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Audit Reveals Problems with Colorado Scholarship Program

Sep 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Colorado's CollegeInvest agency, an organization in charge of state loan forgiveness and scholarship programs, is facing criticism and increased scrutiny from the state's legislature after an audit revealed conflicts of interest and a surprisingly low number of scholarship awards being made by the board. The state legislature will now require the agency to report to them monthly to ensure proper oversight of the state's scholarship and student loan funds.

The audit found that the CollegeInvest Early Achievers Scholarship, a fund that awards high-achieving high school students with college financial aid, had only given out a tiny fraction of the awards it was expected to since it was established in 2005. Students opt into the scholarship program as 7th, 8th or 9th graders and pledge to take pre-college coursework in high school and maintain a GPA of 2.5 or better. The Colorado legislature estimated that the scholarship fund would award about $3.8 million in scholarships per year, but awarded only $91,000 this year. A volunteerism scholarship program and a student loan forgiveness programs managed by CollegeInvest also fell significantly short of goals and projections.

Meanwhile, the fund incurred over $12 million in administrative expenses beyond salaries and benefits for its employees. Reports on the audit note that the program has spent $10 on administrative costs for every $1 in scholarships awarded. The audit also found conflicts of interest with the board awarding funding to other organizations they were connected to and giving out large payments to financial advisors.

CollegeInvest officials say that the program is off to a slow start and that potential conflicts of interest were disclosed and didn't affect board decisions. For now, the state legislature has just asked for increased oversight of the program. But for Colorado students who were expecting to benefit from academic scholarships, community service scholarships, or loan forgiveness programs for which money is in place but funds aren't being awarded in large amounts, any change in these programs cannot come soon enough.

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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Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

Sep 28, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many college scholarships focus on high school seniors, but there are scholarship opportunities for younger students as well. This week's Scholarship of the Week is one such opportunity, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. These scholarships are awarded to students in grades 5-12 who have served their communities in a significant way in the last 12 months.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created in 1995 through a partnership between Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. These community service scholarships give young people who show an early commitment to helping others a chance at national recognition, as well as up to $6,000 to pay for school and an additional $5,000 to benefit the charity organization of their choice.

Prize: Five high school and five middle school National Honorees will receive $5,000 scholarship awards and an additional $5,000 donation to a charity of their choice; 102 State Honorees will receive $1,000 awards and will go on to compete in the national contest and participate in an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Eligibility: Students in grades 5-12 who are legal residents of any U.S. State or the District of Columbia who have engaged in a volunteer activity in the last 12 months. Applications must be certified by a school principal or the local head of one of several officially designated certifying organizations listed on the contest website.

Deadline: Applications must be submitted for certification by November 2, 2009 and must be sent by the school or organization by November 9, 2009.

Required Material: A completed scholarship application which describes your role in the community service activity you completed, as well as its impact on you and the community. Applications and a list of the questions applicants are required to answer are available on the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 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.

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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Colleges Reconsider Merit-Based Scholarships

Sep 22, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Although need-based financial aid has remained steady at most colleges, some schools are looking at their merit-based scholarship programs as the next place to cut if budgets continue to shrink. Merit-based scholarships, which do not usually consider need, rely on GPA and standardized test scores as measures of students' academic achievement and potential for excellence on the college level.

A criticism has been that the awards go disproportionately to students of wealthy families who may have the resources to better prepare for tests and assistance outside of the classroom. However, cuts in merit-based scholarship programs may also affect the middle class, a group of students who may receive some funding, but due to their parents' combined incomes will receive far more in student loans than scholarships and grants compared to lower-income applicants. Perhaps that's how it should work, but middle-class families with steady incomes don't always have the resources left over to contribute much to college savings accounts like 529 Plans, especially in a tough economy.

Should merit-based scholarships then also consider some degree of need before disbursement? An article this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education described several schools looking to trim their merit-based scholarship programs, especially those that rely on state funding to exist. In Florida, the Bright Futures Scholarship Program will stop funding full public-college tuition in favor of a set amount based on credit hours. In West Virginia, Promise Scholarship awards will max out at $4,750 rather than the former full rides. In Michigan, a state that has been hit particularly hard in this economy, their own Promise Scholarship program may be cut entirely. The University of Texas recently announced it would no longer be sponsoring National Merit, a popular national scholarship program that students qualify for based on standardized test scores. Students there had been able to receive $13,000 over four years. The university promises an increase in need-based financial aid to assist those students who had been receiving National Merit aid but who also qualified for many of the federal need-based financial aid programs.

>With a limited amount of funding coming from both the state and federal level, schools have to decide how best to approach financial aid. The trend has been to place a higher importance on need, as the rationale is that many students who had been receiving merit-based scholarships would be able to afford college anyway, or be eligible for outside academic scholarships. And those who would have applied for need-based financial aid before the recession are only in need of more aid today.

