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What to Consider Before Opting Out of Standardized Tests

May 1, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Standardized testing is as much – if not more – a part of the college process as tweeting your acceptance, Snapchatting your new roomies and buying a shower caddy...or at least it used to be: According to reports, there is a growing trend toward test-optional admissions. What does that mean? If a student decided to apply to a test-optional institution, they can choose whether or not to submit ACT/SAT scores as part of their application. Thinking about signing up? Don’t shred your test prep materials into confetti just yet; here are some things to consider, courtesy of Time Magazine:

  • Your academic record: When admissions counselors evaluates a test-optional application, they pay particular attention to grades and the difficulty of the completed curriculum. Students who excel in AP, dual-enrollment, honors and IB courses – and who have the high marks to prove it – may find that test-optional admissions is particularly well suited to them.
  • Your exam history: If your exam results do not reflect your marks on most other academic tasks, test-optional admissions may be right for you.
  • Your prospective schools: Consider the colleges and universities to which you plan on applying. How many of these schools offer test-optional admissions? If even one school requires a standardized exam, it may be worth submitting your scores to every prospective college on your list.
  • Your financial aid prospects: Some academic institutions and outside organizations require ACT/SAT results as part of their decision-making process. Before you commit yourself to test-optional admissions, research the criteria for any grants or scholarships that appeal to you. If test-optional admissions will limit any needed financial aid, it may be best to follow a more traditional admissions path.

Do you think the test-optional admissions practice is the way of the future? What do you think is a better barometer of qualified applicants: test scores or essays? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Alabama School District to Pay Students for High ACT Scores

Dec 5, 2013

by Suada Kolovic

In a perfect world, every student would have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and an insatiable passion for learning. Reality check: We don't live in a perfect world and motivating underachieving students to perform well in school and on standardized tests is a serious challenge. What should educators do? The school board in Huntsville, Alabama has decided to try an approach many exasperated parents have considered: cold, hard cash for high ACT scores.

To encourage students to apply themselves while ensuring the district maintains an academic edge in the state, the school board unanimously agreed to pay students for achieving benchmark scores on the ACT. Here’s the breakdown: Benchmark scores will be set and for every component of the test a student reaches a benchmark score, $50 will be earned. If a student gets an overall score of 22 or higher, they’ll get an extra $100 and students will have the opportunity to earn $300 total! "The ACT is important," said Superintendent Casey Wardynski. "It's important for our kids but they may not all realize it because they're taking it junior year, or some may not think they're going to college or want to have that test under their belt for when they do choose to go to college," she added.

With another round of standardized test dates just around the corner, students are praising the initiative while concerned parents are questioning where the funds will come from and if it's a form of bribery. So, future ACT test takers, where do you stand? Do you think providing a financial incentive is right way to motivate students or not? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Your College Application Guide

Oct 9, 2012

by Radha Jhatakia

For seniors in high school, it’s about that time to dive into your college applications. The process is rather involved and has the potential to become very stressful but here’s how you can go about it while retaining your sanity.

First, you likely already have a list of colleges you are considering but start narrowing down your top contenders. Look at the majors they offer and see if they have the programs you’re interested in. Check the cost – financial aid may play a key role in what college you attend – and also see if they have activities that interest you (a sport you want to play, a specific student organization, a Greek system, an honors program, etc.). What’s the on-campus housing situation and could you see yourself living in the dorms? Consider these questions and more when deciding whether or not to apply to a college.

Second, check all the application deadlines. Remember, besides the actual application, you must submit test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters and personal statements and you need adequate time to procure all of these items. Also, review the fees associated with each application; some schools let you apply for free or a discounted rate online but you should also consider requesting application fee waivers if money is tight.

Third, the personal statement is the biggest part of the college application because it represents your personality. You may have a high GPA, AP classes and extracurricular activities but so do many other students – what will set you apart from the rest of the application pool is how you present yourself in the personal statement. Have a teacher or parent review your personal statement and edit it for you before submitting it to your college of choice.

Fourth – and although this is fourth on this list, you still want to get it done early – request recommendation letters. Ask teachers you’ve worked with and trust well in advance if they can write on your behalf. Have two or three for each college that requires one. Along with your personal information/resume/school involvement list, give the teacher an envelope that is stamped and addressed to the college(s) to which you’re applying so they can submit their letters directly.

Last but not least, take all your tests on time. If you haven’t taken the ACT, SAT or SAT II tests, register for the next available date; check which tests your colleges require and sign up for those ASAP!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Ready. Set. Apply!

Common App Now Live, Students Already Registering for Accounts

Aug 3, 2012

by Alexis Mattera

Sure, most high schools won’t be back in session for another month but some rising seniors aren’t wasting any time getting back into the academic swing of things: As of Tuesday evening, admissions season officially began with the launch of this year’s Common Application. According to the not-for-profit’s website, 300 individuals registered for Common Application accounts within the initial 30 minutes they were available this admissions cycle, with the first one coming in less than 60 seconds after the launch!

So should you use the Common Application? Seeing as though some of the most selective schools in the country (think UChicago and Columbia) have adopted it, we think it’s definitely worth it if you are applying to more than one school. The online system makes it very easy to complete and submit applications to multiple schools but some colleges and programs do require Common Appers to complete supplemental questions to gauge applicants’ knowledge of and interest in that specific school; these are NOT optional and neglecting to submit supplements means your application will be viewed as incomplete and will not be considered for admission.

