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by Scholarships.com Staff

Back to school season is also college rankings season, and in addition to well-known lists like those published by U.S. News and Princeton Review, several other organizations publish their own college rankings based on often-overlooked criteria. One such list was released this week by G.I. Jobs Magazine, naming the top military-friendly schools in the United States. To make the list, a school must be in the top 15 percent of colleges, universities, and trade schools in the nation when it comes to recruiting and serving military veterans.

This information is timely for many veterans who may be starting their college search after the new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill took effect at the beginning of this month. Expanded benefits will help more veterans pay for school at more institutions, with funding available for up to the full amount of tuition and fees at the most expensive state college in each state, as well as housing and book allowances. However veteran students, like other adult students, often need additional support to succeed in college, both where their coursework and their financial aid are concerned.

Rather than just including four-year universities, the military-friendly schools list also features community colleges and trade schools, institutions that attract veterans and other returning students, and that are expected to play an instrumental role in President Obama's push to increase the number of Americans attending college.

Based on survey responses and published information, G.I. Jobs ranked schools on their committment to recruiting veterans, providing programs for military students, and maintaining overall academic excellence. The complete list, as well as survey questions and information on methodology can be found on the G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools website.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

As the start of the fall semester approaches, students across the country are finding themselves in a precarious position when it comes to financial aid. As we've previously mentioned, several states have been forced to make deep budget cuts this year, canceling or reducing funding for scholarships and grants, in some cases after award notices have already been sent to students. This has left students scrambling for last-minute student loans, and in some cases facing the difficult decision of whether to take a semester off while trying to procure alternate funding.

The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News both feature articles this week that offer up alternatives for students who have come up short on funding for the fall. While scholarship opportunities are still available for the coming academic year and should be pursued, students who need immediate sources of funding may want to check out private loans, peer-to-peer lending, and emergency loans and other aid offered by some universities and state agencies. Reducing to part-time enrollment or transferring to a cheaper school are also last-resort options that may be better choices than taking an entire semester off or putting tuition on a credit card.

An appeal to your college's financial aid office can also produce more financial aid, especially if your financial situation has changed since you completed the FAFSA, or if your parents were turned down for a federal PLUS loan. Additional loans, and even some grant aid, may be available if you ask.

In addition to trying to find new sources of funding, some college students are also petitioning their state legislators to get grant and scholarship funding restored.  Lawmakers in Utah have listened, promising to reinstate full funding to the state's New Century Scholarship program, whose awards they had previously planned to cut nearly in half. Students in Michigan also may yet get a reprieve from budget cuts, as the governor of Michigan and numerous state legislators are vowing to do what they can to keep the state's popular Promise Scholarship program intact.

Even if states manage to find funding for grants and scholarships this year, the next fiscal year could also prove challenging. Students in cash-strapped states who are planning to rely on state scholarships to pay for college may want to start looking into alternate funding now.  One of the best ways to do this is to start with a free college scholarship search.


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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.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

As students begin the fall semester, news of the H1N1 swine flu virus spreading across college campuses is everywhere. But whether the flu has hit your college or not, getting sick at school is a real concern and can quickly derail your semester.

Living far away from home, many college students aren't well-equipped to take care of themselves and stay on top of their coursework while ill, especially if they contract something more serious than a cold. While the flu's getting all the attention now, other common illnesses can put students out of commission for days, or even weeks, causing them to miss class, miss work, and get behind on projects that are crucial to their success in school. Missed work due to illness can even jeopardize your financial aid. Part of taking care of yourself when you're sick at school is taking care to minimize the impact of illness on your semester.

Beyond attending to your immediate needs (seeing a doctor, getting rest, etc.), the most important thing to do if you get sick is to contact your professors, preferably before you miss a class or an assignment. If you're really ill and need to miss more than one class or an important assignment, quiz, or test, the earlier you establish communication, the better it will go. If you have a diagnosis, you can share it, but don't go into the minute details of what your body is doing and don't assume that because you're sick with something verifiable, your professors will instantly cater to your every whim. A doctor's excuse doesn't always go as far as demonstrated willingness to take responsibility for your missed work and to work with your professor to get caught up. Most instructors will be willing to provide you with information and course materials from missed classes, and depending on circumstances and how you approach the situation, they may allow you to make up work, as well.

