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So You’re a College Grad

Part I: Dealing with Post-Graduation Anxiety

May 18, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

As graduation season begins on college campuses across the country, many of you are well-prepared and excited for this new chapter in your lives. You have jobs or internships lined up in your fields of study, or have travel plans set for the summer before you’re officially labeled “adults.” For many others, however, the months after graduation are more nerve-wracking than anything else. So we’ve come up with a series of posts this week that will hopefully ease your minds a bit, and perhaps more importantly, help you see that you’re not alone.

Before we get into ideas on what you could do with your life post-graduation if you haven’t yet nailed down a job or other plans, we think it’s important to address the anxiety many graduates feel when their college experience is coming to an end. You probably became used to the freedom you first felt as a freshman on a new campus with endless possibilities. Now, as you’re watching your senior year come to end, you’re probably faced with endless questions instead from family and friends: "Have you found a job?" "What are your plans?" "Where will you live?"

First of all, take a step back and breathe. Although the economy has yet to rebound completely, there are thousands of others in the same boat as you, and it’s fine to take some time to be indecisive about what you want to do next. Once you’ve done that, you need to prepare to confront your future and do a bit of self-reflection. Graduating from college can be overwhelming. Many college students end up in careers unrelated to their majors, or take time off after college (if such an option is financially feasible) to figure out what it is they really want to do, via travel, volunteerism, or internships in fields they may be interested in exploring further.

Speaking of finances, much of the anxiety felt by recent graduates comes from the doom and gloom that comes with budgeting once you’re out of college. You no longer have your financial aid package or the option to increase your student loan totals (a bad idea, by the way, that should only be considered as a last resort) as a cushion, although there are things you can do to ease the burden a little bit right after graduation. If you’re unemployed, defer your student loans. You don’t want to face fees and interest charges for being unable to make payments on your loans and hurt your credit score in the process. If you have any prospects for part-time work or full-time temporary work, start saving. Finding a job isn’t a science, and sometimes it does take a while to find that perfect fit.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about what you can do in the short-term as a recent graduate, because you really do have quite a few options. Were you floundering until you came across that perfect post-graduation plan? We'd love to hear your stories!

This is the first 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 popular short-term plans for recent college graduates, especially if your upcoming summer is looking fairly open!


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Muchas Felicidades, Excelencia in Education

Nonprofit Campaigns to Improve College Graduation Rate Among Hispanics

September 8, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Right now, a mere 12 percent of all college graduates are of Hispanic descent. Those stats are no bien, if you ask me, but Excelencia in Education is poised to do something about it today when it unveils several nationwide plans to improve college completion among Hispanics.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Excelencia in Education says that 50 groups will be joining the campaign; the official policy document will be released in March. "We know everyone has to increase their numbers, but we have so much farther to go," Deborah A. Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia, said of the Hispanic population. Santiago knows her stuff: The policy brief Excelencia will release today states that young adults who are Hispanic are less likely to be enrolled in college than are other young adults and in 2008, the college-going rate for Hispanic high-school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 was 37 percent and for all 18- to 24-years-olds, the proportion of Hispanic people enrolled in college was just 26 percent.

Is it possible to increase these numbers? Santiago and her team obviously think so, as does President Obama, who has promised the U.S. will be the world leader in overall college-degree attainment by 2020. To reach that goal, Excelencia says, 3.3 million more Hispanic people than are now projected to complete college would have to earn degrees in the next 10 years. Excelencia will also track the college-completion progress of black and white students on an annual basis in addition to their work with Hispanics, using this year’s the statistical report as a baseline.

We know Scholarships.com is visited by students of many ages, locales and ethnicities so we’d like to hear what you think regarding this matter. What do you think of Excelencia in Education’s plan? Obama’s goal?


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Employers Want the Everyman (or Woman)

State College Graduates More Desirable for Entry-Level Jobs

September 15, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Andy Bernard brags about graduating from Cornell any chance he gets. Granted he is a television character on “The Office” and over the top in every way possible but you will encounter people like the Nard Dog all throughout your life; don't get us wrong, getting into and graduating from a school like Cornell is definitely something to be proud of but if your school of choice lacks the perceived prestige of an Ivy, such comments can be trying to hear. Here's a reason why you could be the one smiling a tad brighter after graduation in spite of that.

