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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

November 21, 2011

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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Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

November 30, 2011

Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

by Alexis Mattera

Students applying to college have a lot on their plates. There are applications and essays to complete, campus visits to schedule and FAFSAs to navigate of course but college hopefuls are taking an additional step to up their admissions chances by participating in serious social media scrub downs.

With admissions officers looking beyond traditional application materials to select their students – the latest survey from Kaplan Test Prep found that 24 percent had visited applicants’ Facebook pages while 20 percent used Google searches – college applicants are creating alternate identities to disguise less-than-savory photos or comments on a number of social media sites. "Ask any senior in high school what his or her Facebook name is and you will find that they have morphed their FB identity into something slightly peculiar and mysterious that only their ‘friends’ can figure out," says Naomi Steinberg, owner of Apply Yourself Educational Consulting. And though students’ original online identities often reappear after admissions decisions have been made, Steinberg says the trend of social media expurgation will continue into the next phase of students’ lives as well, like when they begin applying for jobs.

College applicants, do you plan to tweak your social media persona as soon as your applications go out? Current college students, do you think online editing played a role in your acceptance?

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Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

December 2, 2011

Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

by Scholarships.com Staff

When an acceptance letter arrives from your dream college, your first instinct may be to scream, cry and jump on your couch with Tom Cruise-caliber flair. Feel free to give in to those urges – hey, you earned it! – but realize you will soon have to figure out how to pay for your education. Can you really afford this school, not only while you’re attending but after you graduate as well? A new list from Kiplinger says your dream school could be a reality after all.

The list, which rates how well colleges actually do in making themselves affordable, includes schools with students who graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt on average. The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise also weighed in, supplementing Kiplinger’s findings with data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Here’s what he found were the most affordable institutions based on the average amount of debt graduates carry:

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Show Your Finals Who’s Boss!

December 7, 2011

Show Your Finals Who’s Boss!

by Darci Miller

It’s basically a fact that finals week is terrible for everyone. Even I, with only one final (and a take-home at that!), am stressed with last-minute story edits, hours upon hours of shifts at work and thoughts of moving home for a month. But the end of the semester doesn’t have to mean all-nighters and misery if you play your cards right. Here are some of my favorite ways to destress when it all starts feeling like too much.

This time of year may be stressful but just remind yourself that no matter what happens, these tests and papers are not the end-all, be-all. Life will go on - I promise!

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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Meningitis and the College Student

December 9, 2011

Meningitis and the College Student

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With the holidays just around the corner, the last thing you want to think about is getting sick. But with kissletoe (err...I mean mistletoe) in the hallways of the dorms and the impending threat of cold season, it's important that you do everything you can to stay healthy. Specifically, let's talk about meningitis – one of the biggest threats to college students' health today – and what you can to prevent it.

Meningitis is a serious illness which can cause headaches, fever, vomiting, sensitivity to light and more and if not properly treated, meningitis can lead to seizures, amputation, coma and even death. The way meningitis is spread varies depending on the type of meningitis (i.e. bacterial, viral, fungal, non-infectious, etc.). While not as contagious as the flu, bacterial meningitis is spread by coughing, sharing drinks or kissing.

Several things you can do to prevent meningitis include washing your hands properly, getting plenty of rest, not sharing drinks and getting vaccinated, though bacterial meningitis is the only type of meningitis which can be prevented with a vaccine. Because it's the most common type to afflict college students (as well as the most deadly), it's extremely important to get vaccinated before attending college. With that said, if you're already in college and haven't been vaccinated, now is the time to do so! In fact, beginning January 1st, Texas is requiring all incoming college students to get vaccinated prior to attending.

If you think you or someone you know might have symptoms of meningitis, see a doctor right away. Meningitis is treatable with antibiotics but only if you act in time!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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When and How to Start Preparing for Grad School

December 13, 2011

When and How to Start Preparing for Grad School

by Kayla Herrera

I have been looking at graduate schools for a while now to better prepare myself for a career in my profession of choice. If you are interested in graduate school as well, you probably had the same question I once did: When and how do I start preparing?

We recently had a graduate school seminar here at Michigan Tech that talked about when to start applying, what to expect, taking the GRE, etc. Here are the points I found most important for one’s journey to graduate school:

If you want more information on graduate school, my school has the seminar online for viewing and other resources used in the seminar can be found here. Do your research , stay organized and your acceptance letter will follow!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.

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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

December 13, 2011

College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?

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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

December 15, 2011

I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.

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