November 18, 2008
Are you considering a career in public service, such as working for the government or a non-profit organization, but more than slightly overwhelmed by the thought of repaying your student loans with an often minuscule salary? Realizing that you may actually be taking a pay cut to transition from your summer job to your "grown up" career can be demoralizing, and dealing with debt on top of that certainly doesn't help. While many noble individuals certainly make this sacrifice, perhaps you were hoping to forget where the grocery store kept its "manager's special" items after you graduated. And who can blame you? The college budget diet, and the accompanying lifestyle of cramming half a dozen people into one run-down apartment, eventually does get old. Luckily, there are forms of financial aid out there to minimize or relieve your debt and help you stretch that public servant salary a little further.
Some of the most well-known career-based assistance programs are designed for teachers. The TEACH grant contributes $4000 a year towards the tuition of students who agree to teach a high-need subject at a low-income school for four years. Other programs such as Teach for America offer teaching certification, a stipend, and assistance with student loan repayment to individuals agreeing to teach in certain schools.
Teachers and other public servants can also qualify to have their Federal Perkins Loans canceled, saving up to $16,000. Nursing students and other medical students can get in on this program, as well. The federal government also launched a public service loan repayment program a year ago that will forgive qualifying federal student loan debt for those who commit ten years to public service. In addition, a variety of government scholarships provide incentives for students in various majors to consider federal work.
An article appearing in USA Today this week also mentions some university-specific programs to help steer students towards public service careers. Harvard Law School will waive tuition for one year for students who commit to five years in government or non-profit fields, and Princeton University will provide free master's degrees to eight 2008 graduates who first put in two years in federal jobs. Tufts University is also helping its undergraduate students pay down debt or pursue graduate degrees if they commit a few years to public service work.
If you're leaning towards a career with a government agency or non-profit organization, be aware of the scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, and loan repayment programs out there. Include a free college scholarship search in your research to find out about many of your options for funding your education and minimizing your debt.
November 20, 2008
Amid news of tightening budgets and declining endowments, several colleges and universities are putting a greater focus on shoring up financial aid programs and helping their students find money for college. While reports of hiring freezes and halted construction plans has come from numerous institutions, keeping students in school has remained a priority.
This focus on student financial aid is reflected in recent fund raising shifts, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Several schools are introducing or ramping up fund raising efforts directed at providing college scholarships and grants for their students. Among the private colleges increasing fund raising efforts are Cornell University and Barnard College. State universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin, are also increasing effort to meet students' growing financial needs.
College presidents at multiple institutions are even dipping into their own salaries and savings to help their schools. A recent news post in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis has taken a voluntary 10% pay cut to help reduce operating costs, and the president of the University of Pennsylvania has donated $100,000 to help fund undergraduate research at her university.
All of this goes to show that despite economic trouble, scholarship opportunities are still out there. Keep plugging away at your scholarship search and you can still afford a college education.
August 20, 2008
The results of a poll conducted by Sallie Mae and Gallup were released today, painting a picture of where Americans across income levels find money for college. The study found that sources of funding varied, with parent borrowing (16%), student borrowing (23%), and parent income and savings (32%) taking care of the majority of college costs. Scholarships and grants followed closely behind, making up 15 percent of college funding.
The average grant and scholarship awards and student loan amounts were roughly the same for low income families (families making below $50,000 a year), while middle income families relied most heavily on parent income and student loans, and high income families (families making above $100,000 a year) predominantly used parent income and savings to pay for school.
While more students than parents were likely to rule out a school at some point in their college search based on cost (63% vs. 54%), two in five families said that cost was not a consideration in choosing the right college for them, and 70 percent of students and parents said that future income was not a factor when determining how much to borrow.
Additionally, 20 percent of families reported using either a second mortgage or a credit card to pay some portion of tuition, while only 9 percent of families reported using a college savings plan, such as a 529 plan, to pay for part of tuition (though those who did were able to cover nearly $8,000 of the cost of college with one). The study also found that only 76 percent of students whose families made between $35,000 and $50,000 per year, many of whom may be eligible for state and federal grant programs, did not complete the FAFSA. Only 73 percent of familes making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year completed a FAFSA, despite many families' reliance on loans to pay for college.
