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Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

August 10, 2011

Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

by Alexis Mattera

A few months back, we wrote about helpful tips on maximizing merit aid, or aid based on a student’s attributes like academics, athletics and extracurriculars. For college applicants who aren’t deemed financially needy in terms of their FAFSA or EFC, merit aid can make a huge difference in the schools they can realistically afford to attend. Students and families seeking this extra financial aid boost should consider researching schools more likely to dispense merit-based awards but with so many colleges and universities in the U.S., which ones are the best financial bets?

Help has arrived in the form of U.S. News, which has compiled a top 10 list of schools that awarded the highest percentage of merit-based funding to non-needy students during the 2009-10 academic year (the stats do not include financially needy students who were given merit aid or students who received athletic scholarships or other tuition breaks). Take a look:

High school students, does this data have you looking at these schools in a new light? Current college students attending one of the schools listed above, did merit aid make the difference as to whether or not you enrolled?


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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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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

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 Best Educational Apps

September 6, 2011

The Best Educational Apps

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all seen the iPhone commercials and heard the now-common phrase “There's an app for that.” It’s true, though: There's even an application to help you study — dozens in fact! Here are a few that can make your life as a student easier:

Grades 2. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what you need to score on an upcoming test in order to maintain your A. This app lets you do just that. It even lets you determine your new GPA will be based on what grades you expect to earn in your current classes.

Dictionary.com Flashcards. This app is great for English and science classes where you have to learn a wide variety of complicated terms. It even has multiple choice quizzes where you have to pick the right definition from a list of options. Plus, it's great having a dictionary in your pocket for whenever you need to look up words instead of lugging one around on top of all your other school books.

Star and Planet Finder. Astronomy buffs will love this one because it makes finding stars, planets, constellations and satellites a snap. Equipped with compass and GPS, this app lets you know whether or not you can see Orion from your current location – perfect for astronomy classes which ask you to chart the position of the constellations.

While not every college student can afford an iPhone or similar app-friendly device, all these educational apps make it a very tempting purchase indeed. And let's face it: You can't really put a price on something that makes a less-than-favorite activity less painful.

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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What National University is the Best Value?

U.S. News Reveals Sneak Peek at Latest List

September 8, 2011

What National University is the Best Value?

by Alexis Mattera

With college costs at an all-time high, the likelihood of college applicants and their parents selecting the school offering the most financial assistance is pretty high. But what national schools provide the highest quality education for the lowest price? Just ask the experts at U.S. News.

Though the official ordered list will not be revealed until next week, U.S. News published a sneak peek of its top 10 best value schools in the National Universities category today. (Keep in mind the schools are only listed in alphabetical order at this point.)

Is your dream school represented? Excellent! What school do you think will be named the best value and why?


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Bradley Adds Interactive App to Customize Campus Tour Experience

by Alexis Mattera

It can be difficult for prospective college students and their parents to visit the campuses they’re interested in when classes are in session so instead, tours are often scheduled on weekends or between semesters. Though this may be more convenient, it’s harder for the tour takers to get a true feel for the school they may one day call their alma mater...unless their tour is taking place at Bradley University.

Though colleges have long employed virtual tours, Bradley could be the first to provide a complementary iPad application during in-person campus tours. Jim Ferolo, an associate professor and chair of Bradley’s interactive media department who helped come up with the idea, said the app is meant to give students a fuller sense of what campus life is like if they visit during off-peak hours. In addition to supplementary videos, the app suggests particular spots on campus to see depending on the data (intended majors, extracurricular interests, etc.) users input at the beginning of the tour, all of which are routed to the tour guides’ iPads to best customize each tour. Ferolo said the app is not meant to replace the traditional campus tours at Bradley but his department will track how prospective students use the application so it can be improved – possibly with on-the-fly likes and ratings – down the line.

Sounds pretty cool to us but what do you think? Would you be interested in using an app like Bradley's on a campus tour or would you rather get a feel for a school sans technology?


