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by Susan Dutca

Colleges and universities across the nation are starting to engage more in discussions regarding what it means to be a man. Masculinity, just like femininity, is celebrated through these gender-specific scholarships. So man-up and check out these scholarship opportunities!:

  1. Colored Rocks Contest

    Deadline: January 4
    Maximum Award: $3,500

  2. Dr. Dan J. and Patricia S. Pickard Scholarship

    Deadline: Mary 31
    Maximum Award: $1,000

  3. Lax Scholarship Fund for Gay Men

    Deadline: February 1
    Maximum Award: $8,000

  4. The Iris-Samuel Rothman Scholarship

    Deadline: Varies
    Maximum Award: Varies

  5. The Mervyn Sluizer, Jr. Scholarship

    Deadline: May 2
    Maximum Award: $1,000

  6. The True Gentlemen Scholarship

    Deadline: Varies
    Maximum Award: $1,500

  7. USBC Chuck Hall Star of Tomorrow

    Deadline: December 1
    Maximum Award: $6,000

  8. Winston Churchill Foundation of the USA Churchill Scholarship Program

    Deadline: November 8
    Maximum Award: Varies

  9. ALA - LITA/LSSI Scholarship

    Deadline: March 1
    Maximum Award: $2,500

  10. Bernie Varnadore Scholarship Program

    Deadline: April 1
    Maximum Award: $1,250

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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by Susan Dutca

An openly gay student at Dowling Catholic High School decided to transform stigma into success by serving as a leader and advocate for LGBT rights at his school. Even after creating a gay-straight alliance and being awarded the Gold Matthew Shepard Scholarship, he was told that he could not receive the scholarship at the annual senior awards ceremony.

Last April, Tyler McCubbin, a respectable substitute teacher and volunteer track coach had his full time teaching position offer rescinded after a background check revealed he was openly gay. Dowling High school student Liam Jameson was one of the hundreds of students who protested the perceived injustice through a walkout. In an open letter, Jameson detailed his numerous attempted suicides because he felt alone, afraid, and "dreaded having to go to school the next day." He took the decision to help struggling peers and created a "safe environment for LGBT students where they don't feel the need to self-harm or commit suicide." His petition to create a LGBT club/safe space earned 2,000 signatures and is now known as One Dowling Family.

Through his efforts, Jameson earned the Gold Matthew Shepard Scholarship sponsored by the Eychaner Foundation in Des Moines. However, Dowling administration refuses to present the scholarship at the annual senior awards dinner on May 5th. Jameson claims that they manipulated the rules multiple times and took to a Change.org petition, requesting that the school presents him the award this week. Even McCubbin took to social media and urged people to sign his petition.

The school sent a message to its faculty and media stating that they are "proud of all [our] senior students how have received awards and scholarships to further their education," and that they "do not allow organizations who are awarding the scholarship to attend and individually present the scholarship to the student." Furthermore, they are "pleased one of [our] students received the Matthew Shepard Award and he will be honored in the same manner as his classmates." The Eychaner Foundation claims that Dowling changed its policy in recent months to specifically "target" LGBT-associated scholarships.

Do you think Jameson should have his award presented at the awards ceremony? If you are a student like Jameson who has a passion for social action, community service, and helping others - or if you yourself identify with or support the LGBT community - check out our many scholarships to help fund your college dreams.

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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by Susan Dutca

Malia Obama won't be the first child of a president to be accepted into Harvard University, but her decision to take a gap year sets her apart from the traditional college-bound student. As the gap year trend gains popularity in the US, there is still some reluctance in putting pause on a college education. Could it pose some trouble for those who aren’t socialites?

Despite her father's advice to "not stress too much about one particular college," or focus on name-brand, Malia chose to attend one of the nation's most prestigious and expensive universities. Come fall of 2017, she’s expected to add her name to the long line of ultra-wealthy celebrities and American figures who attended Harvard, including John Adams II, Abraham Lincoln’s son, and John F. Kennedy's daughter.

What exactly is a gap year? It is the time students defer from attending college, right out of high school, in order to pursue other avenues such as traveling, gaining work experience, and getting in touch with their inner soul and desires prior to settling into what could be considered a form of adulthood. One person's productive gap year could easily be another's 12-month vacation. There's been no word as to what Malia will do during this gap year, but a survey indicated that many students focus on personal growth, traveling and experiencing cultures, while taking a break from academics. This gap could serve as a good time to increase community service and learn skills you may not otherwise learn during college. Essentially, a way to avoid the "growing rate of student burn-outs."

