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High Schools in 8 States to Offer Early Graduation Plan

February 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year that will allow their high school sophomores to test out of their junior and senior years if they are interested in enrolling in community college early.

The program is the brainchild of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), and was announced Wednesday. Those who do well on the tests, which will be called "board exams," but aren't interested in going to a community college will be able to continue taking college prep courses at their high schools to prepare for filing applications to the selective schools of their choice. Those who fail the exams will be eligible to retake them at the end of their junior and senior years.

According to the NCEE, the program's goals are to reduce the number of college students in remedial courses, and to better prepare high school students for campus life and the rigors of academics at institutions of higher education. Today, nearly half of the students in community colleges take one or more remedial courses and many are never able to complete developmental courses and move on to credit-level courses to complete their college degree, according to the NCEE. 

Students would be tested on a broad range of topics, including the standard English and math. Between 10 to 20 schools in the eight states involved will offer the program, modeled after existing programs in countries like Australia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands, in the 2010-2011 academic year. According to an article in the New York Times, the program has received a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help states and school districts get the program running. Start-up costs for school districts would be about $500 per student; that would cover the costs of courses, tests, and teacher training. To cover future costs, the eight states in the program plan to apply for a portion of the $350 million in federal stimulus money designated for improving public school testing, according to the New York Times.

The eight states offering the program are Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The NCEE hopes the program, which was a part of recommendations set into motion by the NCEE in 2006, will spread across the country. Their other recommendations included getting children in school by the time they were 3 years old and giving states control over local school districts.

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University of North Carolina at Greensboro Set to Offer Three-Year Degree

February 23, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro unveiled a new program yesterday that would allow undergraduates to graduate within three years. The initiative, UNCG in 3, would target "highly motivated students," according to the school's press release, and would address the growing number of high school seniors who enter the university with transferable college credit earned through Advanced Placement (AP), UNCG iSchool or other early college programs.

Graduating early isn't a new phenomenon. Many college students consider graduating early to save costs (the UNCG in 3 program would save undergraduates about $8,000 in tuition, fees, room and board) and get a jump on their post-college careers. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former president at the University of Tennessee turned Republican lawmaker, has said the three-year degree track would would save students money, ease the dependence on federal and campus-based financial aid, and allow students  to move into the working world or to pursue an advanced degree in less time. But it is unique for a college to set up a program specifically to get students on that track

Incoming freshmen in the following degree programs would need 12 college credit hours prior to enrollment to be eligible: Accounting, African-American Studies, Business Administration, Communications Studies, Economics, Elementary Education, English, Entrepreneurship, Finance, German, History, Information Systems and Operations Management, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Romance Languages and Russian. Those eligible students would need to take and pass at least 16 credits each fall and spring, plus seven credits each for two summer sessions.

The decision to offer the program came following a survey of the North Carolina school's student body. According to the school's press release, in the fall of 2009, 526 freshmen came to the college with AP credits; 92 students had 12 or more credits. That year, 59 first-year students entered with credits from UNCG iSchool, joining 139 continuing students with iSchool credit. A number of high schools across the country are also set to begin offering early high school graduation plans, further shortening not only the college but the high school experience.

Other colleges are looking to keep students from taking too long to graduate. At the University of Texas at Austin, a 20-member committee has recommended placing a limit on the number of semesters it should take undergraduates to graduate at 10. The current average length of time is 8.5 semesters; the national standard is four years, or eight semesters. According to the Associated Press, another task force recommended a 10-semester limit in 2003. Students would be able to appeal the limit, which would not apply to those in some architecture and engineering programs, or to shorter summer sessions. The committee also looked at limited the number of times students should be allowed to switch majors.

The Texas college has been looking to place such limits on the student body to better serve those students. According to the committee's report, "By remaining at the university for extended periods, these students reduce the university's capacity to serve other students who wish to attend UT, both freshmen and transfers." The Associated Press did not address whether there was a financial incentive for the school to graduate students early and get new freshman applicants enrolling.

