All Recommendation Letters Are Not Created Equal

Aug 13, 2010

by Staff

It’s always scholarship season around here, and as a scholarship provider ourselves, we thought the weeks before high school and college students return to their respective schools and campuses would be an appropriate time to go over what to do—and not to do—when submitting a recommendation letter in support of your application for an award.

While it probably won’t be expressly stated in any official scholarship rules, there are certain things you should avoid when considering what to do about that recommendation letter requirement, and certain things that will make one letter more impressive than another. This could mean the difference between you and another applicant, so make sure you put some thought into not only filling out the general scholarship application, but what you pass off as your recommendation letter. All recommendation letters are not created equal, and we’ve highlighted some tips for you below to make you a stronger applicant.

  • It is generally inappropriate for you to ask a relative to write your recommendation letter, unless an award expressly asks you to. Your mother, father, sister, grandmother, uncle, cousin, etc. probably think you’re great already, and it may be tough for a scholarship provider to place much weight on such an endorsement.
  • Try to avoid asking family friends, too, unless they have experience working with you in a professional capacity. It may be fine for you to ask a family friend to write your letter if they were your community service supervisor, for example, but you should probably go another route if they only know you on a personal level.
  • Keep it relevant. Take a look at the experiences you’ve had that relate to the scholarship in question. If it’s a general essay scholarship, talk to a former teacher at your high school or professor if you’re a college student. And ask those educators to submit their letters on letterhead; it isn’t overkill to make your application look as professional as possible.
  • Consult your resume. If it’s a scholarship related to a particular field of study that you have some work experience in, talk to former employers or internship coordinators. They certainly know better than anyone about your experience in that field, and it could boost your application to give the scholarship provider some evidence of your passion for a particular field.
Check out our site for more tips on asking for that scholarship letter of recommendation. And remember: a scholarship provider will be looking at your application as a whole, so even if you’ve written a stellar essay, missing a piece of the listed requirements or submitting a weak attempt at any of the requirements will probably put you out of the running for that award.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Scholarships Are Not Just For High School Students

How To Get Aid While In College

Aug 3, 2010

by Derrius Quarles

Many college students end their first year of college with a significant amount of loans and out-of-pocket cost, forcing them to make the decision of either finding another school for the subsequent year or pausing their college education altogether. However, a mistake that can be made by students receiving loans or that have out-of-pocket costs is believing that undergraduate scholarships are not available for those already in college.

What all college students should know is that there are a plethora of scholarships and financial aid available exclusively to undergraduate students. These funds can be awarded based on many things, including community service done in high school in college, family income, the amount of loans used for college, and your academic record while in college. The places you should start looking for scholarships are the financial aid office at your college, where most schools post flyers or have a simple handout that list scholarships that are available for students at the school. The next step is to go directly to your financial aid advisor and ask if he/she knows of any financial aid sources that are available for you.

If you are unsuccessful in finding any opportunities via flyers, handouts, or asking your financial aid advisor, you should schedule a meeting with the director of financial aid at your school and ask them about ways of lowering your loan amounts and out-of-pocket costs. During this meeting you must remember that many students come into the office every day in need of aid so you must stress how important it is for you to receive additional aid if you are going to continue your education. The director may be able to tell you about grants and scholarships that are available to you. The reason you should tap into your school's resources for financial aid first is because most of the money your school has in its budget for financial aid will be available at the beginning of the school year. The longer you wait to investigate, the smaller your chances of receiving additional funds. The key thing to remember is the earlier you inquire, the better.

After you have tapped into all of your school's resources, you should then start your personal search for scholarships. The best place to start this search is of course When using the database you should narrow your search to scholarships and grants available to undergraduate students. After you have done this you should find all of the scholarships you meet the requirements for and you should start your scholarship list. Almost all of these scholarships or grants will require you to write personal statements and obtain one or more recommendations from professors. If you want more information about writing personal statements and essays or getting your recommendations for scholarship applications take a look at my previous entries, "So You Want To Set Yourself Apart Huh?" (personal statements) and "A Strong Foundation Means a Strong Application" (recommendations). These entries will go into deeper detail about how to get great recommendations and how to write personal statements that will set you apart from other applicants.

Besides personal statements and recommendations, any scholarship you apply for as an undergrad will rely heavily on your academic record. This means that doing well in your classes and having a strong GPA will greatly increase your chances of being awarded most scholarships and grants. Your search for financial aid while in college may be a rough one, but it is definitely a search worth making. If you utilize the information listed above you too will soon realize that scholarships are not just for high school students.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Want a Scholarship? Follow the Rules!

