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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!


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To Pin or Not to Pin?

Colleges Weigh the Pros and Cons of Pinterest

April 25, 2012

To Pin or Not to Pin?

by Alexis Mattera

Does your college have a Facebook page? Has your university retweeted one of your Twitter posts? At this stage in the social media game, both scenarios are pretty common so it’s not too surprising that many institutions are also turning to Pinterest to interact with and engage their students as much as possible. Is it the best move for every school? An answer has yet to be pinned down.

Pinterest’s growth over the last year is hard to ignore(Modea reports the number of users jumped from less than 500,000 last May to 11.7 million in January) and while some schools (Drake, the University of Minnesota, UPenn, Oberlin) have already started building their Pinterest presences, others aren’t as gung-ho about the concept. Drake’s digital media specialist Aaron Jaco was an early Pinterest proponent, tasking his student interns with creating multiple boards (17, according to this Inside Higher Ed article) that were whimsical, human and fostered engagement. Jaco’s goal for Drake on Pinterest seems pretty simple – “The more we can engage in a friendly, non-sales way, the better,” he said – but other schools are still on the virtual fence. Bill Keller, a new media specialist at Muhlenberg College, would rather wait until an effective marketing strategy is more clearly defined. “When we do jump in [to Pinterest], I want to make sure it’s a strong footprint with solid intent behind it,” he said.

What do you think of colleges using Pinterest to connect with students? Is their presence on the site necessary or do you think their messages would be better received via other social media platforms?


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GRE to Debut ScoreSelect in July

by Alexis Mattera

College students who want to attend graduate school not only need good grades, excellent recommendation letters and related experience in the field they’re planning to enter but also a solid score on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. But what happens if the score you receive isn’t what you (and the schools you’re applying to) were expecting? Starting in July, it’s ScoreSelect to the rescue.

Graduate programs currently receive students’ comprehensive five-year histories of GRE scores but with ScoreSelect, a student will be able to choose to send all scores or just the ones achieved during his or her most recent exam. ScoreSelect also lets students customize their score reports by school: Test takers may send their most recent scores to one batch of schools on test day free of charge and then forward a different set of schools either all of their scores or a specific score from the last five years after the exam for a fee. Why the change, especially so soon after last year’s format overhaul? “What we believe will happen is that students will have more confidence on test day,” said Christine Betaneli, a spokeswoman for GRE administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS).

There are additional details about ScoreSelect on ETS’ website. After getting all the facts, what do you think of ScoreSelect? Is it an option you’ll take advantage of when you take the GRE?


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Why a College Will Rescind Your Acceptance

Follow These Tips to Remain a Member of the Class of 2016

April 27, 2012

Why a College Will Rescind Your Acceptance

by Alexis Mattera

Once students receive those coveted acceptance letters and pay their enrollment deposits, many think it’s smooth sailing until move-in day. Not so: If a student decides to slack off in class or play fast and loose with the law, a college can and will withdraw an admissions offer. Yikes! So how do you keep your spot in the class of 2016? Follow these simple steps:

What are some other ways to ensure you retain your acceptance? Let us know what worked for you in the comments.


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Don't Know Where You're Headed This Fall? These Schools Are Still Accepting Applications!

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the year, high school seniors and transfer students know where they’ll be heading in the fall...unless they don’t. It’s not uncommon for a student to have second thoughts about the school they committed to or receive the news that they didn’t get off the wait list at their school of choice after enrollment deadlines for other potential schools had passed. If this sounds like you, you don’t have to put your post-secondary aspirations on hold: NACAC’s Space Availability Survey has revealed hundreds of schools that are still accepting freshman and/or transfer applications for the fall semester. Check out a sampling below:

The list will be updated regularly here – will this information help you in your college search?


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Study U

Five Schools Where Students Still Make Plenty of Time to Study

May 22, 2012

Study U

by Alexis Mattera

The average college student has lots of free time on his or her hands but add in part-time jobs, internships, group work and even commuting and those hours disappear fast. Time spent studying has dipped from 24 hours to 15 hours per week since the 1960s but according to the Washington Post and the National Survey of Student Engagement, students still make ample time and they’ve listed five schools where they’re known to hit the books...hard.

Now how do YOUR study habits compare?


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Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

Ten Schools Commit to More Financial Aid Disclosure

June 6, 2012

Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

by Alexis Mattera

With student loan debt now totaling more than $1 trillion, current and would-be college students need access to financial aid information more than ever before. The good news is that universities across the country are doing their best to make the facts as clear and available as possible in the near future.

