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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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College Acceptance in 500 Words

Common App Sets Essay Word Limit, Counselors Voice Concerns

June 10, 2011

College Acceptance in 500 Words

by Alexis Mattera

The college application essay has long been the place where students with mediocre grades, lackluster standardized test scores and nonexistent extracurricular activities have displayed their above-average writing skills and possibly turned admissions tides in their favor. College hopefuls will still be able to achieve this feat next year but with far fewer literary devices.

Officials for the Common Application have announced they’ve set a new word limit for its essay section. For the 2011-2012 application cycle, students will choose from one of five prompts – for example, "Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence." – and have 250 to 500 words to respond AND effectively sell themselves to college admissions officers at 415 colleges and universities. Some guidance counselors have complained about the limit, saying students will not have enough space display their writing abilities; in truth, the new parameters are plenty wide if students have received sufficient writing instruction in high school.

I believe brevity is a virtue but know this truncated word count will be shocking to college applicants. What do you think of the Common App’s announcement? Are you up for the challenge or has the change deterred from using the application entirely?


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Students Use of Slang in the Classrooms Becoming the Norm

by Suada Kolovic

Text messaging, Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized the way we communicate with one another on a daily basis. From slang terms to text-speak, the casualness has become somewhat routine but what happens when students blur those barriers of online communication and slang shortcuts creep into the classroom? High school teachers are dealing with a lot more IDKs, IMOs and IDCs on assignments nationwide.

Terry Wood, a foreign language teacher at St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md., has seen a "dramatic decline" in the writing abilities of her students. "They do not capitalize words or use punctuation anymore," Wood, a teacher with 10 years of in-class experience, says. "Even in e-mails to teachers or [on] writing assignments, any word longer than one syllable is now abbreviated to one."

While some advocates have argued that the use of slang is simply an evolution of language, Chad Dion Lassiter, professor of race relations at the University of Pennsylvania disagrees: He considers it "a dumbing down of culture." "We're looking at some of these writing skills and what I'm noticing is [that] there is miscommunication due to the fact that their communication is so limited," he says. "The problem is the adults. We have to train adults to work with young people and hold them accountable."

What do you think? Does slang belong on assignments? If not, how should teachers combat this growing trend of text lingo in the classroom?


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Short and Tweet Twitter Scholarship

Tweet Us Your 140-Character College Story

June 15, 2011

Short and Tweet Twitter Scholarship

by Suada Kolovic

Everyone has a college story to tell. Whether yours has yet to begin, is ongoing or about to start a new chapter, we want to hear about it through our second Scholarships.com’s Short and Tweet Scholarship. This time around, we’d like you to sum up your college experience in 140 characters or less and possibly win $1,000 or a Kindle for school!

We first debuted the Short and Tweet Scholarship in April and received so many amazing replies that we knew we had to offer it again…with a twist. To enter, simply log on to Twitter (create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us, then @reply us and tell us your college story. It can be fiction, non-fiction, funny or serious, and the most creative college story will win a $1,000 scholarship (second- and third-place winners will receive one Kindle each).

Step 1: Follow Scholarships.com on Twitter.

Step 2: @reply us with a tweet sharing your college story in 140 characters or fewer. Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles!

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to a reasonable amount per day. Each unique tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the July 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which tweet is most deserving of the award.

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

Starts: June 15th

Ends: July 31st

Number Available: 3

Amount: $1,000 for one first-prize winner; second- and third-prize winners will be awarded one Kindle each.

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

For official rules, please click here.


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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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The Importance of Job Shadowing

by Katie Askew

You’re the high school senior that wanted to be a doctor ever since you saw that episode of “House.” Or, maybe, you’re the high school senior that’s deciding between a few possible careers and has a couple of majors in mind. But really, how is any 17-year-old supposed to decide on a career for rest of their life without any practice?! One activity that high school students overlook is the solution to this problem...and it’s just as important as extracurriculars and volunteer hours: job shadowing.

After a period of stressing out about my future major, I had a conversation with my AP English Literature teacher. He happened to be a former reporter for my hometown paper, The Argus Leader, and suggested that I job shadow a reporter he knew there. He set me up with Josh, a journalism graduate of the University of Minnesota, and I spent the next day observing him in the newsroom. I learned the ins and outs of how a newspaper is produced, how to cover a school board meeting and conduct an interview for an article. All of this helped me get a sense of the job and the daily activities I would partake in as a reporter and Josh was nice enough to answer all of my questions.

I attribute my love for my future career to this day and for this I am deeply indebted to Josh and my teacher. Even today, I know I can go to Josh as a mentor with any questions I have about classes at the U of M, journalism jobs or basically anything that comes up. He really inspired the journalist in me – something I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

So, thank you again, Josh. To everyone else, find the major or career you could love just as much by job shadowing!

