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The Recession and College Admissions

April 2, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Earlier this week, we blogged about the recession making getting into a PhD program more difficult for prospective graduate students.  Prospective undergraduates are also facing a changing admissions landscape, but the picture for them is more complicated. Articles about colleges' admission conundrums have abounded this week as acceptance letters and financial aid notices make their way to anxious high school seniors.

Top schools with big endowments and generous financial aid packages, such as virtually the entire Ivy League, are facing increased applications and some of their lowest admission rates ever.  Meanwhile, other private colleges are admitting more students than last year, and also putting more students on their waiting lists.  Many state colleges and community colleges are also seeing increased interest and jumps in enrollment, and schools with limited resources are forced to turn away a larger percentage of applicants.

All of this adds up to a lot of uncertainty for students, and for colleges trying to create next year's freshman class.  Many sources are saying it also means increased flexibility for some students in terms of negotiating admission or financial aid at their top choice schools.

Since schools are hurting financially and admissions offices are as nervous as students this year about their decisions, students who are able to pay full freight (either out-of-pocket or through a generous outside scholarship award) may face an advantage getting off the wait list, since several schools admit to considering ability to pay when deciding whether to admit waitlisted students. Students who have received an acceptance letter from their dream school, but have been offered larger amounts of institutional aid from other colleges may also have more options this year. Students in this boat may want to let their favorite private colleges know about their dilemma to see if they can get a slightly better offer.  Many schools may be willing to drop a couple thousand extra dollars on you if it will secure your tuition payment.

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The Brower Youth Awards

April 6, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to people and governments worldwide.  Not surprisingly, many scholarship opportunities exist for students committed to improving their environments and the lives of those around them.  One such scholarship is this week's Scholarship of the Week, The Brower Youth Awards.

Since 2000, the Earth Island Institute has been sponsoring the Brower Youth Awards, which recognize young activists for environmental and social justice with $3,000 monetary awards and other resources to further their education and activism.  The awards were created in memory of David Brower, an environmental activist and the founder of the Earth Island Institute.  Students interested in applying should be between the ages of 13 and 22, and should be able to show previous leadership in an activist or community service campaign that has had a demonstrable impact on environmental or social welfare.

Prize:

$3,000 plus a trip to California for the awards ceremony and a wilderness camping trip, and the opportunity to continue working with the Earth Island Institute on future projects

Eligibility:

Students ages 13-22 who reside in North America and are current youth activist leaders 

Deadline:

May 15, 2009

Required Material:

Completed Brower Youth Award scholarship application, which can be requested online through the Brower Youth Award website.  Your application should demonstrate your leadership role in your project, as well as your project's environmental or social impact.

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 Akash Kuruvilla Memorial Scholarship

April 27, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is the Akash Kuruvilla Memorial Scholarship, an award created to keep alive Akash Kuruvilla's legacy of leadership, diversity, integrity and academia by rewarding students who share these same values.  One male and one female undergraduate student will receive a $1,000 scholarship award based on academics, extracurriculars, work and volunteer experience, financial need and a response to the question, "What does the phrase 'the American dream' mean to you, and how do you embody the American dream?"

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility:

High school seniors and current undergraduate students who will be enrolled full-time in an accredited degree program in fall 2009.  Applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale if high school seniors, or 3.0 on a 4.0 scale if current undergraduates. 

Deadline:

June 1, 2009

Required Material:

Completed scholarship application, copy of most recent academic transcript, Student Aid Report from FAFSA, résumé, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a 750-word scholarship essay on the American dream.

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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Colleges Have Facebook and Know How To Find You

April 29, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

By now you've probably been told at least once to be careful what information you put online.  A survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling serves as a reminder of just how many people might be viewing your online presence, and just how high the stakes can be.

According to results published in Inside Higher Education, 26 percent of colleges admit to running students' names through search engines, while 21 percent use social networking sites, such as Facebook.  While this is far from everyone, it's still a significant portion of schools, and if you apply to even four or five, there's a chance that at least one of those schools has a policy of checking up on at least some prospective students.

This doesn't mean you need to agonize over the psychological implications of every single status update, though.  Schools that report viewing students' online profiles do so primarily in the context of reviewing candidates for prestigious scholarship awards or highly competitive degree programs, mostly to make sure nothing potentially embarrassing to the program surfaces when your name is announced.  Setting debates over privacy and potential discrimination aside for a moment, this information should give you an idea of what you should and should not post, and why.

