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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!


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Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

by Alexis Mattera

Cost plays a huge role in many students’ college choices. Depending on their financial situation, some students dismiss the schools with high tuition in favor of lower-cost in-state schools because they think it will save them money. In actuality, they could be doing themselves an economic disservice in the long run.

Using data from U.S. News and World Report’s most recent student debt survey of 25 top-ranking public and private schools, Reuters revealed that, on average, 53 percent of students surveyed received financial aid and at least half of students at most of the institutions graduated debt-free...but it depends on what school they attended: Princeton graduates, for example, owed only $5,000 at commencement while University of Michigan graduates owed more than $27,000 despite Michigan’s in-state costs being less than half of Princeton’s. How is this possible? Numerous schools including Princeton, Caltech, Davidson College and the University of Washington have eliminated student loans from their financial aid packages and others like Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley have capped contributions for students from low- and middle-income families. (Check out the entire article here, including this handy infographic.)

While it is difficult for many students to attend college without taking out some kind of loan – especially those attending state-run institutions which don’t have the fiscal means to eliminate debt – it is possible to avoid debt if you choose the right school. Thoughts?


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Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

Ten Schools Commit to More Financial Aid Disclosure

June 6, 2012

Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

by Alexis Mattera

With student loan debt now totaling more than $1 trillion, current and would-be college students need access to financial aid information more than ever before. The good news is that universities across the country are doing their best to make the facts as clear and available as possible in the near future.

Ten schools – Arizona State, Miami Dade College, North Carolina A&T State University, Syracuse, UNC Chapel Hill, Vassar and the state university systems in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Texas – have committed to providing key funding information to all incoming students as part of their financial aid packages starting in the 2013-14 school year. The details will include the cost of one year of college, financial aid options such as grants and scholarships, estimated monthly payments after graduation on federal student loans and comparative data about graduation and loan repayment rates. According to the White House, this disclosure will play a vital role in making college more affordable for all students: "Too often, students and families face confusion when comparing financial aid packages, some of which do not clearly differentiate loans from grants, nor distinguish private vs. federal loans, making it difficult to compare aid offers side-by-side. Clarity and accessibility of information is necessary so that students and families can make informed decisions about where to attend college, so they can choose a school that is best suited to their financial and educational goals."

What do you think of this plan? Do you think it will help students better understand financial aid or is the effort too little and too late?


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UConn Announces Faculty Hiring Spree, Goals for the Future

by Alexis Mattera

While many colleges and universities – specifically public ones – are cutting back on faculty, the University of Connecticut is putting its shears in storage: President Susan Herbst has announced plans to add 275 new faculty members to the university’s flagship campus in Storrs over the next four years.

According to Gwendolyn Bradley, senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors, UConn’s hiring strategy runs counter to the approach many schools are taking, as they are still reeling from the recession and looking to limit costs wherever possible but to Herbst, expanding the faculty is vital to the university’s future success. "The goal is to improve the quality of education by reducing class sizes and enabling professors to spend more time with our students. We also want to increase the number of courses offered so that our students never have to wait to take a course. We want our students graduating on time," she said. Research is also important to UConn but the focus will be on hiring faculty who both teach and conduct research, depending on the field of study.

The hiring of 65 faculty members – with particular emphasis in the fields of genomics, education, health insurance and finance – will begin this fall, followed by another 90 by the fall of 2013; as a result, the student-to-faculty ratio is expected to decline from the current 18-to-1 to 15-to-1 in four years. You can read the rest of the details here – thoughts from any current or future Huskies?


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Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

With Hard Work and Help from Her Community, NC Teen is Ivy League-Bound

June 8, 2012

Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

Any current or soon-to-be college student will tell you that gaining acceptance to the school of their choice is not an easy task. What if, however, you had to manage that stress along with AP classes, extracurricular activities, work and the general perils of being a teenager without a roof over your head and the support of your parents? If you’re Dawn Loggins, you study hard, rely on the kindness of others and get accepted to Harvard.

In this great CNN piece, Loggins discusses how her less-than-fairytale upbringing (living in a home with no running water or electricity, having drug-addicted parents who abandoned her and dealing with ridicule from other students in her youth) made her the person she is today: a straight-A student who will attend Harvard University on a full scholarship. She credits her teachers and guidance counselors for sticking by her and providing her everything she needed – from candlelight to study by and clean clothing to a job and a place to call home – to succeed. And succeed she did: Loggins was accepted to all five schools to which she applied (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College and, the ultimate dream school, Harvard) and is hoping to start a nonprofit organization to help other teens who've had obstacles in their educations.

