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Student Banned from Campus for Facebook Status

December 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

On Monday, a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was greeted by campus police when she arrived on campus. The reason: faculty members had felt threatened by her Facebook status updates.

Amanda Tatro, a student in the university's mortuary science program, had made a series of Facebook status updates over the weekend that made references to violence and her embalming lab class. Some of her professors were concerned by these updates and called the police. Tatro was escorted off campus Monday and barred from her classes for the first half of the week, finally being reinstated and allowed to make up missed work yesterday after police and the university's Office of Student Conduct deemed her posts non-threatening.

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Tatro posted to Facebook that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" because "lots of aggression can be taken out" with a sharp embalming tool. She later added she wanted to "stab a certain someone in the throat" and followed that up with an oblique reference to the movie Kill Bill and "making friends with the crematory guy."

To many, this was just blowing off steam to her friends after receiving some bad news. But to professors being bombarded with last minute pleas and thinly veiled threats from stressed students during the finals week frenzy, Tatro's threats could easily refer to them, rather than an ex-boyfriend they knew nothing about. Given recent violent acts and threats on other college campuses, instructors chose to share their concerns with police.

While Tatro's situation was resolved relatively quickly and peacefully, others have faced serious consequences for threatening posts online. If you use Facebook or other social networking sites casually, be aware of who might be able to read what you write. Think about possible interpretations of what you say before you say it, especially if it could be in any way construed as a threat of violence against or a malicious attack on someone you know. If you put something on the Internet, always assume that it's public, and that your professors, peers, prospective employers, high school nemeses, and parents are able to stumble across it. Though public venting can be nice and can help you blow off steam when you're stressed, it can potentially lead to trouble and Internet drama that could last much longer than the original cause of your stress.

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Students Suffering More Stress Now than in Great Depression

January 15, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Next time your grandparents bust out that “walked to school uphill in the snow” line, you can let them know that your generation has its problems too—and there’s a growing body of research to back that up. A new study released this week shows that students today are more stressed and depressed than students surveyed during the Great Depression.

A professor of psychology at San Diego State University, Jean Twenge, is the lead author of a new study that analyzes the responses of high school and college students who took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a popular psychological questionnaire, between 1938 and 2007. The analysis finds a sharp uptick in anxiety and depression among young people in 2007, compared to 1938. A full 31 percent of students experience “hypomania,” which is defined as a mix of anxiety and unrealistic optimism, compared to 5% in 1938, and 6% of high school and college students taking the survey could be classed as suffering from depression, compared to only 1% in 1938. More students also report trouble with authority or feeling like rules don’t apply to them.

While the study doesn’t conclusively show the cause of these increases, mounting evidence points to increased anxiety about finances and social status as a likely culprit. An Associated Press report on Twenge’s findings cites a national survey of college freshmen that found that 77% of 2008’s incoming college students considered financial success either “essential” or “very important” in their lives. Part of this anxiety could be due to increased concern about keeping up appearances and earning the admiration of peers, while some of it could also reflect much more concrete concerns about earning enough to be financially secure.

The recent recession has highlighted the uncertainty and instability of job prospects in many careers and it is increasingly difficult for students to game the system and find a “safe bet” at a high-paying career. Jobs in law and finance are down, and even students who majored in computer science, one of the go-to degrees of the last decade, can face difficulties finding good jobs. College costs have skyrocketed, admission has gotten more competitive at top schools, and research has shown that lower-income students lag behind richer students in completing degrees. Based on these very real concerns, it’s easy to see why high school and college students are stressed about money.

If you want to minimize stress and anxiety in your life, there are some concrete steps you can take. First, do what you love. If you don’t know what that is, spend some time exploring majors and careers that interest you through internships, volunteering, and taking a variety of classes. Find a college where you fit in and can excel—research shows the effort you put in is the biggest factor in determining what you get out of college. Take some time to look for scholarships to help you reduce the stress associated with debt and also reap some of the benefits of college success that have been associated with winning scholarships.  Finally, if you're feeling stressed out about life and money, take some solace in knowing that you're not alone and that your school has resources, including counseling, that can help you cope.

