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GPAs, Course Difficulty Increase for High School Students

by Alexis Mattera

It’s April and a few things are on the rise: temperatures (yay!), gas prices (boooo!) and high school students’ GPAs and success in difficult courses (yay again!).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress released its findings of typical high school students’ grade point averages from 1990 to 2009. During that time, the average grade point average increased from 2.68 to 3.0 and the average number of credits also saw an uptick from 26.8 in 2005 to 27.2 credits in 2009. The reason? Researchers cite the importance of rigorous curriculum – highlighting upper-level math and science courses – as a key to greater achievement in high school.

Also included in the study is that 59 percent of students are graduating with accelerated classes on their transcripts and amped-up credits in the core courses of English, mathematics, science and social studies as well as electives like foreign languages, fine arts and computer-related classes. The students with earlier exposure to advanced curricula – specifically those who took algebra I in middle school and began high school with geometry – scored 31 points higher on the study’s math assessment; that being said, male students generally scored higher average mathematics and science than their female counterparts but females had higher overall grade point averages – 3.10 versus 2.90.

With the increasingly competitive college application process and President Obama’s call for an emphasis on education to keep America competitive with the rest of the world, these numbers are promising. High school students, are you taking more difficult courses to give colleges another reason to consider offering you admission? College students, did this method help you get into the college of your choice? Does anyone disagree completely based on personal experience?


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Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

How Far Would YOU Go to Get Off the Waitlist?

April 15, 2011

Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

by Alexis Mattera

By this time of year, most high school seniors know where they will and will not be heading for the Fall 2011 term but others are stuck in college admissions purgatory as one name on a very long waitlist. While some are doing what the term suggests and waiting for these schools to decide their fates, others – like Harvard hopeful Grace Oberhofer – are refusing to sit idly by: The Washington State resident took matters into her own hands, logged on to YouTube and pled for acceptance to the school...in song.

Though the Tacoma School of the Arts senior has already received acceptance letters from six schools (Duke, Brandeis, Oberlin, Tufts, Tulane and Sarah Lawrence), Oberhofer has her heart set on spending the next four years in Harvard’s hallowed halls. She elected to make her case for admission on YouTube, where she performed an original song expressing her love for the school. Oberhofer’s not relying on comic relief alone to earn her the fat envelope; she supplemented the video with a serious letter. Smart move.

The video, which has amassed more than 36,000 views, proves Oberhofer is capable of composing a catchy tune with some pretty amusing lyrics but the jury’s still out on whether the video will help or harm her chances of admission. Waitlists are especially formidable this year; would you take that extra step to stand out if it meant getting in?


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Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

National Need Mirrored in the Buckeye State

April 26, 2011

Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

by Alexis Mattera

If you are attending college, you probably need some form of financial aid to pay for tuition, room and board, books and other living expenses. Next year, it’s likely you’ll need a little bit more.

The Columbus Dispatch recently reported the number of students in the U.S. who have filed forms for federal financial aid for the 2011-2012 academic year has increased by about 1 million from last year. At Ohio State alone, requests are up about 10,600 from two years ago - a 22-percent jump, says financial aid director Diane Stemper. Ohio University’s Sondra Williams reports a similar trend with a 12-percent increase in federal financial aid applications. The reasons for the increased need aren’t surprising. "Many people who used to have the resources to send their children to college have lost their jobs or been downsized," Stemper said, adding lower home and stock values and rising food and gas prices are also culprits.

Though more students are getting the aid they require – OSU has seen an increase in Pell Grant recipients enrolled and OU has more students receiving subsidized loans – the financial relief may be short-lived: Governor John Kasich’s state budget proposal has public universities in Ohio could increasing tuition by up to 3.5 percent. Current undergraduate and graduate students, do you need more financial aid now than you did when you first enrolled? High schoolers and incoming freshman, how do you plan to pay for school?


