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More College Students Enrolling in Summer Sessions

May 26, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the weather grows warmer and spring semester grades are announced, many college students have little on their minds beyond relaxing poolside until the fall semester. Some students, however, won’t be getting much of a break, taking classes right through the season in what admissions officials say may be record numbers.

An article in Inside Higher Ed today reports that at schools across the country, summer enrollments are up, following suit after a year of increased enrollments and admissions competition across the board. Why the bump? Inside Higher Ed suggests a number of possibilities.

The economy may be one reason, as it has not only been more difficult to find a job these days, it has been harder for students to line up internships and other summer opportunities. Some students may also be more aware of the cost of college, and choose to complete their degrees as quickly as possible, often on satellite campuses closer to home. (Some students may be worried that they’re getting on the five-year or “super senior” plan rather than the traditional four-year undergraduate experience, due to major switches or other factors.) With less competition for summer classes than during the fall and spring semesters, signing up for courses in the summer months may also make strategic sense, as students worry about getting all of the credits and requirements completed in a timely manner. Admissions officials have also reported more nontraditional students enrolling in their schools overall, and that population is more likely than the traditional group to enroll in school year-round.

At the University of California-Berkeley, the school’s officials made a concerted effort to attract more students to their summer offerings. As a result, about 1,000 more have registered for summer classes this year compared to 2009. The school also offers more online courses this summer, making it easier for students to justify sacrificing some of their summer off for academics.

Summer enrollments at community colleges are even higher. An increase of more than 6,000 students over the previous year have enrolled in summer classes in the Houston Community College District, according to Inside Higher Ed. Administrators there say many of the students are new, coming from four-year institutions to grab up some credits at their local community college while they work to have some money by living at home or working part-time jobs in their hometowns.

How about you? Are you taking summer classes? If so, what’s your reasoning? If you are signed up, make sure you know of the financial aid opportunities available to summer students, as most schools still offer aid in the summer months, even if you’re only enrolled part-time. And, as always, consider scholarships for summer.

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Family Fights Decision Blocking 13-Year-Old from College

June 4, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

You probably know all about dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses, two strategies used by high school students to get into college-level work sooner and set themselves up for graduating from college early (or even on time). But how early is too early to get started on that college education? Lake-Sumter Community College says 13.

Thirteen-year-old Anastasia Megan and her parents have filed an age-discrimination complaint against the community college with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to fight the school’s decision to reject Anastasia’s application for dual enrollment. According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, Anastasia, a home-schooled student, has already breezed through her high school curriculum, and her parents say they no longer have the means to challenge her academically.

Officials at Lake-Sumter Community College say it would be inappropriate for Anastasia (or anyone of her age, as the college is unable to talk about the case specially) to enroll at the school because it could pose a safety risk. The college attracts a large number of adult students, and unlike a high school where there may be some limits as to who enters the school, Lake-Sumter is open to anyone who wishes to come onto the campus. In the article, the school’s president Charles Mojock says: “And we have many adult students having adult conversations on adult topics and that may or may not be suitable for some young students.” The growth in young applicants, some as young as 8 years old, even led the school to add a minimum-age requirement of 15, according to the article.

Anastasia’s parents, meanwhile, say their daughter is “well-suited” for college, and has experience among adults from a number of international trips she has taken with her parents and siblings. She has completed online college courses successfully, and had above-average scores on the college-placement tests required as part of the admissions process by Lake-Sumter. If the Department of Education rules on the side of the college, Anastasia’s parents said they may need to supplement their daughter’s education in other ways, perhaps by more world travel. Lake-Sumter is the only college in the area that Anastasia could attend that would not mean a move away from home for the family.

What do you think? Should Anastasia be allowed onto a college campus at 13? Should her parents look instead into high schools for gifted students that may allow her to socialize with kids her age? How young is too young for the college experience?

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Craigslist Posting Suggests Students Selling Seats in Courses

June 8, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A recent Craigslist posting has officials at Columbia Basin College trying to determine whether students looking to take advantage of scarce seats in popular college courses have been selling their spots to those desperate enough to pay money for the enrollment advantage.

The posting in question came from one such desperate student. According to an article yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, it came from a student looking to pay for a seat in Biology 160, a popular and required class for students in most of the school’s health profession programs. It is still unclear whether the posting was from a real student, or a student looking to stir up discussion on the school’s recent course cuts that have made the enrollment process more competitive, according to Inside Higher Ed.