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Studies Suggest U. of Wisconsin Bias Against White and Asian Applicants

by Suada Kolovic

As a student, you’ve done everything in your power to put your best foot forward – you maintained a 3.0 GPA in high school, were vice president of the National Honors Society, played on a varsity sports team and constantly volunteered at your local library – but what if, regardless of all your efforts, what mattered most was your ethnicity? According to a report release by the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), that may have been just the case if you applied to the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The CEO, an advocacy organization opposed to racial and ethnic preferences, has released a report accusing the University of Wisconsin at Madison of extreme bias based on race and ethnicity in its undergraduate and law school admissions. The center, which filed a lawsuit in order to obtain the admissions data, alleges that African Americans and Latinos were given preference over whites and Asians. The studies claim that the odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576 to 1 and 504 to 1, respectively. For law school admissions, the racial discrimination was also severe: An African American applicant with grades and LSAT scores at the median for the group would have had a 7 out of 10 chance of admissions and an out-of-state Hispanic applicant had a 1 out of 3 chance, compared to an in-state Asian applicant (1 out of 6 chance) and an in-state white applicant (only a 1 out of 10 chance) with those same grades and scores.

Based on the findings, the CEO chairman Linda Chavez said, “This is the most severe undergraduate admissions discrimination that CEO has ever found in the dozens of studies it has published over the last 15 years. The studies show that literally hundreds of students applying as undergrads or to the law school are rejected in favor of students with lower test scores and grades, and the reason is that they have the wrong skin color or their parents came from the wrong countries.” For more on these studies, click here.


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Groupon-NLU Deal Doesn’t Guarantee Admission to Graduate Program

by Suada Kolovic

Last week, we shared Groupon’s “experimental” deal offered by National-Louis University which provided bargain hunters with the opportunity to purchase an introductory teaching course at a serious discount. A total of 18 students took advantage of the deal but hopefully they read the fine print: Purchasing the Groupon does not guarantee acceptance to the master’s program that the course is a part of. Whoops.

While the Groupon-toting students will take “Introduction to the Profession and the Craft of Teaching” for the discounted rate, they aren’t technically enrolled at the institution. Instead, each participant will be considered a “student-at-large,” said Nivine Megahed, NLU’s president. The students-at-large will get inside-the-class practicum experience early on in order to get the full effect of teaching prior to applying to the master’s program unlike their traditional counterparts, Megahed said. Often, when aspiring educators teach in a classroom for the first time, “they either love it, or they go running for the hills,” she added.

Once they’ve completed the course, at-large students who want to take part in the program will have to go through the traditional admissions process, which requires a passing grade on the Illinois Basic Skills test. If you bought the Groupon, would this be a deal breaker for you? Do you think NLU should have made such stipulations clear early on?


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If Schools Text It, Students Will Come

by Alexis Mattera

You hear the familiar alert from within your pocket and reach for your cell phone. Is the text message you just received from your best friend, parent or...intended college?

For the past two years, St. Mary’s University found the students who signed up to receive text message alerts and individual replies from the Texas school were more likely to apply and attend than students who opted out. According to the initiative’s creator, Mongoose Research, 1,923 students signed up out of the 40,000 who showed interest in the university and 30.8 percent of those who did ended up applying, compared with 10.9 percent of all prospective students. Though many of the students who elected to accept the texts were already interested in St. Mary’s and excellent fits for the institution, Mongoose’s president David Marshall said one of the main reasons for the program’s success is that students don’t feel bothered or harassed.

Texting prospective students isn’t an admissions staple just yet but it’s poised to be in the near future: Jim Miller, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said, “What I’m hearing from the younger folks is that email is so yesterday and texting is where it’s at.” Would you opt to receive texts from the colleges you’re interested in or prefer they contact you via email, Facebook or snail mail?


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Application Essays Take Center Stage at Middlebury

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again so we have to ask: College students, do you remember what your application essay was about? For a document that takes hours – and, likely, gallons of blood, sweat and tears – to create, very few students give it a second thought after sending their application packets to their colleges of choice. This isn’t the case if that college is Middlebury, however, where students revisit those essays not long after they arrive on campus...and in front of an audience, reports The Choice.

Created in the early ‘90s by residential dean and Middlebury alumn Matt Longman, “Voices of the Class” is a program featuring upperclassmen acting out freshmen admissions essays during new student orientation. Typically 10 to 20 essays are incorporated into the performance, as well as short student-life vignettes written and directed by upperclassmen. Given the subject matter – which Longman said ranges from “how to do your laundry to how to be on guard from date rape” – authors remain anonymous and students can opt out of having their essays performed. The live-action essays have become so popular that Middlebury has started soliciting responses to additional prompts, such as “Tell us something about yourself that people would never guess just by looking at you.”

Would you participate in this kind of program if it were offered at your college? To the past and present Middlebury students in the audience, did “Voices of the Class” feature your application essay?


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