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Engineering and Technology Top Highest-Paying Majors

Mar 16, 2010

by Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com. 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 Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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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Major Decisions: Take Your Time When Choosing Your Field of Study

Jan 13, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

High school seniors preparing for college and the task of choosing a major may be more aware now than ever before about the repercussions of choosing one field of study over another. Sure, the economy is looking like it could rebound this year, but all of those who lost their jobs in the crisis - many of whom have quite a bit more experience to boast than a recent college graduate - will be causing more competitiveness on the job market for years to come.

Should you sacrifice where your interests are for what you think may be a more secure, safe major? An opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week says "no." Obviously you need to exhibit some marketable skills to land a job post-graduation, but many of those skills are things you're able to pick up on your own. (The article gives the example of computer science majors. Many of the things you'll learn as a computer science major could be obsolete in the real world by the time you graduate, as those technologies are typically very fast-paced and ever-changing.)

It's also probably not a good idea to go into a field you have no interest in just because your parents think that major will land you an impressive salary later on. If you don't have a knack for a particular field of study, chances are greater that you won't do well in your core classes, and potentially even flunk out of school. You really won't be making that great salary if "college dropout" is a part of your resume. If you're interested in English, go for it. You'd be surprised to learn the premium employers place on good writing and communication skills. And if you're at the University of Texas at Austin, the course "The English Major in the Workplace" will offer you tips on building a resume, interviewing, and networking - skills that are important in all fields of study.

On the other side is the idea of "careerism," or that intense desire to succeed professionally. Schools are beginning to see this as a good thing, introducing ways to improve their graduates' chances when they're ready to start looking for jobs and to help those students worried about what they're going to do with their degrees. An article in the New York Times recently discussed ways colleges were adapting to a difficult economy by making drastic changes to their curricula. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has gotten rid of its philosophy major; Michigan State University did the same with American studies and classics. Declining enrollments in those fields suggested the students, at those schools, not administrators, were looking to more practical majors that would make them more marketable job candidates.

If you're able to, dabble a bit. You may not even know what you want to major in as soon as you get on campus. Reflect on where you'd like to see yourself after college, and what your goals are while you're in college. For some a high-paying major may be just the ticket. Others may not be left-brained enough to become engineers and computer technicians. It's fine to take some time to think about what you'd like to spend the next two to four years doing.

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 Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Keeping Your Sanity During the Application Process

Jan 12, 2010

by Derrius Quarles

Now that you have developed a scholarship list to keep track of all your scholarships and have created the foundation of your application by getting your recommendations and personal statement(s) completed, all you have to do is put the finishing touches on all of your applications right? Not quite; juggling school, extra-curricular activities, a part-time job, and scholarship applications can make the most organized person stressed, and what tends to happen is that high school students spend less time on their scholarship applications in order to relieve the stress of being a senior. However, you do not have to sacrifice spending time on your scholarship applications if you take certain steps. These steps can help you keep your grades up, participate in all of your activities, and still put in the time that is required to create great scholarship applications.

Learning how to manage your time will be your most effective tool to help you complete your scholarship applications on time and decrease stress. If you learn how to manage your time effectively, you will notice that you can fit more into your schedule because you will waste less time wondering what you supposed to be doing. Have you ever come home from school, tossed your book bag down and gone to sleep or watched television for a couple hours and later asked yourself where all your time went when you go to do your homework? You probably go to sleep late, wake up tired and end up being sleepy in your first class. Well this is a cycle that many students are familiar with, but it can be fixed if you simply learn how to manage your time more efficiently. These strategies can help you use your time more effectively:

