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Penn Student’s Plea to Minority Applicants: Don’t Go Here

April 21, 2011

Penn Student’s Plea to Minority Applicants: Don’t Go Here

by Suada Kolovic

After a run-in with racism, a University of Pennsylvania student wrote an open letter to future minority applicants discouraging their attendance at the elite university. African American undergraduate Christopher Abreu said that his time at Penn has been filled with harassment, racism and an overwhelming sense of not belonging. “Ever since I came here, I have been self-conscious...I grew up in the projects, surrounded by crime and drugs. I came from there to here without much help, and in May I will graduate cum laude. But that isn't good enough. I've always felt like an outsider here,” he wrote.

Abreu elaborates that for the most part, racism at Penn was usually subtle and something that most minorities came to accept as a way of life. But two “blatantly” racist encounters with students led to his open plea to minorities. In one incident, he claims four white students spoke to him in mock slang and asked him repeatedly, “You belong here or what?” while in another, Abreu claims that a white student called him a racial slur and asked him where he could, “get some fried chicken.” “I'm lucky that I only have a month left here. The social atmosphere and unwelcoming environment for minorities at Penn is more draining than any class you could ever take,” he said.

Future college applicants, what are your thoughts on Abreu’s personal encounters with racism at the University of Pennsylvania? Do you think that directing blame towards the university is misguided and his solution problematic?

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University of Iowa Professor Under Fire for Brash Email

April 22, 2011

University of Iowa Professor Under Fire for Brash Email

by Suada Kolovic

University of Iowa Professor Ellen Lewin had some choice words to the school’s chapter of College Republicans: F- YOU! According to the Iowa City Press Citizen, the message was sent in response to a mass email from a campus Republican group promoting “Conservative Coming Out Week,” a week for conservatives in Iowa City to “come out of the closet” and promote right-wing values. The events included a screening of the 2002 film “Journey’s with George,” in honor of George W. Bush, a blood drive and an “Animal Rights BBQ.”

Less than a minute after the email was sent, Lewin fired back with “F- YOU, REPUBLICANS.” According to reports, she took issue with the tone of the email which she claimed used the rhetoric of traditionally marginalized groups to announce conservative events. Lewin was also offended by the belittling of animal rights and an event mocking the Wisconsin union protests.

Iowa Federation of College Republicans Chair and IU student Natalie Ginty responded to the vulgar message by requesting a public apology. "We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone," she wrote in an email to Anthropology department head James Enloe, reports the Press Citizen.

Lewin complied with Ginty’s request by apologizing for the brash language but insisted that the conservative group’s mailing was unwelcome and distasteful."I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive," she wrote. "I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times." Do you think Lewin let her emotions get the best of her? Or do you think her reaction was justified? Let us know.

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The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice

Plagiarism Flagged at Social and User-Generated Websites Most Often

May 2, 2011

The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice

by Suada Kolovic

Looking over your peer’s shoulder during a test or copying from the encyclopedia are out but plagiarizing off user-generated sites – ones that your peers had a hand in publishing – is in, according to a recent study.

The findings were released by iParadigms, the creator of Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection service that checks for possible plagiarism by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. The study consisted of analyzing 40 million papers submitted by high school and college students over a 10-month period. Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin says the findings show, “that plagiarism in sourcing work is going the way that everything else in the world is going. People are relying more on their peers than on experts.”

It’s important to note that the study does have its faults. Turninit specifically detects “matched content” and not outright plagiarism. So, while the software will flag material from a paper mill, it will also flag material that has been properly attributed and cited. That aside, here’s the breakdown of study:

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Mork Family Donates $110 Million to USC

May 4, 2011

Mork Family Donates $110 Million to USC

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Southern California has secured a major donation – the fourth of more than $50 million given to the university this school year alone – from Julie and John Mork. The couple donated $110 million to USC to fund the Mork Family Scholars Program, which will provide high school seniors “of extraordinary intellectual talent and capability full tuition and $5,000 living stipends,” the university said in a statement.

