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Keep Your Wallet Happy Without Sacrificing Style, Technology or Fun

by Jessica Seals

The pressure of always wearing the trendiest clothes, owning the newest cell phone and having an active social life can leave a deep hole in any college student's wallet. However, there are ways to avoid throwing money away every week.

Don’t spend $200 on jeans. Most cities have stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls that sell designer clothes for less. So many students put themselves in debt only to say they are wearing True Religion jeans but you can get more for your money while looking just as good, if not better!

Don’t buy electronics as soon as they are released. Although you may be dying to have the latest smartphone, waiting a few months will guarantee you a lower price. Also, there are cheaper smartphones that work just as well as an iPhone; check with your wireless provider to see if you’re eligible for a free or discounted upgrade as well.

Don’t make a habit out of eating at restaurants all of the time. Bills from Olive Garden and Red Lobster can add up quickly so many students become best friends with fast food dollar menus or decide to only dine out at nicer places on special occasions like birthdays. If you have a meal plan, figure out what dining halls serve the best food and if your dorm has a kitchen, it can be cheaper (and healthier!) to make your own meals. It can be fun cooking with friends and trying each other's recipes, too!

College tuition and fees are enough to put a student in debt. By cutting down on expenses for your social life, you'll still have a great college experience but without a great deal of financial stress.

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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Helpful Tips on Maximizing Merit Aid

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!

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Sick at School? Feel Better...Fast!

by Katie Askew

Being sick at a school that’s hours from home and – let’s be honest – your mom is hard to deal with. Don’t think you’re immune, either: It’s much easier to catch illnesses when you’re living in a 12’x12’ space with another person. On top of that, missing just one college class could be the equivalent of missing an entire week of high school! If you do happen to fall ill, there are ways get better without calling home.

Before moving to campus, make sure you have proof of health insurance (a copy of your insurance card is fine but the real thing is even better). At a new clinic, they will ask you for this so they can treat you and no proof of insurance means no care. Make sure your health insurance covers the clinics and doctors in your new area (some plans don’t) and know your personal medical history and allergies because Mom won’t be in the doctor’s office with you to help.

Next, learn about the health benefits your college has for you. Most universities have free student clinics right on campus with qualified doctors and nurses to remedy you but their limited weekday hours and usually no weekend hours mean you have to work your class and extracurricular schedule around them. In case of emergencies or weekend sickness, know where the nearest hospital, clinic or acute care center is.

For everyday pains, headaches and small scrapes, have a first aid kit in your dorm room. Fill it with the necessities like Band-Aids, Neosporin and Tylenol so you’re not knocking on doors in the middle of the night looking for medicine.

The best way to not get sick, though? Prevention! Wash your hands, get enough sleep, don’t share drinks and eat more than just cake and soda in the dining hall. Stay healthy, my friends!

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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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Later Classes for Students Mean Sleep More, Booze and Lower Grades

by Suada Kolovic

Ah college, a sacred time in your adult life when waking up at noon is considered the norm, Ramen noodles as a diet staple are typical and your classes don’t start until 2 p.m. (Trust me, it’s the good life.) Unfortunately, night owls, there’s a downside: According to a recent study, college students whose classes start later in the day sleep more but they also consume more alcohol and have lower grade point averages.

The study, led by two psychologists at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y., surveyed 253 students about their sleep, class schedules, substance use and mood, among other things. It found that night owls were likely to get more sleep than early birds but were also more likely to binge drink and their grades were moderately lower. They found that students who had later classes tended to stay up later, were not as well rested and had more daytime sleepiness. “Later class start times seemed to change the choices students make: They sleep longer, and they drink more," said Pamela Thacher, co-lead author on the study which was presented at SLEEP 2011, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting in Minneapolis.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Are you more likely to stay up late if you don’t have to wake up for an early class and does being up late translate into making poor decisions?


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Quirky Course Offerings

June 17, 2011

Quirky Course Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever been sitting through a lecture and been on the verge of falling asleep? Do you find yourself wishing your classes were more interesting? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, grab your course catalog and discover your school’s quirky class offerings.

The Science of Harry Potter” is an honors course offered by Frostburg State University in Maryland. As the name suggests, it involves analyzing topics from J.K. Rowling's best-selling novels from a scientific perspective. For instance, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans help students understand how our taste buds function and flying broomsticks are viewed through the lens of anti-gravity research.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is offered at Occidental College in California. Its main topic of study is the concept of race and how Barbie has inadvertently encouraged societal racism; it also offers surprisingly deep insights on gender roles, capitalism and more.

Some people are skeptical about the usefulness of these classes, with the more extreme critics denouncing them as a waste of money. While they are unorthodox, keep in mind these classes still require a significant amount of work. Students taking “The Science of Harry Potter,” for example, must take daily quizzes, complete scientific projects and read textbooks. Speaking of books, “The Science of Harry Potter” only requires two textbooks but the reading list for “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is surprisingly extensive and includes works by social class analysts Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin.

So, if you're tired of more traditional course offerings like physics or sociology, consider finding out if your college offers any unique classes like the ones mentioned above. Just don't expect to do less homework!

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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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Abby Egan

by Abby Egan

Hi all! My name is Abby and I’ll be a junior this fall at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). Nice to meet you!