Ten schools – Arizona State, Miami Dade College, North Carolina A&T State University, Syracuse, UNC Chapel Hill, Vassar and the state university systems in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Texas – have committed to providing key funding information to all incoming students as part of their financial aid packages starting in the 2013-14 school year. The details will include the cost of one year of college, financial aid options such as grants and scholarships, estimated monthly payments after graduation on federal student loans and comparative data about graduation and loan repayment rates. According to the White House, this disclosure will play a vital role in making college more affordable for all students: "Too often, students and families face confusion when comparing financial aid packages, some of which do not clearly differentiate loans from grants, nor distinguish private vs. federal loans, making it difficult to compare aid offers side-by-side. Clarity and accessibility of information is necessary so that students and families can make informed decisions about where to attend college, so they can choose a school that is best suited to their financial and educational goals."

What do you think of this plan? Do you think it will help students better understand financial aid or is the effort too little and too late?


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UConn Announces Faculty Hiring Spree, Goals for the Future

by Alexis Mattera

While many colleges and universities – specifically public ones – are cutting back on faculty, the University of Connecticut is putting its shears in storage: President Susan Herbst has announced plans to add 275 new faculty members to the university’s flagship campus in Storrs over the next four years.

According to Gwendolyn Bradley, senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors, UConn’s hiring strategy runs counter to the approach many schools are taking, as they are still reeling from the recession and looking to limit costs wherever possible but to Herbst, expanding the faculty is vital to the university’s future success. "The goal is to improve the quality of education by reducing class sizes and enabling professors to spend more time with our students. We also want to increase the number of courses offered so that our students never have to wait to take a course. We want our students graduating on time," she said. Research is also important to UConn but the focus will be on hiring faculty who both teach and conduct research, depending on the field of study.

The hiring of 65 faculty members – with particular emphasis in the fields of genomics, education, health insurance and finance – will begin this fall, followed by another 90 by the fall of 2013; as a result, the student-to-faculty ratio is expected to decline from the current 18-to-1 to 15-to-1 in four years. You can read the rest of the details here – thoughts from any current or future Huskies?


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Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

by Alexis Mattera

Cost plays a huge role in many students’ college choices. Depending on their financial situation, some students dismiss the schools with high tuition in favor of lower-cost in-state schools because they think it will save them money. In actuality, they could be doing themselves an economic disservice in the long run.

Using data from U.S. News and World Report’s most recent student debt survey of 25 top-ranking public and private schools, Reuters revealed that, on average, 53 percent of students surveyed received financial aid and at least half of students at most of the institutions graduated debt-free...but it depends on what school they attended: Princeton graduates, for example, owed only $5,000 at commencement while University of Michigan graduates owed more than $27,000 despite Michigan’s in-state costs being less than half of Princeton’s. How is this possible? Numerous schools including Princeton, Caltech, Davidson College and the University of Washington have eliminated student loans from their financial aid packages and others like Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley have capped contributions for students from low- and middle-income families. (Check out the entire article here, including this handy infographic.)

While it is difficult for many students to attend college without taking out some kind of loan – especially those attending state-run institutions which don’t have the fiscal means to eliminate debt – it is possible to avoid debt if you choose the right school. Thoughts?


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Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

With Hard Work and Help from Her Community, NC Teen is Ivy League-Bound

June 8, 2012

Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

Any current or soon-to-be college student will tell you that gaining acceptance to the school of their choice is not an easy task. What if, however, you had to manage that stress along with AP classes, extracurricular activities, work and the general perils of being a teenager without a roof over your head and the support of your parents? If you’re Dawn Loggins, you study hard, rely on the kindness of others and get accepted to Harvard.

In this great CNN piece, Loggins discusses how her less-than-fairytale upbringing (living in a home with no running water or electricity, having drug-addicted parents who abandoned her and dealing with ridicule from other students in her youth) made her the person she is today: a straight-A student who will attend Harvard University on a full scholarship. She credits her teachers and guidance counselors for sticking by her and providing her everything she needed – from candlelight to study by and clean clothing to a job and a place to call home – to succeed. And succeed she did: Loggins was accepted to all five schools to which she applied (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College and, the ultimate dream school, Harvard) and is hoping to start a nonprofit organization to help other teens who've had obstacles in their educations.

Read the rest of this inspirational story here and join us in wishing Dawn the best of luck at Harvard and in all of her future endeavors!


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