Ready to get the application process started? Register for your own Common Application account today!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Confessions of a College Graduate

May 22, 2012

by Jessica Seals

After my high school graduation, I could not wait to start attending college and gain more life experience by being out on my own. Before I graduated from college, however, I heavily anticipated the break that I would be taking before I began law school. I dreamed about all of the extra rest that I would be getting and became even more excited when I thought about all of the extra energy that I'd have. Today, I find myself missing college more and more each day...and I am only six months into my break!

When I first told people that I would be taking a break after I graduated, my decision was met with mixed feelings. Some people said that they were jealous of all of the free time that I would have and some stated that I would go crazy from having too much time to myself but I never would have guessed that the latter would be right! I began to miss school so much that I would dream about random classroom scenarios several times a week. It sounds crazy but I soon realized how much I loved learning new things and having my mind challenged on a daily basis.

Some students may need a long break in order to recover after undergrad but six months was more than enough time for me to realize that I am not one of those students! I have a full-time job but it does not even come close to comparing to what I experienced as an undergrad. I know that I am not ready to begin my journey in law school so I decided to pursue a master’s degree to compensate for the chaotic state that my mind has been in since I took my last final exam. Wish me luck!

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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GRE to Debut ScoreSelect in July

Apr 26, 2012

by Alexis Mattera

College students who want to attend graduate school not only need good grades, excellent recommendation letters and related experience in the field they’re planning to enter but also a solid score on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. But what happens if the score you receive isn’t what you (and the schools you’re applying to) were expecting? Starting in July, it’s ScoreSelect to the rescue.

Graduate programs currently receive students’ comprehensive five-year histories of GRE scores but with ScoreSelect, a student will be able to choose to send all scores or just the ones achieved during his or her most recent exam. ScoreSelect also lets students customize their score reports by school: Test takers may send their most recent scores to one batch of schools on test day free of charge and then forward a different set of schools either all of their scores or a specific score from the last five years after the exam for a fee. Why the change, especially so soon after last year’s format overhaul? “What we believe will happen is that students will have more confidence on test day,” said Christine Betaneli, a spokeswoman for GRE administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS).

There are additional details about ScoreSelect on ETS’ website. After getting all the facts, what do you think of ScoreSelect? Is it an option you’ll take advantage of when you take the GRE?

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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

Apr 4, 2012

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Three Tips to Ease Your Mind on Test Day

Mar 13, 2012

by Jacquelene Bennett

SAT, ACT and AP these are all acronyms for the tests that many high school juniors and seniors are gearing up to take in the next few weeks. While these tests may not be fun, they are important because they help determine which universities and colleges you get into and whether or not you’ll receive credit for intro classes. So to help ease the pressure of taking these tests, I am here to offer a few helpful pieces of advice.

  • Go over the basics. This tip applies to any and all tests regardless of subject. There are always fundamental terms and concepts that will be part of any test, such as certain grammar and punctuation rules or simple math concepts. Reviewing these basic elements beforehand will help you on the test.
  • Practice your timing. These tests are timed and since you know about how many minutes you have for each section ahead of time, use that info to your advantage: If you are taking the SAT or AP English test, practice writing as essay in 25 minutes or fewer. Timing yourself when you are studying or taking practice tests will also help you when you are taking the real test.
  • Don’t freak out. I know that this isn’t an actual test prep strategy but being relaxed while you take the test will result in a higher score. Making sure you get a good night’s sleep and eating a substantial meal beforehand will also help you out when you go to take these tests. This may seem like common sense but so many students still pull all-nighters and skip breakfast on test day. Don’t be one of them.

In addition to these tips, don’t forget to be confident and easy on yourself. I know it may seem like these tests are be all and end all factors when you’re trying to get into college but they’re not. There are other factors that determine admission and you can always take some of these tests again for better scores!

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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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

Mar 2, 2012

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Handy Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids with SAT Stress

Feb 28, 2012

by Suada Kolovic

Upperclassmen across the country are stressed in every sense of the word. And it would come to no surprise that said students are currently walking around in oversized tees and sweats, with mangled hair and dark circles under their eyes, which can only mean one thing: The SATs are just around the corner. For years, the SATs have long been synonymous with intense anxiety and while that is considered the norm (unfortunately), U.S. News and World Report and psychologist Ben Bernstein, author of “Test Success! How to Be Calm, Confident and Focused on Any Test,” have complied a few handy tips for parents to help ease their kids’ stress:

  • Remain calm: It’s important that parents don’t get roped into their child’s nervousness, which Bernstein refers to as an “induced reaction.” He suggests that parents can help curb anxiety by staying calm themselves. Parents should remind their child to breathe and even suggest writing “breathe” as a reminder on their test booklet.
  • Be confident: Parents should listen for negative statements from their child, such as "I can't handle this," or "I'm not smart enough," says Bernstein. He suggests parents accept their kid's feelings but recommends saying something along the lines of, "'I know you feel that way right now, but I remember when you handled a really difficult situation. Do you remember that?'" In turn, he notes, "Of course the kid will remember that. They're forgetting that part of themselves, which has been successful."
  • Stay focused: Many students today simply have shorter attention spans than they did in previous generations. Why? Because they've become accustomed to the instant gratification of sending a text message or beating a video game level, says Bernstein. Parents can help their students focus by having them study continuously, without interruption, for several minutes at a time.

Do you find these tips helpful? Did your parents play such an active role in helping you stay calm and focused before you took the SATs? Let us know in the comments section.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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