In its own study, the Wall Street Journal found that U.S. companies largely favor individuals with bachelor’s from large state universities over Ivy League and other elite liberal-arts schools for entry-level positions. Four hundred seventy-nine of the country’s largest public and private companies, nonprofits and government agencies participated and revealed state school graduates – top picks were those from Penn State, Texas A&M and U of I Urbana-Champaign were best prepared and most able to succeed.

Instead of casting a wide net for candidates, the WSJ discovered big employers are focusing more intently on nearby or strategically located research institutions. This way, they are able to form lasting partnerships with faculty and staff who can point them towards the students who could potentially become valuable employees: Those with the practical skills needed to serve as operations managers, product developers, business analysts and engineers. Ivy League or elite liberal-arts school grads, on the other hand, are top picks from recruiters who prize intellect, cachet among clients, critical thinking and communication.

The Andys of the world may still boast a bit, though: Cornell was the only Ivy League that made the study’s top 25.


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Ohio Program Rewards Higher GPA’s with Cash

by Suada Kolovic

Imagine a world where cold, hard cash was the incentive for doing well in school. A new study, that examined three Ohio community colleges, attempted to explore if paying students is the answer for an authentic effort in their education. The report, "Rewarding Progress, Reducing Debt: Early Results From Ohio's Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration for Low-Income Parents," showed that using financial aid strategically – providing low-income parents scholarships based on their performance – was “encouraging.” The program offered the low-income parents up to $1,800 for one academic year if they earned at least a “C” in 12 or more credits, or $900 for the same grade in six to 11 credits.

According to Lashawn K. Richburg-Hayes, deputy director of young adults and postsecondary education with MDRC, a nonprofit research organization based in New York, “the goal is to understand if performance-based scholarships can work for different populations, in different amounts." The result – of the students assigned to the scholarship group, 33 percent earned the full-time award and 41 percent received the part-time award in the first term. Thirty percent earned the full-time award and 31 percent the part-time award in the second term. The scholarships earned were then paid directly to the students, “allowing them to use the money for whatever expenses were most pressing”, said Reshma D. Patel, a research analyst with MDRC and a co-author of the report. Unlike scholarship funds that must be put towards tuition fees or books, the student has the freedom to use the cash as they see fit. “That flexibility was especially important for the program's target population, low-income parents, who could use the money for child-care or other living expenses,” Patel said.

So, future college attendees, do you think students would be more inclined to put in a wholehearted effort in their education if they were paid to do so?


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Colleges Revive the Humanities

by Suada Kolovic

Due to the drastic economic downturn, students are flocking to majors considered “safe” – economics, engineering and computer science – and steering clear of ones that develop creative thinking and imagination – the humanities. It makes sense, since the objective after graduation is to obtain a well-paying career to pay for that prestigious college education and the best way to do so, in the eyes of the majority of college students, is to select a major where the potential for a generous return on your investment is high. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, student interest in the humanities – which include the classics, literature, languages, history, philosophy, and religion – has dropped dramatically in recent years. Only 8 percent of American undergraduates majored in a humanities field in 2007, compared with 17 percent in 1966.

At esteemed universities, including Cornell, Dartmouth, and Harvard, there is concern that without humanities students won’t develop the kind of critical thinking and empathy “necessary to solve the most pressing problems facing future generations.” Drew Faust, Harvard’s president, explained, “That’s a real shift from seeing an undergraduate education as general preparation in a wide range of fields to seeing undergraduate education as getting a particular vocational emphasis. People worry a lot about what you do with that degree. I think the change has been accelerated and intensified by people’s immediate concern of getting a job — especially with the increasing cost of higher education and the challenges in the economy.’’ (In case you were wondering, the most popular field of study at Harvard is economics.)

In response, colleges have begun pledging huge sums to their literature and arts departments, while others have begun erecting buildings. Among the universities attempting to restore interest in the humanities is Brandeis, which recently dedicated a new $22.5 million glass-and-slate hilltop home, called the Mandel Center for the Humanities. Harvard and Brown have also received millions to support new humanities initiatives.