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Sodexo Foundation STOP Hunger Scholarships

January 26, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is one of many scholarship opportunities available to students engaged in community service activities that help make the world a better place.  Hunger remains a serious issue in America, especially in times of economic trouble, and the Sodexo Foundation is interested in rewarding students who are engaged in continuing efforts to make difference in this area.  Through the Sodexo Foundation STOP Hunger Scholarship, students have the opportunity to not only win $5,000 in scholarship money, but to also earn a $5,000 grant for the anti-hunger charity to which they've dedicated their time.

Prize: Up to five national scholarship winners will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and a $5,000 grant given in their name to a local charity of their choice.  Regional winners will receive a $1,000 grant for a local charity of their choice.

Eligibility: Students of any level, kindergarteners through graduate students, currently enrolled in accredited educational institution in the United States are encouraged to apply.  To qualify, applicants must have engaged in a volunteer program combating hunger in the United States in the last 12 months.

Deadline: February 27, 2009

Required Material: Complete an online scholarship application, found on the STOP Hunger scholarship website, by February 27 and obtain a Community Service Recommendation, which must be submitted online by March 6.

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

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Zinch Ammunition for Tuition Scholarship

February 2, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is one of those rare scholarship opportunities that reward students for doing something they quite possibly already wanted to do.  The Zinch Ammunition for Tuition $25,000 Scholarship is a scholarship award for high school students who complete a profile on Zinch.com.  Applicants are judged based on both merit and need, as determined by the information they include in their Zinch student profiles.

So why is this something you might already want to do?  A profile on Zinch not only allows you to compete for a sizable amount of scholarship money, but also allows you to find colleges that cater to your interests and get in touch with recruiters from colleges you want to attend.  It's not often you find a scholarship competition that not only helps you pay for college, but helps you find a college, as well.

Prize:

$25,000

Eligibility: 

High school students graduating between 2009 and 2012 with a minimum GPA of 2.0.  Both US citizens and international students are eligible to enter.

Deadline:

April 10, 2009

Required Material:

A student profile completed to the best of your ability on Zinch.com

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

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More Students Taking AP Classes

February 6, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Advanced Placement, or AP, classes are becoming more popular and more students are passing the exams, according to annual data released by the exam's publisher this week. Approximately 15.2 percent of the class of 2008 received a passing score on the AP exam, as compared to 14.4 percent of the class of 2007.

AP courses, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, allow students to take college-level classes in high school and potentially earn college credit.  Each AP course ends with an exam, scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 considered to be "passing" and credit-worthy by most colleges.  A few high schools also offer the option to take an AP course as dual-enrollment, where students pay to earn college credit for their work completed, rather than their test score.  Students can potentially shave a semester or more off their college experience through AP coursework, or AP work can free students' time in college up for more exploration of a variety of courses.  Either way, many students see AP courses as a way to work towards their college goals.

Despite the benefits of AP, there are some arguments against it, as with any standardized test.  For students, AP exams cost money, often have relatively low pass rates, don't guarantee college credit, aren't offered in every subject at every school, and are likely to conflict with at least one event your senior year of high school.  For teachers and college administrators, there's a concern about depth of coverage, quality of instruction, and students missing out on a key part of the college experience by coming in with so many AP credits.

Advocates of AP coursework say it can help students start college planning, get excited about the subject area, and save money by shaving off a few general educational requirements.  As AP grows in popularity, high schools are continuing to add courses and improve their teaching of the subject.  As long as you weigh the benefits and drawbacks, AP courses are definitely worth considering.  AP credit can be a way to build your resume, explore a potential college major, and jumpstart your career.

