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by Emily

While April may be the cruelest month, March can be especially rough for students bound for college or graduate school.  Late March and early April are when admissions decisions and financial aid letters roll out for those not immediately accepted or rejected by their dream schools, and around now, things are getting pretty agonizing.  While a large part of March is consumed by waiting, even those who have already received good news may be consumed by the crushing dread of all the work to be done before September.  After all, if you get into a college or graduate school, you still have to figure out how to pay for it, what classes to take, what forms to complete, what to do with your life between now and then, and for many students, how to graduate on time, as well.  So, while you may still be waiting for a decision, there are things you can do in March to make April through August easier.

First, budget your time.  Figure out the things you'll need to do, and make a plan to get them done.  While you can't yet pick your classes or contact an unassigned roommate to figure out who is bringing the fridge or the TV, you can take care of other things.

If you haven't done so yet, complete the FAFSA.  If you did a FAFSA with your 2007 tax information, do your 2008 taxes and submit a correction.  Check your student aid report to see if you were chosen for verification, a process roughly equivalent to an audit of your FAFSA that is conducted by your college.  Colleges receive a glut of verification forms towards the start of the school year, and a delay in completing it can result in a delay in financial aid.  If you're not sure you've done everything you need to receive aid on time, contact the college to make sure.  It's better to find out now than to find out on the first day of classes when you need to buy books and find that you can't.

Keep searching for scholarships and submitting scholarship applications.  Deadlines are approaching rapidly, and available scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year will only get more sparse as you approach the start of the fall semester.  This doesn't just go for high schoolers--if you're a soon-to-be graduate student with an acceptance letter in hand, but no assistantship or fellowship, don't count on funding emerging later. This can and does happen, but many schools make these awards with their admission decisions.

If you've received your financial aid award letter at your college of choice and it's come up drastically short, look into options for appealing it, especially if your financial circumstances have changed or if you've gotten a better offer from a different school.  You may also want to start shopping around for student loans. You might not be able to apply until summer (and you might not want to if you're currently applying for scholarships), but knowing what's out there now can help later.

If you take these steps now, then it will be easier to direct your spring and summer towards enjoying (or enduring) school, preparing to graduate, and figuring out your summer plans.  You'll also be less rushed and less likely to forget to do important things, like signing up to register for classes or mailing in a deposit on time.


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by Emily

On the heels of last week's announcement that Sallie Mae would not participate in the upcoming PLUS loan auction, the student lending giant once again comes bearing news that may ruffle some feathers and potentially hurt its customers' ability to pay for school.

In a move to reduce default rates, Sallie Mae has announced changes to their popular private loan program.  As of next week, borrowers will be expected to make interest payments on their loans while they're still in school.  Additionally, the repayment period will be kicked down to under 15 years, as opposed to the current norm of 15 to 25, and the bank will also grant forbearances only in the case of serious financial hardship.  Other student lenders have expressed interest in this plan and may soon follow suit, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This is actually good news for student borrowers with the means to repay their student loans quickly and make interest payments while still in school--the total amount they repay will be much smaller under this plan.  Additionally, if Sallie Mae's loans become more appealing to buyers, it may help the bank stay around to make more loans and could potentially increase loan availability.  This move will also cause borrowers to think twice before applying for a private loan from Sallie Mae, which could encourage more responsible borrowing.

However, not everyone is taking out tens of thousands in private loans to drive a sports car to the campus climbing wall at an elite private college.  Many borrowers may already be at a community college or state university and may be using their private loans to buy ramen.  These students could potentially be edged out of college unless they find alternative sources of funding.  If they do stick with private loans, they may need to borrow more to be able to cover their interest payments on their current private loans.  This will in turn drive their interest payments and loan balances even higher, while allowing them fewer opportunities to receive a forbearance if they struggle to make payments.

Students who are currently relying on private loans from Sallie Mae to remain enrolled in college should be aware of these changes and search for other funding options if paying interest while in school is not an option.  Make your first move a scholarship search before reviewing other private loans or alternatives to alternative loans.


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by Emily

Your part-time job can earn you more than a paycheck.  Students who are currently employed by KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, A&W, Long John Silver's, or other Yum! restaurant brands, or who are dependents of Yum! employees can earn a scholarship award of up to $2,500 through this week's Scholarship of the Week.

The Yum! Andy Pearson Scholarship, named in honor of the company's founding chairman, is a scholarship designed to assist Yum! employees or their family members who are seeking a college education.  Current high school, college, or graduate students with strong academic records, leadership experience, community involvement, work experience, or financial need may qualify for this scholarship.