The full text of the report is available on the Sallie Mae website.
August 25, 2008
Are you an aspiring YouTube star? Does making your own music video sound like fun? Does winning up to $5,000 in scholarship money for making your own music video sound even better? If so, competing for this week's Scholarship of the Week might be for you!
The "Speak New Words" Music Video Contest will award first, second, and third place winners with prizes of $500 to $5,000 to help pay for school or other expenses. To enter, create your own music video highlighting 13 character traits you consider essential for change and upload it to YouTube, then register your original lyrics with the "Speak New Words" website. If you are interested in art, music, or poetry contests, this is a great scholarship opportunity for you!
There will be one $5,000 grand prize awarded to entrants ages 13-20, and one awarded to entrants aged 21+. Runners up in each age group will receive a $1,000 prize for second place and a $500 prize for third.
U.S. citizens ages 13 and up.
September 7, 2008.
An original music video 1-4 minutes in length uploaded to the appropriate website and YouTube group. See the contest details for more information.
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.
August 26, 2008
California's community colleges system plans to begin offering $1,000 scholarships to many of its students in 2009, according to an article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. The schools received a $25 million endowment in May from a foundation that supports education and the arts, and will receive matching funds of up to another $25 million after fundraising efforts this fall. These scholarship opportunities will help make college more affordable for anywhere from 1,250 to over 5,000 students annually, depending on the amount of money California community colleges are able to raise to contribute to the fund.
This is just one of several efforts being undertaken by California's community colleges in order to start tapping into alumni donations and building endowment funds to help students pay for school. The San Mateo Community College foundation has increased its staff and started publishing an alumni newsletter to solicit donations, and the Foundation for California Community Colleges, which will administer the new scholarship fund, is helping other schools devise strategies for fundraising.
As community college enrollment continues to increase and states continue to cut funding to community colleges in order to balance their budgets, it makes sense for community colleges to increasingly turn to philanthropic gifts to meet their students' needs. If other states follow California's example, attending college at a two-year institute could become a more attractive option for many students who are strapped for cash or coming up short on financial aid at a more expensive institution. In addition to scholarships administered by the colleges, community college students are also eligible to compete for many private scholarship awards.
To research community college options in California or other states, check out our college search tool. To find out about additional sources of scholarship money, fill out a profile on Scholarships.com and conduct a free scholarship search.
August 27, 2008
The city of Akron, Ohio plans to introduce a scholarship fund to encourage its high school graduates to stay in the city for college. Akron's plan follows in the footsteps of other cities with similar programs, such as Kalamazoo, Michigan, which gained national attention with the launch of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship in 2005. An anonymous donor contributes to the Kalamazoo Promise fund, which offers free tuition to graduates of Kalamazoo high school attending college at local schools, such as Western Michigan University. At least 19 cities have followed suit in the last three years, according to the Associated Press, with many relying on private donors to provide scholarship awards.
But no donors have come forth in Akron, so the city is trying something new: leasing its sewage system to a private company, then using the money to establish a scholarship fund. The measure, which has earned the somewhat derisive nickname "stools for schools," is up for a vote in November. While any additional scholarships for high school students are welcome, this measure does come with some drawbacks. Up to 100 city employees in Akron may find themselves without jobs in an already tough economic climate and many residents have issues with the city choosing to privatize public works.
Additionally, students may not be interested in the scholarship anyway. Presently, only 600 Akron high school graduates attend the University of Akron, and the proposed tuition plan will only subsidize what's left of tuition after students' other scholarships are taken out, leaving them with the guaranteed responsibility of room and board. The scholarship committee is also throwing around the idea of attaching a thirty-year residency requirement to the scholarship money, converting the scholarships to student loans for all students who choose to leave Akron before retirement.
While local scholarships are usually a great idea for students, they can stop being appealing if too many requirements are attached. My guess is that few students will want to have their entire lives planned out for them in high school, especially if a change in plans carries a financial penalty of tens of thousands of dollars. Whether or not this measure passes in November, many students from Akron will undoubtedly want to continue their scholarship search. And Scholarships.com is a great place to start, with our database of 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion, without a 30-year residency requirement in sight.
