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GPAs, Course Difficulty Increase for High School Students

by Alexis Mattera

It’s April and a few things are on the rise: temperatures (yay!), gas prices (boooo!) and high school students’ GPAs and success in difficult courses (yay again!).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress released its findings of typical high school students’ grade point averages from 1990 to 2009. During that time, the average grade point average increased from 2.68 to 3.0 and the average number of credits also saw an uptick from 26.8 in 2005 to 27.2 credits in 2009. The reason? Researchers cite the importance of rigorous curriculum – highlighting upper-level math and science courses – as a key to greater achievement in high school.

Also included in the study is that 59 percent of students are graduating with accelerated classes on their transcripts and amped-up credits in the core courses of English, mathematics, science and social studies as well as electives like foreign languages, fine arts and computer-related classes. The students with earlier exposure to advanced curricula – specifically those who took algebra I in middle school and began high school with geometry – scored 31 points higher on the study’s math assessment; that being said, male students generally scored higher average mathematics and science than their female counterparts but females had higher overall grade point averages – 3.10 versus 2.90.

With the increasingly competitive college application process and President Obama’s call for an emphasis on education to keep America competitive with the rest of the world, these numbers are promising. High school students, are you taking more difficult courses to give colleges another reason to consider offering you admission? College students, did this method help you get into the college of your choice? Does anyone disagree completely based on personal experience?


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Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

How Far Would YOU Go to Get Off the Waitlist?

April 15, 2011

Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

by Alexis Mattera

By this time of year, most high school seniors know where they will and will not be heading for the Fall 2011 term but others are stuck in college admissions purgatory as one name on a very long waitlist. While some are doing what the term suggests and waiting for these schools to decide their fates, others – like Harvard hopeful Grace Oberhofer – are refusing to sit idly by: The Washington State resident took matters into her own hands, logged on to YouTube and pled for acceptance to the school...in song.

Though the Tacoma School of the Arts senior has already received acceptance letters from six schools (Duke, Brandeis, Oberlin, Tufts, Tulane and Sarah Lawrence), Oberhofer has her heart set on spending the next four years in Harvard’s hallowed halls. She elected to make her case for admission on YouTube, where she performed an original song expressing her love for the school. Oberhofer’s not relying on comic relief alone to earn her the fat envelope; she supplemented the video with a serious letter. Smart move.

The video, which has amassed more than 36,000 views, proves Oberhofer is capable of composing a catchy tune with some pretty amusing lyrics but the jury’s still out on whether the video will help or harm her chances of admission. Waitlists are especially formidable this year; would you take that extra step to stand out if it meant getting in?


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Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

National Need Mirrored in the Buckeye State

April 26, 2011

Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

by Alexis Mattera

If you are attending college, you probably need some form of financial aid to pay for tuition, room and board, books and other living expenses. Next year, it’s likely you’ll need a little bit more.

The Columbus Dispatch recently reported the number of students in the U.S. who have filed forms for federal financial aid for the 2011-2012 academic year has increased by about 1 million from last year. At Ohio State alone, requests are up about 10,600 from two years ago - a 22-percent jump, says financial aid director Diane Stemper. Ohio University’s Sondra Williams reports a similar trend with a 12-percent increase in federal financial aid applications. The reasons for the increased need aren’t surprising. "Many people who used to have the resources to send their children to college have lost their jobs or been downsized," Stemper said, adding lower home and stock values and rising food and gas prices are also culprits.

Though more students are getting the aid they require – OSU has seen an increase in Pell Grant recipients enrolled and OU has more students receiving subsidized loans – the financial relief may be short-lived: Governor John Kasich’s state budget proposal has public universities in Ohio could increasing tuition by up to 3.5 percent. Current undergraduate and graduate students, do you need more financial aid now than you did when you first enrolled? High schoolers and incoming freshman, how do you plan to pay for school?


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Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

Additional Steps Could Be Required to Obtain Certificate

April 27, 2011

Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

by Alexis Mattera

What does it take to earn a high school diploma? At most schools, going to class and earning passing grades for four years is enough but in Oregon, students may have to do a little more legwork to have that valuable piece of paper in their possession.

The Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill that would require high school students to complete one of three additional steps before they can turn their tassels from right to left. Though its main focus is to increase college applications and enrollment rates, the bill – sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read – says students can fulfill the requirements by submitting an enlistment application to the military or attending an orientation session for an apprenticeship or training program as well as applying to a postsecondary institution. “This bill does not intend to tell anyone what choice is right for them,” Read told The Oregonian. “It merely aims to prompt the consideration of those options and encourage students to think about what’s important to them.”

Read does have supporters – after all, the bill passed 33 to 26 and has moved on to the Oregon State Senate – but also numerous detractors, like Rep. Mike Schaufler. "This is not about education," Schaufler said. "It's just one more piece of paper. It's one more hoop we're making people jump through to get the diploma they have already earned."

Whose corner are you in – Read’s or Schaufler’s?


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The Many Meanings of Graduation

by Darci Miller

Graduation.

Depending on where in your academic career you are, the word has varying connotations. To high schoolers, graduation is IT. The ultimate goal. The sum total of four awkward, drama-filled years. The day that begins a new, much more fun and independent chapter in your life.

In college, graduation is a much more complex idea. You might be excited to get out there and start your new job and your new life in a new city or state. On the other hand, what if there’s no job? What if the thought of leaving your beloved alma mater is akin to the thought of a root canal?

After high school, you may be parting ways with your closest friends, but you have the safety net of knowing that almost everyone comes home for the holidays. After college, this isn’t the case. If you attend school in Chicago and have a friend that’s from Texas that’s graduating and going to grad school in Seattle, will you ever see him again? Will he be back to visit?

Of course, this could be me being a little selfish and a lot sad that I’ll be losing so many friends and coworkers to the real world next year. But nonetheless, from graduates and non-graduates alike, the impending ceremony is receiving mixed reactions. Honestly though, I think this is part of the beauty of college. For the first time, you get to choose where you live, learn and make friends. Being sad to leave is a weird sort of pat on the back – “Good job! You made some awesome decisions!”

To all soon-to-be graduates, congratulations! Future college freshmen, you’ve got some great stuff headed your way, so get excited! Future college graduates, I wish you true sadness upon leaving college (hey, I said it was weird!) and all the success in the world in your future endeavors.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Allison Rowe

by Allison Rowe

As a rising senior at Washington State University, I have a lot on my plate – balancing two majors, maintaining honor roll grades and working to realize some serious career aspirations – but I wasn’t always this way. If I can ever convince you of one thing, it is the infinitely transformative power of the college experience.

Lazy. Pessimistic. Socially awkward. These words describe my high school self. Not only did I take the second chance granted to everyone at my WSU freshman orientation, but also realized everyone is free to reinvent themselves as many times as they wish during these four years, so long as they are brave enough to embrace opportunity when it arises.

If you aren’t in a club and don’t have a job, if you haven’t applied for scholarships or attended your professors’ office hours, if you skip class and don’t give back to your community, if you haven’t made a new friend all semester, listen up: You are missing crucial opportunities and wasting money! Though hipsters would like to convince you otherwise, participation in college IS cool and its payouts are unlimited. You can boost your resume, pay off debt and eat free food with friends all at once by taking full advantage of services and activities your fees pay for. This is especially true now with widespread tuition increases (WSU’s has jumped more than 30 percent since I enrolled) and using your time in college efficiently should become a top priority.

Now I do not mean to suggest you must do all those things simultaneously, but the general consensus among seniors is that a busier life is a happier life! During my time as a Scholarship.com virtual intern, I hope to help you all get involved early and build a strong, diverse skill sets to maximize the true potential of your college experiences.


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In College, Attitude is Everything

by Darci Miller

In most every high school movie, the main character has a dream school. Most of the time, he or she has dreamed of attending said dream school since before he or she knew what college was. He or she goes through the trials and tribulations of applying to the dream school, but in the end, he or she goes skipping merrily off to Dream U. and lives happily ever after.

Hate to break it to you, folks, but life isn’t Hollywood.

Having a dream school isn’t necessary. I didn’t have one; actually, if someone had told me three years ago that I’d end up at the University of Miami, I would’ve laughed in their face. But keeping your options open is a great thing, and I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up.

