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The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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The Perks of Volunteerism

March 26, 2012

The Perks of Volunteerism

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I think about volunteering the same way most of us think about fruits and vegetables – important to your health, good for your future and, every once in a while, the last thing you want added to your day. No one talks about it but I've seen it as both a volunteer supervisor and as a volunteer myself. However great the cause, however much you care, some days you just want to stay in bed. After all, they're not paying you so what does it matter if you miss a day or two?

What professional volunteer coordinators know is that volunteering isn't just good for showing the world you're a good person who cares about others: Choosing to volunteer builds skills you might otherwise not have the opportunity to develop, making you immensely more attractive to future employers and colleges. If you volunteer with young students at a religious school or daycare, for example, you will be better at working with young students than someone with no experience but that commitment also adds to your organizational ability, proves to potential employers that you are responsible and able to do self-directed work and shows your commitment to causes outside your normal purview.

In addition, peer mentoring or tutoring (paid or unpaid) adds to your employability. First, it shows that you are good at working with other people – a requirement for many jobs – and second, many employment opportunities (from consulting to banking to physical therapy) require that employees can clearly and concisely explain their point of view to others. Teaching someone how to do a math problem may be as applicable to your career in management consulting as any classes you took in college: It's a transferable skill that you will use again and again.

Finally, if you are interested in working in the industry that you're volunteering in, there's a good chance that you'll be considered an internal candidate for any job opportunities that come up. That usually means that your application will be read before outside candidates (even if they have more direct experience) and often increases your chances of getting an interview. Besides, if you've done good work, you've effectively gained an extra (positive) reference so think about your time volunteering as an extended job interview.

On that note, go forth and volunteer! As a former volunteer supervisor, I know we welcome the help but you're probably getting as much from it as we are.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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by Paulina Mis

A grant is a sum of money that does not have to be paid back. Because, like grants, scholarships are sums of money that do not need to be repaid, some grant providers use the terms interchangeably. Stipulations for both vary greatly, and the lines between the two are frequently blurred. Whether they are awarded by the government or another donor, grants are a very popular source of financial aid for college. Each year, students across the country apply and receive grants that make it possible for them to attend the schools of their choice.

Governments Grants

The government provides grants for many students who submit their FAFSA. Currently,the government offers five types of need-based grants to college students. There are Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Academic Competitive Grants and National SMART Grants, the most popular being the Pell. These grants are considered to be the foundations of financial aid packages, and all other financial aid should be taken advantage of once a student exhausts their grant funds.

Undergraduate Grants

Undergraduate students who, based on their FAFSA, show financial need are the main recipients of need-based government grants. For the 2007-2008 school year, students may receive up to $4,310 in Pell Grant money. Students who show extreme need, graduate from a competitive school or plan to major in the math & sciences may be eligible for additional grant money.

Graduate Grants

Unfortunately, the government reserves most of its need-based grants for undergraduates. However, there are some government-assisted grant opportunities for students who demonstrate merit or who wish to enter a certain sector of the economy.

Outside Grants

Many students go straight to the government to find college grants. Because submitting a FAFSA kills a few birds with one stone—a student can find grants, loans, and federal work study with one form—it makes sense that government grants are popular. But a college grant search does not need to stop at the gates to the white house. Colleges, universities, organizations and personal providers offer numerous grant opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates. Scholarships.com can help you find them.

Undergraduate Grants

Students who search for outside undergraduate grants may have some work to do. Such grants are out there, but many do require students to perform research or internship work. Because many providers prefer to offer such opportunities to graduate students,outside grants are more popular amongst the older crowd. Seeing as many students search for internship opportunities regardless of pay, on-the-job compensation may be an excellent perk. Students who have an interest in wildlife and are willing to work on a project in the New England area, for example, may be eligible for the A.V. Stout Fund grant. With a little work, winners can receive about $1,000-$3,000 in financial aid.

Graduate Grants

Looking to outside organizations and universities for graduate grants is a student’s best bet. Because the government isn’t much help when it comes to need-based grants,it is a good thing that outside grants, scholarships, and government loans are still an option. As is true of much graduate financial aid, many opportunities are merit based. They may also require that recipients conduct research. Organizations who would like to encourage the growth of a certain career sector frequently offer grant opportunities to graduate students.

