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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

by Alexis Mattera

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2012 for the 2013-2014 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

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Scholarships.com Virtual Interns Wanted

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you're putting pen to paper, live tweeting campus events or blogging until the wee hours of the morning, one thing is certain: Sharing information is your passion. And you know what? It's ours, too, so let's join forces through Scholarships.com's virtual intern program!

Over the last 15 years, Scholarships.com has been a go-to site not only for high schoolers in search of financial aid but for college students living away from home for the first time, trying to balance limited money for food and fun, and adjusting to postsecondary academic expectations. We have plenty of information on those topics and more but we want to hear from you about what's going on at the campus you call home for the majority of the year. From parties to politics, from housing to hazing, and from class registration to commencement exercises, let us know what's trending at your school and your musings could be featured regularly on our blog.

If you're interested in becoming a Scholarships.com virtual intern, please send your resume, a 300-word writing sample detailing a campus issue, and links to your blog/Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Pinterest to virtualintern@scholarships.com with "Scholarships.com Virtual Intern" in the subject line.Thanks and looking forward to hearing what your unique voice has to say!


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The Short and Tweet Twitter Scholarship is Back!

Your School-Related Resolution for 2014 Could Earn You $1,000

December 16, 2013

The Short and Tweet Twitter Scholarship is Back!

by Alexis Mattera

Every January, we all make resolutions for the year ahead – resolutions that are, unfortunately, usually forgotten by February. Want to make a vow you’ll actually keep and earn money for college at the same time this year? Then enter our newest Short & Tweet Scholarship!

What’s on your educational to-do list in 2014? Whether it’s getting into your dream school, decoding the FAFSA or simply setting two alarms so you don’t miss your morning classes, we want to know! Follow us on Twitter and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet detailing your school-related resolution and how you plan to keep it. Here’s how to enter:

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What’s your school-related resolution for 2014 *AND* how will you stick to it?” Once you do this, you are entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindle Fires.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want from December 16th through January 31st but please limit your tweets to one per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom, do not answer the entire question or are submitted after the January 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which comments are most deserving of the awards.

  • Starts: December 16th
  • Ends: January 31st
  • Number Available: 3
  • Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle Fire each for second- and third-place winners

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.


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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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Not-So-Standardized Testing

Controversy Surrounds Unconventional SAT Essay Prompt

March 16, 2011

Not-So-Standardized Testing

by Alexis Mattera

This past Saturday, one-third of high school students taking the SAT opened their writing sections and were met with a prompt that even the most extensive prep courses couldn’t have prepared them for. The topic? Reality television and its impact on its viewers.

While the prompt didn’t ask test-takers to cite specific shows or characters (as a New York Daily News headline suggests), SAT owner the College Board has been called culturally insensitive because the question assumes all students have a television, watch reality television and watch enough reality television to distinguish between them. Angela Garcia, executive director of the SAT program, responded that all essay prompts are pretested with students and then reviewed "to ensure that they are easily understood and that each student has an opportunity to respond, and is wide-ranging enough for a student to demonstrate their writing skills." Still, students, parents and school officials are equal parts distraught and confused, anxiously awaiting to see how answers to this question will impact scores.

Standardized testing – whether it’s about changes to existing exams or the decision to make submitting scores optional – is a hot topic as of late and now, we want to hear from you. Did you receive the reality prompt? How did you respond? Do you think you would have fared better if you were given a different prompt? Do you think the SAT (or standardized testing in general) is an accurate measure of a student’s worth?


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Scholarships.com Virtual Interns Wanted

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you're putting pen to paper, live tweeting campus events or blogging until the wee hours of the morning, one thing is certain: Sharing information is your passion. And you know what? It's ours, too, so let's join forces through Scholarships.com's virtual intern program!

Over the last 15 years, Scholarships.com has been a go-to site not only for high schoolers in search of financial aid but for college students living away from home for the first time, trying to balance limited money for food and fun, and adjusting to postsecondary academic expectations. We have plenty of information on those topics and more but we want to hear from you about what's going on at the campus you call home for the majority of the year. From parties to politics, from housing to hazing, and from class registration to commencement exercises, let us know what's trending at your school and your musings could be featured regularly on our blog.

If you're interested in becoming a Scholarships.com virtual intern, please send your resume, a 300-word writing sample detailing a campus issue, and links to your blog/Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Pinterest to virtualintern@scholarships.com with "Scholarships.com Virtual Intern" in the subject line.Thanks and looking forward to hearing what your unique voice has to say!