Jun 11, 2010

by 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 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!

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Making the Choice: Tips for Comparing Financial Aid Packages

Apr 15, 2010

by 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!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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

Apr 6, 2010

by 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
 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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Colleges Consider "Prior Learning" When Awarding Credit

Mar 18, 2010

by 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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Report Looks at Wikipedia Use of College Students

Mar 17, 2010

by Staff

If you've had classes since 2001, the year the (in)famous online, user-edited encyclopedia was launched, chances are you're guilty of using Wikipedia as a source of information while completing your coursework. A new report from First Monday, an online peer-reviewed journal, took a look at just how prevalent the site has become on college campuses in particular (although high school students are probably just as bad offenders), and how students have begun to rely on Wikipedia as a resource.

According to the study, more than half of all respondents use Wikipedia frequently or always for course-related research. Students in architecture, engineering, or the sciences were more likely to use the site in their courses than other majors. (This could have something to do with the fact that students in social sciences like psychology or history must provide reference lists more often for papers they turn in, and citing Wikipedia simply won't fly on a college level essay.) The study surveyed 2,318 students, and took qualitative data from 86 of those students who participated in focus groups.

Other major findings of the study include the following:

  • Most students said they used Wikipedia for a summary about a topic (82 percent), the meaning of related terms (67 percent), and to get started on research (76 percent).
  • About 52 percent of the respondents were frequent Wikipedia users, even if an instructor advised against it.
  • Only 22 percent reported that they rarely, if ever, used Wikipedia.
  • About 17 percent used Wikipedia because they thought it was more credible than other sites.
  • Only about 2 percent used Wikipedia toward the end of their research process.
  • Overall, the strongest predictor of using Wikipedia was being someone who also used Google for course–related research.
  • Those enrolled in two–year campuses were less likely than those in four–year institutions to report that they used Wikipedia.

Whether you're writing a college essay or applying for an essay scholarship, here's a good rule of thumb on citing Wikipedia as a reference—don't do it. While the site can be an excellent tool for you to kick off your search, as the study above suggests, it simply isn't reliable enough to be taken seriously by academia. Anyone can add to and edit entries on the site, so it's always best to do some fact-checking after you get your Wikipedia summary prior to the start of the rest of your research. (Stephen Colbert proved this point when he edited Wikipedia articles on his own show, George Washington, and elephants, all while viewers watched. He also coined the term "wikiality," which refers to the reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you.)

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Engineering and Technology Top Highest-Paying Majors

Mar 16, 2010

by Staff

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released its latest list of the highest-paying college majors of the class of 2010 last week, with engineering- and technology-related fields of study once again coming out on top.

This probably won''t come as much of a surprise to you. Engineering and technology majors consistently rank high on any list of highest-paying careers, and there have only been minor changes in the ranks over the last few years. (Information sciences and systems is a new addition to the list this year, coming in at 10th place.) The only non-engineering related degrees in the top 10 this time around were computer science and information sciences and systems. According to NACE, petroleum engineering earned the highest starting salary reported at the bachelor’s degree level ($86,220). That average starting salary was more than one-and-one-half times the average starting salary reported for bachelor’s degree graduates as a whole ($48,351). The average starting salary for all graduates has fallen about 2 percent since 2009, by the way.

It's certainly not always the case, but often, the more technical your skills are, the more potential you have of landing an impressive starting salary. There''s less competition in a field like petroleum engineering, for example, as it isn't the most popular of majors, so those engineers benefit from those odds with higher salaries. (Petroleum engineering degrees account for less than 1 percent of all bachelor’s degrees conferred, according to NACE.)

What does this mean for you liberal arts majors? Even you business majors may worry that you''ll have a tough time making ends meet, as business isn't exactly overrepresented on the NACE list. Still, not everyone is going to grow up to become an engineer. (And if they did, the list would surely shift, as it depends greatly on the supply and demand of new graduates.) Certainly, the kind of field you're interested in should play a big part when you're deciding on a college major. And most college students do still consider interest over salary potential when choosing their majors, as the most popular fields of study fall well outside petroleum engineering. (According to the U.S. Department of Education, the most popular college majors are in business, the social and health sciences, and education.)

