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by Emily

The stress and financial hardships of textbook buying may soon be a thing of the past, as a vast array of textbook rental options are expected to debut or expand this year.  According to a recent article in The New York Times, students will have increasing options for renting, instead of purchasing, the required books for many common courses.  Rental prices are usually substantially discounted from the retail value of the book and students who rent textbooks will not have to worry about whether or not the bookstore will buy back their text at the end of the semester.

A number of colleges and universities have unveiled on-campus textbook rental programs in recent years, making the texts for popular introductory courses available for a small fee.  More bookstores have begun to get in on this, with Barnes and Noble announcing a pilot program this year that will allow students at a few colleges to rent textbooks from their campus bookstores.  These programs allow students to rent textbooks as easily as they can buy them from the campus store, though they're still only available at a handful of colleges and for a handful of textbooks.

Several websites have emerged in the last couple years offering online textbook rental services to students anywhere in the country.  These sites often have a wider array of books available for rental, though after shipping costs are figured in, their discounts may not necessarily be as deep as those offered by some bookstore-based rental programs.  Similar to buying textbooks online, online rentals also require some forethought and don't work well with last-minute schedule changes.  Students have to order their books early enough to have them in hand by the time they begin receiving reading assignments.

Addressing this need for immediately available content is one publishing house that recently announced plans to enter the textbook rental market.  One company, Cengage Learning, plans to rent a number of its most popular titles to students and make the first couple chapters of each book available online to customers who have rented a physical text.  This reduces the stress of waiting for the book to arrive.

Taking advantage of textbook rental programs, as well as other options like used books and free online books, can help you stretch your college savings and scholarship awards further.


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by Emily

The idea of the broke college student is a well-worn cliché, conjuring up images of extreme money-saving measures.

Thrift store clothing, Dumpster-dived furniture, and dinner from the manager's special aisle or the 99 cent store are all stereotypical trappings of the budget-conscious college student. One student in New York recently managed to come up with a creative and envelope-pushing way to save money, however. Brian Borncamp, a senior at the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst, New York, recently decided to save money on housing by building himself a cabin in the woods near campus.

After months of sleeping in stairwells, Borncamp was 80 percent finished with his cabin when university officials persuaded him to give up the effort and make alternate housing arrangements, according to The Buffalo News. The student had compared himself to a modern-day Thoreau with his decision to live in the woods, but claimed his decision was initially motivated by financial concerns. He realized in May that he was unable to pay for school and pay rent, and thus decided to live outdoors.

Once he began construction on an 8' by 10' cabin, the university intervened, offering him temporary housing, a campus job, counseling, and other assistance, according to a statement issued by UB's Vice President for Student Affairs. Borncamp initially refused, prefering to go it alone, but announced this week that he'd made other arrangements and would be vacating his campsite.

While this is an inventive solution to college budget concerns, cash-strapped students don't need to resort to camping in the woods or residing in homemade structures.  Additional assistance is available for those in need of additional financial aid, and a free college scholarship search can help you find it. For example, if building your own cabin or emulating a reclusive author appeals to you, you might find yourself well-suited to win a design scholarship or an English scholarship.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Suffolk University offers "Sacred Hoops, Sneaker Pimps, and Hoop Dreams: Race, Gender, and Consumerism in 20th Century American Basketball" through its Seminar for Freshmen program. The University of California-Berkeley uses "StarCraft Theory and Strategy" for its course on war tactics. Santa Clara University has gotten students talking about waste and decomposition through its environmental science department's "Joy of Garbage."

Attracting students to courses by having some fun with their titles is not a new phenomenon, but a recent article by The Boston Globe says that it has become more common in a climate where professors are looking to boost enrollment in their classes, perhaps to make themselves less vulnerable during budget cut season. Boston College recently renamed a straightforward course on German literature to "Knights, Castles, and Dragons." The effect? Tripled enrollment.

Professors quoted in the article describe how important marketing has become in getting more students to fill seats in their classrooms. Students have a wealth of options at their fingertips when applying for courses, and after they're done filling their rosters with classes required by their majors, there may be little room for the more fun-sounding titles. So, anything that will give a student pause when putting together their course load is probably a good strategy. The professors also said that a heavy reliance on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter has given the college-bound a shorter attention span, and that even those already in college are bored more easily with the traditional course offerings. Students want to be entertained, even those in fields like computer science, philosophy, or traditionally more "stuffy" majors.

