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Attention Students: 4 Warning Signs You’re Headed for Student Loan Default

September 3, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With September officially upon us, millions of students across the country are heading back to college. With all the fun and excitement that goes into the fall semester, however, some may not have ironed out one major detail: how they're going to pay for it. For most college students – even those with impressive financial aid packages – loans are a necessary piece in their financial aid puzzle. And with college graduation and loan repayments coming up faster than you think, it's important to understand the warning signs that you may be headed toward defaulting on your student loans. Check out U.S. News and World Report's four warnings to heed below:

  1. You don’t know when your first payment is due: If you borrowed student loans, you are responsible for knowing when your payments begin, how much they are and where to send them...even if you don’t receive any notices with these details.
  2. You dropped some classes or dropped out of school: One common reason why some borrowers don’t know when their first payment is due is that they didn’t realize their repayment grace period was already winding down. For federal student loans, the grace period kicks in when students drop below half-time enrollment. Keep in mind that half-time enrollment is defined differently from school to school. And if you've left school altogether, you are still required to repay any loans you borrowed.
  3. You can’t afford your payments: The student loan grace period gives borrowers some time to figure things out before repayment begins...but you may still be looking for work or barely able to cover your living expenses (let alone expensive loan payments) after that period expires. If you borrowed federal student loans, you may be able to select a payment plan that decreases the amount you pay each month, perhaps based on how much money you make.
  4. You think you already defaulted: Borrowers often confuse delinquency and default. If you miss a few payments, your loan is likely delinquent and you can still do things to avoid the consequences. If you have defaulted, don’t give up! You can pull your loan into good standing by paying it in full, consolidating it or through rehabilitation.

For more tips on repaying your student loans and borrowing responsibly, head over to our Financial Aid 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 creating a free profile on Scholarships.com!

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On the Hunt for Merit Aid? Apply Here!

September 16, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we stress the importance of paying for your college education the best way we know how: with free money in the form of scholarships! And while scholarships might not fully cover your tuition and expenses, college applicants who aren't deemed financially needy in terms of their FAFSA should consider the importance of merit aid. It can make a huge difference in the schools they can realistically afford and students and families seeking this extra financial aid boost should consider researching schools more likely to dispense merit-based awards.

But with so many colleges and universities across the country, which ones are the best financial bets? Help has arrived in the form of U.S. News & World Report, which has compiled a list of the schools that awarded the highest percentage of merit-based funding to non-needy students during the 2013-14 academic year. (The stats do not include financially needy students who were given merit aid or students who received athletic scholarships or other tuition breaks.) Take a look:

High school students, does this data have you looking at these schools in a new light? Current college students attending one of the schools listed above, did merit aid make the difference as to whether or not you enrolled? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And as always, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to get a personalized list of scholarship opportunities!

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Study: Send Your Kids to College, You’ll Live Longer

September 23, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Forget superfoods like acai berries and quinoa: Sending your kids to college might be the surest route to living a longer life!

According to new research by Esther Friedman of the RAND Corporation and Robert Mare of UCLA, parents of college graduates live two years longer than parents whose kids don't graduate high school. But how? College-educated children are able to influence their parents' behavior in positive ways: “Highly-educated offspring may directly improve their parents' health by convincing them to change their health behaviors.” (In other words, the child becomes the parent.) Friedman and Mare examined more than 25,000 individuals tracked in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of Americans aged 51 and over, from 1992 to 2006. They found that the effect on children's education on parents' life expectancy was not just coincidence – it was robust even after controlling for the parents' own socioeconomic resources. The takeaway from this research is that we may be able to better care for our future senior population by providing educational resources to children now. "Improving the education of younger generations could potentially improve the health of two generations of the family (the younger generation as well as their parents)," Friedman said. "This is something that policy makers could consider when evaluating the potential impact of a program.” (For more of this study, click here.)

