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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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Tuition at Cooper Union?

November 1, 2011

Tuition at Cooper Union?

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a prospective college student considering a career in engineering, architecture or art, Cooper Union is probably on your radar. Not only is the school among the most selective in the nation but the tuition – zero – has been the best deal in higher ed for more than a century...or it was.

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha recently announced that the weak economy has prompted the school to reevaluate its scholarship policy and possibly begin charging tuition for the first time since 1902. Bharucha stressed that lower-income students and many middle-income ones would continue to attend for free and that none of the 900 current undergraduates would be charged but the mere mention of tuition for degree-seeking students marks a serious cultural shift for the institution: Though a final decision has yet to be made, alumni are furious – “It’s a contradiction to everything we’ve learned about Cooper. It’s the last opportunity for free education on that level in the entire country,” said graphic designer, New York magazine co-founder and Cooper Union graduate Milton Glaser – and students are planning to walk out of classes in protest tomorrow.

Bharucha did say that implementing tuition would be a last resort but what do you think of his announcement and its corresponding reaction? What avenues should be explored to preserve free tuition and are there any ways students and alumni can support or contribute to the cause? Lastly, does a potential tuition bill have you reconsidering applying to Cooper Union?


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It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

NSSE Shows Students Study Less Than Expected

November 18, 2011

It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

by Alexis Mattera

Study styles vary greatly from student to student – you find it most effective to study alone in the library while your roommate prefers to orchestrate conversation-filled study groups in your dorm’s common room – so it should come as no surprise that the amount of time spent hitting the books also fluctuates depending on students’ majors.

But just how much of a disparity is there? According to the National Survey on Student Engagement, engineering majors studied the most with 19 hours of preparation per week while students focusing on business and the social sciences studied the least, putting in 14 hours per week. Here’s the complete list:

Though some students may feel like this is enough preparation to earn their desired grades, the numbers didn’t match up exactly with faculty expectations: An Inside Higher Ed article explains the majority of professors reported they expected students to spend one or two hours more studying per week than they actually did except for in the social sciences, where students studied an average of four hours less than faculty predicted. What do you think of NSSE’s findings? If one of the majors above represents your field of study, do you feel the numbers are accurate? Between all of your other commitments (work, extracurriculars, etc.), is it even possible to study as much as professors expect you to?


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Is College Still Worthwhile?

December 30, 2011

Is College Still Worthwhile?

by Alexis Mattera

There’s been much debate about the true value of a college degree. This isn’t surprising given rising tuition costs and lower employment rates but a new study by a 2011 Trinity College graduate reveals spending the time and money to obtain a college degree is still very much worthwhile.

That graduate – Sarah Millar – came to this conclusion by examining data from government and private sources as well as her own personal experience as a college student. She found that although college costs have climbed an average of 6.4 percent each year since 1981 and annual income has only risen 0.4 percent in that time, the average take-home pay of college graduates is $38,950 versus $21,500 of students who only graduated high school. Unemployment rates of the two groups are also in favor or college degree holders – as of last month, 4.4 percent to 9.6 percent – and earnings of college grads exceed high school grads by more than $1 million over 40 years. Millar does note that all colleges and majors are not created equal, though, as average starting salaries of recent grads in specific fields of study from well-known or prestigious schools are more than those from state universities or smaller private colleges.

Check out more information from the study here then tell us: What do you think of Millar’s findings?


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DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

by Alexis Mattera

For any student thinking about transferring, there’s always the worry that the credits they’ve worked so hard to achieve will be worth nothing at their new school...any student except those transferring to DePaul University, that is.

According to Lois Bishop, DePaul’s director of community college partnerships, transfer students at DePaul have great grades and high graduation rates but many have failed to take prerequisite courses or accumulated credits at their previous institutions that won’t count toward their bachelor’s degrees. In order to make transferring as educationally- and cost-effective as it can be, the school created the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program to help transfer students earn their two-year credentials and bachelor’s degrees on time. Students in the program are guaranteed a spot at DePaul if they finish community college with a 2.0 GPA and receive $2,000 a year after transferring if they achieve a 3.0. They also lock in bachelor’s degree requirements if they enroll within three years of starting the program, have access to DePaul advisers while at the community college to ensure they take the right classes for their eventual majors and can earn reverse credits toward associate degrees. (Check out additional details from Inside Higher Ed here.)

