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You Majored in…What?

What Your College Degree Really Means to Employers

September 21, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Two students from two schools majored in the same subject and obtained degrees in the same field. They took equivalent classes, received identical grades, won similar scholarships and are now both being considered for the same job. Who is the better candidate? Put it this way: You don’t want to be the hiring manager.

In fields like nursing and accounting, there are licensure examinations in place to determine which graduates studied smart and have the greatest understanding of the material they have learned in school. The results are cut, dry and conclusive here but for those organizations hiring graduates from fields without these tests, finding the perfect candidate isn’t easy. In his recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, Forrest Hinton states that the disparity in grades and academic standards is so significant between institutions, departments and instructors that comparing applicants’ transcripts is often just as useless as offering someone a job because of their connections, alma mater or the hiring manager’s gut instinct. Hinton argues that the only way to mend this ailing hiring system is for academia and industry to work together to conclude which skills and knowledge students need to master most. Just because a candidate went to a less-selective college doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less qualified than a graduate of a more competitive institution and the same goes for students who are first-generation, low-income or minorities. Hinton suggests common and field-based assessments should be implemented to separate the candidates who thrive from the ones who will do just enough but, unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in…yet.

Though assessments across a wider variety of fields may be difficult to implement, I think they would make a huge difference in the quality of candidates employers hire and, in turn, the quality of work they produce. What about you, readers? Should someone get the job based simply on where they graduated from or their fluency in the field they seek to work in? What DOES a degree really mean these days and, more importantly, what SHOULD it mean?


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The Early Student Gets Admitted

Colleges See More Interest, Accept More Students Early

October 21, 2010

The Early Student Gets Admitted

by Alexis Mattera

Hiring managers and interviewers like to say “If you’re early, you’re on time and if you’re on time, you’re late” and over the course of the most recent recession, that motto has been unofficially adopted by admissions committees and prospective college students.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)’s annual “State of College Admission” report, many colleges (private and public) have reported increased interest from applicants in applying early and a jump in the number of students admitted this way. The former remained relatively the same as over the last two years but the latter – 65 percent of schools accepting more early decision applicants compared to 43 percent just one year prior – is pretty remarkable. The same can be said about the growing gap between the admissions rates for early decision and regular applicants at the same institutions: Colleges with early decision admit about 55 percent of all applicants, but 70 percent of early decision applicants, though only 7 percent of applications received take advantage of the early decision option. Another facet of the NACAC report is the overwhelming popularity of applying online, up to 80 percent in 2009 from 68 percent in 2007.

Does this mean schools are becoming less selective and simply rewarding the early birds in their quests for the worm? Not entirely…and not at all for the Ivies. The top criteria remain grades, the strength of the high school curriculum and admissions test scores but what NACAC calls "demonstrated interest in enrolling" is also climbing those ranks. Does this info change how you plan to apply?


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The Evolution of College Admissions

Eight Changes Geared to Weeding Out the Wheelers

November 16, 2010

The Evolution of College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

You all remember Adam Wheeler, right? If not, he’s the kid who lied his way into Harvard and Stanford and made a mockery of the college admissions process along the way. Though his actions were definitely considered, what Wheeler did is just part of the reason why these two schools – and many others – are revising their admissions rules to ensure only the most honest and qualified candidates get in.

According to a U.S. News and World Report article, eight major changes are afoot, ranging from limiting the time admissions counselors spend reviewing each application and relying less on recommendations to setting earlier deadlines and placing more emphasis on the application essay. Each modification is twofold: It will expedite the process for admissions committees and separate the truly worthy applicants from the ones trying to game the system.