Taking a year off could be pricey and not ideal for low-income students. According to one study, the "majority of people who do not go straight to college after high school end up having a much harder time completing their degrees...getting married, having a baby, becoming financially responsible for siblings, or losing academic motivation "may truncate one's higher education pursuits. While the American Gap Association boasts success with students who took a gap year, the majority of the students had college-educated parents and came from household incomes of more than $100,000 a year. These students already have a greater likelihood for success; many of them having parents who could pay their college tuition. Furthermore, federal financial aid waits for no one. Students would have to apply for the year in which they would enroll which could consequentially "make it harder for students on aid to plan a gap year." And while Harvard condones a gap year, the trend is not widely-accepted at other colleges and universities.

Do you think a gap year is a good option for students? Trying to find yourself by putting college off may come with a price. While some students take a gap year to work minimum wage and help fund their college education, we believe that you should be rewarded for your academic, athletic, and extracurricular achievements without having to take time off school. Tuition prices are only increasing, and won't remain stagnant even as you take a gap year. The best way to make college affordable is through free money: scholarships.

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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by Susan Dutca

Between her coursework and political activism, Bernarda Elizabet Garcia actively fights for immigrants' rights, especially when it comes to funding higher education. As a scholarship recipient of the Mario Savio Lecture Fund's Young Activist Award, Garcia is a powerful and influential voice in her community through her advocacy for extending federal financial aid to undocumented college students by "improving the quality of life through immigration reform and education." Though there currently are not many government policies that give financial assistance to undocumented students for higher education, there are other organizations that are dedicated to helping those students pay for a college education.

There are roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, with 2.1 million potentially eligible for the most recently proposed federal DREAM Act. Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students are enrolled in college in the United States. According to College Board, college tuition and fees for full-time students at a public four-year institution (in-state) was roughly $19,548 per year in 2015-2016. For out-of-state tuition at a public school, the cost was $34,031 and tuition at a private nonprofit cost, on average, $43,921 in the same year. Without financial aid, it is nearly impossible to afford a college education, especially when many undocumented students come from low-income households.

Though there is no federal or state law that prohibits undocumented students from being admitted or attending U.S. colleges, government policies pose a barrier, as undocumented students do not have access to federal financial aid or Pell grants. However, Georgia, along with Alabama and South Carolina, plan to implement a policy that would ban illegal students from being admitted to their colleges. Just earlier this month, Georgia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal for lowering the in-state tuition for undocumented students. According to Education Reporter Lauren Foreman, following Georgia's decision, eight students from Georgia State University were arrested after refusing to leave a protest. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress in 2001, failed to pass even after countless reintroductions and a big push in 2010. The goal of the act was to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the US. However, all state DREAM Acts are different and are not synonymous with DACA, which is a policy that was created in 2012 by President Obama to grant deferred deportation to those under 31 years of age who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16.

Another controversial topic is whether or not undocumented students should be eligible for lower tuition - tuition that state residents pay when attending in-state universities and colleges. Currently, the majority of schools charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least twenty states have passed tuition equity bills that allow undocumented students to pay the same tuition as their classmates, regardless of their immigration status (certain criteria must be met to qualify). Based on the laws passed by these states, there is a general consensus that the state does not "lose revenue from the number of students who would otherwise pay out-of-state tuition," but rather, "it raises the percentage of high school graduates who pursue a college degree."

Organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and TheDream.US are dedicated to helping undocumented students earn scholarships to pay for college, regardless of immigration status. Be sure to check with your current or prospective university or college to see what funding opportunities you are eligible for, if you are an undocumented student. Check out our scholarships for undocumented students and scholarships for which you qualify today to help fund your college education.