Take the NACE list with a grain of salt, and don't change your focus to aeronautics just because of the pay potential. If you have no interest in one of those high-paying majors, chances are you'll have a tough time getting through a four-year program in that discipline, and if you do graduate, an even tougher time liking a job in a career you chose for the money. But if you are passionate about engineering and technology, that's great. You'll have a good starting salary to go along with a job you enjoy.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Know Your Tax Benefit Options This Filing Season

Feb 3, 2010

by Staff

Whether you're an independent filing your own taxes, or a dependent whose parents or guardians are covering a good portion of your tuition, it's a good idea to be aware of the tax credits and tax benefits you and your family members could be eligible for this filing season.

The federal government has estimated that up to 2 million tuition-paying Americans will receive as much as $2,500 back on their taxes when they file in both 2010 and 2011 by taking advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. That credit was established through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which can be claimed for tuition and certain fees you pay for higher education in 2009 and 2010, is targeted at low- and middle-income families, and isn't available to single filers earning more than $90,000 a year or couples earning more than $180,000. Even those who owe no taxes due to how little they make may receive refunds of up to $1,000.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit expanded (and renamed) the already existing Hope Credit. How did the two compare? 

  • The Hope Credit applied only to the first two years of college. The American Opportunity Tax Credit can be claimed for expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education.
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a $700 increase over the Hope Credit.
  • The term "qualified tuition and related expenses" has been expanded to include expenses used for "course materials," which means books, supplies, and equipment needed for a course of study.
  • A qualified, nontaxable distribution from a Section 529 plan during 2009 or 2010 now includes the cost of the purchase of any computer technology, equipment, or Internet access and related services, if such purchases will be used by the beneficiary of the plan and the beneficiary's family during the time those beneficiaries are enrolled in an institution of higher education.

Other important facts before you file for an American Opportunity Tax Credit:

  • The credit is claimed using Form 8863, attached to Form 1040 or 1040A.
  • You have to choose between tax credits. You cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the lifetime learning credit. (You should choose which one will offer you the best refund. It's fine to take advantage of all of your options.)
  • 60 percent of the American Opportunity Tax Credit is nonrefundable, so if your credit exceeds your tax, the difference isn't refunded to you.

Make sure you and your family are prepared this tax season, because the federal government does offer perks to going to - and paying for - higher education.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Why Start Over on Each Scholarship Application?

Jan 26, 2010

by Derrius Quarles

Humans give off carbon dioxide for plants to use and plants give off oxygen for humans to survive.  Water is constantly converted into a gas through heat where it then rises and cools to fall as rain, snow, etc. These processes have occurred for thousands of years and they are also some of the most efficient processes known to man. Why are these natural processes so efficient? It is because they use a process known as recycling. Recycling is a process observed in many natural systems, and it may be the most important concept for you to understand when completing the scholarship process. You have written your personal statements (essays), gotten your recommendations, created your resume, and made a scholarship list. However, if you do not learn how to recycle these items, you will soon find that it is difficult and vey time-consuming to apply for the 15 or more scholarships on your list. If you learn how to take a paragraph from your college application essay and insert it there, take a paragraph from your past scholarship essay on adversity and insert it here, you will soon have an entirely new essay that you can use for a different scholarship.

Recycling application sections sounds like a fairly simple idea, right? Not necessarily. Recycling when doing scholarship applications is a great idea, but it’s not exactly simple. It can be an effective tool if used properly. If used incorrectly, however, it can have disastrous effects and can be a quick way to lose potential financial aid. “So, how do I recycle effectively?” you may ask. The answer is that you have to ensure that while recycling application sections such as a personal statement (essay) or recommendation that you tailor the personal statement or recommendation to each specific application. If you are applying to a scholarship that awards money based on academic achievement, it is not the best idea to recycle and use a recommendation previously written by a community service organizer because they cannot speak first hand about your abilities in the classroom the way a teacher can. You also may want to go through your essays and ask your recommenders to make the small or large changes in order to tailor your applications. If your essay states that “I feel I deserve the Dell Scholarship because…” yet you are applying to the Wal-Mart scholarship, you probably just lost that scholarship. An application package is somewhat like a suit, it needs to tailored in order to look its best; although it may look okay without tailoring, it will look great with it.

