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Popular Culture 101?

TV + Trends + College = Fun and Unusual New Classes

December 1, 2010

Popular Culture 101?

by Alexis Mattera

No, there are still no classes entitled “The Anatomy of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” or “The Hanukkah Snuggie’s Effect on Modern Judaism” but classes with roots in popular culture are popping up on college campuses everywhere. If you’ve yet to select your classes for next semester or have found a few empty blocks in your schedule, consider enrolling in one of these fun, weird and surprisingly informative courses. (Bonus: They could help you earn an equally unusual scholarship!)

  • Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960-1963: Northwestern University history professor Michael Allen teaches this freshman course, which examines the relationship between consumerism and the social and political changes of the 1950s and 1960s. Students attend lectures and read historical texts but are also required to watch several “Mad Men” episodes each week. We’d assume cigarette smoking, scotch swilling and infidelity do not earn extra credit points.
  • South Park and Contemporary Issues: This course at McDaniel College mixes sociology and philosophy while exploring the controversial contemporary social issues featured on the long-running Comedy Central cartoon. The official course description states, “Ultimately, students will gain…new knowledge of the benefits of applying an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary social issues.” No Kennys will be harmed but bring your own Cheesy Poofs.
  • Music, Video Games, and the Nature of Human Cognition: This NYU psychology class already has a waiting list and there’s a good reason for it: Professor Gary Marcus believes video games – specifically “Guitar Hero” – can be used to enhance human cognition. Some parents are upset that this is the type of class their tuition is going toward but Marcus stresses that delving into this understudied area will yield positive results. Rock on, Professor!
  • Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame: The University of South Carolina’s Mathieu Deflem has gone gaga for Gaga and he hopes his students will too with his sociological analysis of selected social issues related to the pop star’s work. Though the course is within the sociology department, the subjects of music, fashion, art, business, marketing, new media, religion and politics will be integrated to dissect Gaga’s rise to fame and impact on society. Unlike the infamous meat dress, this approach is well done.
  • Zombies in Popular Media: Vampires are so last year, people, and Columbia College Chicago has the latest undead trend – zombies – ready to take over your brain, not eat it. Literature, comics and film will “foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie,” states the course description and the history, significance and representation of zombies will be discussed and implemented on a daily basis. Hopefully, this class doesn’t take place after dark.
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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?

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Your Scholarship of the Week Challenge? Earn $15,000 for College!

HISTORY® and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Announce National Civil War Student Challenge

March 28, 2011

Your Scholarship of the Week Challenge? Earn $15,000 for College!

by Alexis Mattera

Want to put a serious dent in your tuition? You’ll need three things: a working knowledge of the Civil War, a Scholarships.com account and the link directing you to the National Civil War Student Challenge.

The National Civil War Student Challenge is an academic competition presented by HISTORY® and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that gives students a chance to showcase their knowledge of one of the most pivotal events in American history and qualify to win up to $15,000 in college scholarships. Although all U.S. high school students who are in grades 9 through 12 and are between the ages of 13 and 19 are eligible to participate, content is geared toward the 11th grade curriculum. The top-30 scoring students will be invited to take a 90-minute, proctored in-school Final Exam to determine the top 10 scholarship winners.

Registration is now open on the official website so sign up and start studying. And remember, there are plenty more scholarship opportunities in the Scholarships.com database...check out our free college scholarship search today!