Undergraduate and graduate grant opportunities are readily available to college students. All it takes is a little searching and, if research or an internship is involved, some dedication. For undergraduates, submitting a FAFSA may be all it takes.

Posted Under:

Graduate School , Grants


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by Paulina Mis

Any time is a good time to conduct a fellowship search, but the beginning of each school year is particularly good. Many fellowships are awarded on a yearly basis, and applications need to be submitted before the term begins—on time.

For graduate students, free government Pell Grants are no longer an option, and limiting loans should be a top priority. It is irritatingly ironic that many graduate school programs are more expensive than undergraduate ones, but less government aid is available.

Loan burdens may be so dire that, even after studying for years, many cannot enter their chosen careers without defaulting on loans. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the average graduate student ends school $45,000 in debt (compared with $18,000 for undergraduates). A lucrative job is needed to pay off such loans—especially when potential car, home and family expenses are taken into account.

Fortunately, aid in the form of fellowships tends to be pretty lucrative, often numbering in the thousands. Stipends and award renewal opportunities may even be involved.

Students may search for fellowship opportunities by visiting Scholarships.com and by browsing through college financial aid websites. At Scholarships.com, students can find scholarship, grant, and fellowship information on more than 2.7 million awards worth over $19 billion in aid.

Getting a head start will give students additional time to deal with application problems that may arise. Fellowships can be hefty, but so can the competition. Applying early may give students the edge they need to win.

Posted Under:

Fellowships , Graduate School


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by Paulina Mis

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE administrators, will be making small changes to the GRE next month. After dropping their plans to vastly alter the GRE, the ETS decided to go for something smaller.

Instead of creating a new grading scale, different formats and a new time limit (as was originally planned), ETS decided to begin by introducing two new question types, one for verbal reasoning and one for math. The remaining questions will remain the same, and the students’ answer to new questions will not count towards their score—at least not yet. David Payne, Associate Vice President of Higher Education at ETS, announced that, “We will begin counting these question types toward examinee scores as soon as we have an adequate sample of data from the operational testing environment."

But for now, students are safe.  Those who encounter the new math question will be asked to type their answer in a box rather than to select it from a set of provided choices. Those who see the new verbal reasoning question will be asked to choose two or three, rather than the standard one, answers to complete a phrase. Each test taker will only be shown one new question, if any.

Both changes, once officially employed, will make the test harder for most. Because many graduate schools heavily weigh GRE scores when making admissions decisions, it is best to prepare as early as possible.

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by Paulina Mis

The government funds a number of financial aid and mentoring programs, and you are probably—no offense—unaware of most. It’s not your fault. Most students are not well-versed in matters of federal aid because they have not been informed about their options.  Aside from the best-known federal grant, the Pell Grant, most students know little about available federal aid.

The TRIO program (no, this is not an acronym) is one of the lesser-known federal financial aid and counseling programs. It was created to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as those facing circumstances that hinder their academic pursuits. The TRIO program is made up of six different student programs and a training program for TRIO program staff. It not only addresses financial obstacles caused by affording an undergraduate education but also those caused by affording graduate school.

To be considered disadvantaged, students must have an maximum annual income of $15,315 for a one-person family unit, $20,530 for a two-person family unit, $25,750 for a three-person family unit and $5,220 for each additional person. (The income cutoff is higher in Hawaii and Alaska.)

The student programs offered through TRIO include:

Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program- This program was created to increase the number of underrepresented students who obtain graduate and doctorate degrees.  Eligible students who demonstrate strong academic potential are assisted in their preparation for graduate studies with counselor support, financial aid, research and internship opportunities as well as tutoring programs.

Student Support Services (SSS) Program- The SSS program assists students in meeting their basic college requirements. The goal of the program is to increase student graduation rates and the number of students who continue their education. Eligible students will receive help in securing admission and financial aid to four-year colleges and universities, personal counseling, tutoring assistance, career planning and college scholarship information.

