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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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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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Transitioning from High School to College

Aug 2, 2011

by Jacquelene Bennett

There’s no denying that going to college is a life-changing event but the adjustment from high school life to college life can be a tough one. All of a sudden, you are thrust into a world with no parents and no supervision while surrounded by new people, new responsibilities and new pressures. This can all be very overwhelming but fret not, I am here with some advice to help ease this transition.

First, don’t change your sleeping or eating habits. I know this will be extremely challenging because everyone will be up late talking, hanging out and eating junk food but it’s important to maintain a schedule. If you don’t, you will start to lose focus and gain weight; trust me you do not want either to happen.

Next, communicate with your family as often as you can. My biggest struggle during freshman year was learning how to handle the disconnect I felt from being away from home and my family. Calling, emailing or Skyping to share what’s going on in your lives and telling them about your day can really help ease the homesickness. It worked for me!

The last and probably most crucial piece of advice I would like to give is to make time for yourself. If you are living in a dorm, you will be surrounded by people all the time...seriously, 24/7. While this can be fun and exciting, it can also wear you down and drive you crazy. Even if you just take a walk or eat dinner by yourself one night a week, having that alone time will allow you to not feel so overwhelmed by your friends and roommates.

While I tried to give you the best advice about starting college, the truth is there’s no magic formula. Everyone deals with college life in their own way and once you start, you will figure out what works for you. It may take some time but it will be so worth it in the end. Good luck!

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.

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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Don’t Play the Grading Guessing Game

Jul 28, 2011

by Katie Askew

They may attend different schools, have opposite majors, hail from varied backgrounds and covet diverse career aspirations but the one topic that all college students can agree on is that the college grading system is a lot different than the one they encountered during their high school years. Professors curve tests, weigh assignments differently and may never tell you a single grade until after the final. Unlike me, though, you have someone to lead you in the right direction – away from those grades that aren’t at the beginning of the alphabet.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “parent view,” “infinite campus” or any other type of online grading database to view daily and check-up on your grades. In college, you might get a professor that will update mid-term and final grades online, but very rarely will professors at a large university (like my school, the University of Minnesota) take the time to update grades – sometimes thousands of them – from the different classes they teach until absolutely necessary. It’s very likely that you’ll never see a letter grade until two weeks after the semester is finished and your final grades are posted...unless you are proactive.

To combat getting a potentially awful shock at the end of the semester, you must never assume you know what your current grade is. Pay attention to the grading scale – some professors will include a breakdown on their syllabi – or simply go to the source. Professors have office hours for a reason, so knock on their doors and start up conversations about your grades. Not only do you score some brownie points with your profs since you gave them some company during office hours (a resource many students do not take advantage of, BTW), but you also have concrete evidence of how hard you need to study for your final.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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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Head Out of State for an In-State Price

Jul 27, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: Your dream school is beyond state boundaries but your college fund is more suited to a college closer to home. Don't fret: If you know what and where you want to study, you could score an impressive tuition break through a regional discount program. Here's the breakdown:

New England Regional Student Program: Students living in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont could be eligible for average savings of $7,000 per year through this program if they enroll in a degree program not available at public schools in their home state. One drawback – if majors are changed, recipients may no longer be eligible for the tuition break.

Academic Common Market: Southerners (aka those living in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia) follow the same guidelines as the NERSP but with some additional restrictions. For example, schools in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas only offer tuition reductions at the graduate level.

Western Undergraduate Exchange: Do you live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington or Wyoming and want $7,500 per year in average college savings? WUE requirements vary from state to state and campus to campus but more than 26,000 residents took advantage of the program last year...so, interested students, apply early to ensure funding.

Midwest Student Exchange Program: Students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota or Wisconsin can save an average of $4,274 per year on tuition without being restricted by majors. The catch is that schools (public and private this time) can limit what degree programs qualify for this discount.

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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Managing Pre-Freshman Jitters

Jul 25, 2011

by Julius Clayborn

Lately, I’ve been searching far and wide for Neverland – a place where I don’t have to grow older, a place where I can evade responsibility, a place where I can avoid the looming anxiety of college, a place in which to find solace from the fear of independence.

Having never been away from home for such an extended period of time, there are a few qualms I have with starting college, a pivotal chapter in my life. The first one is, well, being away! There will be tons of new people in a totally new setting. Will I be able to manage? Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many people about this issue and they assure me that it’s not as horrid as it may seem. The feelings between me and the rest of the incoming freshmen will be completely mutual. That’s actually the beauty of the situation: Everyone’s just as afraid as you are, therefore just as vulnerable. This vulnerability will, in fact, make meeting people a much easier process because everyone will be wide-eyed, open-minded and ready to build relationships.

Another thing that concerns me is the workload. The sheer thought of being bombarded with 20-page papers and getting no sleep gives me nightmares! Though, the advice I’ve been given in regards to this problem assures me that I am being much too dramatic. My uncle eased this fear by telling me that though multiple page papers are an inevitable part of being a college student, unreasonable demands will not be put upon college freshmen right away as they're still trying to maneuver their way through a college campus.

After discussing my college concerns with a few different people, I’m glad that much of my anxiety is starting to dissipate. I think I’ll put that trip to Neverland on hold and fly to my college campus instead. The growth I experience there won’t be something I have to fear and in the end, I’ll be happy that I made the decision to grow up.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.

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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Blogging Bridges the Digital Divide

Jul 25, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

Teaching students how to write (and write well) has long been a challenge for educators. Sure, there are always those students with a knack for style and syntax but how can teachers get less-proficient or ESL students excited about writing and bridge the digital divide at the same time? Through blogging.