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Expectations about Grading Can Cause Problems in College

February 19, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Here's something for new college freshmen and college-bound high school seniors to keep in mind: college students and professors often have very different expectations when it comes to grades.  An article appearing earlier this week in The New York Times highlights just how vast this difference can be, citing testimony from students, faculty, and one recent study.  According to the study, one third of students feel they deserve a B or better just for attending class, and 40 percent feel they should earn at least a B by doing the reading for a class.  The faculty members cited in the article disagree with these assumptions, emphasizing merit over effort in awarding final grades.

While many students believe that hard work should result in high grades, many faculty members believe that grades should be based on the finished product, not the effort it took to arrive there.  While a student may pour hours of studying or research into a college exam or paper that only earns a C, the outcome can be perplexing and discouraging.  Often, this experience is vastly different from the experience students have in high school, especially since many undergraduate students are used to being high achievers.  Students perceive grading as unfair and instructors perceive students as having too great a sense of entitlement.

There is another factor the article doesn't address, which may become a concern for readers of our site--sometimes, students don't just feel they deserve a good grade, but they might actually need one to pay for school.  Many scholarship awards have minimum GPA requirements, and nearly all financial aid programs require students to maintain satisfactory academic progress, which includes maintaining a certain GPA.  So while a student's freshmen year of college can be a learning experience and a period of adjustment to a new grading system, it can potentially be a period of fear and worry about the security of their student financial aid.

If you're struggling to maintain the grades to keep your aid, don't be discouraged by your professors' attitudes towards grading.  Talk to your instructor if you're struggling with a class and explain your concerns.  Many will be more than willing to sit down with you and offer some help, or at least point you in the right direction.  Join a study group and consider signing up for tutoring.  If writing is your problem, look up the university's writing center--they usually offer free consultations and can help you with the problem that's standing between you and the grade you want or need.  All of this is part of the increased time management and overall responsibility that comes with attending college, so prepare yourself accordingly and don't be caught off guard.

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National WWII Museum's Student Online Essay Contest

February 23, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is a scholarship essay contest sponsored by the National World War II Museum.  High school students are invited to write an essay of 1,000 words or less related to the theme of a special exhibit at the National WWII Museum this spring.  The exhibit focuses on the stories of seven Americans of varied backgrounds who fought for equality, freedom, and justice before, during, and after World War II.  Following this theme, students are asked to address the theme "'E Pluribus Unum': How Then/How Now?" in their essays, describing ways diversity can strengthen American society.  Responses should be rooted in World War II history, but should also address more current issues and events.

Prize: 

     
  • $1000 first prize
  •  
  • $750 second prize
  •  
  • $500 third prize
  •  
 Eligibility: 

Current high school students in the United States, United States territories, and military bases

Deadline:

March 27, 2009 (the contest will end earlier if 500 submissions are received)

Required Material:

An online application with a scholarship essay of 1,000 words or less.

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

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Saving for College, Part I: 529 Plans

March 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Paying for college can be a struggle.  Nobody wants to repay student loans forever, not everybody is going to land a full-tuition scholarship, and federal student financial aid seldom takes care of all college costs.  If you're a parent or relative looking ahead to cover college costs for a child, finding scholarships is a great step now, but you may also want to consider college savings plans.

Read below for information on 529 savings plans, which are one of the most popular and diverse options for college savings.  If this is not for you, check back tomorrow for more information on other savings options.

529 Savings Plans While 529 plans have sustained average losses of 21 percent in the last year, they can still be a good idea, especially if you choose your plan carefully and have plenty of time to save.  Many 529 plans allow you to move your savings into a much more conservative portfolio when the student nears college, an option they're sure to publicize based on the recent behavior of the stock market.  While there are limits on how many changes can be made to a 529 plan per year, the plans are otherwise quite flexible and varied, so it's easy to find one that works for your situation. Plus, 529 plans can be taken out in the parent's name, rather than the student's, so they will only minimally affect a student's financial aid eligibility.

