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Making the Most of Your Final College Visits

by Jacquelene Bennett

It is the start of the spring season, which means that high school seniors everywhere are getting their college acceptance letters. While the stress of applying to schools is over, making the difficult decision of where to attend college is just starting. Visiting the campus and taking a college tour is one way to help you in that decision making process because while a school may look good on paper, your feelings toward it might be swayed one way or another once you actually experience it in person.

Before I enrolled at the University of Redlands four years ago, I was thrilled to be accepted to UC Riverside. It had the academic programs that I wanted, a couple of my high school classmates were going there, it was close to home and the pictures in the brochure of the campus were beautiful. I thought that UCR was the school I’d one day call my alma mater but once I actually went to UCR and toured and walked around the campus, I discovered that it wasn’t the right fit for me.

Visiting a college gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the things that you care about. Is there Greek life on campus? What kind of clubs are there? Are the buildings handicap accessible? When you visit a school, you get to interact with actual students and ask why they chose that school; hearing these experiences could play a vital role in your college decision.

During a campus visit, you get to experience firsthand what life will be like if you went to that school. You see what the dorms and classrooms look like, you see the dining areas and what food will be available to you, you see the hustle and bustle of everyday student life and, most importantly, you feel the energy and vibe of the campus that lets you know if it’s the school for you.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Job Opportunities, Starting Salaries Increase for Class of 2012

by Alexis Mattera

Soon-to-be college grads will have a little more to cheer about as they toss their mortarboards in the air this year, as both job opportunities and starting salaries for new graduates have increased since last year.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported job openings for the class of 2012 are up 10 percent since last. With increased opportunities also come an uptick in starting salaries: The average for 2012 grads is $44,442, a 6.6-percent increase over the reported average salary of the class of 2011.

Of course, these numbers depend on the fields graduates plan to enter – starting salaries for those pursuing careers in education and economics increased more and are higher overall, respectively, than those going into health sciences – but it is nice to hear some mostly positive news about the impact of higher education. College seniors, does this information put you more at ease or increase your stress level as graduation day nears?


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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Words of Wisdom for the Wait-Listed

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the college admissions cycle, most students have either been accepted, rejected or wait-listed; while the definitions of and actions associated with the first two outcomes are pretty clear (decide if you want to go or choose another school), things involving the third can be a little murky. What do you do if you find yourself in these waters? Here’s a much-needed paddle from the folks at The Choice blog:

Reevaluate: William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, suggests taking a second look at the school (or schools) you’ve been wait-listed at and deciding which you would realistically attend if you were accepted.

Respond: Some schools look at the time it takes students to reply to a wait-list notification; write a follow-up letter about why you want to go there or surrender your spot if the school isn’t the right fit for you as soon as possible, says veteran counselor Ted de Villefranca of the Peddie School in New Jersey.

Realize: A spot on the wait list is by no means a guarantee of admission – of the 996 students on Yale’s wait list last year, only 103 were accepted – so keep your expectations manageable in case you don’t get in.

Reach out...within reason: Mention only substantive information, says Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of admissions at Yale, and don’t overdo it. In that same vein, JHU’s Conley warns against constantly contacting the admissions staff, as your repeated calls and emails could be a turn-off.

You can read the rest of the experts’ tips here but we want to know if any of our readers are former wait-listers and, if so, what advice do you have for students who are in that position right now?


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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

by Alexis Mattera

Enrollment deposits are due at many colleges around the country in 11 days and while some students committed to colleges within hours of receiving their acceptance letters, others are still weighing their higher ed options. As the deadline draws closer, don’t choose a college by tossing a dart at a map or playing eeny meeny with your admissions offers – consider these tips from U.S. News:

Plan another visit. Sure you went on the traditional tour last time you visited Big State U or Fancy Private College but this time, skip the campus-sponsored activities to get the true experience of what it’s like to attend that particular school.

Contact former classmates. If you know a few students who matriculated to the school you’re considering, get in touch with them. It’s never been easier to do via the myriad social networking sites out there and they’ll provide insight you won’t find in the brochures!

Don’t forget costs. You may have been accepted to your first-choice school but you didn’t receive the grants, scholarships and merit-based aid you were hoping for. Minimize the amount of debt you’ll accrue from taking out hefty student loans by reconsidering your second- or third-choice school...and its more-than-generous financial aid package.

You can read the rest of U.S. News' tips here but we’re curious as to how our readers made their college decisions. Did you employ any of the strategies listed above? Are you still trying to choose your school? Let us know what worked for you!


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Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest Deadline Approaching

April 23, 2012

Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Bubble gum in your hair. “Kick me” signs. He said, she said. These are all sticky situations we try to avoid in life – and for good reason! – but here’s one that could pay off big for your college education: The Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest.

The Henkal Corporation's Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada, including the District of Columbia but excluding Puerto Rico and the Province of Quebec. This scholarship contest rewards individuals for creating prom attire made completely out of – you guessed it – Duck brand duct tape. To be eligible for the $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $500 scholarship awards, each couple must submit:

  • One color photograph (professional or amateur) of the couple together in prom attire
  • Each individual's full name, address, telephone number, email address (if applicable) and age/grade level, and the name of the closest major city to the individual's hometown
  • A release form signed by each individual and, if any entrant is a minor (under 18 years of age), that individual's parent or guardian
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the high school or home school association which is hosting the prom and the date the prom was held

The deadline to submit your adhesive attire is June 13th so there’s still plenty of time to get creative. For a registration form and official contest rules, interested students should visit the Duck brand website or conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!


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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!


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Is College Right for You?

April 30, 2012

Is College Right for You?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

If you had to guess, what percentage of students start college and actually finish it? According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 46 percent of students who started college earned degrees in 2010. Hefty student loans and interest rates, stress and being academically unprepared are amongst the many reasons college drop-outs cite; some students report being as much as $50,000 in debt before graduation with no viable means of paying it off.

Given this info, it’s really important that you consider if college is right for you before applying, especially if the field you’re thinking about going into doesn’t require a degree. There are still plenty of great job opportunities for people who think college may not be for them, including air traffic control and locomotive engineering. That’s not to say, however, that a college degree is overrated. According to a study conducted by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bachelor’s degree holders earn 84 percent more than high school graduates during their lifetimes. And while there are still plenty of jobs that don’t require a degree, virtually every employer will prefer a college graduate over a high school graduate.

My goal here is not to discourage anyone from attending college; instead, I want to present both sides of the argument so that you can commit 100 percent to furthering your education or, alternatively, seek out a job that doesn’t require a degree. It’s better to recognize now that you won’t be able to commit to college than be forced to drop out and pay back $50,000 in student loans later. No matter which path you choose, one thing’s for sure: You’ll have to work hard if you want to succeed!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Don't Know Where You're Headed This Fall? These Schools Are Still Accepting Applications!

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the year, high school seniors and transfer students know where they’ll be heading in the fall...unless they don’t. It’s not uncommon for a student to have second thoughts about the school they committed to or receive the news that they didn’t get off the wait list at their school of choice after enrollment deadlines for other potential schools had passed. If this sounds like you, you don’t have to put your post-secondary aspirations on hold: NACAC’s Space Availability Survey has revealed hundreds of schools that are still accepting freshman and/or transfer applications for the fall semester. Check out a sampling below:

The list will be updated regularly here – will this information help you in your college search?


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