If you're going to miss a lot of school or you have professors unwilling to budge, contacting your academic advisor is a good step, as well. A note from an advisor carries more weight than a call from a student, and if you lack the time or energy to address each professor personally and immediately, talking to your advisor can save you some time. They can also give you advice and information on what to do about missing class, and help you keep from falling behind.

Finally, once you're healthy, back in class and taking care of your missed work, there may still be other matters to attend to. Even if you have tried your hardest, you may wind up with too much work to catch up in a class. If talking to your professor and your advisor about incompletes and other options doesn't bear fruit, you may need to drop classes or you may see your GPA suffer.  If you have scholarship awards or other financial aid, lower grades or less than full-time enrollment can have an impact on your eligiblity for these awards. Be aware of the GPA and enrollment requirements for your scholarships and grants (even some student loans) and if you are in danger of not meeting them, talk to the scholarship provider or your financial aid counselor to find out your options. Your financial aid office is also a good place to stop if illness has generated medical bills or lost income for you--they may be able to adjust your aid package to help you deal with these expenses.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Cancellations and cutbacks to scholarship programs have been making the news a lot lately.  Michigan recently ended its state Promise Scholarship in the face of a budget crisis (though the state's governor vows to restore funding) and other states and companies are also having to make some hard cuts.  The latest round has left five high-achieving Arizona high school juniors without the four-year full-tuition scholarship they signed a contract to receive in the fifth grade.

Budgetary cutbacks aren't the only way that students can lose scholarship money.  Many scholarship funds are only designated for a set amount of time: four years, two years, or just one check.  Other awards are contingent on strict eligibility criteria.  A dip in your GPA, a semester where you drop below full-time, or a transfer to another college or university could potentially make you ineligible for a renewable scholarship award.  All of this can change your college funding picture dramatically from year-to-year.

Transfer Students

Students who are transferring will want to see if their new college offers scholarships for transfer students.  If your scholarship is from your college, it's unlikely to transfer to your new school unless there's a preexisting special arrangement between the two institutions.  However, if you've won an outside scholarship, especially one from a state or national organization, you should contact the provider to see if the award will transfer to your new school. You also will want to do a scholarship search--many national scholarship awards are designated specifically for transfer students, especially students who are moving from community colleges to four-year schools.

Lost Eligibility

Students who have lost their scholarship from not meeting eligibility criteria will often have a chance to appeal the decision to revoke the award.  Ask the scholarship provider if there's an appeals process, and follow the instructions exactly in as timely a manner as possible.  If there are extenuating circumstances that led to the situation, you may need to document them.  Above all, be polite and respectful and try to create a good impression, even if your appeal is denied. Awards that run out can also occasionally be appealed for an extension, or applied for again for a possible second round of funding.  Check the rules for the contest or ask the scholarship provider if this is the case.  Even if you lose eligibility for one award, it doesn't mean you're ineligible for all scholarship opportunities.  Search for scholarships to see what else you may be able to find.

Canceled Programs

Finally, if your scholarship program has been canceled, there are still things you can do.  Some providers, like our Arizona example above, will help students find alternate funding, and may even be able to supplement some of the difference between what they promised and what you can't find on your own.  Some colleges are also making up for cuts in high-profile state and local scholarship programs by creating their own scholarship funds for the students affected.  Other schools have emergency aid or one-time scholarships available to students who find themselves suddenly without the means to pay their tuition.  Check with your financial aid office to see if your school can help.

Students who have already succeeded at winning scholarships are also likely to win more, since so many scholarship providers have similar criteria. If you find yourself caught without scholarship money you had planned to use, try to find some time to apply for additional awards.  You may even win more money than what you lost.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s no secret that the lives of an increasing number of college and high school students are filled with errands, homework assignments, social appointments and work. Managing the stress of infinite responsibilities can be difficult, but it's necessary to keep one's health and stress in check. If you, like so many others, are struggling with your schedule, take a step back. Read the following pointers on how to keep things together, and give your mind and body the healthy break they deserve.

Keep a planner. When your errands get out of control, it’s best to eliminate the head clutter—you need your brain cells for other things. Write down everything, birthdays, projects, groceries etc. Then cross things off one at a time; it will feel great. Having things on paper will free your memory and allow you to see what you’ve already accomplished--not just what’s left to accomplish.