Here are some quick rules for recycling sections of your scholarship application:

  1. Be sure that each section of your scholarship applications is tailored for the specific type of scholarship you are applying for- If it’s a community service type of scholarship. Your recommendations and essay should talk about your experiences with community service etc.
  2. You can recycle an entire essay and use it over if it applies to the question being asked- If you wrote an essay in the past about your love for science and are applying to a scholarship related to science, you can probably use that entire essay over and save valuable time.
  3. Use different parts of past personal statements or essays to create entirely new essays- A few paragraphs from old essays with a few new sentences added to them is an entirely new essay.
  4. Get copies of your recommendations from your recommenders- Make sure each copy has their signature on them and you can use them in the future
  5. Always have copies of your resume, standardized test scores (ACT, SAT), and FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR)- You will definitely need these items the majority of the time when applying to scholarships and having copies ready saves time.

Using and sticking to these rules will be an easy way to save time, reduce stress, and finish scholarship applications well before the deadline.  Remember, if used properly, recycling is not only good for the environment; it’s good for the scholarship application process as well.<,/p>

Derrius L Quarles is a 19-year-old freshman at Morehouse College. He hopes to go to medical school after he graduates with a degree in psychology and biology and a minor in public health, and to one day work on the public health policies of his hometown, Chicago, and beyond. To help him achieve those academic and career ambitions, Derrius has won more than $1.1 million in scholarships, including a full scholarship to attend Morehouse, since graduating from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy High School with a 4.2 GPA. Derrius was awarded a Gates Millennium scholarship and won a number of other highly competitive awards, many of which he found while searching for scholarships at He is the first in his family to attend college, and spent his childhood in the foster care system before becoming the “Million Dollar Scholar.” This is the fifth in a series of posts Derrius is writing for on how he was able to fund his education, along with advice about the scholarship application process.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Employers Expect More from New Hires and Their Schools

Jan 21, 2010

by Staff

A new survey of employers shows that broader may be better when it comes to higher learning. Despite students’ increasing interest in a college education that prepares them for a specific career, employers and the nature of the job market both appear to be demanding students with a wide knowledge base and flexible skills.

The survey, commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization that advocates liberal arts education, was published yesterday. It focused both on what employers would like to see in new hires and on how well they think colleges are able to prepare students for the workforce.  Only one in four of the 302 employers surveyed felt that two-year and four-year colleges are currently doing a good job of preparing students for the challenges of the global economy. One in five believe that significant changes are needed in how colleges prepare students for the workforce and most wanted to see at least some changes made.

Many employers saw college education as increasingly important for job applicants: 28 percent said they would place more emphasis on hiring people with at least a bachelor’s degree in upcoming candidate searches. Nearly the same proportion, 25 percent, said they would be placing less emphasis on hiring people with no degree. The greatest increase in interest in candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher comes from the largest employers—those with 500 or more employees. They reported 43% more emphasis on hiring candidates with a four-year degree.

Employers reported that degree attainment isn’t the only area in which their expectations for employees have increased. The vast majority of employers agreed with the following four statements about their company:

  • Our company is asking employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader set of skills than in the past (91%)
  • Employees are expected to work harder to coordinate with other departments than in the past (90%)
  • The challenges employees face within our company are more complex today than they were in the past (88%)
  • To succeed in our company, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge today than they did in the past (88%)

To meet these increased expectations, employers overwhelmingly felt it would be helpful for students to pursue opportunities that are becoming common features of a liberal arts education, such as a capstone project that demonstrates their depth of knowledge and analytical skills (84%), an internship or community-based field project (81%), coursework that develops research skills (81%). They also expressed support for more education to build research skills, cultural awareness (both locally and globally), ethical thinking, and understanding of large challenges. An accompanying position paper from the AAC&U expanded on how colleges could foster these kinds of learning and thinking.

However, students do not have to wait for sweeping reforms in college education to take advantage of opportunities that will benefit them in the hiring process. Indeed, they might not have time. Of the employers surveyed, 38% expect to hire more people within the next year, and 54% plan to keep levels of employment steady, a sunnier outlook than was presented in another recent survey of employers. As the country comes out of the recession, recent college grads will be increasingly in demand, but they may also be in greater supply as many schools are currently experiencing record enrollment.

Luckily, at many colleges and universities you can find classes, internships, and other experiences now that will help prepare you for the workplace. If you’re a high school student working on your college search, focus on schools that emphasize research and offer numerous opportunities for internships and senior thesis projects. If you’re currently enrolled, take a variety of courses, especially ones that develop research and analytical skills, and see if your school currently offers internship experiences or opportunities for substantial research projects. By demonstrating through your experience and coursework that you’re both skilled in your subject area and able to learn and adapt, you may have an edge over your competition.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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