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by Agnes Jasinski

If the crisis in Haiti has caused you to up your volunteer efforts or if you've always been interested in community service as a way to help out your local community or even build on your resume, there are a number of scholarship opportunities out there for you to get some payback for those good deeds. This week's Scholarship of the Week awards 1,000 scholarships of $1,000 each to high school students involved in volunteer efforts in their schools and communities.

The Best Buy@15 Scholarship Program is looking for students with impressive academic records who give back to their communities. Students with work histories in high school will also be considered, but you have to be planning to attend a college, university or technical school in the fall immediately following high school graduation. If you think this fits your student profile, make sure you look for this award in your search results. Remember to check off "community service" before conducting your free scholarship search, because volunteerism is a top criteria on many scholarship awards.

Prize: 1,000 scholarship of $1,000 each

Eligibility: Students must be planning to attend a college, university or technical school in the fall immediately following their high school graduation. Students in grades 9-12 from private, public, alternative or home schools are eligible to apply. The program is looking for students with solid grades who are involved in volunteer efforts in their schools and communities, and/or have a work history.

Deadline: February 15, 2010, although applicants are urged to file their applications early

Required Material: Scholarship applications are available only to @15 members, but you can become a member for free on the program's website. Paper applications will not be accepted, so please file yours electronically.

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 Agnes Jasinski

Duke University professor Deborah C. Jenson wasted little time deciding how to get academia involved following the recent earthquake in Haiti. She developed a new course for the school called "Haitian Creole for the Haitian Recovery" that aims to help undergraduates, health-care practitioners, and engineers get involved in relief and rebuilding efforts by teaching them about the country's language and culture. Less than two weeks after the earthquake, a group of students from all different backgrounds - history, forestry, and political science majors, for example - were already meeting and discussing how their unique skill sets could contribute to rebuilding Haiti.

The course also includes a basic introduction on how to navigate Haiti as someone who joins the relief effort, from getting around to pinpointing exactly the parts of Haiti that were most affected by the earthquake. Jenson came to the idea almost immediately after the disaster. She met with students from the Haitian Student Alliance and her Creole classes, and knew exactly what the relief effort would need to be successful and lasting: cultural sensitivity.

In an interview with Jenson in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, she describes the projects already taking form as a result of her students' need to help, such as a prosthetics drives and an initiative to help HIV-positive orphans. Others are in the class so that they can become effective communicators before going on humanitarian missions to Haiti. Jenson said in the interview that because it is obvious rebuilding efforts will continue for many years to come, Duke will probably offer the course in subsequent semesters.

Colleges and organizations across the country continue to look for ways to use their resources and personnel to make a difference in Haiti. The Institute of International Education created an emergency grants program to help students from Haiti on American campuses who have been affected by the earthquake. Accredited campuses are able to nominate up to five students at their institutions for the $2,000 grants. Lynn University established a fund to assist members of their community whose lives the earthquake impacted. The school was rocked recently by news that the four students and two faculty members who went missing after the earthquake were presumed dead. The group was there on a service learning trip.

If you're still looking for ways to help, contact your university. Colleges have become an excellent source for students interested in joining the relief effort. Or consider getting involved in community service projects closer to home. There's never a shortage of service or volunteer projects wherever you may be.


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by Agnes Jasinski

College seniors who prioritize "prosocial" activities while on campus have a better chance to lead more productive lives in adulthood than their peers who may have focused more on their academics or landing a high-paying job post-graduation, according to a University of Notre Dame.

"Prosocial" activities are described as helping friends through difficult situations and participating in community service projects, not making sure your Friday and Saturday nights are planned well in advance. The researchers suggest the results point to the benefits of having goals focused on helping others rather than just helping yourself.

The two studies looked at a sample of 416 college seniors (57 percent were male) who were evaluated again 13 years after graduation, once they reached their mid-30s. As seniors, the respondents had four types of "life goals" in the following categories: creative ("becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts"), prosocial ("helping others who are in difficulty"), financial ("being successful in a business of my own"), and personal recognition ("becoming an authority in my field"). At adulthood, however, those who responded that they still considered themselves prosocial after all those years also described greater personal growth and integrity.

