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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

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.

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Bracketology 101

Math Prof Explains the Odds of a Perfect Bracket

March 9, 2012

Bracketology 101

by Alexis Mattera

March is one of my favorite months of the year: Not does it include the start of spring, my birthday and a seemingly endless amount of scholarship deadlines but it’s also chockfull of college basketball. With Selection Sunday right around the corner, pools are starting to form with all participants aiming for the same goal – the creation of a perfect bracket. What’s the likelihood you’ll be the one to achieve this feat? Pretty dang slim, says Jeff Bergen.

According to the DePaul University professor of mathematics, you technically could select the correct outcome of every single game but before you get too excited, the odds of picking that perfect bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion. “You basically have no chance,” he says as he calculates, but does note that if you have a solid knowledge of NCAA tournament history, your odds increase to 1 in 128 billion. Score!

So to those planning brackets, be sure to have your favorite rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover or horseshoe handy...and just have fun! Remember, says Bergen, “When your bracket goes down the tubes, don’t worry: so is everybody else’s.” Will you be creating a NCAA tournament bracket this year? If so, how will you go about making your selections?

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Three Tips to Ease Your Mind on Test Day

March 13, 2012

Three Tips to Ease Your Mind on Test Day

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.

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The How and Why of Interning and Volunteering Abroad

March 14, 2012

The How and Why of Interning and Volunteering Abroad

by Darci Miller

In this day and age, the world is an increasingly small place, as one only has to foray into the world of blogs and forums to make contact with people thousands of miles away. We may not exactly live in the “global village” that Marshall McLuhan predicted back in the day but we’re certainly closer than society has ever been to that point. What does that mean for us college students? Well, I think it goes without saying that the job market is a changing place. It is far from uncommon for a company to be multinational and deal with clients from around the world so this makes a basic knowledge of international relations – as well as knowledge of another language...or two – a definite plus.

Experience abroad can be turned into a marketable quality when you’re on the job or internship search. Most interviewers are more concerned with experience than they are with grades so if you’re abroad, don’t be afraid to skip the occasional class if it means getting out there and immersing yourself in the culture of your new home. Some events only come around once in a lifetime and can often be much more valuable than a perfect attendance record.

Even better? Get work experience abroad! In an international job market, this experience is invaluable and will be looked upon extremely favorably by employers but be sure to do your research ahead of time. For example, college students get “work placement” in England rather than internships, so opportunities are few and far between. Before you leave your home university, email companies in your study abroad destination and tell them you’re interested in working for them...even if they aren’t advertising any positions – that’s what a friend of mine did and she nabbed herself an internship in London for the summer!

Another crucial tip is ensuring that you have the proper work clearance. If your visa is incorrect, you could end up being deported or banned from ever returning to the country. Each country’s border agency or immigration office should have details on its website; the process is a pain (trust me, I’ve been there) but it’s definitely worth it: My Tier 4 student visa has allowed me to volunteer with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and I couldn’t be happier!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.

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Eating Healthy on the Road

March 16, 2012

Eating Healthy on the Road

by Kayla Herrera

For many college students, spring break is an adventure, a trip down memory lane or a challenge. Spring break will take some of you on the road and this could mean a challenge for healthy eating. You may be heading somewhere warm but eating nothing or very little is not the way to fit into that bikini you packed.

Is it possible to eat healthy while you’re traveling? Sure...it just takes a little more planning. Junk food is fun on car trips, I know, but since drinking pop all the way on my trip caused me to be very nauseated later on, it’s not a bad idea to explore healthier options. Here are a few tips for on-the-road dining:

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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Deadline for Our Facebook Scholarship Rapidly Approaching

March 16, 2012

Deadline for Our Facebook Scholarship Rapidly Approaching

by Suada Kolovic

With just over two weeks left to enter our “You Like Me…You Really Like Me” Facebook Scholarship, we wanted to remind our fans of a key piece of the judging criteria: Don’t just tell us you like us – tell us WHY you like us! We’re looking for the person who best describes how Scholarships.com’s resources are helping them prepare for and afford college so, while we love hearing that you think we’re the BOMB.com, we’d much rather have you detail how, for example, our blog post on tips to stay calm on test day helped prepare you for the ACT/SAT or how our College Prep section jumpstarted on your college planning. Remember, the more you share, the better your chances are of winning $1,000 or one of two Kindles!

If you’re new to Scholarships.com and unfamiliar with its contents, take a tour and check out everything we have to offer. Our site is teeming with info – from choosing the right school and major to living with a roommate and preparing for an intership – so if you like us (really like us), tell us why. Just be sure to do it soon: The deadline to “like” us and leave your thoughtful comment is March 31st. For more details, check out our Facebook page. Good luck!

