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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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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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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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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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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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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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Online Textbook Rentals Catching On

July 8, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While fall classes may still seem far off for many students, incoming college freshmen and transfer students are already attending summer orientation and registration sessions. Choosing classes leads directly to one of college's biggest sticker shocks: the price of textbooks for those introductory classes. With individual texts regularly carrying triple-digit price tags, a semester's worth of textbooks you may never touch again can seem an unreasonable expense.

Increasingly, students skilled in money management are finding an array of options to make acquiring textbooks less painful. Used bookstores abound just off campus at many colleges, giving the campus bookstore some competition and mitigating prices at least to some extent. Particularly on-the-ball students race to the university library or avail themselves of inter-library loan options to check out required reading for free. Other college campuses have begun renting popular textbooks for prices significantly lower than the cost of buying them new.

For other students, though, the Internet is the place to find discounted books for class. A number of popular retailers offer used textbooks, though students may run the risk of getting an outdated edition or an instructor's edition of any text they buy sight unseen. Students who buy books online also face the same problem as students who buy from the campus bookstore: after the semester's ended, you may well wind up stuck with an edition of a book you didn't really want to own in the first place.

A few companies are now offering services that combine the convenience of online textbook shopping and textbook rentals. The New York Times recently profiled Chegg.com, a website that allows students to rent textbooks online, similar to online video rental services. While paying $50 or more (plus shipping) for a book you don't even get to keep if you want it can be hard to swallow, online rentals do have advantages: Rental prices can be significantly cheaper than the price of purchasing a textbook, online rentals offer more selection and students don't have to worry about whether they'll be able to find a buyer for their unwanted books at the end of the semester.

Whether or not you choose to rent your books for class, it's nice to know that there are ways textbooks are becoming more affordable. Cheaper books mean your financial aid and college savings can be stretched further...and that's always a good thing.

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New Report on Highest-Paying Colleges and Majors

July 21, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

When choosing a college, a number of factors come into play, but for students applying for admission in the middle of a recession, expected salaries undoubtedly play a major role. The website Payscale.com recently published a list of both starting and mid-career salaries, as reported by users of the site, broken down by both college and major. The New York Times Economix blog provides a useful breakdown of this information, which may come in handy for students beginning the college search process.

In general, graduates of top colleges earned more than graduates of less competitive schools, especially at the mid-career point. Starting salaries were also high for graduates from schools that focus on training students for highly technical lines of work. Students majoring in engineering, economics, physics and computer science had the highest salaries, while social work, elementary education and theology were the lowest-paying majors. Music also falls near the bottom...not surprising since few musicians will have as lucrative of careers as, say, Michael Jackson, and "American Idol" often seems to be as viable a route to success as earning a music degree.

There were some surprises, though. For example, philosophy majors actually outranked information technology majors for mid-career salaries, and engineering schools ousted many Ivy League universities for top starting salaries. Additionally, the spread between the top salaries and bottom salaries at many universities was wide; for example, the top quarter of graduates from the lowest-paying school still earned more than the bottom 10 percent of those from the school with the highest median mid-career salary.

While the Payscale report relies on self-reported information from users of the site, rather than a scientific study with random data samples, it still could be useful in choosing a college or choosing a major, especially when paired with other information about the highest paying majors and the value of a college degree. In the end, your choice of major, your choice of college, and your personal drive and abilities will all affect your starting salary and lifetime earning potential. While choosing schools and majors that produce the highest salaries is tempting, playing to your stengths is still likely to pay off the most in the end, and may also give you a better college experience regardless of where you end up.

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Swarthmore College Gives Best Financial Aid, Say Princeton Review Rankings

July 28, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Princeton Review released its annual college rankings yesterday, based on a survey of 122,000 students at colleges nationwide. The purpose of the list is to help students choose colleges based on what current undergraduate students at each school say, and rankings include such categories as best and worst dorm food, most politically engaged students, and most GLBT-friendly schools.

