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Financial Aid Glossary

November 28, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Understanding college aid jargon can be tough. Learning about college requirements, school testing and financial aid applications is difficult enough. Bring snooty words and acronyms into the picture, and you’ll find yourself rereading the same sentence ten times.

To get into the college game, you have to know how to talk the talk. That’s where we come in. Scholarships.com offers you free access to a college prep and financial aid glossary that will help you decipher “advanced” school vocabulary. Before you get into the nitty gritty details of college planning, you need an overview, and we can help you with that.

Those applying for federal financial aid will need to know what a Pell grant is, how the Cost of Attendance (COA) is determined, and what the federal work study program (WSP)  has to do with their student aid report (SAR). It can be a lot to handle at first, but these are words worth knowing. You are likely to come across them when applying for aid, and when you do, you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

Such knowledge is particularly important for students who apply for loans. To make the best, most affordable choices, these students will need to know the difference between Perkins loans, Stafford loans, PLUS loans and private loans. Before signing anything, it’s important to know about Annual Percentage Rates (APR), accrued interest, loan deferment, loan defaulting and consolidation. The glossary will provide quick answers to these and other financial aid questions.

By taking advantage of the resources offered at Scholarships.com, you can feel confident about your financial aid and college planning decisions. Just breathe, and take things one step at a time. Sit down at the table with your financial aid documents and a glossary. Slowly things will begin to make sense. When you think you have the basics down, you can count on Scholarships.com for more in-depth information.

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Setting-Up a Scholarship 101

September 5, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many students are in desperate need of financial aid, and setting up a scholarship is a wonderful way to help them. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a college education in 2006-2007 was $10,454 at public colleges and $26,889 at private ones. With Pell Grants capping at $4,310 this year, government money hardly cuts it. Here are a few things providers should think about when creating a scholarship.

One-Time Scholarship or Endowment?

An easy way to create a one-time or annual scholarship is to submit award information to a local scholarship foundation. It should be noted that annual scholarships (endowments) may require the provider to come up with more than $20,000. Ongoing scholarships are similar to bank accounts in that interest accrues on the initial deposit. The earned money then becomes an award. If winners are to receive a significant amount of money, a large initial donation may be required.

IRS watch

As long as scholarships are used for college expenses, they are usually tax-exempt. However, there are some IRS regulations, and they are particularly strict when it comes to corporate scholarship providers.

Who is eligible?

Scholarships are a great source of support to students who face difficult circumstances or enter underrepresented fields. Regardless of targeted recipients, providers should be clear on who they are looking for. There is no point in reading applications from students who won’t be considered. Criteria such as GPA, field of study, year in school etc. should be specific, but lax enough to give students a shot.

Advertising

With the help of Scholarships.com, advertising can be a cinch. Once a provider submits scholarship information, it will be made available to students who visit our site. To prevent providers from being inundated with applications from ineligible students, Scholarships.com will only show the scholarship to students who meet its eligibility criteria.

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Posted Under:

Federal Aid , Scholarships , Tips



Choosing a College Major

October 16, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

When it’s time to starting making solid decisions about enrolling in college, many people have questions about how to choose a college major. Selecting a college major is a personal decision that involves you to spend time reflecting on your goals, likes, dislikes, skills, and aptitudes.

Selecting a college major is an important decision, and it is not one that should be made lightly. It is important to remember, however, that declaring a major is not an irreversible decision. It is not uncommon for college students to change majors one or more times after they enroll in college.

Some factors to consider when selecting a college major include:

  • What type of career can you see yourself in?
  • What type of work do you enjoy?
  • What are your interests?
  • Which subjects did you enjoy studying the most in high school?
  • If you completed a career assessment in high school, what did the results indicate? (If you have never taken such an assessment, consider taking a college major test before selecting a program of study.)
  • What type of skills do you have?
  • Do you have any hobbies that you would like to pursue as a career?
  • What did you learn about what you like and dislike from your past work experience?
  • Are there in-demand career fields in the geographic areas where you would like to live following graduation?