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Alaska Governor Stresses Need for State-Funded Scholarship Dollars

March 29, 2011

Alaska Governor Stresses Need for State-Funded Scholarship Dollars

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, our goal is to make finding money for college as easy as possible. Paying the full cost of tuition out of pocket isn’t in the cards for most college-bound students and high-interest loans aren’t the most desirable options for others, meaning some students’ quests for postsecondary degrees must be funded solely by scholarships, grants and fellowships. Can it be done? Of course it can. You just need the right people on your side.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell recently requested the funding of the incoming Alaska Performance Scholarship program, a nurse training proposal and a handful of other educational priorities from state lawmakers. While Parnell feels students have worked hard to earn state-funded performance-based scholarship dollars and would be "out to dry" without it, senators worry the program could leave rural students behind if aid is distributed unevenly across the state...not to mention create a potential legal problem given the state constitution’s promise of fair education services. Students seeking need-based grants do have the existing AlaskAdvantage program to turn to but it is significantly underfunded. It could, however, gain support through Senate Bill 43, which calls for AlaskAdvantage to receive $7 million of the proposed $21 million in state college scholarship funding on an annual basis.

Will it happen? Our Magic 8-Ball says "cannot predict now" but we hope it goes through for the sake of the many students in need. How are you currently paying for or planning to pay for school? What programs have you found most helpful in securing the funding you need?

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Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

Colleges with the Highest Return on Your Investment

April 8, 2011

Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

by Suada Kolovic

With all this talk about possible Pell Grant cuts, acceptance rates plummeting and universities facing serious tuition hikes – Arizona universities could face hikes of up to 22% – which schools are worth the outrageous sticker price of about $200,000? According to PayScale.com’s annual survey of colleges with the highest return on investment rates, the California Institute of Technology tops the list with a 12.2% annual return. PayScale’s data is pulled from 1.4 million pay reports from persons who obtained bachelors degrees in the last 20 years, for more on their methodology click here. Check out who made the cut below:

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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Kara Coleman

May 16, 2011

Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Kara Coleman

by Kara Coleman

Hi! My name is Kara and I’m really excited about being one of the newest Scholarships.com virtual interns!

I have spent the past couple of years studying at Gadsden State Community College. I live at home with my parents and commute to school and work every day. I attend Gadsden State because it is affordable, close to my home and workplace and I don’t have to pay room and board expenses. I plan to transfer to Jacksonville State University for many of the same reasons: JSU offers everything involved in a “normal” college experience, like clubs and football games, but I can choose what to participate in while still meeting the demands of my work schedule and being able to watch my little brothers’ soccer games.

Ever since I could hold a pencil, I have loved to write. My dream has always been to write a New York Times bestseller but until that happens, I would like to have a job that involves writing. When I enrolled at Gadsden State, I declared myself as an English major. I took every literature class that Gadsden State had to offer and I even spent the past year tutoring English. At JSU, I intend to major in communications, with concentration in print journalism. I think that writing for a newspaper will give me a consistent day job while I write books on the side.

When I received the email stating that Scholarships.com was looking for virtual interns, I immediately began composing my writing sample. This opportunity will allow me to do what I love, add some bylines to my portfolio, and (hopefully!) give me some more exposure as a writer. I look forward to sharing my transfer experience and helpful hints with anyone who visits the site over the coming months. “Talk” to all of you soon!

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Scholarships – Are They Really Worth My Time? YES!

May 17, 2011

Scholarships – Are They Really Worth My Time? YES!

by Jessica Seals

A typical soon-to-be college student’s priority list probably looks a little something like this:

But wait!!! With all of the excitement of starting college, students can forget to get their finances together to pay for it all! Many students don’t realize that they can eliminate student loan headaches simply by starting the scholarship application process early. By doing so, students have more time to get their application materials together and apply for more scholarships because they are not rushing to submit everything on deadline day.

From my own personal experience, I found it advantageous to apply for scholarships early. I joined websites like Scholarships.com so that I could keep track of deadlines and scholarships that I qualified for. I sent it all of my materials early and when I started receiving letters that began with “Congratulations!” it made the time that I spent applying for scholarships worthwhile.

Another bit of advice that I found helpful was applying for scholarships even if the amount seems small. During my freshman year of college, I applied for the new member scholarship for the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society despite the fact that the award amount was $300. Nothing could make my smile turn into a frown that day because winning the scholarship meant that I wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for books in the upcoming semester.

