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High Stakes Testing

Aug 24, 2015

by Emily Rabinowitz

Chances are if you’re on scholarships.com, you probably care about boosting your application to scholarships or colleges. The standardized test can be a huge plus for good test takers or a major stressor for others. Here are some general guidelines to help you make your testing plan and decisions easier.

  • Timing. There are many rumors about what dates have a better curve but essentially for the SAT or the ACT, it’s all about making the most of your studying. For instance, remember that if you schedule a test for January or June, you might also be studying for midterm and final exams. The May exams are also infamous because that’s when the Advanced Placement tests occur. However, many students take the subject tests that correspond with their AP classes during the May exam. It’s important to remember that not all subject tests are offered every exam date, so you’ll want to plan those accordingly. If you’re planning on taking the SAT, remember that the last date for the current version is January 2016. Finally, don’t wait too long to take the test. Many students do better their second or third time around, and you want to give yourself the chance to learn from your mistakes.
  • Studying. The ACT and the SAT are two distinctly different tests as some students will see greater variation between test scores than others. The general word of caution is to take a full practice exam before you take the real test. Try waking up early one weekend and replicating the exam scenario as completely as possible; this will give you the best estimate of your score. Remember that simple things like reading the newspaper or a challenging book can improve your score as well.
  • Stay Positive. Your score is not everything in your college or scholarship application. More and more schools are disregarding test scores in favor of essays, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation. The worst thing you could do for your application is put all of your bets into your SAT or ACT score. So if you find yourself a terrible test taker, that’s okay. Find something else that you’re fantastic at, and make it noticeable. One of the best pieces of advice I got was that if a school turns you down because of your test scores, you probably don’t want to be there to begin with.
  • You are not a test score. Always remember that.

    Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Significance of Joining Clubs and Organizations in College

Aug 14, 2015

by Erica Lewis

Many students find an area of interest outside the classroom to be involved in during high school, but being involved in extracurricular activities at college has a significant impact on your education experience and even future career. It allows you to build your resume, make new friends and provides scholarship opportunities that you might not have otherwise known about.

During the first few weeks of classes, clubs are trying to recruit new members at full force. It’s a great opportunity to discover what programs your school offers that best fit your interests. I would suggest starting out with multiple clubs and then sticking with the ones that interest you the most. Many majors have their own club, but you don’t have to be in a major to be in a club, just a desire to partake in what they offer. One of the best things about being in students organizations is the people you meet. Many organizations bring in professionals to talk about resume building, job applications and of course scholarships.

Another thing that I enjoy about clubs is the opportunity to meet other students taking the same classes as you and get advice from students who have already taken challenging courses. It’s always nice to have someone you can go to when studying for a big exam. My closest friends at college today stemmed from the relationships started in the clubs I joined. Not only do we see each other at club events, but we also enjoy doing fun activities together as well.

My biggest piece of advice with clubs is to seek out the ones that interest you the most and stick with the ones that you feel provide you with the opportunities you desire. Although clubs greatly enhance your college experience, you don’t want to become so involved that your GPA takes a hit. Personalize your college experience and utilize the resources your school offers.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Strategy for Picking a Major

Jul 30, 2015

by Erica Lewis

Picking a college is hard enough on its own, but deciding what to major in can be even more challenging. Your major helps you find your future career, which is daunting, but don’t worry too much. Many students will end up changing their mind on what major to pursue at one point or another. The back and forth decision beings it’s in high school while trying to decide what school to go to and even carries into a student’s college career.

When picking a major, I would suggest thinking about what areas interest you. I was the type that always enjoyed math and science classes throughout all my years of school. This led me to look down the career path of engineering. Throughout high school, I was always looking at what schools were good for engineering, and there are many options out there. However, I ended up choosing Food Science and Technology because I found out that it was a better fit for me.

If you still feel confused about what major you want to choose or even if you have a major but don’t know what career path you want to follow, don’t worry. Go talk to your academic advisor or career services. Those people are there to help you make the right decision for your interests.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Discovering Your Personal Soundtrack for Success

Jul 22, 2015

by Emily Rabinowitz

Forgive me if this seems a bit nerdy but I listen to soundtracks when I write and one of the most important things I wrote in my high school career was my Common Application essay. Preparing for this essay was overwhelming but it helped me to collect a master soundtrack that triggered all the questions I needed to answer.

Who am I? In the classic musical inspired by Victor Hugo's novel, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean faces the immense difficulty of revealing his true identity or remaining safe in a lie. While you may not have such dire circumstances as he, this question is the core of what colleges want to know about you.