A word of advice, though: Be sure to consider the finished product of your transcript when signing up for courses with kooky titles. That "Science of Superheroes" class at the University of California-Irvine may be fun, but a balance of electives with interesting names and traditional courses applicable to your major will make you a better sell if you plan to pursue an advanced degree or land a job interview where the employer wants to see your coursework. As with an eye-catching course title, image is everything.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

As students begin the fall semester, news of the H1N1 swine flu virus spreading across college campuses is everywhere. But whether the flu has hit your college or not, getting sick at school is a real concern and can quickly derail your semester.

Living far away from home, many college students aren't well-equipped to take care of themselves and stay on top of their coursework while ill, especially if they contract something more serious than a cold. While the flu's getting all the attention now, other common illnesses can put students out of commission for days, or even weeks, causing them to miss class, miss work, and get behind on projects that are crucial to their success in school. Missed work due to illness can even jeopardize your financial aid. Part of taking care of yourself when you're sick at school is taking care to minimize the impact of illness on your semester.

Beyond attending to your immediate needs (seeing a doctor, getting rest, etc.), the most important thing to do if you get sick is to contact your professors, preferably before you miss a class or an assignment. If you're really ill and need to miss more than one class or an important assignment, quiz, or test, the earlier you establish communication, the better it will go. If you have a diagnosis, you can share it, but don't go into the minute details of what your body is doing and don't assume that because you're sick with something verifiable, your professors will instantly cater to your every whim. A doctor's excuse doesn't always go as far as demonstrated willingness to take responsibility for your missed work and to work with your professor to get caught up. Most instructors will be willing to provide you with information and course materials from missed classes, and depending on circumstances and how you approach the situation, they may allow you to make up work, as well.

If you're going to miss a lot of school or you have professors unwilling to budge, contacting your academic advisor is a good step, as well. A note from an advisor carries more weight than a call from a student, and if you lack the time or energy to address each professor personally and immediately, talking to your advisor can save you some time. They can also give you advice and information on what to do about missing class, and help you keep from falling behind.

Finally, once you're healthy, back in class and taking care of your missed work, there may still be other matters to attend to. Even if you have tried your hardest, you may wind up with too much work to catch up in a class. If talking to your professor and your advisor about incompletes and other options doesn't bear fruit, you may need to drop classes or you may see your GPA suffer.  If you have scholarship awards or other financial aid, lower grades or less than full-time enrollment can have an impact on your eligiblity for these awards. Be aware of the GPA and enrollment requirements for your scholarships and grants (even some student loans) and if you are in danger of not meeting them, talk to the scholarship provider or your financial aid counselor to find out your options. Your financial aid office is also a good place to stop if illness has generated medical bills or lost income for you--they may be able to adjust your aid package to help you deal with these expenses.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Hispanic students are still significantly lagging behind other groups when it comes to college admission, retention and graduation rates, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Hispanic Center. The Pew study released today attempts to explain why those gaps remain, especially as a majority of Hispanic students report that they understand the value of a college education and are urged by their parents to pursue bachelor's degrees.

The numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, which date back to 2007 and were released last week, show that only about 19 percent of Hispanics report having attended some college or pursuing associate's degrees; only about 9 percent go on to complete their bachelor's. The national average for some college attendance or those completing associate's degrees is about 25 percent, with nearly 19 percent completing bachelor's degrees. About 26.5 percent of white students reported attending some college or completing associate's degrees; nearly 21 percent complete undergraduate degrees. Female Hispanic students seem to fare slightly better than the men.

The Pew Hispanic Center's study showed that although Hispanic students today are more likely to go to college than they were in 1970, perhaps due in part to the rapidly growing population, there is still a large disparity between those who say everyone should go to college and those who actually do. While nearly 90 percent of Hispanic students surveyed (ages 16-25) said that it was important to get a college degree to get ahead (compared to 82 percent of the general population that agreed with that statement), only about half said they had plans of their own to go to college. And among Hispanic immigrants, less than a third say they have plans to pursue a bachelor's degree.

So why the gap? About 74 percent of respondents in the Pew study said they had to cut their educations short because they had to support their families. Others said poor English skills hampered their ability to keep up with the rigors of college, and even high school. According to Latinosincollege.com, a website that aims to help more Hispanics graduate from four-year colleges, Hispanic students still have the highest high school dropout rate of any group.

Financial obstacles were a concern for about 40 percent of respondents in the Pew study who said they simply could not afford to go to college. While some of the other reasons may be hard to address and improve upon, financial aid and paying for college should not keep the collegebound from getting an education. Scholarships for minorities, including the growing number of Hispanic scholarships, are some of the most common student-specific scholarships out there, so for those putting their college plans on hold because of finances, be sure to conduct a free scholarship search to view all of the scholarships you’re eligible for.


