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Is College Right for You?

April 30, 2012

Is College Right for You?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

If you had to guess, what percentage of students start college and actually finish it? According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 46 percent of students who started college earned degrees in 2010. Hefty student loans and interest rates, stress and being academically unprepared are amongst the many reasons college drop-outs cite; some students report being as much as $50,000 in debt before graduation with no viable means of paying it off.

Given this info, it’s really important that you consider if college is right for you before applying, especially if the field you’re thinking about going into doesn’t require a degree. There are still plenty of great job opportunities for people who think college may not be for them, including air traffic control and locomotive engineering. That’s not to say, however, that a college degree is overrated. According to a study conducted by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor’s degree holders earn 84 percent more than high school graduates during their lifetimes. And while there are still plenty of jobs that don’t require a degree, virtually every employer will prefer a college graduate over a high school graduate.

My goal here is not to discourage anyone from attending college; instead, I want to present both sides of the argument so that you can commit 100 percent to furthering your education or, alternatively, seek out a job that doesn’t require a degree. It’s better to recognize now that you won’t be able to commit to college than be forced to drop out and pay back $50,000 in student loans later. No matter which path you choose, one thing’s for sure: You’ll have to work hard if you want to succeed!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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College: The Ultimate Life Lesson

June 16, 2011

College: The Ultimate Life Lesson

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many things I wish I knew before I started college...or even a year or two in! Tips about what professors are difficult, what dining halls serve the best food and where to find the dorms with the most square footage are quite often available but the biggest tip – which you won’t realize until you’re done with school – is that college itself teaches you how to get by in life.

The process begins before college with the prep work you do. You take six classes a semester in high school when during college you take three to five classes depending on the semester or quarter system. You take the SAT or ACT, which test your ability to take a test itself, not your intellectual abilities. You participate in every extracurricular possible to make your transcripts appealing, only to realize that those activities won’t really matter on campus. All of these tasks are tests: In college, you’ll spread yourself thin between a job, challenging classes, clubs and your social life but thanks to your prep work, you’ll know how to balance it all.

Once you’re on campus, college prepares you for the obstacles and struggles that await everyone after graduation. You’ll take engineering courses, biology labs and communications lectures and complete projects and papers to gauge how well you can apply the material you’ve learned and tight deadlines to help you to think on your feet. Whether you’re finding a way to pay off student loans or trying to secure a job in your field, those seemingly small assignments you completed in college will have prepared you to deal with the real world.

You’ll gain a lot from your college experience – friends, memories, knowledge – but most importantly is your degree, a testimony that you will be able to make it in life beyond those hallowed halls.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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The Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

January 20, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

by Radha Jhatakia

Much of the time, college students who are able to get the classes they need and have an education plan are able to graduate early. Graduating early can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it; it worked for my fellow virtual intern Jessica but how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you have job offers lined up after graduation?

2. Did you go to college close to home?

  • If you said yes, then graduating early wouldn’t be a tough transition but if you attended college further away, graduating early may be more difficult. Many if not all of your friends were will still be in school and you’ll also miss out on the senior graduation programs.

3. Did you take out loans to pay for college?

After you answer these questions, you should be able to determine if you should graduate early or not. Just remember there are pros and cons to both and you should choose the path that’s right for you.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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Repaying Student Loans

July 28, 2011

Repaying Student Loans

by Radha Jhatakia

Even before college applications are due, many students are worried about how they will afford their postsecondary educations. Once the enrollment deposit is in and the initial stress of finding funding has passed, however, it’s easy to forget about how some forms of financial aid – namely, student loans – require repayment starting about six months after graduation. Here are a few tips to follow so you’re prepared when this time comes.

When applying for loans, there are three standard loans you can receive. There is the Direct Subsidized Stafford loan (which doesn’t charge interest while you are in school), the Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loan (which does charges interest while you are in school) and the PLUS loan (which requires a parent or co-signer. Repayments for both Stafford loans begin six months after graduation but PLUS loan repayments begin as soon as the last disbursement is made unless you submit a deferment form.

