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Head(s) of the Class?

Naming Multiple Valedictorians Becoming More Common

July 6, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you just attended your high school graduation, you probably still remember some of the advice given to you by the valedictorian for your class, the student who received the highest marks and highest GPAs over their four years there.

If you attended graduation at Long Island’s Jericho High School, though, it may not even be that easy to name who was up on stage, no matter their words of wisdom. That’s because seven high school seniors were named valedictorians at the school, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Rather than giving a captive audience seven inspirational speeches, the group came up with a skit about their experiences at Jericho. Each valedictorian also had 30 seconds to devote to their personal well wishes.

Honoring multiple students with the title of valedictorian isn’t unique to Jericho. Many of the best suburban schools across the country are now naming more than one student to the top spot, and administrators say this leaves students less stressed and less focused on competition. According to the Times article, administrators say it is usually mere fractions that separate the top five (or seven) spots at any given school, making it difficult to be fair when it comes to choosing a valedictorian and even salutatorian, traditionally the second-place finisher.

How has this changed the make-up of high schools? Consider this. According to the Times, eight high schools in the St. Vrain Valley district in Colorado crowned 94 valedictorians. Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey chose a speaker via lottery among its chosen nine valedictorians. Harrison High School in New York City got rid of the title altogether, naming top graduates a part of the “summa cum laude” class instead. Does this mean students are just more serious about academics, and more are doing better in high school? Or does it mean more have access to a traditionally elite group of high school graduates?

Administrators on the college level warn that the practice only contributes to “honor inflation,” according to the article. Competition exists on the college level, and a healthy degree of that in high school serves as preparation for the rigors of keeping up at institutions of higher education, they say. One Harvard University dean quoted in the article described the case of a home-schooled student applying to the Ivy League institution. That student claimed they were at the top of their class—of one student. What do you think? How many valedictorians did you have at your own graduation?

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Changes Planned for Advanced Placement Program

July 22, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As more high schools across the country begin offering students alternatives to Advanced Placement like dual enrollment partnerships with local community colleges, the College Board, which offers the exams, has been forced to take a look at the AP program in order to make it more relevant to the college-bound.

One of the things the AP provider hopes to do is make sure the high school courses do a better job of preparing students for college-level work. As competition for enrollment increases, especially at the most selective colleges and universities, more schools are becoming stricter about awarding credit for students’ efforts on AP exams. For students interested in those schools, there remains little incentive to sign up for an AP course over a college course elsewhere, as one of the main draws of AP is the fact that you’ll start your freshman year of college with some credits under your belt. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, the test provider will work to improve communication between the program and colleges, to both make sure students’ credits are being accepted and to make the courses look more like college-level classes.

Another criticism of even those educators who take on AP courses has been that teachers focus less on looking at topics in an in-depth way, and more on covering the maximum content possible so that students are ready for the AP exams at the end of the class. With more students failing AP exams, particularly in the Southern states, teachers and students are under even more pressure. Such statistics make signing up for dual enrollment, where there may not be a similar comprehensive exam at the end, more desirable, especially for those students who may not be good test-takers. The College Board also plans to make the AP program more flexible by adding computer-based testing dates and making sure students receive their scores earlier.

So what are the benefits? For those who may not have the option of dual enrollment or who may feel more comfortable in a high school classroom, AP is a good option to get some exposure to college-level work. With more than 30 AP courses to choose from, high school students may also be able to take those classes that they’re more interested in, improving their chances of doing well on the final exam. (This must mean your high school has a wide variety of AP offerings, of course.) Finally, if you are confident in  your abilities to do well on an AP exams and you do well in a course that will give you the opportunity to transfer college credits to a two- or four-year school, you’ll be getting college-level instruction at a deep discount.

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Students Plan "Gap Years" for More Than Break from College

August 25, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While you’re unpacking a semester’s worth of your belongings in your shared dorm room, there are other recent high school graduates packing up for different adventures—volunteer experiences abroad, internships across the country, or backpacking trips through Europe. These students are taking a “gap year,” or time off from the traditional college experience.

The gap year is a popular option in Europe, where students opt out of university-level coursework in favor of experiences they feel will make them wiser and more independent. But the idea has also grown in popularity in the United States. USA Today announced a new blog this week from Mira Fishman, who will be leaving her home in Ann Arbor in three weeks not to go to college, but to volunteer abroad. She’ll spend six months in Buenos Aires at a nonprofit, then another six months in a “grittier city.” She hopes to improve upon her Spanish and boost her resume, and as her plans were worked out independently rather than through the dozens of organized gap year programs out there, she hopes to keep to a strict budget.

Despite the high cost of organized gap year programs—some run up to $20,000 for the year—they’re also growing in popularity, especially among those who want a bit more structure to their gap year. Such programs promise a support network for gap year students, and experiences that are crafted to the interests of the student. Students like Fishman, however, may prefer a gap year that requires more independence and responsibility. An article several years ago in USA Today described “gappers” who completed internships at software start-ups, explored careers to clarify what they’d like to do in college before enrolling, and learned life skills at manual labor jobs. (One student interviewed worked as a deckhand on a “floating classroom” in Baltimore.)