The answers to these questions can help guide your selection of a college major. For example, if you held part time positions in retail while in high school and you absolutely hated the work, you can immediately scratch retail management off your list. However, if you enjoyed the part of the job that involved setting up product displays, you might seriously want to consider a major in visual merchandising. Of course, once you have all the answers to the "What" to study and "Where" to go to school, you should go to Scholarships.com for the answer to "How" am I going to pay for all of this?!?!

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Posted Under:

College Culture , Tips



Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Major

October 17, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

There are many factors to consider when choosing a college. Part of a successful college search process involves thinking about your school preferences and career plans, and identifying colleges that meet your needs.

Questions to ask yourself that can help with choosing the right college include:

  • What do I want to major in?
  • Am I 100% certain about my major, or is there a possibility that I might change majors?
  • Will I be benefit from starting out in a 2-year college?
  • Will I be comfortable at a large university?
  • Is a faith-based college a good choice for me?
  • Is a private college a good choice for me?
  • How much can I afford to spend on college?
  • What are my options for paying for college?
  • Do I plan to work while attending college?
  • What geographic area do I prefer?
  • Will I live on campus, with my parents, or in an off-campus apartment?
  • Will I be happier at a co-ed or a single gender campus?
  • What are my primary reasons for attending college?
  • What type of work would I like to do after college?
  • Is it likely that I will pursue graduate study after completing my undergraduate program?

The Scholarships.com free college search can help you locate colleges that meet your needs. The answers to these questions can help you narrow down your list of potential colleges. For example, if you find the idea of attending a very large university overwhelming, you can narrow your college search to smaller schools. If you want to live with your parents while attending college, you can narrow the list to include only schools within an easy commuting distance of your home.

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Posted Under:

College Culture , Tips



Pros and Cons of Large State Universities

October 18, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

For some individuals, a large state university is the best college choice. For others, a smaller school or private college might be the best selection. Before making a final decision to attend the largest university in your state, it is a good idea to consider the pros and cons of state universities.

State University Pros  
     
  • Affordable tuition, particularly for in-state students
  •  
  • Knowledgeable instructors
  •  
  • Large library facilities
  •  
  • Many social opportunities
  •  
  • On-campus employment opportunities
  •  
  • Opportunity to meet and develop relationships with many different types of people
  •  
  • School spirit and student loyalty
  •  
  • State universities often attract distinguished scholars as professors
  •  
  • Varied selection of extracurricular activities
  •  
  • Well-funded athletic programs
  •  
  • Wide variety of majors from which to select
  •  

State University Cons  

     
  • Access to professors may be limited
  •  
  • Classes may fill quickly, so you might not be able to get the schedule you want
  •  
  • Class sizes may be very large
  •  
  • Environment may not be as nurturing as a smaller college
  •  
  • Lack of one-on-one attention from instructors
  •  
  • Some professors may be more focused on conducting research and publishing than teaching
  •  
  • Sometimes there is a tendency to over-emphasize athletics
  •  
  • Students may get lost in the crowd, particularly if they are introverted or not inclined to join student organizations
  •  

For more information on choosing the right college, major,  or even roommate, visit our resources section.

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Posted Under:

College Costs , College Culture , Tips



Students Saving the Environment

October 18, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s difficult to read a national newspaper–your choice–for longer than a week without coming across at least one article dealing with the environment. Why should a blog be any different? Jokes and polar bears aside, the environment is in need of some true student TLC, and students have plenty of it to give. Here are some things each of us can do to help.

1. Get educated Change starts with education. When searching for potential colleges, take into consideration the variety of classes offered. The more options schools have, the more you can dabble in various interests, especially the environment. By educating yourself about environmental issues, you can learn about ways to improve the situation, and what’s more, inspire others with your newfound knowledge. When you let people see how the environment affects them personally, you are more likely to convince them that their efforts and time are worth the investment.