  1. Start using a calendar that tracks your day by the hour. By doing this you allow yourself to actually see what you should be doing every hour; which helps you keep track of your time better than a list of things you have to do for each day. REMEMBER- A calendar only works if you actually use it and fill it with the activities in your schedule. Use your mobile phone and computer calendars as ways to constantly remind yourself of what you have to do daily. 
  2. Plan ahead as much as possible. Fill your calendar with the activities you are sure you will have complete as early as you can, and make sure you add items to your calendar as soon as you become aware of them, such as homework assignments, college fairs, application deadlines, etc.
  3. Prioritize by completing your most important tasks first. This will ensure that you do not forget to complete a very important task and that you have enough time to finish all of your important tasks. For example, school is always going to be your most important task, so everything on your schedule should fit around it.
  4. Spread out your time when completing important tasks. You do not always want to find yourself completing an entire scholarship application in one day because it can require hours and hours worth of time. Spread your time out because this will allow you to take breaks that keep your mind fresh and allow you to create great school projects, essays and, most of all, scholarship applications.
  5. Find time to do things that you enjoy. Sometimes you have to put your homework, textbook, and applications down and to do something that makes you laugh and enjoy yourself. This will help you stay energized and ready to complete tasks that are more demanding.

Masterpieces such as the Taj Mahal and Sistine Chapel were not created in a day. Though smaller in scale, great scholarship applications are not either. You have to learn how to manage your time so that you do not have to throw together something that is not of high quality. When you have school and other time-consuming activities to do every day, finding time to complete scholarship applications can cause a lot of stress. However, if you learn to use a calendar, plan ahead, and prioritize tasks you will be sure to keep your sanity during the application process.

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 Scholarships.com. 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 fourth in a series of posts Derrius is writing for Scholarships.com on how he was able to fund his education, along with advice about the scholarship application process.

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 Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Tuition Discounts to Attend College Out-of-State

Jan 12, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

To make up for budget cuts and other difficulties caused by the recession, many state colleges, including some prestigious research universities, have begun admitting more out-of-state students, who typically pay more in tuition than in-state students. While this could make getting into a top school in your own state more challenging, this shift does present some unique opportunities. If you're starting your college search, you may want to consider applying to state colleges in neighboring states. You can get a bargain on tuition compared to private colleges, and there may even be tuition discounts and scholarship opportunities to further help you further bring down costs.

University systems and state higher education agencies offer tuition discounts for certain out-of-state students, bringing down your tuition costs to anywhere from 100% to 150% of in-state tuition: as much as a 50-75% discount on the regular out-of-state rate. High-achieving students, children of alumni, and residents of neighboring towns or states may qualify for programs at specific universities or for certain state scholarships.

If you have specific schools in mind, look to see if they offer discounts for students in your situation. Many large public universities will have some program in place to offset costs for out-of-state students. State colleges and universities near borders may also offer a discounted rate to students living just across a state line.

State-wide tuition discounts also exist. Students in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin can take advantage of a wide-ranging tuition reciprocity agreement: Minnesota's public colleges and universities charge in-state tuition for students from the Dakotas and Wisconsin, and schools in those states return the favor for Minnesota residents. Minnesota also has similar agreements with Manitoba and some community colleges in Iowa.

The Southern Regional Educational Board offers the Academic Common Market for students in the southeastern United States pursuing specialized degrees at schools out-of-state. Students who qualify to participate in ACM are able to pay in-state tuition at the school they attend, provided their degree program is not offered by any colleges in their home state.

Other regional tuition exchange programs offer students a chance to go to school out-of-state at a special discounted rate. The two largest of these programs are the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Midwest Student Exchange Program. Both allow students to attend participating state colleges for 150% of in-state tuition, and MSEP also allows students to receive a 10% discount on tuition at participating private colleges.

If you want to attend school out-of-state, you may also be able to qualify for in-state tuition by becoming a resident of the state. Check the residency requirements of the state and the school where you want to attend college--while some will not allow college students to apply for resident tuition, others happily grant residency to students. A recent article by Kim Clark in U.S. News gives some other tips for how to get in-state tuition at out-of-state schools.

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 Scholarships.com 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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FAFSA Available Starting Tomorrow, Jan. 1

Dec 31, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

One of the most important steps you'll need to take in the financial aid application process is applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The Department of Education starts accepting the FAFSA Jan. 1 of each year, which just so happens to be tomorrow. So start your new year off right by filing that financial aid document, or filing a renewal FAFSA if this isn't your first time. State financial aid deadlines fall as early as February, so it's best to get a head start and know how much funding you can expect come next fall.

