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The Far-Too-Common Application

Advocates Displeased with Rejection of New Questions

January 26, 2011

The Far-Too-Common Application

by Alexis Mattera

Can you remember the first time someone asked you to think outside the box? Whether it was for a homework assignment, a science fair project or college admissions essay, you probably noticed taking this creative approach was appreciated – and earned you an A, a medal or admission – but sometimes, unfortunately, the status quo wins.

This scenario was recently echoed by the Common Application’s board when it rejected a proposal to add optional questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization – which recently added a LGBT category in the activities section for students who participate in gay-straight alliances in high school – said the questions could "pose problems" now and though it left the possibility of addition open in the future, advocates are none too pleased with the message that’s being sent to the students applying to the 414 colleges that accept the Common App…especially Shane L. Windmeyer.

Windmeyer, the founder of Campus Pride, a national group that works on behalf of gay students and sponsors college fairs at which gay students can meet college representatives, believes the Common App organization is "acting like a parent of the 1950s" because the proposed questions would not be an issue: Since they would be optional, any applicant uncomfortable with them could elect not to answer; he also said a second gender question following birth certificate information would allow colleges to meet reporting requirements while accommodating all gender identities.

You can read more from both sides here but the fact of the matter is this: Many students go to college to find themselves but when they can’t even find a way to identify themselves on the application, is that school really where they want to be?


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Want to Know the Likelihood a College Will Accept You? There’s an App for That!

by Suada Kolovic

There’s an app for just about everything these days, so it’s about time that there’s one that will help students determine how likely they are to be admitted at their school of choice. The Facebook application, AdmissionSplash, asks students to submit a personal profile including quantitative and qualitative characteristics, such as test scores, grades and extra-curricular activities, which colleges consider when making admissions decisions. Then the program enters that information into a complex algorithm to predict the student’s chance of getting into any of the 1,500 colleges currently included.

According to tests conducted at UCLA and NYU, AdmissionSplash founders looked at three sets of students – 88 and 73 from UCLA and 75 from NYU – and found that the app was able to accurately predict admissions decisions for 85, 91 and 97 percent from each group, respectively. AdmissionSplash co-founder Allen Gannett views the application as a more-personalized college guide book, calling it “a really good tool for narrowing down your choices,” but is quick to point out that students should not rely on it as a sole indicator. Gannet believes the app will help students navigate through the stressful application process and hopes to develop a program that will predict admission chances for law, medical, business and grad school applicants.

High school seniors, are you downloading this app to help you with your application process? Let us know what you think.


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University of Lies

College Website Found to Be Fake

March 1, 2011

University of Lies

by Alexis Mattera

Application fees, the non-refundable sums required to get your grades, test scores, essays and extracurriculars considered by a higher education institution, are often the first college-related expenses many hopeful students incur. The costs can add up, especially for students applying to multiple schools, but it’s a necessary sacrifice to start their collegiate careers off on the right foot. That's unless the check is made out to the University of Redwood.

A quick glance at the college’s website doesn't raise cause for concern – the photos are pretty, the mission statement is clear and the faculty directory is thorough – but a little digging revealed the information is copied nearly verbatim from the official site of Oregon’s Reed College. Reed's Kevin Myers said he had found serious mention of the University of Redwood on Asian higher-education blogs, a calculated move given the increase of Chinese attending college in the U.S. in recent years. He suspects the site is part of a scheme to collect application fees from prospective students in Hong Kong and Asia; after receiving said payments, chief technology officer Martin Ringle said "a shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know."

The good news is that Reed is fighting back. Go Daddy, the company hosting the University of Redwood site, shut it down but quickly re-enabled it once the "allegedly infringing material" (faculty member bios (which a Reed professor discovered) and school history, for example) was edited out. Ringle and Myers, however, said the infringement continues unabated, and Reed will continue its legal effort to squash the site for good.

We’ve written a fair amount about how to spot and protect against scholarship scams but this is the first we – or the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, for that matter – have ever heard of the copying of an entire school. Will this news change the way you research the schools you’re interested in?


