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by Paulina Mis

U.S. News may be a news source by name, but it’s the company’s annual college report that’s responsible for its celebrity status. According to a U.S. News representative, the 2007 College Ranking Report drew 8.9 million website viewers within the first three days of the date of release. The company also guarantees prospect advertisers that at least 2 million readers will read their in-print magazine. It is an undeniably attractive deal which, of course, costs an arm and a leg. The best ad position can cost a company as much as $232,992. (What ever happened to rounding?) For the price of one ad, a family can make a 100% down payment on their home.

The college rankings have become so popular that it only made sense for U.S. News to take things to the next level. Students who want to get a good education after high school can get a head start by doing well in one of the nation’s highest-ranked high schools. Right or wrong, the demand for this information is there, and U.S. News is jumping at the chance to capitalize on it.

The list is a great business for U.S. News and a boon for communities lucky enough to be in presence of these regal high schools. When searching for my first post-college apartment, I came upon a tattered place with a surprisingly high price, at least for me.  It was already above my optimal range, but I was curious—until I toured the residence.  I was both amazed and irritated with the owner for thinking he could get away with such consumer gouging. His excuse, as you may have guessed, was a good school district.  That was my cue to leave, but other families would have been more than happy to compromise. If I had kids, I may have been one of them.

There has been no lack of controversy surrounding the U.S. News college reports, and controversy about the high school reports is probably forthcoming. A number of schools, including Reed College and Dickinson University, have refused to participate in the college reports by not providing information, and time will tell how unranked high schools will react to the reports. Whether it’s for the highest paying career options, the joy of an excellent education or for membership in what Stephen Colbert referred to as a brie cheese elite, students and parents across the nation are drawn to prestigious schools. Until this is no longer the case, you can be sure that inside college scoop will be warmly received and heatedly debated.


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by Paulina Mis

The QuestBridge organization has been turning heads lately for its ability to match talented, underprivileged students with excellent schools across the country. It's something of a dating service for students and colleges. QuestBridge has sought after and found numerous exceptional high school students and paired them with some of the nation’s most prestigious, and expensive, colleges and universities. By participating, schools can diversify their campus, and eventually, the demographic of the nation's leading scholars. QuestBridge makes finding gifted and oftentimes overlooked teens look easy.

High school seniors who are nominated, or who nominate themselves, fill out one application that can then be sent to all participating schools. Their fee is waived, and an essay about the student's ability to overcome obstacles is also included. When selecting finalists, QuestBridge considers academics, finances, eligibility requirements and personal circumstances.

From there, applications are sent to schools which make the final decision. Accepted students are offered full four-year scholarships to attend one of the twenty participating colleges and universities. Among these are Notre Dame University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and Amherst College. There were 103 QuestBridge students who received scholarships to leading schools last year, and the number is expected to increase this year.

Students who may not have otherwise considered expensive schools suddenly find opportunity within reach. A featured QuestBridge student who won a scholarship to Stanford stated, “I didn’t feel like I could get in to a top college. I filled out my application and lost my nerve to hit the ‘submit’ button. I will never forget receiving a call at my home from a Quest counselor, encouraging me to go ahead and apply.”

For more information about the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship, you can conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.


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by Paulina Mis

Senior year is a breeze right? Yeah right. Between homework, standardized testing, applications and internships, things couldn’t be further from the truth. And for those of you who decide to enroll in advanced placement classes, things could get hectic. But you will get through it, and you can do so successfully. The tips below may help you manage the schedule you have and obtain the grades you want.

Don’t ignore the second semester. After all applications are sent out, once the preliminary acceptance letters are received, it’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, AP classes are still in session during the second semester, and pushing through these final months can make or break your scores. Advanced Placement classes require serious effort; obtain the rewards that accompany them.

Prioritize test material. Most teachers will, to some extent, emphasize test material during class discussions. They know that AP classes are difficult, and they want you to succeed on final exams. Take note when you hear that something may show up on the test. Ultimately, you only have so much time in your schedule, and, if you can’t learn everything, at least learn what you need to know to earn a passing score.

AP first.  All classes are important, but AP ones offer college credit potential.  Therefore, when possible, address assignments dealing with these classes first. Once you have applied to schools, your overall GPA won’t be a major issue—assuming it does not drop drastically—but AP scores will. If you can’t give all classes full attention, at least address the ones that can lessen your college workload.

Posted Under:

GPA , High School


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by Paulina Mis

A college education is an expensive purchase. It’s certainly an investment, but an expensive one nonetheless. Many students are forced to take out thousands in student loans to afford college, but some are so close to  paying for school that accumulating college debt on account of minor need would be a shame.

For many such students, tuition installment plans may be a good option. Certain colleges and universities allow students to split up their semester or trimester payments into monthly installments. They pair up with one or more tuition installment plan companies which administer the services, and make the option of enrolling available to those who are interested.