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Make the Most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

By now you've probably slept in, taking advantage of the day off from class. If you venture outside of your dorm room or apartment though, chances are your campus will have a number of activities happening surrounding the holiday. Why not then recognize the work and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a local activity celebrating diversity? It'll probably be more rewarding than watching reruns all afternoon.

Here are some highlights we found from college observances of Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

  • Former "lost boy" John Bul Dau will speak today at Champlain College tonight. Dau led groups of displaced Sudanese boys after 27,000 of them were driven from their homes in 1987 by the region's violence, and has raised $700,000 through a foundation he set up to open a clinic in Sudan.
  • Northwestern University will feature a performance tonight by Chicago jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and his trio, as well as lectures, panel discussions, and film, music and theater events throughout the day.
  • Alma College will host a live performance tonight of "The Meeting," a drama about the lives and philosophies of Malcolm X and King.

Some students had planned to make the most of the day off well in advance. At the College of Charleston, teams of 10 students apiece are participating in the MLK Day Challenge, also known as the National MLK Day of Service.  Each team receives $75, a van, and six hours to help a local nonprofit group complete a community service project (painting playground equipment or leading educational sessions in the community, for example) by the end of the day. A number of students from Whatcom Community College will work on two projects today, partnering with Habitat for Humanity and with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association in stream-side restoration.

If you need some inspiration on this important day, check out how some teens in the Silicon Valley are living King's dream. It's never too late to help out, whether it's looking for ways to make change in Haiti or as close as your local neighborhood. Enjoy the day off if you want to, but consider what you can do to help out once you're done relaxing, because there aren't a shortage of volunteer opportunities out there. And if you need even more of an incentive, conduct a free scholarship search to see the number of community service scholarship opportunities out there for college students interested in volunteerism.

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Colleges Reach Out to Students Affected by Earthquake in Haiti

January 20, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Last week’s earthquake in Haiti has had a profound impact on students, faculty, and staff at a number of college campuses. Students and faculty from Lynn University in Florida are still missing in Haiti, while members of other campus communities in the U.S. and Canada have been counted among the more than 70,000 dead. Schools are beginning to reach out to their students who suffered losses in the earthquake, including one college that’s offering free tuition to its Haitian students.

Tallahassee Community College is offering 100% tuition relief for the duration of their education to 35 currently enrolled students from Haiti. After a unanimous vote from the school’s trustees, Tallahassee Community College will begin figuring out the logistics of offering this assistance immediately. The college’s president Bill Law said, “These students will go to school for free. We will keep that in place while they are here,” while acknowledging that there are still details to be ironed out when it comes to getting the funding to the students.

While Tallahassee Community College appears to be first to announce special financial aid for all Haitian enrollees, other schools are reaching out to their students who were affected by the earthquake. Colleges and universities are offering counseling, help contacting friends and family, and assistance finding ways to stay in school for their Haitian students and students of Haitian descent.

The City University of New York and Miami Dade College are also engaging in a variety of special efforts to help their students who are from Haiti or who have family and friends there. CUNY has 6,000 students who are either Haitian or of Haitian descent on its 23 campuses. Miami Dade College Both schools are offering counseling services and are trying to help students stay in school during this crisis. Medgar Evers College, part of the CUNY system, has set up support centers to help students reach friends and family members in Haiti. Students are able to make long distance calls and use computers to try to reach their loved ones.

In addition to aiding in the search for four students and two faculty members who were volunteering in Haiti when the earthquake struck, Lynn University has established a fund to assist members of their community whose lives the earthquake has impacted. The Lynn University Haiti Crisis Fund donation page states the money will provide assistance for 40 Haitian staff members at the school, as well as students and faculty from Haiti.