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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by Susan Dutca

What makes February so lovely? It is Financial Aid Awareness Month, and since filling out the FAFSA is stressful - much like taxes - several higher education institutions and financial aid organizations have jumped on board to provide informational sessions for families and students as they navigate through, and apply for financial aid through the 2016-2017 FAFSA. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of students applying for, and receiving financial aid for their college education at a four-year-degree-granting institution has increased from 80% to 85% from 2007-08 to 2012-2013. Because of this, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) will be hosting a new topic weekly through a social media campaign that allows parents and students to ask questions about the FAFSA. To participate, NASFAA asks families to send their questions via Twitter using the hashtag #FinAidFeb to receive tips and advice, as well as the common mistakes to avoid. The social media campaign will take place on Wednesday, February 3rd from 7-8 pm ET and Friday, February 5th from 1-2 pm ET. Those interested can simply follow @NASFAA on Twitter or visit them at their website for full schedule and details.

According to the Salisbury Post, help is on the way on "FAFSA Day" at Catawba's College Library, where financial aid officers and specialists are working with seniors and their families to complete the FAFSA. Between February 22 and February 26, local North Carolina State Employee Credit Union branches will also help students complete their FAFSA. Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL is holding a similar series of events throughout February. In light of "FAFSA Frenzy", the Missouri Department of Higher Education is calling for an effort to educate and assist prospective college students, and Webster University is offering sessions on February 28 on its home campus, as well as at its St. Louis region on February 6 and 20. According to the school's statistics, more than 80% of its student population receives financial aid. The college is providing incentive for attending the event by offering attendees the chance to win a scholarship.

When attending any FAFSA informational session, bring your 2015 W-2 forms, and copies of your 2015 tax forms, if they're ready. If you haven't filed your 2015 returns yet, bring any statements of interest earned in 2015, any 1099 forms and other forms necessary to complete your taxes. Later on you may need to go back to your FAFSA and make corrections once the tax returns are filed. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will help you make accurate corrections within a few weeks of your tax file date.

Tro Onink, CEO of Stratagee and an expert in financial planning, cautions parents about IRA contributions for 2015.Though it may lower tax bills for 2015, it affects the children's financial aid eligibility for the 2016-2017 year. As explained by Onink, individual retirement account (IRA) contributions is factored back to the adjusted gross income (AGI) when financial formulas are used to determine student's financial aid eligibility. When the expected family contribution is calculated, IRA contributions are factored into the adjusted gross income, plus HAS, 401k, 402b and other retirement contributions. He cautions that these formulas would "presume that they [parents] have used that money they're setting aside for retirement to pay for college instead." On the upside, you do not have to record the value of the IRAs as an asset. So what's Onink's main advice? If for example, you invest $10,000 into retirement plans in 2015, your children's financial aid amount could decrease by $2,500 in 2016-2017. Essentially, when you make an IRA contribution, you will be paying more than half the amount you save in taxes when it comes to college expenses. He advocates to save for retirement but be cautions that "just because your adjusted gross income is lower, your income for financial aid purposes will be inflated."

Read more on Financial Aid Information and Financial Aid tips this season as you fill out your FAFSA and don't forget to see how you can supplement federal aid with free money in scholarships.

Credit is attributed to Troy Onink, who has been featured by Forbes, InvestmentNews, myStockOption

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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by Susan Dutca

Understanding the financial aid process, much less filing a FAFSA, can be tedious and daunting. With over 130 questions and requiring more than 30 minutes to complete, students may procrastinate, or completely avoid completing a FAFSA. With pending changes for the upcoming years - such as an earlier deadline - some experts claim the process won't necessarily get easier or more affordable, if not done correctly. Terry Savage, an expert writer for the Chicago Tribune, claims the new FAFSA will be more "intrusive than federal tax forms because it not only asks about income but also the assets of parents and students." Savage outlines some tips and general information on how to prepare for the changes, including early application and knowing the logistics of 529s, financial aid, and FAFSA:

