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Colleges Consider "Prior Learning" When Awarding Credit

March 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the number of returning adult students continues to grow and the "traditional" student population has only become more diverse to include those with backgrounds and life experience in varying fields of study, some schools are looking at rewarding those new students with credit hours for "prior learning," rather than prompting them to start over as most freshmen do.

A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores schools that consider academic achievements alongside individual accomplishments before students step onto campus, and look at their volunteerism, years in the military, or on-the-job training, among other life experiences. Formal assessments of those experiences are then used to evaluate incoming students as a way to award them credit hours, often as a replacement of general education coursework.

At Valdosta State University, professors conduct assessments of students' experiences by having them demonstrate what they already know about a certain field. The Chronicle describes a biology professor who awards credit to students who may have a background in science from volunteering to clean up local streams, for example, or lab experience. The school has been conducting such assessments for about a year and a half; the program started when the school decided to begin training students who had come from non-traditional backgrounds to become teachers.

At Empire State College, which is part of the State University of New York, students are able to write their own degree plans. Faculty committees and administrative offices review portfolios students craft based on their work experience in a particular field, for example, and determine how many credits students should receive based on that information. The school's administrators say having the students reflect on what they've learned before going to college helps them realize their potential and make obvious the kinds of skills they may have, as they are forced to put those talents on paper. At Inver Hills Community College, students are asked to complete two courses at the school before attempting a portfolio, which not only involves writing about their past experiences, but being able to discuss them.

Other schools conduct more standardized tests and formal assessments for students to demonstrate prior learning skills, such as the American Council on Education's evaluations of work and military training or the College Level Examination Program tests. According to the Chronicle and Stamats, a higher-education marketing company, the availability of credit for life experience is the top thing adults look for when selecting a school in their college search. About half of all schools have some kind of prior learning assessment available to students, according to the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, so if you're a returning adult student, consider that the work you've already done could save you some time—and money—as you take on that college experience.

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Not Rejected, Not Accepted: Tips for Handling the Waiting List

April 6, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While many students marked April 1 as the day they found out whether they were accepted or rejected to their first-choice colleges, many others were given a different response - placement to the waiting list. High school seniors are then faced with a tough decision. Should you take a risk and bank on placement at a school you're wait-listed at, even if you miss notification deadlines at schools you've been admitted to? Or should you cut your losses and inform the schools you've been wait-listed at that you'll be going elsewhere?

The waiting list generally benefits the colleges. The schools' administrators are able to wait until their own first-choice students make decisions on where they intend to attend, moving to those on the waiting list typically by May 1, once students' deadlines to notify the school of their choice have passed. The schools may also use the waiting list to fill gaps in their student population, according to The New York Times, offering eventual admittance to a student with a particular musical or athletic talent that the school had hoped to enroll in their first-choice pool.

Knowing this, it may seem like a risky endeavor to bet on a school choosing you out of the hundreds of other students on waiting lists. Still, many do choose to stay, especially at the most prestigious, private schools. At Yale University, for example, about two-thirds of students remain on the waiting list. (More than 900 were wait-listed at Yale this year.) Of those offered eventual admittance to Yale, a majority do choose to enroll there.

So what should you do? It really depends. Here are a few tips: 

     
  • If you know you won't be attending a school you're wait-listed at, notify them of your intentions right away. There's someone out there who does want that spot, and you may be keeping them from being placed at their top-choice school.
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  • If you know you're sincerely interested in the school you're wait-listed at, let the school know that. Notify them immediately that you intend to wait for their decision, and send admissions staff a personal letter on why you want to go to that school. If they're your top choice, tell them. If you know any alumni from the school, ask them to write a letter on your behalf. This is the stage of the game where admissions officials are looking at every piece of information coming in on an applicant.
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  • Ask for an interview. You wouldn't be wait-listed if you didn't have the academic credentials to attend their school, so the admissions office will now be looking at other factors - extracurricular activities, outside interests, and whether your personality is a good fit for their campus.
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 While waiting lists are more common at private institutions where enrollment numbers are much lower and the unpredictability of students’ decisions about whether to enroll in those private schools is much higher, some schools have used the list as more of a strategy to deal with uncertainties in state budgets or over-enrollment. California's public university system is using waiting lists to deal with a record number of applicants this year and a state budget shortfall that has made it impossible for the school system to accept as many students as it had been admitting in year prior. This is the first time the state universities have used waiting lists, and students have until April 15 to remove their names from the lists or continue waiting until around the first week in June. Any new admittances will be determined by the outcome of the state's 2010-2011 budget negotiations.

