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Students Protest College Costs

February 20, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week, several groups of students have decided to take a new approach in attempting to reduce their college costs.  Students in Minnesota and South Carolina both held rallies at their state capitols this week to try to influence their state legislature's decisions regarding their schools.  Meanwhile, students at New York University have barricaded themselves inside a building on campus, refusing to come out until the university meets their list of demands.  Each group has different requests, but most come down to money.

More than 200 students from state colleges and universities in Minnesota protested outside the State Capitol Wednesday.  Many held signs stating their anticipated student loan debt (answers included $38,000 and "too much" according to an article in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune), while others gave speeches and encouraged their legislators to reject the governor's proposed budget cuts to higher education.  Several legislators expressed solidarity with the students, and a newly formed student group plans further protests.

Students in South Carolina also urged their state legislature to make college funding a spending priority, though their actions were largely in protest to a proposed state tuition cap.  Students expressed concern that their universities may need to sacrifice educational quality by cutting faculty or course offerings to deal with reduced funding.  Students were concerned they'd wind up getting less for their money and possibly paying more money over time by taking longer to get the classes they needed to graduate.  They urged the legislature to leave the power to set tuition in colleges' hands.

New York University had the most radical student protest and the lengthiest list of demands, with a small group of students taking over a cafeteria and demanding greater accountability and transparency in the university's budgeting process.  The NYU students also wanted a tuition freeze, a union and better benefits for graduate student assistants, and according to one sign, "enough financial aid" for all students, among other things.  The students and the university have been in an ongoing standoff since Wednesday night, with crowds of up to 300 students gathering outside the occupied building at one point yesterday.

Whether student rallies, protests, or sit-ins are the best means of funding your education is debatable.  Students with activist inclinations who seek other routes to paying for college with better odds of immediate success should consider doing a scholarship search.  There are numerous scholarship opportunities for students who are involved in their communities and interested in bringing about change, and they don't require presenting anyone with a list of demands.

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New Book Explores Student's "Domestic Study Abroad"

March 26, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

One much-discussed aspect of the college experience is gaining exposure to new people and perspectives.  Another statement that commonly turns up in the college search process is that different schools serve different groups of students--hence the importance of finding a good fit for you.  Many of the most recognizable and commonly referenced differences are based at least in part on the race, gender, socioeconomic status, or country of origin of a college's student population.  A college's mission and ideological and cultural base also play an important role, and exposure to ideological and religious diversity can also be a major component of the college experience.

One student at Brown University recently turned his experiences with such ideological diversity into a book, entitled "The Unlikely Disciple: a Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University."  The author, Kevin Roose, decided to go on a "domestic study abroad" and enroll at Liberty University, a conservative Christian college, for a semester.  What emerges is, at least according to early reviews, an interesting and balanced look at Liberty from an outsider's perspective, as well as an honest exploration of the author's reactions to his new environment.

If you're in the process of choosing a college, or you're just curious about how wide-ranging the student experience can be in America, this book sounds like an interesting read.  Roose's story is also a reminder for current college students that you don't necessarily need to go to an exotic locale to be exposed to people with a cultural experience markedly different from your own.  Though study abroad occasionally can sound like an expensive and protracted sightseeing trip, Roose's "domestic study abroad" is a reminder of the importance of seeing and experiencing a new culture and place and stepping outside one's own ideological bounds.

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Does Facebook Use Affect College Grades?

May 8, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

More material continues to be added to the debate over whether sites like Facebook help or hurt undergraduate students.  Last month, preliminary research by a graduate student at Ohio State University caused a stir by suggesting that the use of social networking websites was somehow connected to lower college grades. Now, a new study published by researchers at Northwestern University, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania suggests that if anything, Facebook users have higher grades than students who do not use social networking sites.

While both studies are very preliminary, their findings have sparked a great deal of discussion and debate.  Many professors and some students regard sites like Facebook as distractions from coursework and assaults on students' attention spans.  Others see no harm and a great deal of benefit from being able to connect with peers and share ideas and information more easily online.  Some instructors have even incorporated social networking into their curricula and have encouraged students to friend them online.