One school is taking the Good Samaritan approach. At Pennsylvania State University's Schreyer Honors College, parents and the college bound who did not fill out financial aid forms but received the school's $3,500 merit-based scholarships for gaining admittance to the honors college are being asked to consider allocating that money instead to accepted students with a higher level financial need. In short, the money goes to students who really need it. Should it be more complicated than that?

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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PRIMERO Hispanic Heritage Scholarship

Sep 21, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Sears Holdings Corporation is sponsoring the PRIMERO Hispanic Heritage Scholarship. The award, our Scholarship of the Week, is open to students of all ethnic backgrounds but was inspired by the efforts of Hispanic families helping their children become the first in the family to attend college. This is the first year the scholarship is being awarded, but Sears hopes to make it annual. Students who will be entering college and those continuing their degrees are encouraged to apply. There are GPA requirements and an online essay and application to fill out, but the grand prize - up to $10,000 to cover college costs - is a generous one. Minority scholarships, including the growing number of Hispanic scholarships, are some of the most common student-specific scholarships out there, so be sure to conduct a free scholarship search to view all of the scholarships you're eligible for.

Prize: One first prize winner will receive $10,000, one second prize will receive $5,000, two third prizes will receive $2,500 and 10 finalists will receive Sears-Kmart "Back to Campus" kits, valued at $250 each

Eligibility: Students between the ages of 16-22 who are enrolled in college seeking a bachelor's or associate's degree during the 2010 academic year, and are residents of the 50 states or Washington, D.C., with the exception of Maine. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and may not be an employee, officer, director or agent of Sears Holdings Corporation, the sponsor of the award.

Deadline: October 15, 2009

Required Material: A completed online scholarship application, along with an essay of 500 words or less in English or Spanish on a person of Hispanic origin who was a "first" in his or her industry or field, and how that person has been an inspiration to you. Entries will be judged on creativity, originality and the structure of the essay, relevance of the essay to the contest topic, demonstrated leadership/community involvement, and GPA.

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.

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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Scholarships.com Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Sep 21, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. This annual event was started in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, and was initially known as Hispanic Heritage Week.  It was expanded to a month-long celebration of Hispanic and Latino history in 1988 by President Reagan. Schools, municipalities, and organizations nationwide take this opportunity to honor the culture and heritage of Hispanics in America and to celebrate the achievements of notable Hispanic Americans.

Hispanics were some of the first residents of what is now the United States of America, with Spanish-speaking settlers arriving in Florida and the Southwest in the 1500s. Currently, Hispanic Americans make up over 15 percent of the population of the United States, making them the second largest ethnic group in the nation. Hispanic Americans have played notable roles in events throughout the history of the country and many prominent figures in business, entertainment and government proudly claim Hispanic heritage.

As a result, there is a lot to celebrate in Hispanic Heritage Month. In addition to the achievements of Hispanic Americans, Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates the independence of several Latin American countries, as the dates coincide with the anniversaries of independence of Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile and Belize.

There are even scholarship awards offered in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, including this week's Scholarship of the Week, the PRIMERO Hispanic Heritage Scholarship. This $10,000 award was created in recognition of the achievements of Hispanic families who put their children through college and is meant to help realize the dreams of students who are the first in their families to attend college. In addition to awards that specifically celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a number of other Hispanic scholarships are also available to help advance the education and achievements of Hispanic Americans.

To find out more about scholarship opportunities for Hispanic students or more general scholarships for minorities, conduct a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com.

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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$1 Million in Scholarships Awarded to Top Urban School District

Sep 18, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

High school seniors in a school district in Texas will receive $1 million in scholarships after their district was named the winner of this year's Broad Prize for Urban Education. The award is offered annually by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and is designed to reward notable gains in student achievement and in narrowing the achievement gap for poor and minority students. Aldine Independent School District, which serves the Houston area, won the top prize this year, after having previously been a runner up for the prize three times.

The Broad Foundation names five finalists each year and from them, chooses a winner for the $1 million Broad Prize. This year, the other finalists were Broward County, Florida (a two-time finalist); Long Beach, California (a former winner and three-time finalist); Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas; and Gwinnet County Public Schools in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Aldine won the prize based on a number of factors. The Broad Foundation cited the district's gains in breaking "the predictive power of poverty," as the district's predominately low-income students outperformed peers of similar backgrounds on state standardized tests. The achievement gap for both low-income and minority students has been closing at Aldine, with a 14-point reduction in the achievement gap for African-American middle schoolers in math over the last four years. Other successes included Aldine's recruitment of highly qualified teachers, engagement with students, and districtwide standardization of education practices and curriculum (many poor families move around within the district, so making what is taught in each grade more uniform across the district helps them keep from falling behind).