The more noteworthy changes include the diminished emphasis on high school class rank. Where a student stood amongst his or her peers used to be quite weighted but a survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) found that from 1993 to 2009, its importance dropped from a “considerable” 42 percent to 15 percent with admissions officers. Also changing in prominence is the emphasis on high-caliber coursework, even through senior year. The rationale? Students who take more rigorous courses in high school have a higher likelihood of collegiate success. Think you’re a shoo-in because you got all A’s in moderate classes while your best friend pulled B’s in her honors and AP courses? Hate to break it to you, but your buddy is the better candidate for admission. Senioritis is no longer tolerated, either: Last year, the University of Washington withdrew 27 offers of admission of students who goofed off too much during senior year. Lastly, quality control is through the roof thanks to Turnitin, an anti-plagiarism software that scans essays for similar or identical phrases found on millions of websites, articles and books. Sorry, Wheeler wannabes.

The full article is pretty interesting (view it here), as is the united front these schools have created to ward off scammers and slackers. If you’re just applying this year, do you think these changes will affect your chances? And if you are currently in college or have already graduated, would you be where you are now if these regulations existed when you applied?


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This Scholarship of the Week is SWEET!

Zinch Sweet-Diggity-Dawg Scholarship Deadline Approaching

December 27, 2010

This Scholarship of the Week is SWEET!

by Alexis Mattera

Finding the necessary amount of financial aid to fund your education can be difficult. Requirements often include complicated forms and applications, lengthy essays and rigid guidelines…some, but not all: Certain providers, like Zinch, are making it much easier to score some super sweet scholarship opportunities. Like this week’s Scholarship of the Week, the Zinch Sweet-Diggity-Dawg Scholarship: It's worth $20,000. Let's learn some more about it, shall we?

To enter, you must be a high school student with a minimum 2.0 GPA and an 80-percent complete Zinch profile. Semi-finalists are selected for this scholarship based on their profiles then they compete, "March Madnezz" style, in a bracket of 64 students. Students go head-to-head, with the best Zinch profile advancing until only one student remains and claims the $20,000 scholarship.

The application deadline is in just under three weeks (January 15th) so you still have time to spruce up your Zinch profile (or create one if you don’t already have one). With $20,000 at stake, it’s best to bring your A-game! To get more info about this scholarship, visit Zinch's site and to find additional scholarship awards, try our free scholarship search today!


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Self-Testing Boosts Info Retention

Retrieval Bests Traditional Concept Mapping as a Study Method

January 24, 2011

Self-Testing Boosts Info Retention

by Alexis Mattera

Did you spend your Sunday distraught over Jay Cutler and the Bears or horrified by the atrocity that was Mean Girls 2? I know I’m not completely alone here but, being the diligent students you are, many of you were probably holed up in the library preparing for your first exam of the spring semester and quizzing yourself on key pieces of information. Good thing, as a new study says self-testing while studying is the best way to retain facts and figures.

The study, "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping," was conducted by Purdue’s Jeffrey Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt and found that since learning is fundamentally about retrieving, practicing retrieval while studying is crucial to learning. The study focused on two groups of students (200 altogether) who were asked to read several paragraphs about differing scientific topics but one group was instructed to use the information to create a concept map and the other was told to put away their articles and spend 10 minutes writing what they recalled. When the students were tested on the same material one week later, the group that practiced retrieval retained 50 percent more information than those who engaged in concept mapping. Strangely, researchers also found that despite learning less, the students who engaged in concept mapping were more confident that they would remember the material than those who practiced retrieval while studying.

What’s your preferred study method? Is it producing the results you want? Will you employ the retrieval method given this study’s findings?


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Sam Walton Community Scholarship Deadline Approaching!

This Scholarship of the Week is Due Next Monday

January 24, 2011

Sam Walton Community Scholarship Deadline Approaching!

by Alexis Mattera

Three grand can come in pretty handy for a lot of things but it’s especially vital for someone trying to figure out how to pay for college. If you’re a high school or home school senior, check out our Scholarship of the Week – the Sam Walton Community Scholarship – to ease three thousand financial worries.