Talent Search- Students eligible for the talent search aid are assisted in completing their high school education and attending a college or university. Eligible disadvantaged students will be offered tutoring, career search aid, college information, counseling and mentoring services.

Upward Bound- The Upward Bound program assists high school students in preparing for college.  It awards aid to financially disadvantaged students, students whose parents did not obtain a bachelor’s education and low-income first-generation veterans pursing a college education. Upward Bound projects include tutoring in math, science, composition, literature and foreign languages. Students are also offering counseling, cultural enrichment programs and work-study programs.

The Upward Bound Math-Science Program- This program was created to improve the math and science skills of students and to encourage them to pursue a degree in the math and sciences. Participating students will receive aid with the help of summer programs, counseling, computer lessons and the opportunity to work with college faculty and graduate students on science research projects.

The Educational Opportunity Centers Program- The Educational Opportunity Centers Program is an assistance service for adults who need help in their pursuit of a postsecondary education. Eligible adults will receive personal counseling, information on college financial aid and tutoring aid.


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Tour de Scholarships.com

December 19, 2007

by Paulina Mis

The whole “college graduates earn $1 million more than non graduates over their lifetime” stat is getting a bit trite. I’ll give you a few more if you’re not convinced that college is a worthwhile investment.

College graduates enjoy greater career security

College graduates can offer their children a more secure financial future

College graduates are healthier

College graduates are more likely to contribute to society

Anyway, you get the picture. The problem isn’t that the whole “follow your dreams” thing makes no sense. The problem is affording those dreams and affording the time and preparation it takes to follow them. Most of us don’t make enough money to loll around devoting our days to perfecting our sculpting skills and sharpening our 3 point shots. Even those with less risky dreams can’t always afford to test the waters, especially if the schooling required to get those jobs is too expensive and time consuming. That’s why so many students find themselves having to compromise their initial career goals after realizing their dream jobs won’t allow them to pay off student loans. Let’s just say that the need for qualified teachers isn’t caused by a disinterested public.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be gloomy. I swear there’s a silver lining. Financial aid in the form of government grants and outside scholarships is readily available to students in difficult situations. Without a cloud of college debt hanging over your head, “The Road Not Taken” may suddenly become an option. The financial aid information found at Scholarships.com will help you familiarize yourself with the FAFSA, government grants, corporate scholarships, private scholarships, the ins and outs of student loans and myriad other financial aid opportunities. Whether you’re interested in preliminary information or ready to get down to business by finding scholarships, we can help you do it.

If you’re not convinced, you can take a tour of our site. Visit our homepage, and take a sort of “Tour de Scholarships.com” if you will. We can help you see how conducting a free college scholarship search will help you find scholarships and grants that, based on the information you provide, you're eligible to receive. Find New York scholarships, scholarships for graduate students, scholarships for minorities, poetry scholarships, music scholarships—you name it, we’ve got it. With information about more than 2.7 million scholarships and grants, Scholarships.com offers more than you’ll know what to do with. If you’re not convinced yet, just take the tour. Like the search, it’s free. You’ve got nothing to lose, and a world of financial aid opportunities to gain.


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Research Grants

February 28, 2008

by Paulina Mis

Students eager to work for multiple degrees deserve some credit--the financial kind. Paying for graduate school is difficult, and many students leave burdened by debt they cannot realistically pay off. The federal Pell Grants students may have received as undergraduates are no longer available, and suddenly, graduate school may no longer seem plausible.

The situation is particularly problematic for students interested in receiving a doctor's degree because many such programs take an average of six to seven years to complete. Most students cannot afford to work and study full-time, so completion of school often hinges on one's ability to afford it. To help graduate students pay for their living and research needs, many universities and financial aid providers offer annual research grants, scholarships and fellowships. To get you started, we have listed a few examples below. For additional information about financial aid for graduate students, you may conduct a free college scholarship search.

AMAF Valuing Diversity Ph.D. Scholarship

This scholarship was created by the American Marketing Association Foundation (AMAF) and the AMA Academic Council to assist students from underrepresented populations in their pursuit of a marketing-related degree. African American, Hispanic American and Native American students enrolled in a full-time AACSB-accredited marketing doctoral program are eligible for this award.

