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Debt Deal Not So for Graduate Students

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a graduate student or considering graduate school, listen up: The debt deal reached by Congressional leaders and President Obama would make graduate school much more expensive.

According to the agreement, Congress would scrap subsidized federal loans for graduate students in an effort to trim the deficits. These loans don’t charge students any interest on the principal of student loans until six months after students have graduated; if they’re eliminated, some students will have to start paying back loans while they’re still in school. And if that isn’t bad enough, Congress will also ax a special credit for all students who make 12 months of on-time loan payments. The changes would take place July 1, 2012 and would save the government $21.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

For graduate students who do qualify for the maximum amount of subsidized loans, this new agreement could tack on thousands of dollars to the already staggering cost of going to school. The reason behind the changes is the theory that the money saved by the student loan cuts would help pay to keep Pell Grants, which so far are maintained at a maximum grant of $5,550 a year for some 8 million poor students. “Full funding for Pell Grants is absolutely essential to fulfilling the president's goal of the U.S. once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020," said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

Those considering graduate school, will these changes affect your decision to attend?


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Pell Grants, the Debt Ceiling and You

by Kara Coleman

If you’re one of the more than nine million undergrads who depend on Pell Grants to pay for school, you have probably been pretty anxious over the past few weeks.

This past February, the United States House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution which would slice the federal budget drastically. One of the programs to be affected by the cut is the Pell Grant program. The maximum amount of funds available to college students would be lowered from $5,550 to $4,705 and the changes were set to take effect for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Students were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the Pell Grant program, which has long received bipartisan support from the Senate, was able to avoid major cuts after all. The debt-ceiling bill passed earlier this week will limit overall discretionary spending to $1.043 trillion in the 2012 fiscal year. Since that’s about $7 billion below the current level of spending, how will students be able to receive their maximum Pell Grants? Grad students will be the ones taking the hit. At the moment, graduate students with federally subsidized student loans don’t have to be concerned with interest until after graduation but under the new plan, interest on these loans will begin to accrue while they are still working towards their degrees.

National Economic Council director Gene Spurling says of the bill, “This is a compromise budget, but one that we believe makes the necessary room for the most important investments in winning the future in innovation and research and education.”

How do you feel about these changes? For those with dreams of advanced degrees, are you already researching alternate funding options for graduate school?

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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Higher Education Doesn’t Guarantee Higher Lifetime Earnings

by Suada Kolovic

Pop quiz: What level of higher education earns the most money over a lifetime? (A) a bachelor’s degree, (B) a master’s degree or (C) a doctoral degree? It seems the obvious answer would be the doctoral degree but according to a recent study, the gap is rapidly closing.

The College Payoff, a report published by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, revealed that those holding bachelor’s degrees earn about $2.27 million over their lifetime, while those with master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees earn $2.67 million, $3.25 million and $3.65 million, respectively. "It's still true that, on average, it's better to get the higher degree; it's better to keep climbing—but it's less and less true," says the center's director, Anthony Carnevale. That being said, the major and industry a student selects is precisely what determines lifetime earnings: Those who pursue bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will earn more, on average, than those with advanced degrees of any level who work in fields like education, sales and community service.

If you’re wondering whether or not earning a college degree at all is worth it, it definitely is. Those with bachelor’s degrees, in any field, will earn vastly more than their counterparts with some college ($1.55 million in a lifetime) or a high school diploma ($1.30 million), indicating that earning a four-year degree is essential to financial success later in life. What do you think of the study’s findings? Are you less likely to pursue a higher degree if the payout is minimal? Weigh in here or via our Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship.


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Don’t Object to Pre-Law Classes

by Thomas Lee

My major was political science but I took some pre-law classes in preparation for law school. Taking pre-law classes or attaining a pre-law minor looks great on a law school application; if you’re interested in taking this path, here’s what you can expect.

My pre-law classes included Constitutional Law, Intro to Law and Criminal Justice. Students participated in mock trials during Criminal Justice class, which involved class members acting out the various roles portrayed in a real trial. I played one of the witnesses and had to field a series of questions from the defense and prosecution. I found it to be a very enriching experience and gained a better understanding of what legal proceedings really involve.

While I did not pursue a pre-law minor – and somewhat regret not doing so – I am still glad I took pre-law classes in order to gain at least a basic background of the legal system. I also wish I had taken a class entitled Legal Research and Writing, as I found it would have gotten me on the fast track to an internship. When deciding what classes to take, keep in mind which classes will advance your career the most and opt for those ones over fluff courses.

Pre-law classes will also prepare you for the Law School Admission Test, aka the LSAT. It works similarly to the SAT or ACT, as it is used to determine your aptitude for success in law school and is a requirement for admittance to most law schools. I have already taken the LSAT and scored a decent 149 out of 180, but a score of at least 160 is considered an achievement for the schools I’m interested in. Because of this, I am in the process of studying and plan to retake the LSAT this October.

Once I achieve the score I desire, it’s law school application time. Then, it’s three more years of schooling, countless hours of research, a few internships and a passing score on the bar exam until I can achieve my goal of becoming a civil lawyer and eventually running for political office. Wish me luck!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Pajamas Are for Bed, Not Class

The College Dress Code - Explored

August 10, 2011

Pajamas Are for Bed, Not Class

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people wear pajamas to class. Not only do I think it’s disrespectful to the professor and your fellow students as well but it also looks very sloppy. I personally tend to judge my pajama-wearing classmates as lazy because, I mean, how hard is it to change your clothes? Anyways, this little rant brings me to my topic: classroom dress code.