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Communicating with Authority Figures

March 19, 2012

Communicating with Authority Figures

by Radha Jhatakia

Whether it’s a parent, professor or employer, communicating with authority figures can be a challenge, as a certain level of respect and acknowledgement must be given. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your superiors but these tips will help you to keep the lines of communication as open and effective as possible.

One of the most important aspects of communicating with authority figures is having an appropriate attitude. No one will want to speak to you if you have a displeased look or closed-off body language. Knowing your surroundings and having a welcoming demeanor will make you appear more approachable; displaying confidence in what you have to say will win you points as well.

The method you use to communicate is also important. Email is a very convenient in that it allows us to get a message to someone quickly but with the convenience of this technology, many people do not practice proper “netiquette,” which means using proper spelling, grammar and formal language rather than texting language. Being appropriate in your emails means not using emoticons and having a signature with your contact information. Communicating effectively with authority figures often relies on your level of maturity and this will help demonstrate it.

However expedient emails may be, sometimes phone calls or in-person meetings are necessary. Often when employers are considering candidates, someone who has sent an email may not seem as appealing as someone who has sent an email and followed up with a phone call. In-person conversations work better when the matter is important and is something that may be misconstrued in an email or phone conversation. An example would be if you need to speak to a professor about a grade you felt was unfair. Approach them as a concerned student who wants to know how to improve from the mistakes they cited, then explain why the errors don’t seem wrong to you. A positive attitude will go a long way; you may be angry but verbally attacking the professor will make them far less likely to help you out.

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.

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Forget "The Hunger Games" - Try These Study Games!

March 20, 2012

Forget "The Hunger Games" - Try These Study Games!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you've been studying for three hours straight for your chemistry exam and you haven’t even cracked your calculus, history and geography books yet. Besides envisioning that much sought-after 4.0 GPA, how do you stay motivated? You play study games, of course!

While study games aren't quite as addicting as the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft varieties, they're still much more engaging than reading over your study guide for the hundredth time. Websites like Quizlet – aka "the world's largest flash cards and study games website" – are perfect for helping you memorize vocabulary whether you're studying biology or business and another option, Quia, offers Hangman, Battleship, scavenger hunts and more. If you're looking for resources to help you prepare for standardized tests like the SAT, ACT or GRE, on the other hand, sites like Grockit have got you covered...but access to these games, study plans, written and video study aids can cost $29.99 a month.

In addition to being more fun than your average study session, study games increase your chances of remembering the material for your test. Research has shown that if you try to encode information in as many ways as possible (e.g., via sight and sound), you're more likely to remember that information. And because many study games make use of both visual and auditory features, your odds of doing well on your test increase. If you can't find a game to help you study, consider visiting your textbook's website: Many publishers offer animations, study guides and quizzes.

Regardless of how you study, remember to encode the information in as many ways as possible, take breaks and reward yourself when you're done. Let the games begin!

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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Why I Changed My Minor

March 21, 2012

Why I Changed My Minor

by Kara Coleman

I am always curious as to why students choose to minor in the areas that they do. Sometimes, minors complement majors but at other times, the connection between the two is not so obvious.

I have always loved to read and write – I was an English major during my time at Gadsden State Community College – so when it came time for me to transfer to a four-year university, I knew that I wanted to major in communications. Since I already had several lit classes under my belt from my time at Gadsden State, I decided to declare English as my minor. A couple of weeks ago, however, halfway through my junior year, I decided to change my minor.

While minoring in English certainly seemed like the practical way to go because I have to take many more classes, I weighed my options and decided to minor in creative writing instead. Although changing my minor has added a whole semester of classes to the work I have to do before I graduate, taking writing classes will allow me to further hone my writing skills. Since I want to write for a living instead of read poetry, creative writing was definitely the way to go for me.

What is your minor and why did you decide to pursue it? Before you graduate, ask yourself: Are the skills I’m acquiring while working on my minor going to help me with my overall career plans? Did I choose my minor because it’s something that I enjoy, even though it may not have a direct connection to my major? Decide for yourself what would be best for you in the long run when you select your minor...and keep in mind you always have the option to double minor!

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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Tips & Tricks for a More Affordable Internship Experience

March 23, 2012

Tips & Tricks for a More Affordable Internship Experience

by Alexis Mattera

Many students don’t have time to take on internships during the traditional academic year, making summer break the perfect time to gain experience in their fields of choice. Unfortunately, students looking to earn college credit for these often unpaid positions must still fork over the cash to cover the credit fees – sometimes thousands of dollars – despite not being enrolled in formal classes.

Is there a way to have a more affordable internship experience? Indeed, according to one of USA Today’s collegiate correspondents...and with 11 internships under her belt, she speaks from experience:

Are you interning this summer? Let us know where in the comments!

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