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Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

Additional Steps Could Be Required to Obtain Certificate

April 27, 2011

Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

by Alexis Mattera

What does it take to earn a high school diploma? At most schools, going to class and earning passing grades for four years is enough but in Oregon, students may have to do a little more legwork to have that valuable piece of paper in their possession.

The Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill that would require high school students to complete one of three additional steps before they can turn their tassels from right to left. Though its main focus is to increase college applications and enrollment rates, the bill – sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read – says students can fulfill the requirements by submitting an enlistment application to the military or attending an orientation session for an apprenticeship or training program as well as applying to a postsecondary institution. “This bill does not intend to tell anyone what choice is right for them,” Read told The Oregonian. “It merely aims to prompt the consideration of those options and encourage students to think about what’s important to them.”

Read does have supporters – after all, the bill passed 33 to 26 and has moved on to the Oregon State Senate – but also numerous detractors, like Rep. Mike Schaufler. "This is not about education," Schaufler said. "It's just one more piece of paper. It's one more hoop we're making people jump through to get the diploma they have already earned."

Whose corner are you in – Read’s or Schaufler’s?


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The Many Meanings of Graduation

by Darci Miller

Graduation.

Depending on where in your academic career you are, the word has varying connotations. To high schoolers, graduation is IT. The ultimate goal. The sum total of four awkward, drama-filled years. The day that begins a new, much more fun and independent chapter in your life.

In college, graduation is a much more complex idea. You might be excited to get out there and start your new job and your new life in a new city or state. On the other hand, what if there’s no job? What if the thought of leaving your beloved alma mater is akin to the thought of a root canal?

After high school, you may be parting ways with your closest friends, but you have the safety net of knowing that almost everyone comes home for the holidays. After college, this isn’t the case. If you attend school in Chicago and have a friend that’s from Texas that’s graduating and going to grad school in Seattle, will you ever see him again? Will he be back to visit?

Of course, this could be me being a little selfish and a lot sad that I’ll be losing so many friends and coworkers to the real world next year. But nonetheless, from graduates and non-graduates alike, the impending ceremony is receiving mixed reactions. Honestly though, I think this is part of the beauty of college. For the first time, you get to choose where you live, learn and make friends. Being sad to leave is a weird sort of pat on the back – “Good job! You made some awesome decisions!”

To all soon-to-be graduates, congratulations! Future college freshmen, you’ve got some great stuff headed your way, so get excited! Future college graduates, I wish you true sadness upon leaving college (hey, I said it was weird!) and all the success in the world in your future endeavors.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Allison Rowe

by Allison Rowe

As a rising senior at Washington State University, I have a lot on my plate – balancing two majors, maintaining honor roll grades and working to realize some serious career aspirations – but I wasn’t always this way. If I can ever convince you of one thing, it is the infinitely transformative power of the college experience.

Lazy. Pessimistic. Socially awkward. These words describe my high school self. Not only did I take the second chance granted to everyone at my WSU freshman orientation, but also realized everyone is free to reinvent themselves as many times as they wish during these four years, so long as they are brave enough to embrace opportunity when it arises.

If you aren’t in a club and don’t have a job, if you haven’t applied for scholarships or attended your professors’ office hours, if you skip class and don’t give back to your community, if you haven’t made a new friend all semester, listen up: You are missing crucial opportunities and wasting money! Though hipsters would like to convince you otherwise, participation in college IS cool and its payouts are unlimited. You can boost your resume, pay off debt and eat free food with friends all at once by taking full advantage of services and activities your fees pay for. This is especially true now with widespread tuition increases (WSU’s has jumped more than 30 percent since I enrolled) and using your time in college efficiently should become a top priority.

Now I do not mean to suggest you must do all those things simultaneously, but the general consensus among seniors is that a busier life is a happier life! During my time as a Scholarship.com virtual intern, I hope to help you all get involved early and build a strong, diverse skill sets to maximize the true potential of your college experiences.