I chose MCLA mainly because it was as far away from the city as possible: I’m from Quincy, MA, right outside Boston, so I’m well acquainted with the city lifestyle but when choosing a college, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I major in English Communications with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy but when I’m not busy with schoolwork, I love to read, drink tea and walk around town with my camera. Most of the time, however, I run a very busy lifestyle including working three jobs, participating in two volunteer groups and testing out more clubs than I could possibly count.

I applied to be a virtual intern with Scholarships.com this summer because I saw this as my chance to use my own experiences to help incoming college students get a taste of what college is really all about. When it comes down to it, I’m just a regular girl finding her footing in the college atmosphere...just like you. Hopefully I’ll be able to shine some light on what it’s like to live away from home and start the next chapter of your life but the best advice I can give you would be 1. sleep is the most important thing in the world, and 2. your college experience will be what you make of it. Looking forward to sharing more with you soon!


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SIU President’s Granddaughter Wins Full-Tuition Scholarship

by Suada Kolovic

A high school student with excellent grades, a top ACT score and a history of leadership has won full-merit scholarship to Southern Illinois University. No surprise there – she sure sounds like a worthy candidate – but the scholarship winner in question is Maddie Poshard, the granddaughter of the university’s president, Glenn Poshard.

Ms. Poshard was one of 24 students selected for the Presidential/Chancellor Scholarship, a taxpayer-funded scholarship worth about $80,000. More than 250 students applied for the award and 100 finalists were invited for campus interviews before the winners were chosen. "My first concerns began after finding out that I had received the scholarship," Poshard wrote in an email to the Chicago Tribune. "After the initial excitement I learned that not everyone would believe that I earned my scholarship fairly. My family and I discussed the potential consequences of accepting the scholarship, and then I decided the scholarship was the best way to set myself up for success in the future, no matter what criticisms may be said."

According to the Tribune, Mr. Poshard says he stayed out of the scholarship decision, but acknowledges that officials knew that Ms. Poshard was his granddaughter. University financial aid directors said that, in general, schools do not bar employees’ relatives from merit scholarships. Do you think nepotism played a role in Ms. Poshard’s scholarship win? Do you think it’s fair for a clearly bright student to have her credentials questioned because of who her grandfather is? Let us know what you think.


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UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

UC Board Approves 9.6-Percent Increase

July 18, 2011

UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

by Suada Kolovic

With the start of the fall semester just weeks away, University of California students can look forward to yet another tuition hike – a 9.6-percent increase, to be exact. On Thursday, the Board of Regents passed a $1,068 hike on top of a previously approved 8-percent hike for 2011-2012 school year. The regents voted 14-4 in favor of the second increase to cope with the $650 million cut in state funding for next year.

Undergraduate and graduate tuition for California residents will increase to $12,192 a year, not including room and board or campus fees. Now sure, that may not seem like much for college tuition but that’s a $1,890 (or 18 percent) increase from the amount UC undergraduates paid the previous year and more than three times what they paid a decade ago.

Leigh Mason, a fourth-year student and student government activist at UC San Diego, said the timing of the tuition increase so close to the fall term has families scrambling. “For a family and student to find that, means it's not only hard but for some impossible,” said Mason, of San Jose. “Why not go to each UC and cut some overhead before coming to us for more revenue?”

According to UC officials, financial aid and tax credits will cover the increased tuition for many families earning less than $80,000 a year and the tuition increases won’t be imposed this coming school year on many families earning less than $120,000 annually. What do you think of the timing of the tuition hike approval? Is it fair for families to face another increase in tuition so close to the start of the fall semester?


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And the Most Common College Grade is...

by Suada Kolovic

Contrary to popular belief, earning an A in college may not be as much of a challenge as it seems. According to a new study, 43 percent of all grades at four-year colleges and universities is an A while Ds and Fs are few and far between.

The study, published in Teachers College Record, was conducted by Stuart Rojstaczar, a retired professor of geology, civil engineering and the environment at Duke University, and Christopher Healy, an associate professor of computer science at Furman University. For the study, they collected historical data from 200 four-year colleges and universities and contemporary data from 135. They found that across the board college students earning A grades are widespread in every sector and region of the country. Private colleges tend to be more generous on grades than do public institutions and by comparing historical data, they found that there had been an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988 in the percentage of A grades awarded in higher education.

According to the authors, the abundance of A-level grades is a serious problem. "When A is ordinary, college grades cross a significant threshold. Over a period of roughly 50 years, with a slight reversal from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, America’s institutions of higher learning gradually created a fiction that excellence was common and that failure was virtually nonexistent," they write.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Do you think grade inflation is a serious problem on college campuses today?


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College Students Lead in Internet Use and Tech Gadgets

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to Internet use, college students have high schoolers beat. According to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, young adults – particularly undergraduate and graduate students – are more likely to use the Internet and own tech devices than the rest of the general population.

The study compiled data collected from Pew Internet Project surveys throughout 2010 and featured a sample size of nearly 10,000. The study found that nonstudents ages 18 to 24 were more active on social networks than were college students and sent updates more regularly on Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of educational background, however, it’s clear that young adults ages 18 to 24 were more likely to be Internet users, to engage in social media and own web-enabled devices like laptops and smartphones.

Community college students exhibited a slight edge in mobile Internet use, which Aaron W. Smith, a Pew senior research specialist, attributed to a trend among lower socioeconomic groups to use mobile phones as their primary mode of Internet access. Web-enabled mobile phones may also reflect the fact that nearly 100 percent of college students and 92 percent of nonstudents in the 18- to 24-year-old range were Internet users, compared to only 75 percent of adults using the Internet.


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