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Consider Location, Location, Location When Selecting Your School

by Jacquelene Bennett

During my senior year in high school, I sent out applications not only to schools in my home state of California but to schools in Rhode Island, Washington and even England. I ultimately decided to stay in California because while going to a school in a different state or country sounded appealing and fun, it was just too unrealistic for me. Why? Location mattered.

Attending college in a different state can often times cost a fortune - not only are you paying out-of-state tuition rates (this doesn’t really apply to those going to private universities; they’re expensive regardless of where you live and attend) but you have to pay an arm and a leg to travel home for holidays and summer break. Also, there’s that issue of being away from your family: If you’re like me and have younger siblings, you want to be able to go to their basketball games and celebrate their birthdays. I knew that if I went too far from home, I would get too homesick and not enjoy my time at college.

Now I have nothing against those people who attend school in a different state – in fact, two of my closest friends at school are from Washington and Colorado – I’m just saying to think about what’s best for you. Can you afford the expenses? Can you stand to be away from your family? These are questions to ask yourself because you can still go away to school and be close to your family. I do...it’s just a matter of picking the right college. I go to a university that’s about 90 minutes from home; this is enough distance so that I feel like I have my own life here at school but am close enough that I can go home on the weekends if I want.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Thiel Fellowship Pays Students to Leave School, Develop Ideas

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, all of our resources are geared toward helping students prepare for and afford college educations...not leave them behind. That being said, this new award probably won’t be popping up in our database any time soon.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, announced the inaugural recipients of the Thiel Fellowship, a program that will bestow 24 students with $100,000 each to not attend college for two years and develop business ideas instead. The driving force behind the fellowship is Thiel’s concern about the “irrational” increase in cost and demand for college educations and his belief that certain students would learn more by leaving school than continuing traditional coursework.

Not surprisingly, heated debates have erupted in academic circles – William K. Aulet, managing director at MIT's Entrepreneurship Center, believes the fellowship is sending the wrong message, stating, "To say that you're better off dropping out of school is a gross generalization." – but the fellowship winners have a different outlook: At least two recipients have expressed interest in returning to school at the end of the fellowship and one prospective winner turned down the deal entirely to enroll at MIT, which signals traditional education is still valued.

What do you think about the Thiel Fellowship? Would you be more than willing to apply and leave school if selected or would you prefer to continue your education in the classroom instead?


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Mac vs. PC: Which One is Right for You?

by Anna Meskishvili

As a veteran PC user and a current Mac enthusiast, I can advise you on both sides of the PC vs. Mac argument better than those silly commercials ever could.

Purchasing your computer can be one of the most crucial decisions in your college career. Clearly, it is one of the most expensive purchases, but also it is something you will use every single day so you need to make sure it is right for you. Much like my article about roommates, you need to evaluate yourself before you run to that glossy Apple store or start customizing a Dell online.

The best place to start is with your intended major. As a freshman, I know it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’ll be studying but if you are enrolled in the College of Fine Arts for graphic design, the easy-to-use design applications on Macs are vital for an artist. If you are in the College of Engineering and need to use programs like Excel, PCs would be better. I know some business students that have both PCs and Macs because their Macs didn’t have some of the tools required for the courses they were taking.

I had a PC for my first two years of college but switched to a Mac this past year. As a communications major, I have a lot of presentations and Photoshop files on my desktop; having a Mac made compiling, combining and organizing these files much simpler than with a PC. But be wary that sending files from Mac to PC don’t always translate the way you want them to: I had an unfortunate incident when my “Scarlet Fever” campaign appeared hot pink on my professor’s screen.

In short, Macs have many benefits but PCs are still the preferred computer in most classrooms. Test-drive both models for your intended purposes and make sure they fit your needs before plunking down the plastic.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations at the College of Communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it; she is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She loves to travel, run and learn.


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Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many factors that affect where, when and if students attend college, the most important being financial aid. So what can a student do when he or she hasn’t received enough funding?

If you need financial aid to make college a reality, contact the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering before applying. Find out the costs of tuition, room and board, and other college living expenses and defray these costs by applying for as many scholarships and grants as you can. The college will be more likely to help fill any financial gaps if you’ve shown initiative and determination.

Another method is writing formal letters to financial aid administrators. Describe your financial aid situation (including hard numbers), your home life, factors affecting your ability to pay for college and things that you could not put on the FAFSA such as a home mortgage or other payments that your parents need to make. Fax this letter, mail it by certified mail and email a copy to each school as well. If the school cannot offer you free money, they can sometimes offer an additional loan of some sort.

If all else fails, call the colleges and schedule appointments with the deans or heads of the financial aid offices. Some colleges have tuition waivers which allow students with special conditions to be exempt from paying tuition. If the school does not offer this option, you can still seek out non-school loans through banks or private companies. These loans often have higher interest rates, require co-signers or do not have grace period to pay off loans after graduating; in my opinion, however, the cost of not getting a college education is much higher than amount of these loans.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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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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Are Two Majors Better Than One?

by Angela Andaloro

Deciding what to major in is an important and complicated decision. With that in mind, you may wonder why anyone would decide to take on two majors. Double majors can be great for someone who is stuck between two options they find equally interesting. It can also be great for those who aren’t feeling challenged enough by the classes in the major they’ve already declared. Here are some things to consider when figuring out if a double major is right for you.

