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From Hogwarts to Harvard

How Would “Potter” Characters Fare in College Admissions?

November 19, 2010

From Hogwarts to Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

After you rub the sleep out of your eyes left over from the midnight “Deathly Hallows” showing, consider this: How well does Hogwarts prepare its students for college? Well, we Muggles would have some definite competition if our applications went head-to-head with Harry Potter's, Hermione Granger's and Ron Weasley's before They Which Shall Not Be Named (aka admissions committees).

First, there’s Harry. From losing many people he loved – parents, godfather, mentor and friends – to having the Dark Lord trying to kill him at every turn, his application essay would tug at the heartstrings but also reveal a young man able to succeed against all odds. He’s as skilled with a quill as he is with a wand and admissions committees would be impressed with his ability to work with others toward a common goal. He’d gain admission because he’d be an asset to any department (I’m thinking his major would be chemistry or political science), study group and, obviously, the Quidditch team.

Next, Hermione obviously has the brains and could dominate the SATs or ACTs just like she owned the O.W.L.s…but what about extracurriculars? In her case, wizarding and witchery definitely count as community service and her compassion for oppressed individuals (mudbloods, ogres, elves, etc.) hints at possible careers in social work, nursing or medicine. Maybe the actress portraying her can put in a good word with the dean at Brown, though Ms. Granger would surely gain admission on her own merit. She wouldn’t have it any other way!

Lastly, we have Ron. As one of seven Weasley kids, Ron knows a thing or two about standing out in a crowd…even if he does so while wearing his older brothers’ hand-me-downs. His athletic skills may garner a scholarship or two but admissions committees will be most impressed with his essay, which would detail his problem solving skills and loyalty demeanor. His innate investigative skills are top notch and could easily translate into aced journalism and criminal justice classes. And don’t worry, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley: Not only will Ron get in but he’s also going to get an excellent financial aid package!

Though Harry, Hermione and Ron won’t be applying for a spot at your dream school, other students possessing equally impressive skills and backgrounds will so it’s important to make your college application memorable. We’ve got plenty of tips on the college application process throughout our site as well as strategies for winning valuable scholarships. Hurry, though: Application deadlines are approaching faster than the Hogwarts Express!


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Sam Walton Community Scholarship Deadline Approaching!

This Scholarship of the Week is Due Next Monday

January 24, 2011

Sam Walton Community Scholarship Deadline Approaching!

by Alexis Mattera

Three grand can come in pretty handy for a lot of things but it’s especially vital for someone trying to figure out how to pay for college. If you’re a high school or home school senior, check out our Scholarship of the Week – the Sam Walton Community Scholarship – to ease three thousand financial worries.

To be eligible to apply for the Sam Walton Community Scholarship, an applicant must:
  • Be a graduating high school senior home school senior
  • Have at least a 2.5 cumulative high school GPA, and have taken either the ACT or SAT standardized tests
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States
  • Not be a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. employee or dependent of an employee
  • Demonstrate financial need by required documents
  • Plan to enroll in a two- or four-year U.S. college or university full-time undergraduate course of study (at least 12 college credit hours) in the fall semester. (The institution must be accredited and listed on the official website of the U.S. Department of Education with the exception of military academies; all school transfers are subject to accreditation approval.)

For more information on this college scholarship and countless others, try our free scholarship search today!


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Give the Best Buy Scholarship Your Best Try!

This Scholarship of the Week is Due Wednesday

February 14, 2011

Give the Best Buy Scholarship Your Best Try!

by Alexis Mattera

Wouldn’t it be great if one of your favorite stores put money into your wallet instead of taking it out? I’d say so and so would Best Buy: Through February 16th, in fact, the electronics giant is accepting applications for its @15 Scholarships.

Best Buy @15 Scholarships are available to current high school students in grades 9 through 12 who plan to enroll in a full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university or vocational-technical school in the Unites States. A total of 1,000 students will each receive $1,000 scholarships. So if you’re a high school student who plans to attend college, has solid grades and is involved in community service or work experience, you'll want to check out this award.

For more information about this opportunity, click here or try our free scholarship search to find other scholarships to help you pay for school.


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Obama (Sorta Kinda) Keeps His Promise

Changes in Higher Ed Funding Afoot

February 15, 2011

Obama (Sorta Kinda) Keeps His Promise

by Alexis Mattera

While "Honest Barack" doesn't have quite the same ring as our 16th President’s nickname, we have to give him credit for keeping his promise to privilege spending on education and research...for the most part: Some potentially painful cuts could slice through the higher education pie relatively soon.

