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Attention Ayn Rand Fans: This Scholarship of the Week is for YOU!

The Fountainhead Essay Contest to Grant 236 Scholarships

April 11, 2011

Attention Ayn Rand Fans: This Scholarship of the Week is for YOU!

by Alexis Mattera

There’s nothing I enjoy more than curling up with a good book...unless doing so could be worth $10,000. Too bad I’m long graduated because I’d be applying for this Scholarship of the Week in a second!

The Fountainhead Essay Contest, offered by the Ayn Rand Institute, is open to high school juniors and seniors with a love of literature and flair for writing. Each applicant is required to read Rand’s novel of the same name then craft an essay of 800 to 1,600 words in response to one of three prompts. There will be 236 college scholarships distributed – one $10,000 first-prize award, five $2,000 second-prize awards, 10 $1,000 third-prize awards, 45 $100 finalist awards and 175 $50 semifinalist awards – to essay writers demonstrating an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of The Fountainhead.

All materials must be submitted by April 26th (just over two weeks from today) so if you are interested in this scholarship opportunity, you still have plenty of time to apply. For more information on this and other scholarship awards, conduct a free scholarship search on our site today!


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Your Passion Has a Place in College

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever started an essay or research project and found you absolutely hate the topic you chose? I know I have so that’s why when I started college, I vowed I would choose personally relevant topics whenever possible to make my college assignments more enjoyable.

In my logic and rhetoric class, for example, I had to choose an issue I could argue about from multiple perspectives. Because I'm a passionate video gamer, I ended up choosing to debate the pros and cons of gameplay. We've all heard about the effects of gameplay on violent behavior, weight gain and myriad other social problems; while it's true some of these concerns aren't entirely unwarranted, I wanted to show how the media and other sources play a large role in exaggerating the negative effects.

My point here is that because I am passionate about video games, I can argue much more persuasively than I would if I was writing about a topic which I have no interest in. While my topic may not be meaningful to everyone in my class, I am confident my classmates will at least appreciate the combination of factual information and personal insight I bring to the table on the subject. After all, a persuasive essay isn’t really a persuasive essay if the author doesn’t believe his or her own words.

Of course, choosing a topic you like isn't always possible – if you hate learning about history in general, odds are you won't find many topics to your liking – so in these situations, just be thankful you don't have to marry the topic you settle for. You're sure to find plenty of topics personally relevant to you later on in your college career.

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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Application Essays Take Center Stage at Middlebury

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again so we have to ask: College students, do you remember what your application essay was about? For a document that takes hours – and, likely, gallons of blood, sweat and tears – to create, very few students give it a second thought after sending their application packets to their colleges of choice. This isn’t the case if that college is Middlebury, however, where students revisit those essays not long after they arrive on campus...and in front of an audience, reports The Choice.

Created in the early ‘90s by residential dean and Middlebury alumn Matt Longman, “Voices of the Class” is a program featuring upperclassmen acting out freshmen admissions essays during new student orientation. Typically 10 to 20 essays are incorporated into the performance, as well as short student-life vignettes written and directed by upperclassmen. Given the subject matter – which Longman said ranges from “how to do your laundry to how to be on guard from date rape” – authors remain anonymous and students can opt out of having their essays performed. The live-action essays have become so popular that Middlebury has started soliciting responses to additional prompts, such as “Tell us something about yourself that people would never guess just by looking at you.”

Would you participate in this kind of program if it were offered at your college? To the past and present Middlebury students in the audience, did “Voices of the Class” feature your application essay?


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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

Five years after Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, more than one million articles have been contributed to the free-for-all Internet encyclopedia. The open editing format allows for an unlimited amount of information to be shared all over the world but unfortunately, some teachers don’t consider Wikipedia to be a credible source...or they simply want their students to do a little more searching for information. Here’s how to make more informed choices when searching for works to cite.