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Making the Choice: Tips for Comparing Financial Aid Packages

April 15, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As students begin evaluating their offers of acceptance from colleges, one factor may weigh more heavily than any other on the tough decisions of choosing the right school - financial aid. The financial aid opportunities School A offers to incoming freshmen that School B does not may be what makes or breaks the decision on where a student will enroll, even if School B is the student's "dream school." Comparing financial aid offers is then an integral process in the decision-making process, and unfortunately you don't have a lot of time to send your notice back to each school you've been accepted to. Here are some tips to navigate the process, and help you determine how to find the "best value":

  • Compare the scholarships and grants available at each school. Have you already been offered either, or has the school simply notified you of your eligibility for more free funding?
  • Compare student loan amounts. What may seem like the best offer at first may actually be anchored by a significant amount of student loan debt. Student loans should be your last resort as far as covering college costs.
  • Compare your expected family contributions. Schools may handle this piece of information differently, and may even accept more information about your family's financial situation after you've received your financial aid package. It's fine to question a school's offer, especially if there are big discrepancies between what each school is offering you.
  • Compare the tuition and fees of each school, and what that financial aid package covers. Some schools may offer you what appears to be an impressive amount of aid based on the cost of tuition alone, and you already know college costs include a lot more than that base price - fees, books and supplies, and room and board, for example.
  • Be aware of what you're eligible to receive next year. Some schools may offer a more impressive financial aid package to incoming freshmen, and pad students' offers the following year with more student loans. Do your research. Compare average student loan debts at each school, talk to students already attending each school, and be frank with your financial aid administrator.
Some students may have been lucky enough to have been accepted into a program that has offered them a tuition-free education. A recent article in USA Today took a look at colleges that offer to pay the tuition of all new students, despite all you've already read about tuition and fee increases across the country. Some are military schools that require a commitment from you to serve in the military post-graduation, but others are schools where there exists a need for new graduates, either due to the school's locations or lack of graduates in certain fields of study. Webb Institute, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and the College of the Ozarks, for example, all offer tuition-free educations to students. Do you know of more? Tell us about them!

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Want a Scholarship? Follow the Rules!

June 11, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

It can’t be a good feeling to know that you could have been a contender for a generous scholarship but for the one piece of the application you failed to send to the award provider. Or that you were this close to winning an award to help pay for college but missed the deadline on providing supplementary materials. We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the rules on each scholarship you apply for exactly, because one small misstep will not only send you to the bottom of the pile, it will most certainly take you out of the running for an award.

Thanks to free scholarship searches like ours, it’s easier than ever before to find scholarships. The harder part is obviously applying, but don’t assume you’re eligible for an award after a casual glance over the requirements. Take a close look at what each scholarship requires of you, and, if available, the official rules of each award, to make sure you meet all of the criteria. If you need to request an application through the mail, write a formal letter that you’ve proofread for any errors. Once you’re ready to submit your scholarship application, take a look at everything again, or have a fresh pair of eyes look over your materials. Most scholarships have quite a few applicants vying for that same award you’re applying for, so don’t give the scholarship provider a reason to deny you your chance.

Your work’s not quite over once you’ve submitted your application, even if you’ve followed the guidelines of that award to the letter. Your work may not even be over after you’re told you’ve won a particular scholarship. Take our own Area of Study Scholarships as an example. If you’re chosen as a winner of one of the 13 scholarships, based on the field of study you provide when you fill out a Scholarships.com profile, you’re expected to follow through on a few steps to help us determine whether you’re truly eligible to receive the award. Follow the rules we provide and respond by the deadline we give you, and we’ll send you a check for $1,000 to help cover your college costs. If you fail to reply, we’ll pick another lucky winner in your place. If you reply after we’ve already chosen another winner, you’re out of luck.