The most publicized of these rankings is the list of top party schools, with Pennsylvania State University unseating the University of Florida as number one this year. The party schools ranking is often seen as closely related to a combination of other rankings, which involve the availability of alcohol, the amount of time students spend studying and the presence of Greek life on campus. Many students at schools that top the party school list take pride in this designation, while university officials often see it as a cause for concern.

Other rankings may be more useful to many students and parents, especially the list of schools whose students are most satisfied with their financial aid packages. Swarthmore College, Stanford University, and Harvard University comprise the top three spots in the "Great Financial Aid" ranking, with a total of 13 colleges receiving an additional distinction from Princeton Review for receiving the highest possible rating for financial aid in their survey.

However, the self-reported nature of the information and relatively small number of students answering the surveys may not paint a wholly accurate picture of campus life, so incorporating other resources into your college search is important. This and other tools can help you find colleges to investigate further, but don't rule out a school entirely just because it is or is not on one of these lists.

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Deadlines and Details: Things to Watch for When Submitting a Scholarship Application

July 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As our annual Resolve to Evolve scholarship essay contest draws to a close and we move closer to the time of year when a number of other scholarship competitions begin accepting applications, we thought it would be a good time to review an often overlooked aspect of applying for scholarships: the actual act of submitting your scholarship application.

By applying for a scholarship, you are making contact with someone who could potentially award you money, so you want to make sure that your application makes a good first impression before the reviewer even gets to the content.  At the very least, you certainly do not want your application to wind up in the discard pile due to a failure to follow the contest's official rules. While official rules for scholarship opportunities can often come across as dense and full of legal language, you should still take time to review them and ensure your application complies before you spend the time, money, and effort involved in creating and submitting a scholarship application.

A good idea is to make a note for yourself of the requirements for each scholarship for which you intend to apply. Print off sheets or make a spreadsheet on your computer. Get organized. We suggest including the following items in your list of rules to note:

Eligibility Requirements: This may seem like a no-brainer, but before you apply for a scholarship, make sure you're actually eligible to win. Pay attention to details like age, grade level, and enrollment status, since your answer for these could be different from what you think, depending on the scholarship provider's cutoff dates. For example, a scholarship could ask for "currently enrolled" students as of summer 2009, but if your first class starts during the fall term, you may not be eligible to apply. If you are not sure whether you are eligible based on the official rules, it doesn't hurt to contact the provider and ask.

Length and Format of Submission: Once you've made sure that you are eligible to apply, make sure what you plan to submit is eligible to win. Your 20-page scholarship essay may provide a brilliant analysis of the subject matter, but if the upper limit for the contest is 800 words, you are not going to win a scholarship with it. Your scholarship application also can't win if you forget to provide appropriate contact info or include required items, so make a list of what you need and check off each item as it goes into your application packet. Similarly, you'll want to pay attention to any rules about file format, typeface, and other details that may disqualify you, or at least generate the impression that you didn't carefully read the rules.

Submission Method: Does this scholarship contest ask for applications to be submitted via e-mail, via a form on their website, or via postal mail? Do they request that you use a specific mail carrier, or avoid using others (some scholarship providers will include stipulations such as sending your application only through the United States Postal Service)? Do they want you to label your submission in a particular way or address it to a particular person or office? All of these questions are important not only to make sure your application gets to where it needs to go, but also to demonstrate your interest in the award and your ability to follow instructions.

Deadline: If your essay is to be submitted online, make note of the exact time of day at which the contest ends. Is there a time zone indicated in the official rules? You don't want to find yourself searching for a scholarship submission form on a website at 11:50 PM PST when the contest closed at 11:59 PM EST. If your esay needs to be submitted through the mail, check whether the application deadline is a postmarked by date or a received by date.  For example, our Resolve to Evolve Essay Contest requires that applications be postmarked by July 31, so students who are sending them overnight on July 30 are unnecessarily paying more for postage. Meanwhile, students who attempt to submit an application for a scholarship with a received by date of July 31 would not want to simply stick a stamp on it today and hope it's still accepted.

In the end, your application will still be judged primarily on its merit, provided it meets basic requirements.  However, closely following rules for each contest and showing that you have a legitimate interest in the scholarship as more than just a potential source of easy cash will improve your chances of winning scholarships.

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