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If Schools Text It, Students Will Come

by Alexis Mattera

You hear the familiar alert from within your pocket and reach for your cell phone. Is the text message you just received from your best friend, parent or...intended college?

For the past two years, St. Mary’s University found the students who signed up to receive text message alerts and individual replies from the Texas school were more likely to apply and attend than students who opted out. According to the initiative’s creator, Mongoose Research, 1,923 students signed up out of the 40,000 who showed interest in the university and 30.8 percent of those who did ended up applying, compared with 10.9 percent of all prospective students. Though many of the students who elected to accept the texts were already interested in St. Mary’s and excellent fits for the institution, Mongoose’s president David Marshall said one of the main reasons for the program’s success is that students don’t feel bothered or harassed.

Texting prospective students isn’t an admissions staple just yet but it’s poised to be in the near future: Jim Miller, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said, “What I’m hearing from the younger folks is that email is so yesterday and texting is where it’s at.” Would you opt to receive texts from the colleges you’re interested in or prefer they contact you via email, Facebook or snail mail?


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Application Essays Take Center Stage at Middlebury

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again so we have to ask: College students, do you remember what your application essay was about? For a document that takes hours – and, likely, gallons of blood, sweat and tears – to create, very few students give it a second thought after sending their application packets to their colleges of choice. This isn’t the case if that college is Middlebury, however, where students revisit those essays not long after they arrive on campus...and in front of an audience, reports The Choice.

Created in the early ‘90s by residential dean and Middlebury alumn Matt Longman, “Voices of the Class” is a program featuring upperclassmen acting out freshmen admissions essays during new student orientation. Typically 10 to 20 essays are incorporated into the performance, as well as short student-life vignettes written and directed by upperclassmen. Given the subject matter – which Longman said ranges from “how to do your laundry to how to be on guard from date rape” – authors remain anonymous and students can opt out of having their essays performed. The live-action essays have become so popular that Middlebury has started soliciting responses to additional prompts, such as “Tell us something about yourself that people would never guess just by looking at you.”

Would you participate in this kind of program if it were offered at your college? To the past and present Middlebury students in the audience, did “Voices of the Class” feature your application essay?


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The Kindle Fire: Will It Have a Place in College?

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in 2007, the Amazon Kindle has changed the way people buy and enjoy books. Amazon’s wealth of e-book offerings and new rental program have proved to be valuable weapons for college students in the war against rising textbook costs but will Amazon’s newest addition to the Kindle family – the Kindle Fire – find its own place in higher education?

The 7-inch Android-powered Kindle Fire tablet was revealed last week and though it won’t begin shipping to customers until mid-November, the buzz surrounding it is already significant. With a $199 price tag, could the Kindle Fire be a cost-effective alternative to the collegiate bank account-busting iPad? Maybe, but will it truly gain a toehold in college classrooms? Robert Talbert isn’t so sure it will. In his recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Talbert states the device is great for electronic textbooks and fun applications but little else for college students. “Could you write a research paper on it? Or a LA TE X document? Or a computer program? How about creating and then giving a slideshow presentation? Or running a computer algebra system to do your math homework? Or shooting a video? When it comes to consuming things, the Fire seems like a great device. For creating things? Not so much. And college work is about creating things, not consuming them,” he says.

What do you think of the Kindle Fire? Would you buy one for college or would you rather wait for a tablet with more useful college features AND a lower cost?


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College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

by Alexis Mattera

During your college search, what drew you to certain schools and what made you cross others off your list? The financial aid package could have been just right or the tuition could have been too high to manage without taking out multiple student loans. Maybe there was a big focus on your major or maybe the dorms were haunted. Those are all valid reasons but some experts think it may have been because the school marketed itself too much, too little or in a way you just couldn’t relate to.

When compared to the methods employed in the corporate world, marketing and branding in higher ed has been lacking. The tides are beginning to turn, however, as people like David R. Perry come to campus. Perry, a former marketing officer with Microsoft, Quaker Oats and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, recently began working as the chief marketing officer at Bentley University and much of his job will be figuring out exactly what Bentley offers and should be offering, to whom the school should be offering it, and how to get this message to potential students, families, faculty members and the surrounding community. "You have to be crisp and clear about what you are and what you're not," Perry said. "With all the choices students and families have today, with the education market as competitive as it is, as an institution you have to define strengths and weaknesses and focus on where you put your resources."

Bentley isn't the only college reevaluating its branding efforts (check out what college marketing officials at Temple, Michigan and the University of New Haven have to say in this Inside Higher Ed article) but we’re curious: Would a college’s marketing and branding initiatives make or break your college decision or would you be more focused on other factors?


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Flipped Classrooms Gain Momentum, Critics

by Alexis Mattera

Picture two Advanced Placement classes. One features a teacher giving a lengthy lecture while students take notes and the other has the instructor fielding questions and interacting with students based on the previous night’s digital assignment. Which one is producing higher AP test scores and information comprehension? According to some, it’s the latter – a method being referred to as flipped classrooms.