A spokesman for the college said it was possible for students to sell their spots by telling student “buyers” exactly when they would drop the class in demand, according to the article. This would give a student a window to enroll in the class that other students may not know about. Most popular courses at the college that are over capacity fill any dropped spots within minutes anyway, the spokesman said, as students check in on those full classes on a regular basis just in case spots open up. An assistant professor interviewed for the article said she doubted the ad was real because of the hierarchical system of course enrollment at Columbia Basin. Students who really need to get into courses will do so as they get farther along in their programs, and get first dibs on many of their required courses before undergraduates with fewer credit hours to their names.

According to some of the comments on the Inside Higher Ed article, this isn’t a new phenomenon, and the Internet has made it easier for students to exchange money for course seats. Elsewhere, colleges have formalized the system of bidding. At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, MBA students participate in an online auction system when the demand for popular business electives exceeds supply. New students are given a set amount of points with which to bid, and receive more as they move through the program. Class spots then go to the highest bidder. In essence, the longer you’re at Wharton, the more seniority you have. That kind of system is common on college campuses anyway, although those with more credits may still arrange to drop courses they enroll in to have friends register immediately after in their place.

What do you think? Does this happen at your school? Or is this “problem” overblown? Let us know!

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Colleges Add Leadership Studies to Course Offerings

June 17, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Courses and programming in leadership and leadership studies are the latest trend on college campuses looking to boost students’ resumes in a tough economy and competitive job market, and students at many of the schools have been signing up in droves.

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed described coursework at a number of colleges that focuses on both theories of leadership taught in the classroom, and practical experiences through internships and off-campus opportunities. While you can’t yet major in leadership, many schools are offering certificate programs in the field as a way for students to boast that specialized skill on their resumes and transcripts.

At the University of Iowa, students this fall will be able to enroll in a seven-course, 21-credit certificate in leadership studies, according to the article, that will supplement courses already offered by the school’s College of Business. According to administrators there, it was the students who wanted more than the college was already offering in terms of teaching them how to be leaders in not only business settings, but in all fields of study. Students who complete three classes in the sequence are then urged to take three credits in an internship setting, on-campus leadership position, or service-learning course. According to the article, administrators hope the work students have done up to that point learning the theories of leadership will translate to these experiences outside of the classroom.

What do you think? Should colleges be offering certificate programs in leadership, or instilling the values of leadership instead in existing coursework and internship opportunities? There is some criticism of the trend in Inside Higher Ed. Ed Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, says leadership isn’t the main thing employers look for when determining whether to hire a recent graduate. A student’s experiences rather than a certificate mentioned at the bottom of a resume may be more telling of leadership skills anyway, he said.

So how do you boost your leadership potential? Get involved in volunteer activities, or ask for more responsibility at your part-time job. Consider joining a club or campus group that could give you some experience organizing projects and working as part of a unit. While leadership is a good trait to have, so is the ability to work in a team and meet expectations. Expose yourself to a number of different experiences both on and off-campus to make yourself the best candidate for a job after college.

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Study Shows College Students May Need Guidance in Web Use

July 28, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

You already know all about the technology gap, and probably have little faith in your instructors’ web know-how when compared to your own. A recent study, however, shows that you young people may not be as savvy as you think when it comes to online research.

Researchers from Northwestern University looked at 102 University of Illinois at Chicago students to determine how they went about their research when given a number of information-seeking tasks. The study, published by the International Journal of Communication, described the pitfalls of the trust students place in Google and the search engine’s rankings. The main criteria students looked at when choosing which sites to find their information on were where those sites were ranked in Google and other popular search engines like Yahoo!. They also placed little weight on more reputable sites ending in dot-gov or dot-edu, for example, when compared to dot-com pages.

According to the press release for the study, one student responded that they chose a particular site because it was the first to come up in Google. The student was unable to describe much else about that site. Other sites the students said they relied on to complete tasks included SparkNotes, Facebook, and Wikipedia. If you follow the blog, you may remember our tip to use Wikipedia as a starting point only when beginning research; the user-edited Encyclopedia should never be used as a reference, and anything you do find there should be fact-checked elsewhere.

The study suggests that students need more instruction on credible online sources and how to use the web and similar technologies appropriately. IT staff members would probably agree. In an article in eCampus News describing a recent survey of IT officials, faculty, and college students, students and instructors viewed their campuses’ use of technology in the classroom in a much more positive light than the IT staff members. According to that survey, IT staff says more needs to be done in terms of education technology on college campuses and the access to technology in the classroom by students and instructors.