When you Google your topic, don’t just click on the first link that pops up. Check out the site’s address before you visit. Remember, ANYONE can post ANYTHING on the Internet: An English professor at my community college was known to occasionally log on to Wikipedia and edit articles, just to see if her students were using the site.

College and university websites are reputable. If MIT posts an article about its latest technological breakthrough, take that information and use it. The same holds true for sites belonging to trade journals. A writer for an aviation magazine is talking directly with people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes in order to write articles for other people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes. Their information has to be accurate.

It’s also acceptable to cite articles from credible news sources like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. These are publications everyone is familiar with and they have years of coverage to show for it. The bad apples are few and far between.

Something to keep in mind when doing online research is that if something is true, it’s probably going to be on more than one site. If you come across conflicting pieces of information, be sure to check a number of other sources. And you don’t have to ignore Wikipedia completely: The bibliographies at the end of each article can provide some valuable links!

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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Scholarship of the Week Alert: FIRE’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of different ways to find money for college these days but none are as tried and true as the essay scholarship. Are you ready to write your way to $5,000, $2,500 or $1,000 for college? Well fire up that computer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest.

The Freedom in Academia Essay Contest invites high school seniors to watch two videos on FIRE’s website and write an 800- to 1,000-word essay using examples from both videos. This year's prompt is "Why is free speech important at our nation's colleges and universities?" FIRE will award one first-place winner a $5,000 scholarship, one second-place winner a $2,500 scholarship, and five runners-up $1,000 scholarships.

The deadline is coming up fast – it’s November 5th – so visit FIRE’s website today for more information. To learn more about this award and others, conduct a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com.


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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

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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An App for Apps

Matchbox Streamlines Admissions Processes

January 11, 2012

An App for Apps

by Alexis Mattera

As soon as high school students drop their college applications in the mail or send them hurtling through cyberspace, they breathe sighs of relief thinking the hardest part of the application process is over. Not so much for college admissions officers, whose challenges are just beginning: They must review each and every transcript, essay, standardized test score and extracurricular to select the right mix of students to attend their institutions. It can take a lot of resources – there are quite literally thousands of applications to evaluate – so it’s about time an app was created to streamline the process.

Matchbox has developed an iPad app to speed up the review of college applications without compromising the savvy judgment admissions officers are known for. Founder and CEO Stephen Marcus created the first incarnation of the Matchbox app as a member of the admissions committee at the MIT Sloan School of Management. At that time, Marcus said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to read one application but with the Matchbox app, that same process is two to three times faster. "I'm able to save a lot of time when I'm reading applications now," said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at the Sloan School. "Before I would have to write out all of that evidence on the handwritten scorecard. Now I can just tap it with my finger, highlight it, assign a category, and it's done."

Do you think this kind of technology is good or bad for the college application evaluation process? Let us know why in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter!


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R.I.P., Application Essay?

Counselors Weigh Usefulness, Debate Future

June 21, 2012

R.I.P., Application Essay?

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the college application essay: where a student can give admissions officers insight into the person they really are (in about 500 words) that the standard transcript can’t provide. While some schools rely heavily on the document in their admissions processes, others don’t require it at all – a discrepancy that has experts debating its future.

Admissions officers and college counselors discussed application essays and personal statements at length yesterday at the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions and according to an article in The Chronicle, counselors are citing essays as burdens on overworked admissions staffs as often as they are questioning their authenticity. Gone (or disappearing) are the days where a great essay can help a borderline student gain admission to their dream schools: Top institutions like Brown are giving them less weight than it has in past admissions cycles – “A spectacular essay can raise more questions than it answers,” said dean of admission Jim Miller – and some schools are requiring applicants to submit copies of graded written work to use as a barometer. What do the students think? Sure, crafting compelling prose comes as naturally to some college applicants as breathing or blinking but Martin Bonilla, director of college counseling at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, Calif., has found that the essays cause his students more stress than any other part of the application.

Do you believe the essay component of the college application is on its way out or here to stay?


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