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Grace Period for Student Loans Coming to an End

Simple Tips to Managing Your Loans

November 11, 2010

Grace Period for Student Loans Coming to an End

by Suada Kolovic

With the typical six-month grace period on student loans right around the corner, recent college graduates across the country will start making monthly payments whether they’re ready to or not . If you’re one of those students, or just starting your college career, here are a few suggestions from the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit independent research and policy organization, on how to manage your loans.

  • Know where you stand.

    A great way to get the exact amount you owe is to visit your lender – in some cases, lenders – or you can find details of your student loans, including balances, by visiting the National Student Loan Data System, the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. If you have non-federal loans, there is a possibility they won’t be listed so contact your institution for that information.
  • When’s the first payment?

    The grace period for student loans is the time after graduation before having to make your first payment. But the length of grace periods can vary; for Federal Stafford loans it’s six months, nine months for Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Plus Loans depend of when they were issued. To find out the grace period attached to private loans contact your lender.
  • Keep in touch with your lender.

    It’s important to remember to keep your contact information updated with your lender. Whether you’re moving or changing your phone number, an updated contact sheet could save you from unnecessary fees.
  • Consider what repayment option works best for you.

    One option is the Income-Based Repayment Program (IBR), which is not available on private loans, that sets a reasonable monthly payment based on a borrower’s income and family size. Under IBR, after 25 years of qualifying payments, your remaining debt, including interest, will be forgiven.
  • Prepare for life and the unexpected.

    Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. If you can’t make payments due to unemployment, health issues or other unexpected financial challenges, you have options for managing your federal student loans. There are options to temporarily postpone your payments, such as deferments and forbearance. Contact your lender for more information and the interest attached to those options.
  • Never ignore your financial responsibilities.

    Ignoring your student loans – or any loan for that matter – can result in serious consequences that can last a lifetime. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined and the total amount you owe increases dramatically. If you default on a federal loan, the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds.

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GPA, SAT, and a Great Sense of Humor Walk into a Bar

by Suada Kolovic

When you envisioned what your college application process would be like, I’m sure you anticipated stress and anxiety but I doubt you expected a joke could get you in. This was the moment you were told to draw on your strengths and articulate every achievement – countless community service hours, stellar GPA, and the fact that you were senior class president. Every sentence would be so perfectly and meticulously thought-out that who you were just leapt right off the page. You prepared your answer on why you belonged at your dream college and pinpointed what you had to offer…until you opened the actual application and found a serious curveball.

In addition to common essay prompts, more and more institutions are jumping on the unconventional question bandwagon and are interested knowing not only in why students want to gain admission but just how creative they can be when challenged. Here are the far-from-average questions schools are asking this year:

California Institute of Technology

Caltech asks applicants to not overanalyze:

  • “What are three adjectives your friends would use to describe you?”
  • “Caltech students have long been known for their quirky sense of humor and creative pranks and for finding unusual ways to have fun. What is something that you find fun or humorous?”

University of Chicago

Each year the University of Chicago asks newly admitted and current students for essay topics:

  • “Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?”

Yale University

Yale asks applicants to write essays, plus answer the following questions in 25 words or less:

  • “If you could witness one moment in history, what would it be and why?”
  • “Recall a compliment you received that you especially value. What was it? From whom did it come?”

University of Dallas

Along with three conventional questions, including “What influenced you most to apply to the University of Dallas?” the school also asks:

  • “Tell us your favorite joke or humorous anecdote.”

Soon-to-be college applicants, what do you think of this technique? Are you a fan of the challenge or frustrated by the fact that not only are you expected to impress them with your achievements and extracurricular activities but now you’re expected to be witty, too?


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Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

Northeastern Grad Starts Website to Help Make Payments

November 23, 2010

Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how to pay for a college education can be complicated, but what happens once you’ve graduated and your loans become so overbearing that even with a full-time job, monthly payment are implausible? A few weeks ago, we blogged that the average college student leaves school with $24,000 in debt, but what about the student who’s debt is about eight times that amount? Northeastern alum Kelli Space, 23, found herself in that exact predicament: With $200,000 in debt, Space was unable to pay her stifling student loans – her monthly payments to Sallie Mae are $891 and by next November that figure will nearly double – so she started a website, Two Hundred Thou, in order to solicit donations from the public.