The scholarship awards will help further the success of graduates from Aldine, with $20,000 over four years going to students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities and up to $5,000 over two years going to students who enroll in community colleges. Students at other finalist schools will also receive scholarship money: each of the prize's four finalist districts will receive $250,000 to award to their high school students.

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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Survive the Bad Economy, Part IV: Keep Positive

Sep 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Despite all the news you read about the economy on a daily basis, there are reasons to stay positive and believe the situation is and will continue improving. There are still dozens of scholarships out there that you're probably qualified for, and although the admissions process has become more competitive, the level of funding available to high school seniors and beyond has remained solid. The economy won't keep you from going to college, especially if you plan ahead and apply for your financial aid packages early via FAFSA. The longer you wait, the less funding there will be and the harder it'll make your decisions on which college to attend.

New scholarships are being posted all the time. A recent blog post described two such opportunities in two Michigan communities, a region that has been hit fairly hard with economic effects. Both awards are very generous, and could serve as a lesson not to rule out local scholarships when you're looking for ways to pay for college. Although some schools have had to scale back their budgets, local scholarships have remained in tact as private organizations only want to help you get to school even more in a struggling economy.

Even if the economy hasn't recovered by the time you graduate, chances are the positions you'll be applying for won't be as scarce as jobs affected by layoffs. Entry level jobs are more readily available because it's less expensive to hire a new graduate than someone with decades worth of experience. Internships are also plentiful, since they unfortunately often offer a less-than-generous stipend or no payment at all, so if you're able to abandon the summer job next year, consider finding an internship that fits your field and interests. Internships are a great way to pad your resume, as even entry level jobs want to see that you've had some experience in your chosen field in the real world.

Although there's no guarantee you'll land a great job right out of college, that guarantee has never existed, even in the best economy. The cost of attending college is worth that risk, and the pros outweigh the cons in a climate where more people are going to college than ever before. You'll make more money and have more diverse career opportunities than high school graduates entering the job world. There are many options to cut college costs, from attending school in-state or working through school. Consider community college, as many specialize in programs that are in high demand right now. Any excuse on why you should put off college can be dealt with, so file those applications and get yourself on a scholarship search to overcome the biggest hurdle: paying for your higher 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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Survive the Bad Economy, Part I: Land a Scholarship

Sep 14, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As unemployment rates remain high and budgets stay tight, more people are looking to wait out the struggling economy by going back to college. Competition then has become more fierce not only on the admissions level, but for funding to pay for those educations. While many schools are doing whatever they can to continue offering scholarships and grants, the economy has affected some schools' available funding. Good news is, scholarships do exist, and there are things you can do to have a better chance of landing one.

  • Apply early, and apply often. Scholarships wait for no one, and a later deadline doesn't mean you should wait until the very last moment to apply. Generous scholarships like the Coca-Cola Scholars Program have deadlines in October, for example. It's not a bad move to look ahead and start applying for awards beyond this year, either, to get an idea of funding you'll need in the future. To see scholarships that have deadlines this fall, conduct a a free scholarship search and see the dozens you could be eligible for.
  • Don't rule out local scholarships. While funding packages from your intended college are often more generous than outside awards, it won't hurt to supplement any funding you're awarded or have a backup plan in case what your school offers covers less of your fees than you thought. Local scholarships from your dad's employer or your local bowling league are also less competitive than college-based awards or the more well-known contests, and often look at things beyond your GPA and test scores to factor in things like community service, your experience with that organization and financial need. New scholarships are being created all the time, so check on your search throughout the school year for the most up-to-date results.
  • Stand out on the application. It's not too late to make up for that less-than-stellar grade in your high school Algebra class, especially if you're looking ahead to scholarship opportunities beyond your freshman year in college. GPAs matter from your entire high school career, so don't slack off when the senioritis hits. Don't be afraid of AP classes unless it's a subject you know you'd get a low grade in, and get involved in your school and your community as it's also not always about academics. Work on that resume by applying for internships that fit your intended major, and put in more hours of practice if you're going for a sports or music scholarship. It's never too late to make yourself a more desirable scholarship candidate.
  • Appeal your award. If you've done everything you can - filled out your FAFSA early, put together impressive scholarship applications - and you feel the financial aid you've been offered from your school is unfair or if your circumstances have changed dramatically since applying for government aid, you still have options. Schools are more likely to reconsider packages in the current climate, and you could be eligible for more grant and scholarship funding, the best kind that you don't need to pay back.

For more information on upcoming scholarships and other helpful financial aid tips, visit our College Resources. Tomorrow, we'll explore your options on keeping college costs low and looking at a school's program versus its reputation.

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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Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program

Sep 14, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Often, scholarship opportunities also serve as opportunities for students to think about and respond to pressing issues of the day, and one of the problems weighing most heavily on society in the last year has been the global economic crisis.  While the recession has begun showing signs of abating, it is still creating serious problems in several areas of life, ranging from paying for school to owning a home.

