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The Kindle Fire: Will It Have a Place in College?

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in 2007, the Amazon Kindle has changed the way people buy and enjoy books. Amazon’s wealth of e-book offerings and new rental program have proved to be valuable weapons for college students in the war against rising textbook costs but will Amazon’s newest addition to the Kindle family – the Kindle Fire – find its own place in higher education?

The 7-inch Android-powered Kindle Fire tablet was revealed last week and though it won’t begin shipping to customers until mid-November, the buzz surrounding it is already significant. With a $199 price tag, could the Kindle Fire be a cost-effective alternative to the collegiate bank account-busting iPad? Maybe, but will it truly gain a toehold in college classrooms? Robert Talbert isn’t so sure it will. In his recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Talbert states the device is great for electronic textbooks and fun applications but little else for college students. “Could you write a research paper on it? Or a LA TE X document? Or a computer program? How about creating and then giving a slideshow presentation? Or running a computer algebra system to do your math homework? Or shooting a video? When it comes to consuming things, the Fire seems like a great device. For creating things? Not so much. And college work is about creating things, not consuming them,” he says.

What do you think of the Kindle Fire? Would you buy one for college or would you rather wait for a tablet with more useful college features AND a lower cost?


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College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

by Alexis Mattera

During your college search, what drew you to certain schools and what made you cross others off your list? The financial aid package could have been just right or the tuition could have been too high to manage without taking out multiple student loans. Maybe there was a big focus on your major or maybe the dorms were haunted. Those are all valid reasons but some experts think it may have been because the school marketed itself too much, too little or in a way you just couldn’t relate to.

When compared to the methods employed in the corporate world, marketing and branding in higher ed has been lacking. The tides are beginning to turn, however, as people like David R. Perry come to campus. Perry, a former marketing officer with Microsoft, Quaker Oats and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, recently began working as the chief marketing officer at Bentley University and much of his job will be figuring out exactly what Bentley offers and should be offering, to whom the school should be offering it, and how to get this message to potential students, families, faculty members and the surrounding community. "You have to be crisp and clear about what you are and what you're not," Perry said. "With all the choices students and families have today, with the education market as competitive as it is, as an institution you have to define strengths and weaknesses and focus on where you put your resources."

Bentley isn't the only college reevaluating its branding efforts (check out what college marketing officials at Temple, Michigan and the University of New Haven have to say in this Inside Higher Ed article) but we’re curious: Would a college’s marketing and branding initiatives make or break your college decision or would you be more focused on other factors?


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Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

Your Scariest College-Related Experience Could Earn You $1,000 or a Kindle

October 5, 2011

Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

by Alexis Mattera

Applying to and attending college can be the best time of your life but it can also be the scariest! Did your guidance counselor forget to include your transcript in your application packet? Were you matched with a freshman roommate who had an aversion to soap? We want to know: Tell us your scariest college-related experience in 140 characters for a chance to win $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship!

Don’t be scared – entering is easy! 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 detailing your scariest college-related experience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to apply:

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What is your scariest college-related moment?” Once you do this, you are entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to five 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 or are submitted after the October 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which comments are most deserving of the awards.

  • Starts: October 5th
  • Ends: October 31st
  • Number Available: 3
  • Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle each for second- and third-place winners

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.


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

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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

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

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


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A New Approach to Learning

October 18, 2011

A New Approach to Learning

by Alexis Mattera

Did you know that approximately nine out of 10 of the nation's two- and four-year colleges enroll students with disabilities and 86 percent of those schools enroll students with learning disabilities? Promising statistics...but only at first glance: The Department of Education reports just 24 percent of these schools say they can help disabled students "to a major extent." Fortunately, Landmark College exists.

The transition from a specially designed high school program to a mainstream college campus environment can be a bumpy one but Vermont-based Landmark has developed a number of programs and strategies to help these students stay focused, remain on top of assignments and understand their rights as college students with documented learning disabilities like dyslexia or attention-deficit disorder. Offerings include boot camp-style seminars, internship programs and scholarships paired with one-on-one coaching – assistance bureaucracy-mired traditional colleges often cannot provide – and with the number of disabled college students steadily increasing (they comprised 11 percent of the college student population in 2008, up from 9 percent in 2000), these programs are helping to take away the social stigma associated with these disorders and empowering students to speak up, seek assistance and ultimately succeed.

You can learn more about Landmark’s goals and additional information about learning disabled students here but we think student Morgan Behr sums up what Landmark is addressing perfectly in 10 words: "We're not that weird. We're normal. We just learn differently." What do you think about Landmark’s approach to learning?


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The Impact of Merit Aid

October 19, 2011

The Impact of Merit Aid

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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


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Fairness in College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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


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The Fight Against Federal Student Aid Fraud

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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


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Scholarship of the Week Alert: FIRE’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of different ways to find money for college these days but none are as tried and true as the essay scholarship. Are you ready to write your way to $5,000, $2,500 or $1,000 for college? Well fire up that computer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest.

The Freedom in Academia Essay Contest invites high school seniors to watch two videos on FIRE’s website and write an 800- to 1,000-word essay using examples from both videos. This year's prompt is "Why is free speech important at our nation's colleges and universities?" FIRE will award one first-place winner a $5,000 scholarship, one second-place winner a $2,500 scholarship, and five runners-up $1,000 scholarships.

The deadline is coming up fast – it’s November 5th – so visit FIRE’s website today for more information. To learn more about this award and others, conduct a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com.


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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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


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