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by Emily

More material continues to be added to the debate over whether sites like Facebook help or hurt undergraduate students.  Last month, preliminary research by a graduate student at Ohio State University caused a stir by suggesting that the use of social networking websites was somehow connected to lower college grades. Now, a new study published by researchers at Northwestern University, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania suggests that if anything, Facebook users have higher grades than students who do not use social networking sites.

While both studies are very preliminary, their findings have sparked a great deal of discussion and debate.  Many professors and some students regard sites like Facebook as distractions from coursework and assaults on students' attention spans.  Others see no harm and a great deal of benefit from being able to connect with peers and share ideas and information more easily online.  Some instructors have even incorporated social networking into their curricula and have encouraged students to friend them online.

Social networking sites are becoming an increasingly large part of the lifestyle associated with attending college, and are increasingly being used as tools in college admissions, as well.  Do you use any of these websites?  Have you seen any connection between your internet habits and your grades?


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by Emily

A large part of attending college is gaining exposure to new ideas outside your area of study and acquiring a broad base of knowledge and critical thinking skills along the way.  Traditionally, colleges have pushed students towards this goal through the use of general education requirements, which are rarely met with uniform enthusiasm.  English majors may dread the mandatory laboratory science class, while future engineers may fail to see the point in spending two semesters learning MLA citation style and how to write an argumentative essay.  Other students complain that general education requirements leave their college experience feeling disjointed and not directly connected to their working life. While they may eventually have the chance to draw on knowledge, experiences, or methods of inquiry from all of their classes, many students fail to see how when staring a list of required introductory courses in the face.

Colleges are aware of these concerns and many are beginning to rethink general education requirements, according to survey results highlighted recently in Inside Higher Ed. A number of colleges are studying general education requirements and desired learning outcomes, starting by identifying goals and asking students what they're taking from their courses.  Others are implementing new course requirements to expose students to a variety of disciplines beyond what they would normally get from introductory courses in their first two years of college.  More focus is also being placed on integrating a student's courses into the focus of their degree and career goals with the hope that students will be able to tie these lessons together and bring a more well-rounded approach to their major.

With renewed focus on college costs, the time it takes students to earn a degree, and the value of a college degree in the working world, the attention being paid to these courses seems timely. As many schools begin reevaluating or restructuring general educuation requirements, it's likely that the college experience of today's high school students will be different from not only that of their parents, but also that of today's undergraduate students.  What do you think of required general classes? Does the system need to be changed?  Don't just limit yourself to blog comments! If you're attending college right now, check out this year's Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship for a chance to win $1,000 by weighing in on this topic.


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by Emily

College students and recent graduates across the country are currently starting summer internships. Whether paid or unpaid, the internship can be an integral part of the college experience, as well as a chance to earn college credit for doing something you hopefully want to do. Internships are one of the best ways to hone major-specific job skills and gain valuable experience in a potential career.  For some students, though, summer internships are also a way to gain exposure to an entirely new line of work as well as hands-on experience with movements or industries they support.

The New York Times reports a growing summer internship trend is organic farming, with many students from disparate backgrounds signing up to grow crops or raise livestock on small farms across the country. While farming internships are traditionally seen as the province of agriculture students from rural state universities, students on both coasts, including many at small private colleges, have begun to take interest in these programs as well, thanks largely to a growing interest in sustainable agriculture.  Students who support organic farming and want to learn more about the industry first-hand can spend a summer working with plants and animals, as can students who just want a change of pace from their usual college lifestyle.  An agriculture internship could bring students with urban or suburban backgrounds a change of perspective, and also some fodder for green scholarship applications.

If farming isn't your thing but you're intrigued by the idea of taking an internship in a field outside your major, options abound.  While some internship programs may require a relevant major or course experience, others may just want students with a genuine interest in the job.  Think about the things you'd like to do and jobs you'd like to try out and see if any internship opportunities exist in those areas.  While these experiences may not directly lead to a job placement at that business (although this is no guarantee with traditional internships, either), they could lead to new experiences and a more diverse résumé, which could in turn lead to job offers down the road.


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by Emily

Want to get into college but don't have the best grades?  Consider making friends with some prominent politicians, then apply in Illinois.

Earlier this month, The Chicago Tribune revealed the existence of a special admissions list at the University of Illinois main campus that consisted of politically connected applicants.  Now, records from University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University have been subpoenaed in the ongoing federal investigation of corruption charges against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Investigators want to determine whether Blagojevich recommended candidates for admission into state colleges in exchange for money or favors.

