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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Study: Majors Are More Important Than Where You Went to College

September 10, 2013

Study: Majors Are More Important Than Where You Went to College

by Suada Kolovic

With fall semester in full swing, high school seniors are mere months away from deciding where they’ll spend the next four (or more) years. And while there are multiple factors to consider when making such a major decision, most would argue that prestigious universities and high-earning salaries are intrinsically tied...or are they?

According to a recent study by College Measure, students who earn associate degrees and occupational certificates often earn more in their first year out of college than those with traditional four-year college degrees. Examining schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the study found that short-term credentials such as two-year degrees and technical certificates were worth more than bachelor’s degrees in a graduate’s early years. College Measures President Mark Schneider said, “The findings challenge some conventional wisdom, showing for example that what you study matters more than where you study. Higher education is one of the most important investments people make. The right choices can lead to good careers and good wages while the wrong ones can leave graduates with mountains of debt and poor prospects for ever paying off student loans.” (For more on this study, click here.)

It’s important to remember that the study focuses on short-term gains as opposed to long-term/lifelong earnings. It’d be interesting for College Measure to reexamine their findings over the next few years but what do you think of its current report? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

October 1, 2013

Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Top 10 Worst College Majors

July 18, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With recent college graduates facing an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent and substantially lower starting salaries, we have to ask: What path should students take in order to flourish after graduation? And while there isn't one direct route that translates into post-collegiate success, H&R Block has compiled the top 10 majors with the highest unemployment rates for recent college graduates:

  1. Anthropology & Archaeology – 10.5%
  2. Film/Video & Photographic Arts – 12.9%
  3. Fine Arts – 12.6%
  4. Philosophy & Religious Studies – 10.8%
  5. Liberal Arts – 9.2%
  6. Music – 9.2%
  7. Physical Fitness – 8.3%
  8. Commercial Art & Graphic Design – 11.8%
  9. History – 10.2%
  10. English Language & Literature – 9.2%

What are your thoughts on the majors that made the list? Do you agree with the sentiment that these majors that aren't in high demand should be avoided or should students be encouraged to pursue their passion regardless of potentially high unemployment rates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section. For more information on how to choose a major,the most popular college majors and 10 things to consider before choosing your major, head over to Scholarships.com’s College Prep section.

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Pay It Forward Plan Draws Serious Criticism

July 21, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to paying for a college education, it seems as though students have two options: deal with impossibly high payments while they're in school or crippling debt for years afterwards. Well, Oregon students were provided a third option last year when legislators approved the Pay it Forward plan that would allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out student loans but would instead commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state. It turns out, however, that said plan isn't the saving grace for college students afterall.

First proposed by students at Portland State University, Pay It Forward has drawn serious criticism since Oregon passed a law to study the idea. According to a report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, analysis shows that the plan would leave most graduates deeper in debt than if they had taken out loans and would throw colleges’ balance sheets into uncertainty. Here are some of the more prevalent points in the association’s report but for a more detailed look, click here:

  • Pay It Forward does not account for non-tuition costs like room and board.
  • Students who generally rack up the most debt – those at for-profit and private nonprofit institutions — would not be eligible for the program.
  • The program would have “enormous” start-up costs.

Early estimates suggest that Oregon would have to take about 3 percent of a former student’s earnings for 20 years for it to work. With that being said, what are your thoughts on Pay It Forward? Do you think it’s too soon to tell if this is a viable option for other states to adapt?

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College Students, Grab Those Scanner Guns: College Registries Are Becoming a Thing!

August 1, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

To my understanding, the general rule of thumb for a creating registry is as follows: any event marking a significant life change (marriage, baby, new home, etc.) warrants one. And while no one would argue that heading off to college would fit that description, only recently have college-bound students been encouraged to register for items that would smooth their transitions to college life.

Once reserved for brides and moms-to-be, big box retailers are opening up their gift registries to college students. Target rolled out a college registry in June and already thousands have signed up. "Our college-bound guests were looking for an easy way to manage lists and share them with friends and family online," said Jenna Reck, public relations manager for Target. "When we looked at the registry experience we already offered through the Target Wedding and Target Baby registries, we quickly realized that it was the right solution." The registry will be accessible year-round and is geared toward students in every stage of their campus lives. Other retailers including Bed Bath and Beyond, The Container Store and Walmart also have registries that cater to college students. (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on college registries? Do you think they’re practical or tacky? Share your thoughts in the comments section. For more information on preparing for college and what to expect once you get there, look over our College Prep section.