While it isn’t necessary to dress in business attire or in formal wear for your gen eds, jeans and a t-shirt look markedly better than pajamas, sweatpants or workout clothes. Aside from looking bad, dressing inappropriately for class can have a negative impact on your future. When you go to apply for grad school or for a job after graduation, it’s your professors who will be giving you recommendations. If you show up to every class looking like you just rolled out of bed, it’s going to affect your professor’s opinion of you, regardless of what your class participation and exam grades were.

Additionally – and a bonus – dressing nicely affects your mood. The nicer you dress, the better you feel about yourself and the better you will do in class and at work. Next time you’re about to leave your dorm in your pajamas, take a quick look in the mirror. Appearance does matter – dress for success!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Clipping Coupons for College?

Groupon and NLU Offer Discount to Boost Student Interest

September 6, 2011

Clipping Coupons for College?

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you’re in the market for discounted feather extensions or oil changes, odds are pretty high there’s a Groupon for what you seek...but what about reduced-rate college tuition?

The Chicago Tribune reported National-Louis University is offering a Groupon today for 57-percent off a three-credit graduate-level introduction to teaching course at its Chicago campus. (Regular tuition for the course is $2,232 but Groupon will offer it for $950.) According to Groupon’s communications director Julie Mossler, this is the first time an academic university has used the website as an effort to boost student interest. "There are all kinds of factors in the K-12 world that are really discouraging teachers and people seeking teaching degrees," said Jocelyn Zivin, NLU’s vice president of marketing and communications. "We'd like (potential students) to understand what the realities are, whether you are committed to this profession...and see if you have what it takes."

Every little bit of tuition assistance does help these days but what do you think of NLU and Groupon’s deal? Is it something that you think other schools should consider offering as well?


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Should You Write an Honors Thesis?

by Jacquelene Bennett

To write an honors thesis or to not write an honors thesis? That is the question. If you are a senior in college, you know the dilemma that I am talking about.

At the beginning of their last year as undergrads, college seniors are presented with the option of doing an honors thesis - typically a 25- to 30-page research paper or paper that concentrates on a single subject within your declared major; you must not only demonstrate what you have learned while attending school but you will have to defend your work to a committee. Being a senior in college comes with a lot of stress and pressure – finding a job, filling out grad school applications, and completing capstone projects and papers are just a few of the things on a college senior’s to-do list – so why would anyone think of taking on another anxiety-filled task?

The pros of undertaking this type of project is that you will not only have a substantial piece of writing to present to grad schools and future employers but the work you’ve done will be reflected on your university diploma and resume. The cons of this project are the massive amount of work and time you have to devote to it. Honors thesis requirements differ from school to school but you’d be hard pressed to find a college where the experience is an easy one.

So is writing an honors thesis right for you? Well, that is a decision that you (and your advisor) have to make. After much debate, I found I do not have the time or enthusiasm to write an honors thesis...but if you do, good luck!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Graduation: A Time of Celebration or Stress?

by Jessica Seals

As I type this blog entry, I have less than two months of college left before I get my bachelor’s degree...and I am on an emotional rollercoaster.

When I first found out that I would be able to graduate a semester early, I was overcome with joy and during the summer, I could not wait to begin the fall semester and kept having visions of walking across the stage and smiling proudly as I realized all of my hard work had paid off. Although my excitement grows more and more each day, so does my stress level. Graduation is a wonderful time because family and friends gather to watch you close one chapter of your life and hear your plans of starting a new one. I am elated to know that everyone I care about will soon get to see how hard I have been working in school when they see all of the honors I’ve earned but since that day isn’t here just yet, there’s still much work to be done.

Although I am graduating, my workload has actually increased. I have to take the LSAT to get into law school and put together things such as my letters of recommendation and personal statements for my law school applications. I am very satisfied with the grades that I have made so far but the law school admissions process is pretty daunting and I often find myself frazzled when I think about how close the application deadlines are! I kind of wish I could hop in a time machine and go to May 2012 see how things worked out.

Behind all the stress, however, I know one thing is certain: I will make it through and when I do, the smile on my face will be even bigger and wider than it was at my high school graduation because of everything I’ve accomplished. Soon-to-be graduates, what are you looking forward to the most?

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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The Importance of Letters of Recommendation

by Jessica Seals

When I first began attending college, my agenda included getting good grades and making new friends. No one told me how important it is to establish relationships with my professors and up until my junior year, I did not put a great deal of effort toward creating and maintaining these connections. It was only when I began looking into law school admissions requirements that I noticed I would need multiple letters of recommendation from professors to complete my applications.

So what did I do? I began by taking more challenging classes with professors I already had so they could get to know me, my work ethic and future goals. Now that the law school application process is in full swing, I am fortunate enough to say that I have already designated which teachers will write my letters of recommendation. Though our relationships are now quite strong, I am also providing my resume so they can easily reference my past accomplishments as they write.

I have seen classmates struggle to get good letters of recommendation because they only did what they had to do to get by. If you plan on going to graduate or professional school, you will need letters of recommendation and it’s never too early to begin the process. Believe me, the law school application process is taxing but my stress level was cut down significantly because I made the right connections with my professors.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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