While going for the wow factor of a big name is an understandable strategy when it comes to letters of recommendation, it looks like more may have been going on with some applications in Illinois. There are concerns that some well-connected applicants received extreme advantages in admissions, in some cases getting in seemingly solely based on who they knew, even over the objections of the admissions officials reviewing their college applications.  The University of Illinois has suspended its special admission list and claimed to have not followed practices out of line with what other colleges do in considering applications.

The practice of relying on political connections in the college application process is not unique to Illinois, but in light of recent scandals in the state, it is garnering a lot of attention.  Using clout to get into college is still a  highly contentious practice in any case, whether the applicant is connected to university officials or state government figures.  Hopefully, this scandal will influence colleges to think twice before overlooking merit in favor of connections in future admissions decisions.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Princeton Review released its annual college rankings yesterday, based on a survey of 122,000 students at colleges nationwide. The purpose of the list is to help students choose colleges based on what current undergraduate students at each school say, and rankings include such categories as best and worst dorm food, most politically engaged students, and most GLBT-friendly schools.

The most publicized of these rankings is the list of top party schools, with Pennsylvania State University unseating the University of Florida as number one this year. The party schools ranking is often seen as closely related to a combination of other rankings, which involve the availability of alcohol, the amount of time students spend studying and the presence of Greek life on campus. Many students at schools that top the party school list take pride in this designation, while university officials often see it as a cause for concern.

Other rankings may be more useful to many students and parents, especially the list of schools whose students are most satisfied with their financial aid packages. Swarthmore College, Stanford University, and Harvard University comprise the top three spots in the "Great Financial Aid" ranking, with a total of 13 colleges receiving an additional distinction from Princeton Review for receiving the highest possible rating for financial aid in their survey.

However, the self-reported nature of the information and relatively small number of students answering the surveys may not paint a wholly accurate picture of campus life, so incorporating other resources into your college search is important. This and other tools can help you find colleges to investigate further, but don't rule out a school entirely just because it is or is not on one of these lists.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

College rankings, such as those published this week by Princeton Review, always generate media buzz and factor heavily into students' decisions ("Do I really want to go to one of the top 20 party schools?"). However, rankings are not everything, nor is cost (even in a recession), and in your college search, you may find that many colleges offer things that can't be easily quantified.

Rising high school seniors returning from their first round of campus visits and newly admitted undergraduate students who have gone through orientation and registration have likely experienced some of this. In addition to offering good financial aid, academic programs, extracurricular activities, and dorm food, the best colleges will also entice students to imagine themselves living on campus and being a part of the culture there. While prestige is certainly nice, your college experience will be enriched by feeling as though you are engaged with those around you and like you really belong to the campus community.

How colleges try to create this impression varies greatly. I've seen tongue-in-cheek Facebook groups for several colleges, including my alma mater, declaring students' decisions to enroll were based on receiving a free t-shirt, but gestures like this can make a difference. The small liberal arts college my sister ultimately chose to attend offered a package of cookies from the local cookie factory to students who took a campus tour, which we happily munched on while driving home from an impressive campus visit. The most interesting college freebie I've heard of comes from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, which sends each incoming freshman a box of Walla Walla onions. That definitely makes a unique impression!

This has us wondering: Have you received anything cool from a college you've visited or chosen to attend? What unconventional things have caught your attention during the process of choosing a college?


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by Emily

The rise of the online auction service eBay has prompted people to attempt to sell just about anything they can affix a price to. So while it's not surprising to find some pretty out there listings from time to time, it's still not every day you see a student auctioning off a stake in his future.

A college student in Georgia attempted this week to fund the last 18 credits of his Master of Business Administration degree through an unusual source: selling a share of his potential earnings on eBay. The student, Terrance Wyatt of Clark Atlanta University, has been paying for college with financial aid for the last six years, but according to his eBay listing, he found himself $10,000 short of his funding needs this year.

So, being a business graduate student, he began looking for a way out of this financial quandary by marketing himself and seeking investors in his future. While his listing has been removed (eBay frowns on the selling of intangibles or the use of the site for fundraising), Maureen Downey's Get Schooled blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the partial text of the ad, as well as more information about the student.

While eBay may not have been the best venue for Wyatt's ad, his idea of seeking investors in his future is not so far-fetched. Recently, a number of peer-to-peer lending sites have launched, allowing students and individuals to arrange for anything from straightforward student loans to buying shares in a student's future success. These alternatives to alternative loans are still operating on a small scale and relatively unknown, but students like Wyatt may find the funding they need through such programs.

There are also scholarship opportunities for MBA students, and really anyone who has come up a bit short on financial aid.  Business school scholarships and scholarships for graduate students could easily bridge the gap for students who need more money and want to avoid student loan debt. Depending on your school and your program, you could even land a fellowship or assistantship that could fund your graduate education.