Students and schools nationwide are engaging in other relief efforts, including holding fundraisers and donation drives for a wide range of charities that are assisting in the recovery effort. Doctors from several medical schools have already arrived in Haiti to assist in treating the wounded. As more time passes and immediate needs are met, there will be more opportunities for students interested in community service and humanitarian aid to help out in Haiti, both through sustained donations and volunteer efforts.

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Williams College Ends "No-Loan" Policy

February 2, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As a response to "operating in unsettled and ... unsettling times," Williams College has decided to stop offering its no-loan student-aid program and to reintroduce modest student loans to students' financial aid packages.

In an open letter to the Williams community released over the weekend, the school's Interim President Bill Wagner said the change would not affect current students, but beginning with the class that enters in the fall of 2011. Families below a certain income will still not be expected to borrow at all, and other students will be offered loans on a sliding scale up to a maximum size that the school says will still be among the lowest in the country.

Student loans were eliminated at Williams in the 2008-2009 academic year, joining more than 30 private colleges that had adopted similar policies, such as Amherst and Claremont McKenna colleges. (There have already been rumors that Amherst College may join Williams in amending its own policy.) The decision to cut loans out of students' financial aid packages came at a time when the school's endowment had grown so large that there were demands to spend more. But at the same time, more students were applying for and qualifying for financial aid.

Williams isn't the only college to renege on a promise to students, nor is it the first. Lafayette College raised the loan limit it pledged to students from $2,500 a year to $3,500 a year if they had family incomes of between $50,000 and $100,000. Dartmouth College has been requiring loans again for those at certain levels now exempt from borrowing. Endowments across the country have plummeted, suffering their worst losses since the Great Depression. According to an article in The Chronicle for Higher Education published last week, the value of college endowments declined by an average of 23 percent from 2008 to 2009. An endowment student sponsored by the National Association of College and University Business Officers found that of the 654 institutions that reported carrying long-term debt, the average debt load grew from $109.1 million to $167.8 million.

Are "no loans" policies feasible at all? Some critics explain that there are students currently exempt from taking out loans who could easily be able to pay them off once they graduate. Students with family incomes of more than $120,000 have the resources to borrow less than other students, critics say, and the focus instead should be on helping low-income students keep their loan debts at a minimum. Williams hasn't been clear as to what the family income cutoff would be for its new policy, but it will undoubtedly hit the middle class hard.

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Studies Suggests Being "Prosocial" in College Improves Experiences in Adulthood

February 5, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

College seniors who prioritize "prosocial" activities while on campus have a better chance to lead more productive lives in adulthood than their peers who may have focused more on their academics or landing a high-paying job post-graduation, according to a University of Notre Dame.

"Prosocial" activities are described as helping friends through difficult situations and participating in community service projects, not making sure your Friday and Saturday nights are planned well in advance. The researchers suggest the results point to the benefits of having goals focused on helping others rather than just helping yourself.

The two studies looked at a sample of 416 college seniors (57 percent were male) who were evaluated again 13 years after graduation, once they reached their mid-30s. As seniors, the respondents had four types of "life goals" in the following categories: creative ("becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts"), prosocial ("helping others who are in difficulty"), financial ("being successful in a business of my own"), and personal recognition ("becoming an authority in my field"). At adulthood, however, those who responded that they still considered themselves prosocial after all those years also described greater personal growth and integrity.

It isn't a stretch to believe that being kind to your peers and spending some time volunteering may make you a better person, or at least allow you to work toward being a better person. It's interesting to think, however, that how you behave in college may have a hand in shaping who you are as an adult. The studies suggest that if your purpose in life is helping others, you're set to become a well-rounded adult. Colleges may want to take notice and provide students with more of these types of activities and opportunities, or even promote service as part of their curriculums.

You don't need to allow your grades to slip or stop working hard to graduate on time and land that first job out of college. The studies are more a reminder that other things are important, too, like evaluating your life goals and giving yourself a priority check once in a while. Make the most of your college experience, and consider volunteerism and service as a way to make you more well-rounded. And if you are that go-getter worried about how the state of economy will hinder your job prospects post-graduation, consider this: community service looks great on a resume, and great on applications for advanced degrees. There are also a large number of scholarships that reward students for their service, so consider all of your options when you're planning that social calendar.

