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Helpful Tips on Maximizing Merit Aid

Jun 16, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out the bottom line when it comes to the cost of your college education is definitely a stressful part of the process. With everything that goes into determining your financial aid package (your parents’ income, your earnings and your family’s net assets), it’s important to understand that merit aid – aid based on a student’s attributes (academics, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) – is available to student regardless of their “need.” New federal rules are blurring the distinction between scholarships awarded on merit and grants awarded because of a student’s financial need – for instance, a growing number of colleges now award “need-based” aid to students from families earning six figures! Who would have thunk it?! So, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to maximize your chances for merit aid and increase your overall financial aid package.

  • Fill out the FAFSA. Federal rules have changed. College aid officials are now allowed to award need-based aid to students whose parents earned decent salaries last year but have recently been laid off, as well as make accommodations for a family’s unique circumstances, such as high medical bills.
  • Apply to schools where you’d rank at the top. While your dream school might be an Ivy League, you should apply to at least a few colleges where your GPA would put you in the top 25 percent of the student body.
  • Apply to schools that offer generous need-based aid. In the 2009-10 academic year, Louisiana College reported that 88 percent of students were receiving non-need based financial aid. Do the schools you’re considering boast the same kind of aid?
  • Do the research. If you’re interested in a college, find out what it has to offer when it comes to merit aid. You might qualify for more awards than you think!
  • Before making a final decision, compare net prices. Consider the cost of attendance in its entirety including tuition and fees, room and board, books and transportation. The school that offers the most in merit aid might not be the best choice; sometimes the college offering the largest merit scholarship might have the highest net price because its tuition is higher.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Believe it or not, you have negotiating leverage when it comes to your merit aid package. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities and your first choice has a higher net price than your second choice, contact that institution! Some schools might be willing to match the merit aid offered, which would provide you the opportunity to attend your first choice school for less money!

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

Jun 15, 2011

by Kara Coleman

On June 9th, Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed what supporters and opponents alike consider to be the toughest law on immigration in the nation.

The law, due to come into effect on September 1st, requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be illegal if they are pulled over for some other reason. (It’s also a criminal act to harbor or give a ride to someone who is in the country illegally.) Alabama businesses are required to use the E-Verify database to check the immigration status of their employees and businesses that employ illegal aliens could have their business licenses suspended or even revoked.

Opponents of the bill are honing their attacks on the fact that public schools will be required to check the residency status of their students. Jared Shepherd, an attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned illegal immigrants will not send their children to school out of fear of being arrested. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale, said that particular section of the bill is intended to gather information about how many illegal aliens attend Alabama public schools, and the cost of educating them. In fact, the bill specifically states that “primary and secondary education” is a public benefit that does not require residency to be verified.

In the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants could not be denied a public education based on their status. The writers of the immigration bill studied Plyler v. Doe previously, and the state bill contains no provisions violating it. Also, because of the way this bill was written, if one section of the bill is ruled to be unconstitutional, the rest of the law will still stand. “We want anybody who wants to make their home here to be able to do so,” says Representative John Merrill. “But we want every one of them to do it the right way.”

As a lifelong Alabama resident and current undergraduate student, I don’t believe this law will impact me personally – I am a citizen and every international student I know is either part of an exchange program or recently obtained citizenship – but I can see how it might hinder illegal students from wanting to pursue or continue higher education. The real test will be when the law comes into effect in three months.

Kara Coleman attends Gadsden State Community College, where she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Top 10 Least Expensive Public Colleges for In-State Students

Jun 14, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like students are willing to do just about anything to save on tuition, from saying “I do” to asking for handouts to applying early and often for college scholarships. But what if you’re not willing to take the plunge, have a sense of humility and scholarships just aren’t covering the astronomical costs tied to college tuition? Then attending a public school might be your best bet and to slash the bill even further, selecting an in-state public school is the way to go!

According to a survey conducted by U.S. News, the average tuition and fees for in-state residents among the 452 public colleges that reported data was $7,042 for the 2010-11 school year. Check out the 10 least expensive public schools for in-state students, accounting for tuition and required fees (but not room and board, books, transportation or other miscellaneous college costs) below.

  1. New Mexico Highlands University
  2. Macon State College
  3. Fayetteville State University
  4. California State University—Northridge
  5. Elizabeth City State University
  6. University of Wyoming
  7. University of North Carolina—Pembroke
  8. North Carolina A&T State University
  9. Eastern New Mexico University
  10. Fort Hays State University

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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To Stay Informed on Campus, Develop a Nose for News

Jun 13, 2011

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the most striking differences between high school and college is how everyone pays attention to the news. Most students are up to date with their current events and world happenings and they love to talk about it in and out of class. So how can you become news savvy?

