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by Emily

Providing incentives for good grades is an increasingly common policy for parents of elementary and high school students.  In my household, report card day meant personal pan pizzas and a reprieve from the topping battle among my sister who didn't eat cheese, my sister who only ate cheese, and my own vote for a supreme pizza with extra cheese.  After pizza ceased to be a point of contention, my parents switched to the popular plan of offering financial incentives for good grades.  I don't remember the pay scale exactly, but I do remember missing it once I hit college.  Many undergraduate students are probably in the same boat, thinking about how even $10 or $20 per A could mean fewer trips to the plasma bank or even an extra textbook or two next semester.

Two brothers, who also happen to hold economics degrees from Harvard and Princeton, had a similar idea.  Michael and Matthew Kopko launched the website GradeFund last month to apply a model similar to fundraising for a marathon, where sponsors pledge to donate a certain amount per mile completed, to finding money for college.  College students' friends and family members, as well as corporate sponsors and others interested in donating money to help deserving students fund their educations, sign up on the site to give a certain dollar amount per grade earned to a particular student.

Students create profiles donors can search, and are matched up with people interested in helping them finance their educations.  Rather than agreeing to provide student loans or cover tuition in exchange for work, like in other peer-to-peer financial aid programs we've mentioned on our blog, donors on GradeFund, like scholarship providers, don't require anything in return for their donations.  While it's unlikely that a student will pay for their entire university education this way (according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the current highest pledge per A is $400), they could easily pay for their books and possibly even a good part of other expenses that college scholarships or student financial aid might not cover.  Plus, since these payments are linked to concrete achievements by students already attending college, donors may feel less apprehensive about the recipients of their philanthropy floundering once they face the academic challenges of their undergraduate studies.


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by Emily

Are you looking for something to do with the rest of your summer?  While scientific research might not be everyone's idea of a good time, putting together a research project could pay off for high school students through this week's Scholarship of the Week.

The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology recognizes remarkable talent early on, fostering individual growth for high school students who are willing to challenge themselves through science research. The Competition promotes excellence by encouraging students to undertake individual or team research projects in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, or a combination of these disciplines. Through this competition, students have an opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research projects that they complete in high school. It is administered by The College Board and funded by the Siemens Foundation.

Students may enter as individuals or as part of a team. Entries are "blind read" by a panel of judges assembled by The College Board and its partner Educational Testing Service. The judges have related expertise to the project being reviewed. They do not know anything about the student; papers are judged solely on the merits of the abstract and supporting documentation.

Prize: In the initial review up to 300 projects are selected as semi-finalists.  Of these, up to 30 individual students and 30 teams go on to compete in regional finals.  Regional finalists receive scholarships of $1,000 apiece and regional winners receive $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for teams.  Regional champions progress to the national competition, where they compete for scholarship opportunities up to $100,000.

Eligibility: All current U. S. high school students are eligible to enter the competition.

Deadline: Applications are due by 5 p.m. Eastern Time October 1, 2008.

Required Materials: Please review the Siemens Foundation Competition scholarship information for complete submission guidelines and required materials.

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 the award will find it in their scholarship search results.


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How Will You Fund Your College Education?

by Jessica Seals

Throughout my undergraduate career, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of scholarships and grants that helped cover my tuition and other fees. Thousands of other college students across the country also rely on this free money to pay for their education and we should all be taking note of the fact that many financial aid options that we have to help pay for college are being eliminated or being heavily restricted. For example, two years ago I was able to take summer classes and receive a Pell Grant because the government allowed students to receive it during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Now, students are only eligible to receive the grant two semesters out of the year which means that a student cannot put the funds toward summer classes if they’ve already applied them to the fall and spring semesters for that academic year.

Many people already decide not to enroll in college because they do not feel like they can afford it. Cutting down on the usage of the Pell Grant can force many students to skip summer classes and send them down a slippery slope, as more students will be forced to stay in school longer and accrue more debt from student loans. Classrooms will become emptier during summer sessions and colleges hard-pressed for funds could raise tuition to compensate. The problem will continue to spiral out of control and lead to more reasons why people opt out of attending college.