Prize:

  • $2,500 to undergraduate students at four-year colleges or universities, as well as graduate students
  • $1,000 to students attending community colleges or vocational or technical schools
  • $1,500 bonus award to up to 10 students pursuing a degree in food service or hospitality
  • $2,500 to 40 Yum! Scholars of Excellence, past recipients who have maintained at least a 3.5 GPA

Eligibility:

  • All active U.S.-based associates with a minimum of 6 months of continuous employment with Yum! or its subsidiaries and an average of at least 15 hours worked per week over this 6 month period.
  • High school seniors, HS graduates, students who have earned their GED or students currently enrolled in full-time study at an accredited two- or four-year college, university, vocational-technical school or graduate school who have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  •  
  • Legal dependents of eligible Yum! associates, including spouses and unmarried children under the age of 19 (or under the age of 25 if the child is a full-time student).
  • Associates must remain employed by Yum! as of the date that the scholarship is paid.

Deadline: May 15, 2009

Required Material: Completed online application, including statement of educational goals and objectives, a summary of the applicant's work experience, current academic transcripts, the eligible Yum! associate's employment information, and the applicant's family's most recent tax information.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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NPG Scholarship Contest

March 30, 2009

by Emily

Ever look around and think that there are just too many people?  NPG, a national organization devoted to population issues, is encouraging students to explore issues of population growth through their annual scholarship essay contest, which is this week's Scholarship of the Week.  High school seniors and current undergraduate students are asked to submit essays of 500-750 words addressing the issue of population growth within the United States.  Students are asked to format their entries as letters to their hometown Congressional Representative calling for the creation of a U.S. Commission on Population Growth.

Prize: First prize: $2,000 Second prize: $1,000 Third prize: $500

Eligibility: Applicants must be current high school seniors or undergraduate students who will be enrolled in college next year.  Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents attending a school within the United States.

Deadline: April 24, 2009

Required Material: Two copies of an original letter written in response to the essay prompt. The letter should be between 500 and 750 words, written in English, word-processed or typed double-spaced, and submitted through the mail. E-mailed or faxed essays will not be accepted. Essays must be received by NPG by April 24.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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The Brower Youth Awards

April 6, 2009

by Emily

Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to people and governments worldwide.  Not surprisingly, many scholarship opportunities exist for students committed to improving their environments and the lives of those around them.  One such scholarship is this week's Scholarship of the Week, The Brower Youth Awards.

Since 2000, the Earth Island Institute has been sponsoring the Brower Youth Awards, which recognize young activists for environmental and social justice with $3,000 monetary awards and other resources to further their education and activism.  The awards were created in memory of David Brower, an environmental activist and the founder of the Earth Island Institute.  Students interested in applying should be between the ages of 13 and 22, and should be able to show previous leadership in an activist or community service campaign that has had a demonstrable impact on environmental or social welfare.

Prize:

$3,000 plus a trip to California for the awards ceremony and a wilderness camping trip, and the opportunity to continue working with the Earth Island Institute on future projects

Eligibility:

Students ages 13-22 who reside in North America and are current youth activist leaders 

Deadline:

May 15, 2009

Required Material:

Completed Brower Youth Award scholarship application, which can be requested online through the Brower Youth Award website.  Your application should demonstrate your leadership role in your project, as well as your project's environmental or social impact.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

Here's an essay contest especially suited for all those history buffs who can't get enough of World War II documentaries on the history channel, as well as the English majors and budding political scientists fascinated by propaganda campaigns.  If you're interested in researching and writing about the invasion of Poland in 1939, you could win $2,000 in scholarship money through this week's Scholarship of the Week.

In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland, the Kosciuszko Foundation and the Polish Army Veterans of America are sponsoring an essay contest for American students ages 18-22.  On September 1, 1939, after waging a sustained propaganda campaign, the Nazis invaded Poland from the east, and on September 17, 1939, the Soviets invaded from the west without a formal declaration of war.  The Historical Essay contest asks students to research these events in Poland, paying particular attention the propaganda used by the Nazis and Soviets leading up to each invasion and the impact the 1939 invasion of Poland had on the international community.

Prize:

First prize: $2,000

Second prize: $1,000

Eligibility:

Must be a current U.S. resident and between the ages of 18-22 as of September 1, 2009 

Deadline:

July 1, 2009

Required Material:

An essay reflecting your own original ideas and research of no more than 10 typed, double-spaced pages, submitted along with age verification.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

As college costs continue to rise, the percentage of students receiving financial aid also continues to grow.  As of the 2007-2008 academic year, a full two-thirds of undergraduate students received some form of student financial aid, with 47 percent receiving federal aid. This is according to the "First Look" report on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study published by the National Center for Education Statistics yesterday.