Both the FAFSA and renewal FAFSA are available online through Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education. Completing the FAFSA online will speed up processing and leave less time for you to worry about how much financial aid you'll be receiving. Remember that it doesn't cost anything to fill out your FAFSA - the FAFSA is free - and some agencies will charge you for filling the application out for you. Once you complete the online form, you’ll be able to check its status, make any corrections as needed, and print your Student Aid Report once that is ready. (Your Student Aid Report summarizes what you've filled out on your FAFSA, and provides you with an Expected Family Contribution, or the total you and your family would be expected to come up with to fund your education.) If you aren’t comfortable filling out your FAFSA online, you can submit a paper form, but it does take longer to process than the online form.

In order to complete your FAFSA, you'll need the following:

  • your Social Security number
  • your driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • your bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • your records of untaxed income (if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2008 for the 2009-2010 FAFSA)
  • all of the above from your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • an electronic PIN to sign the form online

We have a number of resources available to those filling out their FAFSAs and preparing to apply for federal aid. Browse through our site so that you know exactly where to begin, what to expect, and how to file the application successfully, because if you do make mistakes you may delay the processing of your FAFSA. Happy New Year!

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 Scholarships.com 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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Give Yourself a Gift: Apply for Scholarships During Winter Break

Dec 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

For the most part, holiday festivities are over, but most college students, as well as some high school students, still have weeks left of their winter breaks. Gifts have been opened, food has been eaten, and relatives and old friends have been visited. As boredom and cabin fever set in, you may even find yourself longing for campus. But even going back to college comes with a catch: that giant spring semester tuition bill awaiting you when you return.

Here's a strategy to both combat boredom and tackle that tuition statement: use your winter break to apply for scholarships. Your brain is recovered enough from fall finals and the multi-day holiday food coma, but hasn't yet sunken into a daytime TV-induced daze. You're at home with your family and they're probably all too eager to help you find new ways to pay for college (your mom might even stop hinting about helping more around the house while you're home).

On top of the good timing in your life, it's also a good time in the award cycle for most scholarships. The majority of awards have scholarship application deadlines in the next few months, many of which are likely to fall right after a major test or right in the middle of that big spring break trip you're planning. To avoid dashing off a half-hearted scholarship application at the last minute when you don't have time, it's a good idea to start the application process now, submitting application early in the application period and showing your high level of interest in the award. Some scholarship contests cut off applications early if they've reached a maximum number of applicants, so that's another reason to apply earlier, rather than later.

In addition to a clear head, more time to work on your scholarship application, and the best chance of getting your application considered, you may also find you have more resources available to you in January than you will in April or May. You probably have friends or siblings, or possibly even a favorite English teacher from high school with enough free time to give feedback on your applications, and if you can contact teachers or professors, they can probably find time in the next few weeks to write you a glowing letter of recommendation. When you head back to campus, you might even be able to run your scholarship essay past the university writing center--typically traffic there is relatively sparse until the first paper of the semester is assigned. Even printing and mailing may be easier, as you either have a freshly reset campus printing budget or a little extra change in your pocket from break.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and start your scholarship search. By taking your time to write scholarship-worthy essays now, you can spend your spring semester kicking back and waiting for the scholarship money to arrive.

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 Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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So You Want To Set Yourself Apart, Huh?

Dec 28, 2009

by Derrius Quarles

After you have created your list of scholarships and or colleges and identified the people you want to write your recommendations it is time to tackle the most important part of the application. The reason writing skills are apart of the foundation of the application is because they build up to the personal statement. The personal statement is just that; writing that makes a statement about who you are as a person. It does something that a grade point average, test score, or award cannot: it gives you the opportunity to creatively tell the scholarship or admissions review board (the people who will read and judge your application) how high school has affected you. It also provides the opportunity for the review board to gain an understanding of who you are when you leave school. The review board will be looking for students who are well rounded and that understand that school is more than just acquiring accolades and gaining a high GPA or test score. School is about growth and progression and the people who read your application will enjoy applicants who show that they understand this concept. The personal statement is your chance to show the review board that you understand, and in many instances it will be used to evaluate everything else included in your application.