To be eligible to apply for the Sam Walton Community Scholarship, an applicant must:
  • Be a graduating high school senior home school senior
  • Have at least a 2.5 cumulative high school GPA, and have taken either the ACT or SAT standardized tests
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States
  • Not be a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. employee or dependent of an employee
  • Demonstrate financial need by required documents
  • Plan to enroll in a two- or four-year U.S. college or university full-time undergraduate course of study (at least 12 college credit hours) in the fall semester. (The institution must be accredited and listed on the official website of the U.S. Department of Education with the exception of military academies; all school transfers are subject to accreditation approval.)

For more information on this college scholarship and countless others, try our free scholarship search today!


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AP Becomes the Norm in College Prep

by Alexis Mattera

This year's Academy Award nominees were announced this morning, representing the crème de la crème of the film industry. There are several parallels to this honor in the world of academia like getting accepted to a top college, making the Dean’s List or earning a prestigious scholarship but one long-held distinction – completing an Advanced Placement course – is becoming anything but elite.

According to an article in the Republican Herald, AP classes have become commonplace for most high school students in college prep programs across the nation. Jennifer Topiel, the College Board’s executive director of communications, revealed that more than 50,000 high school students in Pennsylvania alone were enrolled in at least one AP class last year. The number of Pennsylvania AP students participating in the optional subject tests at the end of the courses, however, have not been quite as high as the trend seen throughout the rest of the country, where there has been about a 50-percent increase in AP test completion in the past five years. The program has become so popular that it’s being revamped for the 2012-2013 school year to "clear students’ minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking."

It may not make sense to do all the homework, study for all the quizzes, earn exemplary marks and not reap the potential reward of college credit the subject tests can provide but some students purposely opt out of the exams, like North Schuylkill Superintendent Andrew Smarkanic’s daughter, Lauren, who took AP Biology in high school. "They don't take the test because they don't want to miss making the connection with professors in their program they may have in that first year or missing some subject matter because each school has its own unique curriculum," Smarkanic said. "You can miss the building blocks in that first year and struggle later in your program."

If you took an Advanced Placement course, would you forego the chance to jumpstart your college career or would you take the test, get the credits and have more room in your freshman year schedule for electives and nontraditional classes?


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Give the Best Buy Scholarship Your Best Try!

This Scholarship of the Week is Due Wednesday

February 14, 2011

Give the Best Buy Scholarship Your Best Try!

by Alexis Mattera

Wouldn’t it be great if one of your favorite stores put money into your wallet instead of taking it out? I’d say so and so would Best Buy: Through February 16th, in fact, the electronics giant is accepting applications for its @15 Scholarships.

Best Buy @15 Scholarships are available to current high school students in grades 9 through 12 who plan to enroll in a full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university or vocational-technical school in the Unites States. A total of 1,000 students will each receive $1,000 scholarships. So if you’re a high school student who plans to attend college, has solid grades and is involved in community service or work experience, you'll want to check out this award.

For more information about this opportunity, click here or try our free scholarship search to find other scholarships to help you pay for school.


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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?


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Why Students Drop Out of College

New MSU Study Cites Key Risk Factors

February 17, 2011

Why Students Drop Out of College

by Alexis Mattera

It may seem counterintuitive to work hard throughout high school, score well on your standardized tests, get accepted to your first-choice college and wrangle enough financial aid to pay for your education only to drop out before graduation but it does happen. What causes this academic 180? That’s what researchers at Michigan State University revealed in a new study.

The team, led by MSU assistant professor of psychology Tim Pleskac, used a mathematical model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 "critical events" and students were asked whether any of the events happened to them in the previous semester; later, the students surveyed were asked whether or not they planned to drop out. Among the top risk factors reported were depression, loss of financial aid, tuition increases, unexpected poor marks and roommate issues. Other "critical events" like family deaths, failure to get into a specific program of study, significant bodily injury and addiction, however, were less likely to impact a student’s decision to leave school. "Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac said. "We are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues."

Would any of the factors listed above effect your choice to drop out of college? If they did, do you think you would eventually return to obtain your degree?


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