Students and parents who receive steady paychecks and those awaiting college scholarship or grant awards may benefit from the tuition installment plan option. Such plans are interest free, but, unfortunately, they are not cost free. Individuals who use tuition installment plans usually have to pay administering companies annual enrollment fees or finance charges, ones that usually average between $30 and $60. Certain participating colleges may also ask that those enrolled pay a large portion of their college tuition and fees up front.

Students considering a tuition installment plan should contact their college financial aid office to find out if the plan is available and, if so, what fees are involved.


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by Paulina Mis

As if the application process was not enough, the ACT, SAT, GRE etc. not sufficiently stressful, some students must also worry about acing a college interview. Those who wish to enroll in certain undergraduate or graduate school programs may find that the interview is simply unavoidable. Because interviews cannot be proofread by an older sibling, students can use the following pointers to prepare themselves for the big day. 

Location is Key. Before moving on to the content, finalize the basics. Confirm the address and time of the interview, and plan out the best way to reach your location. If possible, visit the meeting place beforehand. If not, at least arrive early. Realizing that the campus layout is confusing, the buildings ambiguously marked and the office hidden in a building labyrinth is not the optimal start to your interview. You need to arrive (outwardly) calm, (seemingly) confident and obviously on time.

Do Your Homework. Interviewers want to hear the following: you want to attend this school; you have a clear, original reason for wanting to pursue your degree, and you’re mature and ready to benefit their institution (as a current student and accomplished graduate). Be prepared to convince them of the aforementioned. Browse the school website, and be prepared to drop some names, numbers or facts. For example, let the interviewer know how the department’s A to B student teacher ratio was impressive, exactly what you had hoped to find, and how very much you would like to help professors C, D or E with their latest research project—it perfectly aligns with your career interests.

Leave a Lasting Impression. Having worked in an admission’s department and attended a board meeting where professors decided the future of incoming (or not incoming) students, I was surprised to see how seriously the interview process was taken. Yes, the board reviewed and heavily emphasized a student's course experience and GPA—over sub sandwiches—but it also paid attention to a student's presentation. Professors remarked about dress code, about how carefully a student considered his or her career goals and about formality. From this I learned that you should dress to impress; prepare specific, original details about current and future goals, and express how important your interview and goals are to you.

Posted Under:

Graduate School , High School , Tips


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by Paulina Mis

Dorms are filled to the brim with students your age, and therein lies their charm. But after finding a group of people you enjoy spending time with, their appeal slowly fades. Dorms are cramped, noisy, and, eventually, old news. But before you can hug your RA goodbye, you need to find an apartment, and that takes some planning. The following tips can help you find the best-suited home at a reasonable price.

Determine Boundaries. Before the apartment hop begins, establish a general search boundary. Off-campus apartments may be cheaper, but, depending on location, the class hike may be substantial. Decide which is the bigger priority, finance or location, and be realistic about how far you are willing to walk—in boots on a rainy, snowy day—to your perfect residence.

Get a Head Start. If you attend a large state school, chances are, you have options. But you can only be as picky as the time allows. Begin your apartment search early, around December or January. If you wait until the summer months to find an apartment for the upcoming year, you may find your options slim. Stake your claim before someone else can.

Look at Reviews. What you don’t see when you visit an apartment—the unreachable repairman, the stinky, bug-ridden basement—may come back to haunt you. One of the best ways to gauge a potential home is by seeking out feedback from previous tenants. Reviews of landlords and apartments can frequently be found in campus newspapers, both on and offline. You may also want to ask around. Satisfied and disgruntled students alike are often willing to let you know what they think.

Budget. When budgeting, you have to consider paying for school, for residence, for food, for leisure, for holiday gifts, for transportation, for emergencies and so on. If you're an apartment penny pincher, it's best to limit surprises. Ask landlords about any city or tenant fees that may be tacked on to the lease, and find out if if gas, water, parking or an internet/cable package are included. If you don’t plan to stay on campus during the summer months, also ask about a 10-month lease option. The need for apartments drops during the summertime, and many students have a hard time finding individuals willing to sublet at full price. By asking the right questions and budgeting accordingly, you can avoid many such problems down the road.


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by Paulina Mis

The Voice of Democracy Scholarship is an annual competition administered by the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW’s). Since 1947, the organization has been helping students pay for school, giving away more than 2.5 million in prizes each year. To compete, students will have to write and record a broadcast script that addresses the following theme: “Service and Sacrifice by America’s Veterans Benefit Today’s Youth by...”The applications will be judged on originality, content and delivery.

Prize: 1. Up to $30,000 in scholarship money 2. An expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Eligibility: 1. Applicant must be a student in grades 9-12 2. Applicant must be enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home school in the U.S., its territories and possessions, or in an overseas U.S. military/civilian dependent school. 3. Foreign exchange students, those over 20 and previous first place Voice of Democracy winners are not eligible to compete.

Deadline:November 1, 2008

Required Material: 1. A 3-5 minute essay recorded on a neatly labeled cassette tape or CD. The reading must address this year’s theme and must be recorded in the student’s voice. 2. A typed version of the essay. 3. A completed entry form.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship search results.