The site is devoted to sharing her story about the naivety of an 18- year-old, who was the first in her family to attend college and her reliance on readers to foot the bill. Space explains, “At the moment, I like to think I have great things going for me! A job, an accommodating family, loyal friends, etc... but these loans are crippling my ability to enjoy these things – or pay rent. Can I live?” She goes on to explain that by donating to her cause, you’ll also be helping the country as a whole.

Two Hundred Thou also tracks Space’s progress and so far she’s raised $1,726.50, leaving a mere $198,273.50 to go. Space ends with the notion that once her student loans are paid off she’ll spend her money elsewhere, “probably single-handedly spurring the economy.” To think you’re just a click away from cleaning up the mess of a recent college graduate, while fixing the economy and helping the country as a whole – and at $200,000, that’s a bargain.

However, we should point out – before you lend a helping hand – that we really don’t know who this person is or even whether this story is embellished or even entirely fabricated. The domain is registered privately, hiding the identity of the registrant, and the email address is just a gmail account anybody could have created. Sure, maybe this is on the up-and-up, but there’s really no way of knowing. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a bunch of these sites spring-up if this idea gains traction and exposure.


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Data Spill at University of Hawaii

Former Student Sues Over Privacy Breaches

November 22, 2010

Data Spill at University of Hawaii

by Suada Kolovic

Every day, you’re prompted to enter personal information on the web. Whether you’re buying a Kindle from Amazon, filling out a college application or applying for a job, you’re asked for a credit card number, your social security number and, in some cases, even your mother’s maiden name. And sure, in the back of your mind you know there’s the slightest possibility that your personal information could be disclosed, but I doubt that fear was a serious concern on your university’s website. Former University of Hawaii-Manoa student Philippe Gross was no different but on Thursday, Gross filed a class-action suit against the university after the system allowed a series of privacy breaches. It was only last month that the system discovered that a retired professor had posted social security numbers and other personal information about more than 40,000 alumni on a public web server. That wasn’t the first incident either: Back in July, the system acknowledged that hackers gained access to records of 53,000 students and employees at its Manoa campus.

Mr. Gross’s lawyer, Thomas R. Grande, said the University of Hawaii had violated the constitutional right to privacy of the students and employees who were affected. “For those with access to private security information comes a heavy responsibility to protect that information,” Mr. Grande said. The University of Hawaii-Manoa has acknowledged that they are working on improving its data security and, as of right now, their approach was inadequate. Though I doubt the thousands affected by the breaches take comfort in knowing that only now, after two incidents, has the university taken action.

Do you think the University of Hawaii – or any institution for that matter – should be liable for data breaches?


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Pew Reports Students Borrowing More than Ever

by Suada Kolovic

On the heels of our latest post – a story about a Northeastern grad who accumulated $200,000 in student loans – the Pew Research Center released a report that members of the class of 2008 borrowed 50 percent more than their counterparts who graduated 12 years earlier. According to the report, increased borrowing by college students has been driven by three trends: more college students are borrowing, college students are borrowing more, and more college students are attending private for-profit schools. The report reveals that the number of undergraduates borrowing rose from 52 percent in 1996 to 60 percent in 2008 and among those who borrowed, the average undergraduate loan increased from $17,000 in 1996 to $23,000 in 2008. The rise in attendance at private, for-profit colleges also resulted in the increase of student borrowing; the report states, “Students who attend for-profit colleges are more likely than other students to borrow, and they typically borrow larger amounts.”

This isn’t the shock of the century by any means. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time in history, student-loan debt surpassed credit card debt. The figures are staggering: According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owe $826.5 billion in revolving credit, while students owe an estimated $829.785 billion in loans. In fact, so many college graduates are plagued by massive amounts of debt that the Huffington Post has provided an outlet for college graduates to share their stories - almost as a cautionary tale – through an ongoing project, Majoring in Debt.

What do you think? With recent college graduates facing debt in the hundreds of thousands, what are you doing to ensure you don’t end up in the same situation?


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