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Five Unique College Majors to Consider

August 5, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

If you're heading to college in the fall, you'll be faced with a serious decision in the coming months: choosing the right major for you. And while there are myriad factors to consider when making your decision, reviewing the most popular college majors and the majors with the highest earning potential aren't bad places to start. But for those of you interested in something unique, USA Today has complied the list for you:

  1. Puppet Arts, University of Connecticut: If you're interested in an undergraduate degree in puppetry, UConn is your only option in the U.S. Getting in might be tough – enrollment is limited to 22 students – but graduates have gone on to work and perform in theatres, television shows and films.
  2. Bakery Science and Management, Kansas State University: KSU offers the only bakery science undergraduate program in the nation and graduates can pursue several jobs within the business. The school's website says bakery students can prepare themselves for "administrative, research, production, and executive positions."
  3. Viticulture and Enology, Cornell University: Though it only recently became an official major, students in the school’s viticulture program typically go on to work in wineries all over the nation.
  4. Secular Studies, Pitzer College: Phil Zuckerman, the school’s founder of the Secular Studies program, explained the degree’s main focus is about understanding secularity, secularism and secularization and how they relate to religion.
  5. Canadian Studies, Duke University: Duke is one of the few colleges in the nation to offer such a program and it’s operated like most history tracks.

Would you consider any of these far-from-mainstream majors? Do you think said majors would translate into success in the real world? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And for more advice on how to choose a college major and 10 things to consider before finalizing your decision, check out Scholarships.com College Prep section.

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New Bloomberg Effort to Help Low-Income Students Through College

November 4, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

In an effort to help talented low-income high school students get into and succeed in college, Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a new initiative to do just that.

According to The New York Times, the effort will involve hiring 130 full-time college counselors and enlisting 4,000 college students as part-time advisers. Using video chat, email, telephone and text, they will mimic the support network — composed of guidance counselors, teachers, parents and friends — that more affluent high school students take for granted. "Many of America's brightest students don’t apply to college simply because they lack access to the right information and guidance, particularly students from low- and middle-income families who want to go to competitive colleges but don’t think they can afford it. That limits their opportunities and contradicts what we stand for as a society – and it holds us back as a nation because it prevents so many smart young people from contributing to the best of their abilities,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. This new initiative aims to directly help as many as 65,000 students a year! (For more on this story, click here.)

Share your thoughts on Bloomberg Philanthropies new initiative in the comments section. And don't forget to try and fund your college education with as much free money as possible; a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com, as our scholarship search allows you to search more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth more than $1.9 billion!

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GWU Admits Considering Financial Need in Admissions

October 22, 2013

GWU Admits Considering Financial Need in Admissions

by Suada Kolovic

With so much riding on whether or not you get in, applying for college can cause even the most confident students some serious anxiety. And with so many factors to consider like high school rankings, SAT/ACT scores, GPAs and community service hours, it’s important to understand that more often than not, colleges are also factoring in a student’s ability to pay...even when they say they’re not. Insert outrage here.

Just last Friday, George Washington University’s website claimed to evaluate applicants without considering their financial need (also known as a need-blind admissions approach) but now they’re clarifying that policy: It now reads that while applications are first reviewed without consideration of need, “at the point of finalizing admissions decisions, we must balance a student’s financial resources with the university’s aid budget. This practice of being need-aware allows us to meet as much need of as many students as possible.” Why the sudden transparency, GWU? Turns out that the school’s new senior associate provost for enrollment management’s recent interview with The GW Hatchet revealed that she characterized the university’s policy as need-aware as opposed to need-blind. The problem? By being need-aware for years and suggesting otherwise, the university appears to not only have violated the Statement of Principles of Good Practice of the National Association for College Admission Counseling but encouraged low-income students to apply (and pay a hefty application fee!) on the false pretense that the university was need-blind. (For more on this story, click here.)

The ability to pay for college has long been a major factor when it comes to gaining admission but to blatantly advertise otherwise is undeniably uncool. What do you think of GWU’s current predicament? Should the university face serious repercussions? Let us know in the comments section.

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Top Colleges with the Highest Rate of Student Internships

November 7, 2013

Top Colleges with the Highest Rate of Student Internships

by Suada Kolovic

Five years after the financial crisis, recent college graduates (and folks in general!) still find themselves struggling with a stagnant job market. And with the slow pace of job growth looming, internships are a great way to for students to boast their resumes, gain experience in their fields of study and become more viable candidates once the economy does improve. Plus, according to a survey of more than 1,000 employers, 56.5-percent made full-time offers to their interns just last year. So if you're looking for a college that makes internship participation a priority, check out U.S. News and World Report's top colleges with the highest rate of undergraduates graduating with internship experience below:

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