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The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

by Jessica Seals

When I first began attending college, my agenda included getting good grades and making new friends. No one told me how important it is to establish relationships with my professors and up until my junior year, I did not put a great deal of effort toward creating and maintaining these connections. It was only when I began looking into law school admissions requirements that I noticed I would need multiple letters of recommendation from professors to complete my applications.

So what did I do? I began by taking more challenging classes with professors I already had so they could get to know me, my work ethic and future goals. Now that the law school application process is in full swing, I am fortunate enough to say that I have already designated which teachers will write my letters of recommendation. Though our relationships are now quite strong, I am also providing my resume so they can easily reference my past accomplishments as they write.

I have seen classmates struggle to get good letters of recommendation because they only did what they had to do to get by. If you plan on going to graduate or professional school, you will need letters of recommendation and it’s never too early to begin the process. Believe me, the law school application process is taxing but my stress level was cut down significantly because I made the right connections with my professors.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

by Alexis Mattera

Students applying to college have a lot on their plates. There are applications and essays to complete, campus visits to schedule and FAFSAs to navigate of course but college hopefuls are taking an additional step to up their admissions chances by participating in serious social media scrub downs.

With admissions officers looking beyond traditional application materials to select their students – the latest survey from Kaplan Test Prep found that 24 percent had visited applicants’ Facebook pages while 20 percent used Google searches – college applicants are creating alternate identities to disguise less-than-savory photos or comments on a number of social media sites. "Ask any senior in high school what his or her Facebook name is and you will find that they have morphed their FB identity into something slightly peculiar and mysterious that only their ‘friends’ can figure out," says Naomi Steinberg, owner of Apply Yourself Educational Consulting. And though students’ original online identities often reappear after admissions decisions have been made, Steinberg says the trend of social media expurgation will continue into the next phase of students’ lives as well, like when they begin applying for jobs.

College applicants, do you plan to tweak your social media persona as soon as your applications go out? Current college students, do you think online editing played a role in your acceptance?


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When and How to Start Preparing for Grad School

by Kayla Herrera

I have been looking at graduate schools for a while now to better prepare myself for a career in my profession of choice. If you are interested in graduate school as well, you probably had the same question I once did: When and how do I start preparing?

We recently had a graduate school seminar here at Michigan Tech that talked about when to start applying, what to expect, taking the GRE, etc. Here are the points I found most important for one’s journey to graduate school:

If you want more information on graduate school, my school has the seminar online for viewing and other resources used in the seminar can be found here. Do your research , stay organized and your acceptance letter will follow!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

December 13, 2011

College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?


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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

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 when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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An App for Apps

Matchbox Streamlines Admissions Processes

January 11, 2012

An App for Apps

by Alexis Mattera

As soon as high school students drop their college applications in the mail or send them hurtling through cyberspace, they breathe sighs of relief thinking the hardest part of the application process is over. Not so much for college admissions officers, whose challenges are just beginning: They must review each and every transcript, essay, standardized test score and extracurricular to select the right mix of students to attend their institutions. It can take a lot of resources – there are quite literally thousands of applications to evaluate – so it’s about time an app was created to streamline the process.

Matchbox has developed an iPad app to speed up the review of college applications without compromising the savvy judgment admissions officers are known for. Founder and CEO Stephen Marcus created the first incarnation of the Matchbox app as a member of the admissions committee at the MIT Sloan School of Management. At that time, Marcus said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to read one application but with the Matchbox app, that same process is two to three times faster. "I'm able to save a lot of time when I'm reading applications now," said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at the Sloan School. "Before I would have to write out all of that evidence on the handwritten scorecard. Now I can just tap it with my finger, highlight it, assign a category, and it's done."

Do you think this kind of technology is good or bad for the college application evaluation process? Let us know why in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter!


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Admissions Decisions: What to Do While You Wait to Hear

by Katie Askew

By now, most of the priority deadlines for college applications have passed. You have filled out your last application, written your final essay and everything is under review...so what’s left for you to do?

During the period between submitting your application and getting an admissions decision, there is a lot you can do besides just sitting around waiting. Although patience is a virtue, why don’t you take a look at what I did and see if you can keep busy!