My final advice: Apply for as many scholarships as possible because you might just be what the scholarship committee is looking for. Even the smallest award can help pay for something!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is 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. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.

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Seven Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

May 19, 2011

Seven Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are you’ll have to start paying off your student loans sooner than you think. And even with the economy in a slump, don’t expect a free pass on not paying your loans. Are you starting to panic? Well, don’t! There’s a ton of advice out there to help students stay on track and courtesy of the U.S. News and World Report, here are seven tips for repaying your student loans.

  • Repay you student loans automatically. Make things easier on yourself by setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account. This reduces the chance of late or missing payments.
  • Aim for 10 years. The traditional repayment period for student loans is 10 years and ideally you'll be able to pay off all your debt within that time period. If you end up struggling with your monthly payments, however, you could stretch out your loans to 20 or even 30 years. Your monthly payments will become more manageable but you will end up paying a lot more in interest.
  • Stay organized. Having multiple student loans can be a challenge to keep track of but with the government's National Student Loan Data System, you’ll be able to track all your federal student loans in one place.
  • Pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first. A high interest rate costs you every month and compounds that amount you owe every month you aren’t paying off the entire balance.
  • Consider IBR. The IBR is a federal Income-Based Repayment program that allows a borrower to repay his or her federal loans based on what is affordable and not what is owed.
  • Keep abreast of student loan developments. Staying informed is just as important as making your payments. Familiarize yourself with websites that are devoted to college debt issues like Project on Student Debt and the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project.
  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman. Sometimes your relationship with a lender can go belly-up. If you end up in a dispute, the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman may be able to help resolve the issue.
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Consider Location, Location, Location When Selecting Your School

May 25, 2011

Consider Location, Location, Location When Selecting Your School

by Jacquelene Bennett

During my senior year in high school, I sent out applications not only to schools in my home state of California but to schools in Rhode Island, Washington and even England. I ultimately decided to stay in California because while going to a school in a different state or country sounded appealing and fun, it was just too unrealistic for me. Why? Location mattered.

Attending college in a different state can often times cost a fortune - not only are you paying out-of-state tuition rates (this doesn’t really apply to those going to private universities; they’re expensive regardless of where you live and attend) but you have to pay an arm and a leg to travel home for holidays and summer break. Also, there’s that issue of being away from your family: If you’re like me and have younger siblings, you want to be able to go to their basketball games and celebrate their birthdays. I knew that if I went too far from home, I would get too homesick and not enjoy my time at college.

Now I have nothing against those people who attend school in a different state – in fact, two of my closest friends at school are from Washington and Colorado – I’m just saying to think about what’s best for you. Can you afford the expenses? Can you stand to be away from your family? These are questions to ask yourself because you can still go away to school and be close to your family. I do...it’s just a matter of picking the right college. I go to a university that’s about 90 minutes from home; this is enough distance so that I feel like I have my own life here at school but am close enough that I can go home on the weekends if I want.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising 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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Australian Student Discovers Universe’s "Missing Mass"

May 27, 2011

Australian Student Discovers Universe’s "Missing Mass"

by Alexis Mattera

Summer breaks vary from college student to college student. Some work multiple jobs to help defray tuition costs, others intern or volunteer in their field of study and a select few sit by the pool and do absolutely nothing. Regardless of what they accomplish this summer – a semester paid in full, a professional reference or a tan – this student’s “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay is going to be way more impressive.

Twenty-two-year-old Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, an undergraduate intern with a team at Monash University's School of Physics, recently confirmed she had found part of the universe’s “missing mass.” For those not majoring in science or aerospace engineering, this basically means that scientists had previously detected matter present in the early history of the universe but it had disappeared. Astrophysicists had been stymied by its absence for decades...until advanced technologies and Fraser-McKelvie came along. "We don't know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found," said Monash astrophysicist Dr. Kevin Pimbblet. Pretty amazing stuff!

Now we have to ask: What are you doing over your summer break?

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