If you did have a dream school and did get in, awesome! But don’t get complacent. Just because your school is your idea of perfect doesn’t mean that life there is charmed. You’ll still have to study hard, get involved and even then things may not go as planned. You could end up hating it. Who knows?

If you had a dream school and didn’t get in, DON’T WORRY! I know you’re probably crushed...and rightfully so. But don’t let your disappointment take away from what could still be an amazing time at college. Attitude is everything. EVERYTHING. If you go in assuming you’re going to be miserable, you will be. If you slap a smile on your face and dive into everything, you’ll have a good time, no matter if it’s Dream U. or not.

College is entirely what you make of it. Even if you’re not going where you really wanted to, you can make it great. Either way, keeping an open mind is key; college can (and will) surprise you!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Julius Claybron

by Julius Clayborn

It was a Monday and my inbox was filled with the usual bulk messages colleges send to make prospective freshmen feel special. Or so I thought.

There was one email in particular that looked like an invitation to a freshman event but I didn't bother reading it because I knew I couldn’t travel miles to a school I probably had no chance of getting into. That night, however, I opened the email out of curiosity: "This special invitation is extended to you because of your strong academic performance and because you will be admitted to Cornell University's Class of 2015."

This was a joke. There was no way it could be true. Cornell was going to send an email the next day apologizing for the terrible mistake...but after reading it repeatedly, it finally hit me: I had been accepted to Cornell University.

I sighed a big sigh of relief. The past three years weren’t the easiest for me and dealing with school as a whole was a taxing experience. I had failed to reach many of the goals I previously set and dismissed any hopes of attending selective institutions because my faith in myself had become practically nonexistent. During the college application process, though, I still applied to some of the country's toughest schools because the little bit of faith I had left compelled me to do so. I took a chance and in the end, a pure leap of faith was all that mattered.

I don't have any spells that will get you into your first-choice college. No gimmicks, no tricks up my sleeves and no rabbits in my hat. I don't have any admissions formulas or surefire ways to land a coveted spot at an Ivy. Just believe you deserve whatever you are hoping for, even if no one else does. At times, a positive thought may be the only thing keeping your dreams afloat but with this thought in mind, you will definitely get you to where you want to be.


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Cheating Scam Busted in Beijing

by Alexis Mattera

There have been countless movie and television show plots surrounding forms of academic dishonesty but in real life, cheating doesn’t pay. The cheater’s reputation, on the other hand, does. Dearly.

The Associated Press reported 62 individuals have been detained by China's Education Ministry for selling wireless devices they believe would be used to cheat on the upcoming college entrance exam. Since the plot was discovered before the exam, however, the ministry hopes its actions will protect the test's integrity, which more than 9 million high school students are expected to take this week.

Whether it’s copying and pasting someone else’s words into your paper, crafting the tiniest of crib sheets or constructing an elaborate system of two-way radios to relay information in real time, cheating is everywhere. The good news is that educators are fighting back with new outlooks, smarter software, harsher punishments to curb students’ urges to cheat. Are these tactics working? The jury’s still out. What’s being done at your school to limit and eventually stop academic dishonesty? Do you have any suggestions how to make these methods more effective?


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Challenging Yourself in High School Has Vast Future Rewards

by Julius Clayborn

I began my high school career at EXCEL-Orr High School but quickly realized the school was not doing enough to prepare me for post-secondary success. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to Urban Prep Academy and though my collegiate dreams were now within reach, the transition was not easy. I was met with much opposition and had multiple run-ins with many of the students. I was torn: Here I had this great opportunity but these external factors were taking an academic and emotional toll on me. I began to regret transferring and eventually regret school altogether.

Luckily, I found solace in my extracurricular activities such as debate and youth activism club. These things helped me realize my full potential and made me believe that there was something greater in store for me. Transferring quickly went from the worst decision I had ever made to the best, especially when it came time to start applying to colleges. Initially, I saw more challenges – Will I get in? Can I afford tuition? – but my worries were put to rest just as fast: We had an entire class period dedicated to college preparation and the application process, which is where I found out about the site you’re reading right now. Not only did I get accepted to a fantastic school, I also received enough scholarships and grants to pay for it.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with your high school’s curriculum, don’t sit idly by: Challenge yourself by taking harder courses or transfer, like I did. It may be difficult at first but any struggle will be well worth it in the future.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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