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by Emily

Earlier this summer, it came to light that for some students in Illinois, being accepted by state colleges was less about what they knew than who they knew, as an investigation into admission practices revealed the existence of a special clout list of well-connected applicants to the University of Illinois. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that some college scholarships in the state may be governed by a similar principle.

Each Illinois state representative is given the equivalent of two four-year full-tuition scholarships to award to his or her constituents each year. Some representatives choose to break up their scholarship awards into eight one-year full-tuition awards, while others choose to hand out two-year or four-year scholarships. At least 83 of these scholarships went to students with some form of political connections between 2008 and 2009. Of these scholarships, 41 went directly to the children of donors to the politician making the award.

While the lawmakers award the scholarships, the universities are responsible for finding the funding for each award. After state colleges and universities, as well as the majority of the state's grant programs for low-income students have faced steep budget cuts this year, these General Assembly scholarships have drawn substantial ire from critics who feel the $12.5 million currently allocated to the program could go to better use elsewhere.

Representatives deny impropriety, but it seems that families in Illinois who have seen their 529 plans shrink in the recession may want to consider taking their college savings and investing them in their representative's next reelection campaign.


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by Emily

The idea of the broke college student is a well-worn cliché, conjuring up images of extreme money-saving measures.

Thrift store clothing, Dumpster-dived furniture, and dinner from the manager's special aisle or the 99 cent store are all stereotypical trappings of the budget-conscious college student. One student in New York recently managed to come up with a creative and envelope-pushing way to save money, however. Brian Borncamp, a senior at the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst, New York, recently decided to save money on housing by building himself a cabin in the woods near campus.

After months of sleeping in stairwells, Borncamp was 80 percent finished with his cabin when university officials persuaded him to give up the effort and make alternate housing arrangements, according to The Buffalo News. The student had compared himself to a modern-day Thoreau with his decision to live in the woods, but claimed his decision was initially motivated by financial concerns. He realized in May that he was unable to pay for school and pay rent, and thus decided to live outdoors.

Once he began construction on an 8' by 10' cabin, the university intervened, offering him temporary housing, a campus job, counseling, and other assistance, according to a statement issued by UB's Vice President for Student Affairs. Borncamp initially refused, prefering to go it alone, but announced this week that he'd made other arrangements and would be vacating his campsite.

While this is an inventive solution to college budget concerns, cash-strapped students don't need to resort to camping in the woods or residing in homemade structures.  Additional assistance is available for those in need of additional financial aid, and a free college scholarship search can help you find it. For example, if building your own cabin or emulating a reclusive author appeals to you, you might find yourself well-suited to win a design scholarship or an English scholarship.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Just about a decade ago now, e-mail addresses were created as a reflection of how cool you were, or how funny you could be within the constraints given by AOL or Yahoo!

Today, e-mail addresses are less a novelty than a necessity, used with everything from shopping online to applying to jobs. No one will deny you a scholarship or financial aid if you have a goofy e-mail address, but it's best to get an early start now before you enter into the job world. In a tough economy and competitive job market, something as simple as an e-mail address could drop your resume to the bottom of the pile, or worse, fail to get past the employer's spam filter. Potential new hires spend so much time crafting that perfect resume and paying extra to print it on the fancy paper that topping it off with PartyGrl124@email.com seems counterproductive.

I was an offender myself, and recall a great deal of anxiety surrounding that first e-mail address. I went with a variation of my birthday and a personal quality I believed I had, "funnie," spelled that way because the right way was already taken by another individual who believed they were just as funny. Once I discovered Gmail, I went with the straight first and last name combo, and the old e-mail address is probably still collecting spam somewhere. I was also blessed with a college e-mail address that I used to apply to internships or correspond with professors as an undergraduate, but as some colleges are no longer assigning freshmen their own e-mail addresses or run forwarding services; instead, many are left to their own devices.

More often than not employers now prefer that resumes and cover letters be e-mailed to them rather than sent through snail mail. So get yourself on a free email site and see what's available related to your actual name, like John.Smith@email.com or JohnSmith321@email.com. Even something as innocuous as showing your love for your pet or baseball or food (spaghettilover@email.com) could put off or even offend an employer. (What if they hate cats, the Cubs or spaghetti?) If you're trying to be funny, charming or original, you're probably trying too hard. Maybe it's not fair, or an example of e-mail discrimination. Or maybe a professional e-mail address makes you look more professional.

If you have a sentimental attachment to your old e-mail address or feel that the new, straightforward address infringes on your creative side, keep the old one as your personal address. If you want to change user names across the board, UserNameCheck.com will show you which names are taken and which are up for grabs.


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