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What to Expect at a Community College

by Carly Gerber

During the summer before my sophomore year of college, I knew I wasn't going back to the college I had been attending. It was too late to apply to a four-year university so I decided to attend a community college before entering a new university. From my experience, here's what you can expect while attending a community college:

  • Academics: Many students enter community college thinking it will be academically easier than a four-year college...but that couldn't be further from the truth. Community colleges are academically rigorous and the professors expected to see all your effort in your work. And if you need help, they have the right resources: My community college offered a writing center and a tutoring center, both of which I visited regularly.
  • Personal Life: A few students I met were balancing jobs, school and families. That’s obviously a lot of work but if students attended classes, did their homework and communicated with professors about their circumstances, many instructors were willing to work with the students to help them pass the class.
  • Community: Despite being part of the name, many students don’t think there will be a sense of community at community colleges. But there is! There were a number of sports teams and student organizations with lots of participation at my school. Plus, the college would have events going on during the school day, like a game of Jeopardy! that would bring students together and lighten the mood on a particularly stressful day.

Overall, I enjoyed the community college experience because it helped me grow both as a student and as a person. For those students who have also attended community colleges, how would you rate your experience?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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by Emily

For the most part, holiday festivities are over, but most college students, as well as some high school students, still have weeks left of their winter breaks. Gifts have been opened, food has been eaten, and relatives and old friends have been visited. As boredom and cabin fever set in, you may even find yourself longing for campus. But even going back to college comes with a catch: that giant spring semester tuition bill awaiting you when you return.

Here's a strategy to both combat boredom and tackle that tuition statement: use your winter break to apply for scholarships. Your brain is recovered enough from fall finals and the multi-day holiday food coma, but hasn't yet sunken into a daytime TV-induced daze. You're at home with your family and they're probably all too eager to help you find new ways to pay for college (your mom might even stop hinting about helping more around the house while you're home).

On top of the good timing in your life, it's also a good time in the award cycle for most scholarships. The majority of awards have scholarship application deadlines in the next few months, many of which are likely to fall right after a major test or right in the middle of that big spring break trip you're planning. To avoid dashing off a half-hearted scholarship application at the last minute when you don't have time, it's a good idea to start the application process now, submitting application early in the application period and showing your high level of interest in the award. Some scholarship contests cut off applications early if they've reached a maximum number of applicants, so that's another reason to apply earlier, rather than later.

In addition to a clear head, more time to work on your scholarship application, and the best chance of getting your application considered, you may also find you have more resources available to you in January than you will in April or May. You probably have friends or siblings, or possibly even a favorite English teacher from high school with enough free time to give feedback on your applications, and if you can contact teachers or professors, they can probably find time in the next few weeks to write you a glowing letter of recommendation. When you head back to campus, you might even be able to run your scholarship essay past the university writing center--typically traffic there is relatively sparse until the first paper of the semester is assigned. Even printing and mailing may be easier, as you either have a freshly reset campus printing budget or a little extra change in your pocket from break.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and start your scholarship search. By taking your time to write scholarship-worthy essays now, you can spend your spring semester kicking back and waiting for the scholarship money to arrive.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A recent survey shows that college students are in line with young adults when it comes to the economy and President Obama's handling of the economic situation in recent months—they're all worried.

The report, titled "Survey of Young Americans' Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service: 17th Edition," was an online survey conducted by Knowledge Networks for Harvard University's Institute of Politics. It joins similar surveys on college and the economy that look to determine where college students stand in terms of their own economic outlooks. Between Jan. 28 and Feb. 22, more than 3,000 adults ages 18 to 29, including college students, were asked to comment on whether they were concern about the economic crisis, politics, and their ideologies, among other topics. Despite recent upswings in the economy and the federal government's general positive outlook on how the economic landscape will improve by year's end, the survey showed that college students and young adults aren't as optimistic.

According to the survey:

  • About 60 percent of respondents overall are concerned about meeting their current bills and obligations.
  • About 45 percent of respondents overall report that their personal financial situation is bad.
  • About 45 percent of college students are concerned about their ability to stay in college given the state of the economy.
  • About 41 percent of young Republicans are planning on voting in the next midterm elections, compared to 35 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Independents.
  • About 58 percent of young adults are worried about affording a place to live; about 56 percent are worried about affording health care.
  • About 46 percent of those in the workforce are concerned about losing their job; that same number are concerned about being able to live in the city or town they want to.
  • Less than half of overall respondents feel that they will be able to live the "American Dream."

