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University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a rut, the unemployment rate declining at a sluggish pace and the cost of a college education rising at an astronomical rate, now is the time to consider your options. Here at Scholarships.com, we can’t stress enough the importance of applying early and often for scholarships and financial aid, but when a college education is still just out of reach, some universities are willing to go the extra mile to help prospective students out. Rising high school seniors, take note: The University of Dayton is offering four years of free textbooks to first-year students who visit the campus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the university’s March 1 application deadline.

According to Dayton officials, the free textbook program is an incentive for families to attend campus visits in a tight economy and as a way to urge families to complete the federal aid form, which is an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle. "Many families don't fill out the form because they believe they don't qualify or think it takes too much time. They miss out on opportunities to get affordable financing or grant funding," said Kathy McEuen Harmon, assistant vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Students who fulfill the university’s requirements will receive up to $500 per semester to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore – funds good toward new, used or rental books. According Harmon, an estimated 75 percent of the first-year class is projected to take advantage of the offer, representing a $1.5 million annual commitment by the University. "We want them to fully understand the rewards of a University of Dayton education and know that those rewards are not out of their reach," Harmon said. "This is a very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment, one they can see immediately."

What do you think of the University of Dayton’s efforts? Are free textbooks enough to get you to commit to an institution? Should others follow suit? Let us know what you think.


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Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

by Suada Kolovic

While credit card debt, mortgage debt and auto loan debt have all steadily decreased since the fall of 2008, the same cannot be said for outstanding student loan debt, which has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis. Not only has student debt increased, but more often than not these loans aren’t getting paid off on time. The problem is that students take out sizable loans to pay for tuition to only be met with bleak prospects of employment after college. Those lucky enough to secure a job can also expect lower starting salaries: The median starting salary for a member of the class or 2009 or 2010 is $27,000, down from $30,000 just a couple of years ago.

The debt ceiling deal complicated things a step further by adding additional federal loan provisions. One section of the deal changed the way interest is collected on federal loans for graduate students, meaning that borrowers will start accruing interest on their loans before they’ve graduated. That being said, earning a college degree is still a significant advantage when entering the job market. The Labor Department released a report stating that for workers 25 and over with at least a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate in July was 4.3 percent, compared with 8.3 percent for workers with "some college," and 9.3 percent for workers with just high school diplomas.

Soon-to-be college students, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?


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Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like just yesterday that your kid was, well, just a kid, asking for a ride to the movies and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now your child has walked across their high school stage, tossed that mortarboard in the air and is heading for college in the fall. If this is the first child you’re sending off, it’s normal to be apprehensive about letting go but remember, this is their moment. College is a time for them to discover who they are and figure things out for themselves. That being said, you can help financially prepare your student for college. Check out the four tips from U.S. World and News Report on finding the balance between supplying enough funds and when letting your child struggle is okay:

  • Don’t deposit and dash: Some parents might opt to supply their student with extra spending money for the upcoming school year but it has the potential of backfiring almost instantaneously. If you’re doling out a year’s worth of funds without a framework about budgeting, they’ll be calling for pizza money by October. Take the time to discuss the importance of month-to-month budgeting and understanding the reality of unexpected expenses.
  • Embrace – and limit – financial slip-ups: Once you’ve discussed a budget, step out of the process and leave it up to your child to make it work, recommends clinical psychologist Jerry Weichman. "One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they're adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes."
  • Encourage financial freedom: Having your child work in college is a great way to lower the potential of student loan debt as well as understanding the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Allow your child to allocate earnings, providing them the opportunity to make a connection between money earned and money spent.
  • Utilize web resources: Letting go might be easier said than done, but neither you nor your student need to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. A bevy of financial aid resources is just a click away. Check out Scholarships.com for tips on everything from balancing work and college and where to work on campus to money management skills and tips for going on a budget diet.

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Federal Mandate: All Schools Must Offer Net Price Calculators by October 29th

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we understand that trying to figure out how much a college education will actually cost you and your family is pretty confusing. With everything that goes into your financial aid packagegrants, loans, scholarships, etc. – the real cost of a college education is muddled in there…somewhere. But fear, not college bound students! All that’s about to change thanks to a mandate by the federal government: All colleges and universities receiving Title IV federal student aid must have net price calculators by October 29th.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the U.S. Department of Education instated the mandate in order to “provide a clearer view of the difference between the total cost of tuition and fees – commonly referred to as sticker price – and the net price, an estimate of the cost subtracting scholarships and grants.” Most students generally receive some institutional aid so the better they understand how much an institution is offering as whole, the better prepared they are to compare the financial aid packages offered by different schools.

What do you think of the federally implemented net price calculators? Do you think it will be an essential piece of the funding your college education puzzle?