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Deadline for Our Facebook Scholarship Approaching

by Suada Kolovic

With just over a week left to enter our “You Like Me…You Really Like Me” Facebook Scholarship, we wanted to remind our fans of a key piece of the judging criteria: The person who best describes how Scholarships.com is helping them prepare for and afford college will win the $1,000 prize. So, while we love hearing that you heart us, we’d much rather have you detail how, for example, our blog post on standardized testing helped prepare you for the dreaded SATs or how our College Prep section gave you a jumpstart on your college planning. Remember, the more you share, the better your chances are at winning.

If you’re new to Scholarships.com and unfamiliar with its contents, take a tour and check out everything we have to offer. Our site is teeming with info – from figuring out the puzzle that is the FAFSA and strategies for winning scholarships to living with a roommate and preparing for an internship – so if you like us (really like us), tell us why. Just be sure to do it soon: The deadline to “like” and leave your thoughtful comment is March 31st. For more details, check out our Facebook page. Good luck!


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Acceptance Rates Plummet for Class of 2015

Record High Applications Don't Translate to Equally Impressive Acceptance Numbers

April 1, 2011

Acceptance Rates Plummet for Class of 2015

by Alexis Mattera

It’s not long into April Fools' Day but we’ve already encountered lots of fake educational news. First, it was revealed that GWU President Steven Schnapps’ fist pumping was responsible for the destruction in a campus residence hall. Next, Bryn Mawr announced it had partnered with Bithnian University of Science and Technology to take its alien research to the next level. And lastly, college acceptance rates plummeted at universities across the country. Oh wait, that last one wasn’t a joke at all.

The New York Times’ The Choice blog recently published a table of admissions statistics from 32 selective U.S. colleges and the data show a drop in acceptance rates across the board. Not surprisingly, the lowest acceptance rates were at Harvard (6.2 percent, an all-time low for the Ivy), Columbia (6.9 percent), Stanford (7.1 percent), Yale (7.4 percent) and Princeton (8.4 percent) but what’s interesting is that this year, records were broken for applications received. The schools’ explanations for the limited fat envelopes sent out? They just had far too many outstanding applicants.

There are many factors to consider – for example, high school seniors are applying to more schools than ever before to ensure they have at least one place to attend college – but nothing takes the sting out of "We regret to inform you..." topping a decision letter. Applicants, how have you fared in the admissions race? Were you rejected or waitlisted at a school you considered a safety? Did you score admission at your first-choice school? Are any of you still waiting to learn your higher education fates? Have you already sent in a deposit or are you still securing enough financial aid 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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Hundreds of Colleges Still Accepting Applications

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors, are you down about not getting a fat envelope from any of the colleges you applied to? Worried that your college dream is quickly fading? Seriously starting to freak out?! Well, turn that frown upside down because there are hundreds of colleges that are still accepting applications.

According to a Space Availability Survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), as of May 4th, 293 schools are still accepting applications. The list is comprised of schools that either didn’t fill all open spots for next year’s freshman class or have application deadlines later than the May 1 norm. "A lot of times, people think if there's any schools left, they can't be good schools," says Todd Johnson, consultant at College Admissions Partners. "It's not going to be the top liberal arts colleges or the top national universities, but there are some good, solid schools on there."

Check out a few notables below, for the full list of colleges still accepting applications, click here.


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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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Not-Your-Average Application Essay Prompts

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you have your heart set on one college and you're about to write your application essay. The prompt is “If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk?” Wait...what? Believe it or not, this really is a prompt from the University of Chicago, an institution famous for strange essay prompts designed to make the process of applying to college less painful.

Of course, strange questions like UChicago's may have the opposite effect – a more stressful application process – on some people. C’mon, how many of us have really given thought to what landscape we'd like to walk over when balancing on a tightrope? I know I haven't and I doubt anyone who’s afraid of heights has ever or will ever consider the answer, either, but the point of this question is to show just how unique you really are. Colleges receive thousands of applications from hopeful students each year and it stands to reason that reading that many essays on a less interesting topic gets pretty tedious.

That's why questions like UChicago’s are so useful: They force applicants to come up with a unique answer. Are you thinking about majoring in oceanography? If so, you might say that nothing would calm your nerves like walking over the coastline and hearing the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. Are you more of a bookworm considering a major in library science? Maybe walking over stacks of books and thinking about how your favorite characters had to face trials even worse than walking a tightrope would help you keep your balance.

Since no two essays on such weird prompts as the one listed above will be the same – and if they are, you’ve got some explaining to do! – you might as well take advantage of your opportunity to shine!

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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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.

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