2. Turn off the lights Saving money and energy is a click away, or a clap clap. Remember to turn off lights and appliances when you are through with them. Pay extra attention to air conditioners—open windows and running air conditioners make mother earth cry.  

3. Live by the triple R’s Many of us already reduce, reuse and recycle to some extent, but most of us don’t really crack down on bad habits.  By making the three R’s your mantra, you can reduce emissions, save some tree lives and fatten your piggybank.

4. Write to Congress  This one is for the ambitious. Begin a petition in support of the Kyoto Protocol to be sent to Congress; or at least sign the one you make your friend create. So far, 172 countries and governmental entities have signed the pact limiting emissions. Somehow the U.S. is not one of them.

5. Take public transportation  A great benefit to most on-campus travel is the abundance of public transportation. Taking the bus or train to school can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and it can also free up some time to chat or study. It may not be the most convenient way of getting around, but improvement isn’t always convenient. For those who live close by, riding a bike, rollerblading or walking is also a good option.

6. Bring your own bags and mugs  Try stuffing your groceries into a backpack, and bring mugs to coffee shops. (Or visit ones that offer in-house cups.) Some stores and coffee shops will even give you discounts for doing so. 

7. Be laptop savvy in class  You won’t look like you’re too cool for school by bringing your laptop to lectures—really. Students can save much paper by appending and saving posted online notes on laptops.  By bringing a laptop to class, you can save trees and increase the likelihood of future legibility. Plus, editing is easier on a computer, and most students can type more quickly than they can write. If you’re not one of them, it’s about time you practiced.

There are plenty of things students can do to make a difference, and many are already hard at work. This year, Scholarship.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve scholarship prizes were awarded to students who wrote the best essays on problems dealing with standardized testing and the environment. See what the winners had to say on the topic, and check out Scholarships.com's new Resolve to Evolve $10,000 essay scholarship. You can also search our database for college scholarships and grants; begin finding money for college today!

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Posted Under:

College Culture , College News , Tips



Common Roommate Problems

October 29, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you are planning to move out of your parent’s house when you go back to school, you are probably going to have one or more roommates. Unique challenges often arise when living with roommates, so it’s a good idea to learn about common roommate problems before you become one. By doing so, you will be able to take steps to exhibit the traits of a good roommate. This knowledge will also help you recognize and resolve conflicts.

Some of the most common roommate problems include:

  • Borrowing personal items without permission
  • Eating other person’s food
  • Messy living habits
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Lack of respect for each other’s personal space
  • Unwillingness to compromise
  • Immodest behavior

Allowing such behaviors to go unchecked can permanently damage roommate relationships, and can make a living situation unbearable. It’s a good idea to establish roommate rules at the very beginning of the relationship for the sake of avoiding roommate problems before they have a chance to develop.

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Posted Under:

Roommates , Tips

Tags: Roommates


Politics, Voting and the College Student

November 8, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Why should I care about voting?

Whether you're new to it or not, you’ve got to make like “Diddy” and “Rock the Vote”. Even if you’re not a huge fan, he’s got it right this time. There is something at stake for student voters: financial aid. This year has been a tumultuous one as far as college financial aid is concerned, and a collective student voice is needed to convince candidates that students mean business.

It all began when an investigation headed by New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that some, actually many, financial aid officials were receiving money from student lenders in exchange for promotions. Findings showed that certain lenders were paying schools to place them on preferred lender lists, offering gifts and money to financial aid officials in exchange for loan promotion, conducting seemingly unbiased loan exit sessions, and giving athletic departments money for each lead sold.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that third-party lender advertisers were using tactics such as imitating government websites to make students feel as if they were getting unbiased information or that some study abroad advisors were receiving money and free trips from study abroad companies for every student they convinced to travel with them. Sigh… I’m a bit out of breath.

Some, not many, successful efforts have been made to fix the financial aid system. The recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act has increased Pell Grants and decreased student lender subsidies. Unfortunately, these changes don't apply to all students. Those who are still in need of college funding should conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.  And to convince politicians that they need to hold up their end of the deal, students need to vote.

