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Paying Tuition on Time Getting Tougher in Recession

January 13, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

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

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

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

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Some Stress Relief for College Applicants

January 20, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

A frequent feature of this year's college application season has been discussion and debate surrounding the CollegeBoard's new Score Choice program, which allows students to select which SAT scores they want to submit as part of their college application packets.  Schools are beginning to announce whether they will still require students to submit all SAT scores, and much ado is being made about whether students will use Score Choice and expensive and extensive standardized test prep to game the system.  At the same time, a number of college admission officials are talking, or in some cases cheering, about de-emphasizing standardized tests in the admissions process.

Meanwhile, numbers are emerging that suggest much of the hype surrounding the competitiveness of the college application process is a bit overblown.  As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today, just over half the students who take the SAT take it a second time, and the vast majority stop there.  A study discussed last week in Inside Higher Ed says that despite the relatively small number of repeat test takers, 88 percent of college students surveyed were admitted to their first choice school.  In addition, students typically apply to only three or four colleges on average.  The high school students who spend years testing and retesting and compiling an extensive list of reach schools and safety schools may be well-represented in media, but prove to be scarce almost everywhere else.

To summarize, getting into college may involve a lot of work, but it doesn't have to involve a lot of worry. If you're a high school senior waiting nervously for an acceptance letter or a high school junior starting a college search, try not to stress.  If you write a strong application essay, maintain decent grades and some kind of extracurricular or community service activities, land a solid test score, and apply to a few colleges that seem to be good fits for you, or even if you just do most of these, you will most likely find yourself in the majority of students who wind up going where they want to go.  Now all that's left is figuring out how to pay for school.

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Professionalism Matters in the Job Search

October 26, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Would you consider yourself professional? Out of all the things you're worried about when it comes to landing a job after college in a difficult economy, worrying about how you come off to employers may not be at the top of your list. But a recent study by York College in Pennsylvania may have you thinking otherwise.

The purpose of the study from the school's Center for Professional Excellence was to find a measure of how professionalism factors into the hiring process, to define "professionalism" when it comes to recent college graduates, and to determine the role colleges should play in developing professionalism among students. The study's findings? Students aren't behaving as professionally as their employers would like them to.

The study surveyed more than 500 human resources professionals and business leaders, and suggests that students need more guidance in college before going out on job interviews. An Inside Higher Education article last week describes the findings as a "gap between employer expectations and student realities." But the article also looks at whether the findings could be partially explained by the trouble an older generation has of defining appropriate behaviors of a younger generation.

So should you worry? It shouldn't come as a surprise that it's tough out there right now. A recent opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the additional obstacles of students entering the job world today - high unemployment rates and the tough decision whether a lower paying job outside of a graduate's interest area is better than no job at all. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is about 15 percent. The National Association of Colleges and Employers claims that just 20 percent of those who graduated this year did so knowing they had a job waiting for them once they received their diplomas. So it probably wouldn't hurt for you to do what you can to stand out at that job interview, and wow those employers who apparently feel that many of the candidates they see exhibit unprofessional behavior.

The study's findings included the following:

  • Personal interaction skills, the ability to communicate and a work ethic that includes being motivated and working on a task until it is complete were included as the top characteristics of the professional employee by employers.
  • The most frequently cited unprofessional traits or behaviors were appearance, which includes attire, tattoos, and piercings, poor communication skills, including poor grammar, and a poor work ethic.
  • More than 37 percent of the respondents reported that less than half of the recent graduates they have hired exhibit professionalism in their first year.
  • Nearly all of the respondents (97.7%) stated that their assessment of how professional an applicant will be on the job has an effect on their hiring decision. Of these respondents, almost three-fourths (71.8 percent) indicated that 50 percent or more of the hiring decision is based on an assessment of the applicant’s professionalism.
  • About 33 percent feel the prevalence of professionalism has eroded over the past five years.

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Landing a Great Job with a Liberal Arts Major

November 4, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

So, you want to be a teacher? Students pursuing degrees in the liberal arts are all too familiar with this question. It can seem at times like no one around you can fathom a career beyond teaching high school English or history, or some other subject that may have little beyond a name in common with your actual college goals. But the follow-up, "what do you want to do, then?" can also be a cause for uncertainty. The widespread assumption exists that four years of interesting classes inevitably lead to a lifetime of low salaries and limited career prospects.

However, that doesn't have to be the case. In a commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education, author Katharine S. Brooks shares some stories from her 20-some years of experience in career services of liberal arts education leading to career success, which is encouraging for students just beginning to think about how their degree can aid them in the job search. Examples she gives include a philosophy major whose logic class helped him score a perfect 180 on the LSAT, and a student whose knowledge gained in a film class helped him turn an internship into a job offer. Other stories abound. A liberal arts education is remarkably useful in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Her article focuses on encouraging colleges to provide better career services to liberal arts majors, but for students whose schools don't yet offer these services, she also has good advice. Instead of simply taking your English degree and assuming you need to work in writing or publishing because that's what you've learned to do, Brooks urges pausing to think about the skills you've learned and interests you have and trying to find meaningful connections among them. In the end, you'll have a more complete picture of yourself as a student and as a potential worker. In addition to writing, perhaps your major has given you great skills with finding, interpreting, and evaluating vast amounts of information quickly. Skills like those can easily be applied to a wide variety of careers, and you can use your inventoried interests to focus your search.