Why do we fall? I'll be honest, The Dark Knight Trilogy directly influenced my essay as I wrote about overcoming obstacles. This song, featuring the chant that follows Batman through his escape from prison, represents both hardship and triumph. When thinking about your failures, ask yourself what impact they had on you and how your life view changed.

Where is my home? Continuing with my nerdiness, I grew up with The Lord of the Rings books and movies. The shire not only represents innocence and beauty, but home and culture. Your home can teach you a lot of things: where you feel comfortable, where you work best, what means a lot to you. How does your college fit into that?

What is my future? Without considering any obstacles, what is the best thing you want to do with your life? College is an investment in your future and in your time - how are you going to spend it?

I have found that in the twilight with a notebook and pen in hand and music pulsing in your ears, it is easy to think on these questions. More than anything, your Common Application essay should be a piece of you, whether it carries your obsession with Batman or your love of dogs, you should feel proud to send it away.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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College Applications - Start Early and Revise Often

Jul 17, 2015

by Emily Rabinowitz

To all the seniors...

Take a deep breath. The most common piece of advice for high school seniors is to start your applications early and that's because it's true...but it doesn't have to ruin your summer! The Common Application essay prompts are already out and the 2015-2016 Common App opens on August 1st. Some of you are probably staring at a list of 6 to 12 schools wondering how you'll manage to write all those essays, pay for all those application fees and keep track of those deadlines. It's possible, though: We can do this together.

As someone who applied to 11 schools, my best advice for writing lots of essays is to start them all. Grab a journal and write down the prompts and your initial ideas. Carry that journal with you and keep track of anything that comes to your mind. Try setting the timer for 20 minutes, playing your favorite album and simply writing. If that doesn't give you any ideas, sit down with your parents or another adult that knows you well and just talk about what has shaped you as an individual. Remember that your first drafts are simply drafts; the advantage of starting early is that you can revise and think it through over and over again.

To reduce the anxiety, print out a calendar and map out your deadlines. You can try color coding your schools, scholarship deadlines and other big events. Write in when you are going to send the essays to editors and when you are going to submit them to your colleges. Remember, The Common App and other systems get really busy on the major deadline days so submit early to avoid technical difficulties. It's also a good idea to share this calendar with your parents and estimate how much your applications will cost. In addition to the application fee, your high school might have transcript fees so consider that as well and plan in advance where this money will come from.

Have you started the college application process yet? What has worked for you thus far?

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Enrolling at a Branch Campus vs. a Main Campus

Jul 1, 2015

by Ashley Grego

When most people hear Penn State, they think of the college town located in State College famous for Beaver Stadium and football. It's less likely that people think of the other Penn States - the branch campuses. Technically, they are the same university...but perception is different.

Although main campuses may offer more activities, different classes and a completely different lifestyle than branch campuses, it doesn't necessarily mean one is better than the other. In fact, there are benefits of branch campuses that students should consider before attending the main campus.

First, branches are smaller and offer students a closer experience with professors and students. If students prefer one-on-one connections with their professors and classmates where everybody knows each other's names, branches can offer this. This can also make for an easier transition for students coming from smaller high schools.

Second, some branches are completely different from the main. Some branches specialize in specific majors – a benefit for students in those majors. (For example, UConn's Avery Point campus in Groton offers specialization for marine sciences.) Another example of this is branch campuses outside of the country. Unlike study abroad, the student will not be attending a different college and earning transfer credits toward their university: They will be attending their school branched overseas, like Carnegie Mellon's branch in Qatar. Another benefit? Experiencing college abroad can be cheaper than study abroad!

Third, regardless of attending a branch or main, all of the diplomas (at least at most schools) will say the same thing. Even though I attend UPJ, my diploma will read "graduate of the University of Pittsburgh." This can provide an automatic boost to students who may think attending the branch will negate the rest of their resume.

The last benefit of attending a branch campus is even if students do not plan to attend the branch campus for all four years, transferring credits will be easier. By staying within the same university system, students are less likely lose any credits because most classes at a branch campus are at the main campus.

Although branch campuses are not for every student, they are certainly something to consider!

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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As More States Legalize Marijuana, “Cannabis College” Aims to Educate Students

Jun 30, 2015

by Chris Bernardi

If you walked into a seminar hall and were met with visions of tie-dyed t-shirts advertising High Times and marijuana-leaf tie clips as far as the eye could see, you may think you had stumbled onto the set of the classic movie Dazed and Confused. In actuality, you may have been in Washington, D.C. for a presentation by Oaksterdam University – the self-described “Cannabis College” – where more than 100 students recently took part in a 10-session seminar focusing on education in regions with recently loosened marijuana laws.