Now that you see why the personal statement is so important, it’s time to start writing. However, before you start writing, please check out my Top Five Don’ts When Writing a Personal Statement:

  1. Do not send in a personal statement with multiple grammar and punctuation mistakes. Be sure to have it proof-read and edited, revising until it is grammatically correct; this shows the review boards you are ready for college level writing and does not waste their time.
  2. The personal statement is not the time to tell a sob story that you believe will make the review board feel sorry for you. Everyone experiences adversity and the review boards hear hundreds if not thousands of sad stories. Instead show them how you got over your adversities.
  3. More does not necessarily mean better. If the application gives you a word limit or maximum for your personal statement, follow directions. One easy way to get your application tossed is not being able to follow simple directions.
  4. Do not start on the personal statement a week before the application is due. You will not have time to do the necessary revisions that make a great personal statement.
  5. Do not use the entire personal statement talking about your activities, honors, awards, and GPA because they are already listed in the rest of your application. It is a waste of an opportunity to create a story that says something about who you are.

Now that you have read the "Top Five Don’ts When Writing a Personal Statement", you should be more than ready to write a great personal statement for any college or scholarship. Just remember that the personal statement is about illustrating who you are as a person in and, more importantly, outside of school. You want to find something that other parts of your application do not say, start early, be concise, be creative, and revise, revise, revise. If you keep these points in mind you will definitely set yourself apart.

About the Author: 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 Scholarships.com. 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 third in a series of posts Derrius is writing for Scholarships.com on how he was able to fund his education, along with advice about the scholarship application process.

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 Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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A Strong Foundation Means a Strong Application

Dec 8, 2009

by Derrius Quarles

Once you start the process of identifying scholarships that you qualify for, start a scholarship table that will help you track the progress of them. The scholarship table should list the name, amount, deadline, if you have completed the scholarship application, and if you have submitted the application for each scholarship you have identified.  This will be a very effective tool in helping you remain aware of the status of your scholarships. When you begin to complete your applications you will notice that there are many components to each scholarship, which could seem very cumbersome. However, you can break each scholarship down to smaller sections, which will essentially allow you to spread the time you spend on each application out and make the process less strenuous.

Most scholarships can be divided up into these sections:

  • Contact Info
  • Academic info
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Personal Statement/Essays
  • Recommendations

Each component is very important and will require attention in order to build a strong application, but there are certain components that tell the scholarship review boards the most about who you truly are as a person. These components are the essay(s) and the recommendation(s) and I believe that these components are the foundation of your application.

The essay(s) is a critical portion of your application because it shows how well you can articulate your personal experiences, past accomplishments, and future aspirations. While reading your essays the reviewers should receive a glimpse of your personality and delve into who you are as a person. They should reflect your potential to write at the collegiate level and ability to be both creative and eloquent. You must find a way to begin your essay creatively because that will keep the reader interested throughout your entire essay. The introduction should be the beginning of telling the reader a story, instead of writing like you would for a research paper. Once you draw the reader in with an interesting introduction, expand on the story with your body paragraphs. After the body paragraphs, wrap the essay up with a strong conclusion that shows what you learned from the story and how that story made you a better person. When you complete any essay for a scholarship application, save it to your computer and a flash drive so that you can revise it and possibly use it in subsequent applications.

The scholarship letter of recommendation will give the reviewers an opportunity to see a respected individual's opinion of you and should accentuate the activities and information listed in the rest of the application.  The reason they are so important is because it is the only part of the application that is not completed by you, and sometimes the quality of your recommendation (length, content, position of person who completes it) says more about who you are as a person than anything you could say about yourself. This is why it is imperative that your recommendations are completed by people that have had a close relationship with you (other than a family member), have observed your participation in different extracurricular activities, and are familiar with the scholarship you are applying to. Always give your recommenders at least three weeks to complete your recommendation whether they are hard copies or online and always have a résumé ready to give them in case they want to know more about all of your past activities. If the recommendation is a hard copy, ask your recommender if you can make copies for future scholarships so that you do not have to ask them every time. Keep in mind that each portion of your scholarship is important, but the essay and recommendation are the foundation of your application, and a strong foundation means a strong application.

About the Author:

Gates Millennium scholarship and won a number of other highly competitive awards, many of which he found while searching for scholarships at Scholarships.com. 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 second in a series of posts Derrius will write for Scholarships.com 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 Scholarships.com 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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