First, the good news. The 2012 budget blueprint reveals the maximum Pell Grant (currently set at $5,550 per year) would not be slashed by $845 as originally expected and funding will continue for financial aid programs including AmeriCorps, the Perkins Loan and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Programs and academic research agencies. The Education Department's overall budget would grow by 4.3 percent in 2012 under the President's budget but despite this positive information, it won’t be all unicorns and butterflies for college students. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration had to make some "tough choices" to maintain the current level of funding and compensate for future spending. For example, the department's 2012 budget calls for ending a three-year experiment allowing students to qualify for two Pell Grants in a calendar year and use this funding to attend college year-round, as well as eliminating the subsidy in which the government pays interest on graduate student loans while the students are in school; the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program, the Byrd Honors Scholarships and the TEACH Grant program would also be eliminated.

Obama said, "Education is an investment that we need to win the future...and to make sure that we can afford these investments, we’re going to have to get serious about cutting back on those things that would be nice to have but we can do without," but student advocates, like Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, were quick to show their displeasure. "It is regrettable that the administration is proposing to maintain Pell by making cuts to other student aid programs that provide much needed funds to students," he said.

The information above merely scratches the surface (check out Inside Higher Ed’s article for all details) but it’s enough to get the conversation started. What do you think of the proposed budget? Will the changes impact your ability to pay for school? Would you propose a different course of action?


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Scholarship Scam Spotting 101

February 16, 2011

Scholarship Scam Spotting 101

by Alexis Mattera

Applying for scholarships requires hard work, creativity and time...not boatloads of cash, frustration and empty promises. Each year, however, students are duped into ponying up exorbitant application fees for scholarships they aren’t even guaranteed to win. This is just plain WRONG, people – scholarships are supposed to be free money for college! – and while we’re betting you’ve already checked out our pages on scholarship scam prevention, the Washington Post recently published some refresher info:

  • Filling out the FAFSA is 100-percent free and you can do it either online or on paper. If you would like to fill it out online, be sure your search terms are correct: A seemingly small typo like "FASFA" can direct you to sites that ask you to pay to file...and the forms they have are sometimes the wrong ones.
  • It's legal for for-profit companies to charge for providing scholarship information but it's illegal for them to collect fees but never provide the information, misrepresent themselves as government officials or guarantee they'll get the student full funding for college.
  • Voice any concerns about an organization to a high school or college counselor; they've been there and done that and can point you to the truth.
  • If you are alerted that you're a finalist for a contest you've never entered or if credit card/banking information is requested online, go no further unless you are positive the organization is legit.
  • Don't give in to anything branded as a "limited time offer" or "exclusive opportunity." They're just high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Investigate the success stories presented at seminars. These so-called "satisfied customers" could have been paid to give glowing recommendations so ask for a list of at least three local families who used the service and contact them directly to make sure the organization delivered on its promises.
  • If you do find a legitimate organization that requires payment, get in writing how much the service costs, what exactly the company will do and the refund policy.

College is expensive enough so save those application fees for books and other college expenses: All Scholarships.com’s services – from the scholarship search and college matchmaker to financial aid information and college preparation tips – are available completely free of charge. You’re welcome!


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Why Students Drop Out of College

New MSU Study Cites Key Risk Factors

February 17, 2011

Why Students Drop Out of College

by Alexis Mattera

It may seem counterintuitive to work hard throughout high school, score well on your standardized tests, get accepted to your first-choice college and wrangle enough financial aid to pay for your education only to drop out before graduation but it does happen. What causes this academic 180? That’s what researchers at Michigan State University revealed in a new study.

The team, led by MSU assistant professor of psychology Tim Pleskac, used a mathematical model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 "critical events" and students were asked whether any of the events happened to them in the previous semester; later, the students surveyed were asked whether or not they planned to drop out. Among the top risk factors reported were depression, loss of financial aid, tuition increases, unexpected poor marks and roommate issues. Other "critical events" like family deaths, failure to get into a specific program of study, significant bodily injury and addiction, however, were less likely to impact a student’s decision to leave school. "Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac said. "We are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues."

Would any of the factors listed above effect your choice to drop out of college? If they did, do you think you would eventually return to obtain your degree?


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College Costs (Literally) an Arm and a Leg

Parent Offers to Become Live Cadaver to Pay Off Children's Student Loans

February 28, 2011

College Costs (Literally) an Arm and a Leg

by Alexis Mattera

There's been a lot of talk about Harvard lately – its reinstatement of early action, a graduate winning the Best Actress Oscar, another Winklevoss lawsuit against Facebook, etc. – but this next story doesn’t fall within the boundaries of its ivy-covered campus...and not that far away, either. An arm’s length, shall we say?