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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 Job Shadowing

by Katie Askew

You’re the high school senior that wanted to be a doctor ever since you saw that episode of “House.” Or, maybe, you’re the high school senior that’s deciding between a few possible careers and has a couple of majors in mind. But really, how is any 17-year-old supposed to decide on a career for rest of their life without any practice?! One activity that high school students overlook is the solution to this problem...and it’s just as important as extracurriculars and volunteer hours: job shadowing.

After a period of stressing out about my future major, I had a conversation with my AP English Literature teacher. He happened to be a former reporter for my hometown paper, The Argus Leader, and suggested that I job shadow a reporter he knew there. He set me up with Josh, a journalism graduate of the University of Minnesota, and I spent the next day observing him in the newsroom. I learned the ins and outs of how a newspaper is produced, how to cover a school board meeting and conduct an interview for an article. All of this helped me get a sense of the job and the daily activities I would partake in as a reporter and Josh was nice enough to answer all of my questions.

I attribute my love for my future career to this day and for this I am deeply indebted to Josh and my teacher. Even today, I know I can go to Josh as a mentor with any questions I have about classes at the U of M, journalism jobs or basically anything that comes up. He really inspired the journalist in me – something I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

So, thank you again, Josh. To everyone else, find the major or career you could love just as much by job shadowing!

Katie Askew is a freshman 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, performing or teaching 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.


Comments

Department of Ed Demands Special Reports for Tuition Increases

by Alexis Mattera

Do you get a headache when thinking about rising college tuition and fees? You’re not alone...but your company may surprise you.

Yesterday morning, administrators at more than 500 colleges reached for metaphorical Advil bottles when the Department of Education decreed special reports detailing tuition and student fee increases must be submitted to the government for review. Schools cited include public institutions Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Alabama State University and roughly two-thirds of California State University's 23 campuses for tuition hikes of 38 percent, 46 percent, 43 percent and between 37 and 46 percent, respectively, over the last three years as well as for-profit colleges from DeVry University, Education Management and Corinthian Colleges. In addition to explaining why costs have gone up so dramatically, the schools must also discuss how they plan to address the rising prices.

Do you think these new measures will help students make more informed college choices?


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A High School Bucket List

by Angela Andaloro

While newly-minted high school seniors across the country are already itching to walk across the stage and accept their diplomas next spring, there are a few things students must do before their high school experience comes to a close. I was there myself not too long ago and this was my official high school bucket list:

  • Go to one epic party. You know those huge house parties you see in every teen flick ever created? Believe it or not, they actually happen in real life. It’s an experience you’ll never forget, so go ahead and enjoy it! Just make sure to enjoy responsibly.
  • Pull an all-nighter. This may not sound like a whole lot of fun but it’s definitely an experience, especially when you do it with friends! My advice: Don’t stay up all night the night before the test! You need your sleep before a big exam so do it a few nights in advance if you can.
  • Go to prom. I realize prom isn’t something everyone gets totally into; that said, it’s something everyone could get a tiny bit into. It’s fun to get dressed up, have a sophisticated evening out and see your classmates truly trying to act like adults (which can be pretty funny). Most people only get one chance to go to prom...why not take it?
  • Start thinking about the future. Many high school seniors think they have plenty of time to worry about the future – majors, possible careers, even the colleges they’ll attend – but I can tell you from personal experience that the first two years of college whiz by and before you know it, it’s time to make those decisions. The earlier you start to think about what you want to do and where you want to go, the better prepared you’ll be.

What’s on YOUR high school bucket list?

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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History Proficiency Low in America

by Alexis Mattera

Do you know who becomes our nation’s leader if the current president and vice president should both die? Who said “Give me liberty or give me death?” Not sure of the answers? Neither are American students.

According to the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress test – an exam that measures proficiency in mathematics, reading, history, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics and geography – American students just aren’t “getting” American History. The results revealed high school seniors have the worst grasp on the subject with an 87-percent failure rate, followed by eighth graders (82 percent) and fourth graders (78 percent). These marks should be cause for parent-teacher conferences...except when the CBS affiliate in Boiling Springs, South Carolina asked locals some sample exam questions, not one person could answer how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court or name the Chief Justice and only one person could name South Carolina's two U.S. Senators and who American patriots fought against in the Revolutionary War.

Sure, not everyone is a history major and most people don’t have careers requiring the recollection of these facts on a daily basis but being informed about the country you call home is never a bad thing. Check out some of the questions here then tell us what you would do to increase these unsatisfactory scores.


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