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Federal Direct Loans

April 10, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

With a growing number of lenders leaving the FFEL Program, the Direct Loan Program has been receiving additional attention from schools and from the media. Unlike the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, more commonly known as the Direct Loan Program, allows students to borrow money directly from the government.

Each program has its advantages, but schools have more frequently opted for the FFEL. About eighty percent of colleges and universities process their loans through the FFEL Program, one which involves working with lenders who are subsidized by the government. With the student loan market quickly souring, numerous schools are rethinking their decisions and scrambling to find a new plan, the Direct Loan one.

Students whose schools process loans through the Direct Loan Program are less likely to receive financial perks often provided by FFEL lenders, but then again, FFEL lenders staying with the program are cutting back on these anyway. The lack of administrative assistance offered to schools participating in the Direct Loan Program may make it less appealing to financial aid officials, but to those taking out PLUS loans, the program is promising. 

Although the government has capped Perkins and Stafford loans at 5 and 6.8 percent respectively, caps on PLUS loans are lower under the Direct Loan program than they are under the FFEL one. If they borrow from the government, graduate students and parents eligible for PLUS loans may pay no more than 7.9 percent in interest. If they borrow from FFEL lenders, they may pay as much as 8.5 percent.  The actual interest paid will depend on the chosen FFEL lender, but don't hold your breath for a good deal.

To eliminate or lessen the burden felt by students who borrow from the government or from outside lenders, families should consider applying for scholarships and grants. For information about scholarship and grant opportunities you may be eligible to receive, try conducting a free college scholarship search.

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The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART Grant)

April 11, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Among the many complaints voiced by students in need of federal aid are those concerning insufficient Pell Grant awards and a lack of consideration for students who are smart, but not exactly the braniac kind of smart. These are valid worries, and while they have not been tended to fully, the SMART Grant is a start.

Approved by the Senate in late December of 2005, the relatively new SMART Grant allows students who have demonstrated financial need to receive over and above their annual Pell Grant limit.  Eligible students may receive up to $4,000 in SMART Grant money just by filling out a FAFSA.

Because the SMART Grant has been largely overshadowed by the more common and better-known Pell Grant, many students are unfamiliar with the  award. The SMART Grant can more than double a student's grant money, but there are a number of stipulations that considerably narrow the eligibility pool.

To be eligible for the SMART Grant, students must have already demonstrated sufficient financial need and must have been eligible for the Pell Grant. But that in itself is not enough. Students must also be majoring in the physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering or in a foreign language determined critical to national security. To show that they are dedicated to graduating with a degree in one of the aforementioned fields, students must have already completed the first two years of their undergraduate program—while maintaining at minimum 3.0 GPA. Additionally, students must be enrolled full time and must be taking at least one course required for the completion of their major during the term the grant is received.

Assuming the student meets all of the above criteria, the SMART Grant can make a big difference in an individual's ability to cover college costs. A Pell Grant award may not exceed $3,410 for the 2007-2008 schools year, an amount unlikely to cover annual college tuition, let alone fees and living expenses. An extra $4,000 would certainly make a difference.

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Full Tuition Scholarships

April 15, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Applying for a number of small scholarships is a great way to accumulate financial aid for college, but some students prefer to go straight for the big fish. Rather than follow the, “a penny saved is a penny earned” mantra, they prefer to abide by the, "go for the gold" one. 

Whether you are the former or the latter, plenty of scholarship opportunities are available to you. But be advised, the bigger the award, the bigger the competition. Students who find information about a big-ticket scholarship frequently opt for that rather than spend time on one which, in comparison, looks like a conciliatory prize.

If you’re looking for top awards, check out the full ride scholarships listed below. For more information about college scholarships and grants you may be eligible to receive, try conducting a free college scholarship search.  If you are looking for full tuition scholarships granted  by your current or future college or university---most award a handful of them--- try visiting  their financial aid office websites. You may conduct a free college search to find these websites along with estimated costs of attendance.

The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship

The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship will be awarded to a freshman entering a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the United States. A full tuition waiver as well as a stipend covering room, board and books will be offered.

Microsoft College Career Scholarship 

A one-year, full tuition scholarship will be awarded to winners of the annual Microsoft College Career Scholarship. Financial aid will be offered to students who major in computer science, computer engineering, or a related technical discipline such as electrical engineering, math, or physics. Applicants must be undergraduate students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Posse Scholarship

The Posse Foundation awards full tuition merit scholarships to students who plan to attend one of its partner schools. Winning high school students are trained in multicultural teams called “Posses” to successfully complete programs at top-tier colleges and universities.