Evaluating your interests and experiences is a must for students nearing the end of college, especially in majors that aren't clear-cut paths to a particular career. Students in the humanities and social sciences have gained college experiences that can lead them in a number of different directions. In addition to adapting their interests and experiences to the corporate environment, they also have potential to further their knowledge of their field as graduate students, to enter into a public service profession, to earn a teaching certificate and become an educator, or to puruse their interests in whatever ways they find appealing. Which direction you choose depends less on the limitations of your major than on your personal preferences and abilities to seek out and seize opportunities-and based on what your degree has taught you, those should be quite well developed.

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Lost Your Scholarship? How to Cope

November 13, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

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

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

Transfer Students

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

Lost Eligibility

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

Canceled Programs

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

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

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Are You Ready for Finals?

November 18, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Although you're probably ready to sit down and enjoy a big Thanksgiving meal, you may be feeling some dread about what you'll be facing once you return to college after that turkey coma. Finals Week Many of you will have been procrastinating up to this point, falling behind on the study skills you honed in your high school AP classes to prepare for this moment. Luckily, it's not too late.

If you're really behind, chances are you may need to pull an all-nighter or two to catch up with your studies. Do it.  Even if you're just a freshman getting used to your first year on campus, you should still focus on making your grades the best they can be. There are still a ton of scholarships out there if you're a sophomore, junior, even a graduate student, so don't assume the loot you won to pay for your first year is out of your reach once you complete your freshman year.

If you're in better shape than I was in college, you haven't fallen too far behind and actually have notes from most of your lectures. Make a list and check it twice of all that you need to do before finishing off the semester. Talk to your professors if things aren't clear before final exam time to feel more prepared and more confident going in to those testing sessions. If you've been fairly responsible up to this point, you probably don't need to be reminded not to cram, but don't catch the procrastination bug now.

Here are some of our other favorite tips on improving your study skills in time for college exams:

  • Stay focused. If you're less distracted at the library, go to the library. Dorm rooms and apartments are full of potential time-wasters - TV, video games, snacks, chatty roommates. If you can't study in silence, bring your books and headphones to a less distracting place.
  • Figure out your learning style. What may have worked for you in high school may not be relevant anymore. You probably have more work to do, with more opportunities for distraction and non-academic related activities. Figure out how you manage your time best and what makes you the most successful learner, because the study method that works for your friend down the hall may not be the one that will work best for you.
  • Keep everything. That syllabus you used as a coaster the first week of class? It could have some important information about final exam week buried in between the professor's introduction and the required textbooks. File away every handout you get from every class, because they could be useful later. Toss them once the course is over and you've turned in that exam.
  • Don't panic. If this is your first experience with finals week, put things in perspective. Yes, you'll need to do well so that you're around for finals next semester, but panic will only stress you out and potentially cause you procrastinate even more. Focus, breathe, and take care of yourself. You want to be feeling healthy and alert when you're staring down at that college exam, and, as prepared as you're able to be.
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Study Compares College Graduation Rates

June 3, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're planning on attending college, chances are you're also planning on one day graduating.  Depending on which school you choose, getting out in six years or less could be anything from a long-shot to a near certain bet.  A new study has been published by the American Enterprise Institute comparing graduation rates among colleges based on selectivity ratings as part of an overall push for more accountability and transparency in higher education.  In addition to discussing the gaps in graduation rates among schools, the study also lists some of the best and worst performers in each category by name.  If you're a high school junior or senior just beginning to compare colleges, this could be good information to have.

Overall, the data show that about 53 percent of first-time college students at four-year universities graduate from the school they enrolled in as freshmen with six years. The study does not include non-traditional students or transfer students.  Not surprisingly, students at the most selective schools, such as elite private colleges, were among the most likely to graduate from the school at which they initially enrolled.  Six-year graduation rates at individual schools ranged from the single digits to nearly 100 percent across the whole spectrum of schools, with the most competitive category graduating nearly 88 percent of students on average, and the least competitive schools graduating only 35 percent of students.

Graduation rates also varied greatly within selectivity categories.  Two schools in similar locations with similar ratings could have vastly different graduation rates.  This is where the study becomes particularly useful for students choosing between schools.  If you have a roughly equal chance of getting into two colleges, and one graduates a significantly larger percentage of students then the other, it's not hard to imagine that having this information might influence your decision of which school to apply to or attend.  You can read more over at Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a link to the full study. Along with things like available financial aid and quality of on-campus housing, graduation rates are definitely something to consider incorporating into your criteria for your college search.