August 29, 2008
An article that appeared yesterday in the UK's Times Higher Education carries an important reminder for students attending college on both sides of the pond: don't trust spell check to always suggest the right word. The publication's recently revived contest for the best college exam bloopers asked professors to submit anonymous examples of some of their students' worst for-credit writing. Most of the entries highlighted in the article are a case of students accidentally using a different word than what they meant.
If you're not the best speller, you may want to take these examples to heart and remember to use the dictionary to look up the meanings and spellings of words you're not sure of, rather than simply relying on a spell checker or guessing. For example, "academic" and "epidemic" may sound similar, but they carry very different meanings. And don't think these mistakes are something that only the stereotypical stuffy tweed-clad British professor will notice--anyone in the business of evaluating writing is likely to pick up on errors of meaning in essay writing.
This advice applies not only to essays you'll write for introductory college courses, but also to college applications and scholarship application essays, as well. Many students run their entries for scholarship essay contests through a spellchecker of some sort (though some don't even do that), but a surprising number of students fail to take the next step and make sure that the words they're using mean what they think they mean. Over-reliance on the thesaurus can produce a similar effect. While the denotative meanings of two words may appear to be closely related, their connotations could be worlds apart.
September 2, 2008
Aspiring artists, break out your pens for this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Christophers' Poster Contest for High School Students. The art scholarship competition, which carries a grand prize of $1000, encourages high school students to create an original poster featuring the text "you can make a difference." Just by using your artistic talent in two-dimensional or computer-generated art to create a poster, you could be $1000 closer to funding your education, without having to worry about GPA, test score, or financial need requirements.
The Christophers is a non-profit organization founded in 1945 for the purpose of using media to encourage people to make positive changes in their community. 2008-2009 is the 19th year they've helped students pay for school through this poster competition.
Prize: 1st prize is $1000, 2nd prize is $500, 3rd prize is $250, and five honorable mentions receive $100 each.
Eligibility: High school students currently enrolled in grades 9-12.
Deadline: January 19, 2009.
Required Materials: One 15" by 20" poster and a completed application form, which is available on The Christophers' website. Posters must include the words "you can make a difference" and be the original work of one student.
September 8, 2008
As a means of promoting diversity and developing talent, Scholarships.com has created a new set of scholarship awards for high school students and undergraduate students. The Scholarships.com “Fund Your Future” Area of Study College Scholarship consists of thirteen $1,000 prizes to be granted to students who pursue a postsecondary education in one of thirteen designated fields and 185 related majors.
Among them is the Scholarships.com College English Scholarship, an award for students who are pursuing or planning to pursue a degree in English or Literature. To ensure that current and future English majors receive the funds they need to afford a quality education, we have created a scholarship opportunity especially for them.
If you’re interested in applying for the Scholarships.com College English Scholarship, write a 250 to 350 word scholarship application essay in response to the following question (entries that fall outside of this word range will be disqualified): “What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in English?”
Deadline: October 31, 2008
Required Material: A 250 to 350 word response to the following question: “What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in English?”
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship list.
September 15, 2008
Let's be honest. Sometimes, the contest rules for scholarship opportunities can just be too limiting. Lengthy forms, essay prompts, and word counts can all suck the joy right out of scholarship applications. While specific requirements can be nice for some, others just need a little more flexibility to express themselves fully. For those free-spirited students, we have this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Frame My Future Scholarship Contest.
The Frame My Future Scholarship Contest, sponsored by Church Hill Classics and diplomaframe.com asks students to share their plans for their future after graduation, composing an original piece that shows, "how I frame my future." The only requirement for the entry is that it fit on an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper. Otherwise, the format is completely up to you. Submit a drawing, an essay, a photograph, a collage, or anything else you can think of, either online or by mail. The top 24 entries will be posted on Framemyfuture.com, where the public will be able to vote for their favorite, and the five most popular will be awarded $1,000 college scholarships.
Prize: Five winners will each receive a $1,000 scholarship award.
Eligibility: The contest is open to U.S. high school seniors and college students who will be working toward a degree in the 2009-2010 academic year.
Deadline: March 31, 2009.
Required Materials: An entry form, available on the contest website, and an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper with your original creation on it. Submissions are accepted online or via mail.
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