It sounds simple, but there have been instances where scholarship winners forfeit their prizes because they fail to follow-up after an award is announced or miss important deadlines. Scholarship providers are in the business of helping you with your college costs, and the best thanks you could give is following directions and being timely with your responses. Good luck out there!

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Zombies Used to Promote Alternatives to Four-Year Colleges

November 20, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Two Chicago-area community colleges are using zombies to urge students to consider their options before applying solely to four-year schools. Harper College and Elgin Community College, with some help from email provider Abeedle.com, are using a cartoon short featuring fictional high school seniors Lynette and Theo in a common predicament among the college-bound: to save money, or not to save?

In the short, Lynette goes to community college, is free of student loan debt, and uses the money she saved to become a filmmaker and purchase a sporty convertible. Theo, on the other hand, chooses the four-year university, and is depicted wandering around with the other "college zombies," saddled with a large amount of debt.

This isn't the first time the zombie hype has hit college campuses. The University of Florida recently posted a zombie preparedness plan on its e-Learning website, alongside more likely disaster scenarios. But this is a unique way to address the high costs of higher education and invite students to examine all of their options when considering where to go to school.

Enrollments at community colleges have increased by about 25 percent over the last year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. The big decisions aren't only about filling out those college applications, but figuring out how you're going to pay for tuition at your intended school. If you're concerned about how you're going to cover the costs, consider a community college where you'd be able to complete your general education requirements and then transfer to a four-year college if you want that traditional college experience. Many community colleges and trade schools specialize in certain fields, so narrow down your college choices by your intended field of study, as well.

If you know community college isn't for you, there are other ways to save. Compare the costs of in-state versus out-of-state tuition. Depending on your home state, you could still go to a state university that is far enough away that you get that "away at college" experience, while still enjoying the perks of in-state tuition. (In-state tuition is often half that of out-of-state tuition. Do the numbers!) Whatever you do, don't assume that college is out of your reach because of the costs. While paying for college can take some creativity and persistence, it can be done, especially if you have some scholarship money padding that financial aid package.

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Want a Happier Life? Go to College

November 24, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

It may not always seem like it, but going to college can actually make you happier.  Perhaps not in the short term--there are finals, after all, and that general lack of money or personal space that comes with the college lifestyle--but in the long term, people who go to college consistently report being happier.  They also claim to be healthier and more likely to make good choices.  This comes on top of the financial benefits of receiving a degree, which include better job security, lower unemployment, and higher salaries.

In a working paper entitled, "How Large Are Returns to Schooling? Hint: Money Isn't Everything," available from the National Bureau of Economic Research, two researchers use data from General Social Surveys from 1972 to 2000 to gauge whether increased education has any correlation with increased happiness, job satisfaction, and other indicators of a better life.  While it's difficult to show direct causation, their analysis did find a strong correlation between college education, especially receiving a bachelor's degree or higher, and many positives in life.

People with college degrees were more likely to report having satisfying jobs with a greater degree of autonomy, sense of accomplishment, and opportunity than other workers with similar backgrounds but less education.  This can play into greater happiness, since work is such a big part of many people's sense of identity and fulfillment.  Their research also backs up earlier reports that college graduates are less likely to face unemployment long-term or need to rely on public assistance, which can also correlate with higher self-esteem and a lower likelihood of depression.

Recipients of college degrees also make better decisions, likely due in part to the reasoning and research skills they gained in college.  They report being healthier, possibly because of making positive decisions about their health, including both lifestyle choices and healthcare decisions.  They also are less likely to get divorced, more likely to hold off on having children until they're financially and emotionally ready to do so, and may be more likely to develop better relationship and parenting skills than less educated counterparts.  They also are likely to plan for the future, as opposed to living only for today.  Finally, those who had more education were likely to be more trusting, believing that people are basically good, which can lead to more social participation.  Having stronger friendships, stronger family ties, better health, plans for the future, and positive attitudes can all tie in easily to increased happiness.

Achieving any amount of post-secondary education can influence all of these figures, and even respondents who just finished high school were more likely to report positive results than respondents who did not.  While increased education can correlate with less free time and more job-related stress, many people consider these acceptable trade-offs for overall improvements in quality of life.  So if you're wondering, " why go to college?" you hopefully have some good reasons.  If your question has now changed from "why" to "how," check out our free college search and scholarship search to get started on the path to a happier life.