Hertz Fellowship

The Hertz Foundation awards students a full tuition renewable grant plus a stipend of up to $31,000. The award is merit-based and offered to students pursuing a Ph.D. in the applied physical and engineering sciences or modern biology with physical science applications.

The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities are collaborating on a scholarship program for students who attend one of the 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities. Full tuition, room and board, employment with the USDA during the summer and after graduation, fees and books will be covered.

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Federal Loan Scarcity a Problem Among Community Colleges

April 17, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Nervous about economic turmoil and the uncertainty associated with oversized college loans, students are increasingly turning to community colleges for a low-cost alternative to a postsecondary education. Though certainly lower in cost, some students still need assistance in affording local schools. According to a recent study conducted by the Project on Student Debt, federal loans are not always an option for these students.

Based on the report, 20 percent of community college students living in eight states do not have access to low-interest federal loans. In Georgia, the state which fared worst, about 60 percent of community colleges did not participate in the federal loan program. Throughout the nation, the problem was most severe in low-income areas where students were most likely to seek out federal student aid in the form of loans.

After interviewing administrators at nonparticipating schools, it was found that the most cited reason for not taking part in the program was a fear that high default rates would lead to sanctions on Pell Grant disbursements to students. According to federal regulations, colleges with student default rates that exceed 25 percent for three consecutive years lose the ability to disburse the Pell Grant, a form of need-based federal aid that does not need to be repaid.

Capped at $4,310 for the 2007-2008 school year, the Pell Grant frequently suffices in making community college an option for students, especially those who work while attending school. However, the size of the grant is based on a student’s Expect Family Contribution (EFC) as determined by information provided on one's FAFSA, and many complain that the form does not take into account special circumstances that could result in a student’s inability to contribute the full expected amount. Families who receive no federal assistance in the form of a Pell Grant and those who receive an insufficient amount may be forced to take out more expensive private loans to attend. If ineligible, they may have to work until college is an affordable option.

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Free Online Books---What's the Catch?

April 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

As far as we know, there isn’t one. Let’s begin by addressing your first question: if there is no catch, who's paying for this, and what's their work incentive? The answer is FlatWorld, and, if things go right for the new company, guidebooks, work materials and requests for in-print versions will be sufficient to cover labor costs and to generate profits.

Since 2007, FlatWorld has been crafting their innovative idea, and it plans to make services available to the public by 2009. The diversity of their textbook selections and the facility of their use will largely determine the success of their new venture, but students aware of FlatWorld will probably, at the very least, check out their site. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the average college student spends over $900 on textbooks—annually. Being able to pocket a good chunk of that money will significantly alleviate financial burdens caused by increasing college rates.

Electronic book versions are not exactly new, and companies less geared towards college students dealing with unregulated textbook costs have already offered similar services. Electronic books in general are growing in popularity, especially the fee-based ones. If you’ve done some Amazon shopping or people watched on the train in recent months, you’re probably familiar with the new Amazon electronic reading device. It’s catching on quickly, but, truth be told, there’s just something about physically holding a piece paper. As much as I love branches, I couldn’t help but print out class articles en masse during finals week, ones I could have easily browsed online. (In my defense, I did fit four pages on one sheet.) The ability to quickly scribble a note, double star a sentence or circle a key word just makes the learning process more interactive and complete.

Still, I’m willing to bet that dishing out $120 for a textbook that can’t be resold due to future edition changes can make a little inconvenience worthwhile. Most money management tactics can. And FlatWorld is doing its best to make up in ease what they lose in “that special something”. By making their texts editable to both students and the professors who assign them, they have made their options a bit more user friendly and appealing. Readers can even interact with each other during the reading process—I smell an attractive cliff note opportunity.  Dragging your desktop to the quad may be a bit of a pain, but being able to afford vacation time may give you an incentive.

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Elite University Scholarships

April 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many intelligent, talented and hard-working students, ones who have the know-how and determination necessary to succeed at top universities, feel that finances are holding them back from the education they dream about. With the annual costs of Harvard estimated at $34,000, Duke $35,000 and Columbia $37,000, it’s no wonder that students shy away from just the though of prestigious schools. When one considers tuition, a troublesome economy and the weary prospects of student lenders, high school dreams become just that.

However, students are often unaware that many of the best financial aid packages are available to those who plan to attend the most impressive (and expensive) schools. Cream of the crop universities know that many cannot afford their high costs. To avoid missing out on a diverse student body—one that can contribute to academics and cultural perspective—they offer very generous financial aid packages. Elite schools often cut tuition by the thousands, if only students knew that.