Social networking sites are becoming an increasingly large part of the lifestyle associated with attending college, and are increasingly being used as tools in college admissions, as well.  Do you use any of these websites?  Have you seen any connection between your internet habits and your grades?

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Colleges Rethinking General Ed Requirements

May 19, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

A large part of attending college is gaining exposure to new ideas outside your area of study and acquiring a broad base of knowledge and critical thinking skills along the way.  Traditionally, colleges have pushed students towards this goal through the use of general education requirements, which are rarely met with uniform enthusiasm.  English majors may dread the mandatory laboratory science class, while future engineers may fail to see the point in spending two semesters learning MLA citation style and how to write an argumentative essay.  Other students complain that general education requirements leave their college experience feeling disjointed and not directly connected to their working life. While they may eventually have the chance to draw on knowledge, experiences, or methods of inquiry from all of their classes, many students fail to see how when staring a list of required introductory courses in the face.

Colleges are aware of these concerns and many are beginning to rethink general education requirements, according to survey results highlighted recently in Inside Higher Ed. A number of colleges are studying general education requirements and desired learning outcomes, starting by identifying goals and asking students what they're taking from their courses.  Others are implementing new course requirements to expose students to a variety of disciplines beyond what they would normally get from introductory courses in their first two years of college.  More focus is also being placed on integrating a student's courses into the focus of their degree and career goals with the hope that students will be able to tie these lessons together and bring a more well-rounded approach to their major.

With renewed focus on college costs, the time it takes students to earn a degree, and the value of a college degree in the working world, the attention being paid to these courses seems timely. As many schools begin reevaluating or restructuring general educuation requirements, it's likely that the college experience of today's high school students will be different from not only that of their parents, but also that of today's undergraduate students.  What do you think of required general classes? Does the system need to be changed?  Don't just limit yourself to blog comments! If you're attending college right now, check out this year's Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship for a chance to win $1,000 by weighing in on this topic.

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Students Choosing Internships off the Beaten Path

May 28, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

College students and recent graduates across the country are currently starting summer internships. Whether paid or unpaid, the internship can be an integral part of the college experience, as well as a chance to earn college credit for doing something you hopefully want to do. Internships are one of the best ways to hone major-specific job skills and gain valuable experience in a potential career.  For some students, though, summer internships are also a way to gain exposure to an entirely new line of work as well as hands-on experience with movements or industries they support.

The New York Times reports a growing summer internship trend is organic farming, with many students from disparate backgrounds signing up to grow crops or raise livestock on small farms across the country. While farming internships are traditionally seen as the province of agriculture students from rural state universities, students on both coasts, including many at small private colleges, have begun to take interest in these programs as well, thanks largely to a growing interest in sustainable agriculture.  Students who support organic farming and want to learn more about the industry first-hand can spend a summer working with plants and animals, as can students who just want a change of pace from their usual college lifestyle.  An agriculture internship could bring students with urban or suburban backgrounds a change of perspective, and also some fodder for green scholarship applications.

If farming isn't your thing but you're intrigued by the idea of taking an internship in a field outside your major, options abound.  While some internship programs may require a relevant major or course experience, others may just want students with a genuine interest in the job.  Think about the things you'd like to do and jobs you'd like to try out and see if any internship opportunities exist in those areas.  While these experiences may not directly lead to a job placement at that business (although this is no guarantee with traditional internships, either), they could lead to new experiences and a more diverse résumé, which could in turn lead to job offers down the road.

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Three Universities Subpoenaed in Admissions Investigation

June 19, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Want to get into college but don't have the best grades?  Consider making friends with some prominent politicians, then apply in Illinois.

Earlier this month, The Chicago Tribune revealed the existence of a special admissions list at the University of Illinois main campus that consisted of politically connected applicants.  Now, records from University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University have been subpoenaed in the ongoing federal investigation of corruption charges against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Investigators want to determine whether Blagojevich recommended candidates for admission into state colleges in exchange for money or favors.