John Mork, a trustee who graduated from USC in 1970, is the chief executive officer of Energy Corp. of America, a private company that handles the exploration, extraction, production and transportation of natural gas and oil, based in Denver. “Attending USC is the dream of talented high school seniors from all walks of life,” said John Mork. “We hope this gift will help transform hundreds of young lives.” Julie Mork, who graduated from UCLA, is the managing director of the Energy Corp. of America Foundation, a charitable organization that focuses on children and education. According to the LA Times, about 100 undergraduates will benefit from the scholarships each year.

Now while this is the single largest donation in the university’s history for undergraduate scholarships, it isn’t the Morks first philanthropic gift to the school. In 2005, the family contributed $15 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that resulted in the naming of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science after the Mork family. And this time around, to show their appreciation, USC will place a plaque with the names and images of the Mork family at Bovard Auditorium.

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Illinois State Senate Passes DREAM Act

DREAM Act Passes with Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority

May 5, 2011

Illinois State Senate Passes DREAM Act

by Suada Kolovic

After much heated national debate, the Illinois state Senate passed the DREAM Act, a measure that will give undocumented students who’ve graduated from high school, completed two years of college or military service and have no criminal record a shot at citizenship. The bill passed the Senate by a margin of 45-11, with wide bipartisan support – 11 Republicans supporting the bill alongside 34 Democrats.

It is important to note that the State of Illinois does not have the authority to grant citizenship, but will instead create a “DREAM Fund” – a scholarship account funded entirely by private dollars that will provide scholarships to undocumented students seeking higher education. The fund would also encourage counselors to receive training on educational opportunities for undocumented students, as well as open up college savings programs and prepaid tuition programs to all Illinois residents.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), one of many pro-immigrant groups that descended on Springfield for Wednesday's vote, tweeted "Perfect timing. The state Cinco de Mayo celebration has started in the State Capitol."

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The Many Meanings of Graduation

May 5, 2011

The Many Meanings of Graduation

by Darci Miller

Graduation.

Depending on where in your academic career you are, the word has varying connotations. To high schoolers, graduation is IT. The ultimate goal. The sum total of four awkward, drama-filled years. The day that begins a new, much more fun and independent chapter in your life.

In college, graduation is a much more complex idea. You might be excited to get out there and start your new job and your new life in a new city or state. On the other hand, what if there’s no job? What if the thought of leaving your beloved alma mater is akin to the thought of a root canal?

After high school, you may be parting ways with your closest friends, but you have the safety net of knowing that almost everyone comes home for the holidays. After college, this isn’t the case. If you attend school in Chicago and have a friend that’s from Texas that’s graduating and going to grad school in Seattle, will you ever see him again? Will he be back to visit?

Of course, this could be me being a little selfish and a lot sad that I’ll be losing so many friends and coworkers to the real world next year. But nonetheless, from graduates and non-graduates alike, the impending ceremony is receiving mixed reactions. Honestly though, I think this is part of the beauty of college. For the first time, you get to choose where you live, learn and make friends. Being sad to leave is a weird sort of pat on the back – “Good job! You made some awesome decisions!”

To all soon-to-be graduates, congratulations! Future college freshmen, you’ve got some great stuff headed your way, so get excited! Future college graduates, I wish you true sadness upon leaving college (hey, I said it was weird!) and all the success in the world in your future endeavors.

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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Texas A&M President Too Popular on Facebook

Hits Friend Maximum, Seeks Advice on How to Stay Connected with Students

May 6, 2011

Texas A&M President Too Popular on Facebook

by Suada Kolovic

Having too many friends on Facebook seems like an unlikely problem for the president of a major university to have, but R. Bowen Loftin, the president of Texas A&M, isn’t your average administrator. Mr. Loftin not only has a Facebook account but accepts friend requests from his students. And while you’d assume students would cringe at the thought of friending such an authoritative figure, it’s in fact the exact opposite: He’s so popular that he’s hit Facebook’s max of 5,000 friends.

Diana C. McDonald, the college’s director of social media and marketing programs, says the Mr. Loftin likes the personal interaction of having a Facebook profile rather than say a Facebook fan page. “Our president is definitely not in the ivory tower,” she says. “We definitely don’t want to put him there.”