If you have high hopes about attending an elite college or university, don’t give up before you start. Instead, become educated about your financial aid options. Check out university websites, conduct a free scholarship search and take a look at the hefty financial aid options below.

Stanford Financial Aid

In the ongoing Ivy League battle for the most promising students, Stanford has once again increased the size of undergraduate financial aid packages. Students whose parents make less than $60,000 will soon be attending the school for free—no tuition, no room and board, no additional expenses. Those whose parents make between $60,000 and $100,000 will have their tuition paid for but will be expected to cover other expenses. Unfortunately for those whose parents make more than that, tuition will increase this year.

Harvard Financial Aid

Like Stanford, Harvard has already eliminated contribution requirements for students whose household income is lower than $60,000 per year. But that's not all; they have also upped financial aid for to the less needy. Students whose parents make between $60,000 and $120,000 will be expected to pay no more than 10 percent of estimated college costs and those making between $120,000 and $180,000 will be expected to pay 10 percent.

Duke Merit Scholarships

Students who apply to Duke are automatically considered for one of Duke University’s Merit Scholarships. A number of awards are granted, and they can be quite generous. Students who are selected for the Angier B. Duke Memorial Scholarship, for example, can win full tuition for four years, a spot at a Duke/Oxford College summer program in England, a $2,500 stipend for expenses and a President Research Fellowship of up to $5,000.

Northwestern University Scholarships

Northwestern University gives away more than $50 million annually to helps undergraduate students meet the financial costs of this private university. All awards are based on financial need and funding availability. About 50 percent of students receive university aid packages which range in size from $250 to $33,000 (with $15,000 being the average).

University of Chicago College Honor Scholarship

Twenty undergraduate students attending the University of Chicago will be awarded the College Honor Scholarship—an award that covers full tuition for all four years. To be considered for this award, students should check the scholarship box upon filling out their college application. The awards are merit-based so students who have an exceptional academic record will be the ones rewarded.

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A College Loan Glossary

April 29, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants is a student’s best bet when searching for college funding. Families who cannot pay for a student’s education without outside assistance should first turn to cost-free resources. When these prove insufficient, students can consider borrowing money for college.

With recent articles detailing the plights of indebted students and their troubled lenders, it’s no surprise that students are intimidated by the borrowing process. If one’s economic situation calls for assistance in the form of student loans, getting comfortable with the lending process is a good way to get rid of the loan jitters. So before you sign on the dotted lines, familiarize yourself with the following terms:

The Basics:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The Annual Percentage Rate is the total annual cost of a loan, including all fees and interest, expressed as a percentage.
  • Co-Borrower/ Co-Signer: A person, other than the borrower, who signs the loan promissory note. If the borrower does not pay, the co-borrower is responsible for payment of the debt.
  • Consolidation: The process of combining several federal or private loans from multiple lenders into a single loan. Consolidation is done to reduce the monthly payment amount, simplify the repayment process and/or increase the repayment period.
  • Default: A default is a failure to repay a loan in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. Defaults can also occur if students fail to submit requests for deferments or discharges (cancellations) in a timely manner. For Perkins Loans: Failure of a borrower to make a loan-installment payment when due or to meet other terms of a signed promissory note or written repayment agreement. For FFEL and Direct Loans: Failure to make a loan-installment payment on (a) a loan repayable in monthly installments for 180 days or (b) for FFEL, a loan payable in less frequent installments for 240 days.
  • Interest: Interest is an amount charged to the borrower for the privilege of using the lender's money. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal. The percentage rate may be either fixed or variable, depending on the terms of the loan.
  • Lender: A financial institution, agency or school that provides loan money
  • Principal: The amount borrowed (may increase because of interest capitalization). Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal.  