A growing number of teachers are recording their lectures, uploading them to iTunes and assigning homework based on their digital lessons. Instead of covering an entirely new topic during class time, students review the material at home, bounce queries off of friends and arrive in class the next day ready to work out any remaining problems they’re having with the teacher. The approach may seem strange but teachers who have tried it – including Stacey Roshan, a calculus teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland – say flipped classrooms offer greater control over material and more face time with students.

The flipped classroom method is gaining more support – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken note – but also has amassed its fair share of critics: Lisa Nielsen, author of the new book "Teaching Generation Text," worries that low-income students may fall behind because they don't have reliable Internet or computer access at home and says the approach "could lead us down the path of doing more of something that doesn't work because it gives us more time to do it."

Has anyone experienced the flipped classroom method first-hand? If so, what did you think of it? If not, would you be willing to give this learning method a try?


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Good Samaritan Pays Student’s Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

It’s Friday the 13th and instead of posting some bad, unlucky or just plain weird news, we thought we’d share a story that’s downright feel-good.

Like many college students today, John Jay College criminology major Angy Rivera was having a difficult time making her tuition payments. While she was eligible for in-state tuition rates as an undocumented student, Rivera could not qualify for state and federal aid so she began selling what she called handmade education bracelets on Chipin.com to bridge the financial gap. When her tale was recently featured in the New York Daily News, retired MTA conductor Luis Hernandez took note – and action: He donated $2,500 to cover the remainder of Rivera’s tuition, even though she was a complete stranger. “I’m retired and I’ve got a little money to spend,” said Hernandez. “I like helping out kids...especially if it’s somebody trying to get an education.” Naturally, Rivera shed tears of joy and told Hernandez, “This just made my next six months – you don’t know how big this is!” She also said she will use the money generated from her bracelets sales to pay for books and fees.

Times may be tough but if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t too proud to ask for help, good things can happen.


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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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Have Smartphone, Will Graduate

Start-Up Employs App, Texts to Help Students Complete College

June 18, 2012

Have Smartphone, Will Graduate

by Alexis Mattera

Many students find it easier to remain committed to something when working closely with someone else. Does the same hold true when that something is college completion? Jill Frankfort thinks so.

Frankfort is the co-founder of Persistence Plus, a new service that draws on behavioral research to deliver personalized messages to students through a mobile phone app or text messages. The company has been in existence for just about one year and has secured agreements with a small number of institutions to test the technology. Thus far, they’ve found students have been engaging with the app and text offerings – “Reminders don’t actually change behavior that much but when you can help someone actually plan out their time and create a mental map of when they’re going to do a behavior, they’re more likely to do it,” explained Frankfort – as well as strategies aimed to guide and inspire students as they encounter the challenges of college life.

Do you think a program like Persistence Plus would help you finish college or would it take more than an app and some text messages to keep you on track toward graduation?


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Senioritis-Stricken Students Could Lose College Admission

by Alexis Mattera

There are many reasons why a college will rescind a student’s admission but the number one is by far senioritis. If you think you can abandon your work ethic during your final semester of high school, you’re very wrong...and you may have to reconsider your college plans as a result.

Approximately 100 students who have been admitted to Texas Christian University but failed to keep their grades at the level that helped them gain acceptance will soon receive what’s informally called the “fear of God” letter from the Fort Worth-based school. The letter – which asks floundering students to submit a written statement detailing their less-than-stellar senior year academic performances – is meant as a wake-up call, said TCU dean of admission Raymond Brown. “You need to be aware that people are watching and that this is important. We care because your study skills are going to be atrophying,” he explained. Otterbein University has a similar approach: “We do not automatically rescind the admission decision because of a poor senior year,” said VP for enrollment management Jefferson R. Blackburn-Smith, “but we do want the student to know that we are concerned and will be watching their performance.”

What do you think of the stance taken by TCU, Otterbein and other schools regarding their admissions policies?


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Short & Tweet Returns with a New Prompt!

Send Your 140-Character Responses for a Chance at a Scholarship or Kindle

July 23, 2012

Short & Tweet Returns with a New Prompt!

by Alexis Mattera

We all have our favorite (and not-so-favorite) classes but one thing is for sure: Some courses are infinitely more useful than others – both in academia and in the real world. What classes should be required for students to earn their high school or college diplomas? Let us know and you could earn $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Scholarship!

To enter, there are a few steps all applicants must follow. From July 23rd through August 31st, simply log on to Twitter (or create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in your tweet that answers the question “If you could change the basic curriculum, what high school or college class would you make mandatory and why?” You’re welcome to get as creative as you’d like – just be sure to follow the rules and reply to the prompt in its entirety to ensure your eligibility!

  • Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.
  • Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “If you could change the basic curriculum, what high school or college class would you make mandatory and why?” Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.
  • Step 3: You may apply as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to three per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom, do not answer the entire question or are submitted after the August 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which entries are most deserving of the awards; the best tweet will receive a $1,000 scholarship and second- and third-place winners will receive one Kindle each.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here. Good luck!


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