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California Community Colleges Add Classes in Midst of Budget Cuts

July 30, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

California has had it particularly bad during the economic crisis. The public school system there has tried to address millions of dollars in cuts using wait lists and more selective admissions processes in the state’s community colleges to avoid adding to the budget shortfalls. One California community college district, however, is taking a different approach. Several two-year schools in San Diego will be adding about 1,150 classes this fall, rather than following the example of other community colleges and their own district in the recent past, where cuts to course catalogs have become the norm.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed this week, the San Diego Community College District will be paying for the additional classes using rainy day funds and what’s left of their operating budget. While the school won’t be able to sustain that kind of funding indefinitely, administrators there are hopeful that the state will provide some funding over the next two years to support the extra offerings.

The state’s community college budget was cut by 8 percent overall over the last year; college classes at the schools were cut by more than 6 percent, according to Inside Higher Ed. This led to a more competitive community college system, which had up to that point catered students looking to return to school after a long absence or to build up their transcripts and save some money before transferring to a four-year college. This past year, about 10,000 students were turned away from the San Diego Community College District. Administrators there decided they were being less helpful to students than harmful, as some were forced to postpone their coursework because they were unable to get into required courses. The additional classes will be in the most high-demand subjects, according to the article.

Elsewhere, another college is taking a creative cost-cutting measure to recoup losses from their own budget crisis. Texas A&M University will be getting rid of toilet paper in residence hall bathrooms, a move administrators say will save the college $82,000. The college will still supply toilet paper in larger bathrooms in public areas and administrative offices, according to another recent Inside Higher Ed article. While this may seem like a minor inconvenience—and some students have already said they plan to lift toilet paper from wherever it’ll be on campus—budget cuts at the Texas school have also forced administrators to cut 500 faculty and staff positions, among a number of other amenities.

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Medical School Considers More Than a Background in Science

August 5, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Few programs are as competitive as medical school programs. You need stellar grades, a host of science-based courses on your undergraduate transcript, and impressive scores on the MCAT to be a contender. Or do you?

One New York school is taking a different approach, in part to graduate more sensitive and people-friendly doctors. The Humanities and Medicine Program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine requires that its students major in the humanities in college, not chemistry or biology, and doesn’t require those enrolled to prove their worth on the MCAT, the standardized test score typically used to rank applicants to medical school.

A recent article in The New York Times took a look at the program and a possible shift nationwide to programming that gives equal weight to not only the science behind medicine, but the social skills needed to be more effective in communicating with patients. The Mount Sinai School of Medicine program saves 35 slots per year to undergraduates with degrees in fields like political science. Applicants are asked to provide two personal essays, high school standardized test scores, and transcripts of grades from both high school and college. Once they’re in the program, the students attend a summer “boot camp,” according to the article, where they receive some instruction on science courses they may have missed in college. According to a recent study published by the Association of Medical Colleges, those students did as well if not better in the program than their peers who got into medicine the traditional way. The humanities students were also more interested in disciplines where they had more interaction with patients, such as psychiatry, pediatrics, and obstetrics.

Despite the success of the Mount Sinai program, if you’re interested in medical school, most of the programs out there will ask for MCAT scores and transcripts that boast a good GPA in a science-related major. According to the Times article, it may be tough to get the most elite medical schools to start admitting humanities students because so much of their rank depends on how students at those schools did on their MCATs. Wherever you go to enter into a health-related field and whatever you decide, make sure you know about the medical scholarships out there. Medical school is one of the more costly endeavors you could choose to pursue, so you’ll need all the help you can get to cover the costs of that professional degree.

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Website Allows Students to Wager on Grades

August 12, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

What motivates you to study for your exams? Is it the potential for a good grade or high GPA? Is it the guilt of paying thousands of dollars for that college education? What if you could score some cash—and not in the form of scholarships and grants, as we hope you’re doing already—for doing well in your courses?

A site that has been making the rounds in the media lately offers just that. Ultrinsic.com is based on the premise that students should be rewarded for doing well academically and for meeting their own high expectations. The site allows students at 36 colleges so far to place bets on how well they think they’ll do in their college classes. If they make the grade, they win money based on a calculated “handicap”; if they don’t, they lose whatever they wagered. The starting limit on what students will earn is $25, and the better the students do, the more they win. (The higher the risk, the higher the payoff, as in most gambling situations.)

College officials are understandably concerned. In an article posted on eCampus News this week, the CEO of the site Steven Wolf says it isn’t about gambling but about providing students with an incentive to do well. Furthermore, it doesn’t fit the criteria for online gambling, he says, because students have control over what they win and how they do in their courses.