Jon Schwartz, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher from Oceanside, Calif., found that more than 60 percent of his students “came from households where English was the second language, or wasn’t spoken at all." To increase their interest in writing, Schwartz forewent the traditional pencil-to-paper route and introduced his students to blogging. After teaching them the basics, Schwartz required each student to submit a 90- to 100-word writing assignment each day. They had the option to turn in their assignments via the blog or on paper but after hearing how much some of Schwartz’s former students enjoyed blogging, almost all of them opted for the digital method.

From there, Schwartz said "creativity and productivity skyrocketed because they knew that their work had the potential to be viewed quickly by an authentic audience that mattered to them." In addition to the new-found enthusiasm about writing – Schwartz’s students continue to blog on their own time even when no assignment is required and utilize the Internet for research – the project has helped to bridge the digital divide. "If they aren’t trained to use the computer as a tool for learning, work, and personal growth, they’ll not be able to compete in high school, college, and job markets."

What do you think of Schwartz’s experiment? Would a program like this one get you more interested in writing in and out of the classroom?

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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Three High Schools You’d Love to Attend...and Why You Should Reconsider

Jul 20, 2011

by Angela Andaloro

Everyone has a complaint about the high school they attend. Maybe your school is too small. Maybe it isn’t in a “cool” area. Maybe you think it’s simply boring. Whatever the case, the schools we see on television and in movies seem so much better than our own. They may seem perfect but every high school has as cons as well as pros.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

The pros: Where better to study magic than in a castle? At Hogwarts, your staircases move, you get to have pets in your room and gym class consists of flying around on a broomstick. Plus, face it - you’d love to hang out with Harry, Ron and Hermione!

The cons: Crazy teachers, severe punishment (hello, Professor Umbridge?!) and fierce competition between houses.

Rydell High School

The pros: Rydell looks like just about the greatest high school in the world and not just because of all cool ‘50s fashion. There are laid back teachers, sick pep rallies and an end-of-the-year carnival like no other.

The cons: The singing. It totally works in "Grease" but imagine if every time one of your friends got dumped, they burst out into a musical number about it. Yuck.

Rosewood High School

The pros: The newest on the list and home to the "Pretty Little Liars" crew, Rosewood High School has attractive students and even more attractive teachers. It also has the most lenient cell phone policy I’ve ever seen and the only class anyone has is English.

The cons: There’s a small matter of a pesky murderer on the loose that seems to get into and out of the school with ease...

All that glitters isn’t gold. Next time you’re lusting after another school, remember all the things you love about your own!

Angela Andaloro is a rising junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.

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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Proper Planning Breeds College Success

Jul 19, 2011

by Radha Jhatakia

In life, keeping things in order, having a set schedule and planning ahead will truly save you time and keep you on track. In college, staying organized is even more important.

When making your shopping list for college, put a planner at the top. I have been using one since I was in elementary school and it has always helped me stay on top of my stuff. It came in handy most in college, though, and helped me to stay organized from the very beginning. The best kind to buy is one that has slots for individual days as well as a monthly calendar. This will allow you to keep track of all your classes, assignments, meetings, work schedules, extracurriculars and will prevent you from forgetting about something important. As soon as you get an assignment, write it down and remember to check your planner every day. You will have far fewer scheduling conflicts and will become adept at managing your time and keeping a healthy balance between work and play. You can also incorporate Post-its to keep track of tentative times and dates while keeping your schedule looking neat.

There are also other tools you can use like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar, which help sync media from different sources to keep track of all appointments. If you have a cell phone – and these days, who doesn’t? – use its alarm feature and tack a calendar up on your bulletin board as a backup (maybe even share it with your roommate and color coordinate your to-dos). Whatever your choice, make sure it’s something you are comfortable using and will remember to continuously check so that you don’t forget anything.

By staying organized all throughout college, you’ll be well-prepared to enter graduate school or the job market. College professors and potential employers appreciate organization: You will be a perfect TA candidate or employee if your superiors know they can depend on you. Be smart, be organized, be successful. It’s as simple as that!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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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Students Who Care: Campus and Community Volunteering

Jul 19, 2011

by Thomas Lee

One of the best ways to get involved on campus is to show you care by giving something back through student volunteering. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this. What’s best for you?

One way is to get involved with organized campus projects such as campus clean-up or even landscaping. Many colleges have some kind of “Show You Care” day that allows students to help with minor projects. Another way is to plan your own project and present it to campus ministry, student government or another student body that would be willing to help. One group of students at Methodist and volunteered to go around to the dorms and take out other students’ trash. Another group fed pizza to the cafeteria workers. I was involved with “Show You Care” day by helping move rocks and dirt to fill in a ditch for a walkway bridge and also helped remove fallen trees and branches from a family’s yard that had been struck by a tornado.

Another way to show you care is fundraising. Several student organizations have fundraisers for charitable causes. My fraternity, Kappa Sigma, raised money for the Fallen Heroes Campaign, a donation network for the families of soldiers killed in combat. Members of student ministry on my campus became mentors for Young Life, evangelistic outreach for at-risk high school students. The international students conducted several fundraisers for global causes such as conflict relief and stopping hunger. They even had their own campus club devoted solely toward charitable causes called Economics Anonymous.

If you want to be involved in the community but not necessarily in ministry or charity, another way is campaign volunteering. Campaigning for local candidates combined with student volunteering is a great way to build your resume and social network, as well as maybe help you get a date!

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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