While going for the wow factor of a big name is an understandable strategy when it comes to letters of recommendation, it looks like more may have been going on with some applications in Illinois. There are concerns that some well-connected applicants received extreme advantages in admissions, in some cases getting in seemingly solely based on who they knew, even over the objections of the admissions officials reviewing their college applications.  The University of Illinois has suspended its special admission list and claimed to have not followed practices out of line with what other colleges do in considering applications.

The practice of relying on political connections in the college application process is not unique to Illinois, but in light of recent scandals in the state, it is garnering a lot of attention.  Using clout to get into college is still a  highly contentious practice in any case, whether the applicant is connected to university officials or state government figures.  Hopefully, this scandal will influence colleges to think twice before overlooking merit in favor of connections in future admissions decisions.

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Itty Bitty Ways to Save

September 7, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

We all know how expensive college can be, and how the hidden fees get you just when you thought you had enough. Performing a free scholarship and grant search at Scholarships.com can save students a bundle, but the little changes can also make ends meet. You don’t have to be a miser to save a bit, and every bit can make a difference. Ok, that’s trite. What I meant to say was that saving has a lot to do with mentality. When you’re proud for having saved $15 with your grocery coupons, you may think twice about spending that money on a new CD. You’ve gone this far, no point in throwing your labor away. Here are small things that can motivate you to keep going.

BYOB. That’s right. Bring your own bottle. If you can’t stay away from expensive coffee shops, you should at least get a discount on their expensive drinks. Many coffee shops will take 15 or 30 cents off when customers bring their own—albeit adorned with a company logo—mug or bottle (request these for your birthday.) So maybe a few cents won’t make for huge savings, but they make for little ones. Plus, your coffee will stay warmer, and you’ll be saving the environment. 

Look for punch cards. While we’re talking coffee shops, check to see if they have punch cards. Many fast food shops, clothing stores and even car washes offer punch cards. If you shop at these places on a regular basis, you can earn free store dollars, a meal or a shiny car (wash).

Sign up for free membership cards. Signing up for a free grocery store card can save you a lot of money, but other memberships are also helpful.  Bookstore chains frequently offer free membership cards (I'm not talking about store credit cards). Member rewards may include a free drink at the food corner, points towards a book purchase and email reminders about upcoming sales. Use sale days to buy Christmas and birthday gifts in advance—books never go out of season.

Water please! College students can’t help it. Eating out is just a part of their lifestyle. The habit is expensive, but sometimes it has to be done. When it does, opt for water instead of another drink. It’s refreshing, it’s good for your skin, and it’s free.

There are many ways for students to save money. Surviving on free Starbucks’ honey packets doesn’t have to be one of them—see Mena Suvari in Loser. You can still head to Starbucks with coffee in mind, just bring your mug with you.

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Posted Under:

College Costs , College Culture



Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

September 12, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

The terms "weighted" and "unweighted" get thrown around a lot when students reach their senior year of high school. Scholarship providers, grant providers, employees and colleges are frequently unified in their interest in a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). They are not as unified in the GPA format they would like to see.

This is what is they mean when they ask for your weighted or unweighted GPA.

Weighted GPA

Many schools offer accelerated and Advanced Placement (AP) classes to students who show academic merit. To distinguish an “A” in the advanced geometry class from that in the regular one, schools often assign a different point system to harder classes. They may, for example, bump up a student’s grade by .5 points if the class they took was accelerated.  Therefore, a student with three “Bs” in a regular class may have a 3.0 GPA while one with three “Bs” in advanced classes may have a 3.5 GPA. If a student takes only accelerated classes and their school bumps up each accelerated grade by one point, they may potentially earn a 5.0 GPA. The weight a school assigns to each class varies, and straight “A” students can graduate with different weighted GPAs depending on the school they attended.

Unweighted GPA

The unweighted GPA is the average of all class grades based on a 4.0 scale. If the student earned an “A” in an advanced English class, the unweighted grade would still be a 4.0-- the corresponding number on standard grade conversion charts--instead of, for example, a 4.5. Regardless of class level, each class is graded on the same point system. Things can get a bit confusing when schools have an unweighted scale but still offer and “A+” that is worth 4.3 points. While still unweighted, this GPA is higher than a 4.0.