How far in your college career are you? Depending on how many credits you’ve already taken, a double major could mean extra time in school. Is investing the time and money it would take to achieve your double major feasible?

Consider what you’re giving up. I’m not just talking about free time here...although a double major does have the potential to be time consuming. Double majoring means not taking electives – classes some students prefer over focusing solely on two subject areas.

How are you doing so far? If you’ve already declared one major, what’s your standing? If you’re struggling with your current major, taking on another may not be the best idea. If you’re unhappy with your major but don’t want to drop it because of the time you’ve invested, consider this: It may take you the same amount of time to start over with another major that you enjoy than it would to double major and keep the major you’re unhappy with.

In addition to these tips, consult your parents, advisor or other double majors (the latter will be able to offer valuable first-hand insight) but ultimately, the decision must be made by you and you alone. I myself recently made the decision to double major and can say I’m very happy about it. Whatever your decision, I hope you find the same happiness!

Angela Andaloro is a rising 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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The Benefits of Community Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

For many students fresh out of high school, the idea of going to a community college is not appealing. After all, one of the most exciting aspects of attending college is living on campus away from home, right? Well, living on campus may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Although few people would argue that universities' clubs, fraternities and parties are superior to anything offered at a community college, the stress of being away from home for the first time, learning to live with one or more roommates and being forced to make new friends can be quite an adjustment. Community colleges help students ease into the transition between high school and college more gradually.

Then there’s the cost: Tuition at a community college per year costs $2,713 per year, whereas four-year universities cost $7,605 per year on average. This second figure assumes you're living in-state but if you're living out-of-state, expect to be set back about $11,990 your first year. If cost is the major deciding factor, your decision is easy: Go to a community college for your first two years, then transfer. With all the extra money you're saving, you can throw your own parties, buy that new car you've been wanting or just save up for when you do go to a university.

Even if you're not going to your dream school for your first two years, you'll still have the opportunity to experience campus life after you get your associate degree at a community college. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find out community colleges aren't as bad as they're made out to be!

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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Cars on Campus: Are They Necessary?

by Katie Askew

Public transportation: Some fear it, some embrace it. Ten months ago, I was the former but I’m now proud to say I am the latter.

Cars are the main mode of transport where I’m from in South Dakota – even 14-year-olds can have their licenses here! – but moving to the “big city” to attend the University of Minnesota meant giving up my car. I left it dead and dust-covered for nine months and, in a way, also left a piece of me back home. I was petrified at the thought of climbing onto a...a...public bus. Yuck, but I had no other option if I wanted to go to Target or to downtown Minneapolis for concerts and clubs. I even rode the light rail during a shopping spree with friends at the Mall of America (it goes right to the basement of the mall!).

I will never regret learning the bus and light rail routes of Minneapolis because it saves me tons of time, money and public transportation really wasn’t as creepy or dirty as I thought it was going to be. As time passed, the more thankful I became for not having to pay expensive parking fees, car insurance and all the parking tickets I surely would have received. I won’t even mention the loads of money I saved on gas...$4 a gallon, anyone?

The University of Minnesota has extremely discounted bus and light rail passes for students. Your school probably does, too, but if you REALLY can’t bring yourself to take public transportation and are contemplating bringing your car to campus, consider bicycles, rollerblades, longboards and good old-fashioned walking – all of which are cheaper for you and better for the environment. Things may be different if you attend college in a more rural setting but going to a metropolitan school without a car is possible!

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Shari Williams

by Shari Williams

Hi everyone! Just a few days ago, I landed back in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland after a long, adventurous school year in Los Angeles. I was at California State University, Northridge as a participant in the National Student Exchange program and now that the program is over, I will be returning to my school, Towson University.

Originally, I didn't want to go to Towson. My choice school was Temple University but after acceptance, I was discouraged to go because of the costly out-of-state expenses. Thankfully, I came across the National Student Exchange program, which gave me the chance to venture out-of-state for a year while still paying in-state tuition.

Choosing my major was a challenge for me because I never wanted to be placed in one box or one category. Choosing only one field to pursue was extremely hard for me. I also had to take into consideration my future finances versus my passion. My freshman year, I was a combined major in speech pathology and deaf studies but after that year, I realized that my heart was in broadcast journalism. Venturing to California sealed the deal and I am now double majoring in broadcast journalism and deaf studies with a minor in entertainment, media and film. Why? Because communicating with people is what I love to do, whether it is through speech, writing or body movement.

Now that it is summer break, I can finally relax! I look forward to hanging with friends, looking for new artists to add to my iTunes, tweeting, randomly dancing (much like the girl in the Sun Drop commercial) and, of course, writing. As a Scholarships.com virtual intern, I plan to share the “secrets” of college life that I truly wish someone would have shared with me during my years of college.


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