but one thing that doesn’t have to be stressful is getting to know your future roommate. Schools generally reveal room assignments a couple of weeks before the start of the term, giving you plenty of time to get acquainted and prevent any possible problems.

As a freshman, I lived in a room with three other girls. Yes, you read that right: There were four of us in one room. Luckily, we all got along really well and respected each other’s lifestyles and schedules but there was still an adjustment period – this will always happen when living with someone new.

One way to help ease the shock is to make contact before school starts. My roommates and I called each before freshman orientation and though it was a bit awkward, talking to a stranger it was helpful. We discussed each other’s cleaning habits, sleep schedules, class schedules and music preferences so when we finally moved in, we already knew what to expect.

Not only does calling, emailing or Facebooking your new roommate ease the awkwardness of living with an unfamiliar person and setting standards for your room but it gives you a chance to cut costs as well. You can plan ahead of time which person is going to bring the mini-fridge and who is going to bring the television so you don’t need to buy both. The same should go for all shared items: My freshman roommates and I would take turns buying water bottles for everyone.

Living with someone you never met before is going to be awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning but you can help the situation by simply picking up the phone and calling them. Who knows, they could end up being your best friend!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Consider Location, Location, Location When Selecting Your School

by Jacquelene Bennett

During my senior year in high school, I sent out applications not only to schools in my home state of California but to schools in Rhode Island, Washington and even England. I ultimately decided to stay in California because while going to a school in a different state or country sounded appealing and fun, it was just too unrealistic for me. Why? Location mattered.

Attending college in a different state can often times cost a fortune - not only are you paying out-of-state tuition rates (this doesn’t really apply to those going to private universities; they’re expensive regardless of where you live and attend) but you have to pay an arm and a leg to travel home for holidays and summer break. Also, there’s that issue of being away from your family: If you’re like me and have younger siblings, you want to be able to go to their basketball games and celebrate their birthdays. I knew that if I went too far from home, I would get too homesick and not enjoy my time at college.

Now I have nothing against those people who attend school in a different state – in fact, two of my closest friends at school are from Washington and Colorado – I’m just saying to think about what’s best for you. Can you afford the expenses? Can you stand to be away from your family? These are questions to ask yourself because you can still go away to school and be close to your family. I do...it’s just a matter of picking the right college. I go to a university that’s about 90 minutes from home; this is enough distance so that I feel like I have my own life here at school but am close enough that I can go home on the weekends if I want.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Three Books Every Student Should Read Before College

by Jacquelene Bennett

Soon-to-be college students, be warned: You’ll be doing a lot of reading and writing during your postsecondary education. From the moment you start to the moment you finish, you will read until your eyes bulge out and write until your fingers are numb. That being said, I can see how the thought of reading during your summer vacation may be unpleasant but you’ll soon realize the most successful and active college students share one thing in common: They are all well-read.

Now it is not necessary for you to read the entire Library of Congress before school starts but I’ve gone and listed three books that I think are important for all students to read before starting college.

These aren’t the only books you should read but they are definitely among the most important ones. Grab copies at your local library or bookstore and enjoy!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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California Makes Cuts, Students Feel the Pain

by Jacquelene Bennett

It was recently announced that many state-funded universities in California were eliminating or reducing summer sessions due to budget cutbacks. This news comes on the eve of California lawmakers finally passing a budget plan in the state senate that would help modify the California’s debt problems. While this plan may help with the state's deficit, it puts thousands of students in trouble.

Summer school has traditionally been a time for students to either gain headway with their degrees or to stay on track with their programs because of unforeseen circumstances during the regular academic year. But now due to the budget plan, some schools like West Los Angeles College are not offering summer courses at all while other schools such as Cal Poly Pomona are increasing summer tuition fees and offering fewer classes. It is also being reported that many state universities as well as several California community colleges will offer less for-credit courses while still maintaining and offering specialized training courses and not-for-credit classes for students during the summer.

So what does this mean for students? Not only will they have to pay more per unit for summer courses than if they were taking them during the traditional academic period but the available summer classes will be not-for-credit and the for-credit classes will be extremely difficult and expensive to register for. So with the already overcrowded state schools raising the tuition fees earlier this year, these new cuts will further delay a student's ability to graduate on time.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Admitted Students Groups on Facebook Foster Connections, Put Freshmen at Ease

by Jacquelene Bennett

Starting college, meeting new people and living on your own for the first time can be both an exciting and terrifying experience for freshmen. Universities are trying to help quell concerns and ease the transition through the use of social media – specifically, colleges create Facebook groups for newly-admitted students that allow incoming freshmen and transfer students to join and interact with one another.

Every year, my school starts a group for in the incoming fall class and allows RAs, freshmen orientation leaders and current college students to join as well so that fall freshmen can get to know each other and current students before the academic year starts. New students ask current students about what kind of classes they should take, get advice on professors and find out what they should and shouldn’t bring with them for their dorm rooms.

Unlike your average campus tour, these groups allow students to ask questions about anything and everything. Students can use these groups to find out who will be living in their dorm hall, what to expect during freshmen orientation week, find people who have similar interests (intramural sports, dance company, etc.), voice concerns about class registration and ask questions that they can’t get answered anywhere else.

So if you are a newly-admitted college freshman, I suggest you join one of these groups and take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Use this medium to meet people, ask questions and to try to get a feel for how student life is going to be at the school.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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