The First Look report shows that the percentage of students receiving aid has continued to increase, from 63 percent in 2003-2004, and 55 percent in 1999-2000.  It also provides a breakdown of the percentage of students receiving different forms of financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, federal student loans, federal work-study, and federal PLUS loans.  According to the report, 52 percent of students received college scholarships and grants, while 38 percent of students borrowed federal student loans.  Relatively few students took advantage of work-study and PLUS loans.

NCES collects and publishes data on financial aid every three years and the First Look report is typically followed by a more in-depth analysis.  The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study draws from a sizable sample of students:  114,000 undergraduates and 14,000 graduates at 1,600 colleges and universities. Additional information is available on the NCES website.


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by Emily

While an increasing number of college students received financial aid in the 2007-2008 academic year, that calendar year students also ran up more credit card debt.  The average college student owed $3,173 on credit cards in March 2008, compared to $2,169 in 2004.  This information comes from the student lender Sallie Mae, which has been tracking students' credit card debt since 1998.

The study also found that student credit card debt increases with grade level.  The average freshman owed $2,038 on credit cards, while the average senior owed $4,138.  The money is not just being spent on beer and pizza, either.  According to a supplemental survey by Sallie Mae, the vast majority of students (92 percent) report charging at least one educational expense, such as books, to a credit card.  This figure is also higher than in 2004, as is the percentage of students charging tuition to a credit card, which now stands at nearly 30 percent.  Students reported charging an average of $2,000 in educational expenses to credit cards.

Higher tuition, a poor economy, and difficulty finding private loans may have already pushed these numbers higher for 2009.  With high interest rates and the need to begin repayment immediately, credit cards are one of the worst ways to pay for school.  Scholarship opportunities and federal student financial aid should definitely be explored before students resort to charging tuition to a card.  A variety of grants and scholarships, as well as low interest student loans, can help students avoid credit card debt while in college, and keep their debt from consuming their entire salary when they graduate.  Before you reach for the plastic to pay your campus bills, spend a few minutes doing a free scholarship search.  You may be very glad you did.


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by Emily

Students who are passionate about public health and also have a creative side may be interested in applying for this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Dr. Alma Adams Scholarship.  Adams Scholarships are awarded to students for their outstanding community service and use of artistic abilities to increase awareness about the toll of tobacco within underserved communities.  The awards recognize Alma Adams, a professional artist, educator, North Carolina state legislator and former board member of the American Legacy Foundation.

Up to two scholarships will be awarded each year to students who are pursuing a career related to public health and who have placed an emphasis on working with disadvantaged communities or groups that have been particularly targeted by tobacco advertising campaigns.  Adams Scholarships are awarded to students who have shown a commitment to educate members of these communities about tobacco and drug use, especially through creative campaigns.

Prize:

$10,000

Eligibility:

High school seniors and current undergraduate or graduate students planning to pursue a career in public health, health communications, social work, education, or a related field.  Applicants must demonstrate financial need and must have received a GPA of at least 3.0 in the most recent academic year.  Applicants should also have previous experience working with an underserved community, particularly working to prevent tobacco or drug use. 

Deadline:

April 30, 2009

Required Material:

A completed scholarship application, a personal statement of 500-600 words, a copy of your Student Aid Report and most recent transcripts, and samples of your originally developed health communication materials.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Emily

In the past few weeks, at least nine universities have received donations of at least $1 million, with instructions that the money be used primarily to fund scholarship programs. The donations, which total at least $45 million, have been given to colleges across the country since March, according to the Associated Press.

While anonymous donations happen from time to time, this circumstance is still highly unusual, since no college officials know who provided the gifts.  Typically, the college knows the donor's identity but agrees not to reveal it.  However, schools benefiting from this wave of anonymous donations have been contacted by representatives of banks or law firms, rather than by the donors themselves, and have been asked not to attempt to ascertain the donor's identity.

The donations have largely been met with gratitude. They are well-timed, given the state of the economy and many colleges' current attempts to meet the increased financial need of students.  Families are experiencing greater need for financial aid, and colleges' endowment funds, including endowed scholarships, have lost large amounts of money, giving them fewer resources to use.

For students at these colleges, as well as other schools that have recently benefited from generous donations, the scholarship opportunities they provide could mean the difference between attending college and staying home.  However, these anonymous donors are not the only people out there dedicated to making a college education possible for students in tough times.  You can do a free scholarship search for information on more scholarship awards.


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