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Start Your Summer with a Scholarship Search

June 4, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

For most college and high school students, summer is either here or right around the corner.  Summer vacation typically brings with it an increased amount of free time, especially since finding a part-time job has gotten increasingly tough in this economy.  While it's nice to enjoy a break from studies, enterprising students can still find ways to make the most of their summer, even if they aren't employed.  Beyond working or landing a summer internship, summer is also an ideal time to search for scholarships, build your résumé and strengthen your scholarship applications.

Though many deadlines have already passed, some scholarship opportunities are still available for fall 2009 (including the Scholarships.com Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship).  However, the majority of scholarship contests are annual affairs, meaning that even if you missed a deadline this time around, you may still be eligible to apply next year.  This is especially true for rising high school juniors and seniors.  For most students, their junior and senior years of high school will be their busiest, as classes get more challenging and the college and scholarship application processes begin.  So if you're going into your junior or senior year of high school, why not get a jump start on scholarships now?

Do a free college scholarship search and make note of the awards for which you'll qualify next year.  Some scholarships may be right up your alley, but might require extensive reading, writing, research or labor that you may not have time for during the academic year.  Others may be looking for substantial volunteer and leadership experience, and summer is a great time to get involved or more involved in activities that will help you really shine in those categories.  This advice also applies to current and incoming college students. There are enough scholarship opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds that regardless of your circumstances, it's a good idea to clear some time in your summer schedule to begin searching and applying.

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Scholarships You Can Still Win This Summer

June 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As we mentioned yesterday, the 2008-2009 school year is winding down, and people are preparing to flip over to a new academic calendar and a new college application cycle.  However, that doesn't mean that students still seeking admission or financial aid for 2009-2010 are completely out of luck.  There are still colleges and scholarships accepting applications right now.  In fact, there are some substantial scholarship awards that you can still win this summer, and to prove it, we're listing a few of them below.  To learn more about these awards and others with upcoming deadlines, you can do a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com.

HANDS Essay Contest

Hands Along the Nile is accepting applications until July 4 for its $5,000 scholarship essay contest. To apply, students are asked to compose an essay of no more than 2,500 words in response to the question, "How is community development in the Middle East important to the U.S.? Why is it particularly crucial to focus on Egypt?" This scholarship is open to high school seniors and full-time undergraduate and graduate students at colleges in the United States.

Blade Your Ride Scholarship Program

Through June 30, current undergraduate and graduate students who are passionate about the environment are invited to create a video webcast for a chance to win up to $9,000 towards their college education.  Videos should focus on the global climate crisis and creativity is encouraged.  Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA and must be attending college in the United States, but citizenship is not required.

SPENDonLIFE Credit Challenged Scholarship

High school and college students who have been declined for student loans due to the credit crunch have until June 15 to apply for a scholarship of up to $5,000 to help cover their college costs.  To apply, students are asked to write a 500-word essay describing the impact of the economic downturn on their lives. This contest is open to U.S. residents between the ages of 17 and 25.

The Calm-a-Sutra of Tea $15,000 Scholarship Competition

The Tea Council of the USA is looking for videos about the health benefits of tea, and you have until August 2 to create one.  Applicants ages 16 and older who are legal residents of the United States or Puerto Rico are invited to upload a video about tea to YouTube, then share the link with the Tea Council.  One winner will receive a $15,000 college scholarship.

Scholarships.com College Scholarships

Scholarships.com is also accepting applications for three of our scholarship awards.  For a chance to win $1,000, you can apply for the Resolve to Evolve Essay contest, the College Culinary Arts Scholarship, or the College Design Scholarship.  Other Scholarships.com college scholarships are available throughout the year, as well.

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More College Students Taking Summer Classes

June 12, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Early reports suggest that summer enrollment is up at colleges across the country, likely due at least in part to the recession.  Since summer jobs are harder to find and some summer internships have also been taken off the table, more students are looking to summer classes as a way to stay productive between spring and fall semesters.  Dwindling college funds and other economic difficulties may also be pushing students to try to finish college as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Most state colleges and community colleges offer summer classes, as well as many private schools.

Summer classes are a great way to keep yourself on track for graduation, as well as to get required courses out of the way as quickly as possible.  While more time might be spent in the classroom at once, summer terms are shorter than regular semesters, so that class you've been dreading won't seem to drag on quite as much.  Summer classes often come with smaller class sizes and more support from the instructor, in addition to longer class times, so they can also be a good way to master subjects that might otherwise be a struggle.

One problem that comes with summer enrollment is finding financial aid, however.  Often, schools award fewer summer scholarships and depending on the school's approach to summer aid awards, students may have already used up their federal aid for the academic year, or may have to reduce the amount they receive the following fall and spring in order to pay for summer.  Some schools are working to make it easier to pay for school in the summer, though, as a piece in Inside Higher Ed reports.  Several have instituted summer payment plans similar to those available during the regular academic year, while others are offering tuition discounts and summer scholarship awards.  You may also be able to apply other college scholarships towards your summer tuition, or even still win scholarships this summer.

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