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College Kitchens Becoming More Allergy Friendly

February 25, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're worried about how your food allergies will affect your experiences in that dorm cafeteria this fall, you're not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict the number of allergy sufferers will only continue to grow in the coming years, as record numbers of children with allergies grow up and head onto college campuses. To address the increase in coeds with allergies, many colleges have started to revamp their cafeteria kitchens and menus to make it easier for students to find allergy-free options.

According to the CDC, the number of Americans 18 and younger with allergies is at a record high. About 3 million, or 4 percent, of that age group suffers from food allergies; in 1997, about 2.3 million in that population reported food allergies. About 12 million people of all age groups in the United States have food allergies.

A recent article in USA Today took a look at colleges that have been making changes to their students' dining options. Franklin and Marshall College went nut-free about three years ago. (Nuts are the most problematic and common food allergy. Many places, like elementary schools and airlines, have already banned them from their menus.)  The University of New Hampshire is stocked with gluten-free foods, and its dining halls include cookware used solely in the preparation of gluten-free dishes. (You can't make a food less allergenic by cooking it, by the way.) At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, students are able to determine the exact ingredients in foods available on campus. Eventually, the school plans to run a database that catalogs foods with allergens in them. The College of the Holy Cross allows students interested in the school's meal plans to pre-order their meals via email. The school is also opening an allergy-free kitchen this fall, making it easier for students to eat in the dining hall with their friends.

The article also points to a recent initiative from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Last October, the group premiered its College Network, a database that allows college students to determine who they should contact at schools about their food allergies, and information about colleges that have taken measures to address food allergies. The site also gives tips on dorm living with allergies, determining whether your allergy will affect living with a roommate, and steps to take once you arrive on campus to make sure those around you know about what you're allergic to and what to do if you have an allergic reaction.

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College Students Plan Alternative Spring Breaks

March 2, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Spring break is fast approaching. Some college students already have their all-inclusive vacations planned out for beach-side locations like Cancun and South Padre Island, taking the week to relax, kick back, and take a break from campus life. Others, however, have alternative plans, and hope to give back a little in the wake of a number of recent devastating natural disasters.

An article in Inside Higher Ed yesterday describes the plans of David Adewumi, a Pennsylvania State University student who will join 10 of his peers on a relief trip to Haiti. They plan to spend the week of their spring break helping with minor medical care, food distribution and building shelters for those who lost their homes and livelihoods in the recent quake. A group of 20 to 25 students from the University of Maryland, College Park, and Howard University have similar plans to spend their spring breaks in Haiti, training Haitians to build homes using dirt-filled bags.

The earthquake in Chile on Feb. 27 may cause some to divert their spring break attentions to that country as well. Some schools, like the City University of New York, have already expanded their relief efforts to include both Haiti and Chile. (So far, all students who had already been living or visiting in the South American country have been reported safe, including 27 University of Notre Dame students and faculty members, a group of business-school students and faculty members from the University of Tennessee, and students studying abroad from the University of South Carolina at Columbia.)

Organizers of alternative spring breaks say college students' relief trips are nothing new. But the speed with which students have mobilized to assist countries with recent disasters is. Students have expressed so much interest that some organizers, relief agencies, and college administrators worry that the situation in both Haiti and Chile is not stabilized enough to make for a meaningful experience for spring breakers. In the Inside Higher Ed article, Suzanne Brooks, the director of the Center for International Disaster Information, says inexperienced volunteers should wait a year before planning any relief missions to Haiti. "I don’t think it’s impossible that a year from now for spring break there may be some programs up and running, but I really don’t think it makes sense for this year," she said in the article. It may also not be the safest option, other say, or even a wise idea to send more relief agencies out there when those already on site have had trouble finding sufficient food, water, and housing.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of options if you want to organize an alternative spring break closer to home. At Tulane University, "service learning" has become a part of the curriculum, as students work to continue rebuilding a city still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Those interested in local community service opportunities should also be aware that many nonprofits reward those good deeds with scholarships.

