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Changes Coming for the Common App

by Alexis Mattera

Change can be a good thing (hybrid vehicles versus gas guzzlers) or a bad thing (most Facebook tweaks in recent memory) but it sounds like what’s up the Common Application’s sleeve is decidedly the former for all involved.

The Common Application served 575,000 unique applicants during the past admissions cycle and processed 2.4 million applications and these numbers – substantially higher than the previous admissions cycle with 18-percent and 24-percent upticks, respectively – have prompted the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit to upgrade its existing offerings to better serve users. There will be a new interface with “cool” and “intuitive” portals for students, admissions officers and counselors, a more “scalable” system and an increase in staffers from eight to approximately 50. This growth is necessary given usage projections: Executive director Rob Killion anticipates that 750,000 students will use the Common Application to file about three million applications during the current admissions cycle. “All indications are that this rapid growth ... is not only continuing, but accelerating,” he said. The changes should be implemented by August of 2013.

College students, did you use the Common App? What did you think of the system at the time? High schoolers, do the impending changes make you more or less likely to take advantage of the Common App when you apply to college?


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The Kindle Fire: Will It Have a Place in College?

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in 2007, the Amazon Kindle has changed the way people buy and enjoy books. Amazon’s wealth of e-book offerings and new rental program have proved to be valuable weapons for college students in the war against rising textbook costs but will Amazon’s newest addition to the Kindle family – the Kindle Fire – find its own place in higher education?

The 7-inch Android-powered Kindle Fire tablet was revealed last week and though it won’t begin shipping to customers until mid-November, the buzz surrounding it is already significant. With a $199 price tag, could the Kindle Fire be a cost-effective alternative to the collegiate bank account-busting iPad? Maybe, but will it truly gain a toehold in college classrooms? Robert Talbert isn’t so sure it will. In his recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Talbert states the device is great for electronic textbooks and fun applications but little else for college students. “Could you write a research paper on it? Or a LA TE X document? Or a computer program? How about creating and then giving a slideshow presentation? Or running a computer algebra system to do your math homework? Or shooting a video? When it comes to consuming things, the Fire seems like a great device. For creating things? Not so much. And college work is about creating things, not consuming them,” he says.

What do you think of the Kindle Fire? Would you buy one for college or would you rather wait for a tablet with more useful college features AND a lower cost?


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Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

Your Scariest College-Related Experience Could Earn You $1,000 or a Kindle

October 5, 2011

Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

by Alexis Mattera

Applying to and attending college can be the best time of your life but it can also be the scariest! Did your guidance counselor forget to include your transcript in your application packet? Were you matched with a freshman roommate who had an aversion to soap? We want to know: Tell us your scariest college-related experience in 140 characters for a chance to win $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship!

Don’t be scared – entering is easy! Simply log on to Twitter (or create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in your tweet detailing your scariest college-related experience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to apply:

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What is your scariest college-related moment?” Once you do this, you are entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to five per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the October 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which comments are most deserving of the awards.

  • Starts: October 5th
  • Ends: October 31st
  • Number Available: 3
  • Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle each for second- and third-place winners

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.


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Early Decision vs. Early Action - Which is Right for You?

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve wanted to attend University X for as long as you can remember. You made sure your academic and extracurricular accomplishments exceeded its admissions criteria, took multiple campus tours and even made its .edu your homepage but the time has finally come to submit your application packet. Doing so early seems like a no-brainer...but is it really?

Applying to college ahead of traditional deadlines has become quite popular in recent years; with that increased interest, however, comes some confusion. Should you apply early decision or early action? Can you apply early to multiple schools? Can you apply early to one college and regular decision to another? Here’s some much-needed clarification from Examiner.com.

Early Decision: Generally, ED programs are binding and require applicants to relinquish all rights to consider offers from other colleges. If you are surer than sure of your college choice and would go to this school beyond a shadow of a doubt if you were accepted, this is a great route to take. If you’re concerned you will not get in, you should consider another application method that allows you more options.

Early Action: EA, on the other hand, is non-binding in that it allows applicants to choose from other colleges they’ve been admitted to instead of being locked into one. While most early action programs say it’s ok to apply early action and regular decision to other institutions, some can be restrictive (check out Yale’s policy compared to Harvard’s) so be sure to check the requirements before sending in your materials.

College students, did you apply early? If so, what did you think of the process? High school seniors, do you plan to apply early – either ED or EA – and did these explanations help you?


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Recognizing Your Responsibilities

by Darci Miller

I grew up with parents who were very involved in my life. I don’t mean that in a bad way – they were as involved as any good parents should be – and was grateful they always made sure I finished my homework, was on top of my deadlines and didn’t forget an appointment.