  • Earlier application dates: Many people can recall the last-minute rush to apply for FAFSA and the anxiety that accompanies it. A big change in the FAFSA for 2017-2018 academic year is the earlier application. Students will be able to file as early as October 1, 2016, as opposed to January 1, 2017. Additionally, you will be able to use a FAFSA retrieval tool to directly and electronically access tax information from the IRS, after filing a 2015 tax return. The income you will report on your 2015 return will, in turn, affect your financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year.
  • 529 Plans: 529 plans are college savings accounts that are exempt from federal taxes and were designed to help taxpayers set aside funds for a designated beneficiary. While any U.S. citizen or resident alien of at least 18 years old may open a 529 account, beneficiaries are typically children, grandchildren or younger relatives. Assets in a 529 plan owned by either the student or their parents count as need-based aid but plans owned by grandparents or other people do not count as assets. If money is withdrawn from the accounts of grandparents or other relatives, there is a penalty in the following year's financial aid package. Savage recommends you do not withdraw from your 529 account until your junior year in college, after filing the FAFSA for that year. Withdrawing from the 529 is not penalized so long as you are paying for "qualified expenses," including tuition, room and board, books, and other miscellaneous fees. Withdrawing from a grandparent-owned 529 plan is considered direct income to the beneficiary. There is a 10 percent penalty and taxes for withdrawing money to cover any other costs, unless the student receives a scholarship, dies, or is disabled.
  • Family assets preferred over child assets in financial aid scheme: UTMA custodial accounts are considered student assets - such as property, real estate, fine art, or future inheritances - which could have a large impact on financial aid eligibility. However a custodial 529 plan of a dependent student is treated as a parent's asset on the FAFSA - meaning less impact on the dependent students' financial aid eligibility. It is recommended that custodial accounts be spent for the child's benefit prior to the FAFSA filing year or transferred into the custodial 529 account.
  • Income-driven assets: In addition to providing all income information on the FAFSA through parents' tax returns, assets such as capital gains also count as income. Savage notes that "selling stocks and taking gains" the year before filing can impact what the student will receive in financial aid. For example, taking $3,000 in capital losses can reduce parental income, Savage states. The result of student income will reduce financial aid on a "dollar-for-dollar basis" which consequentially may become a disincentive for students to work and support their education.
  • Take the time this winter break to review the FAFSA changes so as to be better prepared and gain the most in financial aid for your college education.

    Credit is attributed to Terry Savage and the experts at the Federal Student Aid website. Savage is one of the country's most prominent advisers and a best-selling author on personal finance, corporate boardrooms, academia, the markets, and the economy. Federal Student Aid (studentaid.ed.gov) is a free website and source of information provided by the office of the U.S. Department of Education.

    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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The War on (Study) Drugs

Misuse of Prescription Drugs a Very Real Concern in Higher Ed

Nov 10, 2015

by Susan Dutca

Every student has their own way of dealing with the stresses of college life and academics, even if it may require popping a small blue pill before a final exam. What does it take nowadays to crack down on the books and get As? Studies reveal that many college and high school students have turned to recreational drug use such as abusing ADHD medication to help land good grades.

Considered to be one of the most dangerous legal drugs, Adderall is now causing twice as many deaths as street drugs. According to the Huffington Post, prescription drugs such as Adderall and other ADHD meds are "the most dangerous legal drugs among young people in college and high school." On college campuses, students perceive ADHD medications as "relatively benign substances". These meds are being stolen, swapped and sold regularly on campuses nationwide, doubling the amount of student ER visits and deaths.

How exactly are students getting their hands on Adderall and similar stimulants? Experts claim students know exactly what to say to receive a legal, insurance-subsidized prescription. However, not every student with access to the drug actually uses it. Many students simply sell it for profit - as much as $300 a bottle.

While there is certainly an ongoing issue with illegal drugs, there is also an issue with dangerous prescription abuse in the classroom. Some point to the mislabeling of normal child immaturity as the culprit for excessive use of ADHD medication. Who is most responsible for the easy access of these drugs? Should drug companies be just as responsible for distribution and marketing as the physicians for misdiagnoses? Do we blame parents and teachers who cannot adequately control hyperactive children? Or do we simply hold students responsible for their actions? Would informing kids of the dangers of recreational drug use have any positive effect on the situation? In your opinion, how can the issue of misdiagnoses and distribution be resolved to lessen students' ability to gain access to these drugs? Also, if you are passionate about public policy, public health or medicine, check out some of our medical scholarships to help fund your college education.

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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by Christina Zhou

When it comes to college applications, most students worry more about whether or not their grades are high enough, whether their essays are well-written, or if they have enough extracurricular activities. Recommendation letters are often lower on the list of priorities and are often hastily asked for close to the deadline. However, recommendation letters are often one of the most common ways to distinguish between quality applications. Below are several ways to avoid getting tepid recommendation letters that make your otherwise quality application look lackluster.

