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Dual Enrollment Program Doubled in Chicago

by Alexis Mattera

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into making the transition from high school to college. While some students figure this out after they set foot on campus and are overwhelmed by a litany of new responsibilities, others begin laying the groundwork even before they apply. In Chicago, public school students will have more opportunities to pursue the latter route thanks to a change in the dual enrollment plan.

Yesterday, Chicago City Colleges announced its dual enrollment program will double as of the spring semester, giving up to 2,100 qualifying Chicago Public School juniors and seniors the ability to take free college classes at seven schools – Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College. This is excellent news not only for students who have exhausted the course offerings at their high schools but also for cash-strapped students – roughly 85 percent of all CPS students come from low-income families – aiming to earn college credit while keeping their expenses in check.

CPS students, will you be taking advantage of the expanded dual enrollment program? Other public school students, is there a program like this in place in your city?


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An Update on Early Admissions

November 15, 2011

An Update on Early Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Teens may be excited about "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" and "The Hunger Games" but it appears applying to college early is just as trendy.

Though the numbers are still being tallied, Duke, Brown, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins are all estimating sizeable increases in the amount of early applications received but they aren’t alone: The University of Virginia and Princeton – two schools which reinstated their early admissions programs this year – have their respective hands full with applicants as well. Also of note is the heightened availability of ED II, a second round of early decision with a January deadline, for students who applied to one school using the binding application option and were rejected or deferred. And with these elevated application numbers comes an expected increase in both acceptance rates and financial aid offerings, something students and their parents will both appreciate.

What do you think of these application trends? Did you apply early or do you plan to apply during regular admission and why?


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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

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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Taking Advantage of National Scholarship Month

by Angela Andaloro

Whether you’re a prospective college student or already a few years in, there’s no doubt that tuition is a major concern. It’s not cheap to be a college student and while student loans can greatly assist you in this struggle, sometimes they’re not enough. That’s where scholarships can help.

Many aren’t aware but November is National Scholarship Month and the perfect time to start your search for scholarships that perfectly meet your needs. Your first step in this journey is throwing away the number one misconception about scholarships – that they are only awarded to “smart kids.” While many scholarships do require that you maintain a certain GPA, grades are not the only criteria. There are scholarships available for athletics, community service, to students pursuing certain careers or majors, and to minorities.

It may seem like the chances of winning a scholarship are slim. That was my mentality when I heard nothing after filling out application after application. Sure, it was frustrating but I didn’t give up. And I’m glad I kept at it: Just a few weeks ago, I saw the fruits of my labor when I was awarded a scholarship from an alumnus at my school!

My biggest piece of advice to students searching for scholarships is to be persistent in your search. If you fill out hundreds of applications, you have hundreds of scholarship opportunities but if you give up and don’t fill out any, your opportunities will reflect that. Utilize every resource you can, like talking to the financial aid office at your school and seeing what they recommend...and don’t forget about the Internet! A little site called Scholarships.com has a plethora of information that can steer you in the right direction. Best of luck and may your scholarship searches be fruitful!

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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The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

by Jessica Seals

When I first began attending college, my agenda included getting good grades and making new friends. No one told me how important it is to establish relationships with my professors and up until my junior year, I did not put a great deal of effort toward creating and maintaining these connections. It was only when I began looking into law school admissions requirements that I noticed I would need multiple letters of recommendation from professors to complete my applications.

So what did I do? I began by taking more challenging classes with professors I already had so they could get to know me, my work ethic and future goals. Now that the law school application process is in full swing, I am fortunate enough to say that I have already designated which teachers will write my letters of recommendation. Though our relationships are now quite strong, I am also providing my resume so they can easily reference my past accomplishments as they write.

I have seen classmates struggle to get good letters of recommendation because they only did what they had to do to get by. If you plan on going to graduate or professional school, you will need letters of recommendation and it’s never too early to begin the process. Believe me, the law school application process is taxing but my stress level was cut down significantly because I made the right connections with my professors.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Starting a Class Discussion

November 30, 2011

Starting a Class Discussion

by Jacquelene Bennett

Few things are worse than sitting in a boring class with a professor droning on and on. The good news is that unless you are in a lecture hall with hundreds of other college students, you can almost always change a dull lecture into an informative and exciting class discussion.

How do you do this? First and foremost, be sure you've done the homework and assigned reading. If you are prepared, you can properly discuss topics covered in your assignments that are interesting to you but include information your professor might overlook. Some professors may not like that you are interrupting their planned lectures but others will welcome a fresh opinion that supplements the course material and engages a less-than-captive audience.

