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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

November 21, 2011

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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This Scholarship of the Week is a Fantastic Achievement

Three Days Left to Apply for the AXA Achievement Scholarship

November 28, 2011

This Scholarship of the Week is a Fantastic Achievement

by Alexis Mattera

As anyone who’s ever overindulged in Thanksgiving dinner can tell you, too much of a good thing does indeed exist. This mentality does not hold true when it comes to scholarships, though...especially this Scholarship of the Week from AXA Equitable!.

The AXA Achievement Scholarship awards $670,000 annually. Fifty-two students – one from each state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico – receive scholarships of $10,000. Of those 52 students, 10 students are chosen as national winners and receive an additional $15,000 scholarship award and an internship opportunity with AXA Equitable.

Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate ambition and drive, determination to set and reach goals and the ability to succeed in college. If that sounds like you, visit AXA’s website to apply before the December 1st deadline. As always, to learn more about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!

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A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

November 29, 2011

A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

by Alexis Mattera

In recent years, college students have become more cautious about taking out loans to pay for school. There are multiple reasons for this – horror stories from friends or siblings, limited job prospects after graduation and high interest rates have all been cited – and while it’s an admirable goal to graduatefrom college debt-free, educators think this approach could actually hinder students from getting degrees.

According to a recent Associated Press article, students are attempting to limit borrowing by working longer hours, taking fewer credits (and often not enrolling full-time), living at home and attending less selective institutions. While educators are impressed with this level of fiscal responsibility, they are quick to point out that each action above is a risk factor that makes college students less likely to graduate. Borrowing could prevent this, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of Excelencia in Education. "If you can take out a little bit of loan you're more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you're more likely to complete." How much more likely? Federal data analyzed by Excelencia and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time compared to 70 percent of students who don't borrow and roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor's degree within eight years compared to 25 percent of part-time students.

What can be done to facilitate this message? Educators believe students need to better understand financial aid, the difference between types of loans, debt management and the returns on various degrees and majors. In addition to searching for scholarships and grants, is borrowing part of your financial aid plan and does this information make you more or less likely to take out a loan?

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Should You Take a Semester Off?

December 2, 2011

Should You Take a Semester Off?

by Kayla Herrera

I have been attending college for about four years now and have never taken a semester off. The thought used to make me shudder – how could someone even think of taking time off from school?! – but after this semester, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Some of my friends took semesters off to travel and learn more about themselves, while others were lost and not sure what they wanted to do in life. Some have experienced the loss of a family member or friend and others fell so ill that it interfered with their everyday lives. But me? My situation has been a combination of flying squirrels, bad landlords, health issues and money problems. Stress from school has skyrocketed to its worst level ever and I am planning to take the summer off, since I cannot afford to withdraw from spring classes if I want to stay on track. (I did consider attending part-time but found it could create problems with financial aid.)

If you’re considering taking a semester off, do NOT just drop off the face of the Earth. Let your adviser know your plans and keep the lines of communication open so that the process of coming back to school is easier when you are ready to do so. You may be taking time off from school to destress but I’d also recommend doing something related to your major – picking up an internship/job, volunteering or studying for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE – to stay somewhat involved in your field.

Lots of college students take time off for one reason or another; if external factors are competing with school to the point where your grades are suffering, take a break – you’ll return to school more motivated to succeed.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.

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Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

December 2, 2011

Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

by Scholarships.com Staff

When an acceptance letter arrives from your dream college, your first instinct may be to scream, cry and jump on your couch with Tom Cruise-caliber flair. Feel free to give in to those urges – hey, you earned it! – but realize you will soon have to figure out how to pay for your education. Can you really afford this school, not only while you’re attending but after you graduate as well? A new list from Kiplinger says your dream school could be a reality after all.

The list, which rates how well colleges actually do in making themselves affordable, includes schools with students who graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt on average. The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise also weighed in, supplementing Kiplinger’s findings with data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Here’s what he found were the most affordable institutions based on the average amount of debt graduates carry:

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Frame Your Future Scholarship Contest

This Scholarship of the Week is Accepting Entries Through March 6th

December 5, 2011

Frame Your Future Scholarship Contest

by Suada Kolovic

What is your vision for yourself after college? Church Hill Classics and diplomaframe.com want to help you frame your future and attain your dreams. So, show them what your future looks like! They’ll be awarding $6,000 in scholarships - five $1,000 winners plus $1,000 donation to the grand prize winner's school.