What are your thoughts on the study? Do you think it's likely that children with a college education offer more financial means to take care of their parents as they age? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to try and fund your college education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com.

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Register and Win $500 from Scholarships.com

New Winner Every Month!

December 1, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Looking for a way to pay for your college education that includes free money? Well, you’re in luck! Here at Scholarships.com, we provide users with the most relevant scholarships and educational information out there.

By registering at Scholarships.com, you’ll have access to more than 2.7 million local, state and national college scholarships and grants worth $1.9 billion...and did we mention that you’ll be eligible to win $500 automatically just for registering? That’s right: Filling out a complete profile will enter you into our monthly drawing for $500. No lengthy essay or massive application packet required – it doesn't get any easier than that. Complete your profile, get entered to win $500 and start exploring additional scholarship options today!

For more information and official rules, please click here. For more information on finding money for college and how to properly fund your college education, check out Scholarships.com Financial Aid section and conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Five Questions to Consider When Visiting Prospective Colleges

October 21, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Show of hands, students: How many of you have known where you wanted to go to college for years? That’s a lot of you...but how many of you have visited said dream school and had a serious change of heart? Iiiiiinteresting.

Visiting colleges is an important part of the college selection process. It provides students the unique opportunity to experience the campus firsthand because while a college may look good on paper, seeing it for yourself will go a long way in determining if it’s right for you. Now before you start scheduling campus visits, the Huffington Post has compiled a list of questions to keep in mind once you’re there:

  • Which colleges should you visit? Research college websites to learn about curriculum, areas of specialty, activities and even arrange to attend upcoming events taking place at that school. Consider the campus setting/environment, size of the student body and what they’re offering in terms of financial aid and prioritize schools based on your wants and needs.
  • When should a student start visiting colleges? Starting the college visitation process as early as 9th grade is essential given the stakes and array of choices. Since admissions requirements and deadlines vary a great deal among colleges, getting an early start is a must. A student needs to see colleges and prepare early to increase their chances of being competitive.
  • What to do when you visit colleges? Get an overall view of the college through a campus tour and information session. Explore the college on your own for a better picture of what it has to offer. Sit in on classes related to your major, talk to current students about the school and campus life (and ask if they would attend the same college again), spend time in high-traffic areas to help envision yourself as part of the community and visit key areas/organizations of personal interest.
  • How do you make a great college fit as affordable as possible? It is important to be aware that there can be a huge tuition difference among colleges that are private, in state and out of state so be sure to research and apply for financial aid.
  • Examine job prospects of recent graduates. Get the statistics on how recent graduates are fairing in the current job market; consider what the average return on investment for certain majors, too.

Are there any tips you’d like to add? If so, please share them in the comments section. For more information on campus visits, visit our Resources section. And don't forget to try and fund your college education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com. (Our scholarship search allows you to search more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth more than $1.9 billion!)

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How to Effectively Network While Still in College

October 8, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

If you're in college, chances are you've been reminded – on a daily basis, no less – about the importance of networking in the adult world. Why wait until then? Get a head start on building your network and you might connect with someone who could potentially help you find a job after you graduate. Need some help getting started? Check out U.S. News & World Report's six tips to network while still in college:

