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When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

by Abby Egan

I started looking for colleges in my junior year of high school because I was so unsure about what I wanted. Deciding on a college was a scary thought to me because I was under the impression that I was going to be stuck at whichever school I chose for four whole years. So to ease my ever-increasing stress levels, I visited my dream school (MCLA) almost seven times before accepting to attend for the fall of 2011.

I jumped at every opportunity to get to know my top choice better and better: I visited on long weekends with my parents, signed up for multicultural nights and participated in overnight programs bussed from Boston. I took the drive to MCLA whenever I needed to talk to the Bursar about bills or the financial aid office about student loans. Though it was a long ride, I got on a first-name basis with the librarian and a handful of school officials, putting faces to names and breaking down that wall between being strangers and being acquaintances.

I took the time to really determine whether I wanted to spend the next four years at MCLA. Though my parents researched facts online and talked on the phone with MCLA officials, I made sure to do my own research as well. The bottom line was that I was attending MCLA, not my parents, so I made sure everyone I encountered at the school I spoke to knew me and not just the me my parents spoke about.

I knew I wanted to attend MCLA after my first visit but I’m glad I took the time to get to know the institution a little bit better. It made me feel more prepared for my first semester of freshman year but even if you visit 100 times, you might not know if your school is the one for you until you immerse yourself in the community. If for whatever reason you don’t feel it’s right, don’t panic: You can always transfer. Deciding on a college isn’t the end all be all – there’s always room for change – but you just have to find what’s right for you.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Former UNC Professor to Plead Not Guilty to Academic Felony Fraud

Football Coach and Chancellor Depart Amidst Scandal

December 4, 2013

Former UNC Professor to Plead Not Guilty to Academic Felony Fraud

by Suada Kolovic

The life of the average college student is riddled with deadlines and due dates so when the pressure is on come midterms and finals, there are no sweeter words for those short on time than “class is canceled.” But what if I told you that on the rarest of occasions, you could sign up for a lecture course where attendance wasn't required? Well, that was the reality for a group of student athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; we should mention, however, that the professor of said course has been indicted for doing just that and could face 10 months in prison for his actions if convicted.

Julius Nyang’oro, a former chairman of UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, is accused of receiving $12,000 for a lecture course while holding no classes. Orange County District Attorney James Woodall said Nyang’oro’s 2011 summer course was supposed to have regular lectures but required students to write papers in lieu of coming to class. A defense attorney says the former professor will plead not guilty to the felony fraud charge and that the university recouped the $12,000 but the scandal has contributed to the departure of football coach Butch Davis (who had 19 of his players enrolled in the class) and the resignation of chancellor Holden Thorp. (For more on this story, click here.)


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Colorado State U. Adds Women’s Soccer, Nixes Water Polo in Order to Comply with Title IX

by Suada Kolovic

Four decades after Title IX was enacted, many colleges and universities across the country still struggle with the gender-equity requirements. If you’re not familiar with Title IX, allow me to give you a brief synopsis: The law states: “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” While Title IX has had obvious positive effects on women’s education, we most often associate this law’s success within athletics but compliance with Title IX isn’t always a clear task. Take for instance what’s happening at Colorado State University: The school plans to add scholarships through a new women’s soccer team but are doing so at the expense of the women’s water polo team. If you’re scratching your head in confusion, join the club.

According to reports, the complaint against the university filed in July 2012 alleged that CSU discriminated against female athletes by falling to provide opportunities equal to those afforded to their male counterparts. The university agreed to a turnaround plan that will bring it into compliance by September 2016 but many individuals have pointed out the odd juxtaposition of a women’s sport being eliminated to comply with gender-balance guidelines. “It definitely shows that they didn’t take our sport as seriously as maybe men’s basketball or football, because they definitely wouldn’t have eliminated them,” said Alexzandrea Daley, a 19-year-old junior and water polo team member at CSU. Officials at the university have sympathized with their outrage but reaffirm that the university could not afford to keep both sports. (For more on this story, click here.)

Sure, repeated failures to comply with Title IX can jeopardize a university’s federal financial support but do you agree with Colorado State’s solution? Do you think it fair to the female athletes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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CollegeWeekLive

March 25, 2009

by Emily

Are you getting ready to kick off the college search, but unsure where to begin?  Today and tomorrow, prospective college students can participate in CollegeWeekLive, a free college prep event featuring college admissions and financial aid information from schools and experts across the country.  The event takes place online at CollegeWeekLive.com and kicks off today at 10 AM EDT, with the first keynote address scheduled for 11 a.m.

Participants in CollegeWeekLive will be able to visit virtual information booths and speak with admissions officers from colleges of all sizes in every part of the United States, as well as several online and international schools.  Current students from over 75 colleges will also be available to chat live and answer your questions about student life.

Admissions, testing and financial aid experts will also give live, streaming presentations throughout the day both days.  Topics range from athletic scholarships to standardized test preparation.  Speakers include Scholarships.com's Kevin Ladd, who will be sharing information and advice about finding and winning scholarships.  Kevin will be speaking at 5 PM Eastern tomorrow, so take the opportunity to hear what one of our scholarship experts has to say!

If you're a current high school student thinking ahead to college, this is a great event to check out.  Learn about colleges you may want to attend without spending hours in a car, and hear what people in the know have to say about paying for school.  Students who register also have a shot at winning prizes.


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by Emily

One much-discussed aspect of the college experience is gaining exposure to new people and perspectives.  Another statement that commonly turns up in the college search process is that different schools serve different groups of students--hence the importance of finding a good fit for you.  Many of the most recognizable and commonly referenced differences are based at least in part on the race, gender, socioeconomic status, or country of origin of a college's student population.  A college's mission and ideological and cultural base also play an important role, and exposure to ideological and religious diversity can also be a major component of the college experience.