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College Experience Becoming Family Affair

March 9, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the number of returning and adult students continues to grow in an economy where advanced skills are necessary to not only land a good job but keep that job, it was only a matter of time when we'd start seeing more students in school at the same time as their parents.

We've already written about growing community college enrollment. The numbers speak for themselves—nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9 percent over the same period, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Many of those enrolled are returning adult students who want to amp up their skill sets or start on a path toward a new career, perhaps due to a recent layoff or desire to go into a more desirable field. Community colleges have also always been an affordable option for traditional students either looking for a two-year start before transferring to a four-year university, or a two-year associate's program that will get them out onto the market faster. It's only natural then that there would be some overlap, with students and their parents taking courses at the same time.

In Illinois, college students who are 40 and older make up about 23 percent of the community college populations. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune looks at mothers and daughters taking community college courses together, such as Diana Gudowski, a 52-year-old attending Prairie State College in Chicago Heights with her 19-year-old daughter Marissa. The two found themselves on the same campus when the family decided collectively that they could not afford Marissa's first choice, the $30,000 per year St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Marissa plans to complete her prerequisites at the community college and then transfer to Northern Illinois University. Meanwhile, her mother is taking classes toward a bachelor's of fine arts in photography; she already has an associate's from Prairie State in photographic studies. Although their courses don't overlap, their schedules do—the two carpool to campus, as the family shares one car.

"When I got out of high school, I thought ‘Cool. … Now I can take my first class at noon.' But four out of five days, my Mom starts at 8 a.m.," Marissa said in the article.

The article's focus is on mothers and daughters because the female population has been hit harder by the struggling economy. Despite some upturns, there are still more than 15 million people out of work across the country, and many of those are older women with limited educations, according to the Tribune. Are you (or your parents) interested in the community college option? Try our free college search or look through our library of resources for more information.

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Show Choirs Become More Popular on College Campuses

April 13, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A Capella groups, vocal troupes and pitch-perfect singing clubs are fairly common on college campuses as a diversion from academics and another option among the dozens of extracurricular activities students have to choose from. But show choirs have always been more popular at high schools. That is, until the television show "Glee" came onto screens across the country with aims to popularize glee clubs and add some levity to the mood of the country.

Colleges have taken notice, forming their own glee clubs and show choirs that have students singing, dancing, and performing for their student populations and, in some cases, in competitions across the country. An article in USA Today takes a look at some of the new college programs, and what they've done to not only ride the wave of the popularity of "Glee," which returns from its hiatus tonight, but to make their music programs more current and adapt to the tastes of those who buy tickets to their shows.

At Millsaps College, a group of 15 students came together to form a show choir that now performs songs like the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." The group has its first show in two weeks. The University of North Texas created a new singing group shortly after the first season of the Fox show came to an end; more than 100 students auditioned, according to the USA Today article. That group has 30 student members, and will premiere its first performance next month.

High schools across the country have also revamped their concert choirs and chorus groups, incorporating what some say is more audience-friendly music. (Some choirs that aren't too enthusiastic about the show say "Glee" hurts rather than helps them by giving the impression that all choirs perform top 40 hits and include extensive choreography.) The choir at Hoquiam High School in Washington state still performs the traditional tunes one would expect from a conventional vocal group, but the addition of a show choir at the school has allowed Hoquiam to give students the option of performing classic choral styles with the concert choir, and more mainstream country, rock, and hip hop with the show choir. The school's show choir has even performed a song by Weird Al Yankovic.

Tell us about your college or high school show choir or glee club. What kinds of things does your group do to get more students involved in music on campus? Do you still prefer a traditional concert choir over the more unconventional show choirs? And if you are a performer, don't forget that there are music scholarships out there for those with not only vocal talents, but instrumental abilities as well.

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