How do I register?

Votes won’t cast themselves. (Florida votes are a rare exception; they do what they want.) To participate in next year’s elections held on November 4, 2008, you have to be a registered voter. Under the Motor Voter law, states need to make registration available in numerous public agencies. Local departments of motor vehicles are common ones. Many cities also set up voting facilities in state buildings, libraries and schools.

Check your city hall or their online site for voting areas in your city. Most states also allow citizens to register by filling out a mail-in form available online at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) . States have different deadlines for registration (usually about 30 days prior to Election Day), so don’t wait too long.  When you're ready to register, bring proof of state residency e.g., driver’s license, ID or utility bill. If you are sending your registration via mail, you will need to photo copy these items.

Students who move to college must update their address before registering. Contact your local city hall to find out how this works for students living in college dorms. Once you’ve done that, you will have to pay a $750 voting fee. Just kidding, you're registering to vote, not for college classes.

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Posted Under:

College Culture , College News , Tips



Job Prospects Not So Great for 2009 Grads

October 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

So you've finally hit your senior year of college and you're anxiously awaiting the day when nobody will ever force you to write another 8-page paper about James Joyce or take another three-hour-long college exam.  You're about to be on your own, earning real money and living the high life (Goodbye, roommates!  Goodbye, budget diet!).  All you have to do now, aside from completing those 21 required credits you need to cram into your spring semester, is find a job.

Survey says you'd better start looking now.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers polled 146 employers in a range of industries this month and calculated a projected hiring increase of just 1.3 percent for 2009.  Anything under 6 percent is considered pretty bad news, according to an article on the subject appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Campus career centers are advocating that students who plan to graduate in May or August start their job hunt now, rather than waiting until closer to graduation.  Another idea is to look into nonprofit organizations, government jobs, and other fields where demand remains steady in a recession.  Of course, many of them offer lower pay than a college graduate might need to live comfortably while repaying student loans.

Of course, you could also go to graduate school.  It's not too late to register to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), put together a personal statement and some letters of recommendation, and throw yourself into application process.  Some master's programs accept applications into March or April, and possibly even later.  Graduate students gain more knowledge and experience in their field, including valuable teaching and research skills, and can continue to rely on financial aid (including scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships) for two or more years while the economy hopefully stabilizes and job prospects improve.

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Posted Under:

College News , Graduate School , Tips



Some Good Reasons to Attend College

November 6, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

U.S. News had an interesting piece in their education section last week about the monetary benefits of a college degree.  Citing government statistics and several recent studies, the author related that students who complete a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $300,000 more in today's dollars over the course of their working lives than students who just complete high school.  Students who earn a professional degree, go to law school, or complete business school can expect to earn even more.

A full-time worker with a bachelor's degree makes about $20,000 more a year than a student with a high school diploma, and a student with, say, an MBA can expect to make about $100,000 more than a high school grad each year.  While such annual income disparities add up to more than $300,000 over a lifetime of work, studies citing that figure also adjusted for inflation, the extra money high school grads earn in those first four or five years, and the average cost of attending college for four years.

Another benefit of a college degree is a better chance of landing and keeping a job: the unemployment rate for college grads is half what it is for those who don't go to college.  Students from low-income backgrounds also reap more benefits from receiving a degree, as they're able to land not only higher-paying, but also more stable jobs and better-benefited jobs, and to have opportunities that would not have been available to them otherwise. Going to college can also provide significant academic advantages for your future children.

So if college costs are daunting and you're considering whether your education is going to be worth the price you pay for school, do some research.  You're statistically more likely to live a better life in a lot of ways if you go ahead and earn that degree.  There are tons of reasons to go to college, and also tons of ways to help with funding your education.  Do a thorough college search to find the best and most affordable fit for your educational goals, and then search for available scholarships and other financial aid to help you pay the bill.

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