One student at Brown University recently turned his experiences with such ideological diversity into a book, entitled "The Unlikely Disciple: a Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University."  The author, Kevin Roose, decided to go on a "domestic study abroad" and enroll at Liberty University, a conservative Christian college, for a semester.  What emerges is, at least according to early reviews, an interesting and balanced look at Liberty from an outsider's perspective, as well as an honest exploration of the author's reactions to his new environment.

If you're in the process of choosing a college, or you're just curious about how wide-ranging the student experience can be in America, this book sounds like an interesting read.  Roose's story is also a reminder for current college students that you don't necessarily need to go to an exotic locale to be exposed to people with a cultural experience markedly different from your own.  Though study abroad occasionally can sound like an expensive and protracted sightseeing trip, Roose's "domestic study abroad" is a reminder of the importance of seeing and experiencing a new culture and place and stepping outside one's own ideological bounds.


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by Emily

Earlier this week, we blogged about the recession making getting into a PhD program more difficult for prospective graduate students.  Prospective undergraduates are also facing a changing admissions landscape, but the picture for them is more complicated. Articles about colleges' admission conundrums have abounded this week as acceptance letters and financial aid notices make their way to anxious high school seniors.

Top schools with big endowments and generous financial aid packages, such as virtually the entire Ivy League, are facing increased applications and some of their lowest admission rates ever.  Meanwhile, other private colleges are admitting more students than last year, and also putting more students on their waiting lists.  Many state colleges and community colleges are also seeing increased interest and jumps in enrollment, and schools with limited resources are forced to turn away a larger percentage of applicants.

All of this adds up to a lot of uncertainty for students, and for colleges trying to create next year's freshman class.  Many sources are saying it also means increased flexibility for some students in terms of negotiating admission or financial aid at their top choice schools.

Since schools are hurting financially and admissions offices are as nervous as students this year about their decisions, students who are able to pay full freight (either out-of-pocket or through a generous outside scholarship award) may face an advantage getting off the wait list, since several schools admit to considering ability to pay when deciding whether to admit waitlisted students. Students who have received an acceptance letter from their dream school, but have been offered larger amounts of institutional aid from other colleges may also have more options this year. Students in this boat may want to let their favorite private colleges know about their dilemma to see if they can get a slightly better offer.  Many schools may be willing to drop a couple thousand extra dollars on you if it will secure your tuition payment.


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by Emily

If you're planning on attending college, chances are you're also planning on one day graduating.  Depending on which school you choose, getting out in six years or less could be anything from a long-shot to a near certain bet.  A new study has been published by the American Enterprise Institute comparing graduation rates among colleges based on selectivity ratings as part of an overall push for more accountability and transparency in higher education.  In addition to discussing the gaps in graduation rates among schools, the study also lists some of the best and worst performers in each category by name.  If you're a high school junior or senior just beginning to compare colleges, this could be good information to have.

Overall, the data show that about 53 percent of first-time college students at four-year universities graduate from the school they enrolled in as freshmen with six years. The study does not include non-traditional students or transfer students.  Not surprisingly, students at the most selective schools, such as elite private colleges, were among the most likely to graduate from the school at which they initially enrolled.  Six-year graduation rates at individual schools ranged from the single digits to nearly 100 percent across the whole spectrum of schools, with the most competitive category graduating nearly 88 percent of students on average, and the least competitive schools graduating only 35 percent of students.

Graduation rates also varied greatly within selectivity categories.  Two schools in similar locations with similar ratings could have vastly different graduation rates.  This is where the study becomes particularly useful for students choosing between schools.  If you have a roughly equal chance of getting into two colleges, and one graduates a significantly larger percentage of students then the other, it's not hard to imagine that having this information might influence your decision of which school to apply to or attend.  You can read more over at Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a link to the full study. Along with things like available financial aid and quality of on-campus housing, graduation rates are definitely something to consider incorporating into your criteria for your college search.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

When choosing a college, a number of factors come into play, but for students applying for admission in the middle of a recession, expected salaries undoubtedly play a major role. The website Payscale.com recently published a list of both starting and mid-career salaries, as reported by users of the site, broken down by both college and major. The New York Times Economix blog provides a useful breakdown of this information, which may come in handy for students beginning the college search process.

In general, graduates of top colleges earned more than graduates of less competitive schools, especially at the mid-career point. Starting salaries were also high for graduates from schools that focus on training students for highly technical lines of work. Students majoring in engineering, economics, physics and computer science had the highest salaries, while social work, elementary education and theology were the lowest-paying majors. Music also falls near the bottom...not surprising since few musicians will have as lucrative of careers as, say, Michael Jackson, and "American Idol" often seems to be as viable a route to success as earning a music degree.

There were some surprises, though. For example, philosophy majors actually outranked information technology majors for mid-career salaries, and engineering schools ousted many Ivy League universities for top starting salaries. Additionally, the spread between the top salaries and bottom salaries at many universities was wide; for example, the top quarter of graduates from the lowest-paying school still earned more than the bottom 10 percent of those from the school with the highest median mid-career salary.

While the Payscale report relies on self-reported information from users of the site, rather than a scientific study with random data samples, it still could be useful in choosing a college or choosing a major, especially when paired with other information about the highest paying majors and the value of a college degree. In the end, your choice of major, your choice of college, and your personal drive and abilities will all affect your starting salary and lifetime earning potential. While choosing schools and majors that produce the highest salaries is tempting, playing to your stengths is still likely to pay off the most in the end, and may also give you a better college experience regardless of where you end up.


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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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