We all should become more aware of the decreases that are being made towards higher education spending. The changes affect all of us and if we can all become aware of them, we’ll be able to take (and guide others along) the necessary route to make sure that paying for school is a lot less stressful.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. Jessica will be back at Memphis this fall to begin working toward her master’s degree in political science this fall; she ultimately hopes to attend law school.


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Rationing Your Refund Check

by Jessica Seals

The first day of classes means new professors, new classmates and a completely new routine. It is also about the time that universities distribute refund checks to students. Refund checks are extra funds that are left over after all school fees have been paid. These funds are the result of excess scholarships, grants and loans. Refund checks can come in handy, as students can use the extra money to buy a laptop, food, books or to pay off another loan. Some students, however, are not wise with their money and are left scrounging for pennies before the end of the semester.

I always hear students complaining about how they do not have any money left from their refund check long before finals roll around. They chose to splurge on clothes, the newest Droid phone, expensive restaurants or they spent money on friends. Buying a few extra “fun” items is not something that should necessarily be avoided but you should maintain a budget and be conscious about how much money you are spending. I have taken money from my refund check and separated it into two separate bank accounts. The money in my savings account rarely gets touched unless it is an emergency and the money in my checking account is what I use on a daily basis. I keep less money in the checking account so I am not tempted to spend more than I intend to.

While in college, it is especially important to learn how to manage your money. If you get a refund check back from the school, this could be your chance to start learning how to do so. You will feel great knowing that you will not be labeled a broke college student!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Financial Woes for Students in Tennessee

by Jessica Seals

Students with hopes of obtaining college degrees in the state of Tennessee now have more issues to worry about other than just getting accustomed to the college lifestyle: Negotiations have been taking place that will place an even bigger burden on the financial status of students.

Currently, students who have been living in Tennessee for at least a year can apply for a lottery scholarship formerly known as the HOPE Scholarship. This scholarship provides $4,000 to students who attend four-year public or private schools and $2,000 for students at two-year schools. A student could receive this award during each fall and spring semester for up to five years; however, legislators are currently working to put a 120-hour cap on the scholarship before the 2011-2012 school year begins. A 120-hour cap means that some students who have chosen to have more than one major will more than likely lose the scholarship before they graduate and have to find alternative ways to pay for school. This cap will reportedly only apply to students who began attending college in 2009 or after but depending on where students go to school, they could also be hit with tuition increases. Schools such as the University of Tennessee in Knoxville are hoping to implement a 12-percent tuition increase for the upcoming academic year.

This increase, along with a cap on lottery scholarships, has caused more students to become stressed out because it will be even tougher to pay for school. These limitations on financial aid could lead to an increase in students who drop out of college, a decrease in the number of students attending college and an increase in the amount of loans that students will have to take out. Will these changes impact your college experience? If so, how do you plan to address them?

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Volunteering is More Than Just a School Requirement

by Jessica Seals

Some students only see volunteer work as a requirement for a class or a scholarship while others embrace it and enjoy helping others without being required to. My fellow virtual intern Thomas recently suggested a variety of community service and volunteer options; in that same vein, here are my personal experiences with community service and why it’s essential to your college experience even if it’s not required.

I started doing volunteer work after my freshman year in high school. I did this every summer at the local hospital until I graduated from high school as well as participated in various other volunteer projects the community through my school. I always liked doing volunteer work because it made me feel good to know that I was actually helping people instead of sitting at home with nothing to do.

Seeing other people smile and finally have something good happen to them is enough satisfaction in itself for those who volunteer but it wasn’t until I graduated from high school that I learned why this work was so important: On my first job interview after high school, the interviewer was so impressed with the number of hours that I had volunteered with no cash incentive that I was hired on the spot.

Volunteer work is not just a school requirement – it’s a way to give back to the community and show potential employers just how well you can dedicate yourself to any task at hand.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Jessica Seals

by Jessica Seals

Hi everyone! My name is Jessica Seals and in addition to being one of Scholarships.com's virtual interns, I am a senior at the University of Memphis currently majoring in political science with a minor in English. Nice to "meet" you all!

I chose to go to the University of Memphis due to its close location to my hometown of Jackson, Tennessee and the fact that it was one of the few schools in my area that offered political science as a major while offering a good selection of scholarships to pay for my education. Why political science, you ask? I was informed that it is a popular major among students who wish to go to law school and after I graduate, that’s exactly what I plan to do. As for my English minor, it will definitely prepare me for the extensive amount of reading and writing that I will have to do in law school, especially in my chosen concentration – corporate law.