There are studies out there that show that students do better on tests if they’re promised payment in return for a good score. An Inside Higher Ed article yesterday points to several. One Stanford University professor found that paying elementary- and middle-school aged students to do well on standardized tests had as positive an effect as other proven strategies. Ultrinsic hasn’t seen widespread support for its methods among academics, though, despite Wolf’s insistence that they’re out there. A Harvard University professor says in the Inside Higher Ed article that the idea would be “better left in the hands of colleges” rather than a business. A business’ purpose is, after all, to make money.

What do you think about betting on your grades? Would you try harder in your classes, knowing that there was some money to win or lose on the line? Let us know if you have experience using this site or others like it.

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Should You Skip Class? A New Online Tool Weighs the Risk

August 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

You’ve already read about the website that allows college students to wager on their grades. A new online tool allows students to calculate not whether they should risk some cash on their academic performance, but whether sleeping in and skipping class is worth their while.

The “Should I Skip Class Today?” calculator asks users 10 questions that glean information about how many times that user has that class in question, when the next major test/quiz will be held, and whether that class has an attendance policy, among other criteria. Once they hit submit, users are told whether they’d be safe or sorry if they stayed in bed and skipped class. For example, I was told it was OK to skip class but that I wasn’t completely safe when I gave the calculator a whirl. I used a hypothetical class that met twice a week, included regular handouts in class, and had an attendance policy where my instructor did not take attendance, but where participation mattered in my final grade. The results also told me that I had already skipped 7 percent of my classes this semester (I had informed the web tool that this would be my third absence), and when my next test or quiz was (I offered that information up as well).

The calculator is the brainchild of Jim Filbert, who thought of the idea “one cold morning” in February of this year. Filbert, a telecommunications management student at the time, didn’t want to go to class that day, and found himself wondering what the risks were to stay in his warm bed. Following a quick search online, he was unable to find a similar tool, so he took it upon himself to create an online risk calculator himself. He did end up skipping class that day, according to his bio on the site, but he spent his free time working on the calculator, instead.

While you should probably go to class as often as you can, barring an unfortunate illness, flat tire, or other incident that would stop you from doing so, it’d be interesting to see how “accurate” this calculator is in a real situation. How you’d measure its accuracy, though, I’m not exactly sure. Have you tried out this new online tool? How do you go about determining how risky it is to skip class? What’s an appropriate excuse? If you’re feeling swamped, check out our College Classes and Study Smart sections before deciding whether you’re really too overwhelmed to go to class; we have tips on everything from preparing for exams to choosing which courses you should sign up for.

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Why So Serious? Course Promotes Laughter as More Than Best Medicine

August 24, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

There hasn’t been much to laugh about at many schools across the country, what with budget cuts and creative cost-saving measures affecting course offerings and faculty positions. At one North Carolina community college, however, a new course is teaching students how to chuckle, giggle and guffaw, no matter how they feel about the state of affairs outside of the classroom.

While the class is targeted at retirees—the noncredit eight-week “Laughter in the Sandhills” is put on by Sandhills Community College’s Center for Creative Retirement—it’s a good example of the kinds of offerings you may not know existed as you focus your attentions instead on the general education requirements in your course catalog. This class is taught by a “certified laughter coach,” according to an article about it in The Fayetteville Observer, and focuses on the positive health benefits behind a good laugh and the right and wrong way to let out a chortle. The class isn’t about perfecting your stand-up comedy routine, but about learning to induce laughter; students spend about 15 minutes of the start of each class greeting each other with silly handshakes, for example, or high-fiving to the sounds of “Alo-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”

If you’re more interested in virtual LOLs rather than learning appropriate laughter techniques, and have the time (and funding) to explore unique courses at your college, do so. You may not use your new underwater basket weaving skills (courses in the craft are offered at the University of California-San Diego), but you may meet some interested characters along the way. Or you may find a hidden talent for analyzing pop culture (the University of California-Berkeley has a class on the philosophy behind the Simpsons). Or, that quirky course may even add to your skill set. Courses on social networking, especially Twitter, for example, may be more useful than you think. (DePaul University has a course in how Twitter has changed the way reporters do their jobs.)

It’s important to choose college courses wisely so that you’re able to graduate in a timely fashion and meet the requirements of both your school and chosen field of study. But it’s also important that you keep going to your classes, and a fun course here and there may help keep you motivated. We’ve all taken that intro to bowling/ice skating/curling course, and some colleges may be more lenient about how you fulfill certain general education requirements. Just remember to talk to your counselor or adviser about how much leeway you have when it comes to coming up with your schedule of courses.

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