Next – and really this applies to any discussion you have in life – you have to ask questions. Again, you have to have done the homework in order to ask the right questions but asking questions WILL start a discussion. I am taking a class that I absolutely hate but I’ve discovered that it’s tolerable if I ask a lot of questions. It forces the professor to expand on certain topics and allows your classmates to think about the subject or reading in a way that they wouldn’t have on their own. The key is to not ask your question directly to your professor but to frame it in a way that allows anyone in class to answer.

Don’t want to jump right in during the lecture? Approach your professor before class, tell them that you found a certain aspect of the homework interesting and would like to get the whole class’s view or interpretation of it. Rarely will a professor say no so go for it!

Jacquelene Bennett is a 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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This Scholarship of the Week is a Fantastic Achievement

Three Days Left to Apply for the AXA Achievement Scholarship

November 28, 2011

This Scholarship of the Week is a Fantastic Achievement

by Alexis Mattera

As anyone who’s ever overindulged in Thanksgiving dinner can tell you, too much of a good thing does indeed exist. This mentality does not hold true when it comes to scholarships, though...especially this Scholarship of the Week from AXA Equitable!.

The AXA Achievement Scholarship awards $670,000 annually. Fifty-two students – one from each state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico – receive scholarships of $10,000. Of those 52 students, 10 students are chosen as national winners and receive an additional $15,000 scholarship award and an internship opportunity with AXA Equitable.

Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate ambition and drive, determination to set and reach goals and the ability to succeed in college. If that sounds like you, visit AXA’s website to apply before the December 1st deadline. As always, to learn more about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!


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Want That Job/Internship/Scholarship? Speak Up!

by Darci Miller

In a perfect world, getting a job or internship would be as easy as sending your cover letter and resume to an employer. The perfect job opportunities would just fall into your lap and hiring managers would be fighting over you. Well, if you’ve ever applied for a job, internship or even scholarship, you’re well aware this isn’t the case.

If you simply send in a cover letter and resume, you’re lucky if they get more than a passing glance...and that’s AFTER the endless search for opportunities. Rejection notices are rare and actually getting hired is even more so. I don’t pretend to be an expert on getting jobs, internships or scholarships – far from it, in fact – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my quest is that you can’t do it on your own. It’s the lucky few that get their dream job or internship on a lark; the rest of us have to do some legwork, which includes networking and making some contacts.

My personal dream is to work for the Olympics in some capacity and I’m studying abroad in London next semester to be there in the lead-up to the Summer Games in 2012. So, I thought, why not try for an internship? The website of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) was utterly unhelpful, so my mom and I started spreading the word that I was on the hunt.

It turns out that one of my mom’s friends has a cousin who works in LOCOG’s technology department! We’ve emailed and spoken on the phone and he’s been nothing but helpful. I told him that, as a journalism major, I’d like to do something in that area and it just so happens that one of his friends heads the press team; he’s going to send over my resume, cover letter and clips.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee anything and I still have to worry about my student visa application being accepted. But because I got the word out and asked for help, I got to pass Go and collect $200. Your mom may know a guy who knows a guy, too, so in your internship, job or scholarship search, don’t forget the crucial step of being vocal about what you want.

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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A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

November 29, 2011

A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

by Alexis Mattera

In recent years, college students have become more cautious about taking out loans to pay for school. There are multiple reasons for this – horror stories from friends or siblings, limited job prospects after graduation and high interest rates have all been cited – and while it’s an admirable goal to graduatefrom college debt-free, educators think this approach could actually hinder students from getting degrees.

According to a recent Associated Press article, students are attempting to limit borrowing by working longer hours, taking fewer credits (and often not enrolling full-time), living at home and attending less selective institutions. While educators are impressed with this level of fiscal responsibility, they are quick to point out that each action above is a risk factor that makes college students less likely to graduate. Borrowing could prevent this, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of Excelencia in Education. "If you can take out a little bit of loan you're more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you're more likely to complete." How much more likely? Federal data analyzed by Excelencia and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time compared to 70 percent of students who don't borrow and roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor's degree within eight years compared to 25 percent of part-time students.

What can be done to facilitate this message? Educators believe students need to better understand financial aid, the difference between types of loans, debt management and the returns on various degrees and majors. In addition to searching for scholarships and grants, is borrowing part of your financial aid plan and does this information make you more or less likely to take out a loan?


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