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Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Recently, The New York Times revealed that two studies have shown that many community colleges wrongly place students in remedial classes. The main reason why this happens is because students are placed according to their standardized test scores, rather than their cumulative GPAs – in other words, students are forced to pay for classes they don't receive college credit for and, if not for one less-than-hoped-for standardized test score, wouldn't even have to take otherwise! Consequently, students forced to take these remedial classes may experience lower self-esteem than their peers, fail to graduate on time and have to work significantly harder (both at work and at school) to afford these additional classes. In short, having to take unnecessary remedial classes has the potential to make college much more difficult than it needs to be.

All of these problems could be alleviated if community colleges (and state and private universities, for that matter) placed students based on their cumulative high school GPAs. After all, GPA is determined by years of hard work, whereas standardized tests are based on (at most) several months of preparation. And while we obviously can't use the excuse, "I don't test well" every time our test scores leave something to be desired, we should also keep in mind that one test does not (and should not) determine our academic futures.

If you or someone you know is having to take unnecessary remedial classes (e.g., you earned a B in high school calculus but didn't do as well on the standardized test), don't be afraid to talk to someone in admissions about your concerns. While changes rarely go into effect right away, faculty will listen if more students question the emphasis on standardized tests over cumulative GPA. Just make sure you're polite and discuss your concerns logically and calmly!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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I Escaped High School...or Did I?

Dealing with Cliques in College

March 5, 2012

I Escaped High School...or Did I?

by Kayla Herrera

Through the awkward, frustrating years of high school, we all look ahead to college where the themes and mores of high school are nonexistent. Is this always the case, though? I’ve come to realize that it’s not at Michigan Tech.

I was pretty excited coming to this school – freshman year was a blast and I lived in the moment, just as you are supposed to do – but as I matured and progressed through my college career, I found a familiar pattern I had so strongly tried to escape. There are cliques here at Michigan Tech...and mighty odd cliques at that. I did not notice it until my fourth year but the group overtaking the university is the engineers, to whom the university caters with special events, opportunities and entire career fairs dedicated to them. Then, you have the Lit-Heads and the WMTU Kids, aka the literature buffs and radio station dedicatees. The Lit-Heads and WMTU Kids usually blend together, attending concerts and small literary gatherings. The Lit-Heads are elitists about literature in rebellion to the oppression they receive from the school and the engineers. They radicalized with the creation of the national literary magazine, Pank, which is even more superior and thus near impossible for the everyday writing student to get published in. The WMTU Kids run the local concerts and fight back against the conservative society here in the Upper Peninsula. With such a successful program, it’s a wonder why record labels and music enthusiasts aren’t up here recruiting them.

I have only noticed these trends because I find I don’t fit in any of these. I am on the outside and I see these groups as they are. Some of my friends are engineers, some are Lit-Heads and others are WMTU Kids and while I may not completely identify with any of them, I think it’s a good thing I am not intensely wound in any of these cliques. I am my own person, still strutting along in school to just make it out alive and with a decent job. Regardless of the high school scene around me, my heart is not in high school anymore and I intend to keep it that way: Never be afraid of who you are, even if you aren’t a part of anything but yourself.

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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Why Ungraded Skills Are Still Important

by Katie Askew

Some may think that grades are everything but fast forward a few years and picture yourself in the professional world. Your boss will quiz you but you won’t be graded A through F: This is where life skills will come in much handier than book smarts.

Sure, college admissions counselors will look at your GPA as a primary factor regarding your admissions fate but your GPA isn’t everything. There are many more important lessons you learn in high school that won’t be calculated into your GPA. Here are just a few:

So even if you don’t have a stellar GPA, high school still taught you important skills that aren’t graded but will help you throughout your life.

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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How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Baby, it may still be cold outside but summer is on its way – three glorious months to fill with projects, internships and mildly soul-numbing jobs. Hey, high schoolers, I'm talking to you: Colleges care what you do with that time, even if you'd rather just hang out and play water polo...or whatever kids do these days.

For most high schoolers, there are two kinds of summer experiences: you pay them (hang gliding in Costa Rica, French language lessons in France with French people) or they pay you (yeah, I worked at a bagel shop). They both have their places and their benefits so if you can get to some faraway place and have adventures, go for it; however, most people aren't in that financial bracket in high school. The good news is that a first job can be just as interesting an experience, whether it's at a fast food joint or selling t-shirts at the Jersey Shore. Check out your local museums and colleges to see if they have special internship programs for teens over the summer. The application process may be brutal but a competitive internship program looks great on your resume and the money in your pocket will be worth it. Working with those programs will also give you a chance to meet teens from other high schools or outside your normal social circle; remember, college is all about learning to get along with people totally different than you – now's a good time to start.

But don't forget secret option number three: No one pays you but you get to practice something you think you'd like to study or work in. It's like volunteering (except you go every day instead of when you feel like it) but you should think of it as a job, minus the monetary compensation. The summer before my senior year of high school, I called around and became a journalism intern at a small local paper. I pitched and wrote my own articles and even used the amazingly complex 9-megapixel digital SLR camera (hey, it was 2005). While I wasn't exactly producing Pulitzers, I got great articles for my portfolio and the experience of working as an adult. In this economy, everybody wants free labor and by finding a place to volunteer regularly, you may just find a career. Start your search early, though: These opportunities fill up fast!