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Scholarships.com’s Resolve to Evolve Scholarship is Back!

by Suada Kolovic

It’s that time of year again when Scholarships.com relaunches our Resolve to Evolve Scholarship. This isn’t your typical essay scholarship: The R2E (as we like to call it) is about providing students with the opportunity to move beyond finger-pointing and offer constructive criticism and workable solutions for problems facing an administration or an organization. Essays must be written in response to one of two questions; this year, they focus on the possible detrimental effects of technology on the masses and whether or not a college degree has value.

This scholarship is open to all United States citizens who are registered users of Scholarships.com, will be enrolled in high school (grades 9 through 12) during the 2011-2012 school year and will be between the ages of 13 and 19 at the time the award is given. The applicant who submits the best overall essay will receive a $2,000 scholarship. One (1) winner will also be selected from each grade level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and will receive a $1,000 scholarship each.

The deadline for entries is August 15, 2011. Winners will be notified in late September and announced mid-October. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship

by Suada Kolovic

Are you a poetry ninja? If so, then we’ve got the scholarship for you: Scholarships.com’s Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship!

The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship will go to the Scholarships.com fan that creates the best haiku detailing how our site is helping them combat the college admissions process and score some serious financial aid. Love our scholarship search? Tell us why! Is our financial aid section really helping you out? Send us an example! Think our college prep section is the best? Give us a shout out! The trick is you must convey your feelings in only three lines and 17 syllables – five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line and five syllables in the third line – and post it on our Facebook page. We always love hearing from our users so get creatively concise and you could earn $1,000 for college!

Step 1: “Like” Scholarships.com on Facebook.

Step 2: Post a haiku on our wall about how Scholarships.com is helping you prepare for and afford college. Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your haiku entries to a reasonable amount per day. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which haiku best exemplifies what our site is all about and which applicant is using our resources most effectively. You must also adjust your privacy preferences to allow Scholarships.com to message you should you win.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Starts: June 1st

Ends: June 30th

Amount: $1,000 for one first-prize winner; Scholarships.com hats and t-shirts for second- and third-prize winners


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Cheating Scam Busted in Beijing

by Alexis Mattera

There have been countless movie and television show plots surrounding forms of academic dishonesty but in real life, cheating doesn’t pay. The cheater’s reputation, on the other hand, does. Dearly.

The Associated Press reported 62 individuals have been detained by China's Education Ministry for selling wireless devices they believe would be used to cheat on the upcoming college entrance exam. Since the plot was discovered before the exam, however, the ministry hopes its actions will protect the test's integrity, which more than 9 million high school students are expected to take this week.

Whether it’s copying and pasting someone else’s words into your paper, crafting the tiniest of crib sheets or constructing an elaborate system of two-way radios to relay information in real time, cheating is everywhere. The good news is that educators are fighting back with new outlooks, smarter software, harsher punishments to curb students’ urges to cheat. Are these tactics working? The jury’s still out. What’s being done at your school to limit and eventually stop academic dishonesty? Do you have any suggestions how to make these methods more effective?


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Faith Trumps Graduation Speech for One H.S. Valedictorian

by Alexis Mattera

Imagine studying hard, taking AP classes and earning a stellar GPA for four years and having that hard work pay off by being named the valedictorian of your class. Sounds like a dream, right? Not necessarily. Just ask Carolyn Fine.

Fine received the news that she'd been selected as Vacaville High School's valedictorian and but her heart sank when she found out the date of the graduation ceremony: It was scheduled to take place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a day prohibiting the use of anything requiring electricity until after sunset. This meant she would not be able to use a microphone during her speech, drive to the ceremony or pose for pictures in her cap and gown after receiving her diploma. Fine spent the next few weeks struggling to decide between honoring her faith and delivering her valedictory address and ultimately decided the former was more important. Admiring her choice, school administrators offered a solution to satisfy all parties. “They prerecorded my speech and they are going to play that while I’m standing up there,” Fine said. “It was a tremendous relief. It seemed like I had reached a compromise where I could keep to my faith and accept this, because it’s a huge honor.”

What would you have done in Fine’s situation – honored your faith or given the speech using a device powered by electricity?


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