  • Play the student card: Take advantage of the fact that you’re still a student. Alumni are more likely to help you while you’re still in school because you’re just asking for advice and not looking for a job, says Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs. Ask questions, request an informational interview and grow those relationships while there’s no pressure.
  • Use your friends’ parents as resources: Believe it or not, your friends’ parents are great contacts. Not only do they offer decades of experience but since there’s already a relationship established, you’re more likely to be comfortable asking for advice and possibly their contacts!
  • Get out of the bubble: Some campuses offer that country-like feel, a pastoral paradise if you will. And while it’s great not having big city distractions, it can hinder your networking opportunities. Emily Bennington, who helps college graduates transition into careers through her company, Professional Studio 365, suggests, “Rather than using your savings for a spring break in Daytona...go to a conference that's within your industry.”
  • Use LinkedIn: So you’re a whiz when it comes to Twitter and Facebook but if LinkedIn isn’t on your radar, you’re going to fall behind professionally. The sooner you familiarize yourself with LinkedIn, the better. Boasting more than 300 million members, it’s a great way to engage with professionals in your desired field.
  • Use Twitter strategically: Sure, Twitter keeps you posted on what’s most important to you (be that Kim Kardashian or Scholarships.com) but it can also provide an avenue for you to connect with professionals in your field. Make a list of people in your industry who you look up to and use the network to connect with them.
  • Get an internship: This tip is an oldie but a goodie. The value of an internship is undeniable – not only will you walk away with real-life experience to put on your resume, an internship puts you in eyesight of people who work in your field and positions you conveniently ahead of other job seekers.

Do you find these tips helpful? Do you have any that you’d like to add? If so, please mention them in the comments section. And for more tips on preparing for life after college, visit our Resources section. Plus, for more information on finding money for college and how to properly fund your college education, check out Scholarships.com Financial Aid section and conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Top 10 Tips to Directing a Scholarship-Worthy Video

October 14, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With the popularity of YouTube and reportedly returned home Facebook, where posting a video is just a click away, video-based scholarships are becoming increasingly popular for students who have other strengths besides essay writing. Video scholarships provide students the opportunity to highlight an array of skills from directing and editing to staging and production. But remember a video scholarship will require a great deal of time and effort. Don’t assume a video essay will be like shooting fish in a barrel. You should be encouraged by the fact that the odds are in your favor when doing a video contest because so few people take the time to enter. Here are the top 10 tips we’ve compiled to help you increase your chances of winning and helpful suggestions to keep in mind before beginning production.

  1. Follow the Rules: We can’t stress enough the importance of following the rules when competing for any scholarship opportunity, but you should be aware that the guidelines for a video contest are usually very specific and somewhat technical. For instance, there may be a certain format the scholarship provider is looking for (.avi, .mpg, .ram, .swf, etc.), file size restrictions, and surely time restrictions. Before diving in, make sure you fully grasp what it is they’re asking for.
  2. Judging: Be aware of how your work will be judged prior to writing your script. Will there be a panel of judges or will the winners be determined by voting that’s open to the general public? Knowing this ahead of time will help you in creating the most appealing video for that audience.
  3. Brainstorm: Begin thinking of a short but powerful story that fits in with the theme of the contest that will really connect with the viewer. Think about your strong points. Are you somewhat of a comedian? If so, humor is a great way to appeal to the masses because people love to laugh. If you’re a great story teller, try tugging on the heart strings of your viewer with an endearing tale. No matter what path you choose, remember to keep your story compelling – you don’t want the viewer to check out halfway through your video. Once you’ve established your storyline, think about a really gripping way to start your video entry. If you can captivate your audience within the first few seconds, you’re well on your way to a winning entry.
  4. Flatter the Sponsors: Don’t take this as an opportunity to gush over the wondrousness that is the sponsor, but rather as a “tip of the hat” to their company. Think of clever ways to incorporate them in your video such as using their product as a prop or mentioning them subtly in the dialogue. Considering the video will ultimately be judged by their distinguished panel or, at most, they’ll decide who the public will vote for, this can be an excellent and easy way to earn brownie points.
  5. Finalize Your Script: A finalized script will prevent you from adlibbing or stumbling over your words when you’re in front of the camera. Practice reading your script in front of a mirror to get a feel of what the viewer will see and memorize your lines – viewers don’t want to watch the top of your head!
  6. Test for Timing: After running through your script often enough that you’re familiar with it, test how long it takes you to read through it. Will it fit within the time constraints? It would be unfortunate to be disqualified after all your hard work for something as adjustable as timing.
  7. Possible Rewrite: By now, you’ve worked out all the pauses for emphasis and drama you want to include but still find your script flawed – well, change it! Fiddle with your script to remove awkward phrases, cut down what may now seem unnecessary and incorporate suggestions from friends and family. It’s a good idea to practice in front of friends and family members to see how they respond to your video.
  8. Location, Location, Location: Depending on the contest, where you decide to film your entry is as important as the script. You shouldn’t film in your bedroom if it’s messy and there are tons of distractions going on in the background, because no matter how great your video is something like that could ruin your chances. Instead, choose a plain backdrop like a white wall or a solid-colored door, or possibly setup your equipment outdoors. However, take into account that, just as clothes all over your bedroom floor can be a distraction, traffic can be just as bad.
  9. Begin Filming: At this point, you’ve polished and perfected your script and have practiced to the point where you can say your lines in a natural and animated way. Finally it’s time to begin filming! It’s a good idea to recruit the help of a friend of family member to do the camera work for you. Consider the importance of good lighting and good audio and be sure to record many “takes” so you’ll have options when selecting a final cut to submit to the contest.
  10. Submit and Hope for the Best: Once you’ve selected the video that you think is scholarship-worthy, go back and double-check that you’ve followed all of the rules. There’s no harm in verifying that your time and formatting are what the judges are looking for. Remember that not following the rules is the quickest way to weed out entries. Next, depending on the rules, you may send in a copy or upload it for voting to begin. If voting will determine the winning entry, do your best to get your work out there; utilize Facebook and Twitter to your best ability to get your entry votes.