The Rest:

  • Accrued Interest: The accumulated interest on a loan. It may be compounded or simple and is usually paid when the principal becomes due. Depending on the loan, the interest accrued between the disbursement date and the time a payment must first be made may be the responsibility of the borrower or of the government.
  • Average Daily Balance (ADB): The sum of unpaid principal on all qualifying loans. The ADB is based on each day’s current interest rate and the number of days in the quarter.
  • Amortization: The process of gradually repaying a loan through periodic payments of principal and interest.
  • Cancellation/Discharge: A cancellation occurs when a borrower meets the requirements necessary to nullify his/her obligation to repay all or a part of the loan.
  • Capitalized Interest: The interest added to the principal amount of your loan. Future interest will be based upon the higher amount. Capitalizing is a consequence of delaying interest payments; it increases the amount of the principal and, consequently, the total amount that must be repaid.
  • Collateral: Property of a borrower that is pledged as security in case he/she does not repay the loan. It may become property of the lender if the borrower fails to repay the loan.
  • Commercial Bank: An institution whose primary function is to make loans to businesses.
  • Deferment: A period of postponement during which loan repayment is suspended. The borrower must meet deferment requirements as established by law to have his/her payments suspended. For subsidized loans, interest is not accumulated during the deferment. Interest does accrue during the deferment period on an unsubsidized loan.
  • Deferred Interest: Interest payments that are delayed while a borrower is not employed, as, for example, when the borrower is a student. This benefit is generally characteristic of federal and state guaranteed student loans.
  • Delinquency: You are delinquent if your payment is not received by the due date. Delinquencies greater than 30 days are reported to national credit bureaus.
  • Disbursement: The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. Disbursements are usually made in equal multiple installments co-payable to the borrower and the school.
  • Entrance Counseling: Each institution participating in the Federal Perkins, FFEL, and Federal Direct Loan Programs (excluding PLUS and Direct PLUS Loans) must offer loan entrance counseling to first-time student borrowers. The institution must offer this counseling before the delivery of the first disbursement of any loan to a borrower at the institution. Entrance counseling covers the borrower's rights and responsibilities, the terms and conditions of the loan and the consequences of default.
  • Exit Counseling: Each institution participating in the Federal Perkins, FFEL, and Federal Direct Loan Programs (excluding PLUS and Direct PLUS loans) must offer loan counseling called "exit " counseling to student borrowers. For Federal Perkins borrowers, the interview must take place before the borrower leaves school. In the case of FFEL and Federal Direct Loan student borrowers, the interview must take place shortly before the borrower ceases at least half-time enrollment. During the interview, the borrower's rights and responsibilities are reviewed, details about handling loan repayment are discussed, and the average indebtedness of the school's borrowers must be disclosed. Borrowers are also required to provide updated personal information such as address, telephone number, employer (if known), and driver's license and state of issuance.
  • Fixed Interest: Interest rate that remains the same for the life of the loan.
  • Forbearance: When an FFEL lender (or the U.S. Department of Education for Direct Loans) allows a temporary cessation of payments or reduction of payment amounts for subsidized or unsubsidized Federal Stafford, Federal PLUS, Federal Perkins, or Federal Direct Loans. In doing so, it allows an extended period for making payments or accepts smaller payments than were previously scheduled. Forbearance may be given for circumstances that are not covered by deferment. Interest expenses continue to accrue during forbearance.
  • Grace Period: The period that begins the day after a loan recipient ceases to be enrolled at least half time and ends the day before the loan repayment period starts. Some loans have a grace period so that repayment doesn't begin until several months after graduation. Grace periods are specified in the promissory note.
  • Interest Subsidy: Interest the federal government pays on certain loans while borrowers are in school, during authorized deferment, or during grace periods.
  • Interest-Only Payment: A payment that covers only accrued interest owed on a loan and none of the principal balance. Interest-only payments do not prohibit borrowers from making additional or larger payments at any time if the borrower desires.
  • Loan Disclosure Statement: A statement sent to a loan borrower by the lender before or at the time it disburses a loan, as well as before the start of the repayment period. The purpose of the disclosure is to provide the borrower with thorough and accurate information about the loan terms and the consequences of default. It includes information such as: • amount of the loan, • interest rate, • fee charges,• length of the grace period (if any),• the maximum length of the repayment, the minimum annual repayment, deferment conditions, and the • definition of default.
  • Master Promissory Note (MPN): An agreement a student signs when taking out a Stafford Loan. The Master Promissory Note covers both the Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford loans the student may receive for the same enrollment period. If the student is attending a 4-year or graduate school, the Master Promissory Note also covers Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford loans the student may receive for future enrollment periods.
  • Origination Fee: The origination fee is an upfront charge deducted from the loan to pay part of the loan's administrative costs.
  • Prime Rate: The prime interest rate is the rate charged by commercial financial institutions for short-term loans to corporations or individuals whose credit standing is so high that little risk to the lender is involved in making the loan. This rate fluctuates and serves as a basis for the interest rates charged for other loans.
  • Private Loans: Private loans provide funding when other financial aid does not cover costs. These loans are offered by banks or other financial institutions and schools to parents and students.
  • Promissory Note: A binding legal document that a borrower signs to get a loan. By signing this note, a borrower promises to repay the loan, with interest, in specified installments. The promissory note will also include any information about the grace period, deferment, or cancellation provisions, and a borrower's rights and responsibilities with respect to that loan.
  • Repayment Schedule (A Specific Timetable): The borrower's repayment plan detailing the amount of loan principal and interest due in each repayment installment and the number of payments that will be required to pay off the loan in full. A repayment schedule traditionally lists the loan's interest rate, the due date of the first loan payment, and the frequency of loan payments.
  • Simple Interest: Interest computed only on the original amount of a loan.
  • Subsidized Loan: A subsidized loan is awarded based on financial need. You will not be charged any interest before you begin repayment or during authorized periods of deferment. The federal government "subsidizes" the interest during these periods.
  • Variable Interest: Interest rates that fluctuate periodically (usually annually). The interests rates of federal Stafford and PLUS Loans disbursed between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006 are variable. Those disbursed after this date are fixed.
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Free For All: New Medical School to Pay for Incoming Class