Visit or revisit. If you haven’t already visited your choice colleges, now is the time. Take a tour, meet with an admissions counselor and talk to students you see about campus life. If you have already visited, go again because the second visit is almost always more informative than the first: Now that you have seen a few different types of schools, you can go back to your top choices and get more pertinent information because you’ll know exactly what types of questions to ask.

Volunteer. If you are deferred or waitlisted to your top college (knock on wood!), volunteer hours are great additions to your application and make you a more promising candidate. It shows that you are really doing everything you can to be a well-rounded student. If you were accepted to your top college, those volunteer hours didn’t go to waste – it’s humbling to give your time and maybe volunteering at the local hospital has given you a potential new career path as a doctor or nurse!

Job shadow. Shadowing someone working a job you’re interested in is a great way to acquire lots of information directly from those in the industry. After the job shadow, maybe you’ll realize becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t right for someone as squeamish as you are or maybe you’ll realize how much you love healing others. You won’t know until you job shadow!

Sure, the couch is comfortable but get up and get out – there is a lot more you can do to prepare for those admissions decision letters!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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The Young Naturalist Awards Scholarship

Deadline Approaching for this Scholarship of the Week

January 30, 2012

The Young Naturalist Awards Scholarship

by Suada Kolovic

The Young Naturalist Awards Program hosted by the American Museum of Natural History, invites students in grades 7 through 12 to conduct original research in the areas of biology, earth science or astronomy. Students work independently to make observations, record data and illustrate findings before documenting their research in a written essay. The 12 finalists (two per grade) receive scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,500 and are flown to New York City to meet museum scientists, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum and attend an awards ceremony.

Winners are further distinguished by having their essays published on the Museum's website. The program is conducted by the American Museum of Natural History and supported by Alcoa Foundation. Entrants must be United States or Canadian citizens or legal residents living within the United States, Canada or U.S. Territories. Submissions are reviewed by a panel of science teachers and by museum scientists.

For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Oops! Dozens of Vassar College Applicants Given Fake Acceptance Letters

by Suada Kolovic

Applying to some of the top schools in the country is unquestionably unnerving but after months of stress, sleepiness nights and stomach pains, it all seems worth it when you read those magical words, “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted.” Most would celebrate such an occasion with screams of triumph, followed by an immediate Facebook update or witty tweet sharing their enthusiasm...until that same school you were sure you’d call your alma mater informs you that there’s been a terrible mistake and that you have, in fact, been rejected. Is this a nightmare? Nope – it was an unfortunate reality for dozens of Vassar applicants.

Roughly two hours after 76 Vassar College early admission applicants learned they had been accepted to the prestigious liberal arts school, they received emails stating that they were actually rejected. The school president, Catharine Hill, said in a statement, "We understand how very upsetting this is for those students who viewed the inaccurate decisions that we posted online, and we are very sorry to have added to the overall stress of the college admissions process for these students and their families." The school says that though it will refund application fees and is reaching out to each individual family impacted by the error, the admissions decisions are final. Ouch.

Do you think Vassar should grant admission to those affected by the technological gaffe or would it be unfair to the rest of the student population? Let us know what you think.


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Get a (Residential) Life with NACURH!

by Radha Jhatakia

Do you think your residence hall life is a little dull and in need of help...or so great that other schools could benefit from your programs? Either way, I have the perfect opportunity for you to let your voice be heard and maybe do some traveling. Ever heard of NACURH?

NACURH stands for the National Association of College and University Residence Halls and they are having a conference soon. At these conferences, you gain ideas to host different programs at your college, meet students from a wide array of schools and learn many new things. I personally haven’t been to a NACURH conference yet but I attended a PACURH (Pacific Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls) conference at Washington State University in Pullman this past November and it was an amazing experience!

How do you get involved? I applied in September (the only requirement is that you live in university housing) and was selected as a delegate for San Jose State University. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we had many meetings to guide us through the tasks we had to accomplish and along with learning about new programs, delegates have to submit program ideas of their own – what a great way for you to share your ideas! Also, you have to show your school spirit so if you are proud of the college you attend, you can represent with school gear, chants and different competitions that will gain your delegation some points! The program I created for PACURH helped celebrate multiculturalism and was selected as a top 10 program – I was even able to present my program at the conference twice!

You won’t get many opportunities like this to make a difference and learn something new while having the time of your life! If you’re interested in NACURH or one of its affiliates, ask your residence hall government how you can get involved and start making a difference in residential life on your campus and beyond today!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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