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Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

Rising Costs Have Students Skimping on Textbooks

Aug 12, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college student, you’ve probably heard the saying “Friends, school, sleep: Pick two.” If you haven’t, it means you won’t have time to do everything you want...and sometimes need. While there are students who can balance all three, they have another difficult decision to make at the beginning of each semester: tuition, food or books?

According to survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven out of 10 undergraduate students reported not buying one or more textbooks because the cost was too high. How high? The Government Accountability Office estimated textbooks cost a quarter of the average state college tuition (three-fourths at community colleges) and the U.S. PIRG revealed textbook prices have risen faster than overall inflation with a 22-percent uptick in the past four years. For students, this means some serious money management is in order. "Generally what we get from students is 'Yeah, it's only a few dollars, but it could be my dinner,'" said Jessica Bruning, a student at Iowa State University. "It adds up pretty quickly." The survey also revealed four out of five students said new editions prevented them from purchasing cheaper used books and half cited bundles or custom editions as the culprits for increased costs.

The good news – yes, there is some! – is that groups like Textbook Rebellion, Campus Progress and even individual professors are doing their part to keep textbook costs from negatively impacting students’ college experiences. "Better options are out there," said Nicole Allen, textbooks advocate for the Student PIRGs. "Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students." Have you had to choose between tuition, food or books? What are you doing to keep your college costs in check?

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 Study Explores Higher Ed Stratification

Aug 11, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Money may not be able to buy happiness or love but a new study shows it’s an integral factor in getting into college.

The study – “Running in Place: Low-Income Students and the Dynamics of Higher Education Stratification” – reveals that despite efforts to attract and enroll more low-income students, such students are still more likely to attend community colleges or noncompetitive four-year universities than more elite schools. These students are indeed taking the steps necessary to increase their grades and standardized test scores but their wealthier counterparts are taking wider, faster strides toward the same goal.

According to the study’s lead author and associate professor of higher education at the University of Michigan Michael N. Bastedo, “The distance between academic credentials for wealthy students and low-income students is getting longer and longer...and that’s despite the fact that low-income students are rising in their own academic achievement.” Selective colleges claim they want to bring in more low-income students but the study’s authors say ancillary factors like higher/better job placement and more generous alumni are proving detrimental.

There is much more to the study here including the authors’ suggestions for improving equity (i.e., optional SATs, greater access to Advanced Placement and honors courses). Take a look and share your thoughts!

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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Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

Aug 10, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

A few months back, we wrote about helpful tips on maximizing merit aid, or aid based on a student’s attributes like academics, athletics and extracurriculars. For college applicants who aren’t deemed financially needy in terms of their FAFSA or EFC, merit aid can make a huge difference in the schools they can realistically afford to attend. Students and families seeking this extra financial aid boost should consider researching schools more likely to dispense merit-based awards but with so many colleges and universities in the U.S., which ones are the best financial bets?

Help has arrived in the form of U.S. News, which has compiled a top 10 list of schools that awarded the highest percentage of merit-based funding to non-needy students during the 2009-10 academic year (the stats do not include financially needy students who were given merit aid or students who received athletic scholarships or other tuition breaks). Take a look:

High school students, does this data have you looking at these schools in a new light? Current college students attending one of the schools listed above, did merit aid make the difference as to whether or not you enrolled?

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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Greek Life Benefits Extend Beyond Toga Parties

Aug 10, 2011

by Anna Meskishvili

I’m a proud member of the Greek system now but it took a lot of convincing for me to don a pair of letters. Regardless, I consider joining Kappa Delta one of the best decisions – if not the best – I’ve made during my time at BU. Thinking about going Greek? There are several key things all incoming pre-PNMs (Potential New Members) should know.

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility. Initiation immediately connects all your actions to the organization. The Greek system is already slandered with stereotypes so it’s crucial that all PNMs take this seriously. I know, insert eye roll here, but it is actually more involved than you think. Most Greek organizations were established hundreds of years ago and have functioning National Headquarters; representing your sorority or fraternity well is to represent yourself at the highest degree.

Don’t Stop Believin’. Greek organizations are based upon many traditions. Some are expired notions about dancing in public, while others are more timeless ideas of elegance and education. Make sure you connect with the ideals of the organization because your commitment is a lifelong one. There are academic, financial and social standards that must be upheld – can you police yourself?

Time of Your Life. Going Greek has only made my life better. My sisters are wonderful women I adore and I have developed many friendships outside my sisterhood yet still in the Greek community. Greek life expands your horizons through Alumni Chapters, which will likely help you post-college (mentoring, networking, finding a job, etc.).