To enter: Submit a creation that shares what you want to achieve in your personal and professional life after college. Your entry can be a photograph, collage, poem, drawing, painting, graphic design piece, short typed explanation, or anything YOU can create in an image! Your entry should communicate: This is how I "Frame My Future." Make sure your entry layout will be easy to view and read online.

The top 24 finalists will be announced by Church Hill Classics in April. Then, the top five scholarship winners will be chosen by popular vote on our website (more details about the voting process to come as we get closer to that time).

For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Scholarship Displacement Explained

December 9, 2011

Scholarship Displacement Explained

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we make a point to advocate the importance of funding your college education the right way – for free! – and while financing your higher education solely from scholarships is an amazing feat, there is a factor to consider: scholarship displacement.

If you don’t know what scholarship displacement is, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, winning a scholarship may not be the end-all be-all when it comes to paying for school because they can complicate the financial aid package offered by your intended university. Why? When a student wins a scholarship, the college may reduce the student’s need-based financial aid package to compensate. For example, say a university offers a student a $15,000 grant and an additional $15,000 loan to cover the cost of attending. If the student were then to win a scholarship for $15,000, the college could retract its $15,000 grant. Colleges call this an over-award and the scholarship providers call it displacement.

Although this may seem discouraging, it shouldn’t dissuade you from applying to scholarships altogether. Instead, do your homework, speak with your admissions counselor and know where your intended college stands when it comes to their scholarship policies. If you’re brining a lot of scholarship dollars to the table, you have options. Every college is different and has their own guidelines when it comes to outside scholarships. If one university doesn’t allow you to put those scholarship dollars to other costs – loans, books, room and board, etc. – enroll at one that does. You could also enlist the help of the scholarship sponsor: Some scholarship providers may have a lot of clout with the college, especially if their scholars make up millions of dollars of funding to the college.

If you have any additional questions about scholarship displacement, don’t hesitate to ask us!

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Get Off the Couch with These Alternative Winter Break Plans

December 12, 2011

Get Off the Couch with These Alternative Winter Break Plans

by Angela Andaloro

We powered past midterms, made it through Thanksgiving and are in the home stretch toward finals. That’s right, it’s the end of the semester and before you know it, winter break will be upon us. Many people go home to spend time with their family and friends, eager to veg and enjoy doing nothing.

Not everyone looks to do this with their break, however: If you’re feeling doing something radically different, here are just two awesome ideas...far, far away from your couch and/or reality television.

It’s usually during the coldest months of the year that we’re looking for a little bit of escape. While these options might not be how you were thinking of getting away, they can actually be better than what you had imagined. Spending the holiday season on a path to a better you could be the best gift you give yourself (not to mention those in need) this year!

Angela Andaloro is a 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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This Scholarship of the Week from Dr Pepper is Refreshing Indeed!

Hurry - Dr Pepper Million Dollar Tuition Giveaway Deadline is 12/31

December 12, 2011

This Scholarship of the Week from Dr Pepper is Refreshing Indeed!

by Alexis Mattera

If you need to find money for college and know how to create and upload a video file, have we got a scholarship opportunity for you.

The Dr Pepper Million Dollar Tuition Giveaway gives students age 18 and older the chance to earn up to $100,000 to fund their college educations. Thirsty for more details? We bet you are! To enter, all you have to do is submit an original video explaining why you deserve tuition through the Dr Pepper website by December 31st. Hey, it’s easier – not to mention less dangerous – than describing what Dr Pepper tastes like!

Full guidelines for submission and answers to FAQs can be found on Dr Pepper’s website. To learn more about this award as well as additional scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Berkeley Announces Aid Increase for Middle-Class Students

December 15, 2011

Berkeley Announces Aid Increase for Middle-Class Students

by Alexis Mattera

Not-so-breaking news: College is expensive and the costs associated with it show no sign of stopping their steady climb. What’s a college hopeful to do? Consider a school that’s finding ways to bridge the financial gap, like UC Berkeley.

Beginning next fall, Berkeley will amp up its financial aid contributions for middle-class students. School officials reported that while the number of low-income and wealthy students has increased over the last several years, the number from middle-class families has remained flat. Berkeley hopes to regain the interest of middle-class applicants by becoming the first public university to promise families earning between $80,000 and $140,000 a year will contribute no more than 15 percent of their annual incomes toward tuition.

This news – released just one day after Gov. Jerry Brown announced a $2.2 billion budget shortfall and another severe round of cuts to state colleges and universities – has already been dubbed a game changer by Terry W. Hartle: The senior vice president of the American Council on Education also believes other colleges will channel their competitive spirits and do whatever they can to offer similar programs. Learn more about Berkeley’s plan here then tell us what you think.

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