See a Friend. Hmmm…Taking time off may seem counterproductive, but it’s a must. Getting lost in a world of errands is overwhelming, depressing, and stressful. Seeing a friend—even for a short lunch—can give you perspective, a reminder that life outside of work exists. More often than not, your friends are going, or have gone through, similar ordeals. Swap silly stories about your weird instructor, vent and rejuvenate your mind.

Multitask. Some say that working on two projects at once lengthens the time it takes to complete them, but that depends on the projects. If you have some clothes in the wash, get some homework done between loads. Waiting to meet that friend I told you about? Begin your reading assignment.

Stay Near the Nest. Travel adds up, and, unfortunately, it is often accepted as the unavoidable black hole of time. Well, don’t accept it. Keeping things close to home can greatly increase the time you have to get things done. When possible, commute to school. Take your dance and guitar lessons at a nearby studio. Shop and eat at stores and restaurants at arms length. Clock in for longer hours but fewer days. You get the picture.

Posted Under:

College Culture , High School , Tips


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by Scholarships.com Staff

For those of you attending college, this situation is probably very familiar:  new courses get posted, and something with a vague and obtuse title but a promising course number is listed in your major.  You may want to take the course, but you know that if you register without doing further research, your chances at having a stellar schedule will likely go out the window as you're stuck with a class you never meant to choose. I learned this lesson when I wound up in a course called "Language, Society, and Culture" that was listed as an American literature and culture elective but turned out to be an introductory linguistics course--something I had no interest in taking.

At various points in my college career, I often found myself cramming detective work into my already busy schedule as I tried to find out just what a course with an intriguing title was actually going to cover.  As I waited impatiently for e-mails from professors and ran all over campus looking for a mythical department secretary who once saw an early draft of a course description, I often wondered "why couldn't they just post this information online?"

A recent report issued by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina echoes this sentiment.  The report recommends that professors publish syllabi online and do so early, preferably right around when courses open up for registration, so that students get a better idea of the courses they're taking, the work expected of them, and the material they will need to cover, and thus will be more likely to succeed and less likely to drop the class.  Additionally, it also will allow students, departments, and other groups to make comparisons between professors easier, will aid in determining transfer credits (if your new school can see the number of papers you wrote for your half-completed English major, maybe you won't get stuck retaking Composition I), and will aid in the sharing of information among professors.  In other words, online syllabus sharing is a good thing for everyone and more professors should do it.

For those of you still working on the college search, this makes a great question to add to your list to ask during your campus visit.  Ask whether professors have resources available to post syllabi online and how many of them actually take advantage of the option. Little details can make a big difference when it comes to choosing the right college.

As colleges continue to add online courses and to encourage online components in traditional courses, expect more professors to post syllabi online.  In the meantime, a little encouragement couldn't hurt.  Next time you find yourself in unfamiliar parts of campus trying to find out the reading list for a class that could potentially help you fulfill all your college goals, consider printing a copy of this report and giving it to the instructor in question.

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Thanksgiving Week Checklist

November 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's hard to believe, but next week it will be December.  While it's tempting to train your eyes on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the accompanying problem of consuming enough homecooked food to sustain you through finals, the next few months will be busy, especially if you're planning to apply for any sort of financial aid.  Between your high school or college coursework and adjusting your schedule and budget to accommodate winter holidays, December and January tend to fly by.  Since many scholarship application deadlines happen in December and January, now is the perfect time to do a quick scholarship search and double check that you don't miss out on applying for scholarships while you're in Thursday night's turkey-induced coma.