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Faith Trumps Graduation Speech for One H.S. Valedictorian

by Alexis Mattera

Imagine studying hard, taking AP classes and earning a stellar GPA for four years and having that hard work pay off by being named the valedictorian of your class. Sounds like a dream, right? Not necessarily. Just ask Carolyn Fine.

Fine received the news that she'd been selected as Vacaville High School's valedictorian and but her heart sank when she found out the date of the graduation ceremony: It was scheduled to take place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a day prohibiting the use of anything requiring electricity until after sunset. This meant she would not be able to use a microphone during her speech, drive to the ceremony or pose for pictures in her cap and gown after receiving her diploma. Fine spent the next few weeks struggling to decide between honoring her faith and delivering her valedictory address and ultimately decided the former was more important. Admiring her choice, school administrators offered a solution to satisfy all parties. “They prerecorded my speech and they are going to play that while I’m standing up there,” Fine said. “It was a tremendous relief. It seemed like I had reached a compromise where I could keep to my faith and accept this, because it’s a huge honor.”

What would you have done in Fine’s situation – honored your faith or given the speech using a device powered by electricity?


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Illinois Erases High School Writing Exam

by Alexis Mattera

Assessing students’ writing skills takes a keen eye, an open mind and – sometimes – a lot of red ink. In an effort to save some green, however, Illinois has eliminated its last standardized state writing exam.

The writing assessments for elementary and middle school students were dropped last year but now Illinois high school juniors no longer will be tested on writing skills. Though the move is saving the state about $2.4 million, educators are worried it will impact the focus on and resources for writing skills in Illinois classrooms. They speculate reading and math will take precedence, as these two subjects are used to measure public schools’ performance under the No Child Left Behind Act. According to Barbara Kato, director of the Chicago Area Writing Project, there has already been a shift: When the state nixed the elementary and middle school grade school writing tests last year, requests for teacher training in writing instruction plummeted.

Oregon and Missouri have also eliminated writing-centric exams but others, like Washington, have managed to preserve funding despite serious budget deficits. What do you think about Illinois’ educational editing? Do you think eliminating the writing exam will be doing a disservice to students?


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Attention High School Students: This Scholarship is for YOU!

by Alexis Mattera

Sure, brevity was a virtue for our Short & Tweet and Haiku Ninja scholarships but for the more verbose students in the crowd, there’s the Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship. The deadline for submission is September 30th, so if you haven’t started writing yet, here’s some helpful info.

The Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship – or the R2E, as we like to call it – provides students with the opportunity to move beyond finger-pointing and offer constructive criticism and workable solutions for problems facing an administration or organization. Each 300- to 800-word essay must be written in response to one of two questions; this year, they focus on the possible detrimental effects of technology on the masses and whether or not a college degree has value.

Who can enter and what will they win? Glad you asked! The R2E is open to all United States citizens who are registered users of Scholarships.com, will be enrolled in high school (grades 9 through 12) during the 2011-2012 academic year and will be between the ages of 13 and 19 at the time the award is given. The applicant who submits the best overall essay will receive a $2,000 scholarship. One (1) winner will also be selected from each grade level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and will receive a $1,000 scholarship each.

As we said, the deadline is September 30th so there's still time to enter. For more information on R2E, click here or view the official rules. And remember, to access this and other scholarship opportunities, complete a Scholarships.com profile and conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Flipped Classrooms Gain Momentum, Critics

by Alexis Mattera

Picture two Advanced Placement classes. One features a teacher giving a lengthy lecture while students take notes and the other has the instructor fielding questions and interacting with students based on the previous night’s digital assignment. Which one is producing higher AP test scores and information comprehension? According to some, it’s the latter – a method being referred to as flipped classrooms.

A growing number of teachers are recording their lectures, uploading them to iTunes and assigning homework based on their digital lessons. Instead of covering an entirely new topic during class time, students review the material at home, bounce queries off of friends and arrive in class the next day ready to work out any remaining problems they’re having with the teacher. The approach may seem strange but teachers who have tried it – including Stacey Roshan, a calculus teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland – say flipped classrooms offer greater control over material and more face time with students.

The flipped classroom method is gaining more support – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken note – but also has amassed its fair share of critics: Lisa Nielsen, author of the new book "Teaching Generation Text," worries that low-income students may fall behind because they don't have reliable Internet or computer access at home and says the approach "could lead us down the path of doing more of something that doesn't work because it gives us more time to do it."

Has anyone experienced the flipped classroom method first-hand? If so, what did you think of it? If not, would you be willing to give this learning method a try?


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