Whether they are reading online newspapers, blog or user-generated content on social media sites, college students get their news primarily through the Internet. I first learned about Bin Laden's death through Facebook after someone had posted it as their status and I know people who get Twitter updates from online publications sent directly to their phones so they can stay on top of major news events.

Another way to gather news is by watching television. CNN or MSNBC is always on in the cafeteria or coffeehouse area at my school. My friends and I tune in to those channels but we prefer to watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” These shows keep you informed without beating you over the head with hours of unimportant opinions and reports and they make you laugh in the process.

Of course, there is always the traditional method of gathering news: newspapers and other print media. When I’m on campus, I never have to look very far to find copies of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal or a number of local publications. Not only are these print publications widely available to students every day but they are also free. Thanks, U of R!

So for all you incoming college freshmen, I would recommend you brushing up on your current events and for all you fellow college goers, how do you stay informed?

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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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From Yale, With Love (and Perhaps a Lawsuit)

Online Course Transcripts for Sale in China

Jun 8, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

This is not a good week for higher education in China. First, a cheating scam is toppled just days before the national college entrance exam and now, it’s been discovered that Shaanxi Normal University Press is selling transcripts of Yale University’s free online courses.

The content – five transcripts from Open Yale Courses, a program that’s been offering free online videos of popular Yale classes since 2007 – has been published by Shaanxi without Yale’s permission. In addition to lifting content from the video lectures, Shaanxi also took material directly from the transcripts’ translations prepared by YYeTs, a Chinese nonprofit. Diana Kleiner, a Yale art history professor and principal investigator for Open Yale Courses, told the Yale Alumni Magazine blog “possibly as much as 95 percent” of the material was copied; this plus the sale of the content violates the terms of the course giveaway, which states others cannot profit from the material.

Though one professor says he is flattered by the attention, Yale officials are less than pleased, especially since the school is planning its own book series based on the Open Yale Courses.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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You Are What You Tweet

How to Make 140 Characters Count

Jun 8, 2011

by Casandra Pagn

Twitter can be a great resource for checking the most up-to-the-date information in a conveniently streamed, easy-to-read manner. It can be your all-access pass to breaking news, celebrity gossip or a great tool for social networking.

Because of the character restrictions on tweets (140, to be exact), Twitter is meant to broadcast short, important information in a concise manner. There isn’t time to get bogged down with useless information because there simply isn’t space in the Twittersphere.

But how can Twitter help you market yourself, network and possibly land you a job? Here are some tips:

Be careful what you tweet. Even though you’ve only got 140 characters, it’s plenty of space for words or ideas that can cast a negative image of yourself. Don’t tell your tweeps (Twitter followers, for those not versed in social networking lingo) that you’re partying hard tonight or that you hate your economics professor. Instead, try retweeting a cool news story or writing about an awesome event happening on your campus.

Follow smart people. While no one is going to criticize you for following Perez, make sure you’re also following credible news sources, local leaders and people related to organizations on campus or affiliates from your school. This way, once you find out what the Kardashians are up to on Friday night, you can get back to reality quickly.

Use Twitter to spread the word. Twitter can be a great tool to get the word out because if you’re following the right people and they’re following you, you can broadcast your message to the masses. Try tweeting about a campus charity event or something that you’re involved in and passionate about. Use Twitter to promote your student organization or club’s events. Tell your tweeps where and when to be, and why they should help support!

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Cheating Scam Busted in Beijing

Jun 6, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

There have been countless movie and television show plots surrounding forms of academic dishonesty but in real life, cheating doesn’t pay. The cheater’s reputation, on the other hand, does. Dearly.

The Associated Press reported 62 individuals have been detained by China's Education Ministry for selling wireless devices they believe would be used to cheat on the upcoming college entrance exam. Since the plot was discovered before the exam, however, the ministry hopes its actions will protect the test's integrity, which more than 9 million high school students are expected to take this week.

Whether it’s copying and pasting someone else’s words into your paper, crafting the tiniest of crib sheets or constructing an elaborate system of two-way radios to relay information in real time, cheating is everywhere. The good news is that educators are fighting back with new outlooks, smarter software, harsher punishments to curb students’ urges to cheat. Are these tactics working? The jury’s still out. What’s being done at your school to limit and eventually stop academic dishonesty? Do you have any suggestions how to make these methods more effective?