It isn't a stretch to believe that being kind to your peers and spending some time volunteering may make you a better person, or at least allow you to work toward being a better person. It's interesting to think, however, that how you behave in college may have a hand in shaping who you are as an adult. The studies suggest that if your purpose in life is helping others, you're set to become a well-rounded adult. Colleges may want to take notice and provide students with more of these types of activities and opportunities, or even promote service as part of their curriculums.

You don't need to allow your grades to slip or stop working hard to graduate on time and land that first job out of college. The studies are more a reminder that other things are important, too, like evaluating your life goals and giving yourself a priority check once in a while. Make the most of your college experience, and consider volunteerism and service as a way to make you more well-rounded. And if you are that go-getter worried about how the state of economy will hinder your job prospects post-graduation, consider this: community service looks great on a resume, and great on applications for advanced degrees. There are also a large number of scholarships that reward students for their service, so consider all of your options when you're planning that social calendar.


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Bonner Scholars Program

April 12, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

Community service scholarships and awards based upon an applicant's volunteer experience are one of the more common scholarship categories out there, so if you have quite a bit of volunteerism under your belt, you could be eligible for a large number of scholarships that reward altruistic individuals like yourself. In honor of April being National Volunteer Month, this week's Scholarship of the Week is one such scholarship, and recognizes students interested in continuing their volunteer work on the college level.

The Bonner Scholars Program is open to students in 27 schools across the country, and annually recognizes more than 1,500 students who wish to engage in community service while going to college. Chosen scholars are asked to serve at least 10 hours of volunteer service each week, and must complete at least one full-time summer service internship during their time in school. If this sounds like something you're interested in and your school is on the list of schools that operate the Bonner Scholars Program, you could be eligible for a stipend rewarding your hard work.

Prize:

Award amounts vary by school. Davidson College, for example, allocates $1,250 to each scholar per semester, with more funding available for summer-service stipends and in loan reductions. (The four-year total there is $17,500.)

Eligibility:

Applicants must be attending one of 27 schools that support the Bonner Scholars Program, and most recipients also demonstrate high financial need. Applicants will be asked to fulfill set community service requirements, and will need to recommit to the program annually if they wish to remain Bonner Scholars.

Deadline:

Deadlines will vary by campus.

Required Material:

Applicants should contact the admissions of financial aid office of their intended college to apply for the program. Those administrators will then direct you to the Bonner Scholars Program office where applicants may receive additional information about applying to the program. Applicants may complete more than one application if they are considering more than one school with the Bonner Scholars Program.

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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So You’re a College Grad

Part II: Setting Short-Term Goals

May 19, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

You don’t have to have everything figured out right after you walk across that stage to receive your college degree. However, you do need to have the beginnings of a plan that will help you determine not only what you’d like to use that new degree for, but how you’ll be meeting more immediate needs, like finding a place to live that isn’t a campus apartment or college dorm, and paying and budgeting for all that new adult freedom you’re experiencing when you’re not yet gainfully employed.

The first step you’ll need to take is prioritizing which of those short-term goals is most pressing. That could mean focusing on getting a roof over your head. If that means sacrifice on your part and moving back in with your parents, it might not be the worst idea you’ve had. You’ll save some money and feel less anxious about finding a job to pay the bills if you’re getting some help. Don’t get too comfortable, though. A good way to make sure you’re doing your part and looking for jobs or that next step is to come up with a time-line of when you’d like to be out of your parents’ house.

If you found yourself using your student credit card too much thanks to that free T-shirt offer that came along with it, you may need to focus on making ends meet and paying down your debt. If you’re unemployed, there’s no shame in deferring any student loans you may have. At the very least, try landing a part-time or full-time temporary job if making some money is your top priority. Plenty of new graduates spend some time working at a job that perhaps isn’t all that related to their college major, so that they’re able to save up some money or start paying off debts. We’re not telling you that you should give up on that dream job. But we are saying it won’t be very useful to get into more debt while daydreaming of your future career, as you’ll only feel that much more stressed out when that perfect gig finally falls into your lap.