With nearly two dozen states having already legalized marijuana, Oaksterdam officials are trying to educate marijuana users, growers and purveyors. “It’s really important that you spread education because there’s way too much that people don’t realize,” said Oaksterdam provost and dean of faculty Aseem Sappal. “You’re going to continue to pass laws, and all of a sudden you’re going to start a dispensary, which is great. But who’s going to teach you how to open that dispensary? Who’s going to teach you how to cultivate?”

Since its founding in 2007 as a mix of trade school and advocacy group, Oaksterdam University has been thriving as students are eager to pay $800 to attend these weekend sessions. Seminars are so popular that they sell out two months in advance; fourteen-week semesters at Oaksterdam’s flagship campus in Oakland, Calif. are booked six months ahead of time. Plans to potentially expand by opening campuses in New York, Los Angeles and Colorado have already been discussed. Sappal argued that “it’s just a matter of time before the entire nation legalizes.”

What are your thoughts on Oaksterdam University, aka Cannabis College? Would you attend one of the school’s in-demand seminars or do you think the administration is just blowing smoke?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Head vs. Heart: Which Should You Follow When Choosing a College?

Jun 22, 2015

by Ashley Grego

Choosing my school wasn't a heart-driven decision. My heart eyed up Pitt Main and the possibilities of finally living in the city I've loved my entire childhood. I so badly wanted to go there; however, it was illogical in more than one way: My hometown actually is Johnstown - where one of Pitt's branch campuses is located - and not only does Pitt-Johnstown supply me with the identical diploma as a Pitt Main student, it also saves me roughly $10,000 a year because I commute. Putting aside my dream of life in the city was difficult, but I knew going to Pitt-Johnstown made more sense.

Once starting at Pitt-Johnstown (UPJ, as we call it), selecting my major was more heart-driven. Even though I got high honors in high school, I knew the science world wasn't in my direct future, maybe unless I wrote about it and talked about it - two things I am very confident in and enjoy doing - which led me to the journalism major. I realized early on, however, that it wasn't my exact fit; I wanted to explore other forms of writing and speaking instead so I became a double major in communication and writing. I now plan to do something within the sports industry or get my master's degree from Carnegie Mellon...I hope! Outside of school, I run a sports blog, work, am a NAHL ice girl and play D2 college club hockey at a nearby university. I also intern at my school's sports center and love shopping.

The reason I was interested in this internship is because of my own personal goals and the company itself. I am constantly looking to build my resume and found this as an amazing opportunity. I know that the real career world is a competitive market and I want to have the experience to stand myself out. Looking forward, I look to blogging about anything that comes to mind, from my own experiences to addressing bigger issues in higher education.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Colleges Where You Can Earn a Degree for Free

Jun 16, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we make a point to advocate the importance of funding your college education the right way (for free!) and while financing your higher education solely with scholarships is an amazing feat, there is another factor to consider: colleges with no tuition to be begin with. Yup, they totally exist – check out the 11 colleges below where you can earn a degree for free:

We should also mention that elite universities with healthy endowments also tout financial aid programs that pay 100 percent of tuition, room and board and fees for students from families with certain incomes – $75,000 or less at MIT, $65,000 or less at Harvard and Yale, and $60,000 or less at Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, Duke, Brown and Texas A&M. For a more detailed look at any of the schools listed or hundreds of other universities, check out our College Search. And let us know where you’re heading this fall in the comments section!

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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New York Teen Accepted to all Eight Ivy League Schools

Apr 6, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Applying to some of the top schools in the country is unquestionably unnerving but after months of stress, sleepiness nights and chronic stomach pains, it all seems worth it when you read those magical words, "Congratulations! You've been accepted." Most would celebrate such an occasion with screams of triumph, followed by an immediate Facebook update or witty tweet sharing their enthusiasm...but what would the proper celebration be when you've been accepted to not one but all eight Ivy League schools? Ask Harold Ekeh.

Ekeh has hit the admissions jackpot, receiving acceptance letters from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. This outcome, however, wasn’t just luck, for Ekeh is quite the accomplished and well-rounded student: The Elmont Memorial High School senior founded a college mentoring program, was names a 2015 Intel Science Talent Search semifinalist, directs a youth choir at his church, plays the drums, is part of Key Club and Model UN and was elected to the homecoming court. And although he’s yet to make a definitive decision as to where he will enroll this fall, there seems to be a frontrunner. "I am leaning toward Yale. I competed at Yale for Model UN, and I like the passion people at Yale had,” he said. Ekeh will spend the coming weeks visiting all the schools before making his final decision. (For more on his story, head over to New York Post.)

Share your thoughts on Harold Ekeh's story in the comments section and be sure to let us know where you're headed this fall. And for information on the Ivies or countless other universities, use our College Search tool today! And don't forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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