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Books on the House!

National Academies Press Puts All 4,000 Books Online for Free

Jun 3, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a college student on a budget, everything’s coming up roses for you today. Not only is it National Doughnut Day, where you can snag a complimentary tasty treat at Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme (I did!) but the National Academies Press announced it will offer its entire PDF catalog of books for free. You read that right! The press, which is the publishing arm of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, will offer files that can be downloaded by anyone absolutely free of charge.

Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for the press, said it had previously offered 65 percent of its titles – ones that were narrow in scope – for free. “The 35 percent that we are adding today will reach a wider audience, and we are doing it because it’s central to our mission to get this information to everyone,” she said. What can students, educators or anyone for that matter look forward to? A wide array of titles including “Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards,” which costs $99.95 in hardcover. (Woah!)

“Eight years ago, if we did this, we would have lost substantial amounts of money,” Pope said. “But our costs have come down a lot, and our institution says they will stand behind us even if we do lose money.” Let’s hope this trend catches on and others jump on the freebie bandwagon!

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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10 Universities with the Smallest Classes

Jun 2, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

The transition from high school to college is most evident to students when they realize they’ll no longer be coddled in cozy classes of 20 students or less. Lecture halls with 300-plus students are the norm at most major universities where classes tend to be impersonal, relationships with professors are typically nonexistent and students feel more like numbers than people. So for those who prefer a learning environment that provides back-and-forth discussion amongst students and professors, U.S. News and World Report has compiled a list of universities with the highest percentage of small classes.

According to the data, several universities with undergraduate enrollments below 3,000, as well as a few top ranked universities with larger undergraduate populations, reported that a vast majority of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Check out the top 10 universities with the smallest class sizes below. (For more information on the survey, click here.)

  1. New School
  2. Golden Gate University
  3. Harvard University
  4. Immaculata University
  5. Nova Southeastern University
  6. Yale University
  7. Columbia University
  8. University of Chicago
  9. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  10. University of La Verne

How important is class size to you? Are large lectures deal breakers in your book?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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N.J. Bill Proposes Banning Public Colleges from Paying Commencement Speakers

May 31, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, college graduation. It’s a time filled with incredible hope, fear and potentially – depending on your college’s tradition and its willingness to pony up the cash – a famous celebrity commencement speaker. But paying for commencement speakers won’t be happening in Jersey for long: Last week, New Jersey lawmakers proposed a bill that would bar the payment for commencement speakers at public colleges.

The bill comes weeks after Kean University paid John Legend $25,000 to speak and sing two songs at their commencement ceremony on May 12, while Rutgers University paid Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison $30,000 for her speech on May 15. John DiMaio (R-Warren), one of the bill’s sponsors, said he objects to public institutions paying celebrities at a time when student costs are rising and state funding is shrinking. "We’re in very, very difficult times," DiMaio said. "Tuitions are up. The amount of aid we have to offer is down."

The legislation proposes that if a state-funded college or university pays for their commencement speakers, the amount paid will be deducted from the school’s state aid. How did the schools react? Rutgers and Kean officials insist they paid speakers to give their students the best graduation possible and Rutgers officials added they planned on having their attorneys review the proposed bill. To those of you who just graduated, do you think it’s appropriate to pay commencement speakers? Should institutions charge a cover or increase ticket prices for graduation ceremonies in order to offer big-name celebrities without the risk of losing state aid? Let us know what you think.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Automated Attendance Monitoring Proposed at UK University

May 26, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

On days like today, it’s hard to get out of bed, let alone head out to an early morning class. True, your professor may not notice you’re missing from their 8 a.m. 300-person lecture now but it could get more difficult to skip class in the near future.

Case in point: De Montfort University in Leicester, England is considering monitoring student attendance via electronic chips in their ID cards. Unlike attendance-monitoring programs introduced at other institutions, De Montfort’s would be completely automated and, according to the minutes from a recent meeting of the school’s executive board, combining Wi-Fi and RFID technologies would make for "the most foolproof way of monitoring attendance."

The National Union of Students warned that members would "balk at the prospect of being treated like inmates under surveillance" and I have to agree. Students don’t need to be monitored and penalized for lack of attendance; it’s their decision whether or not to go to class and their participation and overall grades will reflect that choice. Do you think this attendance monitoring system (or attendance monitoring in college in general) is a good idea or a bad idea and why?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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