Finally, if it’s an option, the months after college may be a great time for you to explore alternatives to employment. A popular option is the backpacking through Europe trip. If you’ve always wanted to volunteer in the community or teach abroad, the time after college might be the last time you’re able to do that before you’re burdened by the responsibilities of a career and limited vacation time. If it’s not financially feasible, it may be wiser to save your money, but if you have the funds or will have saved some money thanks to a part-time or temporary job, there’s no harm in taking some time away from the job search to do some self-exploration and potentially figure out what you’re really interested in doing.

This is the second post in a three-part series on dealing with that “What’s next?” feeling college students may get post-graduation. Return to the Scholarships.com blog tomorrow for a look at long-term goals for recent college graduates, and how you can start figuring out where you'd like to be a few years down the road.


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College Offers Tuition Discounts for Service

Marist College Rewards Big Brothers, Big Sisters

June 29, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

As if you needed more reason to get some volunteer work under your belt, students at one New York college will be rewarded with generous tuition discounts if they are members of one of three local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters.

Starting this fall, Marist College will offer discounts of 25 percent to new undergraduates and graduates at the school who are members of any of the three Hudson Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters. Those students will also get a pass on any application fees. According to The New York Times article on the new initiative, the school decided to offer the discounts to encourage volunteerism in the community, especially among men. The dean of graduate and adult enrollment at the college is a Big Brother himself, according to the article.

While school administrators admit they will probably lose some revenue from the initiative, they are also hopeful that more students will be drawn to Marist with the introduction of the program. Tuition discounts will also apply to any family members of participants in Big Brothers Big Sisters, according to The New York Times, meaning a parent of a “little” brother would be eligible for the reduction in college costs as well.

Administrators at the college say they don’t know of similar programs at other schools, but that doesn’t mean you should quit volunteering if you’re not interested in Marist. Most colleges offer grant and scholarship opportunities for students involved in community college. Columbia College, for example, offers the $1,000 Boone County Endowed Scholarship to freshmen applicants who boast volunteer experience and certain academic requirements. Pacific Union College offers the $1,200 Christian Service Award to students involved in church or community service leadership.

If those scholarship totals seem low to you altruistic high school students, be aware that there are a number of generous community service scholarships out there to supplement the financial aid packages you’re offered from your intended college. Volunteer experience will also help you on your college applications, scholarship contests that aren’t specifically targeted at volunteers, and future employment. And if you’re pursuing a major in a high needs field, such as nursing or education, you may also be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, so make sure you do your homework when you’re determining how to pay for college.


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by Agnes Jasinski

While you’re unpacking a semester’s worth of your belongings in your shared dorm room, there are other recent high school graduates packing up for different adventures—volunteer experiences abroad, internships across the country, or backpacking trips through Europe. These students are taking a “gap year,” or time off from the traditional college experience.

The gap year is a popular option in Europe, where students opt out of university-level coursework in favor of experiences they feel will make them wiser and more independent. But the idea has also grown in popularity in the United States. USA Today announced a new blog this week from Mira Fishman, who will be leaving her home in Ann Arbor in three weeks not to go to college, but to volunteer abroad. She’ll spend six months in Buenos Aires at a nonprofit, then another six months in a “grittier city.” She hopes to improve upon her Spanish and boost her resume, and as her plans were worked out independently rather than through the dozens of organized gap year programs out there, she hopes to keep to a strict budget.

Despite the high cost of organized gap year programs—some run up to $20,000 for the year—they’re also growing in popularity, especially among those who want a bit more structure to their gap year. Such programs promise a support network for gap year students, and experiences that are crafted to the interests of the student. Students like Fishman, however, may prefer a gap year that requires more independence and responsibility. An article several years ago in USA Today described “gappers” who completed internships at software start-ups, explored careers to clarify what they’d like to do in college before enrolling, and learned life skills at manual labor jobs. (One student interviewed worked as a deckhand on a “floating classroom” in Baltimore.)

Taking time off may also be an option for those who weren’t able to get in to the school of their choice, although that time off may be spent becoming a more attractive candidate to that chosen college. The gap year then becomes more of a “bridge year,” where the college-bound look to enhance their applications by taking—and acing—courses at the local community college, volunteering, or pursuing internships in their intended fields of study. Bridge years also exist for those already admitted to college; at Princeton University, officials have introduced a bridge year program for admitted students where they pursue service work abroad before coming to campus the following year.