A Thanksgiving week scholarship application checklist:

  • Search for available scholarships. See if anything new has come up since you last looked.  Many scholarship providers post new information in November, so if it's been a few weeks, now is the time to go back!
  •  
  • Make note of approaching deadlines. While January deadlines may seem a long way off now, consider how many free days you're likely to have between now and then.  Probably not many if you have finals, family, and friends all demanding a large chunk of your time.  Also, several scholarship awards have November/December deadlines, including our own College Health Scholarship, which closes November 30.
  •  
  • Take a hard look at your schedule. By now you should know what the rest of this semester looks like as well as how heavy your next semester will be.  Figure out times you'll be able to get those applications done.  Then take a look at your list of scholarship opportunities and prioritize accordingly.
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  • Do some drafting. You're going to be spending an entire day in a house with your extended family.  Defeat awkward silences and make your relatives feel smart by asking them for input on your scholarship essays.  You don't have to staple your rough draft to the turkey or refuse to let anyone sit until they've proofread a paragraph, but usually there's some downtime where the topic can successfully be brought up.  If nothing else, saying that you have essay writing to do can give you an out when the topic turns to your great aunt's new medication.
  •  

Posted Under:

Scholarships , Tips


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Application Essay Advice

December 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Continuing on the college admissions theme from yesterday, there's a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about the dreaded college application process.  If you're still struggling with those application essays or the thought of the college interview has you panicked, you might want to check out their tips from admissions officers at several competitive private colleges.  Two things struck me when reading their tips.  First, most of this sounds a lot like what I told my students as a college composition teaching assistant.  Second, this advice can easily extend to writing effective scholarship essays.

Most of the advice falls into the category of "be yourself."  Colleges aren't necessarily looking to admit the most indisputably brilliant students in the country, but rather individuals who will contribute to the campus community.  The best tips the Wall Street Journal article offers, at least as far as admissions essays and writing scholarships go, are to choose essay topics that are meaningful to you (even unconventional ones) and to avoid polishing essays to death.

While it's tempting to go straight for the most impressive or altruistic thing you've done if you're asked to describe an experience, admission officials say it's better to go with a topic that actually reveals something about your character.  This definitely goes for scholarship applications, too.  In a stack of essays about volunteering in South America, your story about convincing your peers in the rural Midwest to walk the 12 blocks to school rather than drive may stand out more than you think.  A seemingly mundane essay topic can be interesting if it's written well and it has a clear purpose.

As far as writing well goes, proofread (at the very least, check spelling and grammar and take out notes to yourself or your parents before submitting) but don't adopt such a formal style that all personality is lost.  As long as an essay is written well and isn't way too informal (avoid slang, cursing, and stories of sex, drugs, and bodily functions), your essay is probably professional enough for most admission offices and scholarship essay contests.  Even when you're applying for a law scholarship, writing like a lawyer isn't necessarily the recipe for success.

For more essay-writing tips, check out our resources section.  To find somewhere to use this advice, you may want to use our college search and our scholarship search.

Posted Under:

Scholarships , Tips


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by Scholarships.com Staff

While the focus for many students right now is planning for and paying for the next year of college, some students are still struggling with bills from the current or previous semester.  An e-mail survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reports a perceived increase in unpaid tuition bills in the 2008-2009 academic year.  While being caught short on one semester's tuition can seem stressful enough, it can carry serious consequences for college students.

For students with the funds to easily cover tuition, either through family income, college savings plans, or financial aid awards, the figure on their bursar bill may be unpleasant, but it is soon forgotten.  However, carrying a bursar balance--in some cases, even a small one--can cut off your ability to register for classes, request transcripts, and even graduate, among other consequences.  Students who are unable to pay for a semester by the school's deadline may even find themselves dropped from their classes and kicked off campus.  These consequences can essentially derail your education, and many students who take a semester off from college to save money and pay off bills never go back to finish.

Luckily, as Kim Clark stresses in an article on the subject in U.S. News and World Report, universities are willing to work with students to keep them enrolled and get their bills paid, especially in the current economic climate.  Many schools are establishing or adding to emergency loan and grant funds to help students stay in school.  Federal student financial aid is also still available mid-term.  You can still complete the FAFSA for 2008-2009 anytime before June 30.  Even if you've already applied for the current year, talking to the financial aid office could still come through big time, especially if your circumstances have changed. Federal grants, as well as some campus-based programs may be available to students whose family contributions have significantly dipped.  While Clark's article emphasizes the surprising success networking and asking family for donations can bring, conducting a scholarship search may be a safer bet. Most importantly, be sure to stay in communication with your school. You may have to deal with three different offices on campus, but don't get discouraged.  The process may be more streamlined than you'd expect.  It is possible to stay enrolled regardless of the financial troubles you're facing.


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