Society of Pediatric Psychology Student Research Award

The Society of Pediatric Psychology Student Research Award is available to current student members of the Society of Pediatric Psychology (SPP). Research projects leading toward a master's or doctor's degree, or ones conducted for independent study, will be considered. Work must be relevant to the subject of pediatric psychology.   Collaborative Research Grants

Collaborative Research Grants are awarded to students working in teams of two or more to complete work that cannot be funded by a one-person grant. Eligible projects include research or conferences that contribute to understanding of the humanities, archaeological research, translations of important works into English and humanities research used to enhance knowledge in science, technology medicine or the social sciences. Grants may be used to fund up to three years of work. 

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (HFG) Research Grants

Awards typically ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 per year for one or two years are awarded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (HFG) to students who participate in research that increases the  understanding of causes, manifestations and control of violence, aggression and dominance.

The National Network for Environmental Management Fellowship Program

The National Network for Environmental Management (NNEMS) Fellowship can be used to fund a project that directly relates to environmental research. About 20 to 30 awards totaling $300,000 are awarded annually. Individual grants will vary depending on the level of education, location and the length of a fellowship. 

Environmental Public Policy & Conflict Resolution Ph.D. Fellowship

Two one-year fellowships of up to $24,000 will be awarded to doctoral candidates by the Udall Foundation. Applicants will have to conduct research on the topic of U.S. environmental public policy or environmental conflict resolution. Students must be entering their final year of dissertation work.

Department of Homeland Security Graduate Fellowship

Undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing a doctoral or master’s degree and working on a thesis dealing with homeland security may be eligible for this federal award. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.3. Full tuition and a stipend of $2,300 per month for 12 months will be awarded. In addition to a 10-month internship, one-year of homeland security-related work is required.

Beinecke Scholarship

This award is granted to undergraduate juniors who intend to enter a master’s or doctor's program in the arts, humanities or social sciences. To be eligible, students will need to be nominated by their school. (Interested students should contact their college counselors.) Preference is given to students with financial need.


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by Paulina Mis

The credit crunch and its negative impact on student borrowers is no longer news.   Both FFEL and private lenders have been responsible for financial tensions, and now there’s more to gripe about. Numerous colleges have been complaining that they are not receiving sufficient funding to cover their students' Perkins Loan needs.

Perkins Loans are awarded to students by colleges and universities, but the government provides much of the funding. Because these loans are restricted to students who show particular financial need, shortages will affect students whose families have the lowest incomes most.  Perkins Loans have the cheapest interest rates and the most lenient payment options as far as government loans go, as far as most student loans go. Students are asked to pay a 5 percent interest rate on Perkins Loans as opposed to 6.8-7.22 percent on federal Stafford Loans and 7.9-8.5 percent on federal PLUS Loans. Those who turn to private lenders can expect even higher rates.

Due to a poor loan market and a lack of government subsidies, many schools have been forced to cut back on both the number and the size of their Perkins Loans. According to U.S. News & World Report estimates, about 50,000 students who would have qualified for Perkins Loans last year will not qualify for them this year.  Those who do qualify may still see their loan limits diminish. Technically, students can borrow up to $4,000 in Perkins Loans (though the number may be lower for those deemed less needy), but certain colleges will be decreasing the maximum funds available to students. 

This has left families worried that they may be forced to rely on private student loans after reaching their federal loan limits.  After dealing with increasing default rates, both Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) lenders and private lenders have been forced to make loans more difficult to receive and less appealing to borrowers. Major lenders are becoming sticklers about eligibility criteria and have been cutting back on the benefits offered to students with good paying records.  

Students who are no longer eligible for Perkins Loans still have financial aid opportunities. By applying for college scholarships and grants, students may find college funding they do not have to repay. Before considering loans, students should conduct a free college scholarship search to find awards they may be eligible to receive. It is also important to fill out a FAFSA each year. Just because an individual is not eligible for Perkins Loans does not mean they will not be awarded free money in the form of Pell, FSEOG, SMART or TEACH grants.


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