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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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To Attend or Not to Attend: That is the ($100,000) Question

by Angela Andaloro

The decision to attend college is one that everyone arrives at differently. For some, not going to school isn’t an option, be it by their own standards or their parents’; for others, taking the next step in their educational career may have required a little more convincing. I have even heard stories of parents who bribe their kids to go to college with promises of apartments or cars.

While a new ride or a place to call your own might sound tempting, there’s an even more tempting offer out there from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel – the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, which, in exchange for a commitment to not attending college for two years and dedicating themselves entirely to their inventions, Thiel offered each fellow $100,000. The response was overwhelming, as are the opinions floating around the controversial award.

One of the lucky 20 fellows, Dale Stephens, wrote an article for CNN discussing his own feelings toward the idea that real world experience could prove to be more beneficial than a formal education. He discusses his disappointment in the values that are promoted by the college system – a disappointment that resounds on college campuses around the country. He goes on to discuss the possibilities out there for our generation beyond a traditional education, which, as Stephens puts it, are beyond the extremes of “Becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or mastering the phrase ‘Would you like fries with that?’”

Stephens’ call to seek opportunities beyond the formal educational system may be influenced by his experience as a Thiel Fellow but is an idea that is considered by many current and soon-to-be college students. I myself have heard students complain about feeling as though they aren’t really getting anything out of college. The phrase “I’m never going to use this in real life” is one that’s uttered frequently, but how much truth is there to that? Do you feel that there’s something to be learned in college or is it a societal expectation we’ve come to accept?

Angela Andaloro is a rising junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Lending a Helping Hand Pays Off

by Shari Williams

Community service is something most of us have done at one point or another. For some high schools, it’s a graduation requirement but I believe serving your community is vital whether it’s mandated or not. The good news for college students is that not only does community service help others but it can also translate into money for school.

One renown program is AmeriCorps. Several colleges and universities take part in this program, providing information and opportunities for students to get involved. Each year, AmeriCorps gives students opportunities to participate in year-long service-learning programs. If a certain amount of community service hours are acquired by the end of the year, the student is granted a stipend.

Another option is the Fulbright Program. Fulbright has an array of grants included in their U.S. Student Program to students who have studied or are studying foreign language, music, business, journalism and public health, to name a few. Fulbright is an opportunity geared more toward soon-to-be or recent college graduates looking for more experience in their fields. Students live outside the U.S. with most expenses paid and full or partial tuition awarded. A special program opportunity that Fulbright offers is the Fulbright-mtvU Awards, which provide four grants to recent graduates studying outside of the country who will conduct research on international music culture. If that sparks your interest, they have many more opportunities to apply for.

Both AmeriCorps and Fulbright are awesome opportunities and are great ways to gain valuable experience. For more information on Americorps or Fulbright, visit www.americorps.gov and US.FulbrightOnline.org, respectively, or contact your college.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Tuition Discounts Lack Effectiveness

by Alexis Mattera

When making your final college choice, would you choose the school touting generous tuition discounts or the institution offering the standard financial aid package? The choice may seem obvious but according to a new study, things aren’t always what they seem.

A survey of 400 private institutions conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers revealed tuition discounting could be losing its effectiveness as a way of luring students to colleges. Data show that though the rate of institutional discounts in the form of scholarships, grants and fellowships continues to rise – the average is predicted to hit 42.8 percent this year – 45 percent of the schools surveyed saw overall enrollment remain flat or drop and 53.2 percent saw a decline or no change in the number of freshmen they enrolled.

What do you think of the tuition discounting trend? Is it playing a role in your college decision or are other factors (location, reputation, programs of study, etc.) more important to you?


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The Importance of Experience

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I don’t think most students will disagree with me when I say college messes with your head. It’s not a bad thing to become wrapped up in the culture and “crazy” things start to seem “normal” – midnight pancake breakfasts, grown men dressed up as professional wrestlers breaking chairs on each other in the quad, and just dorm food in general all become regular life – yet one of the most confusing parts of college is that the classes that consume so much of your time and energy really only count for so much.

I remember being consumed by my senior honors thesis my last year and vaguely thinking “Huh, I should probably be applying for jobs...” but with the exception of a few research fellowships, I couldn’t imagine taking the time. Objectively, that job hunt was way more important than whether I got a B or an A- on that last Spanish major requirement because one class out of 40 just doesn’t affect your GPA that much. How much time you spend on outside activities and jobs versus academics, however, does affect your employment choices.

Like I’ve said before, employers want to see experience. Life experience, not classroom experience (this statement should obviously be modified for those planning on Ph.D. programs or going straight into non-professional graduate programs), is vital and whether you’re applying for medical school, a paralegal job or want to be in the business world, internships and volunteer work matter. They prove you have practical skills and good professional recommendations show you are easy to work with, which is more important than you think. Many employers calculate your attitude and demeanor into the hiring decision: They can retrain you on skills you’re lacking but it’s hard to reprogram someone who’s annoying the heck out of everyone in the office.

Obviously, your GPA is important (for example, Google won’t hire anyone with under a 3.5) but most employers care about your concrete skills more than they do about your successful memorization of Don Quijote’s final stanzas. So as hard as it may be, I actually counsel putting down those books sometimes and putting extra effort into that job or internship search, even if it may feel counterintuitive. That means completing informational interviews, exploring both externship and (sigh) unpaid internships and really utilizing your alumni network. But those are topics for another week.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She just moved to San Francisco and is currently working on a political campaign on ocean pollution but will be teaching middle school or high school Spanish this upcoming fall and working on her teaching certificate.


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