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Alternatives to Going Home for Thanksgiving

November 25, 2009

Alternatives to Going Home for Thanksgiving

by Scholarships.com Staff

Not everyone will be saying grace and sitting down to football and multiple helpings of turkey and pie on Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Some of you will be spending the holiday in the dorms, or elsewhere on campus. Perhaps you're an international student who doesn't celebrate the holiday. Or maybe home is too far away to justify the costs of flying back for both the turkey dinner and winter break. You may then be wondering how you can make the most of your time off from class. Well, don't fret. You won't be the only one seemingly stranded, and there are on-campus alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.

If you know of others sticking around for the holiday, consider getting together. Your college could be hosting Thanksgiving Day-related events for students like you who are staying in town. Or, if you feel like you'll be missing out on that home-cooked meal, consider a potluck with those other students to eat on a budget. You don't need to break the bank for a Thanksgiving meal, especially if you're sharing the duties, so look for tips on Thanksgiving on a budget. Pick up the boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce rather than making things from scratch like  Mom might. If you're in the dorms, consider checking out the Thanksgiving meal deals on campus. If you're really lucky, you've made a good enough friend who wouldn't mind having you over to their family's Thanksgiving. Don't be shy about taking leftovers back to the dorm, which you'll surely be offered if you play the "I miss home" card.

Take the time to get acquainted with your college. You've probably been in too much of a rush balancing work and college or getting used to larger loads of homework to appreciate what the student center has to offer, or that new walking path on the outskirts of campus. Explore your surroundings, so that you have plenty to share when your friends come back from their long weekends home.

Study at your own pace. You'll probably have finals week on your heels shortly after this mini-break is over, so take advantage of a quieter campus and emptier student lounges to get the bulk of your studying done before everyone comes back and the chances of procrastination and distraction are greater. Enjoy the time off, but try your best to be productive, too. You'll feel a lot less stressed than everyone else when they're cramming and pulling all-nighters before their big exams.

Don't forget about your family. If Thanksgiving is typically a big deal at home, but you just couldn't swing the costs of the trip, make sure you check in once in a while over the next few days. Chances are your family will be missing you just as much as you're missing them, and while you don't want to be moping around or hiding away in your dorm room the entire weekend, you want to make sure everyone knows you're thinking of them. Talk about how excited you are about the upcoming winter break, and your plans for your own alternative Thanksgiving Day on campus. It could be a pretty good time if you're a little creative.

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Student Group Uses "Puppy Therapy" to Help with Stress of Finals

December 4, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Stressed about finals? Pet a puppy. That's what one college is urging students to do to relieve their stress over finals week.

A student group at Chapman University will station a group of puppies outside the school's main library next week as part of operation "Furry Friends for Finals," inviting studious students passing by to take a minute to pet the pooches. The group, the Active Minds Club, promotes mental health, and believes that the "puppy therapy" will help their worried peers relax a bit, and maybe even smile.

In an article in the Los Angeles Times today, Jennifer Heinz, an organizer of the event and a Chapman University sophomore, described the way her poodle-Maltese mix helped her keep things in perspective, even during the most stressful times of her college experience. "Dogs are always so happy and want to play, and that helps make you happier," she said in the article.

Using animals to relieve stress isn't a new idea. There's a lot of research out there showing that therapy dogs in particular have a marked positive effect on the people in hospitals, nursing homes, or in crisis situations they're "hired" to comfort. Dogs have also been used in motivating children to read, improving the communication skills of the disabled, and generally improving the quality of life of the sick and depressed. The dogs providing Chapman's student population with some much-needed puppy love include 10 Malteses, Yorkies, pugs and dachshunds, and will be provided by a pet group based in Torrance.

What kinds of things is your college doing to help you de-stress during finals? Many schools have events set up post-finals as a motivator for students once they reach the finish line, or host special meals outside of the usual cafeteria fare for those too busy studying to make decisions on what they'll be having for dinner. If you're worried about the studying getting the best of you, look through our site for tips on beating the finals week frenzy. It may seem right like you'll never get everything done that you need to, but winter break is just around the corner, so take a breather, get yourself organized, and pet a puppy if you have to.