May 1, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

When doors to the new University of Central Florida College of Medicine open in 2009, they will open with a bang. In the hope of attracting the best and the brightest, medical practitioners and college representatives from the University of Central Florida have raised enough money to reimburse the first class for all four years of medical school. They will cover not only the tuition but also the fees and living expenses. With the Association of American Medical Colleges estimating the average debt of medical school graduates to be at about $139,000, the deal is sweet enough to cause a toothache.

“I think setting the bar high for the quality of the first class will set the stage for the caliber of every class that follows,” said Tavistock Group director and donor Rasesh Thakkar. Fundraisers have been in place since 2007 to make that happen. After tapping all possible resources, the school is expecting to admit a class of about 120 students which, based on a four-year plan, will receive a grant worth approximately $160,000.

Students interested in attending the school may begin applying in June of 2008. If accepted, they will automatically receive the award---no lengthy essay competitions, no laborious commitments, just money. “UCF stands for opportunity,” states the university website. When studies and internships leave little time for outside work, a full tuition scholarship is the epitome of such opportunity.

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Congress Approves Aid to Student Lenders

May 2, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

After passing the Senate and the House in varying formats, a compromise was reached on legislation that would help lenders stay afloat in a troublesome student loan market. The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 was sent to the President yesterday, and rapid approval is expected.

If signed into law, the bill would give the Secretary of Education the right to buy loans from struggling lenders, thus providing them the capital needed to offer new student loans. Worried that lenders may continue to depart from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program—as fifty have already done—legislators have been scurrying to provide financial assistance before the school year begins. Though the law would only serve as a backup plan, the hope is that knowledge of a federal cushion would make both lenders and students more willing to engage in business.

To decrease student dependence on private lenders, ones generally offering loans options that are more expensive and less flexible than those offered by FFEL lenders, the maximum sum a student could borrow from the government was also increased. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the caps on unsubsidized loans available to students of any income level would increase by $2,000 for each school year. Dependent students would now be able to borrow up to $31,000 for their undergraduate education.

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Scholarships.com Business Scholarship

May 5, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

As a means of promoting diversity and developing talent, Scholarships.com has created a new set of scholarships for high school and undergraduate students. The “Fund Your Future” area of study scholarship consists of thirteen $1,000 awards to be granted to students who pursue a postsecondary education in one of thirteen designated fields and 185 related majors. Included is the Scholarships.com Business Scholarship, an award for students who plan to or are already majoring in business and related studies.

Scholarships.com understands that writing a 2,000 word paper on trickle-down economics can be a turnoff to students who lack both money and time. That’s why we’ve simplified things, and cut the requirements down to a 250 to 350 word scholarship essay. Students interested in applying for the award will have to submit an online response to the following question: "What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in business?"

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a registered Scholarships.com user. Creating an account is simple and free of charge. 2. Applicant must be a US citizen 3. Applicant must be undergraduate student or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university in the coming fall 4. Applicant must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors:

Business, Accounting, Actuarial Science, Business Administration, Advertising, Economics, Finance, International Business, Management, Marketing/Distribution, Hotel/Restaurant Management, Human Resources, International Affairs, Real Estate/Development, Sports Administration, Manufacturing, Engineering Management, Retail

Deadline:

May 31, 2008

Required Material:

A 250 to 350 word response to the following question: “What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in business?"

Further details about the application process and about contacting the scholarship provider can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship list.

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