Additionally, contribution limits are high, income limits are nonexistent, minimum contribution requirements tend to be low, and many states offer a variety of incentives for residents who contribute to their plans.  As an added bonus, many 529 plans can accept contributions from anybody anywhere, not just the people named on the account, and several programs have been created to take advantage of this.  For example, some plans allow a portion of credit card purchases or purchases at certain stores to go towards a particular student's 529 plan.

Prepaid Tuition Savings Plans If you're hesitant about sticking money for college in the stock market with uncertain returns, another type of 529 plan is also gaining popularity.  Prepaid tuition plans allow families to contribute a fixed amount now in exchange for a certain portion of tuition being covered in the future.  Many states do this for their state colleges and universities, and the Independent 529 plan, which is accepted by over 200 private colleges, also fixes contributions to portions of future tuition.  Both of these varieties eliminate worries about tuition inflation, though if tuition actually goes down between now and when the student starts college, a prepaid plan might not be the most lucrative option.

The Down Side 529 plans do have drawbacks and limitations.  Money must be spent on education, and the expenses that qualify are limited to undergraduate tuition, fees, educational expenses like books, and now computers. However, if the student is enrolled at least half-time, money from a 529 plan can also go towards room and board, so even if your student earns a full-tuition scholarship, it's possible to still take advantage of 529 savings.  Money must stay in a plan for at least 3 years, so if you're saving for a college sophomore, you're out of luck with these.  However, you can transfer the unused portion of a 529 plan to another family member without incurring the heavy withdrawal penalties, and it may also be possible to use the funds towards graduate or professional school.

Plans also vary from state to state, so your state's plan might not have the best benefits for you, or might not offer as sweet a deal in terms of tax breaks or low fees as the next state over offers its residents.  Luckily, you can shop around among a variety of plans, including ones offered by several other states.

529 plans are not the only college saving option, though they remain the most popular and perhaps the most well-known.  Check back tomorrow for information on the rest of the pack.

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The Humanist Essay Contest

March 9, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Students currently enrolled in grades 9-12 are eligible for this week's Scholarship of the Week, The Humanist Essay Contest.  The Humanist, a magazine published by the American Humanist Association, sponsors this annual scholarship essay contest for high school students.  Applicants are asked to submit an essay of 1,500 to 2,500 words dealing with humanist themes in any subject or field of inquiry.

Essay judging will be guided by the definition of humanism found in each issue of The Humanist magazine. Other criteria include originality of thought, sense of emotional engagement, clarity and quality of presentation, amount of research evidenced, and future potential shown by the author.

Prize: $1,000, a three-year membership to the American Humanist Association, and an invitation to present the winning essay at the annual AHA conference

Eligibility: Students residing in the United States or Canada who are currently enrolled in grades 9-12

Deadline: April 3, 2009

Required Material: A completed scholarship essay of 1,500 to 2,500 words submitted to The Humanist via email

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

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The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

March 16, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Community service projects benefit those around you, provide valuable learning experiences, and add an impressive dimension to your resume.  They also provide numerous opportunities for community service scholarships, such as this week's Scholarship of the Week.  The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes seeks to award young people who initiate significant service projects as elementary or high school students.

The Barron Prize is awarded to young people who have created a service project that has positively affected other people, animals, or the planet. The project should go beyond fulfilling a school requirement or overcoming a personal challenge and should touch the lives of others and be capable of inspiring others to also make a difference.  Students interested in applying will have to write a scholarship essay describing their project, and will also need three letters of recommendation and a letter from an adult nominator who is familiar with their work.

Prize: $2,500 to be applied towards the winner's higher education or continuing their service project>/p>

Eligibility: Applicants must be between the ages of 8 and 18 by April 30, 2009 and must be legal residents of the United States or Canada.  Students must be nominated by an adult who is familiar with their project and must be nominated as individuals, not as groups.

Deadline: April 30, 2009

Required Material: The student nominee and the adult nominator must each complete an essay of no more than 1,500 words describing the nominee's service project.  Applicants must also provide three letters of recommendation. Additional reference materials are also welcome.

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

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