Keep Calm and Carry On. With all that said, Greek life isn’t for everyone. Even if you attend a Greek-heavy school, make sure that being part of “the system” doesn’t take over your life. My mantra for being a Kappa Delta is that it complements all the other parts of my life rather than defines it.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.

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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Don’t Object to Pre-Law Classes

Aug 9, 2011

by Thomas Lee

My major was political science but I took some pre-law classes in preparation for law school. Taking pre-law classes or attaining a pre-law minor looks great on a law school application; if you’re interested in taking this path, here’s what you can expect.

My pre-law classes included Constitutional Law, Intro to Law and Criminal Justice. Students participated in mock trials during Criminal Justice class, which involved class members acting out the various roles portrayed in a real trial. I played one of the witnesses and had to field a series of questions from the defense and prosecution. I found it to be a very enriching experience and gained a better understanding of what legal proceedings really involve.

While I did not pursue a pre-law minor – and somewhat regret not doing so – I am still glad I took pre-law classes in order to gain at least a basic background of the legal system. I also wish I had taken a class entitled Legal Research and Writing, as I found it would have gotten me on the fast track to an internship. When deciding what classes to take, keep in mind which classes will advance your career the most and opt for those ones over fluff courses.

Pre-law classes will also prepare you for the Law School Admission Test, aka the LSAT. It works similarly to the SAT or ACT, as it is used to determine your aptitude for success in law school and is a requirement for admittance to most law schools. I have already taken the LSAT and scored a decent 149 out of 180, but a score of at least 160 is considered an achievement for the schools I’m interested in. Because of this, I am in the process of studying and plan to retake the LSAT this October.

Once I achieve the score I desire, it’s law school application time. Then, it’s three more years of schooling, countless hours of research, a few internships and a passing score on the bar exam until I can achieve my goal of becoming a civil lawyer and eventually running for political office. Wish me luck!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.

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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Roommate Request Accepted

Students Find Dorm Roommates via Social Networks

Aug 8, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

When I began college, I knew three people at my school of choice: a high school classmate, a friend of a friend set to become an RA and a girl I met while we were both waiting to triple jump at a track meet. This was fine by me, as I was excited to meet new people and thought the best way to do so would be to go the random roommate route. It didn’t work out but today, some incoming freshmen aren’t tempting their roommate fate and finding the person they’ll share an 11’-by-14’ room with online, the Washington Post reports.

With the advent of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy for first-time college students to seek out their ideal roommates based on their online profiles and 140-character musings on life. While some schools still prefer having control over housing assignments to ensure new students are exposed to different points of view – the University of Virginia has seen requests for first-year roommates skyrocket over the past five years and can no longer honor all requests – others are slowly but surely embracing social networking as a resource. At American University, incoming students are presented with a list of possible roommate matches based on their replies to short questionnaires and the University of Maryland has set up its own internal social network for admitted students to get to know each other and look for roommates. These methods can result in fewer roommate conflicts but some college officials – and even some students – fear they focus on the wrong qualities: One USC student revealed a few potential roommates asked her for her clothing and shoe sizes, not what her sleep and study habits were.

Current and soon-to-be college students, did you find your first-year roommate online or did you let your school choose for you? What characteristics did you cite as important in a roommate? Do you regret your decision?

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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Not-Your-Average Application Essay Prompts

Aug 5, 2011

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you have your heart set on one college and you're about to write your application essay. The prompt is “If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk?” Wait...what? Believe it or not, this really is a prompt from the University of Chicago, an institution famous for strange essay prompts designed to make the process of applying to college less painful.

Of course, strange questions like UChicago's may have the opposite effect – a more stressful application process – on some people. C’mon, how many of us have really given thought to what landscape we'd like to walk over when balancing on a tightrope? I know I haven't and I doubt anyone who’s afraid of heights has ever or will ever consider the answer, either, but the point of this question is to show just how unique you really are. Colleges receive thousands of applications from hopeful students each year and it stands to reason that reading that many essays on a less interesting topic gets pretty tedious.

That's why questions like UChicago’s are so useful: They force applicants to come up with a unique answer. Are you thinking about majoring in oceanography? If so, you might say that nothing would calm your nerves like walking over the coastline and hearing the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. Are you more of a bookworm considering a major in library science? Maybe walking over stacks of books and thinking about how your favorite characters had to face trials even worse than walking a tightrope would help you keep your balance.

Since no two essays on such weird prompts as the one listed above will be the same – and if they are, you’ve got some explaining to do! – you might as well take advantage of your opportunity to shine!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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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Taking Classes with Friends or Roommates

Aug 5, 2011

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the greatest things about college is making new friends; however, the main goal of going to a university is to do well in your classes and obtain that degree. So what happens when those two college aspects collide? Well, the outcome can definitely vary, as taking a class with a friend or roommate can either be fun or stressful. Let me explain.