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Tips on How to Network While Still in College

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re in college, chances are you’ve been reminded – on a daily basis, no less – about the importance of networking in the adult world. Why wait until then? Get a head start on building your network and you might connect with someone that could potentially help you find a job after you graduate. Need some help getting started? Check out U.S. World News’ six tips to network while still in college:

  • Play the student card: Take advantage of the fact that you’re still a student. Alumni are more likely to help you while you’re still in school because you’re just asking for advice and not looking for a job, says Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs. Ask questions, request an informational interview and grow those relationships while there’s no pressure.
  • Use your friends’ parents as resources: Believe it or not, your friends’ parents are great contacts. Not only do they offer decades of experience but since there’s already a relationship established, you’re more likely to be comfortable asking for advice and possibly their contacts!
  • Get out of the bubble: Some campuses offer that country-like feel, a pastoral paradise if you will. And while it’s great not having big city distractions, it can hinder your networking opportunities. Emily Bennington, who helps college graduates transition into careers through her company, Professional Studio 365, suggests, “Rather than using your savings for a spring break in Daytona ... go to a conference that's within your industry.”
  • Use LinkedIn: So you’re a whiz when it comes to Twitter and Facebook but if LinkedIn isn’t on your radar, you’re going to fall behind professionally. The sooner you familiarize yourself with LinkedIn, the better. Boasting more than 100 million members, it’s a great way to engage with professionals in your desired field.
  • Use Twitter strategically: Sure, Twitter keeps you posted on what’s most important to you (be that Kim Kardashian or Scholarships.com) but it can also provide an avenue for you to connect with professionals in your field. Make a list of people in your industry who you look up to and use the network strategically to connect with them.
  • Get an internship: This tip is an oldie but a goodie. The value of an internship is undeniable – not only will you walk away with real-life experience to put on your resume, an internship puts you in eyesight of people who work in your field and positions you conveniently ahead of other job seekers.

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Top 10 Majors That Will Get You Hired

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re like most college students, you expect to hear those two beautiful words that make all those sleepless nights cramming for exams the last four (possibly five) years worth it upon graduation: “You’re hired.” But with the economy in a relentless slump and the unemployment rate hovering at 9%, college students need to realize that what they choose as a major will influence their career prospects. With that being said, here are Wall Street Journal’s top 10 majors that will get you hired:

What do you think of the majors that made the list? Is your field of study listed? Do studies such as the Wall Street Journal’s influence your academic pursuits or are you unwavering in following your heart when it comes to your major?


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Looking for a Job? Utilize Facebook!

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are you’re having a rough time finding a job. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about – times are tough and opportunities are slim – but next time you log on to a social networking site, realize this simple action could help in your job search. U.S. News and World Report has compiled the top five ways for college students (and graduates!) to use Facebook strategically to do just that:

  • Set your privacy settings appropriately: Nothing new here. I’m sure professors and parents alike have stressed the importance of blocking potentially damaging content from the public. That is solid advice but you should also take into account that there can be distinct advantages to crafting your settings to cater to a specific company, says David McDonough, director of career services at Clark University in Massachusetts. For instance, if you’re a student interested in a music company, publicly displaying your musical tastes “could be beneficial,” he notes.
  • Evaluate your profile picture: Even the highest privacy settings on Facebook won’t restrict users from seeing your profile picture; while prospective employers aren’t supposed to discriminate, they could be influenced by a photo deemed inappropriate by company standards.
  • Interact with companies: If you’re interested in a job opportunity with a specific company, you should become a fan of it on Facebook. Oriana Vogel, vice president for global recruitment and HR operations at American Express, explains, "We want them to come to us…and assess if we're the right fit for them."
  • Participate in Facebook groups: Interacting with professional groups on Facebook is a great way to network with those who share your same interests, but more importantly it puts you in direct contact with recruiters. Keep in mind that being a member isn’t enough, though – participating in group discussions is crucial.
  • Tap into your own network: "Getting a job has always been about who you know as much as anything else," Likeable Media's Kerpen says. "But the 'who you know' is multiplied by 10 from what it might have been 10 years ago thanks to Facebook." Take advantage of that fact and start messaging companies of interest as soon as possible!

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Create a College-Friendly Holiday Budget...and Stick to It!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s that time of the year again where we see festive decorations, cheerful people...and empty wallets. The holiday season can definitely take a toll on our bank accounts – not only do you have to buy gifts but you have to get formal wear for fun holiday events! Can it be done on a college budget? Hard to believe but it can!

First, know where and when to shop. Stores will sometimes offer seemingly large discounts on Black Friday but drop prices even more as the holidays draw closer. How do you know which sales you will save the most on? Well take a look at retailers’ websites to determine the prices and sales they usually have. If you see the percentage of the sales on "special shopping days" are the same as their usual Saturday sales, it’s not a deal! I know what stores I need to go to by doing a little research ahead of time, targeting what items I want and finding additional discounts online and in catalogs: Last year, I found a $99 jacket on sale for $19!

Also, think about making gifts – it’s the thought that counts after all! This year, I’m on a tighter budget so I’m going to make customized stockings. People love gifts that are handmade over something store-bought that might be exchanged. You can even fill the stockings will homemade treats; there are so many recipes for easy-to-make desserts online!

Just remember that the holidays are not about how much you spend. Shop only for what you need and give the rest from the heart. Enjoy the season, amazing food and great friends without going broke!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

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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MIT to Offer Free Online Courses

by Suada Kolovic

Think you have what it takes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Let’s be honest, few do but if you’re interested in testing the waters, MIT will soon offer free online certification courses to outside students who complete them!

How will the interactive e-learning venture, known as MITx, work? Here’s the breakdown: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students currently enrolled at MIT as well as external learners like high school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, interact with teachers and other students globally, experience stimulated labs, participate in quizzes and take tests. Still have your doubts? MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif assures interested students, "This is not MIT light. This is not an easier version of MIT," he said. "An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does."

One slight catch is that although MITx courses will carry no cost, the institute plans to charge a “modest” fee for the certificates. (The exact amount is still undecided.) The first course will begin around spring of 2012 but MIT has yet to announce the course. Does this opportunity spark your interest? Should other prestigious institutions – Harvard, Stanford, Brown, etc. – offer similar initiatives? Let us know what you think.


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