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Study Shows Standardized Test Prep Can Pay Off

May 20, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Standardized tests area huge part of the college application process, and one of the biggest issues college-bound students and their families face is whether and how extensively to make use of ACT and SAT test preparation services. Standardized test prep can range from taking a practice test online to spending hours in intensive one-on-one tutoring sessions, with countless options in between.  Debate has raged for years over how much test preparation courses actually pay off, and a new study published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling represents perhaps the most ambitious effort to quantify these gains.

Through analysis of previous research, the NACAC study concludes that a consensus has emerged that score increases for students who use test prep services tend to be fairly small, often only 5 or 10 points on the critical reading section of the SAT and 10 or 20 points on the math section.  Evidence is still inconclusive as to ACT score gains, according to the study.  However, the study also surveyed college admissions offices to determine the impact of score gains and found that score increases on the upper end of this average range can have a significant affect on a student's chances of being admitted to a top college.  Inside Higher Ed has a more detailed breakdown of the study and its implications.

With many high school juniors already signing up to take, or in some cases already awaiting scores from, the SAT and ACT, the release of this study is timely.  It is not a ringing endorsement of extensive and expensive test preparation programs, but does provide an argument for at least taking some time to familiarize yourself with the standardized test you will be taking before you show up for the test day.  If you're competing for admission at your dream school or vying for an academic scholarship, those few extra points on your test score could make all the difference.

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529 College Savings Day

May 29, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Today is May 29, also known as "529 College Savings Day," named after 529 plans, which are popular state-sponsored college savings plans.  Today has been designated as a day to raise awareness of the importance of saving for college, as well as ways to do so. While 529 plans suffered along with everything else in the stock market, they are still being emphasized as a valuable tool for saving money for college.

According to a poll conducted by Gallup and Sallie Mae, 62 percent of families with college-bound children are already saving for college in some capacity, with the majority planning to contribute at least half of a child's tuition.  About half of families that are saving already regularly contribute to college funds, and around a third use state 529 plans.  The Chronicle of Higher Education has more information on the survey, as well as a link to the results.

If you're curious about college savings plans, we have some resources to help you get started.  A few months ago, we did a couple blog posts on saving for college, featuring a discussion of 529 plans, as well as other savings options.  While the focus of today is on saving for college, it's also a good time to look into college scholarships, especially for students still in high school.  Read up on college savings accounts today, then do a free college scholarship search to find more options for paying for school.

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Study Compares College Graduation Rates

June 3, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're planning on attending college, chances are you're also planning on one day graduating.  Depending on which school you choose, getting out in six years or less could be anything from a long-shot to a near certain bet.  A new study has been published by the American Enterprise Institute comparing graduation rates among colleges based on selectivity ratings as part of an overall push for more accountability and transparency in higher education.  In addition to discussing the gaps in graduation rates among schools, the study also lists some of the best and worst performers in each category by name.  If you're a high school junior or senior just beginning to compare colleges, this could be good information to have.

Overall, the data show that about 53 percent of first-time college students at four-year universities graduate from the school they enrolled in as freshmen with six years. The study does not include non-traditional students or transfer students.  Not surprisingly, students at the most selective schools, such as elite private colleges, were among the most likely to graduate from the school at which they initially enrolled.  Six-year graduation rates at individual schools ranged from the single digits to nearly 100 percent across the whole spectrum of schools, with the most competitive category graduating nearly 88 percent of students on average, and the least competitive schools graduating only 35 percent of students.

Graduation rates also varied greatly within selectivity categories.  Two schools in similar locations with similar ratings could have vastly different graduation rates.  This is where the study becomes particularly useful for students choosing between schools.  If you have a roughly equal chance of getting into two colleges, and one graduates a significantly larger percentage of students then the other, it's not hard to imagine that having this information might influence your decision of which school to apply to or attend.  You can read more over at Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a link to the full study. Along with things like available financial aid and quality of on-campus housing, graduation rates are definitely something to consider incorporating into your criteria for your college search.

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Start Your Summer with a Scholarship Search

June 4, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

For most college and high school students, summer is either here or right around the corner.  Summer vacation typically brings with it an increased amount of free time, especially since finding a part-time job has gotten increasingly tough in this economy.  While it's nice to enjoy a break from studies, enterprising students can still find ways to make the most of their summer, even if they aren't employed.  Beyond working or landing a summer internship, summer is also an ideal time to search for scholarships, build your résumé and strengthen your scholarship applications.