A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education looked at other intricacies of the survey, and compared the two age groups. While college students and young adults mostly agreed about the economy, college students were generally more concerned about climate change, foreign policy decisions, and the idea that community service is an honorable thing to do. College students were also less likely to get involved in politics and participating in voting activities if they were not well-versed on candidates and issues than young adults, and agreed more strongly that basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that government should provide to those unable to afford them.


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So You’re a College Grad

Part II: Setting Short-Term Goals

May 19, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

You don’t have to have everything figured out right after you walk across that stage to receive your college degree. However, you do need to have the beginnings of a plan that will help you determine not only what you’d like to use that new degree for, but how you’ll be meeting more immediate needs, like finding a place to live that isn’t a campus apartment or college dorm, and paying and budgeting for all that new adult freedom you’re experiencing when you’re not yet gainfully employed.

The first step you’ll need to take is prioritizing which of those short-term goals is most pressing. That could mean focusing on getting a roof over your head. If that means sacrifice on your part and moving back in with your parents, it might not be the worst idea you’ve had. You’ll save some money and feel less anxious about finding a job to pay the bills if you’re getting some help. Don’t get too comfortable, though. A good way to make sure you’re doing your part and looking for jobs or that next step is to come up with a time-line of when you’d like to be out of your parents’ house.

If you found yourself using your student credit card too much thanks to that free T-shirt offer that came along with it, you may need to focus on making ends meet and paying down your debt. If you’re unemployed, there’s no shame in deferring any student loans you may have. At the very least, try landing a part-time or full-time temporary job if making some money is your top priority. Plenty of new graduates spend some time working at a job that perhaps isn’t all that related to their college major, so that they’re able to save up some money or start paying off debts. We’re not telling you that you should give up on that dream job. But we are saying it won’t be very useful to get into more debt while daydreaming of your future career, as you’ll only feel that much more stressed out when that perfect gig finally falls into your lap.

Finally, if it’s an option, the months after college may be a great time for you to explore alternatives to employment. A popular option is the backpacking through Europe trip. If you’ve always wanted to volunteer in the community or teach abroad, the time after college might be the last time you’re able to do that before you’re burdened by the responsibilities of a career and limited vacation time. If it’s not financially feasible, it may be wiser to save your money, but if you have the funds or will have saved some money thanks to a part-time or temporary job, there’s no harm in taking some time away from the job search to do some self-exploration and potentially figure out what you’re really interested in doing.

This is the second post in a three-part series on dealing with that “What’s next?” feeling college students may get post-graduation. Return to the Scholarships.com blog tomorrow for a look at long-term goals for recent college graduates, and how you can start figuring out where you'd like to be a few years down the road.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Offering students a formal path toward a three-year degree has been a popular proposal for the last few years, with proponents of the idea describing it as a way to save college students some money, at least on room and board.

In an article in Inside Higher Ed today, one national organization has spoken out against formalizing three-year plans for students. Carol Geary Schneider, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, issued a statement today that was critical of cutting the college experience short. In her statement, Schneider said the higher education system can do better working on those struggling—or unwilling—to graduate in the traditional four years. (About 27 percent of students at public institutions and 48 percent at private institutions finish in four years.)

Beyond that, Schneider said it takes longer now to prepare students for the world off college campuses than it has in the past. Students are expected to know more today about global knowledge, for example, and need to boast a wide range of experiences outside of the classroom that would be difficult to fit in if colleges began offering three-year degrees. A criticism has been that offering students the three-year degree option might lead to some unprepared graduates who spent their summers working toward their accelerated degrees, rather than spending time at internships or other experiences that could not only serve as resume boosters, but as ways for them to explore fields of study.

Supporters of shortening students’ time spent in college have included Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former president of the University of Tennessee who wrote an editorial on the topic in Newsweek last fall. He said in his piece that the move would ease the dependence on federal and campus-based financial aid, and would free up precious time for students interested in moving into the working world faster or pursuing advanced degrees. Robert Zemsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, said in Inside Higher Ed that pushing for a three-year degree could lead to positive changes in higher education. This leads to another debate: how useful general education requirements are to a student not majoring in the liberal arts.

Many schools already offer three-year degrees, whether officially via accelerated programming targeting those who have dual enrollment or AP credits or unofficially to highly motivated students. What do you think?


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