I didn’t realize any of this on a conscious level until I began attending college. Suddenly, I had somewhere to be on a certain day and only I was responsible for staying organized and reminding myself about it. If any of you have applied for study abroad, I’m sure you know what I’m going through: During the last week of September, I realized that the October 1st deadline had crept up on me. This set off a week and a half of printing documents, scheduling appointments with the study abroad office as well as my academic advisor, getting my transcript, writing essays, etc.

It’s a little overwhelming figuring out what I needed and trying to schedule around classes and work and life. Luckily, I quickly learned that I need to write things down. I’ve become dependent on my planner, whiteboard and Post-it notes to help me manage my time and tasks. In the last few weeks alone, I’ve made dozens of lists of things I need to remember to do. This method works for me but if it doesn’t work for you, figure out what does before something falls through the cracks.

Sometimes I still wish I woke up to notes on the table scribbled by my dad – “get form signed” or “talk to your advisor” – but now I know I can handle life’s responsibilities by myself. To this day, sometimes keeping track of everything feels like a full-time job but I’m proud to report that my study abroad application was submitted (in full!) on time. I’d call that a success.

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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Fairness in College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.


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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

by Alexis Mattera

Thinking about applying to one of the University of California’s 10 campuses as a freshman for the 2012-2013 school year? If so, read the admissions requirements carefully, lest a change intended to ease your college-related stress levels send them sky high instead.

As standardized tests go, all UC campuses call for freshman applicants to submit scores from the SAT and ACT but have eliminated supplemental SAT subject exams from the list of admissions requirements. Though many students are breathing sighs of relief that they do not have to prepare for, take and afford another exam, others are still signing up for the subject tests in droves because they think it will boost their chances for admission. UC officials say students who do not take the tests will not be penalized but those who do and score well will be viewed in the same positive light as someone, say, with a leadership role in a school club would be. This explanation – plus the fact that specific programs like engineering and science do recommend subject tests – has left students and counselors understandably confused.

You can read more reactions from both sides here but as the November 30th application deadline draws closer, we have to wonder where our readers stand. If your dream school did not require you to take supplemental exams, would you follow the rules or still take the exams and hope doing so would give you a leg up on your competition and why?


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Students Continue Trend of Applying to More Colleges

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior, the daunting task of filling out college applications is just around the corner. And if you’re thinking about applying to multiple institutions – we’re talking six or seven schools – then you’re not alone: According to a recent study, more prospective college students are applying to a large number schools than ever before.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) study found that a quarter of freshmen who enrolled in college in the fall of 2010 applied to seven or more schools, while 77 percent applied to at least three. There are a number of factors that contribute to this trend, including the ease of applying to several schools with the Common Application and the Universal Application, but does this approach complicate the admissions process? The study notes that the uptick in applications challenges counselors to investigate students beyond their submitted materials. "The more activities a student has leading up to the application and beyond, the more we can understand if they're a real applicant," says Deb Stieffel, vice president for enrollment at Susquehanna University. "You can't just tell by the application anymore; you have to look deeper." (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think it’s problematic for students to apply to multiple schools just for the sake of applying?


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Tuition at Cooper Union?

November 1, 2011

Tuition at Cooper Union?

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a prospective college student considering a career in engineering, architecture or art, Cooper Union is probably on your radar. Not only is the school among the most selective in the nation but the tuition – zero – has been the best deal in higher ed for more than a century...or it was.

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha recently announced that the weak economy has prompted the school to reevaluate its scholarship policy and possibly begin charging tuition for the first time since 1902. Bharucha stressed that lower-income students and many middle-income ones would continue to attend for free and that none of the 900 current undergraduates would be charged but the mere mention of tuition for degree-seeking students marks a serious cultural shift for the institution: Though a final decision has yet to be made, alumni are furious – “It’s a contradiction to everything we’ve learned about Cooper. It’s the last opportunity for free education on that level in the entire country,” said graphic designer, New York magazine co-founder and Cooper Union graduate Milton Glaser – and students are planning to walk out of classes in protest tomorrow.

Bharucha did say that implementing tuition would be a last resort but what do you think of his announcement and its corresponding reaction? What avenues should be explored to preserve free tuition and are there any ways students and alumni can support or contribute to the cause? Lastly, does a potential tuition bill have you reconsidering applying to Cooper Union?


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Calculating Your College Choices

by Angela Andaloro

It’s coming up on that time of year where high school seniors and college students are filling out college applications or beginning the transfer process, respectively. It’s a challenging time without a doubt and it doesn’t help that students are bombarded with college advice, statistics and rankings information from countless sources. How do you know what’s legitimate information and what’s not? Here are three factors you should definitely consider before submitting those applications.

Applying to college is a big step, as any of these institutions could be where you spend all or part of your college career. In the end, the most important factor is to pick the schools that you can picture yourself being happy. The decision is ultimately yours – it’s truly the first step in taking your future into your own hands.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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