I look forward to working as a virtual intern for Scholarships.com and I hope that I am able to provide the insightful first-hand accounts on college issues, such as paying for school, extracurricular activities and how to balance and manage your time for current and future students - information I always wished someone would have provided for me!


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Scholarships – Are They Really Worth My Time? YES!

by Jessica Seals

A typical soon-to-be college student’s priority list probably looks a little something like this:

But wait!!! With all of the excitement of starting college, students can forget to get their finances together to pay for it all! Many students don’t realize that they can eliminate student loan headaches simply by starting the scholarship application process early. By doing so, students have more time to get their application materials together and apply for more scholarships because they are not rushing to submit everything on deadline day.

From my own personal experience, I found it advantageous to apply for scholarships early. I joined websites like Scholarships.com so that I could keep track of deadlines and scholarships that I qualified for. I sent it all of my materials early and when I started receiving letters that began with “Congratulations!” it made the time that I spent applying for scholarships worthwhile.

Another bit of advice that I found helpful was applying for scholarships even if the amount seems small. During my freshman year of college, I applied for the new member scholarship for the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society despite the fact that the award amount was $300. Nothing could make my smile turn into a frown that day because winning the scholarship meant that I wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for books in the upcoming semester.

My final advice: Apply for as many scholarships as possible because you might just be what the scholarship committee is looking for. Even the smallest award can help pay for something!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Challenging Yourself in High School Has Vast Future Rewards

by Julius Clayborn

I began my high school career at EXCEL-Orr High School but quickly realized the school was not doing enough to prepare me for post-secondary success. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to Urban Prep Academy and though my collegiate dreams were now within reach, the transition was not easy. I was met with much opposition and had multiple run-ins with many of the students. I was torn: Here I had this great opportunity but these external factors were taking an academic and emotional toll on me. I began to regret transferring and eventually regret school altogether.

Luckily, I found solace in my extracurricular activities such as debate and youth activism club. These things helped me realize my full potential and made me believe that there was something greater in store for me. Transferring quickly went from the worst decision I had ever made to the best, especially when it came time to start applying to colleges. Initially, I saw more challenges – Will I get in? Can I afford tuition? – but my worries were put to rest just as fast: We had an entire class period dedicated to college preparation and the application process, which is where I found out about the site you’re reading right now. Not only did I get accepted to a fantastic school, I also received enough scholarships and grants to pay for it.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with your high school’s curriculum, don’t sit idly by: Challenge yourself by taking harder courses or transfer, like I did. It may be difficult at first but any struggle will be well worth it in the future.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Where to Work on Campus

by Kara Coleman

While many students have been working part-time jobs since they were in high school, others are juggling work and school for the first time. On-campus jobs make this transition easy, since your boss will be willing to work around your class schedule. Whether you live at home and commute to your college or you live in a dorm 3,000 miles from home, on-campus employment is available. Here’s just a sampling:

Bookstore Associate: Your school’s bookstore needs people to run cash registers, answer phones, stock shelves and help students locate books they need. This might be a good job for you year-round if your school offers summer courses.

Tutor: At the community college I attended, free tutoring is available to students through the Student Support Services office. Tutors are paid by the school and set their own schedules during the hours the office is open. This guarantees that tutors’ work schedules do not conflict with their class schedules. If your college doesn’t offer a tutoring program, consider starting a private tutoring business.

Ambassador/Tour Guide: My school offers scholarships to students who participate in the ambassador program. Ambassadors are expected to be present at career fairs and charity functions and give campus tours to prospective students. Find out if your college offers scholarships or other types of financial aid for ambassador or tour guide positions.

Campus Security: Some colleges let students work for the university police department. Duties may include directing traffic, inspecting grounds and buildings for safety, and assistance during emergency situations. This is a great opportunity for criminal justice and law enforcement majors...or anyone looking to keep their campus safe!

Student job opportunities vary from school to school – at some universities, the editor of the school newspaper is a paid position! – so visit your college’s website or ask your advisor about potential on-campus jobs for you.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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