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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

Nov 4, 2011

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Early Decision and Early Action Deadlines Extended

Nov 2, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

So you took the standardized tests, filled out the application, wrote the essay and secured the appropriate transcripts and letters of recommendation well in advance in order to apply to your first-choice school early. Nice work – it’s just too bad Mother Nature had other plans.

The late October storm that hit the Northeast knocked out electricity, Internet access and, for some students, hopes of getting their early decision and early action applications submitted on time. Thankfully, many institutions have extended these deadlines beyond the traditional November 1st cutoff and NACAC has posted those schools, administrative contacts and new early application dates on its website. Though most are in the Northeast, schools located as far west as California, Oregon and Arizona and as far south as Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky have joined the cause to ensure all interested students have time to apply.

NACAC does note that the list may not be comprehensive and is inviting colleges and universities to update their application dates if they have changed. Conversely, students should contact the schools they are interested in applying to for any admissions updates. Good luck, everyone!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Tuition at Cooper Union?

Nov 1, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a prospective college student considering a career in engineering, architecture or art, Cooper Union is probably on your radar. Not only is the school among the most selective in the nation but the tuition – zero – has been the best deal in higher ed for more than a century...or it was.

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha recently announced that the weak economy has prompted the school to reevaluate its scholarship policy and possibly begin charging tuition for the first time since 1902. Bharucha stressed that lower-income students and many middle-income ones would continue to attend for free and that none of the 900 current undergraduates would be charged but the mere mention of tuition for degree-seeking students marks a serious cultural shift for the institution: Though a final decision has yet to be made, alumni are furious – “It’s a contradiction to everything we’ve learned about Cooper. It’s the last opportunity for free education on that level in the entire country,” said graphic designer, New York magazine co-founder and Cooper Union graduate Milton Glaser – and students are planning to walk out of classes in protest tomorrow.

Bharucha did say that implementing tuition would be a last resort but what do you think of his announcement and its corresponding reaction? What avenues should be explored to preserve free tuition and are there any ways students and alumni can support or contribute to the cause? Lastly, does a potential tuition bill have you reconsidering applying to Cooper Union?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Students Continue Trend of Applying to More Colleges

Oct 27, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior, the daunting task of filling out college applications is just around the corner. And if you’re thinking about applying to multiple institutions – we’re talking six or seven schools – then you’re not alone: According to a recent study, more prospective college students are applying to a large number schools than ever before.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) study found that a quarter of freshmen who enrolled in college in the fall of 2010 applied to seven or more schools, while 77 percent applied to at least three. There are a number of factors that contribute to this trend, including the ease of applying to several schools with the Common Application and the Universal Application, but does this approach complicate the admissions process? The study notes that the uptick in applications challenges counselors to investigate students beyond their submitted materials. "The more activities a student has leading up to the application and beyond, the more we can understand if they're a real applicant," says Deb Stieffel, vice president for enrollment at Susquehanna University. "You can't just tell by the application anymore; you have to look deeper." (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think it’s problematic for students to apply to multiple schools just for the sake of applying?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

Oct 24, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Thinking about applying to one of the University of California’s 10 campuses as a freshman for the 2012-2013 school year? If so, read the admissions requirements carefully, lest a change intended to ease your college-related stress levels send them sky high instead.

As standardized tests go, all UC campuses call for freshman applicants to submit scores from the SAT and ACT but have eliminated supplemental SAT subject exams from the list of admissions requirements. Though many students are breathing sighs of relief that they do not have to prepare for, take and afford another exam, others are still signing up for the subject tests in droves because they think it will boost their chances for admission. UC officials say students who do not take the tests will not be penalized but those who do and score well will be viewed in the same positive light as someone, say, with a leadership role in a school club would be. This explanation – plus the fact that specific programs like engineering and science do recommend subject tests – has left students and counselors understandably confused.

You can read more reactions from both sides here but as the November 30th application deadline draws closer, we have to wonder where our readers stand. If your dream school did not require you to take supplemental exams, would you follow the rules or still take the exams and hope doing so would give you a leg up on your competition and why?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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The Fight Against Federal Student Aid Fraud

Oct 21, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Firefighters. Police. Ghostbusters. Your mom. There are certain people you instinctively contact when you need assistance and the same holds true for the federal government. When the Department of Education noticed there was something strange in the neighborhood regarding federal student aid, they knew just who to call.

Less than a month after releasing a report detailing how organized fraud rings were exploiting distance education programs, the ED contacted colleges across the country urging them to develop additional ways of identifying threats to federal funding. Schools were encouraged to combat potential fraud rings by monitoring groups of students using the same IP or email addresses to apply and participate in online programs, paying closer attention to students living outside the schools' normal coverage areas and delaying the disbursement of federal funds or releasing said funds in multiple disbursements. In addition to the steps colleges are taking internally, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the department will be working with Congress and schools "to ensure we have all the tools we need to prevent criminal elements from defrauding federal student aid dollars."

Do you think colleges are doing enough to prevent federal student aid fraud?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Fairness in College Admissions

Oct 20, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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The Impact of Merit Aid

Oct 19, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Wherever you are in the financial aid process, you’ve probably heard the term merit aidfinancial aid based on students' academic and other merit rather than financial need – and its increasing popularity over the last decade or so. What you may not know, however, is the impact this trend has had on students seeking need-based aid.