Freshman year, one of my roommates and I took an introductory anthropology class together. It was fun to walk to class and gossip about the teacher and the other students later on in our dorm room...but that was where the fun ended. My roommate would often miss class and expect me to get her assignments and take notes for her. We would plan to study for tests together but she would bail at the last minute – and then complain when she was unprepared! In the end, the class became more work and stress than was necessary because I had taken it with my roommate. While it was nice to have a familiar face in the class, her habits interfered with mine and created a bad experience.

Now, I know this is an isolated event and that it is possible to take classes with friends or roommates and have it be a good experience – students do it all the time – but I would advise you all to think carefully before enrolling together. If you do want to give it a try, set guidelines right away, much like a roommate contract but for class. Make it clear that each person is responsible for their own notes and assignments, and define your study habits are and whether or not you want to study together or separately. If you set these standards from the beginning, you should have a fun and productive class experience with your friend.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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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Should You Be an RA?

Aug 4, 2011

by Shari Williams

If you have lived on campus, hung out in the dorms or simply attended classes, you have encountered a resident assistant or resident advisor, perhaps better known as an RA. I was an RA during my junior year while I was participating in the National Student Exchange at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and loved it! It was a great opportunity to save money, meet people and gain personal knowledge.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the perks of being an RA – free housing, a single room, etc. – but not everyone will meet the qualifications. RAs must be very responsible; for example, if someone decides to trash the hallway or throw a noisy party, it’s the RA's responsibility to report the incident and think of ways to prevent it from happening again, even if some decisions they make are unpopular with their advisees. I enjoyed my time as an RA but this position isn’t for everyone. It’s not about the money or free housing – your heart really has to be in it!

During my time at CSUN, I found the housing staff and all RAs to be very supportive, family-oriented, and genuinely care about the students. If that sounds like you, you could be a great RA candidate but here are a few more things you should know before applying:

The Pros

The Cons

RA positions vary from school to school, as do their responsibilities. If you want to be an RA, do your research at your college by asking some current or past RAs about their experiences. To be or not to be an RA depends on you and, if you do decide to take on this role, your advisees will depend on you, too!

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.

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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And Forbes’ Top American Schools Are…

Aug 4, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors, do you know where you want to spend the next four years? Sure, it may still be summer and you’re nowhere near crunch time when it comes to making that decision, but go ahead and get a head start and check out some of the top schools in the country, according to Forbes Magazine.

Every year Forbes puts together a list of the best undergraduate institutions in the country, focusing on areas that matter most to students: quality of teaching, great career prospects, graduation rates and low levels of debt. Here’s the numerical breakdown: Post-Graduate Success (30%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence; Student Satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates; Debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates; and Four Year Graduation Rate (17.5%) and Competitive Awards (7.5%), which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes and the Fulbright. Here are the top 10:

  1. Williams College
  2. Princeton University
  3. United States Military Academy
  4. Amherst College
  5. Stanford University
  6. Harvard University
  7. Haverford College
  8. University of Chicago
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  10. United States Air Force Academy

For the second year in a row, Williams College has been named as the best undergraduate institution in America. And with total annual costs adding up to nearly $55,000, it’s certainly not cheap but the 2,000 undergraduates here have among the highest four-year graduation rates in the country, win loads of prestigious national awards like Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, and are often rewarded with high-paying careers. Does this information have you rethinking where you’ll apply?

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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The Individualized Major: Is It For You?

Aug 3, 2011

by Anna Meskishvili

There’s this really awesome frozen yogurt at BU called Mixx. It’s self-serve with a variety of different flavored yogurts (pomegranate, cheesecake, mango) and toppings (sprinkles, gummy bears, freshly-cut apples). As I made my latest frozen yogurt concoction, I couldn’t help but wonder what if my career plan was as exciting as this? Well, no I’m kidding, I didn’t think that...but I did learn that there are several colleges that offer a “mix and match” for college majors.

My best friend at the University of Connecticut began as a psychology major...then realized her interest in women’s studies...and then this past year discovered her passion for creative writing. Luckily, UConn is one of the many schools that offer this individualized major option. My friend, Dana, is now dabbling is all three fields with her own custom-made course of education.

The ability to specify a major that caters directly to your interest and passions will only be able to help you become an ideal candidate for your dream job. To play devil’s advocate, you will be perfect for a selection of your target positions, but as stated in Sue Shellenbarger’s WSJ article, “Can’t Pick a Major? Create One,” it doesn’t allow you to choose from as large a pool of careers.

This individualized approach to one’s curriculum is much like an exciting and original frozen yogurt swirl: You have to realize that although you may enjoy cheesecake-gummy bear-kiwi swirl, not everyone will be equality thrilled with your secret sauce.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.

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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