The next step is choosing a repayment plan. There are quite a few plans to choose from and, depending on how much you borrowed, they differ in the amount you will have to pay per month and how many years you will be paying it off. Choose a plan that best suits your needs, and remember you can always change the plan if your financial situation changes.

The most important tip of all, in my opinion is to create an account with a site like myfedloan.org. This is the website used by the loan service for repayments. Sign up for it while you are still in school so you can keep track of your balance and interest. Pay off part of the interest whenever you can to avoid capitalizing on it and sign up for quarterly statements to stay informed.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

May 25, 2011

Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many factors that affect where, when and if students attend college, the most important being financial aid. So what can a student do when he or she hasn’t received enough funding?

If you need financial aid to make college a reality, contact the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering before applying. Find out the costs of tuition, room and board, and other college living expenses and defray these costs by applying for as many scholarships and grants as you can. The college will be more likely to help fill any financial gaps if you’ve shown initiative and determination.

Another method is writing formal letters to financial aid administrators. Describe your financial aid situation (including hard numbers), your home life, factors affecting your ability to pay for college and things that you could not put on the FAFSA such as a home mortgage or other payments that your parents need to make. Fax this letter, mail it by certified mail and email a copy to each school as well. If the school cannot offer you free money, they can sometimes offer an additional loan of some sort.

If all else fails, call the colleges and schedule appointments with the deans or heads of the financial aid offices. Some colleges have tuition waivers which allow students with special conditions to be exempt from paying tuition. If the school does not offer this option, you can still seek out non-school loans through banks or private companies. These loans often have higher interest rates, require co-signers or do not have grace period to pay off loans after graduating; in my opinion, however, the cost of not getting a college education is much higher than amount of these loans.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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Department of Education Extends Temporary Aid to Student Lenders

May 22, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Following talks of purchasing FFEL loans and using a lender of last resort program to ensure student access to federal college funds, the Department of Education officially agreed on a temporary bail-out plan. For the next year, the Department has agreed to purchase loans federally subsidized student lenders have trouble selling at a profitable rate.

The credit crunch, caused in part by rising default rates and a decrease in federal student aid offered to student lenders, has caused about 80 lenders to leave the student market, reported the Los Angeles Times. Even the most important name in the market, student lender giant Sallie Mae, has threatened to pull out of the FFEL business. Attempting to ease fears that students loans would be difficult to secure, the Department of Education has been working with Congress on a regular basis to establish a quick and effective alternative.

The most recent announcement lays out an number of methods for ameliorating family and lender fears—at least temporarily. In a letter sent to Chief Executive Officers of student loan companies, Margaret Spellings promised that by July 1, 2009, the Department would purchase FFEL loans originated for the 2008-2009 school year. “Many lenders today do not have access to funds at a cost that justifies originating new loans. Our plan is designed to provide viability in the marketplace for lenders who step up and make loans in this difficult environment,” she stated.

To further assure that all students will have access to loans, the Department has agreed to put into play the Lender of Last Resort Program (LLR) which will be used to lend money to students who have trouble securing finances from weary lenders. Schools that choose to opt for the Direct Loan Program, a lesser used school loan program wherein students borrow directly from the government rather than from federally subsidized lenders, will also receive aid through a $15 billion boost in available funds. “This program should ensure that the market works for students needing loans this school year,” said Secretary Paulson of the Treasury.

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Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

December 2, 2011

Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

by Scholarships.com Staff

When an acceptance letter arrives from your dream college, your first instinct may be to scream, cry and jump on your couch with Tom Cruise-caliber flair. Feel free to give in to those urges – hey, you earned it! – but realize you will soon have to figure out how to pay for your education. Can you really afford this school, not only while you’re attending but after you graduate as well? A new list from Kiplinger says your dream school could be a reality after all.