Are you taking a gap year? What are the pros and cons of taking time off before committing to college? Are traditional study abroad programs through your college the right way to go if you're looking to go overseas? Tell us your stories!


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Mind the Gap

Should You Take a Year Off?

December 30, 2010

Mind the Gap

by Alexis Mattera

The road to college – once thought to be straight and narrow – is detouring into uncharted territory. It was once expected for all high school seniors to matriculate to an institute of higher education the semester after they graduate but today, many students (and their parents) are considering the notion of taking a year off from formal schooling first.

But what do students do during this time, often called a gap year? Not catching up on “Extreme Couponing” or trying out online dating: Students use this time to volunteer abroad or build their resumes and schools are adopting formal programs allowing incoming freshmen to defer admission for a year to do so. According to the Wall Street Journal, "gap fairs" are becoming just as common as campus job expos. The results? Mixed. While most students end their gap years better prepared to attend college, some get so waylaid that they abandon a collegiate education all together.

It may sound tempting to take a year off to explore the unknown but there are a few confounding variables. First, the price tag is far from alluring – unless you feel $35,000 is a reasonable figure. (The upside is that costs can be defrayed by stipends, grants, research fellowships and scholarships or the agreement to work in a very remote area.) Next, the hazy direction of your future. I won't deny that your late teens and early 20s are the best times to gain life experience but if said experience is going to leave you in debt or questioning once-important educational goals, is taking the time off worth it?


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In College, Attitude is Everything

by Darci Miller

In most every high school movie, the main character has a dream school. Most of the time, he or she has dreamed of attending said dream school since before he or she knew what college was. He or she goes through the trials and tribulations of applying to the dream school, but in the end, he or she goes skipping merrily off to Dream U. and lives happily ever after.

Hate to break it to you, folks, but life isn’t Hollywood.

Having a dream school isn’t necessary. I didn’t have one; actually, if someone had told me three years ago that I’d end up at the University of Miami, I would’ve laughed in their face. But keeping your options open is a great thing, and I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up.

If you did have a dream school and did get in, awesome! But don’t get complacent. Just because your school is your idea of perfect doesn’t mean that life there is charmed. You’ll still have to study hard, get involved and even then things may not go as planned. You could end up hating it. Who knows?

If you had a dream school and didn’t get in, DON’T WORRY! I know you’re probably crushed...and rightfully so. But don’t let your disappointment take away from what could still be an amazing time at college. Attitude is everything. EVERYTHING. If you go in assuming you’re going to be miserable, you will be. If you slap a smile on your face and dive into everything, you’ll have a good time, no matter if it’s Dream U. or not.

College is entirely what you make of it. Even if you’re not going where you really wanted to, you can make it great. Either way, keeping an open mind is key; college can (and will) surprise you!

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!


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Long-Distance Relationships in College

How to Make Them Work Over Summer Break

May 18, 2011

Long-Distance Relationships in College

by Kayla Herrera

So you met during orientation the first week of college and you two really hit it off. Fall semester flies by and the snow comes in heavy waves. Spring semester comes in like a lion and, as the leaves show themselves on the trees after a long winter's nap, you realize you are happier than ever. Now summer is here, you are staying at school to take classes and he/she is going home. What now?

This summer is the first real summer my boyfriend and I would've spent apart in different places so I've developed some tips for others in the same situation on how to deal:

  • Texting is okay – an “I love you!” on your phone when you are least expecting it is always nice – but don't overdo it with long conversations via texting. If it's important, make a phone call.
  • Give those thumbs a rest and call each other...but not every night. It will get boring and if a call is missed, someone will get mad, a fight will ensue and no one will be very happy at all.
  • Mix it up a little and use Skype – it’s nice to see a face every once in a while! My boyfriend and I set up Skype dates and we watch TV together like we used to.
  • For gaming couples, add each other as friends on Steam (an online game platform), set up times to play games together and chat while doing so.

You may miss your significant other but stay busy! Intern, volunteer, hang out with friends, spend time with your parents, study hard, whatever...it’ll make for a more productive summer and you won't be constantly checking your phone. Plus, fall semester will be here before you know it!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. 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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