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Pell Grants, the Debt Ceiling and You

August 4, 2011

Pell Grants, the Debt Ceiling and You

by Kara Coleman

If you’re one of the more than nine million undergrads who depend on Pell Grants to pay for school, you have probably been pretty anxious over the past few weeks.

This past February, the United States House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution which would slice the federal budget drastically. One of the programs to be affected by the cut is the Pell Grant program. The maximum amount of funds available to college students would be lowered from $5,550 to $4,705 and the changes were set to take effect for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Students were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the Pell Grant program, which has long received bipartisan support from the Senate, was able to avoid major cuts after all. The debt-ceiling bill passed earlier this week will limit overall discretionary spending to $1.043 trillion in the 2012 fiscal year. Since that’s about $7 billion below the current level of spending, how will students be able to receive their maximum Pell Grants? Grad students will be the ones taking the hit. At the moment, graduate students with federally subsidized student loans don’t have to be concerned with interest until after graduation but under the new plan, interest on these loans will begin to accrue while they are still working towards their degrees.

National Economic Council director Gene Spurling says of the bill, “This is a compromise budget, but one that we believe makes the necessary room for the most important investments in winning the future in innovation and research and education.”

How do you feel about these changes? For those with dreams of advanced degrees, are you already researching alternate funding options for graduate school?

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

December 19, 2011

Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

November 21, 2011

What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Ten Schools Banned from NCAA Basketball Tournament

June 27, 2012

Ten Schools Banned from NCAA Basketball Tournament

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 10 schools were banned from participating in the 2012-2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament for failure to meet academic standards: Arkansas - Pine Bluff, Cal State - Bakersfield, California - Riverside, Connecticut, Jacksonville State, Mississippi Valley State, UNC Wilmington, Texas A & M - Corpus Christi, Toledo and Towson.

The NCAA rates teams according to their Academic Progress Rate, in which a team is viewed as a whole and its performance in the classroom is evaluated. If a team’s APR score falls to 925 or below and at least one player fails his classes and drops out of school, that school can lose scholarships. If the APR sinks down to 900, the penalties grow steeper and they increase each year that the team falls below par. Being declared ineligible for NCAA postseason play is a result of scoring 900 or below for three years. If the APR remains low for a fourth year, the entire athletic department is penalized. The school loses its Division 1 status and is reduced to “restricted membership status” in the NCAA.

Is this fair or too extreme? I’m not saying this just because my school – Jacksonville State – is on the naughty list, but I’m not sure that I completely agree with the NCAA’s punishment. If a student-athlete fails to perform academically, he should lose his scholarship, be suspended from the team, etc. But the players who make good grades, the coaches, and the fans should not be punished for the underperformance of the few. College students are adults – it’s up to each individual to study and work hard.

But what do YOU think? Is the NCAA spot-on with its academic standards and penalties, or does something need to change?

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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See the World in the Summertime!

Exploring the Many Benefits of Summer Abroad Programs

August 10, 2012

See the World in the Summertime!

by Kara Coleman

Many universities across the country offer study abroad programs for students who wish to spend a semester in another country. Every student that I know of who has ever participated in one of these programs hails it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience...but what if you can’t afford to spend an entire semester overseas or you don’t want to interfere with your planned graduation date or schoolwork? Consider seeing the world on shorter-term trips during the summer! You’ll still get the experience of traveling and seeing what life is like in other countries without taking a lot of time off from work or school.

This past May, my university sent 10 students from its honors program to China for two weeks. Though they did do a few touristy things, they spent most of their time learning at Taizhou University. Because the Chinese academic year is different than ours in the U.S., the Chinese students were still in classes and the American students were able to jump in and study alongside them after their final exams had been completed at home. The best part? The trip was completely paid for by JSU!

You can also use the summer months to explore the world on a trip not associated with your college. Last month, I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip, where I volunteered in a shelter for homeless children. I was able to experience firsthand what life is like in a third-world country and have plenty to tell my friends about when school starts back up later this month.

So where will you be at this time next year? Studying kung fu in a Chinese university? Playing soccer with kids in Central America? Or maybe something completely different? A whole world of opportunities awaits you – literally!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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Is Not Struggling a Struggle?

July 25, 2012

Is Not Struggling a Struggle?

by Kara Coleman

Recently, 22-year-old Taylor Cotter published an article on The Huffington Post about her success since she graduated from college in May. The odd thing about Cotter’s piece is that she doesn’t take the angle of a success story in a struggling economy – she feels that she should be struggling more!