Scholarship video contests are increasingly popular and are offered by a variety of sources. For more scholarship opportunities, complete a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com. You’ll be matched with awards that reflect your interests and characteristics, including film and video.

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10 Universities Where Most Classes Are Small

December 16, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The transition from high school to college is most evident to students when they realize they’ll no longer be coddled in cozy classes of 20 students or fewer. Lecture halls with 300-plus students are the norm at most major universities, where classes tend to be impersonal, relationships with professors are typically nonexistent and students feel more like numbers than people. So for those who prefer a learning environment that provides back-and-forth discussion amongst students and professors, U.S. News and World Report has compiled a list of universities with the highest percentage of small classes.

According to the data, several universities with undergraduate enrollments below 3,000, as well as a few top ranked universities with larger undergraduate populations, reported that a vast majority of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Check out the top 10 universities with the smallest class sizes below. (For more information on this survey, click here.)

How important is class size to you? Are large lectures deal breakers in your book? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile for a list of scholarships that are personalized to you! Whether you’re studying at a university or community college, we’ll help you find the financial aid you need to pay for school. Start your search today!

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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

January 6, 2015

by Alexis Mattera

Though it's a day off from school and work, New Year's Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year's resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2013 for the 2014-2015 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

For more information on FAFSA and other daunting financial aid acronyms, head over to our Federal Aid section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your college education.

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Facebook to Offer Suicide Prevention Resources

February 26, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Since 2011, Facebook has had a way for users to report potentially suicidal posts...just not the easiest way. Until now, it required users to upload links and screenshots to the official Facebook suicide prevention page before receiving any type of help. Starting Wednesday, Facebook will simplify the process and begin rolling out suicide prevention resources that are built directly into posts.

For the project, Facebook worked with suicide prevention organizations Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Save.org. According to a Facebook post written by product manager Rob Boyle and Safety Specialist Nicole Staubli, a trained team will review reports of posts that appear to be suicidal and, if necessary, send the poster notifications with suicide prevention resources, such as a connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline. They also will contact the person reporting the posts, providing them with options to call or message the potentially suicidal friend or to also seek the advice of a trained professional. The new reporting feature is currently available for approximately 50 percent of Facebook users in the U.S. and will roll out to the rest of the country in the next few months, according to a spokesperson for Facebook.

What do you think of Facebook’s efforts to help suicide prevention? Do you think other social media sites should follow suit? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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