According to a new report by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, state and institutional financial aid for low-income students has dropped significantly as merit aid has increased. From 1995-96 to 2007-8, the proportion of merit aid recipients in the highest quartile of family income rose from 23 percent to 28 percent, while the proportion of merit aid beneficiaries from the lowest economic quartile fell to 20 percent from 23 percent. (See more statistics here.) The report also suggests that many institutions have embraced merit aid because they believe this type of award will entice middle- or high-income applicants to attend their school over others (and pay more money to the school as a whole during the time they are enrolled) instead of offering financial assistance to low-income students who truly need the funds to attend college.

What’s your stance on merit aid? Does it help more than it harms in higher education or vice versa?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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How Social Media Savvy is Your School?

Oct 11, 2011

by Angela Andaloro

As 21st century college students, we understand the importance of social media. How else can we get up-to-the-minute updates on what’s going on in our friends’ and family’s lives? Social media has gone far beyond individuals, however, and these days, there’s a Facebook page for almost everything. Colleges are getting in on the action, too, because they’ve realized the importance of connecting with their students through social media. Here are three schools that are doing particularly awesome jobs.

Notre Dame: Earlier this year, USA Today praised Notre Dame for its belief that social media is “important to professional development.” With the emergence of social networks such as LinkedIn and the use of social media in hiring processes, they’re definitely on to something! Some highlights of their social media use include separate Twitter accounts for the school’s many sports teams, more than 32,000 fans on Facebook and a great alumni network through both.

Boston College: The #1 college in social media according to Klout, Boston College has 35,000+ fans on Facebook. BC employs social media to announce events, timely reminders, information on important alumni and more. Twitter is its real strength, though, with more than 15,000 followers and separate accounts for pretty much everything you can think of! An impressive fact: BC’s average tweet has a reach of 6,000 people (40% of their followers) at any given time!

University of Texas: The University of Texas is definitely a leader in higher education social media. The school has an extensive network of blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts for its various their colleges and schools, administrative offices, libraries and museums. A directory of all these accounts can be found on the school website, making it extremely easy for students to interact with exactly whom they wish.

Social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s necessary for colleges and universities everywhere to embrace what their audiences loves and learn to connect through these avenues. How do you think your school stacks up in terms of social media? Get in the spirit - leave comments and discuss!

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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Early Decision vs. Early Action - Which is Right for You?

Oct 6, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve wanted to attend University X for as long as you can remember. You made sure your academic and extracurricular accomplishments exceeded its admissions criteria, took multiple campus tours and even made its .edu your homepage but the time has finally come to submit your application packet. Doing so early seems like a no-brainer...but is it really?

Applying to college ahead of traditional deadlines has become quite popular in recent years; with that increased interest, however, comes some confusion. Should you apply early decision or early action? Can you apply early to multiple schools? Can you apply early to one college and regular decision to another? Here’s some much-needed clarification from Examiner.com.

Early Decision: Generally, ED programs are binding and require applicants to relinquish all rights to consider offers from other colleges. If you are surer than sure of your college choice and would go to this school beyond a shadow of a doubt if you were accepted, this is a great route to take. If you’re concerned you will not get in, you should consider another application method that allows you more options.

Early Action: EA, on the other hand, is non-binding in that it allows applicants to choose from other colleges they’ve been admitted to instead of being locked into one. While most early action programs say it’s ok to apply early action and regular decision to other institutions, some can be restrictive (check out Yale’s policy compared to Harvard’s) so be sure to check the requirements before sending in your materials.

College students, did you apply early? If so, what did you think of the process? High school seniors, do you plan to apply early – either ED or EA – and did these explanations help you?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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If the College Fits...

How to Find the Right School for You

Oct 4, 2011

by Katie Askew

Finding the right college for you may seem daunting but it’s actually easier than ever before. (Thanks, Internet!) For those new to the process, here are a few tips to get you started on your quest to find your perfect school:

The easiest way to find colleges is to let them find you. A major part of a college admissions counselors’ jobs is to recruit prospective students so keep a close eye on your snail mailbox, your email inbox, your phone and even sites like Scholarships.com because you’ll most likely be contacted by a college via one of those paths. (Side note: Create a more professional email address for college communications – the admissions office WILL laugh at your 2hawt2trot@whatever.com address so keep it simple and classy with some variation of your.name@whatever.com.)

Don’t turn away any one type of school just because you think it’s not for you. Generic college brochures and pamphlets you receive in the mail are just that: generic. It’s impossible to get the big picture from a few glossy pages; it takes some personal research to find the parts of the school that pertain to you.

Just because a school was perfect for your parents, best friend or significant other doesn’t mean it’ll be the right fit for you. College Board and Scholarships.com both have great college search tools that allow you to narrow your search based on location, majors, cost, activities and housing. Just pick from your personal list and you’ll get links to colleges’ admissions pages.

Virtual tours are helpful but try to physically visit the schools you’re most interested in. I can’t stress enough that the campus visit can be the most important factor in a student’s decision. Visiting various kinds of schools can help to narrow your search as well; tech schools, public institutions, private institutions, rural colleges, Big 10 universities, Ivy League universities, community colleges, small schools and even beachfront colleges all have something unique to offer and you may not know what that is until you step foot on campus!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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