Mr. Loftin is so distraught that he’s solicited advice on what to do via – what else? – his Facebook wall. He asks his friends, who are mostly students, “I have a lot of friends requests pending, so I am asking for your advice on how best to keep connected to all of you.” And suggestions are pouring in. Some propose Mr. Loftin seek other social networking sites, possibly defriend those who weren’t his real friends or even start a Twitter account. With all the issues students are facing – crippling debt, soaring unemployment rates – is this really an issue a university president should focus on? Would you friend your school’s president?

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What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

Narrowing Your Focus is Both Risky and Rewarding

May 11, 2011

What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

by Alexis Mattera

Starting college with a specific idea what you want to do with your life can make choosing a major, selecting classes and finding internships much easier than the decisions facing your undecided roommate. But is that specificity better? The answer is yes...and no. Well, actually, it’s a maybe.

With the increasing demand for expertise in narrow fields, some schools are putting programs in place to produce candidates perfectly suited for these niche jobs. SUNY at Albany, for example, has opened a College of Nanoscale Science to meet what The National Science Foundation estimates will be about 2 million workers with nanotechnology-centric backgrounds needed by 2014. The results so far are promising – even first-year students have already been offered summer internships with companies like Intel and IBM – but is this kind of specialization always wise?

To an extent, but career counselors, hiring consultants and academic officials think it’s more important for students to diversify their undergraduate years. Industry-specific skill sets may get a graduate into their chosen field faster but may severely limit career flexibility down the line. You may think you know your ideal career path but wait until you’ve taken a wide enough variety of classes to be sure...especially when employers report they value soft skills like effective communication, critical thinking and problem solving over precise training.

What do you think? Should you specialize right away or sample what your school has to offer before making a potentially life-changing decision?

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Full Internet Access During Exams? Ja, in Denmark

Danish University Hopes Strategy Will Quell Cheating

May 12, 2011

Full Internet Access During Exams? Ja, in Denmark

by Alexis Mattera

Here in the U.S., surfing the Internet during class is usually frowned upon and accessing the web during an exam could warrant an automatic failing grade. Overseas, however, Internet usage in these situations will not only be allowed but encouraged to – among other things – inhibit cheating.

The University of Southern Denmark has announced that by January 2012, all exams will be transferred to a digital platform and administered via Internet software. In addition to making it possible for faculty to create tests aligned with course content that would better assess students’ problem solving prowess, analytical skills and ability to discuss particular topics, e-learning project coordinator Lise Petersen said this program presented an innovative solution to academic dishonesty. "One way of preventing cheating is by saying nothing is allowed and giving students a piece of paper and a pen," she said. "The other way is to say everything is allowed except plagiarism. So if you allow communication, discussions, searches and so on, you eliminate cheating because it’s not cheating anymore. That is the way we should think."

Do you think Southern Denmark’s plan is an effective one or an approach that will breed more academic dishonesty? What’s your school’s stance on Internet usage in class?

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Thiel Fellowship Pays Students to Leave School, Develop Ideas

May 25, 2011

Thiel Fellowship Pays Students to Leave School, Develop Ideas

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, all of our resources are geared toward helping students prepare for and afford college educations...not leave them behind. That being said, this new award probably won’t be popping up in our database any time soon.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, announced the inaugural recipients of the Thiel Fellowship, a program that will bestow 24 students with $100,000 each to not attend college for two years and develop business ideas instead. The driving force behind the fellowship is Thiel’s concern about the “irrational” increase in cost and demand for college educations and his belief that certain students would learn more by leaving school than continuing traditional coursework.

Not surprisingly, heated debates have erupted in academic circles – William K. Aulet, managing director at MIT's Entrepreneurship Center, believes the fellowship is sending the wrong message, stating, "To say that you're better off dropping out of school is a gross generalization." – but the fellowship winners have a different outlook: At least two recipients have expressed interest in returning to school at the end of the fellowship and one prospective winner turned down the deal entirely to enroll at MIT, which signals traditional education is still valued.

What do you think about the Thiel Fellowship? Would you be more than willing to apply and leave school if selected or would you prefer to continue your education in the classroom instead?

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