Cotter talks about how many of her friends are working part-time jobs, living at home with their parents and/or having diets consisting mostly of Ramen; she feels that she is missing out on the post-college twentysomething life by having a ‘real job’ and a 401(k). Some readers – including myself – are appalled by Cotter’s tone. It seems to me that it would be the dream of every college student to find a full-time job directly after graduation but Cotter almost seems remorseful that she made herself marketable to companies who would hire her.

I have been living at home with my parents and working part-time jobs ranging from lifeguarding to tutoring to retail over the past few years to supplement educational costs. Now that I am preparing to move into an apartment with my friends next month, I know full well that I’ll be eating my fair share of peanut butter sandwiches and cereal; while I’m excited to begin this next phase of my life, I’m more so look forward to the day when I have a full-time job – the same situation Cotter is essentially complaining about.

Isn’t that what college is for? Teaching us how to go from being dependent children to self-supporting adults? Or I could be wrong: Maybe it’s a time to either live with your parents or eat Ramen noodles. What do YOU think?

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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The Truth About Tuition Rates

March 12, 2012

The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Finding On-Campus Employment

March 4, 2013

Finding On-Campus Employment

by Katlyn Clark

After classes, homework and studying, college students often discover that they have some free time on their hands. Some take on extracurricular activities (both fun and professional) but realize it would be cool to make some money as well. Instead of rushing off campus to score a job at the local mall – something that can be difficult for students without cars – see what kind of employment options are available on campus first.

So where should you begin your on-campus job search? First, check out your college’s website. You'll find jobs at the bookstore/co-op that sells school supplies, books and branded apparel, the student center that houses restaurants and campus organizations, or the fitness center where students go to work out. Dining halls are an excellent option, as is the library: You can’t beat the commute and you may even be able to do your homework when there’s a lull.

The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn extra money to help pay for college expenses. These jobs are often connected to a student’s interests or field of study. Certain on-campus jobs are only available to work-study students; to see if you qualify, contact your financial aid office or review the results of your FAFSA.

Speaking of major-related jobs, contact the department of your major – there may be a position for you that can be beneficial to your work experience in the future. At Campbell, for example, I write for the newspaper and help distribute it when it comes out.

Getting an on-campus job can be beneficial in many ways. Where do YOU work at your school?

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.

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Public or Private - Which Type of College is Right for You?

February 14, 2013

Public or Private - Which Type of College is Right for You?

by Katlyn Clark

As admissions decisions begin to roll in, high school seniors are weighing their college options. In addition to financial aid packages, programs offered and distance from home, school type – public or private – is an important factor to consider.

If you’re thinking about attending a public university, consider these facts:

I was automatically drawn to private schools (Campbell specifically) because I was not interested in any of the public schools in North Carolina. If you want to go to a private school, here are some points to ponder:

Before you submit an enrollment deposit, I hope that you take a moment to consider these factors and do some deeper research. If you have any questions for me about what it's like attending Campbell or a private school in general, please shoot me a comment!

Katlyn Clark is a freshman at Campbell University majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist for entertainment or write for a magazine such as People or Seventeen. In her spare time, Katlyn loves to hang out with friends and family and watch sports; she is a Christian who is so thankful for God’s many blessings in her life. Katlyn is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and loves Tim Tebow, Pinterest, the WWE and cats.

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The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

April 12, 2012

The Five-Year Plan: Why It’s Okay To Be a Super Senior

by Kayla Herrera

Everything is blooming and trees are awakening with widening leaves stretching up toward the sky. The birds are chirping and don’t forget the sound of graduation gowns sweeping across the floor! I should be graduating this year but like so many other college students my age, I have been thrown more than a few curveballs in my time in school and I have another year to go before I can enter into the workforce full-time. I want to assure you that this is okay and completely normal!

Here at Michigan Tech, we have a five-year plan. In order to graduate from Michigan Tech in four years, one must take 18 credits every semester, not including summer semesters. Not a fan of killing yourself with books, papers, exams, labs and a part-time job and would prefer to enjoy your time in college? That mentality is adopted by most students at Michigan Tech, making those who graduate in four years or fewer the minority.

Let’s face it – things happen: You change your major and have some serious catching up to do in prerequisite classes, you have a death in the family, you become seriously ill and take a semester off, or you just want to study abroad for a while. And that’s all more than fine, people! Yes, money is a huge issue (you can combat this by finding as many scholarships and grants as possible!) but at least we didn’t develop serious illnesses because of stress in an overworked educational environment!

My advice? Take it easy and give yourself time to soak in all of the new information you are learning. Remember, don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for needing to stay in school for an extra year or two. There are colleges out there, just like mine, where the majority of students are on five-year plans – you just have to find them.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.

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