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Posted Under:

Just for Fun , Tips

Tags: Just for Fun , Study Skills , Tips


New Year, New Start to Saving

December 21, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Wind, rain or shine, college tuition bills always safely make it to your mailbox, or the inbox.  Even if you’re struggling financially, there’s no need to give up. Whether you’re having trouble keeping your spending in check or are hindered by college bills, things can be better. The new year is coming up, and you deserve a new chance, a minty fresh start. Students looking for a way to save should follow this advice to get things right in '08.

1. Look for scholarships. Applying for scholarships is a great way to save for college. It doesn’t cost to apply—don’t listen to anyone who suggests you should pay—and the rewards tend to be large. Try conducting a free scholarship search to find scholarships and grants you may be eligible to receive.

2. Avoid magazines and websites with appealing products. Oftentimes students will be unaware they’re in need of something until they see it in a magazine. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Marketers have a way of making whatever it is that catches your eye look more amazing and necessary than it really is. The best way to avoid their evil traps is to stay out of their way.

3. Skip the details at restaurants. I can’t tell you to skip the restaurant thing. Going out for dinner is just part of the student culture, and if you can’t eliminate it, be smart about it. If you skip the appetizers, lose the dessert and trade in water for a soft drink, you can cut your bill in half.  Those that go out to eat for the company more than the food can also go straight for the appetizer and stop there. They tend to be oversized anyway.

4. Watch your phone plans. For some reason, students always seem shocked when an insane phone bill comes in the mail. If you know you’re a chatterbox, you should plan accordingly. Get the same plan as the people you chat with most, start a family plan and watch the texting.

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Posted Under:

College Costs , College Culture , Tips



The "How To" Guide to Dropping Classes

January 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Students who sign up for classes don’t always know what they’re getting into. Boring teachers aside, the work may be both overwhelming and useless. If that's the case, it may be time to get out before it’s too late. Here are some things to remember before making the final decision.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst Dropping classes may be the best way to avoid unnecessary work or burnout, but it sure is a pain. It takes time, sometimes money, and it nearly always causes stress. That’s why it’s best to ask around before choosing classes. Find out if any of your friends have taken the class. Is it difficult? Is it interesting? Is the teacher effective in helping students develop critical skills?

Most importantly, figure out if the class coincides with your future goals and current interests. During high school, I signed up for an accounting class thinking it would provide me with practical insight into the business world. Though business was not in my future, I thought that everyone could benefit from some business basics. After a few weeks of scribbling numbers into a never-ending stream of credit and debit columns, I raised my hand and asked the teacher if this class would prepare me for something other than accounting. Turns out, it wouldn’t. It’s too bad I didn’t know that sooner.

Give Yourself a Reality Check Difficulty is a commonly cited reason for dropping classes, and it's a perfectly good reason. It’s important to be realistic about your abilities and your schedule. When a class is just adding to your already full workload, rethink it. Being able to drop a class doesn’t make you a quitter; it makes you a realistic and mature decision maker, one that values their sanity and health.

Consider Class Importance Before dropping a class, be sure that you can afford to do so. If you’re in college, dropping a class may put you below full-time status subsequently decreasing your eligibility for a full financial aid package (both scholarships and federal student aid).

Dropping required college classes may also be troublesome. When students decide to get rid of a requisite, they may be forced to take on a heavier workload in future semesters. A heavier workload may in turn lead to scheduling difficulties caused by core courses that overlap in time.

Sometimes, a class may simply be unavoidable. Once again, be realistic when you judge. If you think you can do without the class, let it go. If you know that dropping the class will only lead to future troubles, just grin and bear it for a while.

Be Cost Conscious If you’re in high school, dropping a class will probably save you money (unless you're paying for AP classes ). Once you graduate high school, it’s a different story. Most colleges and universities fine students who drop their classes too late into the semester. That’s why it’s important for students to be aware of the costs involved in taking on classes and dropping them. If you plan to drop a class, do so before the fee deadline. If you’re worried about the costs of taking on additional classes, stick with the basics and take enrichment courses once you can afford them.

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Posted Under:

College Culture , High School , Tips



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