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by Paulina Mis

All entries have been cast, all information verified, and yes, a winner has been chosen. Matt D. of Newport, KY has been randomly selected as latest winner of the Scholarships.com $1,000 Tell A Friend Sweepstakes. By referring his friends to Scholarships.com, Matt was able to secure $1,000 towards a college education.

"Winning the sweepstakes was really exciting! It was the first scholarship I applied for and … I won,” he told us. Once again proving that financial aid is available to those who search, Matt was able to join the growing list of Scholarships.com Success Stories.  By giving them free access to our scholarship search, providing them with valuable college-funding resources and personally sponsoring numerous sweepstakes and scholarships, Scholarships.com has assisted myriad students in affording a postsecondary education.

Every three months a new Scholarships.com user is selected as the Scholarships.com Tell A Friend Sweepstakes winner. Applying couldn’t be easier—no essays and no recommendations required. For the chance to win $1,000, just visit our Tell A Friend Sweepstakes page. You can enter the names and email addresses of up to ten friends, and, if they join the site, you will both be eligible to win $1,000. The more friends you refer, the more entries you’ll receive. Submit now for the chance to win!


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by Paulina Mis

The National Peace Essay Contest, a scholarship sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace, gives students the chance to voice their opinions on matters regarding international peace and conflict. By administering this award, the institute hopes to promote thoughtful discussion between youth, educators and national leaders alike.

Students interested in this year’s scholarships will have to write a 1500-word essay discussing the steps international entities such as the UN, governments and government or non-government organizations can take to protect individuals from crimes against humanity during times of warfare. An example of two foreign conflicts and possible measures that could be taken to promote their peace will have to be identified.

Applicants should also designate a coordinator such as a teacher, parent or youth leader to act as a contact between them and the US Institute of Peace. Coordinators will be responsible for reviewing the entries and ensuring that scholarship essays are the original work of the applicant.

Prize: 1. National first place award $10,000 (includes state awards) 2. National second place award $5,000 3. National third place award $2,500 4. Fifty-three state awards $1,000

Eligibility: 1. Students must be in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia or, if they are U.S. citizens, abroad. 2. Applicants may not have been previous first-place state winners or immediate family members of the institute. 3. Students may participate with the sponsorship of an essay coordinator.

Deadline: February 1, 2009

Required Material: 1. Two registration forms, one filled out by the student and one by the teacher 2. A 1500-word essay addressing this year’s topic

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship search results.


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by Paulina Mis

Students who sign up for classes don’t always know what they’re getting into. Boring teachers aside, the work may be both overwhelming and useless. If that's the case, it may be time to get out before it’s too late. Here are some things to remember before making the final decision.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst Dropping classes may be the best way to avoid unnecessary work or burnout, but it sure is a pain. It takes time, sometimes money, and it nearly always causes stress. That’s why it’s best to ask around before choosing classes. Find out if any of your friends have taken the class. Is it difficult? Is it interesting? Is the teacher effective in helping students develop critical skills?

Most importantly, figure out if the class coincides with your future goals and current interests. During high school, I signed up for an accounting class thinking it would provide me with practical insight into the business world. Though business was not in my future, I thought that everyone could benefit from some business basics. After a few weeks of scribbling numbers into a never-ending stream of credit and debit columns, I raised my hand and asked the teacher if this class would prepare me for something other than accounting. Turns out, it wouldn’t. It’s too bad I didn’t know that sooner.

Give Yourself a Reality Check Difficulty is a commonly cited reason for dropping classes, and it's a perfectly good reason. It’s important to be realistic about your abilities and your schedule. When a class is just adding to your already full workload, rethink it. Being able to drop a class doesn’t make you a quitter; it makes you a realistic and mature decision maker, one that values their sanity and health.

Consider Class Importance Before dropping a class, be sure that you can afford to do so. If you’re in college, dropping a class may put you below full-time status subsequently decreasing your eligibility for a full financial aid package (both scholarships and federal student aid).

Dropping required college classes may also be troublesome. When students decide to get rid of a requisite, they may be forced to take on a heavier workload in future semesters. A heavier workload may in turn lead to scheduling difficulties caused by core courses that overlap in time.

Sometimes, a class may simply be unavoidable. Once again, be realistic when you judge. If you think you can do without the class, let it go. If you know that dropping the class will only lead to future troubles, just grin and bear it for a while.

Be Cost Conscious If you’re in high school, dropping a class will probably save you money (unless you're paying for AP classes ). Once you graduate high school, it’s a different story. Most colleges and universities fine students who drop their classes too late into the semester. That’s why it’s important for students to be aware of the costs involved in taking on classes and dropping them. If you plan to drop a class, do so before the fee deadline. If you’re worried about the costs of taking on additional classes, stick with the basics and take enrichment courses once you can afford them.

Posted Under:

College Culture , High School , Tips


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