Since the program’s launch last year, DePaul has partnered with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harold Washington College, Truman College, Wright College, College of DuPage, Harper College, Moraine Valley Community College and Oakton Community College but hopes to expand the opportunity to more schools and students. What do you think of the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program? Would a program like this appeal to you if you were thinking about transferring?


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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?


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Minimesters Provide International Experience in Less Time

by Alexis Mattera

Spending a semester abroad may not be feasible for students with rigid major requirements or ones who are aiming to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible to save on tuition. Instead of having students miss out on what could be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, schools like the University of Maryland are offering truncated programs called minimesters to foster international travel.

This winter alone, UMD’s study abroad office offered 42 short-term programs to destinations including Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand with courses covering government and politics, art history, architecture, education, geography and more. These trips are usually about three weeks in length and students (including the article’s author, Elizabeth Roberts, who completed two minimesters to Chile and Brazil) have reported it’s plenty of time to immerse themselves in the culture without sacrificing school, work and other obligations back home. This time abroad even causes some students to alter their educational directions: One UMD senior's minimester in South Africa last winter sparked an interest in health issues and has since translated into an internship with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

Do you think a minimester is a good way to interact with the age of globalization without compromising progress toward graduation?


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Are College Students Borrowing Too Much or Not Enough?

by Alexis Mattera

Did you have to take out student loans in order to pay for all or part of your college education? Probably, as total student loan debt passed total credit card debt for the first time and is approaching the $1 trillion mark, but the bigger problem could be that college students who truly need to borrow are not doing so.

In a new analysis of student debt published in AEA’s Journal of Economic Perspectives, researchers Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner explain that overemphasis in news coverage of students drowning in debt is scaring people away from taking on healthy debt. They say that capital investment one takes on with a student loan is growing – males with college degrees make $600,000 more in their lifetimes than peers with only high school degrees – but just one in six full-time students at four-year colleges who are eligible for a student loan do not take one out. Why? The study cites rational self-control, short-sightedness and risk factors like the difficulty of predicting future earnings but also reveals that many loan-less students accrue debt by relying heavily on credit cards to cover educational expenses and half work more than 20 hours per week – a schedule that could hurt their chances of graduating on time or at all.

There’s much more to the study here but what’s your take on student loans? Is borrowing worth it if it's done responsibly or is it best to use loans as a last resort in funding your education?


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Tips & Tricks for a More Affordable Internship Experience

by Alexis Mattera

Many students don’t have time to take on internships during the traditional academic year, making summer break the perfect time to gain experience in their fields of choice. Unfortunately, students looking to earn college credit for these often unpaid positions must still fork over the cash to cover the credit fees – sometimes thousands of dollars – despite not being enrolled in formal classes.

Is there a way to have a more affordable internship experience? Indeed, according to one of USA Today’s collegiate correspondents...and with 11 internships under her belt, she speaks from experience:

Are you interning this summer? Let us know where in the comments!


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Job Opportunities, Starting Salaries Increase for Class of 2012

by Alexis Mattera

Soon-to-be college grads will have a little more to cheer about as they toss their mortarboards in the air this year, as both job opportunities and starting salaries for new graduates have increased since last year.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported job openings for the class of 2012 are up 10 percent since last. With increased opportunities also come an uptick in starting salaries: The average for 2012 grads is $44,442, a 6.6-percent increase over the reported average salary of the class of 2011.

Of course, these numbers depend on the fields graduates plan to enter – starting salaries for those pursuing careers in education and economics increased more and are higher overall, respectively, than those going into health sciences – but it is nice to hear some mostly positive news about the impact of higher education. College seniors, does this information put you more at ease or increase your stress level as graduation day nears?


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