  • Ask early. Teachers are often very busy, and quality recommendation letters take time and effort to write. Asking them right before the deadline is both inconvenient and inconsiderate. They may flat out turn down your request, and if you don't have backup options, you may miss out on applying for certain schools. Even if they do, they will most likely not do as good a job as they could have done if you had asked sooner.
  • Teach them about you. If they agree to write a recommendation letter, you should provide them with a copy of your resume. If you don't have a resume, a short summary of yourself will do. You might also want to refresh their memory of your performance in class.
  • Choose wisely. Ask a teacher that you had for a class fairly recently - junior year is probably best. The exception to this is if you have a teacher that you have had for multiple classes and/or have built up a very good relationship with. For example, you can ask your band teacher for a recommendation if you have been in band for many years and performed well. If you are applying with a specific major in mind, or if you are applying to a major-specific program, it would be a good idea to try and get a recommendation from a teacher that teaches that subject.
  • Ask in person. This is so important! You can email to meet with them to talk about it, but the actual request should be done in person. Recommendation letters are time-consuming to write, and also require a level of connection. Too many recommendation letters sound like fill-in-the-blank forms.
  • 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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by Susan Dutca

To date, roughly 70 percent of college students graduate with approximately $30,000 in college debt. What accounts for the increase in college tuition and debt burden? A short by Brave New Films titled The Big Came: College Football Stealing Your Education claims that college athletics, particularly football, may just be the problem. Since 2000, state universities across the nation have increased their tuition by 30 percent. Schools with strong football programs have increased tuition by as much as 65 percent. Studies reveal a correlation between student fees that feed directly into athletic programs and force tuition hikes. Ohio University for example, has athletic fees that run $48 a credit hour. That is about $6,000 of financial aid and scholarships that goes into paying for schools' athletic programs.

How does this affect school budgets? Many universities have taken to cutting faculty and degree programs, such as the University of Akron, which cut 215 jobs and $40 million dollars from their budget and yet, tuition did not go down. Head Football Coach Terry Bowden was signed to a $2 million contract, which comes out to $400,000 a year. When compared to the average adjunct professor salary of $25,000, it is important to consider the allocation of money within higher education. According to the Huff Post, most state coaches are the highest paid public employees.

Supporters of collegiate athletic programs argue that there's immense profit, but this is debatable as it's been found that Division I athletic programs lose $11 million a year on an operating basis and much more when capital and indirect costs are included. Athletic programs may not be as self-supporting if "the vast majority require a subsidy from the institution" to survive. Students will pay separate fees and higher tuition to cushion the deficit - these fees will not help fix classrooms or hire faculty. Alumni who donate to schools are typically donors to athletic programs rather than student or academic scholarships. It may make sense that the revenue generated from winning teams would feed directly into the athletic program and yet, those same programs remain in deficit.

In your opinion, do you think collegiate athletic programs are distorting expenditures and neglecting other important areas in higher education? Leave us your opinion in the comment section below. If you are an dedicated, passionate and talented athlete, check out some of our sports scholarships.

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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by Susan Dutca

This past Saturday at 9 a.m., players arrived at the University of Cincinnati's basketball arena for a two-day tournament hosted by the UC's League of...Legends? Yes: The university now considers League of Legends an official club sport, just like soccer or rugby. With 14,000 people watching the tournament online, the event became one of the largest collegiate e-sports events with participants competing for a $2,000 cash prize. But is it a game or is it a sport?

Though skeptical at first, UC's administration finally caved and are now seeing the benefits of the League. There has been increased visibility for video gamers across campuses, especially now that it's organized and holds educational value. Gaming competitions are legitimized through rules and regulations, though not yet under the rule of the NCAA. Furthermore, the U.S. government allows professional video gamers to use "athlete visas" to travel internationally to compete. With this trend, one may argue that video games aren't necessarily becoming more popular but rather it's a "formalization and institutionalization of what's always been present."

Robert Morris University in Chicago became the first U.S. college to make competitive gaming a varsity sport and offer video game scholarships up to half of tuition and housing, roughly $19,000. Video game sponsors helped RMU create the ideal gaming room with high-tech monitors, headsets and chairs so that students resemble fighter pilots. Though they fell short to the University of British Columbia in the 2015 North American Collegiate Championship, RMU competitors still received $15,000 in scholarships while UBC took home the $30,000 championship trophy.

What do you think about getting paid to game? If you are an avid gamer and want to be rewarded for your talent and passion, check out some video game and design scholarships to celebrate International Games Day on November 21st.

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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