Homeowners have been facing threats of foreclosure due to a combination of factors related to the recession, and this problem could still get worse before it gets better. The real estate website Foreclosure.com is sponsoring a scholarship essay contest that invites college students to propose solutions to the ongoing spike in foreclosures. With a $5,000 top prize for the scholarship essay that best explains "how to solve the foreclosure crisis," the Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program is this week's Scholarship of the Week.

Prize: Top prize is $5,000 and four runners-up will receive $1,000

Eligibility: Students who are currently enrolled in or have been accepted to an accredited college, university, law school or trade school in the United States.  U.S. citizenship is required.

Deadline: December 31, 2009

Required Material: A completed online scholarship application, along with an essay of 1,000 to 2,500 words addressing the essay topic. Scholarship applications will be judged on writing ability, creativity, originality, and overall excellence.

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.

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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$8.4 Million in Scholarships Awarded to 9/11 Community

Sep 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund will provide $8.4 million in college scholarships this coming school year to the children, spouses and domestic partners of those who lost their lives in the September 11th terrorist attacks.

About half of that total has already been distributed for the fall semester to 520 students in mainly the New York and New Jersey region. The rest will go out in December for semesters starting in January. The needs-based fund, managed by Scholarship America, was created shortly after the terrorists attacks in 2001 thanks to an initial $1 million pledge from the Lumina Foundation for Education and the outpouring of donations that followed. Colleges and universities, organizations, and individuals across the country led by fundraising campaign co-chairs President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Bob Dole eventually raised about $125 million, with more in the years that followed. More than $46 million has been awarded since January 2002 to about 1,400 students, and the fund is set to continue giving out scholarships through 2030.

The average award this year was about $16,000, with everyone receiving at least $1,000 and one top award of $40,000. Those who were left permanently disabled in the attacks are also eligible. The fund's organizers claim there are still more than 5,400 students eligible for the scholarships. About $7.4 million was awarded for the last school year, and if this year's disbursement is any indicator, the scholarship amounts are only expected to rise.

Several companies and organizations set up scholarship funds for the families of victims in the September 11th terrorists attacks, including the National Law Enforcement And Firefighters Childrens Foundation Scholarship, which awards scholarships to children of law enforcement and firefighting personnel who were lost in the line of duty, and the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which provides emergency short-term financial assistance and emotional and mental health support to those who lost loved ones in not only the terrorist attacks, but other disasters and emergencies.

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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Introductions: Giving Your Scholarship Essay a Solid Start

Sep 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Unless you're lucky enough to happen across an extremely obscure and unusual scholarship with only one or two qualified applicants, you are going to have to face some competition to receive a scholarship award. In the case of essay scholarships that are easy to enter or that come with a substantial award, you may be facing quite a lot of competition. In fact, with many scholarship competitions, you may be up against so much competition that there's no guarantee a reviewer will even have time to completely read and digest each scholarship essay submitted. This makes your essay's introduction vitally important.

The first sentence of your scholarship application is your first, best and possibly only chance to capture your reader's attention. To have the best chance at winning scholarships, you need to know how to start your essay off right. The following are some tips to help you craft an eye-catching introduction that gets your foot in the door and gets your application the attention it deserves.

Put it in your own words. While starting with a quote is a common technique in speaking and some writing, it may not work best in a scholarship application essay. Leading with a quote shows the reviewer that you know how to read, but it doesn't tell much else about you or your ideas. Use your own words to begin, and if a quote supports or enhances your argument, consider bringing it in later in the essay.

Avoid clichés and tired phrases. One of your essay's goals should be to distinguish you from the competition, and it won't do this if it rehashes the same overused expressions that everyone else employs. Keep in mind that the scholarship reviewer will be reading hundreds or even thousands of applications. What seems clever or cute the first time doesn't seem that way after the 50th or 100th iteration. A good rule to follow is that if a phrase belongs on a bumper sticker or in an e-mail from your mom, it likely does not belong in your scholarship essay.

Establish a personal connection. If your experience gives you a unique perspective on the essay's topic, show your reader this. Most people are suckers for personal anecdotes, provided the stories are interesting and well-told. Make sure the story you tell fits these criteria and actually enriches your essay and contributes to your overall message. Don't get melodramatic and don't bog down your introduction in an overly long, detailed or irrelevant narrative, but if you've got a good story to tell to frame your essay, use it.

Say something new. Are you arguing something that falls well outside the typical series of canned responses? Consider leading with your thesis, or at least some of the information or realizations that guided your essay towards its thesis. There's no better way to stand out from a pile of fairly standard responses than to have something fresh and thought-provoking to contribute with your scholarship application.

With a solid introduction and a thoughtful and well-written response, you'll be well on your way to writing a scholarship-worthy essay.

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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