The list, which rates how well colleges actually do in making themselves affordable, includes schools with students who graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt on average. The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise also weighed in, supplementing Kiplinger’s findings with data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Here’s what he found were the most affordable institutions based on the average amount of debt graduates carry:

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Survey Says Credit Crunch Has Affected Private Colleges

October 22, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities indicate that at least a few students at many private colleges and universities were unable to obtain enough private loan funding to pay their fall tuition.  The survey also indicates that the credit crunch may have steered a number of students away from private schools.

More than 500 NAICU member schools responded to the survey, which asked questions about the availability of Stafford loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the availability of private student loans, and unanticipated enrollment shifts.  Eighty-five percent of schools reported that they had lost at least one FFELP lender, but the vast majority had no difficulty replacing these lenders.  Additionally, most colleges lost at least one private lender, with 27 percent of those schools reporting that students had some difficulty finding a replacement lender.

More than half of colleges surveyed reported they had at least some students who were unable to secure private loan funds for the current semester, and 45 percent of schools reported students changing their enrollment status due to financial concerns.  Eighteen percent of colleges surveyed reported fewer returning students and 19 percent reported a smaller freshman class than anticipated.  While most colleges reported no significant changes in enrollment, it appears some private college students (who are typically the most likely group to qualify for student loans) are being forced to alter their educational plans due to the current economic situation.

Three quarters of private colleges surveyed also reported increased financial need among their student populations.  Coupled with the rise in FAFSA files across the board and preliminary reports of more demand for financial aid coming from state universities and community colleges, it appears competition is getting stiffer for need-based student financial aid.  This is just one more reason for students to ramp up their scholarship search and find money for college as soon as possible.

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Student Loan Debt Continues to Increase

October 23, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Project on Student Debt just published information on the average student loan debt load for students graduating college in 2007.  The report shows that average student debt increased 6 percent from 2006 to 2007, while the average annual salary of college graduates increased by only 3 percent.  The percentage of students borrowing remained the same at 59 percent nationally, though some individual states experienced double-digit increases, including North Dakota, which surged ahead 14 percent to capture the #2 spot for percentage of student borrowers, with 75 percent of its students taking out loans, following South Dakota's 81 percent.

While more North and South Dakotans borrow than residents of any other state, Iowans have the highest average debt load of $26,208, followed closely by New Hampshire's $25,211.  States that fared well were Utah and Hawaii with the lowest average debt ($13,266 and $14,911 respectively) and Nevada and Utah with the lowest percentage of borrowers (40 and 42 percent).  The report also contains information for individual private colleges and state universities for 2007, as well as a list of the schools with the highest and lowest levels of student debt.

So if you're still in the midst of your college search, you may want to check out the full report from the Project on Student Debt, complete with a state-by-state interactive map.  If you're planning on attending college in a high-debt state, don't panic.  Just devote a bit more time to finding money for college, such as doing a thorough scholarship search.

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More Schools Plan to Adopt Direct Lending in 2009

October 28, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Fewer students may have to worry about finding a new lender for their Stafford Loans next year, as more colleges are turning to federal Direct Loans for student loans.  A web-based poll of college financial aid administrators at schools participating in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) revealed that six percent of those surveyed are planning to make the switch to direct lending next year, with an additional 29 percent seriously considering it as an option.

This means that Direct Loans could very likely become the leading supplier of student loans in 2009.  Since direct loans are taken out from the government, rather than from a bank, the stability they provide is proving popular among student borrowers.  Already, the amount of money in the direct borrowing system has grown by 50 percent this year, whereas the amount in FFELP is up only 7 percent.  While most students have been able to find different lenders and continue borrowing what they need in student loans, attending college at a school that participates in direct lending can save students a bit of hassle in getting financial aid

While a move towards direct lending means that students at participating schools won't be able to cash in on incentives banks might offer during student loan repayment in the future, these options have become scarce in the last year due to the federal subsidy cuts and credit troubles banks have faced.  The disappearance of the FFELP's advantages coupled with the uncertainty and instability caused by the credit crisis will likely continue encouraging schools to turn to Direct Loans to service their Federal Stafford Loans.

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