Read the rest of this inspirational story here and join us in wishing Dawn the best of luck at Harvard and in all of her future endeavors!


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Like Scholarships.com? Tell a Friend to Win This Scholarship!

Share Your Referral Link by June 30th to Earn $1,000 for You and $500 for a Friend in this Scholarship of the Week

May 21, 2012

Like Scholarships.com? Tell a Friend to Win This Scholarship!

by Alexis Mattera

They say the best things in life are free...and though we don’t know who exactly "they" are, we couldn’t agree more: As a Scholarships.com member, you have access to a customized scholarship search, detailed financial aid information, an organized college search, standardized test study guides and more all at no cost to you. Think your friends might like these gratis goodies as well? Spread the word about Scholarships.com through our Tell A Friend Scholarship and you'll have a chance to win money for college – $1,000 for you and $500 for one of your buddies!

To enter, simply copy your personalized TAF referral link (you can get it here) and blog it, tweet it, email it, IM it or Facebook it. For every one of your friends who creates a profile on our site by clicking your link, you will be entered to win a $1,000 award; there’s no limit as to how many people you can send your link to and if you win, one of your friends who created a Scholarships.com profile using your link will be chosen at random to win $500. That’s WAY better than a friendship bracelet!

Remember, the more friends you refer, the more entries you’ll get until the June 30th deadline. For more information, visit our Tell A Friend Scholarship page and for additional scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today. Good luck!


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Recent Grads, Pack Your Bags!

Towns Lure Young Professionals with Debt Repayment, Tax Waivers

June 14, 2012

Recent Grads, Pack Your Bags!

by Alexis Mattera

Armed with degrees in their fields of choice, newly-minted college grads have the world at their fingertips...and, often, student loan payments lurking right around the corner. The job market isn’t what it used to be so what’s a recent grad to do to keep collectors at bay? A change of address may be in order.

Communities across the country are attempting to attract young professionals by offering incentives like paying down college loans and income tax waivers if they become full-time residents of specific cities or counties. Niagara Falls is putting an initial $200,000 behind the idea to, according to director of community development Seth Piccirillo, bring back the talent and brain power the city has lost over the last 50 years. (Here, graduates who have earned a two- or four-year degree or a graduate degree in the past two years can apply for up to $3,500 a year for two years towards repayment of their student loans.) Farther west in Kansas, 50 counties have established Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs) authorized to offer the following financial incentives to new full-time residents: income tax waivers for up to five years and/or student loan repayments up to $15,000. To date, program manager Chris Harris has received 338 applications – 75 percent of which have qualified for one or both incentives.

Read more about the current incentive plans here - would you relocate to one of these areas in exchange for the incentives listed?


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Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

Ed Sec Says Comparing More Schools Will Lead to More Informed College Choices

July 3, 2012

Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

by Alexis Mattera

In the epic battle between quality versus quantity, it's the former that usually prevails but Arne Duncan has a slightly different proposal for soon-to-be college students: increase the quantity of schools you consider in order to find the best quality fit.

Though the annual Higher Education Research Institute survey reported that students are already employing that approach (just 12 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen applied to only one college in 2011), Education Secretary Duncan believes that too many students are making their college choices based on distance from home rather than price, majors and other factors vital to college completion and future success. He feels that if students apply to more schools and compare financial aid packages, they'll find the school and program that's right for them. But not everyone is buying into his "shop around" proposal. Lloyd Thacker, director of the admissions reform group Education Conservancy, said, "The problem with the admissions process is it's become too much like a transaction or consumer process, and less like an investment in education ... I'm not saying what he's doing is necessarily wrong but you need to be very thoughtful that good intentions are tied to sound research.”

Check out the full Inside Higher Ed article here and let us know what you think. Are you ready to go shopping with Duncan or will you be taking a different approach when applying to college?


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Determine Your Dream Job in Three Steps

by Alexis Mattera

Whether your career aspirations include a large salary, a flexible schedule or an ethical employer, it’s up to you to turn those dreams into realities. Sure, high marks in your major classes, several internships and glowing recommendations from members of your field are excellent additions to your portfolio but that’s not all you can do to secure the job you desire most. Here are a few suggestions from U.S. News & World Report:

What are some other paths job seekers should take to find their ideal careers?


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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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