Desperate to pay off their children's $20,000 worth of student loans, a Boston-area parent recently posted on Craigslist that he or she was willing to sell their body parts to combat the mounting debt. The posting did not include a name, gender or exact location but listed the "live cadaver" was 5 feet 10 inches tall, 200 pounds and had all organs in working order. "If you eliminate my children's student loans, I will give you my life!" the poster wrote. "Take my blood, take my plasma. Drill into my brain, my leg, my arm. Tap my heart, my liver, my kidney," the poster wrote, adding, "I am very very serious."

There are a lot of options out there to limit exorbitant loans (scholarships, grants and fellowships, to name a few) and consolidation can simplify the loan repayment process by allowing the borrower to combine several types of federal student loans and repayment schedules into one...but selling off one’s body parts piece by piece? We’re all for finding interesting ways to pay for school but this is just plain crazy. Would you ever consider taking this route to keep loan collectors at bay?


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University of Lies

College Website Found to Be Fake

March 1, 2011

University of Lies

by Alexis Mattera

Application fees, the non-refundable sums required to get your grades, test scores, essays and extracurriculars considered by a higher education institution, are often the first college-related expenses many hopeful students incur. The costs can add up, especially for students applying to multiple schools, but it’s a necessary sacrifice to start their collegiate careers off on the right foot. That's unless the check is made out to the University of Redwood.

A quick glance at the college’s website doesn't raise cause for concern – the photos are pretty, the mission statement is clear and the faculty directory is thorough – but a little digging revealed the information is copied nearly verbatim from the official site of Oregon’s Reed College. Reed's Kevin Myers said he had found serious mention of the University of Redwood on Asian higher-education blogs, a calculated move given the increase of Chinese attending college in the U.S. in recent years. He suspects the site is part of a scheme to collect application fees from prospective students in Hong Kong and Asia; after receiving said payments, chief technology officer Martin Ringle said "a shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know."

The good news is that Reed is fighting back. Go Daddy, the company hosting the University of Redwood site, shut it down but quickly re-enabled it once the "allegedly infringing material" (faculty member bios (which a Reed professor discovered) and school history, for example) was edited out. Ringle and Myers, however, said the infringement continues unabated, and Reed will continue its legal effort to squash the site for good.

We’ve written a fair amount about how to spot and protect against scholarship scams but this is the first we – or the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, for that matter – have ever heard of the copying of an entire school. Will this news change the way you research the schools you’re interested in?


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Your Scholarship of the Week Challenge? Earn $15,000 for College!

HISTORY® and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Announce National Civil War Student Challenge

March 28, 2011

Your Scholarship of the Week Challenge? Earn $15,000 for College!

by Alexis Mattera

Want to put a serious dent in your tuition? You’ll need three things: a working knowledge of the Civil War, a Scholarships.com account and the link directing you to the National Civil War Student Challenge.

The National Civil War Student Challenge is an academic competition presented by HISTORY® and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that gives students a chance to showcase their knowledge of one of the most pivotal events in American history and qualify to win up to $15,000 in college scholarships. Although all U.S. high school students who are in grades 9 through 12 and are between the ages of 13 and 19 are eligible to participate, content is geared toward the 11th grade curriculum. The top-30 scoring students will be invited to take a 90-minute, proctored in-school Final Exam to determine the top 10 scholarship winners.

Registration is now open on the official website so sign up and start studying. And remember, there are plenty more scholarship opportunities in the Scholarships.com database...check out our free college scholarship search today!


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Alaska Governor Stresses Need for State-Funded Scholarship Dollars

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, our goal is to make finding money for college as easy as possible. Paying the full cost of tuition out of pocket isn’t in the cards for most college-bound students and high-interest loans aren’t the most desirable options for others, meaning some students’ quests for postsecondary degrees must be funded solely by scholarships, grants and fellowships. Can it be done? Of course it can. You just need the right people on your side.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell recently requested the funding of the incoming Alaska Performance Scholarship program, a nurse training proposal and a handful of other educational priorities from state lawmakers. While Parnell feels students have worked hard to earn state-funded performance-based scholarship dollars and would be "out to dry" without it, senators worry the program could leave rural students behind if aid is distributed unevenly across the state...not to mention create a potential legal problem given the state constitution’s promise of fair education services. Students seeking need-based grants do have the existing AlaskAdvantage program to turn to but it is significantly underfunded. It could, however, gain support through Senate Bill 43, which calls for AlaskAdvantage to receive $7 million of the proposed $21 million in state college scholarship funding on an annual basis.

Will it happen? Our Magic 8-Ball says "cannot predict now" but we hope it goes through for the sake of the many students in need. How are you currently paying for or planning to pay for school? What programs have you found most helpful in securing the funding you need?


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