Though many deadlines have already passed, some scholarship opportunities are still available for fall 2009 (including the Scholarships.com Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship).  However, the majority of scholarship contests are annual affairs, meaning that even if you missed a deadline this time around, you may still be eligible to apply next year.  This is especially true for rising high school juniors and seniors.  For most students, their junior and senior years of high school will be their busiest, as classes get more challenging and the college and scholarship application processes begin.  So if you're going into your junior or senior year of high school, why not get a jump start on scholarships now?

Do a free college scholarship search and make note of the awards for which you'll qualify next year.  Some scholarships may be right up your alley, but might require extensive reading, writing, research or labor that you may not have time for during the academic year.  Others may be looking for substantial volunteer and leadership experience, and summer is a great time to get involved or more involved in activities that will help you really shine in those categories.  This advice also applies to current and incoming college students. There are enough scholarship opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds that regardless of your circumstances, it's a good idea to clear some time in your summer schedule to begin searching and applying.

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Scholarships You Can Still Win This Summer

June 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As we mentioned yesterday, the 2008-2009 school year is winding down, and people are preparing to flip over to a new academic calendar and a new college application cycle.  However, that doesn't mean that students still seeking admission or financial aid for 2009-2010 are completely out of luck.  There are still colleges and scholarships accepting applications right now.  In fact, there are some substantial scholarship awards that you can still win this summer, and to prove it, we're listing a few of them below.  To learn more about these awards and others with upcoming deadlines, you can do a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com.

HANDS Essay Contest

Hands Along the Nile is accepting applications until July 4 for its $5,000 scholarship essay contest. To apply, students are asked to compose an essay of no more than 2,500 words in response to the question, "How is community development in the Middle East important to the U.S.? Why is it particularly crucial to focus on Egypt?" This scholarship is open to high school seniors and full-time undergraduate and graduate students at colleges in the United States.

Blade Your Ride Scholarship Program

Through June 30, current undergraduate and graduate students who are passionate about the environment are invited to create a video webcast for a chance to win up to $9,000 towards their college education.  Videos should focus on the global climate crisis and creativity is encouraged.  Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA and must be attending college in the United States, but citizenship is not required.

SPENDonLIFE Credit Challenged Scholarship

High school and college students who have been declined for student loans due to the credit crunch have until June 15 to apply for a scholarship of up to $5,000 to help cover their college costs.  To apply, students are asked to write a 500-word essay describing the impact of the economic downturn on their lives. This contest is open to U.S. residents between the ages of 17 and 25.

The Calm-a-Sutra of Tea $15,000 Scholarship Competition

The Tea Council of the USA is looking for videos about the health benefits of tea, and you have until August 2 to create one.  Applicants ages 16 and older who are legal residents of the United States or Puerto Rico are invited to upload a video about tea to YouTube, then share the link with the Tea Council.  One winner will receive a $15,000 college scholarship.

Scholarships.com College Scholarships

Scholarships.com is also accepting applications for three of our scholarship awards.  For a chance to win $1,000, you can apply for the Resolve to Evolve Essay contest, the College Culinary Arts Scholarship, or the College Design Scholarship.  Other Scholarships.com college scholarships are available throughout the year, as well.

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Culinary Arts Scholarships Awarded in Cooking Competition

June 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Aspiring chefs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other locations across the country recently received the chance to compete for a wide range of culinary arts scholarships through the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), a non-profit organization that helps underserved students prepare for careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  The annual C-CAP scholarship contest awards scholarships of up to the full amount of tuition at leading culinary schools to students who have participated in their programs.

A story in The Los Angeles Times followed students through the final round of the C-CAP competition, as well as the scholarship awards banquet, where nearly $590,000 was awarded, including several scholarships over $50,000.  To be accepted into the C-CAP scholarship competition, students must be 21 or younger and enrolled in a culinary arts course at a C-CAP school, and must have completed at least one culinary arts course.  Students complete a scholarship application that includes an essay component and two letters of recommendation.  They then compete in a preliminary cooking competition. Winners advance to the finals, which include another cooking contest and a scholarship interview.