If you're applying for scholarships or your college search is skewing towards the prestigious and highly competitive, you may want to have a chat with your friends about any incriminating photos they've tagged you in.  Similarly, you may want to avoid publishing any highly offensive or objectionable content on anything that appears high in a list of search results for your name.  All of this is good practice for life, since admission officers are hardly the only people who may think to look into your online life before offering you something you want.  Scholarship providers, internship programs, and future employers may all check out this information.

So before starting your scholarship search or writing your college application essays, do a search for your name and see what comes up.  If it's something that may embarrass you or hurt your chances of winning scholarships or gaining admission to your dream school, consider deleting it.  Maintaining a professional image online is going to benefit you in both the short and long term.

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High School Seniors: Your Last Semester Still Matters

May 7, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

We're now a solid week into May, and for most high school seniors, that means a switch back from obsessively worrying about making it into college to concentrating on the more immediate task of trying to make it to graduation while finalizing those all-important summer plans.  Once AP exams are out of the way and college deposits are paid, it can be tempting to shift focus entirely away from schoolwork and towards enjoying your last days as a high school student.

However, an article in USA Today warns that the temptation to just coast through the last days, weeks, or even months of one's senior year of high school can carry dire consequences this year.  Colleges typically request a final transcript once you've officially graduated from high school, and often include language in their admission letter saying that their decision is contingent on receiving this information.  While colleges have always given this final semester at least a cursory glance, in previous years, they have tended to largely be forgiving.  But as with nearly everything else in college admissions, this year may be different.

Many schools are admitting more students and adding more names to their wait lists due to a larger group of applicants and greater uncertainty about where students will end up attending college.  As a result, it's more possible now than ever that some schools will overfill their freshman class, prompting them to need to rescind some admission invitations, while others may find themselves drawing extensively from the wait list, meaning students who may not have been reevaluated at all are having their transcripts scrutinized for possible acceptance into their dream school.

Students are encouraged to let colleges know if any problems have come up that might jeopardize their acceptance for fall.  Your college would rather hear from you than your high school, especially if you are able to explain extenuating circumstances and how the situation has been addressed.  This is generally good policy if you find yourself falling short of requirements after something's been awarded, whether it's acceptance into a program or a college scholarship.  On the same note, letting schools know if something fantastic has happened your final semester of school also couldn't hurt.  For example, if your GPA has jumped and you are now eligible for more financial aid at your college, contact the school and see if there is still funding.  I know people who have found themselves awarded university scholarships as late as July, and every time it was because they contacted the school, explained their situation, and asked about the award.

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Bridgestone Safety Scholars Video Contest

May 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

College and high school students between the ages of 16 and 21 have the chance to win money for college by making a video promoting safer or more environmentally aware driving in this week's Scholarship of the Week.  The Bridgestone Safety Scholars video contest asks students to create an original public service announcement addressing either automotive safety or automotive environmentalism.

Videos must be either 25 or 55 seconds in length, must be the creator's original work, and cannot incorporate content or locations the creator does not have legal permission to use in a film.  Entries can be submitted online between May 27 and June 17, and on June 25 the top ten videos selected by Bridgestone Americas will be posted online.  Three grand prize winners will then be chosen from the top ten by popular voting.  Winners will receive both $5,000 in scholarship money and a trip to the 2010 Chicago auto show.

Prize: $5,000

Eligibility: Students ages 16 to 21 who are United States citizens or permanent residents and are currently enrolled in either high school or an accredited college or trade school.

Deadline: June 17, 2009

Required Material: An original video, 25 or 55 seconds in length, that addresses issues of either automotive safety or automotive environmentalism.  Videos must be uploaded to the Safety Scholars website between May 27 and June 17 along with a completed registration form.

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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College Presidents Tackle Application Essays

May 14, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Here's something fun for students who have just finished the college application process, and something instructive for students who are about to start. The Wall Street Journal challenged college presidents to write an admission essay to their own institution, based on this year's admission essay prompts. An article about the problems they faced was published last week, along with the end results of their efforts.

While college presidents don't typically serve on admission committees, the article still gives an interesting insight into what colleges may be looking for, as well as how highly educated people respond to the same questions high school seniors are asked to tackle each year.  There's good advice in here for high school juniors, and high school seniors may receive some comfort from the knowledge that even college presidents still struggle when faced with the task of writing a good college application essay.

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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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