Taking time off may also be an option for those who weren’t able to get in to the school of their choice, although that time off may be spent becoming a more attractive candidate to that chosen college. The gap year then becomes more of a “bridge year,” where the college-bound look to enhance their applications by taking—and acing—courses at the local community college, volunteering, or pursuing internships in their intended fields of study. Bridge years also exist for those already admitted to college; at Princeton University, officials have introduced a bridge year program for admitted students where they pursue service work abroad before coming to campus the following year.

Are you taking a gap year? What are the pros and cons of taking time off before committing to college? Are traditional study abroad programs through your college the right way to go if you're looking to go overseas? Tell us your stories!

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College Goes 3-D to Entice Freshman Applicants

February 11, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Hobart and William Smith Colleges is looking to give juniors narrowing down their college search choices a more unique brochure experience. More than 20,000 of them will receive 3-D glasses to go along with the school's brochures, a strategy the school describes as both a gimmick and symbolic of what the school is all about.

Viewing things in 3-D has only become more popular thanks to the success of James Cameron's "Avatar." But looking at a brochure is undoubtedly a different experience than sitting in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn in your lap. The New York Times talked to the school's director of communications, Cathy Williams, this week. She sees it this way: Hobart is looking to change the way students "see the world." The 3-D glasses are symbolic of that idea, and the brochures ask potential applicants to "open your eyes to new possibilities at HWS."

Nearly 10,000 of the recipients requested the catalogs; another 12,000 or so were identified through a College Board search program. (Institutions of higher education are able to purchase lists of students who have scored above a certain level on standardized tests or who have expressed interest in a particular field of study.) Those who receive the brochures don't only get the 3-D experience on paper. They're also then able to view videos of professors explaining the science behind the concept of 3-D.

Colleges have been working extra hard lately to entice potential applicants. Some have revamped their college application packets to resemble credit card offers, now speeding up processing times, waiving application fees, and using language typically used by credit card companies: Advantage Application, Distinctive Candidate Application, and the Candidate’s Choice Application, to name a few. More than 100 colleges and universities paid the same marketing company to send out variations of these applications last fall. Some spent more than $1 million on these application campaigns, according to the New York Times.

While their applicant pools have indeed increased thanks to the marketing campaigns, it makes one wonder how colleges find advertising dollars in their budges while tuition and fees continue to increase, schools shutter their "no loans" programs, and colleges struggle with budget deficits. What do you think? Would 3-D glasses included in your college brochure spark your interest in a school more than the glossy materials you usually receive? What other gimmicks have you seen colleges use to get students to apply to those schools?

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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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Average ACT and SAT Scores by College: See How You Stack Up

September 25, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

The debate on whether ACT and SAT scores are an accurate tool for assessing student abilities has been going on for years. Even though recent studies found SAT scores to be less effective in predicting long-term college success than was previously thought, dealing with these tests is still pretty much unavoidable. Until standardized tests are out of sight and out of mind, students should do their best to get acquainted with them. Below is a sampling of average college SAT and ACT scores as reported by the Department of Education. To find more college ACT and SAT scores, information about estimated costs of attendance, and the number of applicants at schools across the U.S., check out our college search.

Arizona State University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 480 Reading: 600 English: 19 English: 26
Math: 490 Math: 620 Math: 20 Math: 27
Writing: Writing: ----- -----

College of William and Mary

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 620 Reading: 730 English: 29 English: 33
Math: 620 Math: 710 Math: 24 Math: 30

Columbia University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 670 Reading: 760 English: 28 English: 34
Math: 670 Math: 780 Math: 27 Math: 33

Harvard University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 690 Reading: 800 English: 31 English: 35
Math: 700 Math: 790 Math: 30 Math: 35
Writing: 690 Writing: 780 ----- -----

Michigan State University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 500 Reading: 630 English: 21 English: 27
Math: 530 Math: 660 Math: 22 Math: 27
Writing: 490 Writing: 610 ----- -----

New York University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 600 Reading: 700 English: ----- English: -----
Math: 610 Math: 710 Math: ----- Math: -----
Writing: 600 Writing: 700 Composite: 27 Composite: 31

Ohio State University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 530 Reading: 640 English: 23 English: 29
Math: 560 Math: 670 Math: 24 Math: 29

Texas A&M University

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 520 Reading: 630 English: 22 English: 28
Math: 560 Math: 660 Math: 23 Math: 28
Writing: 500 Writing: 610 ----- -----

The University of Texas at Austin

SAT 25th
Percentile
SAT 75th
Percentile
ACT 25th
Percentile
ACT 75th
Percentile
Reading: 530 Reading: 660 English: 21 English: 29
Math: 570 Math: 690 Math: 24 Math: 30
Writing: 520 Writing: 640 ----- -----
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College Costs , GPA , High School



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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