Culinary arts can lead to a fulfilling career, but programs can be expensive and it can be difficult to find enough financial aid.  This and other culinary arts scholarships can help students follow their passion and enter careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry with minimal debt.  To find out about the C-CAP scholarship, you can visit their website, and to find other culinary arts scholarships, you can do a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

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The Calm-A-Sutra of Tea $15,000 Scholarship Competition

June 15, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

There are scholarship opportunities out there for every talent, interest or skill.  Through this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Calm-A-Sutra of Tea Scholarship Competition, you can win a $15,000 college scholarship just for demonstrating your knowledge of tea and your ability to drink it creatively.  Students are asked to create a 1 to 2 minute video of themselves drinking black, green, white or oolong tea while describing the health benefits of tea and to upload the video to YouTube.  Entries are judged on their health-related messges, creativity, individuality and popularity.  No scholarship essays require

Prize:$15,000

Eligibility:

College and high school students age 16 and older who are legal residents of the United States and Puerto Rico. 

Deadline:

August 2, 2009

Required Material:

A video of 1-2 minutes in length, showing you drinking tea in an unusual manner while explaining the health benefits of tea. Videos must be uploaded to YouTube then submitted to the Tea Council via their website.

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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High School Withholds Diploma After Student Blows Kiss

June 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Did you think your high school's administrators were strict?  Chances are they've got nothing on Suzanne Lukas, the superintendent of Bonny Eagle High School in Maine.  During the school's graduation ceremony, a student pointed to his friends and blew a kiss to his mom when his name was called.  Instead of shaking his hand and handing him his diploma, the superintendent told him to return to his seat empty handed.  He still hasn't received his diploma.

The story's getting national media coverage as the student's family demands an apology and a diploma from the school's superintendent.  While this story certainly appears to fall on the extreme end of things, it does serve as a good reminder to high school students to take school policy very seriously until you have that piece of paper in your hand and are literally out the door for the last time.

This has us curious, though.  For those of you who have already finished high school: did you run into any incidents at your high school graduation where students' diplomas were withheld?  What antics did you or your classmates get away with as high school seniors and as participants in your school's graduation ceremony?

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Dickinson College Launches Public Service Fellowship Program

July 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Service-minded students have a variety of ways to fund their college education through community service scholarships and other awards. Now, students interested in attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania can participate in a fellowship program that awards $10,000 towards tuition for each year of full-time public service completed.

The Dickinson College Public Service Fellowships are awarded to high school seniors who are interested in deferring enrollment in college to first work in public service in some capacity. If accepted, students can defer enrollment for up to four years, and receive up to $40,000 in scholarship money through this program. Qualifying public service work can be independent or done through a national service organization, such as AmeriCorps, and can be paid or unpaid. Projects must be devoted to some aspect of improving the human condition or the natural environment.

While these scholarship awards are only offered through one college at present, at least one other school is seeking to encourage students to become engaged in public service before they start actively pursuing their college degrees. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Princeton University has also launched a program to pay for admitted students to first engage in a year-long service project abroad before beginning classes.

Several colleges have recently announced campus-based scholarships for community service. Many other schools also match AmeriCorps tuition awards, and over 1,100 private colleges have also pledged to assist veterans with tuition to acknowledge their service to the country. If you are a high school student hoping to get involved in a large-scale service project, there's more incentive than ever as colleges and scholarship providers continue expanding financial aid awards for locally and globally engaged individuals.

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In The River They Swim Essay Competition

July 27, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is a scholarship essay contest that offers a $10,000 reward to students who are actively engaged in fighting poverty. The In The River They Swim essay competition asks participants to reflect upon an experience living or working in a poor country or a poor region of a developed nation and tell a story about a personal journey they've had doing enterprise solutions to poverty.

What makes this competition unique is that it asks for students to go beyond the traditional response elicited by community service scholarships and other essay scholarships and to reflect on both successes and failures, as well as people encountered and lessons learned along the way. Rather than simply recounting experiences in a matter-of-fact way, a winning essay will tell a story in an engaging and illuminating manner. Most importantly, the essay should teach the reader something, and presents an opportunity to think both critically and creatively about your work, your attitudes, and your assumptions for a chance at a substantial cash prize and possible publication.

Prize: $10,000

Eligibility: Anyone is eligible to participate, regardless of age, level of education, or area of study.

Deadline: September 1, 2009

Required Material: An essay of no more than 2000 words written in response to the contest prompt and submitted online. All essays must be accompanied by a 100-word abstract.

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 thisscholarship award will find it in their search results.

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