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 currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Stuff College Students Say

by Angela Andaloro

The college student population in the United States prides itself on its diversity. While no two students are alike, we have some similarities that bond us together and the common experiences and feelings related to college are the ones that we’ll never forget. Still, sometimes the stereotypes that come along with being a college student are just that: stereotypes. With that in mind, I bring you “Stuff College Students Say.”

  • “I’m so broke.” I can sympathize when this lament is shared over Ramen noodles late night in the dorms but when it’s tweeted from your iPhone 4S while you’re shopping for a new outfit for tonight’s house party, it’s a little harder to accept.
  • “I’m not going to class. It’s way too early.” I love to sleep in as much as the next person, but “early” is a relative term in college life. Remember high school, where you knew you had to be in class by 8 a.m., no excuses? That 12:30 p.m. lecture doesn’t seem so early anymore.
  • “Are you going to that event later?” I’d bet $5 that you can’t tell me what organization the event is for or what it’s about. You’ll be there though because there’s free food and free food tastes so much better than food you have to pay for.
  • “I’m going to take a nap.” Yes, you are...on the quad, in the student union, in the library, etc. Anywhere but your dorm, though, because you have class in an hour.
  • “I’ve got to register for classes.” After making sure that none of your classes start before noon and that the professors all check out on RateMyProfessors.com, then you might schedule an appointment with your adviser to make sure you graduate on time. Maybe. If you have time after your nap.

The great thing about us college students is that we have awesome senses of humor. We know that we can be a little ridiculous sometimes, but we can laugh at that ridiculousness. What kind of stuff are the students on your campus saying? Let us know in the comments!

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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Slow Down and Apply for This Scholarship of the Week

Project Yellow Light’s Deadline is March 31st

March 19, 2012

Slow Down and Apply for This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Text messaging can come in handy when you are taking a short study break in a quiet library but when it happens behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, its convenience is replaced by danger. You’ve probably see people texting at traffic signals, on side streets and on the highway at 65 miles per hour but the action is dangerous and on its way to becoming illegal. Want to help bring about change regarding texting and driving? Slow down and take a look at our latest Scholarship of the Week, Project Yellow Light.

As a Project Yellow Light applicant, you have one clear mission in your video application: encourage other teens to develop and embrace safe driving habits – specifically, don’t text and drive. High school seniors who will complete graduation requirements by or before July 31st of this year must submit their 60-second videos via the Project Yellow Light website by March 31st. The first-place winner will receive a scholarship in the amount of $2,000, the second-place winner will receive $500 and the third-place winner will receive $200; in addition to a scholarship, the winning video will be turned into an Ad Council PSA and will be distributed nationally to 1,600 TV stations.

Interested in learning more about this scholarship opportunity? Visit Project Yellow Light’s official website and conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

It may feel like we’ve skipped winter but federal aid is about to be put on ice for college hopefuls lacking high school diplomas or GEDs.

As of July 1st, newly-enrolled students will no longer be allowed to take an "ability to benefit" test or complete a set amount of credits without aid; instead, college students will be required to have high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive federal financial aid. How will these students – many of whom are older, seeking training to find a new job, immigrants and students in states like California where the basic adult education budget has been cut – pay for school? College administrators anticipate they will turn to private loans...or give up on their degrees entirely.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, says the change “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” as these schools view enrolling students without high school credentials as a key part of providing access to higher education: There are currently about 836,000 students without high school diplomas or GEDs enrolled at two-year public colleges nationwide and according to a limited 2006-2007 Education Department study, students without high school diplomas and GEDs were ultimately more successful in college and had higher GPAs than their classmates with high school diplomas, even if they failed the "ability to benefit" test. If would-be students have to get a GED before going to college and receive zero financial assistance while they prepare, Baime says many will opt out altogether.

What do you think of the new rule regarding federal aid? Do you think a high school diploma or GED is necessary to succeed in college?


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Commit Now, Pay Later

Public College Tuition Often Still Undecided by Enrollment Deadlines

March 21, 2012

Commit Now, Pay Later

by Alexis Mattera

The cost of college is a huge factor for a high school senior about to head off to college for the first time, a transfer student getting ready to continue his or her education at a four-year school and an undergrad preparing to pursue a graduate degree. If the student can’t afford to attend a specific school, an alternate institution that better fits his or her college budget should be selected...but what if tuition is still undetermined before the enrollment deadline?

This scenario is common at public universities across the country, as they cannot announce the next year’s tuition until they know how much funding they will receive from their respective states. Though schools like Towson and UVa offer estimates, banking on those figures is a gamble: For example, VCU raised tuition 24 percent in 2010 and the average public university in California raised expenses 21 percent last year – sizeable increases few college hopefuls could have expected. Colleges in this position have to work out preliminary financial aid packages based on the current year’s costs and adjust the awards after tuition is set. Students weighing their enrollment options at private universities have it much easier: A recent report projected private tuition would rise between 4 and 5 percent for next year but schools including Georgetown, UPenn and Goucher have already set and posted their tuition rates for the upcoming academic year.

Are you still waiting on next year’s tuition rates to make your college choice?


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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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