Generally, however, an unweighted GPA peaks at 4.0.  Students who have taken accelerated classes may have lower GPAs on this scale, but those who have a regular schedule may fare better in class rank once everyone is on the same playing field. Because the weight a school attaches to each accelerated class varies, an unweighted GPA allows schools and award providers to see a student’s performance on the same scale, regardless of the school they attended. Unfortunately, additional efforts exerted in advanced classes may not be as visible.

At Scholarships.com, students are asked to state their GPAs on a 4.0 scale. Students who received anything above a 4.0 should record their GPA as 4.0. If a scholarship provider asks the student for GPA information, they may then offer in-depth information.

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Posted Under:

College Culture , GPA , High School



College Students Earn More, and Give More

September 13, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

In a press release published yesterday, CollegeBoard, a not-for-profit organization administering the AP and SAT tests, announced the results of their 2007 Education Pays study. According to the study, college graduates not only earn more, but also contribute more to society.It was found that 43% of individuals ages 25 and older who received their bachelor’s degree volunteered this year, compared with only 19% of those who had a high school diploma.  Of those who volunteered, those with a bachelor’s degree reported having volunteered an average of 55 hours wile those with a high school degree reported volunteering an average of 53 hours in the past year.

In addition to volunteer work, college graduates were more likely to donate blood and to vote. They also placed more importance on efforts to understand the opinions of others. The reported significance of mutual understanding increased gradually and in line with the level of education. Of inviduals polled, 59% of those without a high school education said that trying to understand the opinions of others was important compared with 67% of those with an associates degree and 79% of those with a master’s degree.

That college grads earned more came as no surprise. Based on reports of the mean earning of full-time year-round workers ages 25 and older, those with a high school degree earned $24,900 after taxes, those with an associate’s degree earned $31,500, those with a bachelor’s degree earned $39,000, and those with a master’s earned $46,000 after taxes.

The report also indicated that although progress had been made in increasing higher education opportunities, the education levels of those coming from high-income families were still much greater than those of low income families.

Students don’t have to let money be a deterrent in receiving a college education. By visiting Scholarships.com, students can find myriad scholarship and grant opportunities. Students who visit the site can also plan ahead by comparing colleges and by researching information about various sources of financial aid. All of this comes at the low cost of zero dollars. No shipping and no handling charges apply.

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Federal Work Study

September 18, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

When students unfold their FAFSA award letters, they may find that in addition to loans and grants, they were granted Federal Work Study (FWS) awards. What does work have to do with government assistance? Good point.

Aid in the form of work may not be the ideal award, but students who need significant financial assistance may want to consider working part time. Undergraduate and graduate students may be able to eliminate, or at least decrease, their borrowing needs by conducting a free scholarship search and by accepting Federal Work Study (FWS) positions.

These jobs are administered by colleges and often require cafeteria work, administrative assistance and research help. The work is not always glamorous, and it is often low in pay—think minimum wage. Don’t worry; there are some benefits.

Although FWS income is taxed, students are usually refunded a good chunk of it, and their financial aid eligibility is not hurt in the process. Students who work outside of school may find their future financial aid to be in jeopardy because of earnings. Students who accept FWS positions won’t have to worry about this. Their earnings will not be considered when government aid is determined. This is a great benefit as personal income is counted against students at a much larger rate than is that of parents. 

Students who are interested and eligible for Federal Work Study are bound to find a job, and a flexible one at that. And because the jobs are created with students in mind, they tend to offer convenient schedules. The same can’t always be said for stores and restaurants which offer the finest of hours—late nights and weekends. When finals and class schedules changes come into play, flexibility will matter.

Like other FAFSA awards, Federal Work Study money is limited. If an award letter states that a student is eligible for $2,000, they can only work until they reach that point. This may or may not be enough. Eligible students looking for work will have to decide whether FWS jobs or outside positions are right for them. Depending on schedule flexibility, pay rate and interest, one, the other or neither may be the best option.

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Posted Under:

College Culture , FAFSA



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